Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Easy Add-On Tail Vise for the Tiny Shop

Last time, I mentioned various workarounds for not having a tail vise. Well, scratch that.
Now my workbench has a tail vise...sort of.

A tail vise is very handy, but not essential, for holding stock when using handtools, especially planes. A few days after my last post showed the various workarounds for not having a tail vise,  I ran across a copy of Woodwork Magazine from October 1996 describing an easy alternative to a traditional tail vise using a wooden screw clamp.  My bench is bounded on the left and the right by walls, so there isn't enough room on the ends to allow for a real tail vise in my tiny shop.

The alternative tail vise and dog holes can be fashioned together in an evening. Instead of a traditional tail vise which moves in and out on the end of the bench, this "tail vise" uses a simple wooden screw clamp along the front of the bench as its mechanism.

One part of the screw clamp is fixed in position (see diagram below), while the other is free to move up and down and back and forth. The clamp can be as wide as the biggest clamp that you can find (needing larger accompanying dog holes), if desired, but I opted to use a fairly small clamp and even narrowed the width of the clamping portion to 3/4" by rip cutting away some of the thickness of the working ends of the clamp. The tail vise normally would go on the right side of the bench for right handers, but my sharpening station would have been in the way. With any tail vise, you would need dog holes. These were fashioned out of hickory (since I had plenty of that), but ash or maple would be fine. The distance of each block between the dog holes plus the dog hole length should be a tad less than the span of the clamp.

I am suprisingly pleased with how solid and how well this clamping system works. I would like to have the threads on the clamp not be so fine to speed up the clamping process a bit.

The heart of the "tail vise" is a simple wooden screw clamp.

New tail vise and dog holes. The workbench is bounded by walls preventing the use of a traditional tail vise. 
Spaced blocks were glued to a board with screws then going through the front board, each block and into the front edge of the workbench. This is a  rock solid configuration. The front vise, while not in a traditional location, needed to stay there since placing it on the end of the bench would limit its use due to adjacent walls. The fixed portion of the front vise is just a tad proud of the add-on dog hole apparatus. If my stock happens to land where the front vise is located. I use a right angle block placed in the front vise.
Fixed portion of clamp is held in place by stright and angled blocks plus screws.

Workbench before dogholes and "tail vise" added to front of bench. I had used an inset tail vise from Lee Valley that takes longer to set up for clamping and is not height adjustable. My new home made tail vise is much more robust for clamping.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Enjoying Woodworking in a Tiny Workshop

My woodworking workshop measures a meager 10' x 6'; yet, despite the tiny size, it still serves as my woodworking oasis.  Like most workhops, its function and appearance continually change.

Below is a virtual reality tour of the shop:

Below is an updated VR tour after adding on a tail vise, decluttering (to allow room for more tools of course!), and new flooring. May my shop ever be so tidy again! 

The original space was a walk-in closet that we used to store bicycles which shared space with the HVAC and hot water heater. Not enjoying DIY work in the garage during the cold winters and hot summers, I then swapped the bikes into the garage and brought my general purpose DIY tools indoors. A cheap workbench and small parts storage rack were added. At that point, I did not consider myself a woodworker. Any woodworking, such as mouldings or studs for a new wall, was usually afixed to the house.

Original DIY general purpose shop
My foray into woodworking as a hobby only began about 6 years ago.  I added a workbench by gluing strips of scraps of pine and even MDF together to make a slab that fits on top of the old thin plywood topped workbench. A woodworking front vise was then added. There was not enough room for a tail vise. With all of the tools underneath, the bench is very solid when planing.

Workbench made of scrap wood. While far from perfect, it has held up for about 5 years of abuse.
From there, the shop has been in continual flux as I have acquired various hand tools and jigs and figured out different methods of work.

The plan was to keep my power miter saw in the shop and get a bench top bandsaw.  Luckily, my original plan of placing a dust collector in the small space to the right of the workbench failed. The stated dimensions on the canister type dust collector (DC) from Penn Sate Industries  were only partially correct.  The DC was 22" wide at any point, but the stand was staggered giving the dust collector a wider footprint. I called Penn State Industries about the return policy and the gentleman on the phone was very helpful. We worked out a plan to place the DC in the garage, which shares the wall with the workshop, and sending a duct through the wall. This move saved valuable space in the tiny shop, reduced noise and allowed me to think about getting a more substantial bandsaw as well as a planer for milling large boards in the garage. (The downside of the DC in the garage is sucking out conditioned indoor air.) So, I have annexed a portion of the garage for lumber storage and the major power tools: a small lathe, a bandsaw, dust collector and a lunchbox planer.

Boards are milled in the garage using a fairly small footprint. The lunchbox planer and small lathe share a flip top table. There is a Y connector on the DC with one branch heading through the wall into my workshop.

    Space Saving Measures

    • Shooting Board / Drafting Table / Veneer Slicer

    • Flip Top Workstation For Lathe and Lunchbox Planer

    The key design feature of the table is a very strong central rod that is sandwiched between two glued 3/4" plywood panels.

    • Flip Up Scroll Saw Station

    • Hand Tool Cart
    This poor rejected kitchen cabinet is chock full o' hand tools. The rasps, files and router are stashed away using drawer slides attached to the side of the cabinet.

    Holding Stock Without  A Tail Vise

    I have been thinking about options to add a genuine workbench with a tail vise, but none of the designs would hold the quantity of tools I store underneath. Moreover, the bench would need to be a lot shorter to allow for a tail vise. So, I use the following to hold my stock:
    • Holdfast
    Veritas Hold Down

    Kreg Bench Clamp

    • Front Vise

    • Inset Tail Vise

    • Mortised Bench Stop 
    Mortised bench stop with Veritas Bench Pup

    • Wedged Board

    • Sticking Board
    For some mouldings, I use an adjustable width sticking board that attaches to workbench top via T-bolts. A mortised bench stop on one end and a screw on the other helps secure the stock.

    • Special Holder for the Dual Fenced Stanley 55

    Some additional thoughts to make your small woodworking workshop an enjoyable place to work.
    • Try to convert a frustrating part of the shop into a gem.
    • For storage, think vertically. Every inch of wall space is important. Tools need to be organized in a compact manner using wall space from floor to ceiling. 
    • The tiny space forces me to tidy up on the fly.
    • Double duty jigs save space
    • Really think twice about any new tool purchases

    Behemoth shooting board plane
    A smaller shooting board