Bench Build - Dog Hole Distance from Front Edge
  Re: Bench Build - Dog Hole Distance from Front Edge by cputnam (Most of my bench top...)
(12-03-2019, 02:17 PM)adamcherubini Wrote: Once you put aside the notion that you can effectively do edge work (moldings, fenced rabbets, hand plowed grooves) on stock pinched between dogs, then I think you have no reason to bias the dog holes toward the front edge.  Structurally, the dog holes would be better in the center of the width of your stock. So if 90% of your stock is 12" and narrower, I'd put the dogs 6" in from the front. When you need to do moldings by hand, I think you are better off with something like a sticking board that you attach to your bench using the tail vise/dogs and has an auxiliary planning stop and a bench-long fence you can push thin stock against.

Back in 2012, you advised me to lose the notion of tail vises and said we should meet up at WIA - LA. We did meet but there was no time for discussion. I have been thinking about sticking boards and their application to my problem. Would you please expound on the twin subjects - even though I realize the time this request will take and for which I will thank you in advance?
Thanks,  Curt
"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."
      -- Soren Kierkegaard
  Re: Bench Build - Dog Hole Distance from Front Edge by cputnam (Most of my bench top...)
Disclaimer #1: Everybody gets to build whatever bench they want with whatever features they want. No one needs my permission or seal of approval. I don't actually have a seal of approval. And there is no puffy shirt police (who allegedly come at night with torches and pitch forks to force you to use tools you don't want to use).

Disclaimer #2: Woodworkers build different things differently. What works for one guy, may not work for someone else. That's just a fact.

Rant: Starting in the 1980’s woodworkers wrote about workbenches because they had a cool factor, they were popular projects, etc. The problem I encountered was, a lot of the popular workbench designs didn’t actually work for 100% hand tool woodworking. I later learned that the authors were hybrid woodworkers who relied on machines to do the jobs workbenches had previously done.

Part of the problem was the silent insinuation that hand tool woodworking was superior to power tool work, if even just in terms of marketing, or that power tool woodworkers were somehow less legitimate as woodworkers. I may be partially responsible for that. So individuals, authors, publications, built “hand tool” workbenches but weren’t 100% forthcoming on what they were doing with them. Not saying they were liars so much as they may not have felt it necessary to qualify what a “hand tool” workbench was or was not.

Extrapolating to this discussion, we find ourselves discussing workbench features, popularized by people and organizations who didn’t actually use them for their intended purpose, that essentially don’t function. Consequently there are no answers, just opinions which leads woodworkers to the mistaken conclusion that there are no answers.

I could say the exact same thing about hand planes. Quickly, I think most woodworkers use their hand planes essentially as smoothers. Because their stock is pre-prepared by machines, no single feature of a hand plane makes any difference from any other aside from their performance as smoothers. So a wide #5-1/2 is as valid as a #7 or a #4 or any other plane. The resulting answer to the question “what plane do you need for surface prep?” becomes a matter of opinion, brand preference, and concludes with, “there is no answer”.

This part is important: As long as woodworkers keep working the way they do, the “no answer” answer will remain correct for them. Any bench will work. Any sharp plane will function as well as any other. My mistake was, I believed that the people who wrote about hand tools actually used them. And when I began to figure out that their approaches didn’t work in a truly hand tool only shop, I sought to warn others about the years of frustration I experienced (with maybe not a little bit of moral indignation). My chief motivation was that many of my fellow woodworkers gave up hand tool work when they found what I found; that the tools didn’t work, the benches didn’t work, and the hand tool techniques of unquestioned greats didn’t work absent power tools.

Hopefully, this explains my comments past and present.
  Re: Bench Build - Dog Hole Distance from Front Edge by cputnam (Most of my bench top...)
Here's my attempt to answer your question:
In a shop without power tools, the workbench serves the following functions (in rough order of priority):

1) Surface preparation of rough (pit) sawn stock. This step involves the removal of 1/8” - 5/16” of thickness. The tools used to remove this much wood quickly, impart a significant force on the stock that the bench must react. And the force of planning does not always align with the planning stop.

