Things are zipping right along in the shop these days and the workbench build is entering its final stages. The next item on my to do list is to make two sliding deadmen for the workbench. I have designed my bench to be ambidextrous and as such it will need a deadman on each side. Sometimes you will see these refered to as board jacks, but I find the previous term more colorful. I didn’t have any lumber left from the tree that I had felled to make this bench that was suitable for making the deadmen. I did however have two very nice 2x6s that I found at the local hardware store last year. They are almost clear and are more like vertical grain douglas fir than construction timbers.
Using the cross-cut sled on my tablesaw, I cut the 2x6s to get two pieces that were just over double the length of the intended deadmen.
I then jointed one face flat, jointed one edge square, planed the opposing face, and ripped the other edge on the tablesaw. A quick fast forward, and this was the result:
I then took these two boards and cut them in half one last time. By folding them back upon themselves, I got two panels that are color and grain matched. The effect isn’t quite as nice as book matching, but it still looks much better than putting two random boards together.
These will be glued up to make the two blanks from which I will make the deadmen.
A little Titebond III on the edges, and the boards spent the night in the clamps.
The next morning, I removed the boards from the clamps and scraped off the squeeze-out.
I then used a smoothing plane to clean up the faces. They didn’t need much. I have installed spiral segmented cutter heads in both my jointer and planer and the surface they leave is not bad. It’s not finish ready, but it’s easy to make it so.
When I made the base of my workbench, I incorporated a V into the front of all the stretchers. I also cut grooves into the underside of the benchtop. These two details will allow me to quickly install or remove a sliding deadman by inserting a tongue cut on the top of the deadman, into the grove and then dropping the bottom of the deadman down onto the V of the stretcher.
To make the deadman, I need to start by cutting V-notch on the bottom. The problem is, the deadmen and the stretchers are not the same thickness. So I can’t just cut a 90° notch centered on the thickness of the deadman. It will have to be off-set. When I made the stretchers, I saved a small off-cut, as I thought it might come in handy at this stage for exactly this purpose.
The sliding deadmen should be more or less flush with the front of the benchtop, legs, and stretchers. It is okay if the deadman is very slightly recessed, but not if it is proud. To lay out the notch, I stood the deadman blank on its edge and positioned the off-cut piece of stretcher about 1/32″ proud of the deadman. I then used the off-cut to mark the deadman with a pencil.
This gave me the correct off-set location of the V-notch.
To cut the notch, I installed a tall fence on my tablesaw and tilted the blade to 45°.
I then installed a feather board to keep the deadman tight against the fence.
I adjusted the fence and then made the second cut to complete the notch.
The very apex of the notch was a little uneven, so I cleaned it up with a shoulder plane.
I wanted the deadmen to slide smoothly so I decided that I could improve the notch by sanding it.
The off-cut from the stretcher proved handy once again and I wrapped it in some 220 grit paper to smooth the inside of the V-notch.
This should do nicely!
I then had to calculate how far up the deadman the tongue should be cut. I drew it all out and re-checked my measurements. I really didn’t want to screw this up and have to start over.
I first trimmed the deadman to final length and then cut the rabbet at the tablesaw. I figured that it would be much easier to cut the rabbet in two passes than it would have been to install the stacked dado cutter head. I first ran the deadmen through vertically.
And then laid it flat to finish the rabbet.
I found that the tongue left on the top of the deadman was just a little to thick for the groove in the underside of the benchtop. If I had made the rabbet any deeper, it would have made the face of the deadman stick out proud of the benchtop when installed. Instead, I removed just a hair from the back side of the tongue.
Here’s the result:
I cleaned up the tongue with my shoulder plane and then rounded over all of the edges of the tongue with sandpaper. The tongue needs to be smooth so that it slides well in the groove and doesn’t bind.
With this done, I tested the fit. I was happy to find that they functioned exactly as they should.
This post is already getting a little long, so I will break it into two. In the next post, I will dress up the sliding deadmen with a decorative profile and drill all of the holes for the adjustable dogs. I’ll then apply a few coats of finish and wrap up this part of the build.
– Jonathan White