Enough diversions! It is time to get moving on this workbench again. No more tool restorations or purchases for a while. I blew my tool savings on my recent bandsaw acquisition. In an earlier post, I refinished the Grizzly vises that I am going to install on my bench. Now I need to get cracking with the actual installation.
These particular vises have no jaws or chops. The edge of the benchtop serves as the back chop, and a front chop must be made. I will start there as my first step. I agonized over how I was going to do this for a long time. I just couldn’t get my head into a solid plan. When I opened the vises, I was surprised that there were no instructions. At the very least there should be a single page drilling template marking the dead center of the three needed holes. I vented about this (at length) in a previous post.
My bench has a rather thick top (4 ½”) and these vises install on the under side. This means that the distance from the guide rods to the benchtop will be nearly 5″. In some ways this is good as it gives me plenty of working space. However, all of the forces that will be exerted by the screw when I tighten the vise will be more than 5″ below the top surface. This will have a tendency to make the vise want to rack from top to bottom. It won’t be good if tightening the vise causes it to open up at the top. I have a couple of strategies to counter this problem:
- First, I’m going to drill the holes in the chops as close as possible to the exact size of the guide rods and screw. Using my calipers, I determined these to be 20mm and 30mm respectively. If possible, I want no play in these holes.
- Second, I’m going to use thick chops (a little over three inches). This will reduce the opening capacity of the bench, but it also means that the guide rods are anchored in 3″ of wood. Coupled with the tight fitting holes, this should mean no play or wiggle.
- Last, once all the holes are drilled and everything is square and plumb, and before I install the leather lining, I will take a hand plane to the inside face of the vise chops and take a few more passes at the bottom of chop than at the top. This should ensure that the top closes first.
If my theory here is correct, and assuming I manage to pull of such a tight fit, the only way for this vise to rack top to bottom, will be for the guide rods and main-screw themselves to flex. I suppose that is possible, and a progressively so as thicker and thicker objects are clamped in the vise. But my hope is, that for 8/4 and thinner material, it should be insignificant.
So, to start, I needed a template for drilling the holes with a high degree of accuracy. I tried copying the face plate on a xerox machine and quickly found that I had to set the machine to make a mirror copy. Even so, I found that when the real face plate was placed on top of the copy, it never lined up perfectly. I scrapped this idea.
I then experimented with scanning the face plate on a flat bed scanner and importing the image into Photoshop. My formerly good Photoshop skills have gotten so rusty, I couldn’t remember how to convert the image into a scaled vector image. I scrapped this plan too.
In the end, I just traced it with a pencil very carefully. I stood the base plate on its edge to trace it, and the face plate I laid flat. I also traced the inside of the holes. Once the holes were traced, I used a compass to find the center of each hole and marked it with a pin prick. I’ll save these for later when I need to drill the holes.
With the paper drilling templates made, I turned my attention to making plywood templates of the actual vise chops. In designing the chops, I basically just drew what looked good to me. I used a square, compass, and rule to draw out a double roman ogee on the bottom. I experimented with various radii until I had a lower chop that would work. Had I just left the vise chop rectangular, it would have been much less work, but it would have looked clunky. I think this profile looks much nicer.
Once the design was drawn on the ½” plywood, I cut it out. First square cutting the ends on the cross-cut sled, where you can already see may partiality for double roman ogees.
I then stood the template on its edge and using the miter gauge, cut the shoulders of the ogee transitions
The curves were smoothed with a sanding drum in the drill press and then files and sandpaper.
The tail vise chops need to be narrower in order to fit the width of the bench and so they required a different lay out. The previous ogee design did not leave enough wood around the face plate, so instead of using a compass, I got out my french curves and again drew what looked good to me. I had to draw it on paper a few times until I came up with a design that I liked and would work before drawing it out on the plywood.
So, here’s my two templates:
I am going to make these beefy vise chops out of douglas fir since that is I what I have. I went to a lot of time and effort to wrap my benchtop in sapele and covering up a large part of that with douglas fir won’t look good. I decided that I would cover the douglas fir with a very thick “veneer”. I’m not sure if you can sill call it a veneer when it is over ¼” thick, but I’m using the term here.
About a year ago at a garage sale, I picked up a dozen or so boards of mahogany that were reclaimed shelving. I selected two boards from my pile to use on the vise chops. They had a coat of stain and finish on them, so I sent them through my planer set to a very light cut. They cleaned up nicely.
After planing, the boards were a little under ¾”. I decided to resaw them in two and hope for a heavy ¼” after final planing.
The douglas fir timbers were also something that I bought locally. These were not part of the original tree that I had felled and milled to make my bench two years ago. Last spring I found a woman who was selling a bunch of these “shorts” that she had acquired from a friend who worked at a mill. The timbers measured about 4″ x 10″ x 48″ and were rough sawn. I paid $5 each. I jointed and planed them, painted the ends to help stop checking, and put them in the lumber pile to dry. These have not dried anywhere near as much as I would have liked them to, and really should be left for another 4 years. I’m not about to wait untill then to finish my bench, and I’m going with what I have. Time will tell if this is a mistake.
The douglas fir timbers being over 4″ thick are more than I need for these chops. I needed to re-saw them down to a little over 3″. To make the parts a little more manageable to re-saw, I rough cut them to length first. In the above photo you can see how I divided the timbers.
I was very happy with how well my new bandsaw performed. I couldn’t have done this job without it as my 14″ bandsaw only has a 6″ resaw capacity.
After re-sawing the douglas fir, I sent it through the planer to remove any unevenness or bandsaw marks. Next, I examined all four vise chop blanks to arrange them for best grain appearance. I wanted the top edge to be as clear grain as possible. The two faces don’t really matter as one is getting covered by mahogany and the other by leather. I also laid out the mahogany veneer for best appearance. I stacked all the parts in reverse order and got ready for the glue up.
This post is getting rather long so I’ll pause here. In the next one, I’ll shape the vise chops.
– Jonathan White