Woodworking in the great white north.

Installing the tail vise


The front slab is all laminated up and the end caps in place, the next step is to install the tail vise (which I describe building in this blog post).  Installing the guide plate onto the slab requires a couple of extra steps.  First, there is a bolt head protruding out the back of the plate to hold the nut for the vise screw, so we need to make a recess for this.  Second, the rails protrude a little as they wrap themselves around the guide plate, so a channel needs to be cut out to allow them to move freely.  Oh…and my bench isn’t thick enough, so I had to glue on another 3/4″ piece to allow me to screw the guide plate onto something.


No before and after shots of the slab, but you can see how the guide plate ends up attaching once I’ve done all the necessary routing to accommodate it.  The guide plate has two critical dimensions to consider for location.  Distance from the top of the bench and distance from the end of the bench.  I assembled the hardware while disconnected from the bench and measured where the top of the guide plate is relative to the top of the vise chop.  Fortunately this was the same on both ends, so I at least made the rails parallel to the top of the vise.


The distance from the end of the bench was taken more or less directly from the vise chop.  The assembly block that the rails bolt onto dictates how far from the end of the bench the screw nut has to be.  This is what I used.


Once bolted into place I marked and routed out the dados for the rails to ride in.  The anticipation of seeing the vise in place was overwhelming.  Once the guide plate was bolted on I reassembled the vise onto it and closed it up for the first time.  One end of it looked great….but the “L” extension was actually tilted down on the far end, leaving about 1/8″ lip…underwhelming!  This is where I realize that my assembly block may not have been 100% square when I drilled the holes that house the bolts for the rails.  I couldn’t do much about the vise, so I took the guide plate off and planed off about 1/16″ off the bottom edge of the bench side, making a very slight bevel which should effectively tilt the “L” up a little bit.


Reassembled once again, I was almost bang on.  I did however end up with a slight gap between the chop and the bench.  I’m not sure if I need to fix this or not.  I’m going to leave it for now, it’s more or less 1/8″ and I’ll wait and see if summer humidity does anything to the gap or not.  If it doesn’t change, I’ll rip a thin strip of walnut and glue it onto the vise.


Assembling the vise is a bit of a pain.  First you have to slide the top rail onto the guide plate, then drop the vise chop onto it.  Once that’s in place, bolt the bottom rail into place and tighten up the bolts.  If you’ve built the assembly block correctly, there should be enough play to allow the vise to glide smoothly on the guide plate.  If you’re oversized, the vise is going to rattle around.  If you’re undersized, as mine turned out to be you can either loosen the bolts slightly, or add shims.  For now, I’ve got the bolts reasonably tight and things move nicely.  If it works its way loose, I’ll shim it and tighten them up more.


The hardest part with installing the vise is the cranking and uncranking the vise screw to get the vise on and off.  No handle yet (that will likely be a turning exercise later on) so I used a thick dowel rod as a temporary surrogate.


The way that I built my vise, I do lose a little bit of travel.  I could have designed it such that I’d get closer to 12″ of travel, but I really don’t think that it is necessary, I get just shy of 8″ of travel which I think will be enough for the majority of the work that I will be doing.  Stay tuned after I start using it to see if I’m right not.


Other things to  note.  I found that the screw was rubbing a little on the vise, I didn’t quite have it centered in the hole.  I decided to take a rasp and wide the hole a little as everything was moving pretty nicely the way it was lined up, seems to have worked out just fine.  After I have finished assembling the bench and flattened the top (which will include the vise) I’ll be putting some leather or suede inside the chop.


Just playing around with the vise, I’m very impressed with the holding strength.  It takes very little effort to really seriously lock down on a board and that board will not move, even when whacked with a deadblow mallet.  Once I have the bench flattened I’ll drill the dog holes and then I can test that aspect of the vise out as well.


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