How to Build a Workbench – Vise Pads and Dogs (part15)

NOTE:Just so you know, this is an older workbench series. Paul has a newer Workbench series. If you are interested in the updated version of Paul’s workbench please click the button down below. This page links to a cutting list, tools list, FAQS and much more.

I have all three vises fitted to my bench, two at opposite corners and to my right that is to perform tail-vise operations combining the poor man’s dog in the vise with dowel dogs in the benchtop. I will say up front that bench dogs and dogging systems are for me none essentials. Some may counter this and that’s fine, but I can and have worked without using any bench dogs for decades and when I have had them I forgot they were there. That said, the reason I added them here is to make the bench as comprehensively universal as possible. Many will love having bench surface-holding capabilities and this method does work well.

Many vises do not have the adjustable dog in the centre of the vise. The particular Record vises I bought do not have dogs, but I knew that when I bought them. In five minutes I will have a wooden bench dog fitted to my vise. It can be made from hardwood or from metal. On one of my benches I used 1/4” thick brass. Metal is unbreakable as a bench dog but wood will definitely get you going and should last for years.

I must cut a dado across the wooden lining on the outside jaw of my vise, between the wooden jaw and the inside face of the moving jaw. Mine is 5/16” by 1 ½” wide. There is no danger of the wooden jaw breaking, whether plywood or solid wood.

First I lay out the area to be removed. Pencil is sufficient for this.

I cut the walls with a small saw. As long as they are square and parallel they will work. Cut down only to the depth line, no deeper. I used a router to finalize the depth, poor man’s or bought or you can finalize depth without a router and just a 1” chisel.

I used a 1″ chisel to remove the waste between the lines. In plywood this goes quickly without bevelling the sides as you would with solid wood because the layers separate easily and evenly. When almost to depth, use the router or if not follow the ply layer.

Relocate the lining. I am using threaded screws into the tapped jaw holes. This will hold permanently, better than regular screws. Remember also that a threaded bolt can be used to tap wood and you can always do that instead of screws.

To make the vise dog I used a piece of oak 3/4″ x 1 1/2″ x 4″ long. I cut down the length, just under 5/16″, and then across the grain to form a lip so that the dog hook onto the vise when dropped into the mortise hole.

Now you can run parallel lines of holes equidistant from the vise (square across) and equally spaced on either side of a central line from the central vise dog in the vise. I also run dog holes inline centred with the vise dog. This allows pieces narrower than the distance between the main dogs to be dogged in. The reason we generally used two dogs rather than a single run where possible is that wider boards are held square to the length of the bench, which gives greater stability.

It can be difficult to bore holes square. I made a simple guide that clamps to the benchtop and bore holes guided by the two adjacent faces. I bore all the way through the top so that the holes remain free and clear. On the underside I screw small blocks to swivel. These remain covering the holes from beneath and stop the dogs from dropping through. If you have a lathe you can turn dogs like the ones shown. (Drawings shortly)

With the holes bored, I made oak dowels as dogs. Drop the dowel into the hole and mark the line at the bench top. Cut into the dog about quarter of the way and then saw or chop down. This flat face faces the vise dog and allows the workpiece to be anchored properly.

You can do this to the other vises and use the main bench top. When I make an additional feature for the well I will show you that too.

This is how it works now and this concludes phase one of making a good workbench..


  1. Paul,
    It looks like you are using formwork plywood (if that is a good translation of “contreplaqué de coffrage”) for the vise lining.
    Isn’t that too slippery?
    In one of your video (tenon and mortise, I think) you were using shelf mat to have a good grip.
    What about gluing it (with double face tape?) more or less permanantly?

    1. Sorry for the delay in responding. This plywood is the stuff they use to floor vans and they call it buffalo board here I believe. That said, you could be right and they use it for formwork too. As you may see, I used the dimpled side to the face of my work. This is a little softer than the hard faced side. Also, between the vise metal and the slick side of the plywood I use perforated silicone shelf liner ,which absolutely locks the jaws immovably in place. i have used this at the school in the UK and they stay pu and they last too.

      1. I use dble sided tape to hold the wood faces in place. (scrap maple) nearly a year with out any problems. I also use the shelf liner for holding things in place on the bench top.

  2. Paul;
    Thank you for your answer.
    It seems my translation was not very good “concrete shuttering” woul be more appropriate. We found in belgium, in the equivalent of “Home depot”; plywood with two faces treated with a phenolic film. The phenolic film is very slippery. It is interesting for outdoor use but you have to seal the edges.

