Wagon Vice


When I built my Roubo bench, I installed a traditional leg vice as shown.  I was never happy with the grip of this vice, and so when I installed my old Record vice at the tail end of the bench, I found myself using this all the time.

I suppose I could have stuck leather onto the leg vice, or bought a better quality threaded screw.  I’m not sure if that would have made a difference? The fact that the leg vice didn’t have a quick release also played a large part.

So seeing I liked the Record vice so much, I decided to move it to the front, and to make a wagon vice where the Record vice once stood, using a shoulder vice screw from Lee Valley.  Here are the BEFORE SHOTS:  on the left the Record vice positioned as a tail vice;  and on the right the original wooden leg vice.

I faced the following problems:
  1. I needed to chop out a large hole for the wagon vice as well as drill more holes through the bench for the Record vice.  This would not in any way weaken the 4″ (100mm) thick Ash top, I just don’t like doing it.
  2. Flipping the bench over to Rout the bottom hole (to prevent blowout) was, well, flipping difficult.  The Roubo bench is designed to be massive.
  3. Holding the Record vice upwards against the top while threading the bolts was very difficult if doing it alone.
  4. There was no ideal place to put the Record vice as the bench leg is very thick, and the bench itself is very short (1400mm).  I decided to put it in front of the leg, which meant that the vice is near the front edge.

The rear end of the bench with the Record Vice removed.

You will notice the wagon vice hardware on top of the bench, and the coach screws that secure the end piece are not evenly spaced because I had to make allowance for the Record vice which was previously there.

After marking out the “through mortice” for the wagon vice, I drilled a series of large holes and then used a hand held router to remove the waste-part of which is sitting on top of the bench.

Then I cut a square mortice in the end of the bench to accept the wagon vice screw.  This was done both with a hand chisel and a palm router.  The little hole is a pilot for the threaded rod and is exactly in line with the row of dog holes.

 Next I drilled a 30mm hole with a Forstener bit, held straight with the DJ-1 drilling jig.
This picture looks difficult to fathom, but I used a traditional method for the underside part of the wagon vice runner.  I picked Rhodesian Teak (a distant family to African Rosewood) as it is self-lubricating to a degree.


You will notice that I have two rows of dog holes and my outer row is closer to the edge than most I’ve seen on the net.

This plus the wagon vice screw is actually a shoulder vice screw and therefore shorter, restricted me in some ways.

It works well, in that it is very fast and doesn’t need much force to hold a board still.



I’ve always wanted to make one of these.  Not only because they look cool, but they are very practical, and if you own a few handsaws, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  Due to their size and shape, saws are difficult to store and they generally take up a lot of space.  You cannot stack them, or put them on a shelf, and they are too long for most cupboards.  Many woodworkers hang them off pegs around the workshop, but I find that untidy and a use of space that I don’t have.  The sawtill I made hangs on a French cleat quite high on the wall.  You can do this because you are grabbing the saw by the handle which is on the bottom end, and this in turn allows you the space to store tools below the sawtill.

I made this out of pine, under the supervision of a teacher.  The lessons learnt were very valuable (see my following two posts on hand cut dovetailed boxes), and being in an experienced woodworker’s shop is a lesson in itself-you get to see how they work, their work flow, their choice of tools etc.  My greatest personal benefit is from watching their style of working and their particular approach to a problem or technique which I compare against my own.

F-Clamp Rack with the KM-1 KerfMaker.

I have collected a variety of F-Clams of different sizes over the last 4 years. Most have been from garage sales so there are few that match.  I’ve had them stored all over the place up to now which not only is messy, but I tend to forget half of them.  They usually were clamped to a shelf wherever space was available, but this meant that I had to loosen them each time I needed to use them.
I decided not to make a fuss over this rack, as long as it could take a few hours to build, and hold all my F-Clamps in one place.  I started off by screwing some metal shelf brackets onto some Meranti scrap pieces.  The  whole assembly was then attached to the wall with Fischer plugs.

I then needed to decide how far the supporting piece was to be from the wall for clearance.  Too close and the front of the clamp would touch the wall, and too far and the clamps would get in the way (I have a small workshop).

The above photo shows two small pieces of pine resting on the shelf.  The long piece was then moved forward or back until the right distance was found.  I then marked the pieces against each other as well as “right” & “left” to prevent mistakes.  This has happened in the past.  After measuring, when I bring the individual pieces down onto the bench, I usually mix things up.  So measuring in-situ so to speak helps prevent this.

