Dead Man (Not Walking Though)

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Project by paratrooper34 posted 11-13-2012 01:58 AM 4500 views 11 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This project is a relatively simple project to make. But its simplicity should not diminish just how important of an item this is. For those who don’t know, a “Deadman” is an appliance for a workbench which is essentially an extra hand to help hold long stock in conjunction with the bench’s face vise. For instance, say you have to joint an edge on a six foot long board. The way to do this is to place one end into the face vise and what you have left is a significant length hanging unsupported outside of the vise. There are other ways to hold the stock other than a Deadman such as using clamps and the like. I have used several of the other methods and found that the simplest and fastest way is to use a Deadman to support the length not supported by the face vise. So the first picture shows the Deadman in use and the rest show how I made it.

The trick to having an effective Deadman is to keep it flush with the front of the bench. Every surface on the front of my bench is on the same plane. So I had two issues I had to deal with to keep the Deadman in the same plane.

1: I had to have the bottom rail out quite a bit as there is about a 2.5” difference between the bottom stretcher for the lower shelf and the front surface. I contemplated using a solid piece of wood to bring that surface but felt I could do the job with five blocks rather than use up a pretty big piece of wood. The stretcher for the bottom shelf is pretty robust, so I wasn’t worried about strength. Turns out, this way worked just fine. So I cut the spacers first from a thick piece of hickory I had hanging around which I paired with some red oak to make up the final width to cover the space I needed to make the bottom rail of the Deadman flush with the front. All the other pieces are red oak which is what I used for the lower stretchers.

2: I had to make sure that the Deadman was at a width that would allow to fit between the face front and the top shelf stretcher. It did just fine with no issues in that regard.

The Deadman will have a tenon on each end that will slide in a corresponding groove in the top and bottom rails. I made a rail for the top in which I cut a rabbet in and then attached a thin strip to it to complete the groove. I screwed it on and did this in case I ever need to remove that part to get at the Deadman. I also made the bottom capable of removing a piece to remove the Deadman. I cut the rabbets that you see in the blocks to allow a piece of 1/4” MDF to fit directly behind the Deadman. This allows me to take the MDF piece out which will open a gap to remove the Deadman in the spaces between the blocks holding the rail.

These are the two rails. I cut the rabbets with my Stanley 45 and my rabbet block plane.

I installed the top rail and the blocks to hold the lower rail.

I had a piece of flat sawn red oak that I was going to use for the Deadman but I screwed up my measurement for the width of the tenons. Luckily I had some quarter sawn red oak hanging around from another project and I made a new piece. The piece I had was a little too wide and it had some checking so I needed to rip it down in size. I used my panel marking gauge to scribe the width and then ripped it down. I cut it to length and used a moving fillister plane and rabbet plane to cut the tenons.

Once I got the Deadman sized, I laid out the shape that I wanted using a french curve. I laid out the holes for the surface clamp. I used my drill press to drill the holes with a 3/4” forstner bit.

Once I got the rough shape done with my mini bandsaw, I used these three files to smooth it down. I am going to put a plug in for Japanese files. It is in the middle of these three. I am amazed at how well and fast that thing cuts! If you do work with files and rasps, get one or two of these things, they are worth the money for sure. I am going to get one or two more myself now that I am sold.

Once I had it smooth, I assembled the whole thing and put a coat of BLO on it. Easy project, took about a day. It is built really tough (it supported my body weight) and will last as long as the bench does. It is really going to come in handy when I start working on a large cabinet project.

-- Mike

12 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


118309 posts in 4917 days

#1 posted 11-13-2012 02:14 AM

good work a very useful third hand


View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 4266 days

#2 posted 11-13-2012 02:16 AM

Nicely done!

Although it is a different model, I have an Ulmia bench as well, always thought a deadman would be a great addition, I like how simply you made it work.

All the best!

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 3632 days

#3 posted 11-13-2012 02:19 AM

Very nicely done. Great pictures with your write up.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View BTKS's profile


1989 posts in 4804 days

#4 posted 11-13-2012 03:15 AM

Now I know I have to get a full size face vice and a deadman! Great project and incredibly useful.

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 5264 days

#5 posted 11-13-2012 04:17 AM

Good idea I am building a bench with a leg vice I may have chosen this alternative had I saw it first. I will have a dead man at least. Nice bench.

View lysdexic's profile


5349 posts in 3963 days

#6 posted 11-13-2012 01:04 PM

Nice job and excellent write up.

-- "It's only wood. Use it." - Smitty || Instagram - nobodhi_here

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30662 posts in 3678 days

#7 posted 11-13-2012 01:18 PM

Great project. Very useful addition.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View sb194's profile


197 posts in 4358 days

#8 posted 11-13-2012 03:48 PM

Nice job. Love the figure on the QSRO.


View OregonWoodRat's profile


174 posts in 3627 days

#9 posted 11-13-2012 05:28 PM

Great bench. When I made my bench I included a deadman and it is very handy even if you do not use a lot of hand tools like hand planes. I even used it this morning when making some shelves.
Thanks for the pictures. It is nice to see how you made it.

-- Peter, A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.

View paratrooper34's profile


916 posts in 4292 days

#10 posted 11-13-2012 09:05 PM

Thanks everyone, very kind of you!

-- Mike

View john_az's profile


105 posts in 3710 days

#11 posted 11-23-2012 03:19 PM

I put a deadman on my bench when I built it. It come in handy and I can easily secure just about anything to the front of my bench with the deadman assist. This is one of those items that you will wonder how you got along without one.

-- John, Phoenix-AZ

View Bernie's profile


422 posts in 4177 days

#12 posted 12-23-2012 03:45 PM

Very nice job on the deadman and the write up. I have a sliding deadman on my bench but I never thought to add a clamp. I have a couple of cheap ones collecting dust and now I can put them to use.

-- Bernie: It never gets hot or cold in New Hampshire, just seasonal!

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