Monday, October 12, 2009

Leg Vise

For my workbench's front vise, I went for a leg vise. This is simple and cheap to make. Mine has a 2" thick hickory chop and a old vise screw I got for $8. I made the slot for the parallel guide bar, but some how it ended being way too big, and the bar was too loose. To fix this I clamped it to a large square block of wood, and then put a bunch of slow-setting epoxy in, and some wooden wedges. Ater it dried, I pegged it. It doesn't look great, but it is stout. Since my wooden screw is so beat-up, I decided to use a system first shown on Jameel Abraham's Blog where the guide bar slides on two small wheels, thereby taking the load off of the screw. (He later turned this into one of his products at Benchcrafted, the Glide Leg Vise.) I used small caster wheels that I cut from swiveling casters. The first one I installed was the one behind the leg, it is not adjustable. Since my side stretcher is so low , the wheel is mortised directly into the leg. The front wheel is in a wooden bracket which allowed to adjust it up and down to achieve optimal results.
In this photo, the back wheel is not visible, because it only sticks out about a 1/16" from the stretcher. The location is marked by the protruding nut.

To drill the 2 1/4" clearance hole for the screw I used a hole saw. I had never used one before, and discovered that it works much faster if there is little pressure. The chop could be drilled all the way through, but the leg was drilled from both sides. The garter, the piece that locks the screw in so that when it is released, the chop will travel backwards, is made from 1/8" thick aluminum (it's blue from layout liquid). Since the garter slot is not flush with the shoulder of the screw head, I had to mortise it in. The extra space to the top of the garter is essential. This allows it to be installed and uninstalled.

The nut for the vise screw is lag bolted in. The location is very simple to mark, just tighten the whole thing down, and mark.
I left the chop a little long so I could trim it flush with my bench top. At first I used my LN low-angle block plane, then my Stanley #4, both with poor results. Then I used my Stanley #6, which worked perfectly. It is a very solid tool, and I think that the weight helped give it good momentum to push through the cut.

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