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I mentioned that I wanted to finish trying to rehab my old wooden screw before I start my bench, since it will determine the size of the hole I bore into my leg (for the leg vise) and whether or not I’ll have to mortise the nut into the leg. If the screw didn’t work out, I would use my new threading kit (1 1/2″) and simply tap the hole in the leg – no nut required.

So now that I’m mostly done, I have mixed feelings. But first, the pics. Here’s the “before” picture:

Screw Head - Before

and now the “after” picture:

Screw Head - After

So it’s a great improvement over a rotting screw head; anyone would admit that. There are many things about this thing that I don’t like. First off, the shape is all wrong. I wanted a hexagon but a beefier hexagon. I cut it to size with my ryoba, which is a fantastic saw but ill-suited for cutting thick stuff – the blade is too flexible. So while the top of the head looked like a nice hexagon, the bottom was an indescribable shape full of unevenness. I made twice as many cuts as anticipated because I kept trying to fix my mistakes. I have to say, though, that my sawing improved as I went along, and I think if I had to do it all over again I might do quite a bit better. Funny how practice is.

Another thing I don’t like is that my pegs are uneven – they are centered on one side of the head but not the other (because of the unevenness – I fixed it mostly, but it’s still off). And lastly, the head seems the slightest bit crooked in relation to the shaft of the screw. You can kind of see it in the picture above.

So here’s the test, to determine what kind of woodworker I am. Will I leave it as is, and continue on with the bench? I do not doubt that once this screw is assembled to the bench it will function perfectly. Or will I keep tinkering, maybe even chopping this head off and start over, so that my screw head reflects the excellent craftsmanship that I hope will be characteristic of all my pieces?

I’m leaving it. I don’t like the look of it, and I don’t like that it will be one of the focal points of my workbench. But it’s a stinkin’ workbench, for crying out loud! If it works, I’m leaving it. It will also remind me of lessons learned along the way. If at some point I find myself with a nice block of wood that is a regular cylinder or cube, I may try again with a new screw head. But knowing how I am with “good enough”, my guess is that this will be my screw for a long, long time.

P.S. I’ve yet to finish this off with my plane, to get the pegs flush and to remove saw marks (I thought a flush cut saw wasn’t supposed to leave saw marks?), and after that I need to finish it. Just in case you were wondering.

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So I’ve received and devoured Chris Schwarz’s Workbenches book. I am pleased to find that I have thought so thoroughly about my bench that I have only had to make a few minor mental adjustments to my plans.

I’ve also been following with great interest the thickening plot regarding Schwarz’s Moxonization of his Roubo. It started with him piercing his crochet (ouch!). Where will it end?

As I’ve surfed the web trying to see where Chris is going with this, since it may influence my own plans, I’ve stumbled across a couple of others who are already there. Stephen Shepherd shows Moxon’s twin-screw vise and its excellent potential for dovetailing. Others have chimed in on this discussion; Gary Roberts has provided some linkage so you can follow who’s saying what. In short, this vise appears to be a bench accessory rather than an integral part of the bench. You can have it mounted to the front of the bench (but no one seems to know how that was done); alternatively, you can remove the whole assembly, clamp the rear jaw to the bench top and work a bit higher.

Since I enjoy dovetailing and plan to do a lot of it, I had already been thinking of making some sort of benchtop dovetail station. Moxon’s arrangement seems to meet my requirements: something higher than the 33″ benchtop; excellent clamping surface; easily removable. I might even tap the front of the workbench itself so I would have the option of screwing the front jaw directly onto the workbench. I suppose that would help for planing long boards on edge; I wouldn’t even really need to have the vise exert much pressure on the board as it would be simply sitting on the screws.

I’m not sure where I’d mount the vise at this point (if I tapped holes in the front of the bench), or how wide the jaws should be. In the engravings and drawings, the vise is located on the right front of the bench, but that could get in the way of my wagon vise. I’m considering centering it on my bench. And as to width, what’s the widest you would need for dovetailing – 24″?

Of course, all this talk of proper size of the vise is only necessary if you’re mounting it on the front of the bench. If you are merely clamping it to the benchtop, you can have a vise of any width. If the current one is too big or too small, you can just tap a couple of new holes in a new piece of wood, drill a couple of holes in what would be the front jaw, and you’re in business! If I end up doing this, I think I will also insert dowels into the base of the rear jaw which would tenon into the dog holes to support the vise, perhaps even rendering a clamp or holdfast unnecessary.

My apologies for the abundance of text with the absence of graphics. I don’t want to infringe on anyone’s copyright by showing Moxon’s stuff here, and I can’t run Sketchup on my computer (Linux) so I just have to hope that my descriptions work well with the pictures shown on the links above!

Bear with me. It’ll make sense eventually.

