Workbench Build #3: Vises Installed

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Blog entry by SPalm posted 06-16-2008 02:20 PM 3950 reads 5 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Glue up Part 3 of Workbench Build series no next part

I found some time and got the vises installed. First the endcap and the front maple edge were dovetailed, the endcap routed to receive the tongue formed on the end of the Douglas fir, and then both glued into place. This was the first time I really cut dovetails by hand, and it was kind of fun. It is surprising how strong the resulting joint is. The endcap was only glued at the corner, and their will be a lag bolt near the back to allow wood movement.

There is a story behind the walnut endcap. It is from the Buck Hill ski resort in Minnesota, south of Minneapolis. I grew up across the street in Northfield from the woman who owned Buck Hill before it became a resort. In 1954 before she released it, she cut down some of the walnut trees, had them sliced up and stored them in her garage attic. When she passed away in the 70’s my Dad and I helped clean up her place and found a couple hundred board feet of it. My children’s crib and toy boxes are also made from it.

I made a handle for the front vise from an oak dowel and some cherry rings cut with a forstner bit and a hole saw on the drill press. Not sure I like it, but it works for now. Any suggestions?

So now I need to drill the dog holes. Any help on this? Should I run a double row for each vise, or what? Should I change the endvise’s chop to be wider and cover the entire width of the bench? If I run a double row for the endvise, it would put holes right down the middle of the bench.




Thanks for looking,

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

20 comments so far

View FlWoodRat's profile


732 posts in 3937 days

#1 posted 06-16-2008 02:47 PM

Looks AWESOME.. Nice Job Steve. BTW, I grew up in Northfield too. Northfield New Jersey… LOL.

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning....

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4016 days

#2 posted 06-16-2008 02:54 PM

Nice looking dovetail! Great bench.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View dalec's profile


612 posts in 3916 days

#3 posted 06-16-2008 03:08 PM

Very tight looking dovetails. Love the contrasting colors.


View Mark Mazzo's profile

Mark Mazzo

352 posts in 3940 days

#4 posted 06-16-2008 03:14 PM

Hey Steve,

Very nice looking bench – also great first dovetails! Looks like you’ve been doing them for years.

With respect to the dog holes, I think I would try to do it with a router. When I did mine I used a Forstner bit, an Electric Drill and a portable guide. It was a long laborious process that I would not recommend!

I’ve seen a couple of different methods with the router but they seem to center around starting a hole with either a Forster bit and a drill and then following up with a smaller diameter straight bit and a bearing to follow the hole with the router. Of course you could always get a 3/4” straight bit for the router as well but, because of the thickness of the top you will probably have to still use a bearing guided bit as well. I guess you could also make a jig that has the correct diameter hole and follow it with a top bearing router bit or guide bushing. The thickness of the bench top is going to be the challenge. If you do make a jig, put two holes in it spaced the distance that you want them in the benchtop then put a dowel in one and use it to index from hole to hole as you drill/rout the next one.

Two rows of holes opposite the vises is a good idea so that the vise does not rack when you clamp something between it and the dogs. Though I guess you could also do a single row aligned with the center of the vise and that would work as well.

Food for thought.

-- Mark, Webster New York, Visit my website at

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3676 days

#5 posted 06-16-2008 03:16 PM

This is one biffy top… me likey!

Nice dovetail work, looks beautiful.

I just started my workbench last week, and had the top + vises installed (next would be the legs) and was surprised at how not-so-easy of pa process it is to setup those vises to be perfectly straight, and have the faces perfectly parallel, and flush with the table top… you live and learn everyday. – NICE job with the vises, and faces, looks good

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 3913 days

#6 posted 06-16-2008 04:33 PM

Nice bench!
I have been “drilling” holes (3/4” and 1”) in my new work table and work bench I built. I have been using a router and router bits for the work surfaces. And Forstner bits for the dog holes in the vises.
My advice is:
Turn the router speed down and proceed slowly.
Do any work possible in a drill press with Forstner bits.
The router will want to jump and grab if it’s not tied down you won’t be able to keep the router from grabbing and skipping around.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE doing the holes on the same species wood before you ever start on the bench.
MCLS Has both 1” and 3/4” straight router bits priced reasonably and Woodcraft has straight bits also and their brand is on sale at this time.
Good luck,
John Gray

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View SteveKorz's profile


2134 posts in 3741 days

#7 posted 06-16-2008 07:17 PM

That looks great!!

-- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) †

View SPalm's profile


5320 posts in 3910 days

#8 posted 06-16-2008 07:52 PM

Thanks guys. It has been a fun project, but more work than I first thought.

The vises were installed by a lot of trial and error. A template from the mfg would have been really nice (Arrrgh!!). I am not extremely impressed with the quality of these cheap vises. A lot of slop. They even had the nerve to cast CHINA into the face of them upside down!

The dog holes have scared me a bit. I guess from some of the posts that it is a bit of work getting them drilled. And yes, the thickness of the top is going to present its own challenge. I planned on using a 3/4 inch router bit to get them started, and then wing it from there when the bit depth is reached. My Forstner bit of this size does not have the serrated teeth, so it is real slow going, and pretty dull by now. Time to upgrade. I think I have decided to run them down the sides and make some ‘beams’ with attached dowels to act as movable stops across the width. Then if I change my mind, I can always drill some holes down the middle later.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Mark Mazzo's profile

Mark Mazzo

352 posts in 3940 days

#9 posted 06-16-2008 09:15 PM


If you have the 3/4” router bit, you can go as deep as possible with it and then drill a smaller diameter hole through the approximate center of each dog hole to the other side. Then turn the top over and use a flush trimming bit with a bottom bearing in the router. Insert the bit into the smaller hole and follow the inside of the dog hole with the bearing to clean that side of the hole. Make sense?

-- Mark, Webster New York, Visit my website at

View Kevin's profile


291 posts in 3986 days

#10 posted 06-16-2008 09:29 PM

I like the idea of the bench holes along the edges and the “beam”. I hadn’t thought of that, but it makes sense.

I’ll second the great looking bench and dovetails.

-- Kevin, Wichita, Kansas

View Rymann's profile


11 posts in 3805 days

#11 posted 06-16-2008 09:40 PM

Here's a video tutorial by Glen Huey of Popular Woodworking using a router to drill dog holes.

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4428 days

#12 posted 06-16-2008 10:17 PM


Click for details
Here is a mini bench that I built. Toward the bottom of the post is a jig that I used to drill the bench holes using a 3/4” forstner bit. I used a tractor hitch pin from the tractor supply as my allignment pin. I also use them as stop blocks because there is a ridge on the pin that keeps them from going all the way through the bench.

I can cut some wood to match the curve on any pieces that I want to hold or flat pieces. the small piece turns to match the surface of the wood that I’m holding.

Very nice looking dovetails.

I’d suggest a sharp forsner bit. I never had a bit of problem going through the 3” maple/walnut

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View blackcherry's profile


3338 posts in 3851 days

#13 posted 06-17-2008 12:26 AM

Nice bench Steve…the detail to attention show through out the whole bench…the feeling of accomplishment make the whole process worth while…also the story of the walnut makes it even more over the top…congrats and may all your projects shine as well as this bench…Blkcherry

View Grumpy's profile


23997 posts in 3879 days

#14 posted 06-17-2008 12:36 AM

Nice workbench & vices Steve & a great piece of local memorabilia.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View jeanmarc's profile


1899 posts in 3744 days

#15 posted 07-26-2008 05:44 PM

Very nice looking bench

-- jeanmarc manosque france

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