deke

Lie Nielsen Workbench after almost three years

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A while back my family decided to give me a nice, and probably undeserved, present of the Lie Nielsen workbench. This was in the summer of 2011. At the time I think they called it the "new improved workbench" or something like that. Like most of you, I was all set to build my own bench. So, perhaps I can help answer the question, "Is it worth $2000 to buy a bench (oops, now it's $2500!)?" Actually, I'm not sure anyone can answer that question as there are so many factors and personal preferences. If you are trying to make this decision, maybe I can help.

 

Okay, piece by piece here is my experience. 

 

The top is outstanding. 4" thick maple. As much as I'd like to whip out my winding sticks and Veritas low angle jack and jointer with 50 degree blades to flatten it, it has remained dead flat for almost three years (meaning with a straight edge all looks well). Perhaps running that humidifier all summer helps? It came with two dogs for the 12 or so dog holes. LN charges $50 a pair for extras..., so I made another ten or so on my own. This way I have a dog in every dog hole and am ready to go for anything. I drilled a few holes for holdfasts too.

 

The base is nice and solid and I have no issues with movement when planing or doing any heavy work. The bench weighs in at about 250 pounds and I know some purists will debate endlessly that you need 400 pounds..., but I think a rigid well built base and being level on the floor are actually more important. Sorry, but zero issues for me. I also built a lower shelf for it out of some maple I had laying around. Some day I plan to make a sliding deadman, but the few times I needed something like that, clamps on the legs worked fine. The legs are flush with the top - a Chris Schwarz must-have in bench design. 

 

The vices, however, could use a little improvement, but at the same time LN has been perfect in helping/supporting me. The front vice has a bit of chain rattling/noise when moving it in and out and LN recommended I drill in a little dowel to give the chain a little more stretch, or perhaps take it apart and remove a link. I have not gotten around to trying either and just live with it. Still, no wracking issues and I'll take that over my old bench with a quick release vice any day. The tail vice has had some issues where this thin metal sort of shim/strip has become bent and jammed up, but LN sent replacement parts free. I learned that tightening up the vice to eliminate a slight amount of play is the key here - live with the play or ruin this part repeatedly. 

 

Overall, even with the little issues here and there with the vices, they do what they need to do and and I have no major complaints. When it comes down to it, I really enjoy using this bench. It has helped improve my woodworking in many ways by simply being a great tool. I realize I got it for free and so I can't make a valid economic judgment, but I have never caught myself thinking, "If only I would have made my own, I would have x, y or z."  I have seen and used many other "store bought" benches and the LN is by far the better (unless Benchcrafted still makes their Roubo or shaker, but when they did they were selling for 4k!, right?).

 

Could I have built a better bench? As for the top, I'm not sure, or it would have taken a ton of work and this is some very nice wood. The base - that's the easy(easier) part. Hardware? Benchcrafted would be superior no doubt. Cost of the wood and hardware... I'm sure it would be less than the current $2500 cost, but my time is worth something too. Yes, yes, I realize some believe you can't be a "real woodworker" until you build your own bench, but Instead of building a bench, I have been churning out dozens of projects large and small with every kind of joinery you can think of. (I build things for the people who bought me the bench!).

 

My advice is this - don't get caught up in this rite of passage stuff. If you want to make a bench, do it. If you don't, don't feel ashamed. I know people who made their own bench and the range of skills as woodworkers is all over the place. Some far better than me, some far less than me. In addition, there are woodworkers out there with dumpy little benches that can run circles around most of us. After all that, if you want to buy a bench, I think this one has to start at the top of the list.

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Thanks TIODS, I hope someone someday somewhere finds it useful.

 

By the way, I DID make my own Chris Schwarz tool chest, so hopefully that qualifies me as a real wood worker (plus I built my previous bench, though it was nothing special). :-)

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I'd like to see some pics! Just because I love pictures :)

I thought long and hard about this bench. I almost bought one too. In the end I chose to make my own, which will seemingly never get done. ;)

Thanks for the nice review

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Thanks TIODS, I hope someone someday somewhere finds it useful.

 

By the way, I DID make my own Chris Schwarz tool chest, so hopefully that qualifies me as a real wood worker (plus I built my previous bench, though it was nothing special). :-)

 

You should put that up in the journal or showcase section so we can see it.  I don't know if there's an "official" prerequisite to be called a wood worker.  If you're making sawdust, that's good enough for me.

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Excellent review. Great to see it's based on long them results rather than anything else. Nothing wrong with buying a bench at all, "If you're making sawdust, that's good enough for me." 'nuff said.

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Excellent review. Great to see it's based on long them results rather than anything else. Nothing wrong with buying a bench at all, "If you're making sawdust, that's good enough for me." 'nuff said.

Amen!

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