Although my knockdown English workbench has been “finished” for a week now, the one remaining task was to shape the leg vise chop into something less, well, monolithic.
I had already added the suede inside the chop, but I hesitated to do the shaping for so long because I wasn’t entirely sure about the design and that giant slab of red oak wasn’t something I wanted to mess up.
I ended up going with a fairly traditional design, and tweaking it just enough to fit my fancy. The overall silhouette looks something like a big bench chisel. I’m sure there’s a better term for it, but I don’t know it.
Anyway, I laid out the proportions for the chop 2 to 3 with the wider part being 2/5 of the overall height and the thinner bottom being 3/5. This is really important because I’ve seen leg vises that look bottom or top heavy, so I was looking for a nice natural balancing point.
I measured the actual overhang on either side and marked that. It was somewhere in the neighborhood of 7/8″ but I didn’t really pay attention to that. I just set the adjustable square to the difference and marked it.
I cleared out the cove transition with a Forstner bit and ripped the waste off with a hand saw (yes, a handsaw, in what was now 12/4 red oak). Some work with a rasp, a block plane and a jack plane brought everything into shape. After I was satisfied with one side being square and true I marked off the other side and cut that to match. I beveled the top of the chop with a hand saw and then followed it up with a block plane to fair the curve.
The design in my head for this chop always had some detail around the edges to make it “pop” but hard edges are notoriously vulnerable in workshops, so I went with a compromise filleted roundover. I just used a 3/8″ roundover bit in my trim router.
The one place where this didn’t work, obviously, was with the top roundover so I had to do that by hand. I knifed in a line, cut to that line with a chisel, sawed just deep enough to define the fillet and then cleared the waste with a 1/2″ chisel across the grain following it up with a shoulder plane to define the edge (and tilting it to slightly micro-chamfer the hard edge of the fillet).