Tail Vise Questions

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Forum topic by Daveoffinland posted 05-10-2021 03:09 PM 828 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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17 posts in 703 days

05-10-2021 03:09 PM

Topic tags/keywords: roubo workbench vise

Need the collective wisdom of LJ on the controversial topic of tail/end vises.

I have a 5” thick roubo bench with a leg vise installed at the front (left side) and a sliding deadman. This setup works great for edge jointing, but I need a better solution for face jointing long boards.

Since I have an extra Pony Jorgensen 4×10 In RapidWoodVise sitting unused, I was thinking about adding it to the bench as a tail vise. The idea would be to add a single jaw to the outside face of the vise that is thick enough for bench dogs.

Is this a stupid idea? It seems to me like this approach would offer the same functionality as a traditional end vise. If it is a workable solution, does it matter which end I mount the tail vise to? My setup makes it more difficult to access the right side of the bench.

Thanks in advance for your advice!

17 replies so far

View metolius's profile


432 posts in 2230 days

#1 posted 05-10-2021 05:50 PM

Here ya go … You’re not stupid if your thoughts are not lonely … right ?

The pictured bench is not my own, but I do use a 4×7 rapid release vise this way.
Its mounting is offset so the vise center is as close the the front edge of the bench as it can be.

-- derek / oregon

View Daveoffinland's profile


17 posts in 703 days

#2 posted 05-10-2021 05:57 PM

That is very helpful @metolius. Thank you!

View SMP's profile


5403 posts in 1405 days

#3 posted 05-10-2021 06:00 PM

Can also use a planing stop at the left end

View Daveoffinland's profile


17 posts in 703 days

#4 posted 05-10-2021 06:56 PM

@SMP thanks for the video link…he does a nice job demonstrating the holdfast/batten technique.

I haven’t had the best luck with holdfasts given the thickness of my bench. It might be the holdfasts themselves (they had good reviews, but were only $25 each from Amazon). In order to get any sort of clamping force, I’ve had to counterbore the dog holes. Maybe I just need better holdfasts? I don’t want to counterbore all my dog holes (that phrase sounds terrible for some reason:) ).

View Robert's profile


5014 posts in 2981 days

#5 posted 05-10-2021 07:27 PM

That’s an end vise. A tail vise is another animal entirely.

Just splitting hairs…......

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Bearcontrare's profile


384 posts in 636 days

#6 posted 05-10-2021 10:44 PM

Since you already have the vise, GO FOR IT!!! It’s YOUR bench, YOU use it, so you hafta do what works for you.
Mount your vise where it can best suit your purpose. Being “terminally right handed”, I prefer the right hand end of the bench. If you can access the :back” of the bench, mount it on the left end toward the back of the bench.(i.e. diagonally from where it traditionally is….)
Are your holdfasts made of cast material? They don’t hold as well as wrought or bent metal will. Just adding that co consideration into the mix.

-- Barry, in Maryland

View Foghorn's profile


1537 posts in 886 days

#7 posted 05-10-2021 10:59 PM

You will likely get some racking with a vise like in the picture. There are ways around it like clamping different thickness of blocks or using a fan of shims for the right side of the vise.

-- Darrel

View Daveoffinland's profile


17 posts in 703 days

#8 posted 05-11-2021 06:05 PM

@Bearcontrare thanks for the encouragement. I’m going to go for it.

These are the holdfasts I have…

View Foghorn's profile


1537 posts in 886 days

#9 posted 05-11-2021 10:17 PM

@Bearcontrare thanks for the encouragement. I m going to go for it.

These are the holdfasts I have…

- Daveoffinland

Those look pretty decent and are a departure from the cast ones that like to break. I have a couple of the Gramercy barstock ones that work well in a 3” benchtop. The Crucible ones that LeeValley sells are made in USA out of ductile iron but require 1” dogholes and the price is very high in my mind. Quite a bit more than the Veritas holdfasts which work great!

-- Darrel

View chriscarter's profile


42 posts in 1591 days

#10 posted 05-12-2021 01:18 PM

It will work. Racking on an end vise, although not ideal, is not that big of a deal. Just try and mount it as close to the front as possible to minimize racking if you are concerned. The accessibility to the right side of your bench is the bigger issue. When you hold boards on the benchtop using an end vise you are planing from the end of the board so you will need a good 5ft of space for your body and arms, particularly when making heavy cuts and/or using large try/jointer planes and you need a solid stance. If you don’t have enough space for your body, you can put it on the left end of the bench at the back corner. This, however, will require that you have a few feet of access on the back of your bench. Regardless, understand that while you can remove the vise if it doesn’t work without consequence, you will obviously need a row of holes which you will not be able to undo once they are bored.

