Woodworking in the great white north.

Sliding deadman

Ever since I heard and read Chris Schwarz talking about how a workbench should hold just about anything that you are going to build and do so in a way that lets you work on all sides of the piece, I was sold on the sliding deadman.  Sounds grim, but it’s way cooler than saying that you installed a board jack.

I’ve gone a little off the deep end here by making two sliding deadmen and putting one on each side of the bench.  I doubt I’ll need to have two at once, but given that I might have someone else working at the same time, or possibly working on multiple parts at one time, I thought it best to go for it.

Again, these are not really difficult things to make.  Mine are very simple in design, just rectangular blocks with holes in them for a bench dog to hold something up.  The hardest part was making sure I had enough clearance to put the deadman in place and remove it if necessary.

Starting with the rail that the deadman will slide on, this is just a strip of maple left over from the shelf and tool trays.  I ripped it down at 45 degrees on both sides and since the saw was set up for it I also cut the bottom of the deadman so I had a matching groove to ride on the rail.  The rail itself is just glued in place on the base’s rails, using the deadman as a guide for how far back from the front edge the rail needs to sit.  Glue, clamp, wait.

When I made up the bench slabs I routed a slot in each near the front to hold the top end of the sliding deadman.  It could be done after the fact with some difficulty, or a simple pair of rails on the underside could serve the same purpose.  On the deadman, I notched out the top until it fit into the slot and then removed a little bit of the back side of the v-notch at the bottom so that I could get it in place, over the rail.

It did take a bit of finessing to get things right and I ran into a little trouble on one side where the things were binding at one end.  I had some leeway with the deadman itself, so a little trimming with a shoulder plane and all was fitting nicely.

The last step was to drill the holes, a boring job to be sure.  I didn’t really measure the placement of the holes.  So far, I don’t see much need for accuracy, with the exception of having a consistent look.  What I did was to mark two lines from top to bottom, 1/3rd of the way in from the sides.  I chose an arbitrary place to start the first hole.  Using a 30 degree square I took the center point for that hole and extended the 30 degree line down to the line on the other side and mark where it intersects the vertical line, then flip it back and forth until you run out of wood.

Take some extra time with the drilling here, I didn’t and I got some tearout that I could have prevented.  Lastly, I made sure to put a generous amount of wax on the rail and the underside of the deadman to ensure that it doesn’t bind up.



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