Workbench #18: Thoughts and Changes

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Blog entry by CartersWhittling posted 05-16-2012 02:25 AM 9234 reads 3 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 17: Completion Part 18 of Workbench series no next part


Its been 6 months since I finished my bench and I have spent over 1000 hours on it. Now that I have gotten a good feel for how the bench works and its ups and downs I thought I would write an update on it.

To start I’ll mention the modifications I made. The first was to add leather to the pads on the hold fasts. With leather I no longer need to place scrap wood between the work pieces and the hold fasts to prevent denting. If you have hold fasts (which you should) I would recommend using contact cement to glue leather to them. I used some rough sand paper to scuff up the hold fast where I was going to glue the leather to help it adhere better. I don’t think it changes the grip at all, for better or worse.

I also made a new bench dog in slot number 11 so that the dog dropped down lower.

This is the original. Because of the tail vise guide block this bench dog didn’t stick down below the bench, which made it slightly annoying when popping it up.

Now the new bench dog sticks down about an inch like the rest.

The only other update I have made to the bench was to make two bench dogs for holding turnings. These are both 12” long and have screws with tips I have ground to a point. The only problem with these are that they do not stay at whatever height you place them because they do not have the little hickory springs my other bench dogs have. The only idea I have to solve it would be to put a few bullet catches every inch or two so there will also be one or two applying pressure, no matter what height they are set at.

I do have plans on making a new screw for my tail vise. At the time I made the one I have now I could only fit 14 inches on my lathe. Because of that, when the vise is fully extended there is only about an inch of screw grabbing the nut, which isn’t ideal. Also because of the short length, the hub is too short and makes it awkward because the handle is too close to the vise. With the handle so close I sometimes hit my knuckles on the vise, again, not ideal. So I will eventually make a longer screw now that my lathe can handle about 3’.

Because I knew I planned on making a new screw I made the one “nub” on the end of the handle removable by not glueing it in place. This way when I make a new screw I can reuse the handle. It turns out its handy having the handle removable because it can get in the way while planing large boards. So even when I make a new screw I will keep the “nub” removable.

When I built the bench and drilled the hold fast holes in the one leg I made a lucky move. I didn’t think about it the minute I was drilling the holes, but you want your hold fasts able to hang in the holes without hitting each other. It’s no big deal if they do, it just looks nicer and you won’t have them ding each other every time you put them there.

Another thing to keep in mind if you build a sliding dead man is to have the holes in the leg line up level with two of the holes in the dead man. I didn’t think about this when I made mine so the holes aren’t perfectly level.

Again, its no big deal, but there are times when you can rest a work piece on a hold fast in a leg and on the sliding deadman, so its nice to have the board level. If for whatever reason I make a new sliding dead man I will make sure to have the holes line up.

When I had first built the bench I had it running parallel with my shop. This set up was OK, but I found myself always walking around the bench to get to the tools on the other side. So about a month ago I turned the bench so that it runs across the middle of my shop. This way I can get to the tools on the wall from either side of the bench fairly quickly. I left a little space between the bench and wall so that I can move through there to reach farther without walking all the way around. Opposite to the wall, by the tail vise is where I will have my tool chest when it is done. So again, I can get to the tools in the tool chest without walking around the bench.

The only downside to this set up is that if I have to edge plane a piece over 5 feet long in the leg vise there is little room to move close to the wall. I usually don’t work with very long boards so I havn’t run into that problem yet. If I do I can simply rotate the bench for the time to make more space, no big deal.

(At the end of the tail vise is where my tool chest will go.)

I have most of my commonly used tools on the wall here, for now at least. When my chest is done my nice hand tools will go in there. I also have moved a light directly above the end of the bench so that no matter where I am around the bench, there will always be light.

Shortly after I built my bench I thought I might plug the centre of the bench with a strip to keep things from falling down. I haven’t done it yet because I don’t drop things through it (besides a few pencils). The gap is handing for holding chisels and other tools so I don’t know if I would want to plug it.

