A New Life for an Old Bench #7: Deadmen and missing dogs

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Blog entry by ToddJB posted 04-08-2014 05:58 PM 2469 reads 0 times favorited 31 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 6: Scrape, Scrub, and Oil Part 7 of A New Life for an Old Bench series no next part

This is an exciting entry for me. It’s exciting because I’m done with my original list of things that had to immediately happen to bring the bench back to a functioning state, and now have moved into “Added Value” items. And for me that’s exciting.

This bench came to me with no bench dogs and no deadman. There were holes in the top for the dogs, and grooves for a deadman, but no trace of either.

But through seeking some advice from the workbench thread we created a plan.

First, Deadman. Here is what I was working with – a groove down the center of the front stretcher with a matching groove on the underside of the top.

One of the things noted in the workbench thread was that the bottom groove was a poor design. It would be a magnet for dust and swarf and eventually impede the movement of the deadman. A better design is to have the deadman slide on convex rail so that the dust would just fall off. Not wanting permanently change the bench we came up with a solid, yet removable, retro fit.

He’s how it worked:

I took an oak strip I salvaged from an alley found bookcase

Removed some nails and cut it to 1/64th longer than the distance between the legs, then I loosened one of the bolts that tightens the legs to the stretcher and fit the piece in, then re-tightened the bolt pinching the new rail in place. Really nice snug fit.

Through I could not budge this by hand I wanted to take an extra step of precaution to ensure no movement. I added some cleats to the bottom of the rail that fit snugly into the preexisting groove.

From here I cut my 45s on top of the rail.

Rail constructed and in place.

Once that was completed I moved my attention to the deadman. I found a another piece of oak in the pile, no idea where this one came from, but it’s definitely salvaged as well.

Cut the top and bottom off of it to give me the correct height and then reglued those pieces to the back of the deadman for the required thickness to slide along the rails.

Cut my 45s in the bottom and rabbets on top.

Test fit.

Then sexed it up, with some sultry curves.

At this point I needed to decide on a hole pattern. This was my first shot.

But I ultimately decided that was a little too much and land on this

Added some oil on the surface, and a little stain in the holes to make it look like it’s been around for awhile, and put her in place.

Being put to use with the 203 (the 203 is integral to the inevitable placement of a chest of draws underneath

I’m happy with the way this turned out, and how well the oiled up oak matches the look of the rest of the bench.


Here is an example of what a modern square bench dog looks like.

There is a lip on the dog that catches a corresponding lip on the inside of the hole so that your dog can be pushed down and sit flush with the table top without falling through – and there is an angled sliver of wood attached to the bottom of the dog which acts as a tensioning wedge holding the dog where you place it in the hole. Pretty straight forward.

But when working on old things there is little that is straight forward.

My dogs holes do not have lip built in, and more annoyingly the wholes are not the same size so I’ll need to make one for every hole and make then custom sizes to ensure a snug fit.

The other change in design I did, which makes sense to me, is that I did not put the wedge the front or back or the dog, I place mine on the side. My logic behind this is that in use the pressure of the vise is pushing on the front and back, and I want as much solid material taking that pressure. Not sure if that really matters, but I figured it would not hurt anything.

Here was my quick and dirty 2×4 mock up.

Worked well, so I moved on to using up some walnut scrapes.

My process for making these was to cut them out on the bandsaw slightly larger than the hole size and then sand them down on the big belt sander.

Public Service Announcement:

Never hold tiny pieces on wood by hand using a large unforgiving belt sander. If/when that piece grabs the wood and flings it across the room, your fingers will ram straight down into 100 grit moving very very quickly.

The thumb by far got the worst of it, but all the first tips are little tender as I type this warning. Use a clamp!


Better yet, use the freaking bench that you are putting so much time into. Honestly, I am still so currently power tool minded that this option didn’t occur to me until after I decallused my hands.

I just chucked the pieces up in the vise and put the newly sharpened number 3 to use.

Here’s a couple finished up

The short guys go along the main part of the bench, while the longer ones are made to go in the holes for the tail vice and behind the face vise.

I was a few scraps short, but I had enough to fill all but two holes.

They hold great!

So here is how she rests.

I’m pretty stoked about how this has come together. She is fully functioning now, so any additional work is just gravy on top.

