Chris Schwarz's Blog

Video: Build a Moxon Double-screw Vise

WARNING: The Society for Reverence and Decency in Woodworking Writing has ruled that this particular entry violates several of the organization’s rules. You are warned that this video refers to the musical sub-genre of “wife-swapping music,” and at one point someone says, “Come on ladies, tap that hole.” Please do not let children or sensitive adults watch this video.

Man I %^&$#@* hate thread cutters.

This class at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking almost went off the rails on the first day because of the thread-cutter malfunctions. Yes, plural.

We are building a lot of appliances this week for hand-tool woodworking, including a sweet Moxon double-screw vise. Bob Van Dyke, who runs the school, has carefully prepared some beautiful material. The posts for the screws were prepped on a CNC lathe. They are perfect.

So I thread a post for the vise. It won’t fit in its tapped hole. Hmmm.

I take the cutter apart and increase its depth of cut. The post still won’t fit. Hmmm. I go to increase the depth of cut again, and the brass clamp that holds the cutter in place snaps under finger pressure.

Grrrrrr.

We go to the Woodcraft store and get another thread cutter and scavenge it for parts.

I re-set the whole tool and thread another post. Still too tight. I take the thread-cutting tool apart and nudge the cutter forward. The tip of the cutter breaks off. GRRRRRR.

I replace the cutter and thread another post. It is almost perfect. One more adjustment…. and… uh…. yes, it’s perfect now. Whew.

One of the students turns to me and says: “I love to see you mess up. It makes my heart glad.”

Ha ha.

OK, let’s cut some threads! We start cutting threads, and after 10 seconds the threaded inserts that hold the entire thread-cutting tool come loose. The tool falls into two pieces while in use.

Gun please. What, this is New England? You don’t all have guns? OK, I’ll fix the ^%$@#&* thread cutter.

Ninety minutes later the stupid little tool is threading everyone’s posts like nothing was ever wrong. I hate that tool.

One student said: “Wow! This is so easy!”

— Christopher Schwarz

• You can find plans for the Moxon Double-screw vise in the December 2010 issue of Popular Woodworking.

25 thoughts on “Video: Build a Moxon Double-screw Vise

  1. K Anderson

    The Beall looks great but the largest one it 1″. Is a 1″ screw big enough for the vise? I thought the article in the magazine called for 1 1/2″ screws.

  2. samson141

    Did you know that a Beall – which produces far better threads – can be had for the price of two of these piece of crap Asian thread boxes that at best make mediochre threads?

    I have no connection of Mr. Beall. Just a satisfied customer. But I wonder why, as the father of the Moxon vise revival, you haven’t tried out the Beall alternative?

    Best,

    Sean

    1. macmarty15221

      I wonder if using a Beall threading tool would be antithetical in handwork class setting. (Even though the blanks were turned on a CNC lathe.) And can you imagine the howling of multiple laminate routers running at once?

      I like Graham’s post below: there seems to be an opportunity for one of the quality tool makers to bring out a decent manual tool.

      1. samson141

        You may be right about it not fitting with the theme of the class. I always thought Chris was a fairly pragmatic fellow though who would use the best tool for the job with out regard to whether it had a tail or not.

        I bet a LN thread box would be at least as expensive as the Beall set up! But at least then you could remain neander pure!

    2. Dan A

      Chris mentioned the Beall kit in a blog post (“Making your own wooden screws”) early last year. Just enter “Beall” in the search window at the top of the page.

  3. Mitch Wilson

    Well, look on the positive side. Bob will be plying you with some really good pizza before the week is out, pizza that is eminently enjoyable even without any beer. (Hey, this isn’t St. Louis, where they make pizzas with American cheese.)

  4. mrogen

    Chris,

    The first time you taught in Germany you described a way to age some hardware. I propose that at the end of the week, or sooner, you gather up all of the screw boxes that sucked and have the class ‘age’ the whole ^%$@#&* lot of them!

    Don’t forget to hydrate properly.

    Enjoy the rest of the week.

    Michael

  5. Andrew Yang

    I fussed with the screw box for a long while before determining that my copy cut a different thread pitch than the tap. This resulted in the screw making it’s way about 3/4 of the way into the hole before binding. Horrible little POS.

    In desperation, I ended buying a Beall thread kit. I think it was double the price but really no comparison.

  6. Graham Hughes

    Those things are incredible POSes. When they work, which takes a ton of fiddling, they’re fine, but getting to that point is really hard and I don’t think whoever specced those brass fittings really understood what they were doing. About 50% of them seem to self destruct whenever I touch them wrong.

  7. Phil Hirz

    It’s a good thing I’ve been to CVSW recently. Otherwise Chris’ comments would have me wondering whether the school really shared a wall with a Woodcraft or if they were sharing space with a brewery. Of course, there is nothing wrong with alcohol powered handtool woodworking. In fact the first Lie-Nielsen event I ever made it to was held in a winery. How cool is that!

    On that note … “Don’t forget to wipe!”

  8. archae

    I must admit that I’ve never used a thread cutter on wood. So is it the quality of the manufacture of the tool or the setup by the user? I bet Moxon encountered similar problems but at least he could complain to the local blacksmith.

      1. Graham Hughes

        Chris will, I hope, correct me if I’m wrong about this—but there’s nothing inherently wrong with the form. However, the ones that are usually found in stores have some of the worst quality control I’ve seen in woodworking; think Kunz level. The wood parts are usually fine in my (admittedly somewhat limited) experience; the metalwork is terrible. *If* the cutter will take an edge and *if* it doesn’t shatter and *if* the stupid brass holder doesn’t strip its threads or snap entirely and *if* the thing can be arsed to hold itself together at all and *if* the leprechauns haven’t somehow managed to switch your tap for one with a different screw pitch than the tool cuts, everything actually works pretty well. If these were made by competent people, like say LN or LV or Gramercy or even Stanley, getting one that worked would not present an insurmountable problem, but as it is I think if you buy three you will have enough working metal pieces for one (which, thankfully, are interchangeable; so you have three tap and die sets, it’s just they all use the same bits and you have to take them apart all the time).

        The taps, assuming you didn’t get a weird mutant one that cuts a different screw pitch, are almost always sane and good. But the die? The die is terrible.

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