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Moravian Workbench: Installing The Second Vise

Just as I began the installation of the second vise for my new workbench (an end vise), I saw a blog post by Richard Maguire saying that you don’t need a second vise. In fact the title of his post, “Why Your Workbench Needs One Vice (Or Less)” implies that you can get away with no vise at all. And I recently pointed to a video by Mike Siemsen where he shows several ways to use a workbench without a vise. But, If that isn’t enough, I have heard Fine Woodworking authors Mike Pekovich and Matt Kenney talk about how they dislike end vises. Specifically, they don’t like pinching stock (heard on Shop Talk Live). Pinching stock is when you place a board between a bench dog and an end vise and clamp it in place. All of these woodworkers do great work, all of them teach woodworking, so they are people whom I listen to and respect.

Now then, I know something about having a workbench with no vise at all. For many years, I have used such a workbench; one with without a front vise or an end vise. And, dang it, now I want two. Regardless of the merits of no vise, or two (or more), to each his own. Often woodworking isn’t about following someone else’s principles, the woodworker can do what is comfortable to him or her.

Most no vise woodworking is hand tool in nature and my workbench will very much serve both hand tool tasks as well as power tool. Like sanding. There is nothing better than pinching stock so you can run a palm sander over it (the same goes for routing too). I am going to enjoy having two vises on my workbench.

My End Vise

I chose a Veritas Inset Vise due to its ease of installation and Veritas’ reputation for quality tools. The install went well, but it was much more time-consuming than I thought it would be. Ash is a tough wood to cut through and with this inset vise, I found myself hogging out a lot of ash using a straight bit in my router and then fine tuning the edges with a chisel.

The tools used to create the vise cavity.

The only thing missing from the photo above is the template I made which I had to keep adjusting to ensure a good fit with the vise.

Vise installed.

If I ever do anything like this again, I’ll try to drill out some of the waste area to keep from having to do all the routing.

Dog Holes

With the end vise installed, the next logical step was to add the dog holes. Drilling through ash with a 3/4″ forstner bit was a little tough. I used a drilling guide to help keep the drill vertical…

Drilling using a guide.

All the tools used for dog holes.

The forstner bit was not long enough to drill all the way through the bench top. So I went to Home Depot and bought a 3/4″ spade bit. But this bit had a little screw head on it (see photo) which tended to screw the bit into the ash and then bog down even when using my more powerful corded hammer drill. So I pulled out a 3/8″ spade bit with a long shank to create a starter hole and then finished up with the 3/4″ spade bit. The 3/8″ bit removed stock which would have encountered the little screw head on the 3/4″ spade bit.

I then routed a chamfer around each dog hole opening…

A chamfer for each hole.

More holes.

Holes for the front edge of the top and along one leg.

Dog holes for the front vise.

Currently.

Next, I’ll need to select what finish to add. I am strongly leaning towards fuming the quarter-sawn oak just because I have never done that before and I want the oak to be a darker color. I’ll leave the cedar legs and the ash top their natural color.

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An Update to “Old World Dining Table”

Since I published my 15th woodworking plan titled You Can Build an Old World Dining Table, several factors fell into place which led to an update. Whether it’s building a piece of furniture or creating a woodworking plan, if I know it can be better, my conscience bugs me until I make it right.

With Old World Dining Table, a few comments led to a realization that the table didn’t look old world enough. In a post I wrote about the design of the table, I mentioned playing around with gothic arches in the leg assembly. I omitted these arches because with chairs in place, said arches would be hard to see. Also, adding them to the woodworking plan would make explaining the construction process much more difficult and equally difficult to pull off in the workshop. I am treating these arches sort of like floating panels, so they fit in grooves with other joinery close by…

Multiple joinery within a single leg. The groove highlighted in red is new.

But, not having the arches bugged me. It’s like my conscience was telling me, “Jeff, put the arches in already!” So I did and the plan went from 18 to 20 pages, many of the images had to be re-worked, yada, yada, yada.

I had an original goal of making the images as simple as possible meaning little or no Photoshop work. About the time I was putting finishing touches on the plan, I ran across a YouTube channel called The SketchUp Essentials by Justin Geis. I watched a few of his videos on combining image output from SketchUp into Photoshop and how to create different effects (example here).

When I say I had to re-work many of the images, it is some work. A goal I had in this update was to make better use of textured backgrounds as well as find ways to control shadows better. Justin has a few videos concerning combining SketchUp and Photoshop which led to testing a few ideas I had concerning shadows. Take a look…

New image for page 5.

Close-up. Note mild shadow and pencil edges.

What you see is a combination of four images. SketchUp gives me the ability to adjust how dark shadows are, but more specifically, I can remove shadows from the ground and separately from component faces. So, I exported an image with no shadow, shadow on the ground only, shadow on the component faces only and then the sketchy edges which provides the pencil look. I can then layer these images in Photoshop and blend the shadow effect to my liking and then add the pencil effect. SketchUp includes an option to export .PNG files with a transparent background which is important in this process and I then have to layer the images in the correct order to get the desired result.

