Lower rails, leg vise, and sliding deadman

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Blog entry by RS Woodworks posted 08-12-2011 05:46 AM 6196 reads 1 time favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

First of all I just want to say that I love the term “sliding deadman”. I think it’s hilarious! As a forensics investigator for the Edmonton Police Service (a city nearing a million in population) I have seen my fair share of dead men, literally. But I have never seen one sliding! Not even in the cold, snowy, icy winters that we have. But I’ll bet that if I do, I will probably bust a gut laughing while thinking about the work holding device on my bench instead of whatever poor guy met his demise on a slippery incline of some sort. hahahaha! That may seem a bit callous, but in my job, if you can’t laugh, you’ll go nuts. :D

Ok, on with the build. I haven’t taken as many photo’s with this most recent progress because a lot of it is redundant work. Cutting tennons, drilling out and chopping mortises, fitting parts together… there is only so much of that that I can show, without putting the readers of this blog to sleep. I can tell you this however, I find myself getting much better at chopping out the mortises by hand, and enjoying it! I still start the large mortises with a forstner bit, but I find myself using my chisel and mallet much more, which for me, is the whole point of building this bench like I am. I’m also already using the bench for much of the work, as it is, upside down. Even sitting on these sawhorses, the bench is solid and a great surface to pound away on the chisels.

So I cut and installed the rear lower rail. The distance between the legs is just shy of 50”, and the rail is 1 3/4×3 1/8”. It is solid birch, as is the front lower rail that the sliding deadman (hehe) will slide along. An interesting note on installing this rail… without some adjustment the tennon interferes with the side panels. So what I had to do was cut a notch into the inner side of each tennon. Then, with the rail in place, the side panels can slide into it, which essentially locks the rail into place as well. The same is true for the front rail, which makes the whole assembly interlocking and VERY sturdy. Here it is installed.

And with the hole for the drawbore pin drilled. For those who may not be familiar with how to properly drawbore a mortise and tennon joint, there is plenty of instruction on the matter already out there. I won’t regurgitate it, you can look it up yourself if it interests you further.

Here is a little tip that may help you out. Most of my tennons, mortises and drilling locations are marked with a marking gauge. Often, because I’m not too concerned in my work with making thicknesses exact (like 3/4” or 1 1/2” for example), the locations are odd measurements, carefully calculated to line things up. In order to set the marking gauge exactly to the odd measurements, I use this simple trick. Set the measurement I need on the digital caliper and lock it in place, in this case, it’s 0.3665 inches. Use the end of the digital caliper to set the depth of the marking gauge, like so. And then your marks are exactly where you want them.

Hope that helps you out. It’s probably something that lots of you already do, but thought I’d share it anyway. :D

So my next step was to install the front rail. Again I cut the tennons, a little trickier on the odd shaped rail, but got it nice and solid.

I got that rail installed too, but I guess I didnt take a picture of it. It was particularly improtant to line this lower rail up with the groove in the underside of the bench top, so that the sliding deadman (hehe) won’t bind as it moves.

With that done, I decided to start working on the “chop” for the leg vise, the part that moves and does the clamping. I wanted a nice thick chop, and I wanted to use up some lumber I had on hand, but still make it look nice. Other than some birds eye, I didn’t have any maple on hand wide enough to make the chop (needed 9” width), but I did have some nice birch and walnut. So I decided to glue that up and make the chop a nice lamination. Here are the three boards planed flat and ready to glue up.

And here it is after glue up, jointing and ripping to width.

Now a plain old rectangular chop is kinda boring, and this is not a boring bench. So I brought out the taper jig and cut a taper on each edge, starting at about 9 1/2” down, which is also where the vise screw will be located, so it’s a good place for a transition. The top of the chop remains 8 5/8” wide, and the bottom is now just over 5 1/2” wide, which is also the width of the leg. See how it all makes sense? After cutting the taper, I set the table saw blade to 45* and cut a bevel half the width of the thickness of the chop, which reveals the walnut center board to show from the front.

Now THATS a chop! What do you guys think?

Thanks for looking, and if you’ve spent the time to read all this, please leave a comment or a question, I enjoy the feedback! Thanks!

-- I restore the finest vintage tools! If you need a nice plane, saw, marking tool or brace, please let me know!

4 comments so far

View MedicKen's profile


1615 posts in 4799 days

#1 posted 08-12-2011 06:09 AM

Very nice. I am also in the building process of a bench and plan on drawboring the tenons in the stretchers. how far did you off set the holes in the tenons and what are you using for pegs?

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their [email protected]

View KayBee's profile


1083 posts in 4583 days

#2 posted 08-12-2011 06:12 AM

That’s a nice looking chop. Like the laminate and the bevel to show it off.

Now that you put it that way… Sliding deadman does sound like an episode of CSI. Maybe the newest franchise CSI:Lumberjocks.

-- Karen - a little bit of stupid goes a long way

View RS Woodworks's profile

RS Woodworks

533 posts in 4588 days

#3 posted 08-23-2011 06:15 PM

Thanks guys. Ken, the holes for drawboring are 3/8” holes and they are offset by about 1/16” or a bit less. I have made my own walnut dowels for the pegs.
Will show the dowels and how I made them in an upcoming blog entry, so stay tuned for that.

-- I restore the finest vintage tools! If you need a nice plane, saw, marking tool or brace, please let me know!

View jim C's profile

jim C

1472 posts in 4435 days

#4 posted 10-26-2011 06:30 PM

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