The New Yankee Workshop - Chapter 2 The Workbench #3: Adding the vise, the dogs and backer blocks - finishing up the bench

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Blog entry by camps764 posted 01-22-2013 02:55 AM 5432 reads 1 time favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: The bench dog assembly Part 3 of The New Yankee Workshop - Chapter 2 The Workbench series no next part

Rather than ordering a bench screw from Woodcraft, I ended up buying a 10” “woodworkers” vise from Harbor Freight.

After checking it out, it looked like I could modify the bench design to accommodate the larger sized vise. It also had the possibility to give me some more clamping options on the bench.

The first step was modifying the bench frame to accommodate the larger width vise. I decided to use a lap joint and add an extension onto the existing frame as opposed to cutting a new vice end piece. It was a good excuse to use up some scrap. Because the vice end is wrapped in hardwood, I didn’t think that stability would be an issue.

Here’s a shot of the extension with the vise attached…

With the vise squared away it was time to finally attach the top. The top is held in place with screws so that it can be removed later and replaced if it becomes warped or too beat up. The book called for a composite top made out of a layer of 3/4” plywood and 1/4” hardboard. I happened to have a large sheet of 1/2” chip board. I decided to use this instead of buying additional materials. If it doesn’t last or I run into issues down the road I can always pull it off and add new layers of ply and hardboard.

With the top attached (no pictures of drilling and screwing the top down – sorry) I needed to cut out the slot that will house the vice. In the book Norm does this using a circular saw to start the cut and then switches to a jig saw to finish the cuts. I decided to just use the jig saw and streamline the process. Different approach, same results…square hole.

At this point I started getting pretty excited, it was actually starting to look like the bench in the book.

With the vise setup and the top installed I needed to start working on the tail stock that will hold one of the bench dogs and provide the holding power.

In the book the tail stock can be made out of 8/4 hardwood or out of 4 4/4 pieces laminated together. I decided to use up some of the scrap oak from the medicine cabinet build.

Cut the pieces to rough size – about 6” x 5” smeared them with glue and clamped them up to dry.

After the glue dried up over night I came back and trimmed everything to size on the table saw.

Next I cut the bench dog slots following the same procedure used to create the bench dog assembly. Each slot needed to be 4 degrees off 90.

Big highlight here…no screw ups! Used the lessons learned earlier in the process to mark up and accurately get the slots cut and aligned. Tail stock was then glued and screwed together.

I hung the vice on the bench and then mounted the tail stock block to the vice. You can’t see it in the picture here, but there is a hardwood runner on the inside face of the tail stock that helps keep it aligned as it moves forward and back on the vice.

Here is the tail stock mounted up and clamped all the way forward.

As the book said…”the smallest parts are cut last…” I followed the layout diagram in the book to get the general shape marked up.

And cut out on the bandsaw…

Another ‘Jock – EJVC – did some research on the book and saw some “interesting” comments about the book on Amazon…especially around the editing of the book. This was one of those instances where I was doing more head scratching than should have been necessary. The diagram in the book was alright, but the dimensions for the stock were incorrect. The book said that each bench dog should be 3/4” thick and 1 1/4” wide – So that’s what I ended up cutting. And I ended up with two bench dogs that were too thick and too wide.

In addition, the book said I needed to cut an 1/8” spring strip to attach to the front. I didn’t have much guidance on how to go about this so I just cut the strip on the table saw and trimmed it up on the bandsaw.

After a few trips to the bench top sander I was able to knock down enough material to fit the dog in the hole…sort of. I was feeling frustrated and should have walked away and grabbed a new cup of coffee, instead I decided to give it a few whacks with the persuader to try and get it to fit a little better. The thought was “the dog is hardwood oak, the dog slot is soft redwood – a few whacks will flatten out the hole and it will be all good”

It worked once…twice…thrice…and on lucky number four this happened.

The top of the dog is end grain and overall the dogs are pretty straight. Apparently I’m more of a brute than I thought and the dog cracked and broke.

I had to make a new one, and was able to reuse the spring strip.

After the dogs were done I had to cut backer boards to go in between the dogs and make the slot level to the rest of the bench. Each of the backer boards were cut 4 degrees off 90 to match the front and back angle on the slots/dogs.

Measure, cut, test fit, cut, test fit, cut, screw down, repeat down the length of the bench dog assembly.

The bit of work was to chisel out a slot on the tail stock so the dog could fit flush when not in use. Following the book, I drilled out most of the waste equal to height of the dog head. Then I came back through and squared everything up with the chisel.

After that the bench was done!

Here are some pictures of the finished product.

