Leg Vise and the Ugliest Slinding Deadman

Have you ever got to a point in a project where you’re so close to being done that you just can’t get yourself to finish? I seem to be at that point with my bench. I have however been able to knock out the rest of the leg vise and the sliding dead man. The installation of the leg vise hardware was pretty similar to the wagon vise with few exceptions. The threaded rod for the leg vise was 1/8″ thicker than the one for the wagon vise for a total of 1-1/8″. My largest auger bit is a number 16 so it isn’t large enough with the bit alone. Once I got the hole drilled all the way through I took the rod and threaded it through and since the pine is so soft it was able imprint the sides of the hole.

IMG_5489I used a 1/4″ chisel to pare away the walls until all the threaded marks were gone. Once the rod was able to slide through without force I assembled the hardware so I could mark out the fitting.

IMG_5490I know I took more pictures of the assembly but I cannot for the life of me find them. Anyhow, it was pretty much the same as when I did the wagon vise install and in my last post you saw that the hardware was already complete. So what I’ve actually been able to accomplish from that point was the actual leg portion of the vise. In my original design, I was gonna go for something like the design for the “18th Century Workbench” that Chris Schwarz made. I decided against that for a couple reason and the main one being available tools. I didn’t want to buy any rasps or coping saw for the curve work. Instead I went for a simple taper. IMG_5510

Just like the stretchers, I used a 2×6 and some big box store 1×6 to get roughly 2″. I didn’t measure the thickness but left things as thick as possible. I know you can’t tell but there is a nice birdseye figure to face of the vise. Once everything was flat, square and parallel, I did a dry fit.IMG_5511

As you can see, things weren’t quite flush. I took everything apart and examined the bench surfaces. IMG_5512

Part of the leg wasn’t quite flush with the bench top as you see above but it was actually more towards the stretcher where there was some unevenness. After a bit of planing I had a better fit but still needed some work.  IMG_5513

Next was working on the parallel guide. Since I had already cut the through mortise when I assembled the legs it was just a matter of transferring location on to the vise. I couldn’t take the measurements and mark it out on the leg vise because I had already cut the tapers, so I clamped the leg vise to the leg of the bench and did my best to trace out the mortise for the parallel guide. After I couldn’t get a good trace with a pencil I took a chisel and lined it up with the walls of the mortise as best as possible and marked it out. IMG_5514

After the mortise was cut I made the parallel guide to fit snug in the leg vise but a hair smaller than the mortise of the bench leg so things would slide smoothly. Once I was happy with the fit I bored out the 3/8″ holes which were offset by 1/2″.


If you think that the parallel guide is ugly, just wait… Now that I  had all the componets complete it was time for a dry run without the screws on the vise. Everything seemed to move smoothly so I figured I was ready to tighten things down. For some reason I decided to do this with the vise half way pulled out. When I went to check the fit I actually got it stuck. I could close it all the way but getting it to back out I had to reach under and lift the parallel guide for it to come loose. At first this worried me and I couldn’t think of what I was doing wrong. I’m gonna blame it on the fact that it was probably around 10pm and maybe after a beer or two. After some tweaking around a bit I figured it out. I closed the vise, clamped it down and then tightened the hardware. This gave me a smooth operation all the way in and all the way out. IMG_5541

I don’t have any fancy draw bores or wooden pegs so I just use what I have and in this case it’s a allen wrench. IMG_5542

Now I didn’t really document the sliding dead man but I did want to show how ugly it was. Auger bits and pine do not seem to like each other. No matter what I did, drilling fast or slow, little pressure or a lot of pressure, things were just UGLY. I honestly think it’s the “craft” wood from the big box stores because I didn’t get these results with I drilled out the mortises on the 2 by material. IMG_5543

Blow out on the back was horrible, even with a sacrificial board and predrilling the back. It is only the back so I’m not worried but I hate how compressed all the fibers are in each hole. These are 1″ holes offset by an inch so I just used the same oak dowel that I made the handles with. Overall it slides real smooth considering the track and groove are a less than perfect fit. I’m real happy with the functionality of both devices but if I could just finish up the top soon I’d be really happy. My goal is by the year’s end.

