Workbench v2: Tail Vise

Right on the heels of the leg vise installation, I did the tail vise. I’ve never had a tail vise, but I’ve always wanted one. As it turns out, AJCP&R got me the Veritas quick-release version about two years ago (thanks again!), but it had to sit in its box for all of this time, waiting for this new bench to be made. That day finally arrived.

There’s been a bit written about the Veritas vise, but what I don’t see much out there about how versatile it is if you’re willing to play around with the shape of the chop. For example, although it’s designed to be used in conjunction with a wide front apron, that’s not necessary. In addition, you don’t need a whole 17″ of free space for overhang on the end. I broke both of these rules in my installation and I got away with it.

For those who have never seen the vise hardware, it consists of a the vise itself and a mounting plate that you attach to the bottom of your bench. The mounting plate provides the accuracy you need to keep the vise chop just far enough away from the edge of your bench to slide freely. You’re supposed to place the plate 1/4″ from the chop edge, all the way at the end of the bench. I didn’t do that. I discovered that you can get away with moving it about two inches away from the end of the bench, as long as you don’t obstruct the holes for mounting the chop (and you could even do that a little, if you’re willing to give up a bit of the vise’s travel):

The 1/4″ on the front side, however, is a (mostly) hard and fast rule. Here’s how the vise looks aligned on the mounting plate:

Notice that some of the vise hardware slips underneath the end of the bench. Also, some of the hardware on the other side (near where the leg will go, on the right side of this photo) protrudes in that area. I was able to do this because I decided to make the chop deep enough so that this little bit of hardware could slip behind the leg. You could do even more by widening the chop a bit more, but I personally wouldn’t recommend more than four inches because otherwise, you might put the hardware in the way of holdfast holes or something. As long as you don’t have anything silly up there such as a top stretcher between your bench legs, you should be fine.

OK, so the hardware fits. The next rule to break was the wide front apron. Because I designed this for a deep chop, I was able to make the inside of the chop wide (for the mounting screws), but the outside (the part that goes along the front of the bench) would be just the same 3.5″ beech that I used on the rest of the bench. Here’s a view of the chop upside down:

Oopsie on the blowout for the washer holes at the edges, but it hardly matters. At this point in the bench build, I was starting to starve for wood–I had very little douglas-fir of substantial size left. So for the backing piece, I milled and glued up two smaller pieces, and then glued those to the beech.

When it was upright and finished, it looked like this:

I had sort of a hard time trying to decide where to put the dog holes. In the end, I actually followed Lee Valley’s instructions and put the centers 1″ from the front of the bench. I could put in another row if necessary, but somehow I doubt it will be.

This vise really was a snap to install. You have to be quite careful when installing the mounting plate, but it took me longer to the make the chop with all of the milling and glue.

2 thoughts on “Workbench v2: Tail Vise

  1. Well, don’t I feel stupid. This was the vise I wanted, I read the mounting info, figured it wouldn’t work on my small (5 ft) bench without a lot more overhang on one end then I wanted, or non-flush legs, and scrapped the idea. Never even tried to think about mounting it behind the legs or anything. I don’t think I can accurately machine the square cutout for the vise after the fact though. Oh well.

    The bench is looking great!

    • Hi JP, the thing about a shorter overhang is that if you put the vise behind the leg, you either have to give up some of the vise’s travel (it’s 8″, so 2″-3″ should be OK), or move the vise back just a little more behind the leg so that you can fit in a chop extension for the mounting screws. This wouldn’t be a problem if LV hadn’t put the mount points for the chop at the very ends of the sled inside the vise, but whatever.

      As far as the square cutout goes, I’m not sure what you mean by “machining” here. I had to cut out more of the douglas-fir at that corner of the bench (about 17″x2″) to fit the bigger chop that I used. I just used a marking gauge and handsaws, and worked very carefully with the rip cut, alternating sides as appropriate. Afterwards, I cleaned it up with a 5 1/4-size bench plane (though a block plane would have been fine) and a chisel. I imagine that a circular saw with a fence would work pretty well for most of the task if the benchtop isn’t too thick.

      You don’t have to worry about the accuracy of the depth of that cut so much because you can mill the chop to match, but it is important to keep the cut parallel to the front of the bench. The mounting place references off it.

      One other concern about a shorter bench: This vise is heavy, so there could be a problem with tipping (or at least hopping) on a lighter bench. Well, it’s not Emmert heavy, but it’s heavy.

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