    1. I missed this, sorry. I wedged mine to a finger tight fit using a spokeshave, but it would be good to make a turn button for the underside of the benchtop to turn so that the dog sits on top. That way you can clean out shavings and debris as needed.

  3. Paul,
    If it is not too much trouble, could you possibly post a few photos and or notes on adding a drawer to the front of the bench. I see the drawer in many photos of your benches and I think that it would prove to be a very useful addition.

    1. Will try to do it. In the middle of a month-long class started yesterday but will do it asap

      1. Hey Paul,
        i’m not sure if i missed it but could you show us how you made the drawers on all your benhen espacialy the ones on your smal joinery bench.

  4. Paul,

    I wanted to write to thank you for posting this blog and the accompanying videos on YouTube. I am a beginner woodworker, and I decided to build this bench because of its knockdown design. It took me a while but today I completed a six-foot version, built on a B&D Workmate bench that was mostly wrecked from all the planing torsion. I mostly used cheap (Canadian) HD 2×4 studs, which were rough to work with but were available. A lot of the bench is rough, because everything was new to me, but it is ROCK SOLID. I love it. It is pictured here undergoing final cat inspection, standing in the space where I made it.

    I look forward to learning much more from your online master classes.

    Thank you again.


    1. Well done Jeremy. Rock solid is all you need. Now you have your third hand and we have a lot going in with the online course that will really help you from here on.

    2. It looks like you used 4×4’s for the top instead of 2×4’s… Is this correct, and if so why did you go with them instead? Thanks.

      1. Hi Jeramie,

        I used $3 HD 2x4x8s trimmed to 6 feet for this, and heavily planed to square the corners, which come trimmed round. I was tempted to go 4×4, but in hindsight and if I were to make another, I’d probably go with HD’s 2x3x8 studs instead. They are less ’rounded’ and would have made for less planing in the end. I live in Canada, so maybe the lumber supply at HD has different characteristics in the States or wherever. My goal was to do this bench relatively cheaply, as I’m new to all of this and thought I’d mess up better wood.


        1. Just in case. It is a mistake to go with 4x4s for laminated tops. You get much greater stability the narrower the stock you use.If it were practical, 1/2″ material would give an incredibly strong and stable work top. It’s just a fiddle with so many pieces to glulam as a top, but this can indeed be done and it would make a very nice worktop in the process. 4x4s do not have enough interactive grain and the widths expand differently over wider thicknesses. I don;t recommend this if the basis for it is speed alone.

        2. Ah, I see now. I am thinking about using 2x12x12s, cutting them in half and ripping 3″ strips to use for the top. I hope this will get rid of most of the rounded edges for me so I won’t have to plane as much. I guess we’ll see. Thanks for the reply.

      1. Maybe a stupid question, but could you describe what “Danish Oil” is?

        I live in Denmark, and the only Danish oil I know of is the stuff coming out of the North See (guessing that’s not it).
        The old school traditional Danish finishing oil would be “rå linolie” literally “raw linseed oil”. Its a non-heat treated oil from the second pressing of the linseeds. That makes it darker, thicker and a bit more cloudy than the oil from the first pressing.

        Could this be it?

        1. Danish oil is a mixed bag of worms. Manufacturers name just about any blend of ingredients under the banner Danish Oil and that’s the reason there are different qualities with the different manufactured products. Ine general, Danish oil is simply a blend of oil and varnish the two ingredients of which have different qualities. Traditionally, manufacturers have used Linseed oil (squeezed from the flax seed of the flax plant) with varnish, which is traditionally comprised of oil, resin and a thinner or solvent. All in all, what you describe is raw linseed oil which takes a much longer time to dry. Mixing the varnish and other solvents and evaporatives with the linseed oil aids the drying time. Some manufacturers add higher levels of varnish to linseed oil and this ‘Danish’ oil then feels more like a varnish finish than an oil finish. Oil finishes alone are not usually very durable but they are easy to restore and apply. In the US I liked Deft danish oil which felt nice after applying. By warming the oil it penetrated deeper and gave the wood more depth. (Safety is your issue when it comes to heating oil). In the UK I have not found an oil I really like the feel of after curing and also consider that this is a workbench and not a furniture piece, so I apply two coats of an poil named Danish oil. So, as this is a workbench and all I want is something to stop liquids penetrating and staining, I choose a ready made brand.