2) Wide board edge work. This involves clamping the board vertically to the front face of the work bench. Most benches I’ve seen cannot perform this essential function. Vises get in the way. Or the top overhangs the legs making any kind of wide board support difficult. And there is typically no way to secure/clamp the board to the front face of the bench. This is a shame because edge work is so easily and quickly done with hand planes. Hand planning edges opens the door to match planning long glue joints in lumber too wide to safely move across a power jointer. The process is so fast, I feel like a band saw and a good workbench could replace a table saw in shops that don't work with plywood (I feel like you need a table saw for plywood).

3) Precision cross cut sawing. This is typically done at the right hand end of the bench using a bench hook. If you don’t have a chop saw, this is a really essential operation. Tail vises generally interfere and I feel, for this reason alone, they aren’t worthwhile.

4) Sticking molding. For these operations, you need a clear front face, and a planning stop very near the front edge to allow the front edge of the stock to ever so slightly over hang the front face of the workbench, permitting use of a fenced molding or plow plane. Generally, you can’t pinch a molding between dogs because the stock is typically too flexible and the side pressure from the plane too great. My bench does this in a couple of ways, all of them slightly fiddly. I use a sticking board, which is like a long bench hook with a rose head nail for a planning stop. I also clamp a thick board to the front face of the bench, using the apron as the back stop. This is good for narrow moldings or tall moldings.

5) M&T joinery. Mortising in a vise jaw is hard on the vise (depending on its style). The stock can slip. Better to place the stock on the bench top, but then how do you secure it there? I think guys want thick benches to react their merciless poundings, but thick benches can sometimes be difficult to clamp to. Most benches are suitable for this, however. What I do is clamp the stock in a hand screw clamp aka a “moxon vise” which is nothing more than a hand screw. Then I clamp the clamp to my bench. Having a bench that is easy to clamp stuff to is helpful. Most benches can accommodate though. For a bench with a thin top like mine, the pounding is done with the work near a leg.

6) Last is dovetail joinery. Most vises I’ve seen suck at clamping wide stock vertically to a bench front. I use a homemade twin screw vise that I cannot find fault with. It just works and works. It consists of 2 wooden screws and a vise jaw (chop) with 2 holes bored in it. The key is that the screws are 2-1/2” and the heads are about 4”. The screws are easily screwed out of the nuts located behind the front apron, leaving a flat flush front. The distance between the screws is greater than any normal carcass side. Even narrow stock can be effectively clamped without the jaw racking if the stock is behind the 4” screw head. This allows for sloppy holes in the chop, which further allows clamping tapered stock or things like drawers and the ability to move the screws in and out quickly.

So the answer to your question becomes a question: What function from the list above does a tail vise actually perform well at? For surface planning, it can be ok. But planning across the grain can cause boards to slip. The solution is some sort of back stop. And if you have a back stop, why bother with the tail vise in the first place? On my bench, I have 3 strategically drilled holdfast holes thru the top. I place a thin sheet of wood (you can use 3/8” plywood) in front of the holdfasts' shanks (such that pegs would work just as well). So the stock banks against the back stop (plywood), then slides up to the planning stop.

In terms of moldings, the dog holes and tail vise don’t really help much, due to the flexibility of the typically narrow stock. A back stop is again a reasonable solution if the dog holes are close enough to the front face of the bench so that the fence of a plow plane can overhang. But then again, if you have a back stop, why bother with the tail vise? Otherwise, you are just as well off with a sticking board.

I had a bench with a traditional tail vise that wore and began to sag over time. In use, cuts starting on the back end caused the front (left) end to rise and sometimes spit out. Very frustrating. I feel like the wagon vise, where the dogs move in a slot, is a better design that eliminates this problem.