Assembling the Base

Out of all the joinery for the bench, I think this wedged through dovetail mortise and tenon was the most nerve racking. Considering I haven’t been doing the hand tool thing for too long, successfully assembling this joint would a big accomplishment for me. Although it may not seem like it, the layout was a bit tricky to read off the plans and to make it more complicated I had to modify them to fit my dimensions. Looking at it now it doesn’t see like it should have been but I guess it was the intimidation factor for me.

Here’s the inside..

And the outside layout.

The “x” marked areas serve as straight through mortise. Now I’m not sure how most do their through mortises by hand but I found it easier to drill my holes out about 1/2ish the way through

And then (mostly) clean it all up

Before flipping it over and drilling out the rest.

Once the through mortise is all complete…

It’s time to work on the angled portion of the mortise. To do this I first established a kerf that is angled down to the marked line up to the edge on the opposite side.

And slowly work back until the kerf line is gone.

Next was tackling the inset portion. To make things a little easier I made a series of kerfs with my little pull saw. It’s a lot easier to pull away from the wall while sawing then push against it. From there is was a matter of carefully chipping out the waste until I was about 1/8″ away from my line.

After I get the last bit out of the corner I take it all down to my scribe line and clean things up as best as possible.

Yes, I know she’s not a looker but she gets the job done. Also considering I’m using such a soft construction grade pine, I do have to say that it did turn out well, IMO.

Next of course comes the tenon portion. For this I must admit I somewhat cheated. The total thickness for the stretchers are 2″. As you know, 2 x 6 dimensioned lumber is 1-1/2 x 5-1/2 and when I mill things up I usually get about 1-1/4″ to 1-3/8″ depending on the board. I didn’t want to put two of these pieces together and end up with 2-1/2″ to 2-3/4″ to have to thickness down to 2″. So I just bought some S4S boards from the big box store when I went back to get a couple more 2 x 6’s.

Layout for the mortise was much simpler. I’d love to show you but I was on a roll in the shop. Once I dry fit the first one and saw how great it fit I didn’t stop for pictures. Cutting out the tenons was  a much simpler task. It was just three cuts. The first cut was for the 1″ shoulder, then I went down the board and cut the cheek. Lastly was the angled haunched portion. Here is the end result.

After I cleaned things up and fit each joint individually, I assembled the whole base.

As you can see I  also fit the top at this point. I must say, I do love it. Although I knew the dimensions when I began building, it is a little smaller than I thought. By no means is that an issue, I still think it’s the perfect size for me and my projects. I just have to remember that the zoom function in SketchUp doesn’t mean larger in real life.

I’ve also already added the leg vise hardware and will write a post about that when that portion is all complete. I even made a couple of bench dogs and although she’s not complete, she is 100% useable. All that’s left with the base is adding the shelf, making the wedges and do a final clean up of all the joints and edges before setting her in place.

Finishing the Wagon Vise

Well I was finally able to get back in the shop since arriving back home last Sunday. It wasn’t easy though. I kinda left the garage in a disarray when I left and it was no better when I got back. Yeah, that’s supposed to be my shop area… Well after three days of on and off again cleaning, I finally got my side of the garage in a usable state.

So now my first state of business was finishing the wagon vise! Before I can start on today events, let me catch up on what was done before I left to Yuma. After I finished my tenon part of my end cap it was time to cut out the mortises.

I don’t mean to brag but these mortises pretty much fit like a glove from the get go.

Next was getting the hole cut out for the screw portion of the wagon vise. Since the threaded rod has a 1″ diameter I established the center with a number 16 auger bit between the spacer and made my mark.

Once I had the center outlined I placed the threaded insert over the outline and traced it.

After it was traced I finished drilling the hole through the end cap…

And then I chopped down to the depth of the hardware and marked my holes and drilled for the mounting screws.

I did have to add a little bit of a chamfer to the edges to make room for the welding on the hardware. Once I mounted the hardware and went to dry fit it, I found out there was one little problem. Again, since the hardware was an after thought, things didn’t quite line up.

So I marked the edges of the hardware on the bench top the and cut back to the depth of the mounting bracket. Once everything was nice and flush, I left to WTI.

