View Full Version : No Tail Vise

Andrew Thuswaldner
08-08-2008, 6:03 AM
I have never owned a proper woodworking bench but am planning to build and set one up in a rather small shop, and then learn how to use hand planes, etc.
My question is on bench location. I would like to butt one end of my 6 foot bench against a wall and I realize this would eliminate the possibility of installing a tail vise. The reason I am doing this is for space. Is it a huge disadvantage to not have the tail vise? Since I have very limited experience with fine hand tools I just donít know what I wonít be able to do without a tail vise. It seemed to me more important that I have a front vise on the left corner of the bench with good clearance around it. I will appreciate any feedback/insight you provide. Thanks, Andrew

Robert Rozaieski
08-08-2008, 6:27 AM
I have a tail vise and I almost never use it. For planing faces I simply butt the stock up against a stop on the bench top and plane away. If the stock is wide or very long I will support the sides with holdfasts/battens to keep it from spinning. I am planning to completely re-do the front 6" of my bench to remove the dog holes and tail vise and add a full length apron instead, like an English or Nicholson type bench. I think this will be much more useful.

I do recommend leaving some space to the right of the bench, however, and not putting it right in the corner. At times, it is useful to be able to get around the end of the bench. My shop is only 7'6" x 13'6". I left 24" to the right of the bench and it is just enough for when I need to access the right end of the bench but doesn't consume all the real estate along the long wall (my bench is 7' long). I keep my new shave horse against the wall on the left of the bench.


Michael McCoy
08-08-2008, 6:58 AM
I don't have the space for a traditional work bench but I use several different sizes of bench hooks for my hand plane work. The link is to Fine Woodworking but a google will give you all kinds of info. I have my infeed end of the bench hooks set up in a "U" shape and use that to anchor the hooks on my table saw.


Jerome Hanby
08-08-2008, 7:21 AM
If you could find a suitable right angle drive, you could build a wagon vise and use the right angle drive to bring the crank out front...

Steve Hamlin
08-08-2008, 7:47 AM
Since I only have a lightweight bench, I do often like to work from the end for the better stability.
For workholding though, dogs and paired wedges should work just about as well as an end vice.

Hank Knight
08-08-2008, 10:04 AM
I use my end vise all the time. I wouldn't want to give it up. I use planing stops and battens sometimes, but I prefer to capture stock I'm plaining between bench dogs. I built my bench with a LV Twin Screw end vise rather than a traditional tail vise and it works well. If I had it to do over, I'd opt for a traditional tail vise. This is really a matter of personal preference, I think; but if you're serious about using hand planes, you need some effective way to hold your work still while you plane it. Many prefer planing stops and battens. I prefer bench dogs.


Larry Conely
08-08-2008, 12:43 PM
I also have an end vise and use it frequently. I use it mostly with wooden bench dogs to capture a piece, but find it convenient to use the vise alone often. Maybe it's just a matter of what you are comfortable using.

Bill Houghton
08-08-2008, 3:40 PM
I take it from your question that the end that will go against the wall will be at the end from which you would normally "start" - that is, that, as you plane toward the dogs that would be at the opposite end of the board from the tail vise (avoid planing toward a tail vise - just adds stress to the vise), you'd be planing away from that corner.

First, any of us with limited shop space learns to make it work. My shop is 11 feet square, mixed power and hand tools (plus storage for all the auto, electrical, plumbing, etc. tools that keep my house going), and I've occasionally had to make a planing board to sit atop the bench and plane out the door (I located the bench so I can do that).

I have and regularly use a tail vise. Many people don't like them, but I do (though they do have their limits: narrow and thin boards will bend when you tighten up). If you're going to be using round bench dogs, you might try Lee Valley's "wonder dog" or "wonder pup," which would allow you to start the "tail" part anywhere on the bench. You'd want to move it out from the corner far enough to start your planing behind the board's end, so it would limit the length of board you could work, but it might give you a sense of whether end vises work for you. If the experiment fails, you're only out $35 or so, and you've still got a useful tool.

You could also learn to work with your opposite hand, so you're planing toward the corner. As a leftie, I've learned to do this with plow, combination, and fenced rabbet planes, which are all designed predominantly for right-handed folks. If you do that, just don't set your bench dogs too close to the corner - you need some follow through room before your plane hits the wall.

Jim Becker
08-08-2008, 3:47 PM
I don't have a tail vice. I use LV WonderPups and Dogs on the top in the event I need that functionality.

Frank Drew
08-08-2008, 7:28 PM

I really like a tail vise; it allows you to securely fasten a board to your bench top with nothing sticking up and in the way, and the tail vise is where I hold my board jack for planing long boards. I built a version of Tage Frid's bench, minus the wasteful and outdated (IMO) tool trough.

To each his or her own, but if you ever move to a larger space you might miss not having one.

My shop is 11 feet square... :eek:. Now that's some close quarters!

Wayne Watling
08-08-2008, 9:26 PM
If you really can't fit a tail vise into your shop I'd second the suggestion to use the Lee Valley Wonder dogs (http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=1&p=31129&cat=1,41637)in concert with the Round bench dogs (http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=1&p=31127&cat=1,41637) . I've just about completed my Traditional workbench (which does have a tail vise) and was able to use this combination to complete many of the parts for the bench even though the tail vise hadn't been finished and it works really well. You can also bore two holes in the front vise which would correspond to two holes in the bench (with 4 round bench dogs) to hold larger square pieces by using the front vise like a tail vise.