If you don’t have good access to either of those positions, or are nervous about drilling all the holes, a planing stop would be the best option. I have an end vise, but I use my planing stop more than 95% of the time when it comes to face planing. It’s just faster, easier, more convenient. It also allows you to easily pick up your piece to check progress and put it back down in no time flat, which is not so simple when using an end/tail vise. Most of the time I don’t even bother with a doe’s foot. But the foot does really lock things down well.

I checked the link you provided to your holdfasts. Holdfasts are somewhat unpredictable and there are always some benches that defy a particular holdfast for inexplicable reasons. That said, there are solutions for pesky holdfasts. First, based on how the ones you bought are made, they are probably pretty smooth. Get some 40 grit sand paper and spin the shafts in it to give them some texture. If that doesn’t work, take a hammer and beat up the shafts to provide more texture (similar to the texture of more traditionally hand forged ones, whereas the ones you bought don’t have any forging on the shafts). If that doesn’t work, then go on Amazon or to a musical instrument store and spend a couple dollars on a piece of rosin used by string players (violin, viola, cello, etc.). Rub it on the shaft and then rub the shaft in the holes. This really increases the holding power and one piece will last a woodworker’s lifetime (it’s also good for wooden planes with irons that like to slip!). It will wear off after a few months and need to be reapplied, but only to the holdfast – you won’t need to rework the holdfast in the holes. Last resort is counterboring, which is sounds like you’ve already done, but I don’t know how far. Anything over 4” tends to be problematic for most holdfasts, particularly if the bench is hardwood. 2-3” seems to be a universal sweet spot where almost everything works. I did also notice that those holdfasts say they have a reach of 5” which isn’t a lot. A longer harm allows for better leveraging in the hole, particularly in thicker benches. The Gramarcy ones which are universally the most popular and are actually slightly cheaper than what you have. They have a 6-1/2” reach. And it should go without saying, but never ever oil or wax the holdfast and never allow oil to get into your holdfast holes. For reference, my current bench is doug-fir (660 janka hardness) and 4” thick and they hold well. I have a third bench which is 2-7/8 douglas fir and they hold just by looking at them funny. Also, you mentioned how you drilled your holes. Holdfast holes need to be bored as straight as possible; if they are canted then they will work better in one direction, but not as well in the other. But it doesn’t matter if you bore with an auger, forstner, spade, etc. The cleanliness of the hole is an urban myth because however clean the hole is, the contact points (the top and bottom lips) will be burnished smooth within a couple months.

Anyway, a planing stop is really a must have feature of any bench in my opinion. When I added one to my previous (first) bench I suddenly felt like an idiot for not doing it sooner. Holdfasts are my most used bench feature followed by the planing stop. Using an end vise to hold boards flat on the benchtop is probably one of my least used feature (but still does get used for difficult stuff). So add a planing stop because you can’t go wrong. Then if you still want an end vise for holding work to the benchtop, you can add it and drill a long row of holes. But you will always appreciate having a planing stop. If you don’t want the hassle of making a traditional one you can add one of those inexpensive pop-up aluminum ones. I have one of those aluminum ones on the bench in my garden shed and they do work great and you can reprofile the teeth to make them bite more if you want. The only downside of them is you have to blow out all the wood shavings before closing it up and once in a while I have to dig them out with my marking knife. But they are an easy retrofit and down the road the hole can be converted for a traditional planing stop (which never clog!).

View controlfreak's profile (online now)


3890 posts in 1101 days

#11 posted 05-12-2021 03:35 PM

Lots of neat ideas here. I did a wagon vise on mine but I am sure I will one day need to hold something odd and need some ideas.

View therealSteveN's profile


10264 posts in 2074 days

#12 posted 05-13-2021 10:07 PM

Here ya go … You re not stupid if your thoughts are not lonely … right ?

- metolius

I believe it is a fine idea. I would not put the monster chop used in the pic, and would center my dogs better, but a vise just exerts pressure, splitting hairs about which type of vise is silly. Especially if you already own the vise.

-- Think safe, be safe

View Bearcontrare's profile


384 posts in 636 days

#13 posted 05-15-2021 01:17 PM

Have also seen a video in which a fellow uses a nail set to make dimples all along the shank of the holdfasts to make them hold better. The shanks wind up looking like a golf ball, but if they HOLD, that’s the main thing.

BTW, You are not alone in the adding vises issue. Stumbled on a vintage one-inch bench screw with nut and handle at a very low price, and couldn’t pass it up. We’ll see what happens with it…. 8-)

-- Barry, in Maryland

View fritzer1210's profile


31 posts in 1886 days

#14 posted 05-15-2021 03:27 PM

I saw a clever idea in FWW where someone cut a wedge shaped block to insert into the unsupported end of the vise to prevent racking. I have found it to be helpful when clamping unparalleled surfaces

View hotbyte's profile


1156 posts in 4475 days

#15 posted 05-15-2021 04:50 PM

To prevent racking, I take scrape same thickness as I’m working and put small spring clamp on it to keep from falling through jaws to floor I position spring clamp so it lays on benchtop.

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