I find the most oft used function of my bench is the tail vice. While I've heard many times that it is only useful for dogging a board down flat to the bench for planing by hand, I must disagree wholeheartedly that it is a vestige of tradition and offers no function for the "modern", powered woodworker. While it's true that holding a board flat to the bench is useful, and hand planing can be easier with the work held static (I prefer a single stop for planing), I find myself using the function most often for routing, sanding, carving and any of the hundred other reasons that you might want a board held flat and unfettered to the top of the bench.
The ability to dog is only one function of the tail vice. The wide jaw of the tail vice and its orientation to the laborer has many benefits. I use my tail vice for holding all manner of workpieces for planing, and fitting, and sawing, and trimming, and carving, and draw-knifing, and filing, and... well, you get the idea. The speed and capabilities of the tail vice mean that it is my primary vice and used at least 10 times more often than my face vise.
Building and fitting a tail vice is not for the faint hearted, and care should be taken to keep all pieces and assemblies in order, and accurate. I prefer the metal vice hardware that is available here, and this is what I used on this bench. In fact, all of the hardware I used on this bench came from this vendor and I highly recommend it. It is all made in the Czech Republic and the machining is flawless.
A full sized drawing is very useful in establishing a game plan and to make sure you are allowing enough clearance and meat for the screw and dogs. The top portion of the drawing is an elevation of the vice with the squiggled portions showing the top and bottom runners. The hashed portion represents the screw. The 1/2" and 1" marking indicate the thickness of components of the core (see below).
The bottom portion of the drawing shows a plan view of the vice. The overall width of the vice as well as location of the dog holes is represented in full scale, assuring me that I've left enough room for all moving parts.
Extra blocking was needed based on the thickness of the bench. Cutoff pieces from previous operations were glued and trimmed flush to the bench.
Slots and a counterbore are needed to allow the plate of the vice to be mounted and allow the runners to move along it without encumbrance. It is very important to install the plate exactly parallel to the bench top. The location front to back is based off of the full sized drawing.
The core of the tail vice fits between the top and bottom runners and establishes the foundation of the wood components of the vice. The top and bottom runners will bolt to the core and ride along the plate installed on the bench. The core then should be made slightly (1/32" or so) larger than the fit between the runners when installed on the plate.
This shows the core in place, but before being drilled for the main screw. There is no need to rush the process, and fitting then checking then thinking are all required steps.
The portion of the tail vice that accepts the dogs is routed and laid up similar to that process used for the apron. In this case the dogs are routed opposite in their slant from the dogs on the apron. In this case -2 degrees when looking from the front of the bench.
The routed portion and facing are then glued together.
The core and the dog assembly is glued together precisely. After being glued together, an oversized hole is bored into the block on the right end for the screw to pass through. Again, the full sized drawing provides all of the necessary measurements. The core will fit with the top and bottom runners clamped tightly to its top and bottom with bolts passing up from the bottom.
This final assembly is installed and fitted to the bench, making sure all the while that accuracy is maintained. I failed to take a photo of the above step installed on the bench, but the final step would be to fit and glue another piece around the top runner bringing the top of the vice flush with the bench top. Once you have reached this point, all is self-explanatory. (I will include some detail photos of the finished vice in future posts to clarify the final fitting, or if I'm feeling brave, I may disassemble the vise and show the final installation steps. )
Finally, I squared the vice's clamping face and installed 1/8" cork on both sides of the vice opening.
A long time since I have posted anything, and quite a while since I've had time to post. But after receiving a number of requests to expand upon the bench build, I thought I'd sit down and bring everyone some closure.
To begin, I located and drilled the aprons on the drill press. The hole size is just a bit larger than the screw. The apron was then glued to the field of the bench after all of the joinery was completed.
A laminated face vise may not be as sexy as a singe piece, but will remain flat and stable through the seasons.
Once glued the jaw is sized, drilled to mate with the apron and a piece of cork glued to the working face of the jaw. The common recommendation for padding is leather, but I've found that 1/8" cork is durable, easy to apply and inexpensive. The cork is trimmed flush around the vise with a razor knife. A few words of caution: white glue works well to glue the cork to the jaw, but do not use too much as the glue will bleed through the cork and do what glue does best!
The vise is finally fitted and leveled to the apron before being fixed into place with screws. It is wise to fit the top of the jaw proud of the bench top to be planed flush later. Care taken here to install the screws parallel to one another is time well spent. Poorly fitted screws will bind on one another making the vise difficult to use. Once fixed in place, shimming and waxing may be required to make the vise function perfectly.
Once finished with the glue-ups of the work surfaces and dog-hole aprons, the two parts were spaced, a slot cut in the ends and a corresponding slot cut in the end apron piece.
With the end apron clamped in place, the pins are laid out from the tails.
After the pins are cut, holes are drilled into the end that correspond with holes in the work surfaces. Temporary bolts are used to hold the ends in place. Additional blocking is added as needed in the area where the tail-vise will be mounted.
Up next- Vises!
I've been considering for quite a while making a workbench for other's use in my shop. My bench, as most of you that have been to my shop know, was built for me and won't comfortably fit most humanity. The base is a hydraulic lift table on sleepers that allows me to adjust the height of the bench to fit most statures. Two sides, each with a Continental European tail-vise and a twin-screw face-vise allows a flexible platform for two woodworkers to work simultaneously. I've incorporated a central tool tray into the design so as to provide a no-man's-land between the two work surfaces- and thereby eliminate (or greatly reduce) the need for good manners. What follows are a few progress shots.
I began by selecting 8/4 rock maple in lengths and widths that would allow me maximum yield. After roughing to size and milling square I marked out for loose tennons and cut mortises. The use of the tennons in this instance is for nothing more than alignment while laminating the pieces.
After gluing and clamping the field of the bench surface (note that one plank is shorter that the others, this is for the tail vise), the assembly is crosscut square and to finished length.
The apron around the perimeter of the bench is thicker than the field and is assembled from two pieces, then attached to the field lamination later. Before this can be done though, holes for "dogs" must be cut into one of the apron pieces. The dogs slope off perpendicular 2 degrees (if you're counting) and are routed using a simple jig made of scrap mdf.
After routing all recesses for the dogs, the two apron pieces are prepared the same way as the field pieces were, with loose tennons for alignment, then glued and clamped.
Once dry, the apron is glued and clamped to the field. All joinery is done to the aprons before they are attached.
More pics to follow in the next few days!
Hi All! I currently have traditional woodworking classes available in the month of July. All classes are hands-on with a maximum of two students. Classes generally will run 3 to 4 hours. The shop is air conditioned and very comfortable for relaxing and learning new techniques, or honing skills. Right now we are signing up for classes in:
Dovetailing (Through, Half Blind and special applications)
Sharpening (Chisels and plane irons, card scrapers, specialty tools and LOTS of theory, as well as some tool tune-up)
Mortise and Tennon Construction (Hand and Router methods)
Milling (6 sided milling with hand tools and Jointer/Planer/Saw)
If you are interested in learning another technique that's not listed here let me know!
If you have questions or would like to sign-up for a specific date and time, please contact me at 916.921.9151 or send me an email.
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