The Making of a Tail Vice

Making A Tail Vice

Once they have finished their initial basic projects, our students move on to making a work bench. This involves a number of challenges, not least the building and fitting of a tail vice. One of our tutors, Ed Wild, takes us through, arguably the most stressful part of this – the glue-up.

The Glue up

The glue up is one of the most critical aspects of any piece; many hours of work have lead to this moment.  It’s fraught with danger and worry as the glue encourages the wood to expand and move in mysterious ways, sometimes tightening a joint or stopping it going up altogether. Whilst the wood and glue work against you, it is critical to keep everything square which isn’t easy with clamps running horizontally and vertically across the vice.

The Dry Run

To keep the whole piece square, each clamp is carefully positioned. This is checked in the dry run.  The back of the vice is kept square by a spacer block. This must be a perfect fit, to within 0.1 mm. If it’s not square the vice just wont work. As important as the glue up itself is the dry run. This is the glue up, but without glue.  Every glue block and clamp is positioned, tightened and tweaked to ensure that the glue up runs as smoothly as clockwork, every tool is in place and each eventuality checked.  Time is limited during the glue up because of the open time of the glue, in this case 10 minutes.  It might sound long, but those ten minutes go very very fast.

Once the vice has been glued up, the outside is planed and the surfaces cleaned up. Then the real fun begins – the vice needs to be fitted……. Perfectly.  The vice is fitted, scribed, taken off, planed and re-fitted until each component runs smoothly and closes exactly.  It should run dead square, as it is one of the key components of your bench. This is the bench you have made to perfectly fit your height and needs, and which you will be using for the rest of your career.

Watch a time-lapse video of Ed helping Matt with his tail vice glue-up

See Matt’s tail vice in action


Until next time,



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