The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Lazarus Man


As far as woodworking is concerned there were two things I wanted to accomplish this weekend, one was continuing the work I’ve been doing on the moving fillister iron, and the other was to attach a better board jack, or dead man, to my workbench. After work on Saturday, after I cut the grass, cleaned the yard, swept the sidewalk, and cleaned the garage and shed, I knew that only one of the two was going to get accomplished, so I chose the dead man.

When I originally made the bench, for some reason I decided against a dead man even though I made the bench with a leg vice. After a few weeks I realized that a dead man would be a smart addition, so I made a “temporary” makeshift version that managed to stay in place for the past four years. As far as the bench is concerned, I want to make a new one, but I don’t want to do that until I know for sure whether or not we are going to remain in our house or purchase a new one. In the meanwhile, I still want my bench to function as well as possible.

To make the dead man I used a board I had remaining from the bench build that was too good to throw away but not good enough to use anywhere else. I sawed it to size on the table saw, planed off the rough spots, and then made a notch on each end for the runners, which were just two pieces of scrap walnut that I planed down. Speaking of the runners, I screwed them, no glue, to the underside of the bench and cross brace using a combination square to keep them aligned. It was thankfully easy. The runners can theoretically interfere with clamping things to the front of the bench, but because it is the rare occasion when I actually clamp something to the front of the bench I was not deterred.

I bored five holes into the board jack, by eye, using a brace and bit. I will be forthright and admit that the holes are not perfectly lined up, but I really don’t care. This was not “to make as perfectly as possible”, this was “make a jig that will last long enough until I build my next and last workbench. Boring the holes with the brace was easy, I gave the bit a quick sharpening with a file made specifically for augers. I’ve noticed that the file is now being offered in woodworking catalogs. In the electrical industry it is a common tool, as electricians use augers often. But I’m glad to see it being sold now in the mainstream.

Boring holes

Boring holes

Auger file

Auger file

When the holes were bored in I took a few passes on the dead man with the smoothing plane to clean it up. I then attached it to the bench and gave it a test run. It works just fine, there is just enough “slop” in it to keep it from binding (which I did on purpose, I swear). But to make it work even better I will lightly chamfer the edges of the runners and then wax them. Lastly, I cleaned up the bench, put away the tools that needed to be put away, and called it a night. On a side note, the runners do not run the full width of the cross brace in order for the dead man to be easily removable, as well as easier to install.

Finished dead man.

Finished dead man.

While installing a board jack may not be the most exciting woodworking project I’ve ever done, at this point I’ll take what I can get. It works, it makes my workbench work a little better, and that’s all that matters.



  1. dzj9 says:

    Why do you want to build a new bench? The one you have looks fine.

    • billlattpa says:

      My current bench isn’t bad, but I should have built the “Nicholson” bench, or English joiners bench as it’s known. I actually wanted to build that bench to begin with, but I fell into the “Roubo” trap that so many other woodworkers did, because that bench was all the rage at the time, and I guess still is to an extent.

      But the wide front apron really suits the way I work, I got to use one at a woodworking class a while back and I loved it. The Roubo bench is great is you like to spend all day flattening boards by hand, but not so much if you are working on edges or using it to hold boards vertically, at least that’s my opinion, and I’m hardly the expert. At that, my current bench will probably last years before it has to be replaced because of wear and tear, though the leg vice board needs to be replaced now, which is going to be a pain in the ass, but it has to be done. But you’re right, the bench is definitely serviceable.

  2. Greg Merritt says:

    Looks to be a nice addition.

    My bench has the wide front apron but I rarely make us of it. Of course I don’t deal with very wide boards though. What I find handy is my trestles. I can slide one up along the front of my bench and position it to support something in the vice. It doesn’t get in the way and can be positioned as needed.

    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks. This weekend I’ll clean it up and make it look prettier. I got to use a bench with a front apron at a woodworking class and it was great for sawing. I was able to clamp boards vertically with ease, and it would have worked even better with a leg vice, which the bench at the class didn’t have. I made a “moxon style” vice but I don’t necessarily care for it. It does the job okay, but the wide front apron, a leg vice, and a holdfast do it much better in my opinion, in particular on wide boards.


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