Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Vise Squad in Action!

When last I left off, I had dry-fit the skirt. Before I glued it up I wanted to trim it to shape and get the vise holes drilled. These are processes that are much easier when you can deal with small individual pieces. If you remember, on the face vise end (the left side) the skirt terminated at a big blank right angle. That didn't suit me much. Here's the finished shape mocked-up:
Elegant curve, ain't it?
The final thickness of the taper is equal to the thickness of the benchtop. I think that the transition is going to look really good. (See the previous post for an idea of what I'm talking about.) This picture also gives a sneak peek at my next topic: vises.

The two vises I'm using require drilling big deep holes. This is actually a little trickier than you might think. I have a drill press but it is sort of pathetic and starts to smoke when I put big loads on it, so I try to keep the torque requirements low. For this reason, I have a special procedure for going big. I start off by taking my final diameter drill bit--in this case and most others, a Forstner--and create a shallow hole:
This shallow hole will provide a reference later on. I then take the wood off the drill press and select a spade bit one size below the Forstner. With a cordless drill I then hog out the majority of the hole:
You can be a little sloppy with the spade bit because it is smaller than your Forstner and the hole doesn't have to be straight. I then take the board back to the drill press, center the Forstner bit in the previously drilled hole and ream out the finished hole. This may seem tedious but those who have experienced the speed difference between a spade bit and a large Forstner will appreciate that this is actually faster than going straight through with the Forstner alone.

So that's that.

Once the drilling was done it was time for glue-up. I'll cut right to the chase: I screwed this up. I first glued the floating tongue into the benchtop, let it dry, and then glued the skirt onto it. Apparently I didn't force the tongue all the way into the benchtop because when I tried to force the skirt onto it, it would go all the way. Not too big a deal, right? I could just trim the projecting tongue down a little and the skirt should fit right on. Unfortunately I only discovered the problem after a one part of the skirt had been set in place and, to make a long story short, I had no options. Here is the result:

You can see that there is an unsightly gap between the benchtop and the skirt. It's too big for the old sawdust-and-glue trick so I'm forced to consider other options. Here's my plan: I'm going to rout a groove around the whole benchtop/skirt transition and infill it with a contrasting dark wood inlay. Nothing like turning a screw-up into an artistic enhancement. I think it will look really sharp...ebony maybe?

I also couldn't resist doing some vise mock-ups before I called it an evening. I had a massive chunk of maple that I reserved for the tail vise jaw but didn't have anything in mind for the face vise. Then I saw this guy on the floor:
It was a cut-off from the sycamore and it pretty soft wood. Now this:
Or this:
I'm leaning toward the second configuration because I typically keep my work on the right side of the vise so that's where I want the meat. The asymmetry is pretty unconventional, but then again so is the whole bench. Expect a little embellishment on this jaw in the future...

So here's where I am now:

To do list:
Attach third skirt section with the other part of the benchtop
Attach tool tray
Assemble remaining vise hardware (right now they are just hanging there)
Get cracking on the legs (huge task)
Decoration, detailing, etc.
Surface treatment and epoxying
Possibly install those drawers I made earlier...I'm not sure about this...we'll see.

I'm tired, exam in exactly 12 hours and 10 minutes.

To be continued...

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