Now we come to today. There was one issue that was making this whole set up a real PITA. When you tightened the screw that secures the mounting piece on the moveable portion of the vise, it makes contact with the bracket before bottoming out which causes it to tighten the bracket rather then letting it spin freely. Therefore when you loosen the vise it would unscrew completely. To correct this issue I cut the top off a small screw and placed it in the screw hole to act as a spacer to give clearance between the bracket and screw.

Now I know in my last post about the vise I mentioned how I did not want to use any metal fasteners on this bench. Well while in Yuma I came to the conclusion that since I’m dealing with pine, to best reinforce the end cap it might be best to go ahead and use them. Luckily for me I already had some lag bolts and washers from a previous project that I never used. I marked for three bolt and drilled about 3/4″ down. From the center of the auger bit it continued with a 5/16″ drill bit for the 3/8″ bolts. I elongated the two back bolt about 1/16″ and 1/8″ respectively. Nothing fancy, just some paring away with a chisel.

Once it was all said and done and the end cap was mounted, I installed the vise hardware completely and cleaned up the top and edges. I used a 1″ dowel pegged with a 5/16″ dowel on both ends for the handle. Here she is closed…

And open…

In summary I would have done a lot different. First would obviously be to account for the size of the hardware before building. There won’t be too much flattening of this bad boy since parts of the hardware are almost already flush with the top. I would have also like to use up more of the vise length. There’s about four more inches of unused rod that could have been nice to have. Also, I don’t like how close the left bolt is to the edge but so long as it holds, I guess I’ll try to not let it bug me. Aesthetically, I may go back in a square up the elongated holes. You may or may not be able to tell but they are quite funky in shape.

Other that waxing the sides and runner grooves, I’m calling the wagon vise complete! I don’t have any bench dogs made yet but I did test it out by placing a piece scrap in the middle and clamping it down and boy does she hold. I couldn’t even budge the board! Next is getting the base assembled…

Happy Birthday, Marines!

I know this is a little late in the day but I want to wish all Marines, past and present, a Happy 237th Birthday! May we continue to prove we are the best by doing more with less and policing the whole damn world each and every day!

The Shadow Chest Concept

Since I left home for WTI back on September 5th, I really haven’t done much. I don’t just mean woodworking wise, I’m talking about day to day life. I have however manage to watch an impressive amount of TV shows. I’ve been able to start and finish or catch up to The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Blue Mountain State, and White Collar to name a few. I’ve also been able to watch a ridiculous amount of movies. BUT, that’s not all I’ve done (just mostly).

Since I can’t do woodworking, I’ve been Sketch(ing)Up some ideas. Now I think lots if not most hobby woodworker have some type of “business”. Now I don’t mean an official business that we need involve Uncle Sam in, but something’s gotta pay for all the wood and tools. Mine happens to be frames and shadow boxes. I mean what kind of Marine woodworker would I be if I didn’t make shadow boxes! It helps keep me in supply of wood and can sometime generate enough for new tools now and then.

Well since my wife left the Marine Corps after 8 years to take on the job of homemaker, I’ve been wanting to make her something special for her to remember her time (even if she doesn’t want to) in the Marine Corps. She did receive a shadow box from her shop upon EASing but it’s a cheap store bought one. I did offer to make hers but her Gunny did want me to make it since it was a shop gift and I wasn’t in their shop. Anyways, she’s always told me she wanted a chest to put her uniforms in so I wanted to design something that would house a (new) shadow box and her uniforms as well as any other misc items she may want in there. I know this is no new design but I haven’t been able to find anything that closely resembles the potential quality that mine has.

I may be giving my SketchUp skills more credit that what my woodworking skills will be able to produce but we can all dream right? Now here’s a few things that are specific to this chest. There are four different types of dovetails on it; a through dovetail (case), a half blind dovetail (trays), a sliding dovetail (lid), and a miter dovetail (shadow box). The hardest part of designing this chest was making it sell-able. Let me explain. If I sold this case, the question that kept stumping me was “how do I enable someone to access the mounting board of the shadow box and reassemble it after they are done?”

