A life of vice (my new bench)


Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.
Escudo - where are these pics then??
I have a minor bench update... minor only!
RM have confirmed my wagon vice will be built next week, and I may have it early following week. Just need to finish the router table then I can start again on the bench.
There have been some changes... all in the head. I am going to lower the top to 32". My current bench is just under 34" and if 32 is slightly low (which I doubt) I can put something under it anyway - but as a hand-tool bench I am fairly sure a bit lower will be good (I'm about 5'11").
ALSO, an insight to share. I have read as much as I can find about benches, but Chris Schwarz's book is the best single one for me. I've also looked very closely at a Holtzappfel, and a few others. CS talks a lot about the importance of the front assembly being flush to the edge of the top and he is obviously right. But a thought came to me around that issue.
Before you draw anything or cut one piece - you stand in front of the imaginary bench, and imagine a straight horizontal line from left to right. That is the line where the top and the front (legs and stretcher) meet - and it's the line that the whole bench is built from - so top and face are 2 datum surfaces at 90 degrees... everything follows off those.
Sounds simple and obvious, but it defines how to approach making a bench I feel. And I have often seen front legs set back, which renders the front frame datum fairly useless as a mounting face.
Anyway, pics next time I hope - base needs building now I know what overhang to allow for the RM. By the way, Helen there has been brilliant - keeps doing me drawings of the vice, my top etc (all to my dimensions, one-off stuff). Big cheer for RM at the moment. =D>
You should write a book on benches and router tables yourself Douglas....by the time you have finished these concept designs...they are going to certainly be worth sharing!

Nah Jim... just practicing on this one :oops:
few developments - the top is now to be fixed to base - through tenons wedged. So I can't move it? In for a penny, as they say.
Height optimised for me at 33" - it's a trade between lower for planing, but a bit higher for sawing dovetails say. No one height is right for all work. Need adjustable legs - me, not the bench.
Have never cut so many really big joints by hand before... it's truly a beast. The Lie chisels have taken some punishment and stood up very well indeed. The old US Stanley pairer has been much used too. And Richard T's holdfasts are in constant use - if Carlsberg made holdfasts...
RM now close to sending me the wagon vice - I really have a strong feeling I need that now to spur me on... in that vacant mid-phase where I struggle to recall why I ever started this at all.
Workmates all round then?

(pics next time promise)
update - here we are so far. Am very close to getting my RM wagon vice, and the top must await that before I can do any more with it. But the big stuff is done, lots of details to do: planing stop, deadman, a way of fixing the back of top (like old table-tops but way heftier). Need to undercut the dog holes as Richard's holdfasts seem optimised for about 50 - 70mm (quite right too). Plan to over-bore from the underside to 25mm. For the front row (off the wagon) I will do the overbore underside first, then cut down from top so the holdfast 'sees' about 60mm.
A lot of detail work to do to make the twin face vice assembly. But at least I have the old bench back now (which was totally covered in big lumps of ash)- so almost have 2 benches... one more than I need.


  • Bench3.jpg
    76.4 KB · Views: 117
  • Bench2.jpg
    62.1 KB · Views: 117
  • Bench1.jpg
    108.4 KB · Views: 117
Looking superb Douglas!!! =D>

Will have to pop over and see it sometime soon!

As a matter of interest...what glue did you use for the bonding of the separate pieces that make up the top?

Hi Jim - 10 mins warning only... long enough to get the coffee on. Titebond 3 mainly, but got away with Original for the top laminates... working quite quickly and putting a fair bit on. Actually I used original for that bit as I had way more, and you do get through a lot. I'm a Titebond fan (except outdoor structures, then I am totally Polyurethane but it is filthy stuff, esp on the fingers as it is an utter sod to remove... I find wire wool and sandpaper just about does it, i.e. remove the skin the rest follows... but I digress)

need to talk planes, just got a few U.S. Stanleys to get very excited about...

