With the bench tops glued and screwed, my next step was to cut the hole for the face vice. I know that this could be left until last, but I wanted to apply a finish to the entire bench and didn’t want to be applying a finish, then cutting sections out of the bench, then having to reapply a finish.
The first thing to do was to take some measurements of the vice and see what sort of profile my cutaway would need to be.
I followed the same idea as Paul Sellers does in his bench build. I planned to have the vice bolted into the underside of the bench top and into the apron (through the rear jaw of the vice) and then have it so that the top edge of the metal jaws sat lower than the bench top level by around 3/8″ – 1/2″. Wooden jaw liners can then be added and adjusted to be level with the bench top. Details for Paul’s vice installation can be found Here.
Unlike Paul, I wasn’t comfortable hand drawing the profile for the vice and wanted to go about cutting out the profile for the vice in a way that relied much less on my skill and a little more on measuring.
My idea was to cut out a template in a piece of cardboard first, make sure that the measurements would fit the vice; then take the same steps in marking out on the bench apron, detailing where to cut. And I have to say, this worked a treat for me. Here is my process in pictures:
My Template was a little tight, so I chose to increase the distance from the top to the bottom of the profile by around 1/4″ before marking it onto the bench.
When cleaning out the edges with a chisel, please be very careful. It is very easy to “blow out” on the inside of the apron and split some of the apron away. This happened to me. Thankfully it was only a small sliver, maybe 1/4″ wide by 1/16″ deep and 1 1/2″ long. It would not have made any difference to the strength of the bench or the fit of the vice, but it is VERY disappointing when it happens. Trust me I know!
Unable to live with a piece of the bench missing, I stopped proceedings there to carry out a quick repair by gluing the sliver back in place, leaving it over night and then cleaning it up the next day.
With the repairs completed, I was then able to test the vice in the profile and make sure that it would sit well enough and be snug enough for a nice fit.
As I was fiddling around with the vice position in the profile, I came to a horrible realisation. That with the horizontal casting of the vice flush against the underside of the bench top, the casting of the jaw was not flush with the bench apron!
After getting over the heart sinking feeling that I had seriously messed up with the bench build, I thought to check the vice itself. To my horror I found that the casting is woefully out of square!
So, how to solve this issue? I entertained the following:
1. Do I cut a recess into the apron so that the profile of the casting fits snug as a bug?
2. Do I try and file away the casting to make it square?
3. Do I create an insert for the underside of the bench to bring the casting further away from the bench top at an angle, pivoting the jaw of the vice so that it sits flush with the apron?
I opted for number three. But instead of an insert, I thought to add some washers to both sides of the casting. Adding them 1 at a time until the jaw was flush with the apron. The jaw only had to move around 1/8″ so one or two washers would be more than enough.
However, this was a problem for another day. The cutaway profile was fine and fitted a treat, so my next step was applying a finish to the bench.
Note: It has since occurred to me that I could have tried to have the vice replaced. But I was feeling time pressure and so wanted to come up with a quick solution, rather than create a long drawn out saga.