The shadow box is built into the lid so it’s not a matter of removing it entirely and accessing it from the back like my typical shadow boxes. Idea after idea my bubbles kept popping. It wasn’t until I re-stumbled across an article in issue#213 of Fine Woodworking that it hit me! Mitered frame dovetails!! Here’s what I’m thinking; set the sides of the case in the lid and then basically make a false front. Three of the sides would be permanently mounted with  a fourth that would be removable to access the mounting board. You can get what you need done and when you’re finish, place the piece back on and it would still look complete. While it sounds simple enough, it probably won’t be. That’s why it’s a concept.

A couple other notes that I want to mention… The lid design is taken straight from Tony Konovaloff’s tool chest. Although it seems to be completely out of my league, that won’t stop me from trying. Next, I wanted it to resemble a foot locker in shape. For that reason there is no kick plate to hide a through groove for the base so there will be a stopped groove….. I think that’s it for now. I look forward to starting this once my bench is complete!

Handworks 2013

Although I’ve only been woodworking a few years, WIA never really interested me. Not to say that I wouldn’t attend if given the opportunity but still. Since I’ve never been to any woodworking convention, it does hold that bit of intrigue over me. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m stuck in Yuma, AZ during both events, I maybe would have tried to go to the one in Cincinnati. Be it as it is, I’m not going to any woodworking conventions this year.

Next year is a different story. Lost Art Press posted some information about Handworks 2013 on their blog earlier this month. It sounds like something right up my alley. So much so that I’ve already registered and got my trip all planned and paid for. Basically it turns out to be an early Father’s Day gift since it’s about 3 weeks beforehand.

Anyone else planing on going?

New Toys I Can’t Play With… Yet

Just because I’m 2430 miles from home doesn’t mean I’ve stayed away from woodworking. I came across some extra cash when I sold my truck before leaving for Yuma so I’ve spent some time scouring the internet for some tools. I wasn’t sure want I wanted at first, some thing new or used. I thought about some new planes or upgrading my saw sharpening gear among other things but I’ve also had my eyes out for some specific used items.

My first purchase was a set of Russell Jennings auger bits. My first set of bits were awful but I didn’t mind. I won a bid on eBay for two braces and some misc auger bits. Out of all of maybe 15 bits, only 3 were salvageable. The rest were either bent, the spurs were completely worn down, or the threads on the tip were ruined. I decided to spend the money on a nice restored set and hopefully they are as good as they look.

My next buy wasn’t intended at all. Actually I blame Mark Harrell of Bad Axe Tool Works. I have now acquired a nice little collection of his saws. If you follow his Facebook page you’ll know that he had a deal on guaranteed delivery by Christmas if an order was placed before the end of Sept. He was also raising the price of his saws $30 across the board and gave a couple weeks notice for those looking to buy before the increase. Luckily for me, it just so happened that he had a giveaway when he was just below 700 “likes”. He stated that those who help him reach 700 would get 10% off a saw for them and those who referred them. That’s when having a wife has helped in a woodworking way. We each got 10% off and the time seemed right to make my deposit. I ordered a 10″ dovetail and 10″ carcase saw to add to my collection which includes a 16″ tenon, 14″ sash and 12″ hybrid dovetail saw. Plus I couldn’t pass on his bronze backing and apple handles! I’ll be posting pictures when I get them!

Lastly was my biggest purchase. I’ve been looking into getting some hollows and rounds. If you’ve looked into new pairs from places such as M.S Bickford or Old Street Tool you know they are running almost $500! Half sets will set you back around $3500! While I would love a new pair (or better yet a Starter Set), the Marine Corps doesn’t pay me enough to drop that kind of money on new hollows and rounds. I started looking for used sets on eBay with no luck. I wasn’t looking for single pairs but sets. I can’t get myself to spend $500 on a single pair but I will on a half set even though I may not use them all at first or ever. The one half set I was willing to buy I did bid on but lost. It ended up selling for about $850. I turned my attention to another website that I came across a while back, Jim Bode Tools. This is actually the full website of one of the eBay stores I always end up on, 2lshark. One lucky day I found what I was looking for. A matching half set of hollows and rounds in great condition. Again, this is only verified by picture right now and I haven’t seen them in person yet but just look!

I have all these great toys at home and waiting for me. The saws may even be ready around that time. November 2nd can’t come soon enough!