Steve Latta’s Inlay Bench

Latta Inlay Bench 003

In one of Steve Latta’s many inlay DVDs, he discusses the design and construction of his inlay bench.  I built mine to do federal inlay work, but I have found it to be a very useful bench for other tasks.

I picked up an 8/4 maple slab at my local hardwood dealer.  The end of the board had a split in it.  I elected to go for the extra bench length and leave it in and fill the crack with epoxy.  I figured the end of the bench won’t see a lot of hard action and the crack is mostly cosmetic.  I drilled a single row of dog holes down the centerline of the bench.  I can use the dog holes with the metal dog on the Pony vise, with holdfasts, or with a Veritas Bench Pup.

Latta Inlay Bench 004

Each pair of legs is constructed like an I-beam or an engineered joist.  I had some 2×10 lumber kicking around and I ripped some 2x6s out of the clear sections of the board.  I cut a dado down the center of each 2×6 to accept a 1″ thick OSB stair tread for the web of the beam.  I glued the leg assemblies together.  Once dry, I  attached them to the slab with 3/8″ diameter dowels.  I used six dowels per leg assembly, three in each 2×6.  I notched the bottom of each leg to allow the inlay bench to be clamped to my main bench.

Latta Inlay Bench 002


Like I said, I find this bench to be very useful for things besides inlay work.  I can clamp my Moxon vise to the bench for sawing dovetails.  It is higher than it should be, but I like that height for sawing dovetails.  Then I take the vise off and clamp boards flat for chopping and paring dovetails.

I am active in the local woodworking club and I have taken the inlay bench to club meetings to demonstrate techniques.  It is heavy, but it fits nicely in the back seat of the car.  I can then clamp the bench to one of those white plastic tables.  It isn’t ideal, but it is much easier than hauling a full sized bench around.

This is a fantastic little bench!  Even if you don’t do inlay work, it is a very handy bench to have around.


Good news and bad news

I’ll start with the good news.  I am in absolutely no danger of running an end mill into the cross slide table.  Think of it as an old drill press table that has drill pock marks all over it like a dart board.  The quill on my mill just doesn’t reach that far down.  Depending on the bit, I’m about 3″ away from the cross slide table.  Good news.

Now for the bad news.  You guessed it.  I can’t mill anything thinner than about 3″.  After much pondering and sketching (on paper), I came up with a design for an auxiliary table that I can anchor to the cross slide table.

mill quill

I went to the steel supply yard and picked up a piece of 1/2″ plate steel that would get cut in half to yield the top and bottom plates.  I had a couple pieces of 1/4″ plate to serve as the “legs” of the table.  I milled shallow slots in one of the plates to accept the two pieces of 1/4″ plate.  I called in a favor to get the table welded together.  I think I owe some future machine work…

I took the table to a local machine shop to get it surfaced flat and parallel.  Easy breezy.  They put the table on their Blanchard surface grinder and now it is nice and shiny with a pattern that reminds me of the Spirograph I had as a kid.    It is so pretty I hesitate to mill slots or tap holes for hold downs.  I’ll get over it after I mill/drill the first hole.

spirograph completed mill table