Chris Schwarz's Blog

A Leg Vise Mystery

Woodworker L�©vis Th�©riault of Fredericton, NB, sent these interesting photos of a leg vise he purchased in an antique shop.

The real head-scratcher here is the round post at the bottom of the chop. I haven’t seen a parallel guide like this that wasn’t threaded. LÃ?©vis questioned whether the woodworker perhaps used a block of wood at the bottom of the chop (aka a “pile block“).

Could be. Here are two other crackpot theories (remember this is the Internet we’re dealing with):

Theory 1: The chop is so thin and the guide is so short that it’s possible this vise was used to grasp only thin materials. That doesn’t explain, however, the length of the screw.

Theory 2: Perhaps they used the round post like a holdfast? The post could have been in a hole that was fairly close in size to the post. Then they would jam the post in the hole (with their foot?) when securing the screw to wedge the bottom of the chop. It might be a bit of a pain to un-jam the post perhaps….

If anyone has any additional cockamamie theories, our lines are now open.

12 thoughts on “A Leg Vise Mystery

  1. diggerop

    I built a leg vise which is very similar about 9 years ago. Mine has a 1 inch rod approx 24 inches long which slides through a 1 & 1/8 inch hole in the bench leg.
    It is indexed by a locking device which comprises of an 8x3x3/4 piece of wood with a 1&1/8 inch hole at one end. The other end has a 4x3x3/4 foot fixed to the bottom at right angles.(An L shape.) To adjust the bottom of the leg, the lock is slid along the rod until the foot contacts the bench leg. As the vise is tightened on the workpiece, it causes the lock to wedge onto the rod. The locking effect is proportional to the clamping effort on the workpiece. It never slips and is adjustable in seconds.

  2. Paul Theriault

    My Grand father,Jean-Baptiste originally from NB, had a vise very similar to the one pictured. His vise had a strip of wood attached to the round dowel that held it in the guide hole on the bench. He worked only in stock 1 inch or less in width.

  3. Jonathan Hartford

    It is quite possible that the bench leg (the opposing chop) didn’t have a hole at all, and the vice was set up to work on a specific thickness of work.

    Many early woodworkers did specialize. If this came out of a shop with a large number of people working in it, then it could easily be a specific station in a line of manufacture.

  4. Gary Roberts

    Chris… I have a leg vise much like this one, but complete in that it has it’s back plate. The vise jaws can be raised and lowered as a unit to adjust to the height of the stuff to be worked on. The lower pin rides in a groove, keeping the entire vise horizontal. There is a handle to tighten the vise once the desired height is achieved.

    I was going to try and sell my vise, but after looking it over last week, I decided to keep it and mount it on some bench. Funny thing is, when I bought it at a flea market (for $18) I didn’t notice the arrangement. I did notice that it weighed a ton. Old ash is heavy stuff.

    Gotta get a picture of it online.

    Gary

  5. Daniel Grant

    I’d say your first guess (Theory 0?) is the most likely – inserting a piece of scrap of comparable thickness at the bottom is certainly the most straightforward method.

  6. John

    I use a stack of 1/4" strips of poplar, bound at one end with a bolt. It looks like a big wooden feeler gauge. I just stick the corresponding thickness below the screw and Bob’s your uncle.

  7. Kurt Schmitz

    That the post is so much shorter than the screw suggests (perhaps?) as shallow ‘hole’ set in the leg simply to keep the post in place so the vice could effectively hold the stuff routinely worked (fence posts???)

  8. matthias wandel

    If I was building a leg vise, I would built it just like that, and have a series of U-shaped shims to hang over the pin sticking out. It would be just as fast to take shims in and out as it would be to move the pin on the conventional design, and it would stand up to more load.

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