Next I had to make a quick lap joint for where the pieces intersect.  Enter the radial arm saw and the KM-1 KerfMaker from Bridge City Tools.


I cut 4 lap joints in under 5 minutes thanks to this ingenious invention.  Take into account that the two pieces being joined were a different width so it required two setups.


Above is the finished joint.  You will notice the familiar markings that help prevent mistakes-the triangle & the numbers.
Now all that was left was to attach the wood to the shelf bracket with screws and hang the clamps.


I had thoughts of using the space above the clamps by making an open box or carcase lying on its side.  The bottom side would be where the clamps would hang, and the top part would be a shelf.  Maybe next time.
Although I did not want to spend time on this project, I definitely made it faster and better than previous similar shop fixtures.  I have re-organised/ re-designed my workshop four times up to now.  Each time there was not only a shifting around of tools and furniture, but also discarding some and acquiring new.  And even though the above project is quick & simple, the way I approached it is profoundly different to how I would have one or two years ago:

  • The two Meranti pieces for the shelf bracket were cut to an identical size using a stop block-no rulers.  I also spent a few minutes smoothing and chamfering the visible sides with my #3 smoother. This is one of  many times where hand tools can be seen to complement power tools.
  • In order to ensure that the two brackets were positioned identical to each other, I first drew a centre line on the wood, again not using the ruler but by stopping the marking gauge against the side.  I then located the bottom screw hole of the bracket over the centre line and used a centre punch to mark the hole. I then drilled a pilot hole and put the screw in loosely.  The shelf bracket can pivot on this bottom hole for the next step:
  • To rotate the top of the bracket so that it sat centre in the Meranti piece, I used a marking gauge and butted the bracket against it.  This all sounds very obvious, but if you don’t how about gauging versus measuring off a ruler, or centre punching and pilot hole drilling before you attach a screw, things will most likely not be accurate.  These valuable lessons I did not learn from books, but from watching experienced woodworkers at work in their workshops.  The era of apprentices is gone, but there are still some older guys around who learnt the correct way.  I encourage beginners and experienced woodworkers alike to spend some time with these masters. No matter how much you already know, you will learn something new from them.  And it will stay with you, unlike the stuff we read in books. Sad to face it, but these guys won’t be around forever!

Router Table Finger Joint Jig, version 1.

Although this is a detour from the mainly hand tools direction I’ve been on for a while now, I needed this jig for small drawers around the workshop, as well as for box making.  I like the aesthetics of an exposed finger joint on small boxes and providing the drawers are small and don’t carry too much weight, the finger joint is very quick to make in multiples and strong enough too.

It is crucial that the finger joint jig is guided in a straight line.  In most designs I’ve seen, this is achieved through an existing mitre slot or a T-track.
My router table doesn’t have these for two reasons, namely the slot or track weakens the table which must be co-planar, and it conflicts with the fence in terms of parallel thus affecting accuracy.
Therefore two temporary parallel guides were clamped to each side of the table and the jig (which is a sled in essence) rode between the two.
In order to ensure an almost piston fit, two paper-thick shims were placed between the guide and the sled before clamping up.  The photo above shows the side fences (held in place with the orange clamp).  The blue clamp is holding the stop block to prevent the jig from running too far over the router bit.

The setup above shows a ½” up spiral router bit with the same spacing as same size registration pin.  As you know, the three must be exactly the same to ensure a tight fit.  The ability to fine adjust the distance of the pin from the router bit is the difference between a tight, neat fit and a sloppy one.  Enter the micro-adjuster below:  The front sacrificial fence in a jig of this type must be allowed to move left or right to adjust the width of the fingers.  This threaded bolt allows me to move the fence (once loosened from the permanent back fence), in small increments.

Below is a view from the back of the jig.  You can see the two coach bolts with large washers which fix the front (movable and sacrificial) fence to the back (fixed) fence.  These get loosened for the micro adjusting process.  
You may also notice that my jig runs front to back on my router table as opposed to most that move from left to right.  Direction of motion is not critical here as we are not routing lengths of wood where a climb cut will occur if you travel in the opposite direction.  I simply don’t have much room behind the router bit.  

Here is my 3rd attempt on a piece of pine.  The pins or fingers protrude slightly on purpose. They get sanded down at the end for a flush fit.  This is controlled by the height of the bit.  Remember to take the thickness of the jig/ sled into account when calculating this!


