The Holy Roman Tail Vise


Tail vises are funny things. I’ve installed many of them during the last 20 years, and I have a formula to calculate the time to do it right. Here it is:

Time to install a tail vise with precision = time to build the rest of the bench.

I’m not joking. With the exception of bolting a quick-release vise on the end of the bench, a good tail-vise-installation job takes time, concentration and effort. For this circa 1505 bench, it took me about 10 hours to build the basic bench and install the face vise.

So far, it has taken me seven hours of painstaking work (which I greatly enjoy by the way) to get the 10 critical surfaces of the bench in the same plane to install the vise’s bushing, vise nut and screw. Tomorrow I’ll install the screw, bushing and vise nut. If I’m lucky, it will take only three hours.

If I’m wrong, then my formula is off.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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6 Responses to The Holy Roman Tail Vise

  1. djmueller says:

    Lookin’ great. Rock on!

  2. Rachael Boyd says:

    I was thinking a dovetail it would hold better and look nice.Oh wait, after thinking about that, it would weaken the block. never mind carry on.

  3. wphred says:

    Looks like you have some powder post beetles in your top (or did).

  4. MONASTE says:

    I love this post. I am currently building my first workbench that I consider to be one that will last me long term, and I am so stressed about the tail vise.

    “So far, it has taken me seven hours of painstaking work (which I greatly enjoy by the way) ”

    The above quote made me smile, because no matter how hard things can get, if you love woodworking or love learning woodworking in my case, even painstaking work becomes something enjoyable and liberating.

    I’m excited to see this all “come to life.” Thanks for sharing your work, and for LAP in general.

  5. jeffdustin says:

    May I use horizontal holdfasts instead of installing a vise? Does that even make sense? I don’t understand why a vise is superior to a holdfast on the side of a workbench. I’m a novice, so please forgive my ignorance.

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