Chris Schwarz's Blog

Declaring Victory with the Double-screw Vise

Joseph Moxon I could kiss your dessicated worm-eaten corpse.

My newest version of the double-screw vise illustrated in Moxon’s “Mechanick Exercises” (1678) is a complete success. The vise is simple , five pieces of wood. And the only special equipment you need to build it is a wooden threadbox and tap (a $45 investment). And it takes only about an hour to construct.

When clamped to a bench or a table or any horizontal surface, the vise raises your work up to a nice no-stoop height (45″ if you please) so you can saw, chisel or lay things out without bending over. And when you are done with the vise, it stores away against the wall.

When I completed this version of the vise, Senior Editor Glen D. Huey said simply, “Make me one, and I’ll buy it.” That might be the highest praise I’ve ever received for my work.

We’re going to feature complete plans for the vise in a future issue, but it shouldn’t be too hard for a slightly clever ring-tailed lemur to suss it all out. Here are some details.

The front jaw is 1-3/4″ x 6-1/8″ x 30″ and pierced by 1-1/2″ holes that have 24-1/8″ between their edges. The rear jaw is 1-3/4″ x 6″ x 36″ and is pierced by two 1-1/2″ holes that are tapped. There is a rear support at back of the vise that is 1-3/4″ x 2″ x 30″, which stabilizes the rear jaw. And the two screws are 2″ x 2″ x 12-1/2″, with 7″ of the handle turned down to a shade under 1-1/2″ and then threaded.

This morning I asked Megan and Bob to try it out with their own tools and give me some feedback. Bob said, “I might not give this back.”

If you hate stooping when dovetailing, or you want a twin-screw vise but don’t want to rebuild your workbench, this is the answer.

The following is a short video showing how easy the vise is to use.

- Christopher Schwarz

Workbench Resources I Use All the Time

- “The Workbench Book” (Taunton) by Scott Landis

- “Mechanick Exercises” by Joseph Moxon. Now available in reprinted form.

- “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction and Use” by me. I know this sounds like a shameless plug, but I actually do use my own book all the time. I’m getting old.

30 thoughts on “Declaring Victory with the Double-screw Vise

  1. Frank Filippone

    Question on your choice of wood species for the screws…. I think it looks like Walnut…. What species would you use, what species would you NOT use, and why? I was really surprised at not using maple for the screws…. Too Hard?

  2. www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawkUwiu8IV6n_YgaLNz4HT_59i8SAswYTvI

    Seeing this I realized how much it is like the setup I have in my outfeed table using pipe clamps that go through the table and a board that – drops down over the pipes allowing you to do the same thing except at table height – the same pipe clamp system the new-fangled workbench uses. If you don’t care about tradition – build one of these with short pipes and pony clamps instead of the wooden screws, even easier..

  3. Gary Roberts

    Chris

    Wonderful! To see something so simple and so ancient put back into use… Which only makes me think that people should not over-think how to make one. If you don’t have a tap & die, use a sliding wedge or a couple of modern day clamps. Whatever works.

    Now to see some examples of the treadle and pole lathes…

  4. Christopher Schwarz

    Couple things:

    Moxon thought of this before Joel Seaman did. And no one here is saying I am presenting a new idea… I claim NO new ideas.

    Second, the vise shown there in Landis’s excellent book is about half the height of the one shown by Moxon and the one I built. And when it comes to stooping, 3" is huge. (Can I say that here?)

    Just saying.

  5. Christopher Schwarz

    I’ll try to wrap this up in a neat package:

    Yes, we considered all sorts of other ways to secure the vise to a surface. Clamps and holdfasts are the winners because:

    1. That arrangement will work *anywhere* — even the kitchen
    2. You already have clamps
    3. You don’t need dedicated holes (the vise can move elsewhere).
    4. The clamps/holddowns provide DOWNWARD pressure against the bench. That is soooo key.

    This is as simple as we could make it. You are welcome to add complexity to yours (we woodworkers always do).

    The reason for the rear support is that we didn’t want to have to ask you to buy 10/4 stock, which is harder to come by that 8/4.

    And as to the "undersized" comment about the dowels. You have latitude — a bunch of it — if you know how to manipulate your threadbox. If your dowels are oversized, shave them down a tad with a spokeshave. Don’t use sandpaper — that dulls the cutter of the threadbox.

    You can get away with a lot here. Promise.

  6. Ryan M

    Sorry, back to the lathe-less question. I looked at the Midwest Dowel site – they do have 1-1/2" diameter but I am worried about your comments in the video about it being critical that the dimension be slightly less (for the threading tool). How "critical" are we talking here?

    Nitpicking here because I want to build one :)

  7. David Chidester

    That’s awesome Chris! I can’t wait to build one! Especially since I don’t have the time or the funds to build a new workbench yet. This is exactly what I need! Thanks for sharing!

    By the way, does Robert have any thoughts on Kevin Drakes new dove tail saw that he’s using in the video? I bought mine from him at the Lie Nielsen Tool Show at the beginning of this year and just got it about two months ago. I think it’s awesome, though I don’t really have anything to compare it too since it’s my first one.

  8. John Walkowiak

    How about making the rear support of a size that would allow the thing to be clamped between the dogs while still flush at the front? It just got simpler.
    Do you realize by raising the work piece you have greatly changed the angle the saw is to the work? I can forsee another discussion on saw handle hang angles in the near future.

  9. Brian

    Chris,
    Awesome Vice! Have you thought about making it with round dogs on the bottom? That way you could just tap it in the existing dog holes. Then you might not even need the clamps? Just an idea, that you’ve prolly already thought of, or ruled out for a good reason. After writing this, I’m thinking it might be too much stress on the 3/4 dogs. Thoughts?

    Brian
    Seattle, WA

  10. me.yahoo.com/a/g77zPrkczPB8.ad63uxEVK8Z.w--

    I appreciate the bench fixtures stuff a lot. I have a junk bench with no interest in building a better one any time soon. The projects are very helpful for bench procrastination, and maybe some relief from thinking about the weaknesses or compromises in every bench design and worrying that even if you build the "perfect" bench, you’ll find something it doesn’t do the third time you use it.

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