Roubo-ish work bench #4: Leg Vise, Finishing Touches

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Blog entry by galooticus posted 05-14-2017 05:17 PM 1877 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Stretchers Part 4 of Roubo-ish work bench series no next part

The last major part of the bench was making the leg vise. I’ve been looking forward to this. I had a 4×8 I set aside for this purpose. When trying to decide on the thickness, I couldn’t find a consensus on the internet. One thing I did notice (and didn’t follow :)) is that hardwood seems to be universally used for vise chops, even if the rest of the bench of the bench is softwood. Well, I had this 4×8 ready to go, and it’s not really expensive, so I figured I’d give it a shot. At worst, it fails horribly, I learn, and make it again out of hardwood.

I settled on 2 1/2” thickness, marked it out, and got to sawing. I just acquired a set of three Disston hand saws. The one here is a 28” 4PPI rip. I love that thing. The front 6” or so is actually 5-5.5PPI. At first I was disappointed, I bought this saw because I wanted it big and coarse for resawing. But since I’ve come to appreciate the finer pitch for starting cuts.

Here’s the tenon on the peg board in progress:

Deciding on the size and spacing of the peg holes was another thing I spent time trying to get just right. I did not find a clear consensus for this on the internet, either. I don’t remember what spacing/hold size I chose at this point :)

Here’s the hole for the vise screw being bored into the chop. I used the expanding auger bit again. This time I had better success keeping it from expanding while boring.

The masking tape is my depth gauge; I bored in from both sides. The block in behind the auger is a little jig-like thing I use as a reference for boring straight. It’s actually just a bit of scrap I used for practicing dovetails a long time ago, made nice and square. I also use the penciled lines as a rough depth gauge sometimes.

The build was straightfoward, except I had quite a bit of splintering when boring the holes on the peg board. I this is a combination of auger bits that have been sharpened past their prime, and the wood species.

Here it is finished and installed with a temporary handle (also known as a stick):

I don’t have a lathe, and I was too proud to buy the matching vise handle Lee Valley offers. I had a 2×4 scrap laying around, so I used that to make up some stock. I got a big too eager sawing down to thickness, though:

I just took two pieces and laminated them.

Dogs and dog holes are showing up in these pictures; I’ll get to those in a bit.

To make the handle round, I planed the square stock down to an octagon, then steadily took a shaving, rotated slightly, and repeated until it was round and small enough for a good fit. The handle has a bit of a faceted feel to it rather than being perfectly smooth. The facets feel good in the hand. Here’s the finished job, including leather padding:

It’s still way too square. I have a set of Liogier rasps on order, once I have those I’ll cut in some fancy curves and round it off.

Alright, on to dogs and their holes. I took some ash and made it into a round 3/4” dowel using the same process I used for the vise handle above. Actually I made these before making the vise handle; see the pictures above. I carefully sized these so that they fit with a bit of friction. I expect there may be issues as the top shrinks/expands and the holdfasts wear out the holes, but for now they work extremely well.

As for design, I chose to use 3/4” holes for both dogs and holdfasts. This way everything is interchangeable. Also, Roubo's bench drawing only showed round holes.

I was a bit of a wuss when it came to drilling the holes. I wasted a bunch of time trying to come up with a better way to make them super square to the top. Eventually I tired of this and just went for it using my usual block jig thing:

Here’s a zoomed out shot of the work in progress:

I spaced the holes such that there’s one centered between each leg, then evenly spaced them such that they’re just wider than the reach of my holdfasts. I love use dividers BTW. This ended up being about 8 inches on center. Beauty shot illustrating the spacing:

I actually intended to space them twice this distance, to be more like Roubo’s bench drawing. I think I actually prefer this doubled-up spacing though. Like Roubo, I made two rows of holes.

Down to odds and ends now. I cut and planed the top of the leg tenons flush with the bench top, and cut the legs down to give me a top height of 34”:

This is another saw in my recent set acquisition, Disston 26” 9PPI crosscut.

I had planned on applying some finish, and even bought some Watco Natural Danish Oil. Short story: I couldn’t find the Watco stuff at the BORG and ended up the asking the paint guy. He told me they didn’t stock it, but wished they did. As I was walking away, he called me back. He said he had some stuff after all: only the Natural color. I said that’s exactly what I was after, and he indicated his approval. Everybody always wants all those silly dark colors, so he just says he doesn’t have any. We agreed that natural is better.

The build was completed maybe two months ago, I’ve just been more interested in building things than posting about it until now. Here’s a shot from today with more projects in progress (cleaning up stock for a pair of white oak craftsman picture frames, and a bench hook in the background, plus my sharpening stuff).

After having used the leg vise a while, 2 1/2” was plenty thick, and the softwood chop is working just fine. I’m super happy with the bench, it functions exactly as I envisioned. The ends of the top are still uneven. Some day I’ll cut them and put on breadboard ends. I’m also thinking I want to put some cabinets underneath; inspired by Smitty's.

-- Andy in CA

5 comments so far

View TheFridge's profile


10863 posts in 2497 days

#1 posted 05-14-2017 05:35 PM

Nice work bud.

The first row of dog holes is usually a couple inches from the front edge of the bench to make planing and workholding near the edge easier.

Your want your holdfast to be able to grab just about any where on the bench as well Which I think you accomplished.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View theoldfart's profile


12457 posts in 3462 days

#2 posted 05-14-2017 08:13 PM

Whole lotta primo hand work going on here. The breadboard ends are not too hard and well worth the effort.

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

View galooticus's profile


50 posts in 1912 days

#3 posted 05-15-2017 12:12 AM

Thanks. The camera makes the joinery look a bit better than it is :) I do try to make a point of doing quality work, but I make mistakes often. Have to remember to be super patient, make sure things are oriented correctly, and don’t forget any steps!

The ends don’t bother me nearly as much as I thought they would, so I left them. Hate to leave it not 100% finished, but I made a new years resolution to do two furniture pieces this year. That was my whole motivation for woodworking, and I aspire to have something worthy of posting in the Furniture Makers Forum.

Fridge, I’ve been using the row I have there that’s about 7” from the edge without too much trouble. Maybe I just don’t know what I’m missing, but if it ever bothers me it’s easy enough to drill more holes.

-- Andy in CA

View kipibenkipod's profile


71 posts in 2334 days

#4 posted 05-15-2017 04:38 AM

Thanks for sharing your build.
I enjoyed reading it.

View FindMeInTheWoodshop's profile


3 posts in 1898 days

#5 posted 05-15-2017 01:05 PM

Great job on your bench! I’m sure it will be very useful In making your 2 project goal. Thanks for sharing it

-- The beauty of the shop is this... "When you use your mind, you can do anything you want to do"!

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