(panic edit - it looks like the left leg is not flush to the front of the vice... but it is, how could it ever not be?)
Titebond Original! I am a fan too! Great stuff...although if you listen to some...it's not the best! :mrgreen:

I don't make much "outside stuff" so I can thankfully avoid PU as I too find it the excretion of the devil! :wink:

I think you have barrel distortion there slightly my friend...though I see why you jumped out of your chair...ran to the workshop and got out a square...I know you did...I can see you doing it! :mrgreen:

Busy week at work...gets in the way when you least expect it! Maybe next week?

Guilty Jim, I did do almost exactly that. I mean, I knew it was flush... but one has to be certain. It is.
(off topic) - just had a daughter asking me if I have some 'mechanical device' in the oven. Indeed, it's the Record 4 1/2 body curing after paint. 60 degrees, about 1 hr, helps the paint flow out nice. Inspired by Jim quenching blades in the chip pan... way to go DC, way to go.
jimi43":n9c1amhk said:
quenching irons in the chip pan and THEN putting them in the oven to temper!
Did you get that from a recipe book for home-made chips?? :mrgreen:
condeesteso":n369gggo said:
HOT NEWS! - tail vices. I was in contact with Mike at Classic Hand Tools a few days ago, as we had discussed 'wagon vices' some months ago and he was considering stocking the BenchCrafted then. Anyway - Mike told Richard at RM Benches, who has mailed me to say he is very close to launching a UK made wagon vice. I need pics and more info, but I may be able to go British... about bloody time!! More news as I get any. I would quite like my bench to have one of the first... assuming it's as good as Richard says, and it most probably is.
More news as it breaks (not literally).

Now this is news is good. I hope it comes to fruition. I like the Bench-crafted system.
They don't have the Festool in stock at Axminster at present. :|

Update on my own bench build:
I looked at the photograph of your sawn lengths in the rafters and I could have sworn I was looking at my own!
I ripped the 12 x 2s down on the bandsaw (Startrite 351) with the help of No. One Son. The timbers are in my rafters too, and so far the timber hasn't moved any, as far as I can see.

As soon as I have the top glued in two 12 x 1 sections, I will try a sort of WIP.
The reason for two 12" wide slabs for the top, is so I can fit a removable board in the centre, to give a side-bearing 'fence' as per the McGuire benches. I'm still undecided about the vice, but I think I will fit my Paramo Q/R and make a 'floating' wide twin-screw vice for dovetailing.

John :)
slow but sure... an update. I've been frustrated by the slow progress, interrupted by a brief break for a week, and otherwise too busy either working or doing things on the house.
All top laminates are now good (had to cut 2 more as I managed to get a couple under-size... no idea how at all).
Found a nice lump of 3" ash to make the end the Maguire will mount onto. I am considering dovetails for the exposed front end, but bolts further back to allow for any possible movement in the top - even though I don't really expect any as I was extremely careful and patient acclimatising the top sections to the workshop, and moisture levels in there are very stable and low. All stock is measuring 10% moisture, which is the stable level in the shop generally.
The front stretcher is fabricated c/w upturned vee for the sliding deadman. The 2" stock for the deadman is finish-planed, just needs shaping and boring for the 3/4 dog-holes, then cut the female vee at bottom, and the sliding tenon at the top.It will be removable needing only about 12mm lift to clear and come out - I have a trick re the lower vee which I'll cover later.
The mortices under the top at rear are for fixings similar to those used on table tops, to allow for movement... sorry forgot the name again.
Whilst it is 'assembled', nothing is glued yet, so any gaps need to be ignored!
Next is the boring and channels for the front vice, and the fitting of end for the Maguire, then dog-holes etc.
Order of assembly is critical due to some blind wedged tenons into the top, and the laminated legs. I'll get pics of the front leg - top joints later.
If I could get a few clear days on this I could make serious progress, but life isn't like that :cry:


