Trying to explain a “vise garter” to someone using only words is impossible for me. I’ve tried. I’m not man enough to conquer the garter.
The job of a vise garter is to lock the vise screw and the vise chop together, allowing them to move in and out in tandem. Usually you need to add a garter if you are using a wooden vise screw , metal vise screws have this function built into their casting.
You can use a vise without a garter, but it’s not as convenient because you’ll sometimes have to manually pull the vise chop away from the workbench after you release the screw’s tension on your work.
There are two basic kinds of garters: Interior garters and exterior garters. Both work exactly the same way; the only difference between them is their location. Exterior garters are mounted on the surface of the vise chop. Interior garters are driven into a mortise in the vise chop that intersects with the hole for the vise screw.
So how do they work? Let’s look at some photos. The photo below shows the ash wooden vise screw I installed in our new workbench on Monday. This screw is from BigWoodVise and is , in a word , extraordinary. It’s perfectly finished and dimensionally accurate. It’s worth every penny.
See the two grooves on the shaft? One is right up against the hub, and the other is a little ways down the shaft. The groove next to the hub is for exterior garters. The other groove is for interior garters. So this vise screw will work either way.
We’re using an exterior garter for this leg vise (I think they’re easier to install), so the first step was to plane down some hard maple so it fit easily into the garter groove. These grooves are about 3/8″ wide.
Then I cut the garter stock to size , 3-3/4″ x 3-3/4″, ripped it in half and bored a 1-5/8″ hole through the middle of the two pieces while they were clamped together.
Then I assembled the leg vise. I put the garter around the groove and dropped the screw into the vise chop. Then I screwed the garter to the vise chop. Don’t use glue , you want to be able to remove the garter for repairs to the vise someday.
The photo below shows how everything locks together. You can see the 2″ hole through the vise chop, the two halves of the garter and the 1-5/8″ hole that is created when the garter is screwed down.
I like the diamond shape of this garter. And when we paint it black I think it will look really sweet , though it’s not as nice as the garter Lucy wore on our wedding night (just in case she is reading my blog this week).
- Christopher Schwarz