hold on there son…

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.

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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.
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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.
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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).
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A coat of boiled linseed oil topped the whole thing off, and Bob’s your uncle.
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2 thoughts on “hold on there son…

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