I’ve been trying to write this post for nearly two weeks now. I have been getting very little time in the shop and even less for working on my blog. I never thought when I started this bench that it would take me a year to build, but March isn’t that far away. The things that I have been doing on this bench build lately are rather finicky and it feels as though I’m not accomplishing much. This vise installation seems to be dragging on. So far I’ve:
- Refinished the vise hardware.
- Milled up and laminated the vise chop blanks.
- Made and shaped the vise chops.
- Drilled the holes for the hardware.
- Made the decorative skirts that hide the hardware.
Now it is finally time to install everything on the underside of the benchtop. I don’t think that I ever intended for the vise installation to turn into a six part expose, but there you go. This post should finish up the vise portion of my bench build. Or not!
Before installing anything, I laid out all the parts where I am going to install them.
I started with one of the face vises. I adjusted the vise screw so that the sapele edge board was not covered by the vise mounting/base plate. This gap is where the sapele skirt will be installed in a later step. Once the vise was exactly where I wanted it, I clamped the vise chop to the workbench top.
I also marked where the ogees on the chop met the benchtop edge. These two pencil marks will be needed later to align the skirt with the chop.
I wanted to precisely locate the pilot holes, so I used a center finding bit.
I then switched to a larger drill bit that I had marked the depth on with some blue painters tape. Sorry for the crappy out of focus photo, I should have checked it on camera.
The vise base plates have five round flat topped holes and two that have a counter sink. You can’t see the counter sunk holes in the photo above because they are under the guide rods. Since they have a nice washer head, I used 3 5/8″ LedgerLok lag screws for the flat topped mounting holes. I like these screws and have used the TimberLock version before on other projects. They have incredible holding power and I like that the threads don’t extend all the way to the head. This lets them tighten nicely. My only concern with using them in this project was the slight trumpet or flair out under the washer head (see picture below). I checked to make sure that they would fit in the pre-drilled holes in the base plate and they did, but there wasn’t a lot of wiggle room. That’s why I used the center finding bit to drill the pilot holes. The instructions said that pre-drilling wasn’t necessary, but I wanted to make sure that the base plate didn’t shift when I tightened the screws.
I am going to use the same lag screws to bolt on the vise skirts. With five per base plate and two per skirt, I figured that it made sense to by a box. I ordered the LedgerLok screws from Amazon.
I used #14 2-½” screws for the counter sunk holes.
I installed lag screws in the four holes that were visible with the vise closed and then opened it to reveal the fifth hole under the main screw. This was then drilled and screwed.
I then removed the chop / main screw / guide rod assembly to access the counter sunk holes. I pre-drilled and installed the #14 screws.
With the base plate bolted in place, I turned my attention to the vise skirts. At the drill press I drilled two ½” holes with a forstner bit and then 1/8″ or 3/16″ (I don’t remember which) holes all the way through.
I quickly realized that the counter bores needed to be much deeper for the lag screws to engage into the benchtop. I deepened them, but forgot to take a picture.
I clamped the vise skirt to the benchtop, making sure to locate the skirt in between the two pencil marks that I made earlier. Since the skirt is essentially a silhouette of the lower half of the vise chop, it would look odd if they didn’t line up when closed.
I made sure that the skirt was exactly where needed and that it was perfectly flush with the edge of the benchtop. I used the same long drill bit to drill through the existing pilot holes and into the benchtop edge.
With the pilot holes drilled, I installed the lag screws and fastened the skirt to the benchtop. No glue here, I want this to be reversible.
To drill the 20mm holes for the guide rods, it makes sense to use the base plate as the guide. This will ensure that everything lines up later. The first snag that I ran into was that I couldn’t attach the drill to the bit as there wasn’t enough clearance. I had to come up with some way of extending this and I don’t have a drill bit extension.
I took the bit to my benchtop grinder, and using the side of the wheel, carefully ground six flats on the butt end of the bit.
I tested the bit and found that a 3/8″ hex socket more or less fit the drill bit. I used all of my ¼” socket set extenders, and a hex-to-¼” square drive adapter to make a extension rod long enough to easily allow the drill to attach.
It worked better than I had hoped.
These Colt TwinLand bits cut a very smooth hole.
I was probably pushing a little too hard when I drilled the second hole and got a little split out. This doesn’t really matter as that area will mortised out later to make room for the guide blocks.
The next dilemma was how to drill the big 30mm hole for the screw. You can’t drill through the hole from the inside because of the threads. The 30mm bit wouldn’t fit. Then it occurred to me that I could use the template that I used to drill the holes in the chops. I took the two guide rods and installed them through both the skirt and the base plate. I then put the template over the guide rods.
I clamped the template in place and confirmed that the guide rods still slid smoothly.
I then mounted the 30mm bit in the drill. Wow…. this bit is huge and the drill is rather powerful. If this binds, my wrist is going to know it!
