Workbench #5: Aprons, Vises, and Chisels in Fingers (Sorry, no pics of the injury)

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Blog entry by VTWoody posted 04-19-2008 04:26 PM 3451 reads 1 time favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: Table Top and bleeding Part 5 of Workbench series no next part

Ok, I am back with another installment from my workbench experience. Today’s post talks about putting on the aprons and endcaps, the vises, and the reasons why its not so great to shove a chisel into your finger…

I didn’t take as many pictures of the endcaps and the aprons as I did other parts of the project, but I can describe the process a little to make up for it. The front and back aprons were attached with a spline made from some scrap douglas fir from some other project that I had lying around. I put my slot cutting bit into my router and set the router for the deepest depth that I could and then routed a slot down the front and back of the bench. I then repeated this process on the back apron’s inside side. I later did the same with the front apron’s inside side. I didn’t put the front apron on right away as I wanted to match it to the length of the tail vise and I wasn’t perfectly sure of how long the vise was going to be. I hate it when I make an assumption about a measurement and then I ruin a good piece of wood by cutting it too short, so I made the decision to just fit pieces as I came to them. In the last post I showed the tenon being cut into the ends of the tabletop. I cut the mortises in the endcaps using my dado blade on the table saw. I then glued the apron and endcap on the tail vise end and back so that I could put on the tail vise. This picture is a look at what it looks like after that glueup.

The next picture misses some of the process as well. I glued on a backer piece to screw the tail vise plate into, but forgot to take a picture. I did however take a picture of the plate in place with the basic body of the tail vise in the picture as well. You can also see the slot that I routed for the top plate of the tail vise. I had purchased and sharpened the new chisels by this time and got to use them on the fine-tuning of that slot. Wow, this was one of the first times I was ever able to use a high quality hand tool, and I am completely sold. Never will I buy low quality hand tools again. The Ashley Iles chisels are awesome, and I have to say I really do love my Worksharp 3000 as well. I am not a very patient sharpener, so the Worksharp definitely made my sharpening experience more pleasant.

Next, I fine-tuned the squareness of the sliding plates on the tail vise and then milled up the pieces for one of the ends and for where the dog holes were going to go. I had waited to this point to decide whether or not I was going to use square traditional dogs or the round ones. I finally decided to go with the round ones. I really like the Veritas 3/4” brass dogs, so I decided that I would use those. With that decision made, I started the glueup process knowing that I could just drill the dog holes when everything was installed.

Now, here’s where I forgot to take some pictures…..When I cut the dado for the other endcap, there was some cleaning up to do in the mortise and fine tuning to make it fit the tenon nicely. This involved some chiseling. The irony of the situation, is that I was building this bench so that I could secure workpieces more safely and allow me to do more hand tool work than my previous setup would allow. Unfortunately, with the bench not done, I couldn’t secure the piece I was working on very well and had to hold it down somehow. I stupidly thought, “Oh, why don’t I hold it down with my left hand, while I use my right hand to do the chiseling.” Rather than clamp the piece to the tabletop, I just dove right into chiseling. It was going so fine until I pushed too hard on the chisel and it sliced into my left index finger near the last knuckle. Ouch! A couple of fine and appropriate expletives later, I watched the it to see how bad it was going to be. It started bleeding pretty quickly and luckily I had a paper towel close at hand, and my wife was not home from work yet. I wasn’t done with what I was doing, and a wife watching me clean my wound would force me to go to the hospital…that couldn’t happen, I needed to get the mortise finished and attach the endcap to the end and glue it up! I quickly washed the wound and clumsily attached a dressing and went back out into the shop. I finished the glueup just as the garage door opened and my wife walked in. She, of course, had that look on her face. The one that says, “What have you done now? Do you need to go get stitched up?” By this time, the bleeding had mostly stopped under the pressure of the dressing, but I needed a little help getting a new dressing on, so I had her help me with it this time, but it was more or less fine, so I didn’t go to the hospital. I just didn’t think to take pictures. It is all healed up right now, but I definitely lost a tiny bit of feeling in the tip of my finger and have a nifty little scar to show for it.

On to the bench. I got the rest of the apron done, and decided at this point that I wanted to add a little bit more heft to the front apron and the endcaps. I went around to my local hardwood suppliers and nobody had any 8/4 sapele and I didn’t want to spend the extra money (I knew I should have bought that extra piece when it was in stock! doh!) to ship any to me, so I added some Douglas fir, and while it looked a little funky at first I think it actually looks pretty cool, now. This next picture is of the face vise installation. I added a pretty hefty block underneath the table to screw the vise in. It is attached with lag bolts and glue and it is not coming off.

The next picture is where I am gluing on another piece to make the face vise just a little deeper. You can also see the bulk of the face vise after rough cutting the round onto it. I later took the belt sander to it smooth it out. I also wanted to go with wooden dowels for the handles of the vises and there is the dowel that I made for that vise. Each of the vises was a little bit of a pain in th a** for their handles. The holes in the vises were a little bit non standard and it took me a while to come up with a way to size some dowels with what I had, but I got it done with the belt sander eventually. Also in the picture is my Incra miter jig for the table saw. That thing rocks!

And now to the last picture for the day. I spent a great deal of time sanding everything down at this point. I had drilled all the holes for the dog strips and the vises. Everything fit just right and the vises were working. I repaired some of the dings in the table top that inevitably happened and inserted shims and flush cut them in the mortises that needed them. I sanded everything to 120/150 to get it ready for finishing which will be the focus of the next post and then the last post should be about the cabinet that I still haven’t built, but should be working on this weekend. This picture was definitely a high point in my life as a woodworker because it was really the first major piece that I got to this point. Little rolling cabinets for tools are one thing, but this could have been a piece of furniture in our house (not that my wife or I would want a workbench in the house, but you never know :) ).

Au revoir!

Thanks for following along.

7 comments so far

View SteveKorz's profile


2134 posts in 3684 days

#1 posted 04-19-2008 04:39 PM

Wow, that looks awesome. You’ve done a fantastic job… I’d love to build one this summer, what part did you have the most trouble with?

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

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3792 days

#2 posted 04-19-2008 04:51 PM

You have built a wonderful bench. It looks to be sturdy and will be a welcome asset to your shop I am sure.

Nice job.

Keep up posted when you finish it.

Thanks for sharing.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3958 days

#3 posted 04-19-2008 05:44 PM

That’s a very nice job you’ve done there. I still remember finishing my bench.

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

View Thuan's profile


203 posts in 3787 days

#4 posted 04-19-2008 05:44 PM

Great looking bench, very detailed blog, thanks for letting us join you in your shop.

-- Thuan

View SPalm's profile


5318 posts in 3852 days

#5 posted 04-19-2008 05:49 PM

Awesome. This is great. I appreciate the inspiration.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 3724 days

#6 posted 04-20-2008 04:38 AM

Wow sounds very familiar except I was cleaning out the bottom of a dado and sliced the same finger at the same point with a very very newly sharpened chisel. Laid it open blood flowed very freely and I needed 5 stitches. No pics either.

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View VTWoody's profile


95 posts in 4027 days

#7 posted 04-20-2008 04:41 PM


Overall, everything has been fairly simple. It is just a bunch of basic woodworking skills all rolled up into one large piece. On the other hand, I would definitely say the Tail Vise was the piece with the most complexity and as such I took extra time and effort to get it right, rather than screwing it up by rushing.

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