What’s next? Well, I’m not sure. At some point I would like to add a chest of draws under the bench to add some heft, I will need to make something to address racking on the face vise, and I need to make some new vise handles. But as my paternity leave is over, my nap time/late night shop sessions are over as well. So I wouldn’t expect an update anytime in the near future on this guy.

Thanks for reading, and thanks so much to those of you who shared invaluable wisdom along the way.

Oh and one more before and after – just because.

-- I came - I sawed - I over-built

31 comments so far

View JayT's profile (online now)


3882 posts in 1299 days

#1 posted 04-08-2014 06:07 PM

Quite a change, Todd. You’ve done the bench, and yourself, proud by allowing it to remain a vintage piece in look and materials while adding the touches needed to make it work for you.

-- "My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right." Abraham Lincoln

View shampeon's profile


1378 posts in 1271 days

#2 posted 04-08-2014 06:17 PM

Yeah, what Jay said. You’ve done a great job restoring and enhancing it while keeping the character intact.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View BTimmons's profile


2284 posts in 1573 days

#3 posted 04-08-2014 06:24 PM

Nasty bit on the belt sander. Ouch. As for the sliding deadman, I would’ve thought it was original if I didn’t know better.

-- Brian Timmons -

View grfrazee's profile


376 posts in 1227 days

#4 posted 04-08-2014 06:29 PM

You’ve done that bench a good service restoring it to working order again. I love how well you managed to match the new oak deadman to the patina of the old bench wood.

Good for another 100 years, I reckon.

-- -=Pride is not a sin=-

View john2005's profile


1621 posts in 1266 days

#5 posted 04-08-2014 06:31 PM

You did it right bro. Looks amazing! That ol bench looks pretty happy right now. Smart work on the deadman too.

-- In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.

View chrisstef's profile (online now)


13583 posts in 2094 days

#6 posted 04-08-2014 06:40 PM

What a turn around. By far the best $150 you’ve ever spent. Know that Im very jealous of this bench Todd. You definitely did that old bench right!

-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty

View theoldfart's profile


6552 posts in 1539 days

#7 posted 04-08-2014 06:53 PM

+1^ and then some. Your pretty well set now.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View Mauricio's profile


7077 posts in 2239 days

#8 posted 04-08-2014 06:53 PM

Wow, looks great!

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View ToddJB's profile


4949 posts in 1218 days

#9 posted 04-08-2014 07:08 PM

Thanks guys. Your encouragement and suggestions definately pushed this along. I really do appreciate it.

-- I came - I sawed - I over-built

View AnthonyReed's profile


6746 posts in 1528 days

#10 posted 04-08-2014 07:16 PM

Fantastic job getting her back into service. You do great work Todd.

Thank you for bringing us along. It was a lot of fun seeing the progress.

-- ~Tony

View walden's profile


1462 posts in 1110 days

#11 posted 04-08-2014 07:17 PM

That looks great! You did an amazing job. I saw in one of the other posts that you live in CO. I live in Evergreen, so hopefully will bump into you at a woodworkers guild meeting or RM tool collectors meeting.

-- "I am hiring a realtor if and when the day comes a lion is on my roof."

View woodcox's profile


1157 posts in 1099 days

#12 posted 04-08-2014 07:23 PM

Solid blog Todd, admirable restore to your piece of history.

-- "My god has more wood than your god" ... G. Carlin.

View ToddJB's profile


4949 posts in 1218 days

#13 posted 04-08-2014 07:39 PM

Thanks Gents.

Walden, I’m in old Englewood. As a father of two little tikes I don’t have a lot of time on my hands so at this point I haven’t really been able to get involved with the local woodworking community. It is something I do desire to do, but it’ll have to wait for a little while. I do manage to get out to the Denver gatherings for (old woodworking machines) which happen typically once in the spring and once in the fall.

-- I came - I sawed - I over-built

View 489tad's profile


2833 posts in 2099 days

#14 posted 04-08-2014 07:52 PM

Well done Todd.

-- Dan, Naperville IL, I.G.N.

View CL810's profile


3049 posts in 2076 days

#15 posted 04-08-2014 09:38 PM

Waaaayy cool Todd! A fantastic bench, story, and refurb. Did you think they were kidding when they said blood, sweat and tears?

-- "The only limits to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." - FDR

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