If a leg vise has a disadvantage – and I’m not quite willing to admit that it does – it would be its parallel guide.
The parallel guide is a strip of wood at the bottom of the leg vise that prevents the vise’s chop from spinning like a propeller. It also creates the vise’s leverage and makes it pinch your work right at the top of the chop. However, to do its job the parallel guide requires that you move its pin when you want to hold really thin stock or really thick.
And moving that pin is something that would-be bench builders don’t like. They always say something like: I want a leg vise, but I don’t want to stoop all day moving that pin.
If you are one of those anti-stooping skeptics, then you should take a close look at the photos, drawings and video in this blog post. The St. Peter’s Cross (sometimes called “Croix de St. Pierre”), eliminates the parallel guide and the pin and the stooping. I first wrote about this bench accessory in my 2007 book “Workbenches: From Design and Theory to Construction and Use” and showed a drawing of one from the old book “The Amateur Carpenter and Builder” (Ward, Lock & Co.).
Lots of readers have asked about the cross in the last five years. Some asked: How does it work? Does it really work? It doesn’t really work, does it? Why would you discuss something that doesn’t work? But most readers asked: Where can I get one?
Here are the answers: It works like scissors. Yes. No, it works. Because it works. Benchcrafted.
Yup, soon the bench geniuses at Benchcrafted will be offering a cast St. Peter’s Cross that you can install on your workbench and eliminate the parallel guide and pin and stooping. Jameel Abraham and his brother, Father John, brought an oversized prototype of the hardware to the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event in Chicago to show off. They had it paired with their Glide leg vise hardware, and the action was nothing short of magnificent.
Jameel says they are working with a patternmaker now to make the patterns for castings and they hope to begin offering it by the end of the year. No firm word on pricing. But it will be easy to install on any leg vise, either new or as a retrofit.
I ordered one so I can install it on the Roubo bench I built in 2005.
There are a lot of interesting details to discuss about this hardware. How is it best attached? Where did its name come from? Is it a French innovation? Can you make one from wood or lawnmower blades? But I have to get to the second day of the show right now.
So stay tuned this week for more entries on St. Peter’s Cross.
— Christopher Schwarz