Hand-routing on the side of a thick piece of lumber?

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Forum topic by Brett posted 03-28-2013 04:47 PM 1142 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Brett's profile


660 posts in 2683 days

03-28-2013 04:47 PM

I have a workbench with a thick top (4.25”). I would like to install a quick-release front vise on the end of the bench top so I can use it with bench dogs to hold a piece of wood.

I will need to excavate a cavity in the endgrain of my bench top to make room for the rear jaw of my vise.

Can I put a straight bit in my router and hold the router horizontally (with the base flat up against the end of my workbench) to excavate the cavity, or would that be the height of stupidity?

-- More tools, fewer machines.

6 replies so far

View Mark Davisson's profile

Mark Davisson

597 posts in 3317 days

#1 posted 03-28-2013 05:11 PM

Brett, you’ll need to be very careful. I’d clamp (or screw) vertical fences on either side of the mortise you are trying to create, spaced so that your router’s base plate edge finds them at the point where the bit is at it’s left/right limits. You might also clamp blocks above and below the bench top, flush with the end, to give your router base plate something stable to ride on.

And, again, be careful.

-- I'm selfless because it feels so good!

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2971 days

#2 posted 03-28-2013 05:13 PM

I assume you need to route about a 3/4” deep mortise about 7” or 10” long, depends how wide the vise jaws are, and the full height of the edge. If I have the correct mental picture here, don’t forget you will be routing away your support Don’t just go at it randomly and leave yourself UN-supported out in the middle of that big mortise. Might be helpful to attach a couple of boards on the top and bottom of the bench to prevent blowout on the edges and also to give more support to the router base.

That’s how my bench is set, up by the way, and it works great for me.

View Brett's profile


660 posts in 2683 days

#3 posted 03-28-2013 05:41 PM

Thanks for the suggestions. I had already realized that I might route-away my support if I weren’t careful, so I’ve been thinking about either leaving the outside walls of the mortise intact so I can hand-saw them away afterwards, or using boards for support. I haven’t worked out the details, but you’ve given me some good things to think about.

Michael, I’m hoping to not have to make a mortise that is the full height of the workbench top. Perhaps I can’t avoid it, but I don’t like the appearance when a face vise is attached to a bench top and either the top of the back jaw is exposed or it’s covered by another piece of wood. I’d like to try to excavate a mortise that is just big enough for the back jaw of mortise, but which leaves the entire upper surface of the bench intact. (Hard to describe, but easy to picture.)

-- More tools, fewer machines.

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2971 days

#4 posted 03-28-2013 06:15 PM

Know what you mean.
My bench top is 4 layers of 3/4 sand-ply with 1/2” MDF and a replaceable 1/4” Masonite top that is banded with a 1×4 maple all around. Where my front vices are mounted I put the back jaw behind the banding and made the banding 6” tall so the banding itself serves as the rear jaw. then I put a 6” x 16” x 2 1/4 thick front jaw on the vise. I lost about 3” of clamp capacity, but it looks nice; all wood against wood. And, I still can clamp over 9” so that’s plenty for what I do.

View DS's profile


2917 posts in 2420 days

#5 posted 03-28-2013 06:22 PM

I might use a collar and a template to keep the straight bit where you want it to go.
Take shallow cuts until you get to the final depth.
If you could lay the piece on its side so the router rests on top the workpiece instead of along the side that would be much better too.

The last thing you want is for the router to get away from you and wreck the piece, or worse, injure yourself or others.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View Loren's profile


10401 posts in 3648 days

#6 posted 03-28-2013 06:29 PM

Use a fixed base router. The center of gravity is lower and
the handles low on the base make it easier to hold
pressed against a vertical surface. I would screw, clamp
or carpet tape stops to the piece you are routing.

If using a router you do have to think it through… if
you route away the material in the wrong sequence
you’ll lose the support you need for the base to have
in order to finish the cut to depth.

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