Building The Holtzapffel Workbench #15: The Finished Bench!

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Blog entry by Mike Lingenfelter posted 07-29-2008 04:47 AM 9431 reads 4 times favorited 27 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 14: Final Vise Assembly Part 15 of Building The Holtzapffel Workbench series no next part

Well it was a longtime coming but I have finished the bench. I’ve been having an issue getting the main face vise to operate smoothly. It worked just fine when I had it mocked up, but once I added the final chop it was grabbing and binding. It took some trouble shooting to find the problem, but in the end the problem was me trusting that power tools can do an accurate finish job. More on that later.

First I thought the problem was that the new chop was bigger and heavier. I thought the chop was riding on the garters or on the inside of the holes in the chop. I thought I needed something smoother for the screws to ride on. I recently came across a blog by Jameel Abraham. He’s a luthier and has made the most beautiful Roubo-style workbench. He used some Ultra High Molecular Weight (UHMW) Polyethyene on his vise, to make it operate smoother. If you haven’t seen his blog, you should check it out.

I ordered up a couple pieces of UHMW material, from McMaster-Carr. I order “sleeves” to go into the holes I had already bored through the chop. I was lucky, they had the exact size I needed.


After inserting the sleeves into the holes, I gave it try. Wow, it never felt so smooth! Although, by using the sleeves I eliminated any play the screws had through the chop. So I lost the ability to skew or rack the vise if I wanted. I really didn’t care too much about that, because it moved so smoothly now. Although, my excitement was short lived.

I pulled the chop off one last time and attached the garters. After reinstalling the chop, it was back to it’s old self again! I scratched my head, the only thing I did was add the garters. Off came the chop again! The garters had plenty of room, and weren’t catching on anything. Back on went the chop and sure enough, it was catching and binding still. So I thought the garters must be pinching the screws somehow. I loosened the screws on the garters and ta-da, smooth operating vise again! My conclusion: I recessed the garters into the chop. I think the recess I cut with my power router isn’t flat. I tell you, you can’t trust power tools! I ran out of time on Sunday to fix the problem. I plan to use my Veritas Router Plane to clean up the bottom of the recess the next time I’m in the shop. I think I could also remove the UHMW sleeves if I wanted to, but it moves so smoothly with them. I think I will leave them in for now. I also plan to dress up the garters, but that can wait a little while.

Here are some final pictures of the bench. I also added a shelf between the stretchers. It doesn’t have a finish on it yet, so it kind of stands out right now. Now I’m off to a new project!



27 comments so far

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4903 days

#1 posted 07-29-2008 05:35 AM

I humbly bow before this great work!


-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 4531 days

#2 posted 07-29-2008 05:41 AM

the nech you attached to that vice is very nice. lol. This is a great project. I’m not even going to bother trying something this nice for a while. I’m so far from this skill level, but I still learn a lot from your blog. I’m sure I’ll reference to it several times in a few year (-:

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 4689 days

#3 posted 07-29-2008 05:42 AM

GREAT workmanship and bench!!! The link to Jameel Abraham’s work is suburb if you are contemplating building such a bench.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View jeanmarc's profile


1899 posts in 4519 days

#4 posted 07-29-2008 07:07 AM

great work

-- jeanmarc manosque france

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 4557 days

#5 posted 07-29-2008 07:28 AM

I like the bench, it looks great! Thanks for the link to McMaster-Carr!

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View Bob N's profile

Bob N

131 posts in 4730 days

#6 posted 07-29-2008 12:36 PM


View SPalm's profile


5336 posts in 4685 days

#7 posted 07-29-2008 01:03 PM

Congrats Mike,
Very very nice job.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Sawdustonmyshoulder's profile


489 posts in 4431 days

#8 posted 07-29-2008 02:03 PM

First, GREAT WORK on the bench! Second, I seem to building to much furniture and stuff for other folks. Nothing for old Sawdustonmyshoulder. I guess the adage, “All work and no play, makes…”

I have got to get in the shop for my Shop’s sake! Well, at least for a little time. Right, Honey?

Enjoy your new bench,Mike. Makes some curls for us guy outside with our noses pressed against the window!

-- The more skilled you are at something, the worse you are at it when someone is watching.

View Kevin's profile


291 posts in 4761 days

#9 posted 07-29-2008 04:57 PM

Mike, Thank you.

Thank you for building such a great bench and blogging about it so the rest of us can drool and dream and maybe, just maybe someday build one of our own.

Also I appreciate the links you provided. Jameel Abraham’s bench is also a great reference.

-- Kevin, Wichita, Kansas

View Texasgaloot's profile


465 posts in 4504 days

#10 posted 07-29-2008 05:12 PM

I’m all about not trusting those tailed apprentices! You’ll have to let us know if your crispy router plane does the job!

-- There's no tool like an old tool...

View Mike Lingenfelter's profile

Mike Lingenfelter

503 posts in 4917 days

#11 posted 07-29-2008 05:19 PM

Tailed apprentices, I love it! I might add forked-tailed apprentices to that :).

View Partridge's profile


296 posts in 4759 days

#12 posted 07-29-2008 06:17 PM

a great bench is worth its weight in copper :)

-- I get out in the shop when I can

View Timber4fun's profile


218 posts in 4403 days

#13 posted 07-29-2008 06:25 PM

Nice bench Mike. I have always thought about making a nice workbench. You guys are putting the pressure on the rest of us. :)

-- Tim from Iowa City, IA

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 4800 days

#14 posted 07-29-2008 06:39 PM

This has come out extremely well!

I’m thinking that, in addition to the mortise not being flat, is there the possibility that the garter screws are putting side pressure upon the wooden screws? Have you screwed the garters in place without the wooden screws and examined the inner walls of the chop?

The difference of the fir (practice chop) and the white oak final chop could be the factor if the screws have something to do with it… The fir would be able to compress easier and not push wood into the hole, thus exerting pressure on the wooden screws, whereas the denser oak may receive pressure from the screws and be displaced into the hole a bit…???

This could all be hogwash too…since I don’t really know the diameter of the holes and how close to the screws they are…

And, now that I think about it…this HAS to be hogwash, because you obviously have enough clearance in the holes to place the sleeves in!

I’d like to delete all of this nonsense, but will leave it because erroneous thinking is OKAY!

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View SteveKorz's profile


2140 posts in 4517 days

#15 posted 07-29-2008 06:48 PM

Great Job! Very nice bench. I hope to build one someday.

-- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) †

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