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.