      2. Paul, just came across this thread. The instructions on the Danish oil I purchased stated to apply the oil for 45 minutes continuously to keep the surface wet, then wipe off any excess. Is this what you mean by a coat?t

        1. That’s not the general instruction for Danish oil but then there is no real composition for the fluid called Danish oil. Each manufacturer can mix generally Tung oil with other oils and evaporative additives and call the concocted product Danish oil. So in general, products by different manufacturers are not one and the same. Therefore the application with one can be a brush and another a cloth rag. Some will say keep rubbing and others one heavy coat. In general oils are best flooded on and then wiped off after, waiting until they start to get stiff and tacky. Recoat if you want a build up until sufficiently full leaving a period to dry in between according to the instructions.
          One coat is usually enough for a workbench really, but you can do more for fuller protection. I don’t really care for shiny benchtops or the protective qualities of varnishes for a working surface as such. Just enough to wipe off spills.

          1. Thank you for the quick response. I’ll go with less of the product than they specify. Thank you, too, for your YouTube videos. As a neophyte woodworker, I’ve found them most helpful.

  5. I went to my local HD today to look at stock for this bench build and it seems like all of the 2×4 studs that would use for this build are all rounded on the edges. Anyone else run into this problem and if so how did you deal with it.

    1. Hi James, you need to look for “select pine” at home depot. Its usually in a different area in the store. Its planed, usually knot free and is square edged not rounded like the studs.

      1. I did see a section that had select pine along with some poplar, maple and red oak but it was only in 3/4 material.

        1. Yes, that’s the case for HD. As I said somewhere, US wood has rounded corners and is less the case here where you can still by square edge material. I would glue up the round edge material and then use a heavy set #4 with a convex cutting edge and an open throat by moving the frog back. Not a big deal at all. I keep a second plane for this but you can also keep just an iron for it too. I think in pine or spruce it would take no more than five to ten minutes planing at a tangent of 30-degrees to hog off the 1/16″ you need to remove the rounded corners once laminated as a benchtop section. You don’t really need to di the underside (unless it’s twisted) because if you don’t like the round corners showing on the underside ends you can plane off the corner only until all that’s visible is a straight, unbroken edge.

          1. I now this is a old discussion, but just want to contribute. I “cheated” and used a table saw to shave 1/8 inch off each edge before surfacing with a hand plane. Having no scrub plane, this seemed like the easiest solution for me.

            The real trick was to spend the time to search through several lumber yards to select timber that was relatively straight (no bows, crooks, or twists). Not an easy task in itself.

          2. You’re right, Joel. Once they clip the bands on would rammed through the heating system of kilns, saturate it in transit, stack it for a few weeks un sub freezing weather and store it for sale in an air controlled building you have some good material for wrapping around the hull of a wooden clinker-built boat and not bench making. But then again, if all the bits were good to go we would have nothing to do, right!!!!????

        2. Hi James, my local HD sells 2×4 in select pine. I would ask the them if they carry it. But as Paul said you can just plane down some of the studs.

      2. If you don’t like what HD or the other big box stores sell go to a local hardwood dealer for the reds and other hardwoods you need if you need the footage needed for a bench and can afford a little more cost. Keeps your dollar at home also!

    2. ‘Fraid it’s generally an American thing to have the rounded corners although we have it here too but not for anything more than studs and such. I use a scrubb plane after laminating and that takes it down in a heartbeat, as does a convex cutting edge with throat wide open and the cap iron set further from the edge. A number 5 works fast too and planing at a tangent to the run of the grain 30-degrees or so so that you re cutting across the grain helps too. I should say that this will take no more than five minutes each side bit it’s not really necessary on the underside as long as there is no twist. Go for it!!!

      1. I think that lumber without the corners is called Dimensional Lumber here in the US but I could be mistaken.

  6. Paul one quesiton: Do you finish the bench with anything, or leave it as raw wood? I apologise if you have already provided that information earlier in the series … if you did, I must have missed it.
    Thanks, Chris

    1. Hi Chris, Sorry for the delay, I couldn’t get the reply to come up on my iPad. I do finish the bench as a practice because otherwise they stain and look unclean. I use either Danish oilm any proprietary brand will work or a water-based varnish. Two coats is ample as we don;t really want a built-up slick and slippy finish for a bench.

  7. Hi Paul, Hi all others reading this,

    I want to build my workbench
    soon and have one question about the tail-vise. I want to have a
    tailvise-like device but don’t need a heavy duty vise there. Has anybody
    any experiences with the Veritas Inset vise? This seems to be a
    useful solution. Should have enough holding power for a tailvise, the
    dog can be removed so that it is flush with the benchtop. Installation
    seems easy, Veritas is known for quality. So has anybody experiences
    with it or sees possible downsides I overlook? Thanks alot

    1. It does have enough hold for bench top work if that is your preferred way of working. You can also put a clamp in a vise and achieve the same results for most of your work. I don’t think this needs to be an either or though so go for both.

