Alabama Woodworker's Guild, Nicholson Workbench, Process Improvement
Comments 11

I Should Have Done This a Long Time Ago

It’s not like the Alabama Woodworker’s Guild is a new organization and I jumped in right away. It was formed in 1983 which is about the time I started woodworking. I would hear mention of AWG from time to time but it was not until Christopher Schwarz begin conducting seminars there that I seriously thought about becoming a member. That was about a year and a half ago. Today I finally joined – 32 years after the organization was formed.

Not only are there mentors available to teach a variety of basic and advanced woodworking skills, there is also a full size, professional quality workshop which I now have access to. It’s killer…

Big Mama - one of the largest bandsaw I have ever seen.

Big Mama – one of the largest bandsaws I have ever seen.

Two Sawstops with large outfeed area.

Two Sawstops with large outfeed area.

A big jointer.

A big jointer.

Lathe area awash in natural light.

Lathe area awash in natural light.

A view of the well equipped shop.

A view of the well equipped shop.

A close-up of the leg vise on their Nicholson bench.

A close-up of the leg vise on their Nicholson bench.

Show and tell - an upright electric bass under construction. Beautiful work.

Show and tell – an upright electric bass under construction. Beautiful work.

There is a lesson to be learned here. If you want to learn woodworking, don’t wait 30 years before you check out the closest woodworking guild or club.

I have already made a connection with one mentor about learning better sharpening skills. I’ll start on this ASAP. One of the many workbenches there is a Nicholson. I’ll build a new workbench later this year or early next year. I am still considering the Nicholson for my new bench design. I can now get first hand pointers for constructing one. The resources available are unbelievable.

And even though today was my first meeting, it looks like a fun bunch of people; I’ll be a member for many years to come.

Action item for everyone reading this: if you can, join a guild or club. I should have done this a long time ago.

Related: See what Chris Schwarz had to say about this organization by clicking here. It includes an outdoor photo of the AWG’s “Woodworking Education Center” or what I now call my back-up workshop.


  1. This is really cool. I was just at your previous blog reading your post on the Josh Finn design for a box beam bench system and left a lengthy comment there which I will paste here. The Nicholson bench above caught my eye since I am planning for one as my permanent shop bench (I also like the Paul Sellers design) and I am keeping the Finn design for more mobile needs. Here is the content of my comment over at your older blog:

    Nice job on the Josh Finn design. I still have that issue and refer back to it often. I’ve built 3 of these systems with slight variations though none had the homosote. In my area of southwest Ohio, homosote was always only a carpet underlayment and while I can see the reason Mr. Finn chose it, I never liked the stuff for various reasons, including its poor resistance to water/spillage. I’ve tried half inch BC plywood with pine 1x lumber and had the same complaints with the quality of the lumber that you mentioned. I’ve had better success with 3/4 mdf for mass, flatness and strength, though it can’t take any wetness either. Rigidity and flatness are most important, and a slight twist in the box beams ruins the system. My best rendition was my first, being made of birch plywood (2 sheets) and 4 really nice 2×4’s for the legs. This produced a setup with exceptional flatness, strength and a touch of class. I still screwed planing stops right to it, but overall kept the screwholes to a minimum. The system has obvious advantages to those who, like me, have to make a living and need a mobile setup for occasional on-site built ins and finish work. In the last two years I have greatly increased my handwork with far more planing and scraping, handcut dovetailing, and hand jointing of glued up panels. This bench works fine for these tasks, though I reckon a more traditional bench is still better. I miss a genuine vise and may do another box beam system that incorporates one or more moxon vises in/on the beams and a dogging system with some type of wagon vise either built in to the beam or bar clamps (like the Blumtool “bench horse”)

    Hand work has become more important as my skills have increased massively through constant and persistant use of those methods. I know my quality of work has improved as well and my pieces are genuinely worth more because of the hand work in them. I also save a ton of time on sanding and nothing seems to satisfy like a hand planed surface. Anyway, I like your ideas presented here and would value highly any comments you have on my own newly started blog at It is very new but I would love your thoughts since I think we are similar in age and number of years in the industry. I especially wonder if my thoughts in a post entitled “what’s it all about alfie?” are things you can relate to regarding how hard it has gotten to actually make a living in the building/construction industry.

    • Hi Jeff,

      Thanks for stopping by. The Josh Finn bench continues to be my main workbench. It is very flexible and I plan to continue using it. The new bench will be either a Nicholson or a Moravian bench (see the Moravian here). It is my hope that the removable cabinet under the Moravian will provide plenty of weight to offset any movement of the bench from planing operations.

      • Yep, I’ve seen that one too and I like it alot. The angled, wedged tenons seem a little tricky for me to pull off but I really like the design. I guess it would actually have to be considered a “knock down” mobile design which is handy also. I like that you show a steel vise and inset vise compared to the old style leg vise I’ve seen elsewhere.

    • Thanks for your support in this. I hope being a member will help me avoid running up from my workshop to show you the shavings I get from my #4. 🙂 I’ll just now do this with members of AWG.

  2. Thirty-two years? That’s some stubbornness! The kit in the workshop looks amazing, looking forward to seeing what it inspires you to.

  3. Doug Jenkins says

    Jeff, sorry I have not been able to come down to Pelham as planed, however if the weather is bad on Wednesday I may try again. If you are able to meet and have lunch let me know. I would like to talk to about the AWG, have thought about that myself, but distance has kept me from it.

    Sent from my iPad

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