Split top Saw Bench #2: The build (wagon vise tops and uprights)

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Blog entry by TerryDowning posted 11-06-2013 07:16 PM 5158 reads 1 time favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: The Idea Part 2 of Split top Saw Bench series Part 3: Feet, uprights and assembly »

So, in the first installment was the idea. I knew I needed a saw bench, I decided on a split top design and that I would incorporate a wedge powered wagon vice as one of the tops.

I was not originally planning on blogging this build so the pics of the build don’t start until much later in the build.

The first step was to cut the material to rough dimensions.

I measured from the floor to me knee cap to determine the height of the bench and thus the length of the uprights.

4 of those. I decided that the length would be approximately 36” again, I also want this to be a small work bench as well. Typically saw benches are much shorter. But hey this is my bench in my shop, I’ll make the length I want.

for the wagon vice I decided I would use common 2×4 studs. My eventual work bench is going to use these as I’m going with the Paul Sellers style of joinery bench and this is practice and experimentation so there ya go.

Deviation from shipwright’s wagon vice design. Rather than laminate runners to the insides of the wagon vice to form the wagon track I decided to use stopped dadoes.

With the 2×4 s cut to length it’s time to cut the dadoes. I have a craftsman 79 duplex fillister plasne so I used that cut the dadoes. To form the stop I used a chisel and went deep enough to allow the nose of the plane to go the rest of the way into the slot.

This worked OK, but I don’t have a depth stop for that plane and getting the depth accurate is fairly important in order for the wagon to move smoothly. This means routing to the final depth. Unfortunately, I don’t have a router so I opted to use a modified version of the poor man’s router as described by Paul Sellers.

Click for details

So 2 stopped dadoes cut to form the track for the wagon vice.

In the meantime floating n the back of my mind was “How I am going to keep this vice from splitting apart from the pressure of the wedge against the bearer AND join it to the upright?”

I initially was going to go with a dove tail that should in theory keep the 2 tracks together and join the upright. Well, no plan survives first contact. The narrow side of the joint broke, so I would have to do more figuring on this.

The broken dovetail. This is later squared up and trimmed flat.

Next is the construction of the wagon vice internals

I needed a bearer block to hold against the force of the wedge. Using a 4×4 from a reclaimed shipping pallet, I was able to shape the Wagon, Bearer, wedges and spacers.

I cut it to approximate shape and the cut rabbets to sit in the bottom wagon track (This keeps the bearer from falling through)

The top wagon track is removed to allow the bearer, wedge and spacers to apply pressure against the bearer block and be removed for adjustments.

This is just a lot of paring and fitting. The wagon needs to run smoothly in the track with little lateral or vertical movement. It needs some movement in order to move freely and account for wood movement (Once everything is assembled, this does not come apart for adjustment) but it shouldn’t be a sloppy fit either. The bearer is a more snug fit, and the angled surfaces where the bearer interfaces with the vise need to mate flat. This is where the load is distributed when under pressure (Which can lead to the vise separating if not secured properly, I was till puzzling through how I would address that during this fitting) All fitting and adjust is done PRIOR to nay glue up or lamination of the top. If you screw up here you don’t want to deal with breaking apart glue joints or lamination. Use clamps to hold everything together during the fitting. Once you’re satisfied with the fitting of the internals, then you cam laminate the three 2×4s to complete the top section.

At this point the bulk of the work on the wagon vise is complete. The non-bearing side of this will be joined to the upright with a large dovetail joint. I decided joined to the upright on the vice side with a finger joint secured in place with draw bore pins.

I don’t have a lot of photos of the prep for the upright to top joinery. Three of the joints are dove tailed, the renaming is a finger joint.

Prepping the dovetail on wagon vise.

No pics of the other joints but here are the tops and uprights ready for the next step

-- - Terry

3 comments so far

View shipwright's profile


7980 posts in 2793 days

#1 posted 11-06-2013 07:39 PM

Looks good Terry.
The only comment I’d have that you might do differently if you make another one (or two) for your bench would be to make the wagon a little shorter. You should be able to pop the base block (bearer) out and slide the wagon back and lift it out for cleaning, adjustment replacement etc.

On a small bench like this maybe a couple of bolts across the tail end behind the block would be a good way to “contain the spread” as it were. In my bigger one it was a simple matter of trapping the ends in the end board.

Don’t worry about changing the design. It’s just a concept and I expect anyone who uses it will adapt it to their dimensions, material and tools. I hope it works well for you.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View TerryDowning's profile


1077 posts in 2113 days

#2 posted 11-06-2013 07:48 PM

Thanks Paul!

I’ve used it a few times now and it seem to work great. The joint on that side is a finger joint draw bored together. It’s really messy and my lack of craftsmanship shows (I rushed aligning and assembling the joint and introduced a bunch of gaps, holes, and other issues that have follow-on effects) but it seems to be holding OK for now. I don’t envision a whole lot of force being applied to this particular application, the wedge does an outstanding job of securing things with minimal fuss.

I’m trying to avoid metal fasteners in these benches. I don’t know why, probably just for the challenge of it.

On the next wagon I will consider adjusting the openings/dimensions to make the wagon removable.

Thanks again for your input and inspiration.

-- - Terry

View AnthonyReed's profile


9713 posts in 2436 days

#3 posted 11-18-2013 08:22 PM

That has to be a happy luxury having a wagon vise on your saw bench. Well done Terry. Thanks.

-- ~Tony

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