The extra holding space I was talking about earlier…

A little test planing to try out the dogs – worked like a charm!

Overall it was a really fun/fast build – especially compared to the first chapter. I learned a lot, tried a lot of simple joinery I had never tried before, and hard to do some “out of the box” thinking around the vise.

Like the first build, I made some executive decisions along the way, especially toward the end of the bench.

I decided not to install the tool well on the back side of the bench. I anticipate it would fill up with random tools and inches of saw dust – plus I like being able to work from all four sides of the bench.

I also decided not to frame out the rest of the top in oak. This bench is really meant as a tester – to give me a feel for what I want out of a more permanent bench. I think some of the parts are re-usable and some would be a waste. I added the hardwood oak to the vise end to get some more stability around the addition I made and to get a flatter/harder clamping surface for the tail stock/vise face.

Lessons Learned:

Flipping a piece over doesn’t mean the angles will line up correctly - reset the miter gauge and make TEST CUTS – The book recommended test cuts to get the angles right – once again I thought I had it out smarted – turns out I didn’t I swear I will make test cuts common practice in chapter 3.

I don’t like cutting slots on the table saw by lowering a sheet of plywood/chip board onto a spinning table saw blade. I don’t care that it worked, it freaked me out. Next time I’ll figure something else out.

Using blocks on the table saw fence is one of the most handy tips I’ve picked up so far. I seriously love this trick and have been using it on every repetitious cut I make.

Even though they are simple – lap joints still need precision – maybe even more than other joints. There is some wobble in the bench that I can feel when I really push the plane around – I think it is because the joints don’t fit as tightly as they could.

Again, I need to think through if the instructions in the book make sense. Some of the things I read didn’t sound right, I tried them anyway and wasted time and material either because they weren’t clear, didn’t exist, or I couldn’t understand what I was supposed to do. A few times I needed to look up the video of Norm building this on Youtube so that I could figure out what the hell I was supposed to be doing and what it was supposed to look like.

Mark all joinery in one sitting, put X’s to indicate waste areas, try to consolidate and find a workflow as much as possible. Saves time from switching out saw blades (which sucks in a 30 degree shop!) and lets you totally focus on the task at hand.

Finally Benches are cool! It makes me feel more legit to have an actual wood working bench in my “shop” I feel like I joined a super cool, not so secret, but really exclusive group – like getting to eat lunch with the seniors when you are a freshman.

The next chapter features a drop leaf table with legs turned on the lathe. I’m excited to try out my hand at turning, slightly intimidated because I don’t know a damn thing about it, and interested build something that uses “leaf like” components.

-- Steve

4 comments so far

View ejvc's profile


107 posts in 2701 days

#1 posted 01-31-2013 08:45 PM

Oh well done! I can’t believe you’ve finished this so quickly! It must be a great feeling. I’m so sorry my observations on the editing of the book proved true :-( but as my dad used to say: “if it don’t fit, hit it with a bigger hammer”. I’m sorry but I had a little laugh.

Look forward to seeing what comes next.

-- Building stuff with my daughter (6). Pretty new to woodworking, I mostly sew...

View billy709's profile


6 posts in 1524 days

#2 posted 05-23-2016 02:11 PM

I’m a novice here but I’m in process of building the NYW bench and, in regard to the wobble in your bench, it seems to me that there are two possibilities in addition to the lack of lap joint precision issue you mentioned. One issue is that you said you did not use glue. The other is that Norm, in his book, says to use drywall screws. In the video he doesn’t appear to be using drywall screws. It seems to me that using stronger screws, especially on the legs, will result in a much more stable bench. Drywall screws are not very strong and, if I am not mistaken, are #6. I’ve used glue plus #8 screws and the larger screws tighten down much better than the flimsy #6 drywall screws I initially used (I removed the #6’s and installed #8’s.)

-- Novice in GA

View billy709's profile


6 posts in 1524 days

#3 posted 05-23-2016 02:14 PM

You stated that using blocks on the table saw fence is one of the most handy tips you’d picked up for repetitious cuts. I’m a novice. Please help me to understand the process of using blocks on the table saw fence.

Thanks in advance.

By the way, your workbench looks great. Thanks for sharing.

-- Novice in GA

View billy709's profile


6 posts in 1524 days

#4 posted 05-23-2016 02:17 PM

The book said that each bench dog should be 3/4” thick and 1 1/4” wide. What would be the correct dimensions for the bench dog?

Also, are both bench dogs stored in the tail vice block when not in use, thus those two slots are the only ones that need to be chiseled out to allow them to go down flat?

-- Novice in GA

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