My conclusion is that tail vises can’t generally react the typical forces of cross grain or wide board planning, which is the #1 function of a traditional work bench. Their presence also interferes with cross cut sawing at the right end, which is such a common operation that the addition of the tail vise becomes more detrimental to hand tool work than helpful.

I’m not 100% sure about this, but my guess is, benches with tail vises (so called German benches) were used to hold stock for hammer veneering, inlay, marquetry, etc. They uniquely secured work without touching the top surface, which is essential for this sort of work. The scant historical evidence we have always places these benches in shops that did veneer or similar work. Nicholson benches like mine appear in images of joineries, where guys did architectural work, cabinets, doors, coffins, and frame and panel work. They were probably always crudely built out of construction lumber. These were shops that did lots of planning and simple stock prep and typically no veneer work.

Last word- and I’ve shared this with Chris, I know guys like fancy benches because they look cool and are fun to build. And let no one discourage you, especially me, from building what you want to build. But when we, as a community, talk to would-be hand tool users, we should recommend a bench that actually allows them to work 100% by hand if they so choose. My bench is 8’ long (I think 4’ shorter than the one depicted in Peter Nicholson’s 19th c book), weighs very little, and is yet very stiff. It is made from about $100 of readily available construction lumber (doug fir 2x12s with 4x4’s for legs). It is easy to move making it ideal for hybrid woodworkers. It can also be easily built without a workbench, or any machine tools making it the right bench for beginners. The only tricky parts are sourcing the vise screws. I made mine myself using an antique wood tap and die. (FWIW I think my screws are like 2 threads per inch). Beginners would also benefit from a good electric or cordless drill motor, hole saws and long twist drills. I did all that by hand and some of those holes were non-trivial.
  Re: RE: Bench Build - Dog Hole Distance from Front Edge by adamcherubini (Disclaimer #1: Every...)
(12-04-2019, 02:16 PM)adamcherubini Wrote: Disclaimer #2: Woodworkers build different things differently. What works for one guy, may not work for someone else. That's just a fact.

Perfectly stated. I also suspect that bench #1 will not be the be-all and end all bench. I know my work has changed, my work habits have changed, and my bench needs have changed because of that. The next one will be very different than my first and also very, very simple as I pare off the features I don't use and don't need... you've mentioned several in your other post.
I ain't a Communist, necessarily, but I've been in the red all my life
  Re: Bench Build - Dog Hole Distance from Front Edge by cputnam (Most of my bench top...)

Thank you! Very much appreciated!!!

I have sold my table saw, miter saw, and 6" jointer. I do have a track saw, bandsaw, and 20mm table for dealing with plywood and stuff < 1½"

That leaves my bench and hand planes for prepping stock for a 13" planer. The bandsaw deals with long rips. All of which leaves me somewhat more in the hand tool column than what I surmise the average blended woodworker is. It doesn't matter. I have the two vises and will install them. I suspect the HNT Gordon tail vise is what you would call a wagon vise. Regardless of the nomenclature, it is a cute little sucker. Pull the traveling dog and the surface is clear; unscrew the knob and the end is clear which means I do no think I burned any bridges.

Most of the lumber I have access to is in the 6" range - especially after removing the one raw edge. Sold as S3S, The edges are rough and I do not consider the faces ready for anything. The alternative is rough sawn which generally requires a 100 BF purchase to even consider.

I am taken by your arguments in favor of a sticking board, or at least a backstop, in which case, then why an end vise? My current bench (purchased "hobby" bench) has an end vise which I have found useful in dealing with panels wider than the bench. Just gotten used to it for many lengthwise planing operations but have not yet needed to scrub at right angles to the vise pressure.

All of this brings me right back to the recommendation for the end vise install to center at 75 mm. Bowing to expertise - now that I understand. Thank you again for taking the time to answer my question.
Thanks,  Curt
"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."
      -- Soren Kierkegaard

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.