Workbench #2: Dovetail and tail vise

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Blog entry by JimYoung posted 03-30-2020 11:25 AM 657 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Roubo Workbench progress Part 2 of Workbench series Part 3: Top and Chop »

While being in lockdown in Michigan, I’ve had some time to continue with my work bench build.

I finished gluing up the two slabs for the top and took them to Armstrong Millworks to have them jointed and planed to thickness. I just don’t have the tools or skills yet to tackle this job. While I was there I picked up a few more boards to finish up the bench.

Next up was to hog out the bottom of the front top slab for the tail vise and glue the dog hole board in place. I’ve elected to go with round dog holes since there are a lot of accessories out there for round holes. I used my plunge router and a 3/4” straight bit to start each hole, and finished them up with a spade bit and hand drill. With hand drilling the angle of the hole tended to wander, so I made sure to drill them all the same way so the dog pin (?) would angle down to help hold the work piece to the bench.

My bench top ended up at 3 3/4” thick, so I didn’t need to route out for the tail vise tracks which made the installation simple.

Final step was to cut the large dovetails to attach the front laminate to the tail vise end cap. This is my first attempt at hand cutting dovetails. I cut the tails first and sized up the pins on the end cap. After all the trimming and fitting the fit was not that great. Since I didn’t want to remake the end cap, I cut off the tails and tied to cut those to fit. It took one more attempt, but the final result is pretty good. No power tools were used in this step.

The Benchcrafted hardware has been great so far. Two complaints; 1. The 3 screws that hold the chop screw nut in place are standard straight slotted screws, and strip out easily. Phillips, Torx, or Hex head would have been better. Drilling and lining up the barrel nuts without an industrial sized drill press is difficult. I’ve cross threaded the barrel nuts and had to re-tap them after fiddling around adjusting the holes for them. Not sure how to drill a straight 3/4” hole with a hand drill, but spade and Forstner bits wander. Suggestions?

Next up is mortising the tops for the legs and finishing the shape of the chop.

-- -Jim, "Nothing says poor craftsmanship more than wrinkles in your duck tape"

8 comments so far

View EarlS's profile


3679 posts in 3088 days

#1 posted 03-30-2020 12:11 PM

Your bench is coming along nicely.

Would one of the after market hand drill presses work? Looks like there are plenty of options, including a DIY version.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View HokieKen's profile


13632 posts in 1878 days

#2 posted 03-30-2020 03:27 PM

An auger bit works well for large holes with a hand drill. Irwin makes some that you can buy at Lowes that work well. When I did my dog holes in my bench, I started by using a 3/4 bit in my plunge router to be sure I got the hole started perfectly square to the top. Then I finished boring through the top with an auger bit. Using the router hole as a guide and letting the auger bit pull itself through the thick oak made it a pretty easy process with great results.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View theoldfart's profile (online now)


11515 posts in 3191 days

#3 posted 03-30-2020 05:05 PM

“but the final result is pretty good. “

I’d say way more than pretty good. This are excellent condor tails, well done.

I had the same issue with the BC bench bolts, took a while. The holes were not precise but the end result was functional. I moved from the east coast to the west coast and the take down capability was a life saver.

The build your doing is outstanding, keep posting.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View JimYoung's profile


377 posts in 2327 days

#4 posted 03-30-2020 07:07 PM

Thanks for the comments and suggestions. I have a few more holes to drill in the tops so I’ll look into either a portable drill press or auger bit.

Stay safe out there!

-- -Jim, "Nothing says poor craftsmanship more than wrinkles in your duck tape"

View shampeon's profile


2035 posts in 2923 days

#5 posted 03-30-2020 07:53 PM

+1 on the lovely condor tails.

This is how I did my dog holes:

I took a scrap piece of wood and bored 2 holes in it on the drill press at the distance I wanted the dog holes to be. Then I clamped it to the bench, and worked my way across with a brace & bit, using bench dogs in one hole through the hole I just bored. If I remember right, I scribed a reference line to square up the jig before I started boring each hole.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View theoldfart's profile (online now)


11515 posts in 3191 days

#6 posted 03-30-2020 07:58 PM

I drilled my dog holes the same way as Ian.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View James E McIntyre's profile

James E McIntyre

731 posts in 2032 days

#7 posted 04-01-2020 08:06 PM

Now that’s an impressive bench Jim.
No shortcuts there. Those dovetails are the best.

Sampson’s idea is good for drilling the holes.
I have this drill holder I used on one of my projects.
If you lived near me you could borrow it.

I had it for years and only used it once.

-- James E McIntyre: More work and less words please.

View AJ1104's profile


1081 posts in 2399 days

#8 posted 04-09-2020 01:17 AM

Your dovetails are right on.

-- AJ

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