St. Peter’s Cross-1st, failed attempt.

When my son & I built our Roubo bench, we added a parallel guide to the bottom of the leg vice.  Information on an alternative, the St. Peter’s Cross, was discussed when the Benchcrafted prototype was recently introduced.
In haste we made an attempt to make one using 25x6mm steel flat bar.  
1st we cut grooves in both the inside of the leg vice & the bench leg to accommodate the steel bars.

Halfway up we notched a space to fit the nut and bolt (6mm) which hinged the two bars in the centre, thus forming the cross.

We rounded the ends of the bars to prevent them from catching the wood:
We fitted the cross with 6mm threaded rod on the two top pieces and the bottom pieces were not attached in any way.
Our St. Peter’s Cross didn’t work for the following two reasons.  1.) The steel flat bar is only 6mm thick, so the vice has play from left to right when being loosened or tightened.  This seems like a minor problem that may be fixed by thickening the ends of the two bottom pieces (with a short bolt & nut I guess), thus making the fit inside the wooden grooves snug.
2.)  The second problem is the major one.  When the vice is tightened, the cross ensures that the vice moves in parallel to the bench leg.  But once the piece of wood being held in the vice is engaged, then the bottom of the vice keeps on moving in.  In other words the leg vice does not remain parallel when engaging the workpiece.  And as far as I understand, this is the main purpose of the Cross.  It seems as if the two bottom pieces of the cross are slipping and riding up the groove.  This then puts the vice out of parallel, which loosens the grip on the workpiece being held. I attach a short video to demonstrate this.  So far I have no solution, so if anyone can help, it would be appreciated and shared. (Please note the video was taken sideways in order to better fit the long leg vice.  So the bottom of the vice is on the right of the picture-that’s where you should pay attention).

Temporary Handplane Cupboard

I had a choice.  Either keep my handplanes in my existing steel cabinet where they were hard to reach, and kept bumping into the steel top and each other every time I took them out.  Or wait a few years before I had the necessary skills to make a proper hand-tool storage cupboard.  The third option was a plywood open box assembled with rebates and glue. The shelves rest on cleats which were screwed into the sides.  I may or may not put a door later.  If I put a face frame, it will only be for the practice.  It took half a day to assemble, my planes are not touching each other and easy & quickly accessible, so as to allow me to get onto the real thing-making furniture.  I must say it does look ugly, so I do prescribe to the aesthetic thing when it comes to some tools as well as tool storage.  But I do have instant gratification with this cupboard.  I suppose finding that balance will always be necessary.

In terms of classification, I put the two jointers on top as they are too long to fit into the space.  next come the block and shoulder planes.  then the fore planes-scrub, fore and #5.  Then all the smoothers and scraping planes.  Finally the plough and rebate planes are at the bottom.  I have used up 60% of the cupboard so I may put a drawer and a lower compartment for storage later.

Table & Fence Insert for Radial Arm Saw

When you attach a fence & top on your Radial Arm Saw (RAS) for the 1st time, it takes a lot of time & effort.  The top must be level, and co-planar with the blade in all directions.  There is a lot of shimming and adjusting required.  When this is done, the first cut (a shallow cut), marks a kerf on the fence as well as the top, from which all other cuts are referenced.  Over time, this kerf is not sharp and smooth anymore which can compromise the accuracy of the cut.  So it makes sense to route a shallow dado to accept an insert (I used 10mm hardboard because that is what I had available), as it saves time and wood replacing an insert instead of the whole top every time the saw chops it up.  This idea is not mine (thanks Denis), but it is easy to do.  I jammed the hardboard in the depth gauge of my router for depth of cut,  and set up my shop-made dado jig for a 40mm wide cut.  This 40mm width was not measured but gauged-I first ripped a few 40mm wide strips of hardboard on the bandsaw.  It makes sense cutting a lot of extra strips for the inserts at this setting because the dado will be made according to this width!  Then I pushed the dado jig against both sides of the strip to create the correct width.  In other words the dado jig is set according to the actual insert that I will use, and not measured with a ruler.
Some photos (not the best quality as they are taken by my phone), might illustrate this better.  The 1st photo shows the reserve inserts on the left hand side-enough for at least two world wars.  Their edges are still furry as they haven’t been sanded down yet.

 I added another blade better suited for cross-cutting (way more teeth), as I only use the RAS for this purpose.  With mitre cuts, the blade remains straight, and the would is angled against a jig.