I repeated this process on many of the images where shadows impacted construction information.

I also updated the cover image. While I was pleased with the textured image of the original cover, at SketchUp’s Instagram feed, I saw a cool image which was created to have a pencil look…

Private library? Now we’re talkin’ #3dmodeling #sketchup Model by @carlosryal

A post shared by SketchUp (@sketchup_official) on

I began a new model with the goal of creating a dining room with related furniture, chairs, etc. all colored light grey, and then feature the old world dining table in color. The idea was to emphasize the table, but have a more appropriate background…

The dining room model seen from above.

A lot of what you see was downloaded from the 3D Warehouse. I did the table and the large hutch. I got the image for the rug from my company’s website. The window, Ficus tree, curtains, chairs, plates and cups are all available online.

First image, sort of dark.

The table with a white background.

Blending the two makes everything washed out except the table.

Inserted into page 1.

Most every image was lightened and made more vibrant in Photoshop and that was it. A lot of work really, but I like the end result and I hope the arch in the leg assembly is more old world looking because I am not going to rework this plan again. 🙂 See the updated plan here.

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Moravian Workbench: Attaching the Top; Adding the Gap Stop

I am sure there are woodworkers who just walk into the workshop and without much preparation, begin building. I’m not one of those woodworkers. I have to think about most construction processes. I want the feeling of a sound plan as I begin a woodworking session. Just mounting the workbench top to the base had me doing some considerable thinking about the best way to go about this step.

I had always thought I would simply add some keys to the top of the leg assembles. These keys would act like tenons and would mate to corresponding mortises in the two slabs. Like this…

Note the “keys” highlighted in blue.

An important aspect of this workbench design is the flat vertical plane formed by positioning the two top slabs flush with the legs. I know full well that adding the keys and then creating a mating mortise is a super exact process. I could see the mortises not aligning perfectly with the keys resulting in an alignment problem between the slabs and the legs.

I then thought of drilling holes for 3/4″ diameter oak dowels. I could position the slabs, lock them in place with clamps and then drill through the slabs continuing to drill, say 3/8″ or 1/2″ into the leg assemblies. Glue the dowels to the slabs with the weight of the slabs ensuring nothing moves. The drilling process would make for perfectly mating holes…

Note the oak dowels or the four dots in the slab tops.

This is a good idea, but I did not have a drill bit long enough. And I had already begun thinking about the method I eventually used. I would mount keys to the bottom of the slabs positioning the keys so they fit against the inside corner of the legs…

In this one, note the blue and yellow blocks.

In the image above, the blue keys are added to the bottom of the workbench top and the yellow blocks are mounted to the leg assembly cross members. I can easily add these two blocks while the slabs are positioned in place.

The keys in place.

Close-up.

The yellow blocks also have holes for screws driven from below into the slabs. So far, this has proved to be a rock solid method of mounting the top. With this step completed, I basically have a functioning workbench.

Before I leave this step, I did also consider simply driving lag screws through the top into the base. At the Alabama Woodworkers Guild, there are multiple Nicholson style workbenches with their tops attached this way. But I did not want metal so close to the cutting edge of my tools, so I passed. As you can see, a lot of thought went into how I attached the top.

More thinking – the gap stop. This is the assembly which fills the center gap created by the split top design. Such things come in different sizes and configurations (see this). I have not seen much online about how gap stops function. I once saw a gap stop in action and there seemed to be some sort of block which helped the gap stop register in place. But said block was out of view and I can’t remember where I saw it (maybe it was this Mike Siemsen video at 10:51).

I did look at some Roubo workbench documentation at Benchcrafted.com (especially the image on page 7). Their plan for a split top Roubo shows a gap stop with a notch which appears to keep the gap stop from sliding left to right. It looked like when not in use the Benchcrafted gap stop rested slightly below the workbench top, and when in use, it was turned upside down causing the gap stop to rise above the bench surface. I went with this idea using some handsome quarter sawn white oak…

The gap stop parts and their location.

Note the long filler board to the left.

I decided to fill the left side of the gap stop so that tools like chisels would never accidentally make contact with the metal vise hardware below.

Gap stop components.

Twenty-one clamps.

It fits very well.

The good news is the workbench is now in working order. 🙂 The gap stop still needs to be planed flush with the bench top. The far end is a little high (the Benchcrafted images showed a gap stop which looked slightly below the bench surface, but I’ll simply keep mine flush with the top). I need to add the blocks which lock the gap stop in place which I’ll do this week.

Next up: add the Veritas Inset Vise and dog holes and I have begun thinking about how to finish the workbench. I’m leaning towards boiled linseed oil, but I am not sure. I welcome any input on this subject. Also, the future tool cabinet which will rest on the stretchers is now looking like a separate project. I’m getting close to calling the workbench finished.

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