Making the Vise Skirts

With the vise chops made and the holes drilled, I turned my attention to making the decorative skirts that will hide the vise hardware.  When I was milling up the sapele that I used while making the benchtop, I managed to save one piece.  I knew that I would be adding skirts in front of the vise hardware, so this piece has been squirreled away since June.

This is the last remaining piece of the sapele board that I bought for making the bench.

This is the last remaining piece of the sapele board that I bought for making the bench.

I traced the bottom half of the vise templates onto the board with a sharpie.  I’m not worried about the ink as this still has to go through the planer.  This is just to give me a rough idea of how I will cut out all the parts.

A very rough layout with a sharpie marker.

A very rough layout with a sharpie marker.

I took a handsaw and cut off the wider part of the board in the above picture.  I trued up one edge on the jointer and then made the other parallel at the tablesaw.

I jointed one edge.

I jointed one edge.

I trued up the other edge at the table saw.

I trued up the other edge at the table saw.

The board had a slight bow to it and I was concerned about the final thickness.  I cut the board into two pieces before jointing the face flat.  This saves time and wood thickness, as a bow is greatly reduced by shortening a board.

I cut the board into two pieces before jointing the face.

I cut the board into two pieces before jointing the face.

With the bowed face down, I jointed each board.  With the boards flattened and the bow gone, I fed each piece through my planer.  I wanted the skirt pieces to be the same thickness as the sapele edges on the workbench top.  I thought the bow in the board might preclude this, but I was wrong.  It came out exactly the same.

Once both faces of the board had been planed, I went back to the jointer to make sure that both edges were dead on 90° to the face.  Normally I wouldn’t joint both edges on the jointer as it risks taking the board out of parallel, but in this case it doesn’t matter as all the skirts have to be cut out at the bandsaw and each piece only comes off one edge of the board.

I traced around the bottom of each vise chop, not the template.  This way each skirt will be matched to it’s corresponding chop and any deviation from the template that was created when I smoothed the chops will be duplicated on the skirt.

I traced the shape of the bottom half of each vise chop onto the sapele.

I traced the shape of the bottom half of each vise chop onto the sapele.

You can just see the pencil lay out lines below:

All four skirts are drawn on the sapele.

All four skirts are drawn on the sapele.

I went to the bandsaw and cut out all four parts.

Rough cut from on the bandsaw.

Rough cut from on the bandsaw.

To smooth away the bandsaw marks and fair the curves, I took advantage of my drill press.  I mounted a drum sander in the chuck and cleaned up the cuts.  I couldn’t do this with the vise chops as they were too thick.

I put a drum sander in the drill press and smoothed the curves.

I put a drum sander in the drill press and smoothed the curves.

The drum sander couldn’t get to all of the curve, so I cleaned the rest up with hand tools.

A small part couldn't be smoothed with the sander.

A small part couldn’t be smoothed with the sander.

The veritas shoulder plane was particularly useful in making the ogee transition look nice and crisp.

The rest was handwork.

The rest was handwork.

Once all the curves were smooth, I sanded everything to 220 and broke all the sharp edges and points.

The finished skirts.

The finished skirts.

These came out quite crisp.

These came out quite nice.

Then it hit me!!!

I remember that about three weeks ago, as I was cogitating on how I was going to make and install the vises, I thought to myself, “I must remember that the legs cover part of the vise skirt.”  Guess what?  I forgot!  To show you what I mean, I set up an example below.

I took one of the vise and chop assemblies and placed it in the location where it will be installed (it’s just placed there, not bolted in).

I set a vise in its intended location.

I set a vise in its intended location.

I have already laid out location for the legs in anticipation of chopping the mortises.  They are marked in pencil on the benchtop.  When I cut the legs to length I saved one of the off-cuts.  I put the leg off-cut exactly where the leg will be on the finished bench.

I set an off cut from the leg in the exact location that the leg will be.

I set an off cut from the leg in the exact location that the leg will be.

The legs will be flush with the front edge of the bench top…  So will the vise skirts!  Are you seeing what I did?

Yeah... I screwed up!

Yeah… I screwed up!

I’ll continue with the vise skirt installation, but at some point before final assembly, the two skirts for the face vises will have to be trimmed down to accommodate the legs.  I’m not quite sure how I’ll do this yet.  I’ll want the skirts to butt up tight against the leg and not leave a gap.  I’ll probably remove the skirts, join the base to the bench top, and then figure out how to re-install the skirts.

I'll have to trim the skirts for the face vises later.

I’ll have to trim the skirts for the face vises later.

Other than the leg/skirt screwup, making these went fairly well.

In the next post I’ll install all of the vises.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!  May you all have a wonderful day.

 

– Jonathan White

About Jonathan

I am a woodworker and hand tool restorer / collector. I buy too many tools and don't build enough - I need help!
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3 Responses to Making the Vise Skirts

  1. I’m not sure I’m seeing the problem. Is this new piece going under the bench flush with the front and that is where the leg sticks into that area? Isn’t the back chop hiding the hardware? Is it possible to shift everything to the right?

    • Jonathan says:

      Hey Ralph,

      There is no back chop. The edge of the bench top serves this function. The skirts mount under the bench, flush with the edge and hide the vise hardware. The other function that they serve is as a place to mortise in the metal guide rod guides. I can’t shift everything over as I want the vise chop wing to sit over the leg. I designed the chops to fit right where it is shown in the pictures. It’s not a big problem, I just have to deal with it when I put the top on the base.

      Good to hear from you,

      Jonathan

  2. I think I see it now. I thought you were making a back and front chop.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments, or questions.