Tail Vise Options

Previously I examined face vises, now I’ll look at tail vise options to decide which is best for me. What do you need a tail vise for? Recall that a face vise enables you to hold a board when you are working its edges and ends. A tail vise is useful for holding a board when working its face, such as traverse planing to reduce the board’s thickness.

My first thought was to just butt the board against some type of corner stop and not have a vise to hold it down. But that would mean needing to lift the plane on each return stroke so as not to drag the board to the floor. Lifting the plane each stroke would probably go against my natural rhythm and wear me out. I need a way of holding the board in place.

Just as with a face vise, it is not absolutely essential that you use a tail vise. Here again is Steve Branam from Close Grain working the face of a board that’s butted against a plane stop and held with wedges at the other end.

I’ve said that I don’t fancy Veritas Wonder Dogs but their Surface Vise looks more promising even though I haven’t tried one. Perhaps if you don’t want to install a permanent vise this would be a resonable substitute. But at $80 why not just buy a good vise.

Here is a classic Frank Klausz L-style tail vise found at workbenchdesign.net. Beautiful and even though you can find the necessary hardware I wouldn’t want to have to build one. And, it’s prone to sagging.

Here is a new style from Veritas that not only has a quick-release, it’s also simple to retrofit to a bench by simply adding an apron to the front edge. All for only $270, WOW!

As we leave the land of high priced vise hardware, take a peek at Benchcrafted’s wagon vise chassis. Just $350, why does technology have to cost this much?

Now we are back in the cheap seats looking at Chris Scharz’s Roubo workbench. It sports a wagon vise that costs just $20 for the press screw and a few hours labor. That’s more like it.

Initially I believed this was the type of tail vise I’d end up with, going so far as to work a wagon vise into my bench design to see how I’d like it.

Ideas started popping and I went even cheaper trying a Jorgensen pipe clamp in place of the press screw. Now we’re talkin’.

My workbench is based on the Holtzapffel bench presented in the September 2007 issue of Woodworking magazine so I went back and reread Chris Schwarz’s article. He advocated using a Record type quick-release iron vise because it is easy to install and won’t droop. It offers good support for clamping and the quick-release feature is handy when clamping boards of different lengths. Sold! Even though I’m not a fan of this type as a face vise I get the logic of using it in the tail position.

Except that large 10-1/2” wide vise that Chris used costs $160 from Lee Valley. It opens a full 15”, don’t you think this is a little overkill. I found this smaller 7” Groz model at Woodcraft for just $85.

It may only open 8” but my dog holes will be spaced on 3” centers so it will be fine. Because it’s smaller it can be installed a little closer to the front edge as well. Lastly, none of that old fashioned quick-release stuff for me. This Groz vise is quicker than quick, it’s got rapid-release.

– Carl

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  • Olly Parry-Jones  On October 31, 2010 at 3:32 am

    An interesting post.

    Ignoring the price, I really like the look of the Wagon Vices now, as – I think – you don’t need any clearance by the end of your work bench for the handle to travel, unlike every other type. Though, it depends on how big your workshop is, I guess! :-)

    Another idea someone recently suggested was to fit a wagon vice but with a removable handle – or, perhaps even, a square or hex-drive socket that could be operated by an impact drill driver, for example.

    Be aware that some cheaper vices will sag slightly as you open them out, which can affect their performance when you’re looking to clamp thin stuff on your bench top.


    • Carl Nobles  On December 21, 2010 at 5:29 pm

      Olly, thanks for your comment regarding my selection of tail vise for my bench. Sorry I did not reply to you immediately after you left it, my only excuse is that was a low point for me. I’ve since recovered and started posting again.
      I agree that a wagon vise is an attractive. However, it is another thing one has to build at a point when just finishing the bench is uppermost in mind. I’ve also seen where people have difficulty with them jamming in use.
      At the end of the day, I question the necessity of a tail vise at all. Due to its popularity I’m putting one on my bench just to find out if it is essential. I don’t anticipate sagging to be an issue but the rapid-release feature has yet to prove itself.
      Thanks again for being my first commenter.
      – Carl


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