You have to be very careful with this hole. If the drill bit breaks through the other side under any pressure, the nice sharp point are going to go get chewed up on the threaded portion of the base plate. I got lucky with this one, but on the subsequent vises, I drilled halfway through and then removed the skirt to finish the hole at the drill press. With the hole for the main screw done, I moved on to the guide blocks. I think with the way that I am installing these vises (going through a hardwood skirt) these blocks are probably not really needed, but they are part of the design of the vise, so I’m going to use them. I held them in place and traced around them with a pencil.
These guide blocks are not all identical and vary slightly from piece to piece. I had to make sure that I remembered which was left or right. I removed the skirt from the bench and took it to the drill press to hog out the majority of the waste.
A slightly curved gouge would have been an ideal tool for cleaning up the wall of the mortise, but I don’t have one. In fact, I realized that I don’t have any gouges. I’ll have to do something about that. I used my ¼” Marples blue chip chisel since it’s flat spots would be relatively small and I could work my way around the curve.
In writing this post, I have realized that I forgot to take any pictures for a while, so I’ll explain what I did. Once I fitted both guide blocks so that they were just below the surface of the skirt, I drilled pilot holes with the center finding bit and then a regular bit to get to full depth. I then installed 3 #12 x 1 ¼” screws in each guide block. I was a little worried about the screws poking out the back of the skirt, so I took the fine point off the screws at the grinder.
Re-installed the skirt on the edge of the benchtop using the same bolts and holes. Before assembling the vise hardware and vise chop, I cleaned up the chops with a smoothing plane. This removed any of my remaining lay out marks.
So, here’s the first vise:
I still have not installed the three screws that go through the vise face plate and into the chop. These are brass and I don’t want to mess them up by repeatedly installing and removing them. I will apply a few coats of danish oil before they go in.
I repeated the whole process above and installed the other face vise.
I won’t repeat all that I’ve already said about the face vise installation, but here’s a little of how the tail vises went. Instead of installing the two tail vises one after the other, I did them at the same time. This made things go much quicker.
I couldn’t clamp the tail vises in place, not having an 8 ½ foot clamp, so I leaned against them to hold them in place while I drilled the pilot holes.
Drilling the counter-bored holes in the tail vise skirts was a little trickier since I had to drill into the ogee. To make sure that nothing moved while drilling, I clamped the skirt to the fence on the drill press.
Once I had installed both skirts on the end of the benchtop, I drilled through the base plates to create the guide rod holes.
Here are all four vises installed. They still need some fine tuning to make sure that they move easily, but I’ll probably wait to do that until the bench is together and upright.
The next thing that had to be done was install the wooden vise handles. I bought the vises from Grizzly, but they don’t sell any matching vise handles. I saw that Lee Valley has a very similar vise that they call the Large Front Vise and they also sell a vise handle to go with it. I figured that they looked about the same and took a chance on ordering four of the handles. I took one of the handles out of the packet and tried to install it.
No luck… It was too big for the Grizzly T-handle.
No problem, I can make this work. I mounted the handle in my $50 garage sale lathe and reduced its diameter ever so slightly.
I started out with the skew chisel, using it more as a scraper. I then switched to 80 grit sandpaper to reduce it further and get a more consistent thickness. As soon as it fit the T-Handle, I worked my way up through 100, 120, 220, and finally 320 grits. I did this for all four handles.
The end caps seemed to have a very thin finish on them and didn’t look very good. I mounted them in the lathe and cleaned all eight of them up with sandpaper.
When I installed one of the end caps, it was apparent how much I had to thin the handles. Nothing drastic, but you sure can see the difference.
I had purchased some rubber O-rings at the local Fastenal shop to protect the end caps when the handle slides through the T-handle. I got one out to test the fit.
So, the vises are done. Well, not quite. I still have to apply finish, install the brass face plate screws, fine tune the fit, and line with leather. I guess there will be more on the vises later after all.
Next I need to route grooves in the under side of the benchtop for the sliding deadmen.
I’d say “More soon”, but I really don’t know when I’ll get to writing it.
– Jonathan White
I would do all the tweaking of the vises now while you have access to them. Trying to tweak them after the top is flipped and in place could be a bit awkward.
It wasn’t until this post that I finallyunderstood how the vise skirts are used.
I’m trying to set it up as a left handed bench when approached from one side and a right handed bench from the other. I know it is unusual to say the least. After a couple of recent posts on other blogs, I’m sure many will think me a little crazy for doing this. Oh well, it ought to be an interesting experiment at least.
To fine tune the vises, I’m thinking more along the lines of possibly having to sand the inside of some of the holes and then waxing them. I don’t plan on having to adjust or move the base plates (god, I hope not). I may also have to hand plane some wood away from the inside face of the chops to get a nice tight and even closure. I’ll probably have to remove a little more wood from the bottom so that the top edge closes first. I think it will be easier to do this with the bench right side up as I’ll be able to see the top of the vise as it closes.
All the best,