Chris Schwarz's Blog

Benchcrafted Vise Hardware Now on the Roubo

When I first built my Roubo-style workbench, I wanted to see if I could work without an end vise. So for the first year or so I used my planing stop, holdfasts, battens and geometry to steady my work as I planed it.

But I got tired of the whack-whack, shuffle-shuffle necessary whenever I needed to plane across the grain of panels (called traversing) or plane diagonally on any size board.

So I started futzing around with wagon vises, which I first spotted in an early 20th-century French tool catalog. My first attempt was rather “agricultural” , let’s call it the “Early Cletus Period.” I built one using a veneer press screw, some wooden runners, chewing gum and a fancy French-style escutcheon plate.

I soon left the Cletacious period and designed an evolved wagon vise that used a bigger acme vise screw, which is on the English-style workbench in my book on workbenches.

But today I am walking fully upright, leaving my sloping forehead ways behind me. My Roubo workbench is now outfitted with the ultimate wagon vise by Benchcrafted.

In the interest of full disclosure, I paid full price for this vise and spent my own money , Le Roubo is my workbench. (The prospect of my company moving all my stuff out of the office is probably one of the reasons I’ve never been downsized. It would take weeks.)

The Benchcrafted is a nice piece of work. After installing dozens of poorly made vises (and a few good ones), I was impressed to see how well cast and machined every component was as I took it out of its box.

The vise’s installation instructions are thorough, well-illustrated and to-the-point. Benchcrafted also includes full-size templates that make laying out all your cuts and holes a snap.

For me, installing the Benchcrafted was a retrofit. So it was a little more involved than if you were installing this vise on a new bench under construction. The vise requires a cavernous cavity on the underside of your benchtop to house all its finely machined guts. So I spent some serious time hogging out waste with a router and a mortise chisel.

Then you need a beefy end cap on your bench to hold the vise screw. My cap is about 3″ thick and is lag-bolted to the benchtop. A new bench could easily incorporate dovetails into the design or some sort of breadboard construction.

With the cavity and end cap complete, the rest of the job was precision boring and fitting. Use a drill press to install the vise screw. The templates and the hardware are made to tolerances that are too tight to hit with a brace and bit.

And use a router to install the runners. The runners guide the sliding dog. If the runners are out of line, the vise will bind up. Precision is paramount.

Then it’s just a matter of fitting the sliding wooden dog and lining the interior faces of the jaws with leather (I used some scraps I found at Michael’s craft store and yellow glue).

How does it work? Like a dream. The dog moves quickly and smoothly back and forth. And the wheel on the end doesn’t interfere with the soles of my planes (like on the Cletacious vise). It is, without a doubt, completely worth the $350.

And though my co-workers laugh when I say it, I think this is the last end vise for the Roubo.

- Christopher Schwarz

20 thoughts on “Benchcrafted Vise Hardware Now on the Roubo

  1. Mike Siemsen

    It reminds me of the Studley bench with hand wheels for the vises. My biggest problem with it is the the large hole in the bench top. Even a 3/4 inch hole in my bench top creates a vortex that sucks every small part on my bench top into it.
    great job, I hope it serves longer than the year Megan gives it.
    Mike

  2. Ron

    Well, it goes with your bench like I like cooked carrots – not so much. But dang, it looks to me like it functions great. This is one of the few vises I’ve taken a shine to – and since I’ve never built a bench I shouldn’t be so opinionated.

    Are your co-workers fielding bets on how long you are going to keep it? :^)

  3. Alan

    Rob,

    It seems this vise causes a lot of controversial comments mostly based on the cost. This is a well designed vise, and well designed products are not cheap to produce.

    Like all nice things in life, I suspect most of the naysayers will be the ones that do not own the vise. The few that own and use them will love and cherish them, IMO.

    A round of applause to Jameel for creating the vise, and to Chris for ponying up to the bar for a better solution than he had. Chris was the one to show the masses how to create a cheaper version, if cost is the issue. Having a nice upscale version is not bad, IMO.

    I believe the hand wheel on the end makes sense, it is just natural to spin while having your dominant hand on that side.

    I don’t understand the maintenance point on a traditional tail vise though, most tail vises are much harder to build and fit into a bench, and require a lot more work, and then on top of it one needs to do more maintenance on it? What’s the point? If maintenance is something you want, go buy an English car. *wink*

  4. Rob Giovannetti

    And yes, I really do have OCD, which makes woodworking a PITA. I’ve spent the last 4 years making workbenches just so I can find what I like and don’t like. Thank goodness I have an understanding wife and a ready supply of Doug Fir, lol.

  5. Rob Giovannetti

    Ha ha! That’s why I love ya, Chris! :)
    I’m not worried about panels, I’m concerned w/ frames. The rear/lower right corner is unsupported w/o a full-width chop. As for maintenance- well, my planes, saws, chisels, and of course, power tools, all require maintenance; it comes w/ woodworking.
    As for a no-work zone- never had a problem. I have rarely needed to use the front right corner of any of my benches, and when I have, I could have easily performed the operation a few inches to the back, or a foot to the left. :)

    The main point I was trying to make is this: in your (excellent) book and on your blog, you’ve repeatedly said to make things as simple as possible. With all the work you’ve gone through- and myself as well (oh the benches that have come and gone…)- I don’t see a quick-release or a wagon vise being any simpler than a tail vise. Use what you like, use what makes you happy; that’s what I say.

