Chris Schwarz's Blog

Joseph Moxon’s Bench Screw

I’m starting to think that a bench crochet pierced by a screw is likely the great-grandpappy of the venerable shoulder vise , the favorite face vise of dovetailing demon Frank Klausz.

The earliest image I know of this set-up appears as a crudely sketched addition to the bench shown in Joseph Moxon’s “Mechanick Exercises.” Modern-day old-school woodworker Peter Follansbee uses this vise on his bench, and this afternoon I added it to my Roubo.

I made the vise’s screw using a 1″ oak dowel that I found behind my bench last week. A manual thread box (minus its cobwebs) made short work of this task. Then I drilled a 7/8″ hole through the ash crochet about 1-1/2″ from its tip. To finish up the work on the crochet, I tapped the 7/8″ hole.

The bench screw’s handle is 1-3/8″ x 1-3/8″ x 5″ ash. I drilled a 1″-diameter hole about 3-1/2″ deep into the end grain of the handle. Then I planed the handle to an octagonal shape and rounded the ends a bit.

To assemble the handle, I glued the dowel into the handle, then pinned the handle to the dowel using two 1/4″-diameter dowels. The dowels are at 90° to each other. You cannot overbuild a vise. Really.

The threads on the bench screw are pretty fine , six teeth per inch. As a result, the screw isn’t sprightly in the in-and-out department. However, it doesn’t have far to move. Its grip is impressive. So impressive that I think I’m going to install a cushioning pad on its tip to prevent it from denting my work. It practically bored a hole in a pine board.

Then I took my leg vise off.

Let the experiment begin.

Next week I’ll build the other bench accessory — the one that has my mamilla looking like drill bits.

– Christopher Schwarz

12 thoughts on “Joseph Moxon’s Bench Screw

  1. KAS

    The way to keep a leg vise in conjunction with a bench screw ala Moxon would require a benchtop that ‘runs long’ on the left end (and the right if one wishes to keep the legs centered on the bench). I’m not ready to give up a leg vise (optimal when planing the edges of boards) for a bench screw, but if I were building a (second) bench might try to accomodate it. Let’s see how CS gets along without a leg vise…

  2. www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmvDYjBHlGAGLyQdygiHL_nM1SaRrDxzsM

    Couldn’t you have something like the planing stop (i.e. square chunk of wood sliding through a mortise) but on the front face of the bench, to the left of the vise? Then you would:

    1. Slide out the stop to the thickness of your piece

    2. Clamp your piece and make it rest on the stop

    3. Plane away

    4. Be able to just slide out the stop completely, if it gets in the way.

    I’m building a Roubo workbench, and your bench is a fantastic source of inspiration! Thanks for the detailed reports on its construction.

    Federico

  3. Rich

    What sort of mark does that screw leave on the board it’s holding? Could put a pretty deep indentation into softer woods.

    Rich

  4. wapitiscat

    Your work bench inspired sexual innuendos have started to make me uncomfortable. And this is from a guy who enjoys the occasional double entendre. But mamilla and drill bits in the same sentence has crossed the line. Please seek the therapy you so obviously need. Now, get back to screwing your workbench.

    Todd

  5. jennie alexander

    Chris: Peter Follansbee has run away to Maine and left us to squabble about Moxon and Holme. Thanks for your version of the Moxon-Holme bench screw. In the version here on Light Street the overall closed projection of the screw and handle from the bench is but 4 ½ inches. The handle and screw are turned from one piece. The handle is only 2 inches high and 1 ¾ in diameter. The thread is 2 ½ inches long. The screw tightens easily by hand. Most threaders will not thread all the way to the handle. A slight relief is turned beneath the handle to allow the threader full use. It hasn’t weakened the oak screw.
    I am interested in your use of the term “crochet.” In Cottgrave’s 1611 French-English Dictionary, the term seems to refer to various manner of “hook.” I believe that Felibien, our French source of 17th century tool illustrations (and likely Moxon’s also) refers to the “bench hook” as a “crochet.”
    Will Follansbee award us with quantities of maple syrup if we resolve all Moxon-Holme issues before his return?
    Jennie Alexander

  6. Thomas J. Hamernik

    Maybe more of a ball-shaped handle? Won’t stick out so far, easier on the hip/gut/crotch when you collide with it!

  7. woodlooking.blogspot.com

    Nice idea

    An alternative could have been to use a wedge combined with a sloped groove in the crochet. As the top crochet already needs hammering, it is not a problem to hammer the wedge.

    Damien

  8. Christopher Schwarz

    Jon,

    The screw would be further away from you than the screw on a leg vise.

    But if I get bruised, I’ll be sure to post it.

  9. Jonathan

    It looks like the screw and handle would be in my way all the time. I’m sure that I would have a gigantic bruises on my hips from that thing if I had it on my bench… which doesn’t exist yet, but… you know, when I get the time 🙂

  10. raydrake

    Mamilla…..drill bits… why not pencil erasers. That was a shrewd way to avoid the censers. Works well with the photo you posted the other day 😉

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