Well it was a longtime coming but I have finished the bench. I’ve been having an issue getting the main face vise to operate smoothly. It worked just fine when I had it mocked up, but once I added the final chop it was grabbing and binding. It took some trouble shooting to find the problem, but in the end the problem was me trusting that power tools can do an accurate finish job. More on that later.
First I thought the problem was that the new chop was bigger and heavier. I thought the chop was riding on the garters or on the inside of the holes in the chop. I thought I needed something smoother for the screws to ride on. I recently came across a blog by Jameel Abraham. He’s a luthier and has made the most beautiful Roubo-style workbench. He used some Ultra High Molecular Weight (UHMW) Polyethyene on his vise, to make it operate smoother. If you haven’t seen his blog, you should check it out.
I ordered up a couple pieces of UHMW material, from McMaster-Carr. I order “sleeves” to go into the holes I had already bored through the chop. I was lucky, they had the exact size I needed.
After inserting the sleeves into the holes, I gave it try. Wow, it never felt so smooth! Although, by using the sleeves I eliminated any play the screws had through the chop. So I lost the ability to skew or rack the vise if I wanted. I really didn’t care too much about that, because it moved so smoothly now. Although, my excitement was short lived.
I pulled the chop off one last time and attached the garters. After reinstalling the chop, it was back to it’s old self again! I scratched my head, the only thing I did was add the garters. Off came the chop again! The garters had plenty of room, and weren’t catching on anything. Back on went the chop and sure enough, it was catching and binding still. So I thought the garters must be pinching the screws somehow. I loosened the screws on the garters and ta-da, smooth operating vise again! My conclusion: I recessed the garters into the chop. I think the recess I cut with my power router isn’t flat. I tell you, you can’t trust power tools! I ran out of time on Sunday to fix the problem. I plan to use my Veritas Router Plane to clean up the bottom of the recess the next time I’m in the shop. I think I could also remove the UHMW sleeves if I wanted to, but it moves so smoothly with them. I think I will leave them in for now. I also plan to dress up the garters, but that can wait a little while.
Here are some final pictures of the bench. I also added a shelf between the stretchers. It doesn’t have a finish on it yet, so it kind of stands out right now. Now I’m off to a new project!