  • B5.jpg
    34.3 KB · Views: 154
  • B4.jpg
    61.8 KB · Views: 154
  • B3.jpg
    71.6 KB · Views: 154
  • B2.jpg
    69.1 KB · Views: 154
  • B1.jpg
    110.2 KB · Views: 154
I am no marathon runner, but I have heard it said that at some stage you hit 'a wall'. This bench is my own very personal marathon.
Very close to the big final (one go at it only) glue-up.
The r/h end block (to take the RM wagon vice) is 70mm, with dovetails into the front 2 laminates. I will bolt the back end into slots to allow for possible movement.
I took a fair while forming the dovetails as I will not risk a dry fit. I get one go, glue and all. That's it. And I cannot recall making dovetails this big ever before, so for once I set angles etc (I always do drawers just by eye). It'll be amusing if the holes for Richard's wagon vice are in the wrong place... but their templates were perfect and done to my top depth. Fingers crossed.

All through tenons are wedged with bog oak. I have tried from the start to keep this bench as English as possible. I concede the wood vice screws are American, but I got those well before Richard started making them here. (And Joe is a really nice bloke anyway). The bog oak was scrounged from Jim... many of you know him, but if you don't then believe me, he's a gem.

The twin-screw will get sorted once the main bench is glued up. There will be Lignum strips under the top, above the screws, to keep the screws very horizontal for zero vertical racking. That was a gifted tip from Richard Maguire. But I plan to mock-up a chop* first to design in some horizontal racking. I want to be able to spin one handle at a time, and get the vice set to the stock (other hand holding stock... the way i work now with a proper vice). [*chop - been reading PWW so long and they call it a chop, I struggle remembering the names of things.]

Front of top is wedged, bog oak again. The blind wedged tenon at the front is there mainly for fun. You get one go at a blind wedged tenon, and no-one will ever see it. Perfect.

This bench has been very handmade. Here's how I cut the bog oak wedges. Band saw to get the overall section, and then my trusty U.S.Stanley 2" to shape them. I use my hip to drive the chisel through the stock into the bench-hook.

Insights so far: I remember now that I designed in some features to slow me down. The twin-screw. The spacing of the wagon dogs. Chris Schwarz tells us to put lots of dog-holes in (max 3"). I went for a bit over 5", as I will not pepper this top with holes, and yes it's slower but not much.
It's been very hand-made for two reasons. I wanted to do it that way, and also the components are so big I am not set-up to work them with my machines... this just isn't my usual scale.
And actually, I want to encourage myself to work a little slower... and better. I think I will miss the Q/R end vice (I use it as a vice often) but I have come to a point where I look to change how I work.
For the better, time alone will tell.


  • B1.jpg
    52 KB · Views: 141
  • B2.jpg
    47.4 KB · Views: 141
  • B3.jpg
    67.8 KB · Views: 141
  • B4.jpg
    37 KB · Views: 141
  • B5.jpg
    80.4 KB · Views: 141
Looking good, Douglas. I had a long chat with Richard Maguire at Cressing Temple - what a nice bloke. Had a good look at his wagon vice. It's superbly made so I think you're going to be very pleased with it when your bench is up and running.

Cheers :wink:

I'm following this with interest as it looks just the sort of thing that I would really like. I've held off buying the books by Scott Landis and Chris Schwartz, but I know enough to see that it will enable further fine work.
My own bench - knocked together in a hurry from scrap 20+ years ago - is good enough for the little woodwork I do at present. So I'll continue to admire yours! Maybe I'll get it some MDF for a new top.
I will have to get over to see this "live" Douglas....will definitely be sorting a day trip out soon!

Bog oak wedges! Class! 8) You should be a past master at that 3000 year old semi-fossil by now!

I think you need a plaque made of bog oak with boxwood inlay...to "sign" the final masterpiece....someone here should be able to carve that one out for you in some beautiful script...surely!? 8)

I am glad also to hear that the mallet has come out totally unscathed even though giant mortic(s)es have been created....I really needed one of them to be tested to the edge....and it would seem you have been doing this in spades...

I received "hand delivered" a HUGE weeble of LV today...more about that later!

Remember about the "wall"....it is an imaginary block...all pro athletes smash through it and make it to the finishing line....

