Introduction: Pallet Wood Pipe Clamp Workbench Vise
I built a pair of matching workbenches in my shop a couple of years ago entirely out of pallet wood and they have been a staple of my shop ever sense. Now, ever sense I built them I had the intention of adding a moxon style vise to one of them to help hold work pieces and today is finally that day. To match the rest of the workbench, I of coarse decided to use one of my patented pallet wood laminations. For the clamping mechanism I used pipe clamps, these are very strong, cheap, and easy to source, so they make for a great solution.
Get the plans to build these for yourself (both the workbench and the vise): https://www.jackmanworks.com/shop/pallet-wood-workbench-plans/
Step 1: Materials & Tools
Wood glue https://amzn.to/2K6FeuJ
Pipe clamps (these ones have extra tall jaws, perfect for the vise) https://amzn.to/2HRA0m1
3/4" galvanized pipe for pipe clamps https://amzn.to/2vAPN6p
2-part epoxy with pumps https://amzn.to/2HXo0zD
Circular saw https://amzn.to/2vDhBH2
Power plane https://amzn.to/2K68GBd
Table saw https://amzn.to/2K91GDB
Jointing sled https://amzn.to/2vx8Cag
Screw clamps https://amzn.to/2vDicIM
Miter saw https://amzn.to/2HSUQBp
Thickness planer https://amzn.to/2qRU4MZ
Glue roller bottle https://amzn.to/2HkhKVd
1-1/16" forstner drill bit https://amzn.to/2JizOLU
Plunge router with edge guide https://amzn.to/2K7SsHG
Step 2: Prepping the Workbench
It feels so wrong to do it, but I start by cutting off the edge of my workbench top. This overhang off the top is a little shy of 3" and was designed for use as an easy clamping surface to hold things on the bench, but I also figured it would make the perfect place to install a full width vise in the future.
I cut the bench top keeping it just a little long so I don't hit the supporting member below with the saw, then I use a power plane to bring it down flat and even with the surface below.
Then I just work back and forth taking a little bit off at a time and checking the entire width with a straight edge to ensure it's flat while also checking it with a square to make sure the vise clamping surface is square with the top of the table.
Step 3: Disassembling the Pallets
Sourcing pallet wood has become more and more difficult. These days the only way to get usable material is to beat it out of them. They might try to just cower away and trick you, but jokes on them, you and I both know it's a 2 step process.
For a serious take on how to disassemble pallets, check out my other video here:
Step 4: Picking the Slats and Shaping Them
With my new pallet slats, they are all run through the thickness planer until smooth and then I match up pairs that are the same thickness and combine to over 6" in width since they will be glued side by side to make up the block that will be the vise.
Last thing I need to do to shape the pallet slats is to clean up the edges. I do this with a jointing sled on my table saw, this does the same thing as a jointer but instead uses the miter slot to hold the board straight while it runs along the blade giving it a straight edge. Then this edge can be used as a reference surface to rip the slats down to final width.
Step 5: The Glue-up
So now it's just a matter of making a big pallet wood and wood glue sandwich. Actually, there must be some weird chemicals in this wood because the wood just kind of took over things from here...
I hold it together while it dries with a superfluous amount of clamps and then let it sit for the night to dry before I pull it out of the clamps.
Step 6: Sizing the Glue-up
With the glue dry, I can now mill down my new chunk of pallet wood lumber. I start by cutting the ends even on the miter saw.
The whole thing is then sent through the thickness planer both to bring the two faces parallel to one another and also to bring it down to final thickness equal to the bench overhang that I removed earlier.
And lastly, the timber is sent through the table saw to cut one edge smooth and then to cut the thing down to final width equal to the thickness of the bench top plus the height of the skirt board of the bench.
Step 7: Reinforcing the Bench and Installing the Pipes
Now I have to prepare the bench to receive the vise. The skirt board is only a little over 1" thick so I need to beef it up a bit. I add in 2 more of these same pieces by screwing it to the legs with pocket hole screws and also by gluing them each to the skirt board and clamping the whole thing together while it dries.
The bench vise can now be temporarily clamped in place on the bench by smashing my toes a couple of times before getting it into proper position. I use a 1-1/16" forstner bit to drill a hole through the vise which will match the diameter of the galvanized pipe. This lets me drill through the vise and partially into the skirt board and then I can remove the vise and drill the rest of the way through, giving me perfect alignment.
With both holes drilled, I insert the pipes with the screw parts threaded onto the outside while I slide the butt end of the clamps onto the pipe and screw them in place to the back of the skirt..... so many innuendos
Step 8: Routing the Slots and Recess
Now the clamps are screwed tight and I trace out the face of the clamps so I can recess them into the outer face of the vise.
First I use my plunge router along with a straight edge guide to turn the holes I drilled in the vise into slots (the holes in the skirt stay as holes). The edge guide allows me to run the router parallel with the edge of the board and the slots keep the vise from binding up when it slid in or out. I use the edge of the hole as a guide to making the slot because if there is any play in the vertical direction, the vise will flop around when you're trying to hold things in place..... sorry guys I can't help myself
Then on the outer face, I use whatever is left from the lines that I traced out earlier and free hand route this pocket out (and fine tune the shape with a chisel). This allows for the clamp to recess inside the body of the vise by about and inch to keep it from protruding from the bench too badly.
Step 9: Finishing the Sizing and Final Install
Just as a final touch I chamfer the corner on the outside edge of the vise for increased aerodynamics, a cool visual, and also because I'll be banging my hip on the vise enough already so I figured I'd at least remove one of the pain points.
Now the vise can finally be installed into place and tested out. The vise has about 2" of travel by just from the screw part of the pipe clamps alone which will do the majority of jobs that I need done. For anything larger, I just reach under the bench and release each pipe clamp and pull it out to where I need it. Also worth noting is the fact that on the outer edge of the bench I installed that pipe clamp in further so that I would be able to clamp work at the edge of the bench.
Step 10: Flattening the Workbenches
Aaaaaaaand while we're at it, I figured why not flatten and refinish both of the workbenches. I know that the surface of both of the workbenches sags slightly towards the center so now is as good a time as any to fix that, plus I can't have a shiny new vise that doesn't match! I use a 4' level as a straight edge to determine where the high spots are.
Then I use my power plane to take down the high spots. I repeat this process about a dozen times, taking off less and less every time, until my straight edge is hitting the surface evenly across the width of both benches.
I'm kind of sad to see the old patina and last 2 years of history of work on the workbenches go, but the reveal of the fresh surface below was worth it. It reminds me why I turned this "trash" into my dedicated work surface in the first place. The last bits of this grime shown here were taken off just by sanding the entire surface with my random orbital sander.
Step 11: Refinishing the Workbenches
And then finally it's time to apply finish to reveal the amazing color that I know is in there, I believe in you pallet wood!! I use a 2-part epoxy to finish my workbenches. It soaks into the surface and hardens giving it a really durable surface finish, plus it helps to keep drying wood glue squeeze out from sticking to the surface (a problem I have on rare occasions in my shop). And just a plus side of it to is the fact that it will fill in any imperfections in the surface, particularly some of the nail holes in mine.
The before/after here speaks wonders. I just squeegee the epoxy on and then pull off any excess after it all soaks in. The outside surface of the vise gets the same treatment too.
Step 12: Glamour Shots
Thanks so much for checking out the build. For the full experience of what it's like to live in my head, please check out the full build video linked in the top photo. Enjoy!
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