  8. For my newly-completed Paul Sellers-style workbench, I like the idea of 3-point contact for gripping pieces using the tail vise, but I don’t like the idea of drilling 3 rows of dog holes along the length.
    My idea is to accomplish similar gripping capacity by drilling a single line of dog holes in line with the center of the tail vise (my vise has the retractable metal dog on the moveable jaw), and, to provide 3-point gripping when needed, I’ll fit 2 wooden, removable dogs into the pad on the moving jaw, one toward each side of the jaw.
    Then, when I need 3-point gripping, I’ll set the two wood dogs in place to cramp the workpiece in 3 places–two at the moving jaw, and the 3rd at the drilled dog hole in the benchtop.

  9. Francois, It’s a workbench. You can’t mess it up. Poly is not something I usually use except on garden gates and boats. Danish oil is oil. I don’t use it much. On your bench you just rub on two coats and never touch it again. I would not want something slick on a bench as things slip around too much.

  10. Hi Paul! Greetings from Finland and thank you very much for all these wonderful videos and teaching projects. I must say I got much of my inspiration for “real woodworking” by watching you working with that bench. 🙂

    I’m determined to try to make a bench of my own next summer with your video guidance. I was just wondering if finishing the bench with 1-2 coatings of Le Tonkinois varnish would be a good idea? They say that it shouldn’t make a slippery surface…

    Here is a link for more detail if you like I understand you are a very busy man so if you have some spare time it would be nice to hear your feelings about that. Thanks again, and all the best for you!

  11. Sure wish I would have saw your video before I built my bench. Would have saved a lot of extra work. I made my bench two years ago and although it is a solid work piece, it caused me much thinking and unneeded work. grrrrr.
    My biggest disappointment is the solid core door I purchased to use as the top. Solid it is, but it is not what I hoped it would be.
    Here is Washington State, I have the same problem. dimensional lumber all have rounded edges.
    I have now view many of your videos and I am more then impressed.
    Thank you.

  12. I know that this is an old post but just wanted to say that I had an old bench made from rounded corner 2×4’s that I built at least 20 years ago that I wanted to fix but until I saw your video on repurposing an old #4, which I did, I never thought it was possible. I paid $11 for it and it worked beautifully. I didn’t get rid of all the rounding but that’s okay, it’s straight and flat and I’m very happy with the results.

    Thanks for all you do,

  13. attaching the face plates to my vise…I use dble sided carpet tape, works like a charm and no screw’s or machine bolts to worry with.

  14. Paul, I am building a bench 1750mm long with a Veritas twin front vise and tail vise..I am thinking of putting the front vise on the front left side (right handed ) and the tail vise on the back left hand side , this will give me a clear run when using the tail vise.What are your views on this idea. Kind regards,Tom.

    1. Is the bench free all around, up against a wall and by “on the back left hand side” do you mean directly opposite side of the bench or catty corner?

  15. I layed a layer of danish oil on so now I have to try to avoid the part of my brain that wants to turn a normal working surface into something pretty. It’s not a Picasso and will receive plenty of abuse in the years to come, but yet there’s still that little something inside that keeps telling me, ‘But you can make it prettier!’
    I’ll do my best to save ‘pretty’ for the finished pieces the bench is here to make them possible.
    Still, if I had to do the whole thing again I’d pick straighter lumber with fewer knots. On the other hand the knots are pretty..

  16. Hi Paul,

    In the video you mentioned a “quadrant” when reffering to the wellboard. At the end of this post you talked about additional features for the well.
    Could you please ellaborate on these topics?
    Thanks for all the teaching,

    1. I believe when Paul is saying “quadrant” he is referring to what is known in Canada as 1/4 round. Rounded quarter stock to keep the corner clean.

  17. If you don’t want the rounded corners, at least here in the USA, you need to purchase “rough-cut” lumber. This is lumber that is not planed on the four sides. It is rough cut and measured by quarters–so 4/4 is essentially 1″ thick, 6/4 is 1 1/2, etc. You can also by rough cut dimensioned, say 2×4, which is really 2×4 inches, not the 1 1/2 x 3 1/2 that dimensioned lumber is.

    I just bought yesterday 2x8x10 (so 1.5 by 7 1/4) southern yellow pin that I’ll rip in half for a 7′ bench and use the extra length for the legs/stretchers. I live in the south and went to three big box lumber stores and none of them carry 2×4 southern yellow pine. Looking forward to building this bench.

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