I think when it is done you need to hold an open day....all the old cronies for a Pimms on the patio...what'dya think? :mrgreen:

Bravo again mate...bravo! =D>

Hi Jim and all... thanks for the encouragement. There was a point where enthusiasm faded, but I can see a light now. I am certainly very confident the Maguire wagon will be excellent and I love how it looks. I still expect challenges getting the twin face to work well - but one advantage with the wood screws is their considerable pitch.
Finish-planing the top will be interesting as I will meet reverse grain almost everywhere. I suspect the Record 6 for initial flattening, but may rely on the Lie 62 honed steep for final (around 58 degrees maybe?). And there's always the No80 scraper and sheet scrapers to resort to. There will be bother though, I just know it #-o
[Forgot to mention - no abrasives anywhere, all surfaces hand-planed and occasionally scraper-finished. No good reason why !]

Opening party :lol: - if anyone local-ish wants to pop by and natter, please do. It gets lonely, this long-distance running thing.
So, it's done. Finished. Pics later when I can muster the strength to pick the camera up.
Do I like it? I totally love it... have to keep nipping into the workshop to look, touch, play with it.
The Maguire wagon is absolutely fantastic. Bear in mind I fitted it with some templates only (a pre-instructions version)... but you look at it for a minute or two, and it tells you how to fit it.
Next post I will run through the fitting, and the other interesting bits (the twin-screw face vice, the sliding deadman), but the key to fitting the Maguire is to be very precise indeed as the vice itself is an extremely precise instrument and will therefore punish any error in alignment etc. That is a part of what makes it so good. When you get it right, it is silky smooth, a delight to use, and pinches on the stock so that a mere few degrees extra turn locks the stock solid. In short the Maguire wagon vice is sensational. If I ever build another bench I won't even bother looking elsewhere.
The twin-screw has turned out very well indeed. I expected problems (I had told Jim I planned 3 goes at it) but it was not so bad, just 2 goes and partly because I did something silly. I decided to build an interference-fit version first, then discover where to remove material from (I mean dust, not shavings). Three keys are: a slip under the bench top to support the screws from dropping as they are extended outward; a slight taper on the face of the chop to cancel out vertical racking; a soft leather face on the chop, because it grips stock incredibly without much pressure. (All 3: credit Richard Maguire who helped me with this.)
The sliding deadman was optional for me. I had considered not bothering, but designed it in during build as it is nearly impossible to add it later. It turned out to be amazing. 2" thick, no play or slop anywhere, slides very sweetly, and can take deep dogs or even a holdfast.
And then, flatting the top. 12 laminations, so bound to face grain reversals all over the place. The fight against tear-out? - same old... as sharp as you can get, fine cuts, diagonal or slicing blade orientation. And use any plane you fancy that gives you the result. A lot of the time I was using a Lie 7 1/2 as a jack, honed to 55 degrees. But the 100 year old Stanleys came into play too. In the end the scrapers came out. I remain unconvinced that closing the mouth right down really helps and on a B/D plane it just clogs all the time. Even on the B/U planes I didn't bother - I believe the tight mouth idea is way down the list of tear-out beaters. Very sharp and fine cut are my top weapons.
Details of tricks and what I learned promised later, with some pics, but it is a true gem - very happy with it indeed. I know already it will change how I work. Immediately it changes how I hold work-pieces... for the better I think. I need to sell my other bench now, and get working with this new one.
(A word to the wise... I stopped counting at about 200 hours. At minimum wages and with stock and components, this bench owes me over £3000. If you buy beech or ash at say £40 cu/ft then add the wood screws and the wagon vice you'll be looking at close to £1k before you cut a single piece. Ponder a while before you embark.)
Congratulations Douglas.

I don't need to see pics this time.. (Although I look forward to some!) No one could wax so lyrical over a fairy-story! It just has to be believed.

When you turn over your first project on this bench, I reckon you will forget about the time and the money.

Best of luck and well done again. =D> =D> =D>


Latest posts