Friday, April 3, 2009

Travel Bench Part 6

I proceeded to lay out and cut the tenons on the vise end of the two top sections. The sections are narrow enough that I can cut the shoulder and kerf away most of the waste on a 10" sliding miter saw.

The saw doesn't get all of it, and I break off the thin sections that remain. Here I've clamped a straight piece of Baltic Birch plywood as a guide for my router. It's just proud of the shoulder, since I don't want to route the shoulder away at all.

The large diameter pattern bit cleans the tenon. I do this from both sides so the tenon is centered on the top.

I refine the shoulder with a shoulder plane.

I used a backsaw to cut the end of the tenon away at the back edge of the top and refined the surface with the same shoulder plane.

Here are both top sections in position, with the stock for the end caps lying on top. Each section will receive a Benchcrafted Tail Vise, a standard vise for the left section, and a left-hand vise for the right section.

Here's a shot of the left hand section (it will get a standard, right-hand vise). The end cap and final front laminate are not shown. I'm ready to lay out the cavity for the vise.

Since I'm using a breadboard endcap, I can't simply fix the template to the flat endgrain of the top. So I cut the template into three pieces and glue (with 3m super 77) each piece to the shoulders and the end of the tenon on each top section. This tells me exactly what I need to route away. Here you can see the right hand vise on the left, and the left hand vise on the right.

The end of the left top section. This is a typical installation of a standard vise. You can see my template doesn't extend completely down to the bottom of the top. That's because my top is about 4-1/16" thick at this point. I like to leave a little room for flattening after the top is complete.

This is my set up for routing the cavity. I've flipped the top upside down and clamped the front laminate into position, placing a spacer in the "slot" the same width as the dog hole strip. This guarantees that the front laminate is parallel to the slot. This is important because the router fence registers off the front laminate. And the cavity, slot, and front laminate all need to be parallel.

Here I've added a filler block to the top of the breadboard tenon to support the router base past the end of the top. I've also begun routing the cavity with a 1/2" straight bit. I'm just about to the maximum depth that this bit will allow. The curved part of the cavity must be cut with small bites, adjusting the fence and depth in about 1/8" increments in order to waste away as much material as possible without leaving too many "steps" to level after routing.

After I reach final depth with the main bit, I switch over to a very long straight bit so I can reach to the bottom of the cavity--about 3". I take very small bites here (about 1/8 x 1/4) since I don't want to stress this long bit. This is a Whiteside #1073.

Here I've nibbled away most of the cavity, adjusting the router in about 1/8" increments. The finer the adjustment, the smoother the cavity will be, but it will take more passes. All that remains are the steps left from the bit. I've also removed the spacer and front laminate in the picture.

End view of the cavity. The end of the cavity where it meets the top needs to be cleaned up.

Here I've flipped the top up onto its back. I cleaned up the steps in the cavity with a #3 sweep carving gouge. I removed material until the steps were mostly gone. This surface doesn't need to be pretty or feel smooth, it just needs to be out of the way of the vise's sliding plate assembly. I've also cleaned up the end of the cavity. I titled router a couple times during the process and made some blips in the endgrain at the end of the cavity. Once the vise is installed this area won't be very visible. I'm most likely cover this entire area with leather anyway, just so it looks nice.

The next post will cover the breadboard endcap joinery and the front laminate dovetails.


  1. Great post Jameel. There is a lot more detail on this step than in the printed instructions on the web site. I just went through this last night in a similar fashion using the router bit with the bench flat. It looks a lot easier than the technique you originally used. Thanks for posting this.

  2. This method is easier, but I think a little more time consuming. I'll probably add an addendum to the instructions with this alternate method. Hope you have a nice cavity!