How to Build a Workbench With a Tail Vise and Front Vise

Written by chris varnell
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How to Build a Workbench With a Tail Vise and Front Vise
(Sam Royds/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Having a workbench with both tail and front vices can help simplify many do-it-yourself projects. Before starting construction, it is important to determine what size workbench you need and what size your workshop or garage can handle. The steps below are based on a 28-inch by 76-inch workbench with a storage shelf, but you can easily adapt them for whatever dimensions you desire.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • (2) 4-inch by 4-inch by 8-foot treated pine lumber
  • (5) 2-inch by 6-inch by 8-foot treated pine lumber
  • (2) 4-foot by 8-foot by ¾-inch BC plywood or MDF board
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Carpenter's speed square
  • T-square
  • Circular saw
  • Safety glasses
  • Electric drill
  • Phillips bit
  • ¾-inch drill bit
  • 3-inch exterior screws
  • 1 1/2-inch exterior screws
  • 4-foot level
  • Shims
  • Tail vice
  • Front vice

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  1. 1

    Determine the height you want the finished workbench to be. A good rule is to make this height match the height of your waistline.

  2. 2

    Cut the two 4-inch by 4-inch by 8-foot pine boards into four pieces measuring your predetermined height minus 3/4 inch (for the thickness of the plywood or MDF top). These pieces will become the workbench legs.

  3. 3

    Cut the five 2-inch by 6-inch by 8-foot boards into the following sizes: • four boards, 72-inch long • eight boards, 21-inch long

  4. 4

    Lay two 72-inch pieces and two 21-inch pieces on their edges on a flat, level surface to make a 2-foot by 6-foot box. Predrill two holes, vertically spaced 4 inches apart and 3/4 inch from the edges, near each end of the 72-inch long pieces. Use the 3-inch exterior screws and predrilled holes to attach the pieces together and form the top frame of the workbench.

  5. 5

    Place one of the legs cut earlier into each inside corner of the frame. The bottom of the legs should be flush with the bottom of the frame. Predrill two holes, vertically spaced 4 inches apart and 3 inches from the corner, through both sides of each corner of the frame. Secure the legs to the frame using the 3-inch exterior screws and the predrilled holes.

  6. 6

    Turn over the table frame to its upright position. Use your 4-foot level to make sure the table is level. If the table isn't level, nail shims to the bottom of the legs as needed to level it.

  7. 7

    Determine how high you want to mount your shelf underneath the workbench top. Use your speed square to mark your desired height on the legs. Subtract the 3/4-inch thickness of the plywood to mark the proper height for the shelf supports.

  8. 8

    Predrill two holes, vertically spaced 4 inches apart and 3/4 inch from the end, in each end of the remaining 72-inch and 21-inch pieces of lumber. Use these pieces to form another 2-foot by 6-foot box around the legs; this will serve as a shelf support and also strengthen the workbench. Attach these pieces to the legs at the height markings by screwing through the predrilled holes into the legs with two 3-inch exterior screws. To avoid the screws hitting each other at the corners, install them at 4 inches vertically spaced on the 6-foot sides and alternating to 3-inches vertically spaced on the 2-foot sides.

  9. 9

    Add the remaining four 2-inch by 6-inch by 21-inch pieces as supports for the workbench and the storage shelf. First, place two pieces, evenly spaced, within the top frame. Predrill two holes, vertically spaced 4 inches apart, through the outer frame and into the support pieces. Attach the pieces with 3-inch exterior screws. Repeat the process to add two supports for the storage shelf.

  10. 10

    Use your T-square to draw a 28-inch by 78-inch rectangle on one of the 4-foot by 8-foot pieces of plywood or MDF board. This piece will be the workbench top with a 2-inch overhang on all sides for easy vice installation. On the other piece of plywood, draw a 24-inch by 72-inch rectangle with 5-inch by 5-inch squares at all four corners. This piece will be for the storage shelf and will fit on top of the shelf ledge, between all four legs.

  11. 11

    Cut along the lines drawn on the plywood pieces with the circular saw. Cut along the 5-inch by 5-inch squares in the shelf corners to make notches with the circular saw.

  12. 12

    Lay the plywood shelf (with the corners cut out) on top of the shelf supports, between all four legs. Secure it with 1 1/2-inch exterior screws.

  13. 13

    Place the other cut piece of plywood on top of the upper frame. Center the plywood to leave a 2-inch overhang on each side of the workbench. Secure the plywood top to the upper frame and support beams by drilling through it with 1 1/2-inch exterior screws.

  14. 14

    Determine which of the narrower ends of the workbench will be the most useful for the tail vice. Place the vice along the edge in the location that works best for you, and mark the attachment locations on the plywood. Make sure your markings are within the 2-inch overhang for an easy installation. Using the electric drill and 1/2-inch drill bit, drill holes in the marked locations.

  15. 15

    Use the attachment hardware provided with the tail vice to attach the vice to the end of the workbench. Common attachment hardware consists of nuts, bolts and washers. Place the bolts through the appropriate holes in the vice and corresponding holes in the workbench. Place a washer over the bolt's thread and tighten the nut until the vice is securely mounted to the workbench.

  16. 16

    Follow the procedure in Steps 14 and 15 to attach the front vice.

Tips and warnings

  • It is always a good idea to check all of your electrical cords for damage before use.
  • Always wear safety glasses when cutting or drilling.

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