    And, yes, I like debating this, and almost anything, really, too. :)

  6. Christopher Schwarz

    Rob,

    I’ve used a lot of tail vises (a benefit of my position), which is why I am where I am.

    Tail vises sag. They require maintenance. They create no-work zones on your benchtop.

    Also, a quick-release with a large chop offers plenty of support for panels in the end vise position. On the Holtzapffel, for example, I never have more than 3" of length unsupported. Nothing is going to sag in a 3" gap.

    But all in all, it’s highly amusing to me to carry on this debate, which started in the 18th century and has continued on until now.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Chris

  7. Rob Giovannetti

    Chris-
    You’re my friend, and I respect you greatly, but…
    You have gone a long way and spent a good chuck of change and time to avoid having a traditional tail vise. No offense to Benchcrafted, but I can only see using a wagon vise as a retrofit. With decent woodworking skills, a tail vise is easy to make, and even easier if using the German hardware sold by Lie-Nielsen. I have made every type of vise I can think of during my OCD-driven bench building, and I have to say, the traditional tail vise is top on the end. A quick release may be easier, may be cheaper, but it neglects one very important function of an end vise, namely, work support. When planing a face frame, let’s say, the work is supported at best only halfway at the corner, where as a tail allows the work to be supported by the bench. A wagon vise does this as well, but I find it difficult and tedious by comparison. I really do hope it works well for you and anyone else who wants to use one, but I’ll stick w/ my tails :); I think it evolved as the dominant end vise for good reason, and mine have never let me down. Cheers, Rob.

  8. Christopher Schwarz

    Carl,

    You can use round or square dog with the Benchcrafted. I personally prefer round dogs because you can install them anywhere as a retrofit and they are compatible with holdfasts and the wide array of bench accessories out there.

    Chris

  9. Carl Stammerjohn

    Very clean hardware and installation. I’m sure it was a challenge to do a retrofit installation.

    Question: If you were to do it from scratch, would you still use the round bench dogs? You have probably expressed a preference at some point, but I don’t remember seeing it. It looks like rectangular dogs could be used with this hardware.

  10. Tom Cross

    The Veritas twin screw vise and wooden screw vises are just about identical in price. Which is the better choice for a face vise? I am building a Holtzapffel and am pondering which one to buy. What are your experiences for the face vise?

  11. Christopher Schwarz

    Larry,

    Mine is custom. The stock one would work, but the wheel would be further away from the front of the bench. Jameel asked his machinist to do a reverse one for me.

    The black marks on the Roubo came from this trip:

    http://www.popularwoodworking.com/woodworking-blogs/chris-schwarz-blog/workbenches/tool-overload-in-a-good-way

    The legs rubbed against some cheap rubber straps that were pinned between the toolbox of my truck and the bench. I’ve tried to get them off.

    Chris

  12. Christopher Schwarz

    Dave,

    A quick-release with a big chop is an excellent choice, which is what I have on my Holtzapffel bench. However, the Roubo already had a large cavity in it from the Cletus-style wagon vise. Patching the cavity and then mounting the quick-release would have been another serious job.

    And plus, I really wanted to try out this hardware so I had an opinion on it.

    Chris

  13. Dave

    Chris, looks like you did a great job installing that beautifully crafted hardware.

    I have a question though; why a wagon vise verses a quick-release vise with a big chop and a dog hole like on the Holtzapffel? It seems to me you give up a good 6-9" of workpiece length capacity with the wagon vise which could be a real limitation, especially on a shorter bench.

  14. Larry Gray

    Beautiful piece of hardware. Sanitary installation, too.

    However, looking at your photos, I’m confused (but that’s always a short drive for me). The photos on the Benchcrafted site show the vise screw on the back side of the dog block; i.e., farthest from the front edge of the bench. On yours, the screw is nearest the front edge, with the block behind it. Can the dog block base be oriented either way, or is this something you special-ordered?

    And BTW, I’ve been meaning to ask … what the heck are those black marks on the legs of your Roubo?

  15. Narayan

    This vise is on the very short list for my next bench. If I had the room to store one until that bench is made, I’d have purchased one last Friday.

    My current end vise is a Veritas Twin Screw, which I find extremely versatile. Due to the way my shop is arranged, I often find it more comfortable to face plane on that side of the bench; the face vise on my bench (also a Veritas Twin Screw) generally only gets used for edge planing. One of the things I find nice about the Twin Screw as an end vise is that having multiple dogs in the jaw, paired with matching dogs on the bench of course, secures panels quite well. I can plane both crossgrain and with the grain without having to rotate the panel. On several occasions I’ve tried to work a panel with just one set of dogs and the panel will almost always skew.

    The wagon vise seems particularly well-suited to board work, and less suited to panel work. Is my assumption incorrect?

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