I haven’t built a shelf under the bench either, just because I haven’t felt the need to. If I do ever build a shelf I will plug the gap in the top to keep dust/shavings from falling onto it. I do keep a few appliances, like shooting boards and bench hooks under the bench, but they just rest against a stretcher.

The bench has been holding up fine in general. I flattened the top a couple months ago, because it developed a slight hump in the middle, but only very slight. After I resurfaced the bench I put some more oil on it. (Note: try not to get oil in the hold fast holes, otherwise it will take about a week for it to dry, so the hold fasts won’t grip). The shoulder vise and the tail vise have had no problems. The tail vise has broken in now so it runs smoother than at first, but it is not sagging at all.

Every month or two I loosen the bolts in the end caps and the threaded rod through the shoulder vise. I do this just to release any tension that there might be and retighten them again.

I don’t worry if glue gets on my bench, I usually grab a handful of shavings and rub the glue dry, and then scrap any goo off with a dull card scraper. I try not to get any finishes or stains on the bench though (besides oil) just to keep the bench from looking too crummy. If I have to finish over the bench I put a drop sheet or sheet of crummy plywood over top.

A little rough and dirty, but kept clean for the most part. I am still considering using a toothing plane to texture the top but haven’t decided yet.

The leather on the vises and bench dogs have been holding up pretty good as well. I try not to clamp small or sharp objects without wrapping them in another piece of leather, to keep the vise leather from unnecessary marks.

I have also considered making a crochet by the leg vise, but I don’t think there is much advantage in doing so. If anything it keeps you from having boards extend further past the vise. With a bench only about 6 foot long it is nice to extend long boards a little further past the leg vise sometimes.

I have also considered adding a planing stop near the tail vise like many Roubo and Nicholson benches have. I sometimes have to plane a short piece that cannot be clamped between the two nearest bench dogs, and planing against a bench dog is less than ideal because its fairly narrow. Besides the work involved in mortising and making the stop, is there any downside to having this feature?

People have asked me about how long to make a leg vise screw. My screw is only 14” long including the hub, so there is only about 9 inches of thread. There is more than enough. I don’t think I have clamped anything over 3” thick so far, so having 9 inches of thread is enough. One disadvantage to having a longer screw is it takes longer to unscrew when removing the vise. There have been many times where the leg vise was in the way so I removed it, and with a shorter screw it takes less time then with a long one. Only a small consideration though.

I haven’t thought about building a sliding leg vise much, since the sliding dead man and holdfasts work quicker and probably just as good.

My thoughts in general about the bench after 6 months are very good. Each of the three vises has it’s advantages and although I could do without having all three, it sure is nice having them there. Since I use the tail vise more then anything else I would say it is the most useful of the three. Its the only vise of the three that can hold work securely for face planing and with the traditional L-block style vise you can even clamp work between the jaws like a face vise too (of course the grip is side to side, not front to back). I also use it to pry things apart. I do furniture repairing and there have been many times where I used my tail vise to pull chairs apart. The leg vise would be the next most versatile vise. Unlike the shoulder vise it will not pivot so it can clamp small parts. And because the legs are flush to the bench, it is better at edge planing and holding wide boards firmly. Although the shoulder vise is quicker to use than the leg vise and doesn’t have a screw in the way of clamping.

The weight of the bench keeps it from moving while doing anything. I have never had it move while working on it. The height is also very nice for planing and when sitting on a stool it is a good height for chiseling and detailed work. I can’t say I would give it up for another other bench yet, except for a longer one if a had the space, although 6 feet really has been just fine.

If there are any other questions about how my bench has been holding up leave a comment and ask.

-- And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord... Colossians 3:23

15 comments so far

View kenn's profile


813 posts in 4773 days

#1 posted 05-16-2012 02:45 AM

It is still a great looking bench, one that works. I don’t have a planing stop on my bench so no input from me on its advantages. Plus I left off a crochet too so we must think/work alike. I need to flatten my bench before tackling my next big project.

-- Every cloud has a silver lining

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10961 posts in 5105 days

#2 posted 05-16-2012 03:24 AM

SuperMan strikes again!

Super COOL!

