A Workbench's Progress #3: How much wood will $80 buy?

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Blog entry by TheGravedigger posted 05-31-2007 05:07 AM 1975 reads 1 time favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: How to use a half-gallon of glue on one project. Part 3 of A Workbench's Progress series Part 4: Squeeze play »

I decided at this point that I should install the front and end vises with their wooden jaws prior to surfacing the top. So, my son and I (remember, 150 pounds or so) flipped the benchtop on its back, and I made sure the vise mounting spots were relatively flat and square to the edges. Then it was time to construct the wooden jaws, and obviously, whitewood would never do for this application. The only logical choice seemed to be maple, which is not available as a locally-produced wood.

Now at a real lumberyard, I priced soft maple and selected two pieces. I purchased an 11’ length of 8/4 maple 6” wide (the shortest they had), and an 8’ length of 4/4 6” wide. The total purchase price? $78.78.


Well, the deed was done, and it was time to make the jaw blocks. After planing, I rough-cut four pieces of 8/4 to 19” long, These were then mated to make two jaw blocks about 3.5” thick:

Glued vise jaw blanks

I DID have the presence of mind this time to use biscuits along one edge to ensure alignment, which kept creep to a minimum and made later surfacing much easier. After the glue dried, I cleaned up the remaining squeeze-out, trued the edges, and cut to a final length of 18".

Drilling the screw and guide rod holes in these (expensive) blocks was nerve-wracking. After positioning the mounting block on the underside of the bench and transferring the hole locations to the jaw blank, I stood poised at the drill press with the lever in my hand, knowing that if I messed this up...

One drilled, one to go.

Fortunately, all went well, since the second jaw worked out as well as its cousin in the above photo. All that remained was to sand a roundover on the two outside corners of each jaw. I know many folks include a slight rabbet step with their roundovers, but all I wanted was a friendly corner that wouldn't hurt my leg when I ran into it. BTW, the oily fingerprints on the wood are residual grease from handling the vise hardware. I was planning on an oil finish anyway!

More to come.

-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog:

7 comments so far

View Karson's profile


35148 posts in 4602 days

#1 posted 05-31-2007 05:17 AM

Great project. Looking for the continuation.

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

View mot's profile


4922 posts in 4238 days

#2 posted 05-31-2007 05:18 AM

Great story. I can visualise you standing there, drill press handle grasped, a moments trepidation followed a gasp and a pull of the handle. LOL…been there! It’s turning out great. I’m glad you kept up with the photo journal!

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View WayneC's profile


13794 posts in 4299 days

#3 posted 05-31-2007 05:52 AM

Great progress. I’m looking forward to your next post. Thanks for taking the time to share with us.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View oscorner's profile


4563 posts in 4512 days

#4 posted 05-31-2007 05:10 PM

It’s coming along nicely. Thanks for the pics and process.

-- Jesus is Lord!

View MsDebbieP's profile


18618 posts in 4362 days

#5 posted 06-01-2007 03:46 PM

looking great!!! Pretty exciting for you – and for us as we watch it being built! :)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View David's profile


1969 posts in 4340 days

#6 posted 07-01-2007 03:28 PM

Robert -

Your vice jaw pads look great. I agree with Mot – I could just see you there holding the drill press handle and thinking . . .


View Karson's profile


35148 posts in 4602 days

#7 posted 07-01-2007 03:33 PM

A time of measure twice and drill once. Great job.

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

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