Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Roubo: Sliding Deadman

I wasn't sure that I needed a sliding deadman on my workbench, but the coolness factor was too enticing. I had to build one.

Many deadmen are built from one piece of wood and are wider than the one I made. I used three pieces of wood so I wouldn't have to cut up such a wide piece of cherry.

The center post is joined to the top and bottom pieces with mortise and tenon joints; the top piece has a tongue that rides in a groove beneath the benchtop; and the bottom piece rides along a V-runner that's glued to the bottom stretcher.

Because my benchtop slides off the legs, I didn't need to plow too deep a groove for the top piece in order to be able to remove the deadman. The groove is only 1/2" deep and 3/8" wide.

You can cut these joints a number of ways—with hand or power tools—but I opted to use a variety of hand tools.

The wider the top and bottom pieces of a deadman, the less likely it is to rack as you slide it along.

But because my bench is compact—the inside width between legs is only 27"—I kept them pretty small. This way, the deadman could slide as close as possible to each of the front legs.

I've been using my bench for awhile now and am surprised to find that I actually use the deadman, so it's not the unnecessary feature I expected it to be.

But I still think it's cool.


Jonathan said...

Kari -
The deadman looked nice, and I loved how you constructed it. Why did you glue the triangular guide to the rail versus screwing on? I guess since you can take your top (hee hee!), it's not a big deal to take off the deadman. Alos, how do you like your plow plane?


Kari Hultman said...

Jonathan, one of my goals in building this bench was to not use any hardware except for the garter on the leg vise, so I didn't want to screw the runner to the stretcher. It works fine with the glue. I love my plow plane--it was sharp and ready for work right out of the box.

Chris Adkins said...

I love how the bench turned out Kari. And glad to hear that you are using the deadman. I have always been concerned that it is not going to be that useful on my bench either, so I am encouraged that I will make use of mine also.

Dyami Plotke said...

Looks great, Kari. I can't wait to see it in person. I think I need Caitlin to move again. ;-)

mwh said...

Kari: Beautiful work as usual. Par for you sets such a high bar for the rest of us.

I'm curious how you use yours, and how it works. Do you use holdfasts with it? I recently completed (well >90%) my Roubo, including a deadman with a groove on top and V-track at the bottom. I reproduced it--as best my feeble skills allowed--exactly as outlined in Schwarz's 1st workbench book. But mine won't work with holdfasts. When I try to clamp a board's face to the workbench for support when jointing, the hammer blows and "spring" of the holdfast just lifts up the deadmean, and no tension can be set.

Thoughts? How have you successfully used yours? Maybe there's an execution malfunction on my part.


Frontier Carpenter said...

Looks very solid great bench

Anonymous said...

Yeah!! I've been hoping you would show how you did this! I was wanting to do mine with hand tools and wasn't quite sure how to go about it. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Nicely done Kari. Something you probably already know, but a sliding deadman is also known as a sliding board jack.


Kari Hultman said...

Chris, you might consider adding another hole toward the top of your deadman. The closer the holes are to the top of your bench, the thinner the board you can work with. The thinnest board I can get away with is 7" wide.

Dyami, you're welcome to visit anytime!

mwh, I use a Veritas Surface Clamp with my deadman. Is there a lot of play in yours with the tongue and groove at the top? If so, maybe you can shim the tongue so it's not so loose. I don't know how thick most deadmen are, but maybe that has something to do with it, as well. Mine is nearly 2" thick, but I don't really know if that matters or not. I have not tried using a holdfast with my deadman, so I don't actually know if mine might have the same problem as yours or not. Sorry I'm not more help.

Thanks, FC!

Marilyn, there are other methods of stock removal, so if you don't have all these same tools, I have no doubt you'll find another way. You know more than you give yourself credit. ; )

Dean, that's right. I forgot about that term. Thanks for mentioning it. I'll still use deadman, though, because all the non-woodworkers who see my bench raise their eyebrow when I tell them what it is. heh.

Vic Hubbard said...


As usual, you created something of extreme beauty. While many of us added to and tweaked the design of
M. Roubo, you completely took his design and made it your own. As Sam Maloof would have said, "Beeyouteeful!"

Anonymous said...

Deadman it is then. By the way, I remember when Megan Fitzpatrick built her LVL workbench she called it a sliding deadwoman.


Anonymous said...

Very sexy Kari!
You still win the bench contest (you knew there was a contest, right? ;) )
I really admire that you stuck to not using any hardware. Much respect

Anonymous said...

Very nice.
An interesting feature of your design is that you don't have end grain sliding on the V runner. The runner might better resist to wear. Did you wax it?
As I have less confidence then You in my ability to have a perfect match beween the two V, I would have taken away the sharp edge of the runner or even made a small groove in the bottom of the V of the deadman.

Kari Hultman said...

Thanks, Vic! :o)

Dean, I remember reading that about her deadwoman. Perhaps I should have opted for deadchick or deadlady. :D

Thanks, Chris. Greta has a few more dings now, but I still think she's pretty.

Anon, I did not wax the runner. The maple is so smooth and, as you pointed out, the V-groove is edge-, not endgrain, so the two slide together easily. I have seen a groove in the bottom stretcher of workbenches, but I imagine they would fill up with sawdust and shavings pretty quickly, making it difficult to move the deadman. The V-parts are pretty easy to make--just draw the shape on each end and scribe or draw lines along the length of each piece. Then just remove everything in between your layout marks. You can do it.