Thank you!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:

View Woodwrecker's profile


4240 posts in 4629 days

#3 posted 05-16-2012 04:19 AM

Lots & Lots of really great information.
Thank you!

View Brit's profile


8305 posts in 3896 days

#4 posted 05-16-2012 06:26 AM

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on your bench Carter. Very useful information.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Sylvain's profile


1222 posts in 3552 days

#5 posted 05-16-2012 08:32 AM

Wonderful bench
Thank you for the useful information.

”I sometimes have to plane a short piece that cannot be clamped between the two nearest bench dogs, and planing against a bench dog is less than ideal because its fairly narrow.”

What about clamping a small board in the tail vise to act as a planing stop?

Or using a board in the splitting as a planing stop and working perpendicular to the length near the end of the bench

other alternatives :
see eighth picture on :

If I remember well there is also something like that in
He also uses a removable board in the splitting.

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

View AgentTwitch's profile


631 posts in 4550 days

#6 posted 05-16-2012 11:51 AM

Thanks for posting the update. You made a great observation about the hold fast holes in the leg aligning with the sliding deadman, something I would not have considered until I had a board that would have benefited from being supported by the deadman and the leg.

Also appreciate your input on which of the bench vises see the most use for your work.

-- Regards, Norm

View MShort's profile


1798 posts in 4471 days

#7 posted 05-16-2012 01:15 PM

Thanks for the follow up info. I enjoy reading your adventures and learnings in woodworking.

-- Mike, Missouri --- “A positive life can not happen with a negative mind.” ---

View Mauricio's profile


7166 posts in 4205 days

#8 posted 05-16-2012 02:46 PM

Great tips, a lot of usefull info that I will use in my bench build

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View CartersWhittling's profile


454 posts in 3727 days

#9 posted 05-16-2012 02:54 PM

@Sylvain, I have used a small board that I can clamp in the tail vise for planing small pieces. I forgot about it though because I ended up needing the board to make something haha. I will probably make a new one and determine not to use it for something else. It worked well. Thanks for the reminder. And the planing stop I was referring to is like Bob’s on the Logan Cabinet Shoppe.

You can plan out a bench as much as possible before building, but sometimes there are things you cannot foresee due to inexperience. So I hope you guys can keep these observations in mind so that your benches are closer to “perfection”.

-- And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord... Colossians 3:23

View Bertha's profile


13615 posts in 3746 days

#10 posted 05-16-2012 03:08 PM

The perfect bench.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17269 posts in 3671 days

#11 posted 05-16-2012 03:28 PM

Outstanding bench, one of best on LJs for sure!

Re: Holes level between deadman and leg. Are those for times where you may want the piece being worked to only be supported at the bottom by dead and right leg? My leg vise is on the left, haven’t had an instance where a piece needed more than one support to the right after being clamped on it’s left end.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View CartersWhittling's profile


454 posts in 3727 days

#12 posted 05-16-2012 04:34 PM

@Smitty, You don’t really need the support from the left holdfast if you have a leg vise. But if you do not have a leg vise, but have a crochet it would be more useful. It is also nice to be able to rest a large piece on two holdfast just to keep the board level while you are tightening the leg vise. Like I mentioned in the blog its not a big deal, but if you can make sure they are level its nice to have.

-- And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord... Colossians 3:23

View Philip's profile


1277 posts in 3592 days

#13 posted 05-16-2012 11:22 PM

Great ideas and things to think about for when I get around to making one…

-- I never finish anyth

View bonobo's profile


312 posts in 3109 days

#14 posted 10-19-2012 05:42 PM

Astounding workmanship.

You’ve probably come up with a solution for the turning dogs’ height adjustment but if you haven’t, I was going to suggest putting collets around them with thumb screws (like a couple of panel gauges)

-- “Don't yet rejoice in his defeat, you men! Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.” —Bertolt Brecht

View CartersWhittling's profile


454 posts in 3727 days

#15 posted 10-19-2012 07:47 PM

Thank you, and no I haven’t. I honestly have not even used the turning dogs much. Using some sort of locking collet sounds like a good idea though.

-- And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord... Colossians 3:23

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