The Holtzapffel Project #6: The workbench top, part II

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Blog entry by kem posted 06-01-2008 03:33 AM 9565 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: The workbench top, part I Part 6 of The Holtzapffel Project series Part 7: Constructing the base: lots of big mortises and tenons »

I’ve done a lot of work on the top since the last entry. I started by roughly flattening the bottom side of the top. This was my first big opportunity to use my handplanes and I learned a lot from the experience.

First, this took a lot of time. Part of it was my own inefficiency. I started by going diagonally across the surface but it was so uneven that it was just riding on the high boards. A more efficient way to start with the roughness caused by an uneven glue up is to plane lengthwise on the high boards to smooth their edges and once those edges are roughly planed down, then plane diagonally.

I was also taking shavings that were too fine. So I was wasting a lot of strokes. Here are a couple of pictures after I realized the error of my ways and started taking thicker shavings.

It felt great seeing those plumes of wood billowing out of the mouth. The bevel-up jointer really performed well. I did make one change to it though. It came with the plane iron set to a bevel angle of 25 degrees giving an effective angle of 37 degrees with the 12 degree bed. I found this to be too low. I was getting some nasty tearout. I reset the bevel angle to 30 degrees for an effective angle of 42 degrees and didn’t have as many problems with tearout. It wasn’t noticeably more difficult to make my strokes with the higher planing angle.

The one bad thing with using the jointer for this task was that it is heavy. I really wished I had a smaller jack plane to do the initial work on the rough surface. After suffering through this, I bought a used Stanley #5 (along with a #3) on ebay to try to do some restoration on. I’ll probably start another series of posts on that process.

So, once I had the bottom of the top roughly flattened, I squared off one end with a circular saw. That took one pass from one side and then a pass on the other side. The two cuts didn’t meet perfectly, so I had a lot of end grain planing to do with a block plane.

Next, I turned my attention to fitting the end vise. I’m using a 10.5” quick release vise in this position. I made a notch for it in the glue-up process and it only needed a little paring to fit the vise.

I couldn’t wait to see how the vise worked so I decided to mount it. I used a piece of plywood as a spacer to get the top of the vise to sit about 1/8” below the benchtop. I then used a brace and a 5/8” speedbor bit to make the holes for the 1/2”x5” bolts.

I stopped just when it punctured the surface on the other side.

This was my first real application of using a brace and bit and it went very quickly. The bit lived up to its name; it drilled through in no time. It does leave a rough hole though, so I used a different kind of bit for the dog holes.

Flipping the top over, I used the small puncture as a guide for a 1 1/2” Forstner bit to counterbore for the bolt head and washer.

My experience with this bit was not as happy as it tended to drift in its hole. This may have been because it was following the larger pilot hole left by the 5/8” bit.

Here’s what the counterbores looked like with bolts and washers in them. You can see the tearout in the lower right from my first hole. I used blue tape to try to prevent that on the left side.

Finally, the mounted end vise!

Having gained some confidence with the brace and bit, I decided to make some dog holes. Here are some tools that I found helpful in doing this.

Yes, that’s a mitten! When I was doing the holes for the vise, my left hand would go numb from my chin pressing down on it and cutting off the circulation. My chin was a little sore too. So, I tried putting on my mitten to give some padding to my chin and it worked great!

Here’s how I used the square to keep the bit straight up and down. I didn’t have any problem keeping it straight laterally (left-right). I did tend to be a little too far forward though on top. So by trying to keep the top edge of the square aligned with the screw head on the brace, I was able to straighten out in the forward-backward plane.

I made dog holes about 5” in from the edge and at an interval of 4”. I wanted the dog holes in the middle of a board and the next board over felt a little too far from the edge for me. Even though the dog holes aren’t in line with the center of the vise, I don’t think it should cause any problem.

Here are some of the dog holes and also some holes that I made for holdfasts. You can see the roughly planed top. I just made a few passes to get it “kind-of” flat.

I still have to cut off the vise end of the bench top, but this is starting to look like a real bench now!

-- Kevin

7 comments so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27248 posts in 5321 days

#1 posted 06-01-2008 03:57 AM


This is looking really good. You have obviously put a lot of thought and effort into the construction of this bench.

Thanks for the post.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 5385 days

#2 posted 06-01-2008 05:39 AM

Good job!!!! I’m finishing up my new workbench this week.

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

View Chris 's profile


1880 posts in 5490 days

#3 posted 06-01-2008 06:26 AM


I’ve just read through the entire blog for this effort. It looks great! I too am considering this type of bench design. Would you be willing to share your Sketch-Up drawing?

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 5488 days

#4 posted 06-01-2008 08:10 AM

Very nice looking! You are going to put wood jaws on your vise, right?

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Mike Lingenfelter's profile

Mike Lingenfelter

503 posts in 5613 days

#5 posted 06-01-2008 03:42 PM


Your top is looking good! I admire you for using the brace and bit for all of your dog holes. I plan to give my brace and bit a try, for the last few dog holes I have to put in my bench.

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5381 days

#6 posted 06-01-2008 04:25 PM

Good Job. That is a lot of work. I love a bench blog, as there are so many steps.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View jeanmarc's profile


1899 posts in 5216 days

#7 posted 06-13-2008 10:21 PM

Very nice looking!Good Job.

-- jeanmarc manosque france

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