by Don Williams
For many woodworkers, especially those of the Galoot persuasion, a workbench with a tail vise of some sort is a fundamental necessity. These vises are integral to most European-style benches, and there are now extraordinary aftermarket options, some of which I own. But what are your choices if you don’t happen to possess one, or if one of the manufactured vises doesn’t fit your needs?
One of the great benefits of craft skills, for me, is the ability to change and form my immediate working environment to fit my preferences and expand my productive capacity. The recent addition of a shop-made tail vise to my old torsion-box workbench demonstrates this perfectly. You can easily adopt and adapt the principles and construction techniques I used to your own situation.
The resulting accessory is sophisticated and elegant, and it transforms your bench. But it does not require extraordinary tools or equipment to make. If you have access to a good table saw and drill press, a few standard hand tools and have reasonable measuring and layout skills, you can knock this out in less than a day.
My workbench was the first major project I undertook after we moved almost three decades ago, with a limiting factor being the small space I had to occupy. The final result was a stout little bench with an incomparable Emmert K-1 vise from an earlier stint as a foundry patternmaker, and a 48″ twin-screw face vise. As I gravitated toward more handwork, I became increasingly dissatisfied with the absence of a tail vise with a movable bench dog to hold lumber flat on the benchtop. My solution was to create a homemade tail vise that’s easy to replicate.
In recent years, the proliferation of interest in workbenches and vises has led to an embarrassment of riches along these veins, including several excellent “off the shelf” alternatives. Many, however, require either extreme modifications to an existing workbench, or the construction of a new bench altogether.
Blog: Discover the Barn on White Run; the author’s blog of thoughts and woodworking.
Blog: Learn about the three most essential vises from a vise-making woodworker.
Article: Use off-the-rack pine to build a tough, sturdy and darn versatile workbench on the cheap.
In Our Store: Learn all you need to know about workbenches in “The Workbench Design Book,” by Christopher Schwarz.
Web Site: Get a look at the tail vise that inspired the author to build his add-on vise.
From April 2014 issue, #210