Tail Vise

BACKGROUND

Clamping work to a bench surface between dogs is a very old technique. The historical record gives us examples as far back as the Roman era, but most woodworkers know the tail vise from the modern Scandanavian and German tradition. The oldest detailed drawings we have are from the early 16th century by German author Martin Löffelholz.

The vise uses a pair of either wooden or metal dogs, one of which remains stationary, and one of which moves to pinch work of varying length between them. The simpler of the two vises is often referred to as a wagon vise since the moving dog travels in a block trapped within the bench top and rides along a pair of rails, like a wagon or cart. It is this type that our design is based on.

Unlike other tail vises, the Benchcrafted Tail Vise utilizes a moving dog block and nut, and a stationary screw. The dog block rides alongside the screw to allow nearly the full length of the screw to be utilized. The benefit here is that the screw remains in the same position at all times, never protruding past the end of the bench. The left-hand thread, precision-rolled acme screw provides for typical rotation when operating the vise. Operating the vise is intuitive.

Wagon Vises Versus Moving-Block Tail Vises

"Moving-block" tail vises have some disadvantages that limit the usefulness of this area of the bench. Mallet work, such as mortising or chopping dovetails over the vise can damage the mechanism over a short time. The vise is also prone to sagging with use and wear, which causes all sorts of problems for clamping between dogs. Once the vise starts to sag, often it will raise up above the surface of the bench when tightening, raising up the workpiece with it. This can cause hand plane chatter among other issues. The same type of vise also protrudes past the end of the bench as its opened. One advantage the traditional tail vise has over the wagon vise is the open-front jaws. However, the large gap of the open jaws can make for a large unsupported area below workpieces, and this can cause some problems when planing, especially with shorter pieces. Wagon-type vises solve almost all of the problems of traditional tail vises. The area of the bench around the vise can be used in the same way as the rest of the bench. The vise can't sag. The screw doesn't extend past the end of the bench when the vise is opened, making this vise a great choice for cramped shops. The dog block also cannot raise up when tightened. The area around the vise will always remain as flat as the rest of the bench, since the "moving block" section of the traditional tail vise is eliminated. The Benchcrafted Tail Vise is also much easier to install than traditional tail vises, since it eliminates the task of building the complex wood superstructure around the vise hardware. The significant advantages of the wagon vise more than make up for the lack of the open-front jaws of the traditional "moving-block" tail vise.

Tail Vises Versus Nothing

In the search for the ultimate bench (it doesn't exist) one is likely to encounter discussion of going entirely without a tail vise. And indeed, our own Classic bench does not use one. However, unless one is a die-hard traditionalist, or worked for years without a tail vise (it's impossible to miss something unexperienced) the question arises, what disadvantages does a Benchcrafted Tail Vise have? And the answer is, none. Although a bench build will take a bit more time (perhaps an extra day of construction) including a Benchcrafted Tail Vise in your bench offers nothing but advantages. Planing stops, often cited as a replacement for a tail vise, as some of the functions do overlap, can be used to best effect alongside a bench equipped with a tail vise.

Features and Capacities

Clamping between dogs is the main job of any tail vise, and the Benchcrafted Tail Vise excels at this task. The handwheel allows one to adjust the vise much faster than a typical T-handle. The momentum of the cast iron wheel allows you to rapidly spin the dog block into position via the ergonomic wrinkle coated knob. Grasping the rim of the wheel allows precise, controlled pressure to be exerted when approaching final position.

Vertical clamping between vise jaws can be easily accomplished with the Tail Vise, and when lined with the included Crubber, the grip is tenacious. This is an ideal vise for working the ends of smaller boards. The vise, when installed at its maximum capacity and using a 5" long dog block, is capable of handling an 11-3/4" wide board. Maximum travel is 12-1/4" using a 2-7/8" end cap. These capacities vary slightly depending on installation.

