Nobody likes to bend over. So any device that keeps me upright is OK in my book.
The Moxon double-screw vise is one great example. Since December I’ve been cutting dovetails like crazy for several projects, and that vise has saved my back. Period. No soreness, even after eight hours at the bench.
So I was delighted to see Brian Coe at Old Salem pull out an “etaux” during my visit to the museum last week. The etaux is a miniature leg vise that raises up your work a good 18″ to 24″. Coe uses it for detail work, everything from sharpening scrapers to cutting
fine dovetails in thin stock.
I’ve seen two different kinds of etaux. One, like the version Old Salem owns, clamps in your tail vise. The rear chop of the vise is slightly wider than the front chop, so the vise moves smoothly when clamped. The parallel guide is a threaded wooden rod with a small plate that spins on it. This plate, by the way, is also found on full-size leg vises.
The other kind of etaux doesn’t require a tail vise – or any vise at all. It clamps to any horizontal surface. I first spotted this etaux in an early 20th-century French tool catalog, La Forge Royale.
After seeing Coe’s example, which is fairly modern, I think I’m going to have
to make one. It will give me something else to build using my thread-cutter.
— Christopher Schwarz
• workbenchdesign.net is a great place to learn about benches and explore their forms.