Build a Sliding Deadman (Board Jack)

After finishing installing the leg vise, it was time to give it a helping hand by adding a sliding deadman (sometimes called a board jack). The deadman helps support longer workpieces and that comes in especially useful when hand planing the edges of long boards. It's fairly easy to build and can be made from a 4' long 2" x 8" board and a short 3/4" dowel.

A sliding deadman.

I got a bit of a head start during our workbench build where I routed a groove for the deadman in the bottom of the bench top while I had it flipped over. I made two passes to route a groove that was roughly a 1/2" deep and 1/4" wide that will hold the top of the sliding deadman in place.

A router cuts a groove in the workbench top.
A router cuts a groove in the workbench top.

Then I started on the deadman and its guide rail by surfacing a 2" x 8" board at my jointer and planer that was about 6" longer and the same thickness as the visible part of the front stretcher.

Surfacing a board on a jointer.
Surfacing a board with a planer.

Next, I headed over to the table saw and set it to 45 degrees to start work on the rail that the deadman will rest on. To do this I made two beveled cuts to form the ridge and then cut a small piece off of that was slightly wider than the heads of the screws that I'll later use to attach it.

Surfacing a board on a jointer.
Surfacing a board with a planer.
A screw is placed on the guide rail.

To finish the guide, I made one final rip cut before heading to the miter saw to cut it to final length.

Ripping the guide rail at the table saw.
A miter saw trims the guide rail.

Next, I squared up one end of the board and then cut it to rough length leaving about 2" extra for test cuts.

A miter saw cuts a board.

To cut the V-shaped groove in one end, I set the table saw blade to 45 degrees and raised it just enough to reach half the board's thickness. I then added a piece of tape to make repeating the cuts easier and cut the notch out along the bottom edge.

A table saw blade at a 45 degree angle.
A table saw cuts the end of a board at a 45 degree angle.

The cut ended up needing to be a little deeper, so I squared the edge back up at the miter saw and then repeated the cut at the table saw after raising the blade slightly.

Ripping the guide rail at the table saw.
A miter saw trims the guide rail.

Once I was happy with the cut, I took it over to the bench to mark the height of the front of the deadman as well as the tongue that rides in the groove in the top. I then started sketching the final design using a few Forstner bits as guides for the desired curves.

Ripping the guide rail at the table saw.
A miter saw trims the guide rail.
A miter saw trims the guide rail.

After that was done, I took it over to the table saw and cut it to length leaving just a little extra to use to dial in the depth for the tongue.

Ripping the guide rail at the table saw.
A miter saw trims the guide rail.

To cut out the remaining waste for the tongue I just made several overlapping cuts using a clamp to secure the board to the miter gauge.

A miter saw trims the guide rail.

After a little sanding, I took it over to the bench for a test fit. Since I wanted to avoid routing an overly deep groove in the bench top, the deadman and rail had to be slid into place at the same time. Unfortunately, this prevents it from being removed, but if I decide in the future that the deadman gets in the way, I can always remove a small section of the guide rail next to the leg vise and simply slide it out there when it isn't needed.

A miter saw trims the guide rail.

Next, it was time to drill a bunch of holes! I started by drilling out holes for the curves in the sides and then finished up by drilling out all three rows of holes in the center.

Ripping the guide rail at the table saw.
A miter saw trims the guide rail.

I then took it over to the bandsaw and cut out the waste on the sides and then cleaned up the bandsaw marks with my sander before routing a small chamfer along the outer edges.

Ripping the guide rail at the table saw.
A miter saw trims the guide rail.
A miter saw trims the guide rail.

After rounding over the edges of the holes with a piece of dowel and some sandpaper, I wiped on a little boiled linseed oil.

Ripping the guide rail at the table saw.
A miter saw trims the guide rail.

And to help it slide a little smoother I applied some paste wax to the guide rail and the top and bottom of the deadman.

A miter saw trims the guide rail.

Finally, since the groove that I routed in the top didn't extend all the way to the edge, I cut out a small notch in the top-right of the deadman to allow it to slide all the way to the right side of the workbench.

Ripping the guide rail at the table saw.
Ripping the guide rail at the table saw.
A miter saw trims the guide rail.

I then finished up by countersinking a few screws in the guide rail to attach it to the bench.

Ripping the guide rail at the table saw.
Ripping the guide rail at the table saw.

Then it was ready for a quick test which, and it ended up working really well! I definitely recommend making one if you plan on doing any hand planing at your bench. In the next video, I'll finish this workbench series by adding an end vise and some other small upgrades!

Ripping the guide rail at the table saw.
Ripping the guide rail at the table saw.

Materials & Tools

Be sure to check out Our Workshop page for more details!

Materials

  • Guide Rail & Deadman: (1) 2"x8"x4' Southern Yellow Pine Board
  • 6" - 3/4" Oak Dowel

Tools