Retrofitting

In addition to building a new bench around the vise, the The Tail Vise can also be retrofit to existing benches without existing tail vises, or to benches with traditional, moving-block style tail vises. See our FAQ for more specific info. We're also available for consultation via email, free of charge, if you're considering installing our Tail Vise into your existing bench.

specifications

Cast iron and machined steel components - Designed and made in the USA

Tail Vise M

Tail Vise C

Wheel

Fully-machined 5" diameter cast-iron hand wheel
5" diameter cast-iron hand wheel

Knob

Satin black, wrinkle coated, aluminum knob

Screw

Rolled carbon-steel acme-threaded 1¼" dia. screw with 4 tpi pitch strikes a balance between rapid movement & controlled gradual clamping pressure

Nut

1" thick acme nut milled from solid billet of cold rolled steel

Plate

1/4" thick cold-rolled steel milled to accommodate square or round dogs

Rails

Cold-rolled steel guide rails support the robust sliding plate assembly, which runs in precisely milled grooves

Also Included

3/8" thick steel flange, black oxide finish
Crubber material to line the jaws for a tenacious, non-marring grip
All components needed to build the vise into your workbench
See our installation instructions for complete package contents

Purchase

Tail Vise M

Fully machined handwheel

Tail Vise C

Cast iron handwheel
$395
Add to cart
$315
Add to cart
Includes all components needed for assembly

Get it in a Benchmaker's Package

Comes with everything needed to build a bench besides the wood
Packages
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Knobs

Update your Glide or Tail vise with our new knobs, available à la carte and mounts with the original shoulder bolt and washer included in your Glide or Tail Vise (from 2012 on).

$16
Add to cart
Includes one knob. Does not include shoulder bolt or washer.

F.A.Q.

Can I install it on either end of my bench? Is the vise handed?
The Tail Vise is universal and can be configured for left-end or right-end use by simply assembling the sliding plate and nut accordingly. It's covered in the Tail Vise Installation Instructions.

See below for the assembly video.
Why "tail" vise, I thought this was called a wagon vise?
The Benchcrafted Tail Vise is indeed a wagon vise, meaning it uses a traveling dog block trapped within the top. The term wagon vise did not derive from our use of a handwheel, as in “wagon wheel” but rather as a translation of the French term describing this general style of vise. It is also a "tail" vise since it’s mounted on the "tail end" of the bench. Others call it an "end vise". Hey, we had to pick something!
Round dogs or square?
We like square, but that's an old debate. Read our testimony here.
I have an early version of the Tail Vise with the curved nut block, can I still get the instructions and templates?
Email us and we'll send them to you.
Can I install the vise in a thinner or thicker top?
Yes and yes. You can install the vise in a top less than 3-¾” thick by shimming the rails or in a top thicker than 4”, by recessing them deeper. You'll also need to have a minimum 4" thick end cap to mount the vise flange. This is covered in the installation instructions. Read more.
How long are the guide rails, and how much overhang do I need to accommodate the vise?
The rails are 18" long. Make your overhang at least 18 1/2" (including end cap) so that last half inch covers the end of the rails. That last half inch is an aesthetic touch, not functionally necessary.
How long is the screw past the flange?
The screw threads are 16" (nominal) past the inside of the flange.
How do I make square dog holes in my existing bench top?
You don't make the holes. They are created during the bench building process. Square dog holes are actually angled dadoes with a step and are milled into the edge of the top or dog hole laminate during construction. Read more.
What glue do I use to attach the Crubber (or suede leather) to the vise jaws?
Any glue will work. But we like to use a water-based contact cement (solvent based is fine too, but it gives us a headache.) Read more.
Should I counterbore (recess) the flange bolt nuts on the inside of the end cap?
You can, but it makes installation much more finicky. We don't bother, since the chances that you'll ever need to open the vise that extra bit are pretty much zero.
Do you have any videos showing how to assemble the Tail Vise?
See below for the assembly video.
Do you have any videos showing how to install the Tail Vise?
Our European dealer Dieter Schmid Fine Tools has prepared this basic video showing how to install the Tail Vise
What size do I make my dogs?
Dimensions are provided in the Tail Vise installation instructions, download here.
Get the installation instructions
Download