Installing a Leg Vise | Sliding Dovetail Wedge

Introduction

In the center of my workshop sits a fully loaded Outfeed Assembly Table with leg vise, which is definitely the workhorse of the shop. This table gets used in every project that I take on, but it wasn’t until recently that I removed the leg vise from a different bench in the shop to the outfeed assembly table. Some might ask if the table is strong and secure enough to support the uses of a leg vise… you betcha it is.

Leg vise

The First Workbench

The first workbench in my shop was a long two by four construction and plywood style bench attached to the wall. Being the first bench in the shop you can probably imagine that it was slapped together just to have something to work off of, thinking “it’s only temporary”. Well, nearly four years later that bench is still here in my shop. That’s all about to change, which I’ll get into a little later.

removing leg vise

Sometime along the way Jay Bates and I collaborated on a vise project, a leg vise for my two by four workbench. It worked out great and did the job, but now I want to remove the two by four bench and build something a little more practical like a traditional style workbench. The shop might see a rearrangement from this project, but once again the main thing here is that I am trying to maximize my shop space. Before I remove the old two by four bench I need to relocate the leg vise that was previously installed and the only logical thing to do is to install it on my outfeed assembly table. There’s is nothing wrong with having a two by four workbench with a plywood surface, but for me it’s time to change things up.

removing leg vise

Installing the Leg Vise

Installing the leg vise wasn’t too bad, but I did need to beef up the table leg that it was being installed on. Before I get into how I did that, I had to drill a hole in the leg to accept the screw mechanism. Drilling the hole was pretty much straight forward due to the fact that I just used a forstner bit in my handheld drill to create a hole big enough for the screw to fit in, but the first step was to mark where the hole would be drilled.

marking hole location for leg vise

Leg vise

I drilled almost all the way through. I went just far enough for the center point of the forstner bit to stick through to the other side and then repositioned my drill to the other side and drilled back through. By doing this I prevent tearout and end up with a nice clean hole.

drilling hole for leg vise screw

drilling hole for leg vise screw

Because the outfeed assembly table is made entirely of plywood I had to add some thickness to prevent any stress or bowing when the vise is in use.

adding 2x4 to leg vise

Initially I installed the leg vise without adding any extra material to the leg itself, so when I went to tighten down on the vise the leg started to bow outward around the screw. After noticing this, I took the vise back off and after drilling a hole in a two by four I added it on the backside of the leg, reinstalled the vise and everything seemed to be good to go. With the two by four installed it doesn’t bow hardly at all when tightening down. There might be a very tiny bit of flex in the actual table leg, but nothing that I’m worried about.

Adding leather to the outfeed assembly table was the last step for the leg vise. I used contact cement to hold the leather in place. After applying the cement, wait about 20 to 30 minutes before placing the leather.

using contact cement for leather

Using leather on a clamping surface provides more holding power. With wood on wood clamping you might experience some slipping, but the leather adds a little more stability to the workpiece.

adding leather to the leg vise clamp

Sliding Dovetail Wedge

Previously, I used a piece of scrap two by four to act as a wedge for the bottom of the leg vise, but with this install I upgraded that to a sliding dovetail wedge. The scrap two by four or wedge in this case is needed for the leg vise to operate correctly. In order to apply clamping pressure to the top part of the vise, which is where the workpiece is held , there must be a slightly larger piece at the bottom. When the top and bottom of the vise are moving in opposite directions this is called racking, so in order to prevent that I created a wedge system.

Completed leg vise and sliding dovetail wedge

Having a wedge eliminates the need to have different size scraps or blocks and having the wedge on a sliding dovetail offers convenience. If I am working at the leg vise I can use my left hand to hold the workpiece, use my right hand to turn the handle and use my right foot with my heel on the floor to kick the wedge in and out of position.

I installed the wedge on my outfeed assembly table’s lower shelf’s outside edge. All of the table legs are attached to this outside edge, so I have a three quarter of an inch lip to deal with. Having the lip is actually to my benefit.

Leg vise wedge

The wedge is made in two pieces, the wedge with a dovetail slot (socket) and a matching piece of wood in length with the dovetail (tail). On the tail piece, the thickness plays a part in how the wedge system lines up with the table leg. The tail piece is three quarters of an inch thick plus the height of the tail. The three quarters of an inch piece matches the thickness of the table leg, so the tail is the only thing extending out past the leg. This is what the bottom of the wedge will slide on creating a smooth sliding action behind the leg vise.

Leg Vise Wedge

Other than cutting the wedge on the bandsaw I used the router for everything else. Having a router lift (Jay’s) built into my outfeed assembly table is very convenient.

installing dovetail router bit

I set the dovetail bit up in the router and cut a slot in the bottom center of the wedge.

wedge dovetail slot profile

That’s it for the wedge. On the next workpiece (the tail), I moved my router fence closer to the bit so the edges could be removed creating an extended tail.

finishing the dovtail track

After the initial cut on the tail piece, I moved the router fence ever so slightly away from the bit. Being certain to spin the tail piece and cutting both sides before incrementally moving the fence, I snuck up on the perfect size for tail. I predrilled four holes with a countersink bit and mounted the tail piece to the table.

Leg vise on the outfeed assembly table

SEE THE OUTFEED ASSEMBLY TABLE PROJECT PLANS HERE.

What I learned

Moving the leg vise wasn’t that big of deal, but I did learn a few things. One thing being creative with your options. Wanting to take my old wall mounted workbench down left me no where for the leg vise, so I thought. Adding the leg vise to the outfeed assembly table probably wouldn’t have been a first choice for many, but I’m glad I tried it because it works great. I was even prepared to drill a hole in the leg of the table knowing there was a chance it wouldn’t work. I’ve learn to try things and if it doesn’t work out try something different. Another lesson to be learned in this project is to not fall in the cycle of I can’t do that until I do this and I can’t do this until I do that. Starting is always the beginning of something.

Coming Up This Year

This year I’m working on a course for kids that will take them through a series of projects and reward them with a certificate when they complete it. It’s not only one course, it’s a progressive of three different courses that focuses on teaching different skills. It could be life changing for some. If this sounds interesting sign up below to be notified when the course is complete and ready for enrollment.

Woodworking for Kids Online Course

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Tools Used In This Project

Shop Attire:

• Shop apron/vest (and kids shop vest), Atlas 46: http://bit.ly/atlas46

• Hats/shirts: http://www.stoneandsons.net/product-category/apparel/

Marking and Drilling:

• Drill and impact 18v, Ridgid: http://amzn.to/2DhYHbA

• Drill and drive bit set, Kobalt: http://amzn.to/2stIbf6

• Forstner bits: http://amzn.to/2trXpG5

• Counter sink bits: http://amzn.to/2nVkm21

• Cordless screwdriver: http://amzn.to/2GtK2Zm

Routing:

• Router, Skil: http://amzn.to/2uqO4Lo

• Router bits: http://amzn.to/2uqPPbd

Other tools I use

http://www.stoneandsons.net/tools

*Most of the links listed above are Amazon Affiliate links

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