I’ve got two vise screws. One was generously donated by a “homeboy” from the Porch, Bill Taggart, when I visited his place a couple few years ago. The other was a $10 eBay purchase. I’m trying to decide which one to use in my leg vise. Allow me to present the two candidates, and then leave your verdict in the comments below.

Candidate A is a standard metal vise screw. I dunno, looks like about an inch or so thick, and the screw itself is about 12″ long. The nut might look a little odd to you because it was originally on a plate that was intended to mount to the underside of the bench. Bill Taggart hacksawed it off for me since I was going to mount it into the leg instead. I figured I’d just drill a hole in the leg to receive the nut, and then do a little chiseling to make room for the plate remnant.

Pros: Metal is strong. I shouldn’t have any problems with vise strength.
Cons: The screw is pretty short. Taking into account a 6″ leg and a 2″ jaw, I’ll be limited to clamping stock that is not much more than 4″ thick. I suppose I could bury the nut inside the leg during the glueup, which would give me an additional 4″ or so, but that would mean if I ever wanted to change vises I’d have to take an axe to the leg to hack the nut out, and then I’d have to build a new leg.

Candidate B is an old wooden bench screw (about 2″ thick) that I just couldn’t pass up for $10 on eBay. This thing is in rough shape. At first glance it might not look too bad:

But pick it up (gingerly, now!) and you see that this is a fixer-upper. First the nut. Outside – ugh. Nasty. But the inside is solid and the threads are in perfect condition:

The screw itself is in great shape. There are one or maybe two places where a small segment of thread is missing, but otherwise it’s solid. But the head of the screw…oh my:

Pros: The vise jaw would be able to open about 10″ or so. The threads are huge and in good shape, so the vise is theoretically very strong.
Cons: In order to keep the vise from shedding bits of wood anytime it’s handled, I’d have to plane/chisel/sand about 1/2″ or maybe more off of the surface of the screw head (I’d likely leave the nut as is). Would that affect in any way the integrity of the vise? There’d be very little shoulder to catch the jaw of the vise, but I suppose if the hole for the screw is exactly the right size, I wouldn’t need much of a shoulder, right?

I have now presented the two candidates. For which one would you cast your vote?

P.S. Oh yes. The title of this post. I was looking for a witty title so I went searching for quotes containing the word “vice”. The title above came from Thornton Wilder. Below, for your reading pleasure, are more quotes with the word “vice” that almost make sense with the word “vise”.

  • We do not despise all those who have vices, but we despise all those who have not a single virtue. – Francois Duc de la Rochefoucauld
  • Vices of the time; vices of the man. [Lat., Vitia temporis; vitia hominis.] – Francis Bacon
  • Times change. The vices of your age are stylish today. – Aristophanes
  • There is no vice so simple but assumes some mark of virtue on his outward parts. -William Shakespeare
  • Vices are often habits rather than passions. -Antoine Rivarol
  • Nurse one vice in your bosom. Give it the attention it deserves and let your virtues spring up modestly around it. Then you’ll have the miser who’s no liar; and the drunkard who’s the benefactor of the whole city. -Thornton Wilder
  • It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues. – Abraham Lincoln

My wife is out of the country attending a conference, and while I do have kid duty (age 4.5 and 3), I still manage to steal away from time to time to do some woodworking. Gotta love those DVDs that have the “Play Continuously” option!

So even though I’m supposed to be working on my bench, I get these ideas of things to make and want to act on them. One of them is to make my wife a little box. She has no need of a little box, but it’s the thought that counts. Well, the thought for her and also the thought of trying some more dovetails and maybe my first splines. Let’s be honest here.

But before I get started on a box, I thought it would be a good idea to make myself a couple shooting boards – one at a 90-degree angle, another at a 45-degree angle. I was initially turned on to shooting boards from Landis’ workbench book, and then the video I watched from fellow LumberJock Mot put me over the edge.

But just prepping the wood for the shooting boards is quite the hassle with the bench (simple cabinet) I have to work with! I only have an all-purpose vise on the top, but it’s bolted into like a 1/8″ top so it wobbles all over the place, and one day will just pull right out, I know it. The bench is so long that it is extremely difficult to cut on the right side of it, and even if I could, the cabinet storage underneath makes clamping virtually impossible if not done on the very edge.

I’m green enough as a woodworker that I don’t mind talking about (or posting pictures of) me doing crazy stupid stuff. Here is one such picture: me getting creative trying to saw off the ends of this scrap Ikea shelf. You can see the vice threatening to pull right out – thus my hand functioning as an additional clamp. Click the pic for full size:

Help! I need some clamps!

Oh, and about the title of the post. At one point I got frustrated, thinking I was wasting all this time just for a couple shooting boards. But then I realized the inherent value of these jigs and just how much time they will save me in the long run. Well worth the effort.

But yes, I did for one moment wish that I had a table saw.

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