The Soft Bit Preservation Society and Ignorant Slots


Good news. The threaded screws for the face vise on the Holy Roman Workbench are a couple inches below the danger zone. I’ve been working on the bench these last couple days and have found that my boyhood is well out of danger.

So today I started making the giant slot for the end vise. I began by sawing two shallow kerfs with my circular saw to help guide my ripsaw. A sharp ripsaw can destroy 4”-thick oak with little effort. This is why it’s a good idea to learn to sharpen your own saws.


After sawing out the two kerfs for the end vise, I used an auger to waste away as much wood as possible at the end of the slot. Three holes with a 1-1/8” auger did the trick. The waste block came out with only finger pressure.


Then I cleaned up things with a mortise chisel. Just like with any mortise, it’s best to clean it up from both faces to avoid splintering out the backside badly. Of course, flipping over a 300-pound bench to get to the backside is always fun (but not too difficult if you know about a little thing called leverage).

With the slot cleaned up, I called it a day. This weekend I hope to get the threaded nuts installed in the slot.

— Christopher Schwarz

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11 Responses to The Soft Bit Preservation Society and Ignorant Slots

  1. Rachael Boyd says:

    so do the screw blocks get sliding dovetail to hold them in?

  2. xxxmike says:

    Am I wrong in thinking that the dimensions of that slot will change significantly over time due to the effects of the wood drying?

  3. How did you arrive at such a heavy top? Plate after plate of period benches and the proportions start to look very consistent. They don’t appear to be anything this heavy.

    • I don’t consider this a thick top. It’s 4.5″ thick.

    • I think (perhaps??) this is where…”pictures may be worth a 1000 words”…but they don’t always tell the entire story…

      I would conservatory say that 30% (probably more like 50%) of what I know of traditional craft isn’t written or illustrated in any book. There is a great deal to still learn by traveling to obscure places and watching those that acquired skills through oral tradition, and looking at their tool and material resources.

      I would suggest that 70 mm to 100 mm is an average bench top thickness at best. Most of my favorite (and those favored by teachers/mentors) have been 150 mm and as much as 300 mm in thickness. These are not a common dimension as we see discussed in most contemporary text about benches and as most only focuses (or repeats) what is already written about them. There is a world out there vast on this subject…and the variations of bench tops is just one aspect.

      I have found this post on the Roman Bench to be excellent in exploring the acient history and application of method for developing this very useful tool…

  4. stone58 says:

    Can’t see how that vise would be a problem, unless you are literally a “Naked Woodworker”. But, hey. One needs to be comfortable when they work.

  5. The picture of the rip cut sure makes it look like your “boyhood” was getting mashed.

  6. Jack Palmer says:

    I like that hammer. Who made it?

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