Chris Schwarz's Blog

Meet the Etaux from Old Salem’s Shop

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

Other Workbench Resources:
• Plans for the Moxon double-screw vise are in the December 2010 issue, which you can download from our store.

workbenchdesign.net is a great place to learn about benches and explore their forms.

• I’ve written two books on benches that you might fine useful. “Workbenches” and “The Workbench Design Book,” are both available in our store.

15 thoughts on “Meet the Etaux from Old Salem’s Shop

  1. Adam

    I’m pretty sure it’s called etaux because it’s referring to the two chops. Kind of like scissors is plural. Etaux might loosely be translated as jaws. But don’t quote me on this, I’m not sure.

  2. me.yahoo.com/a/IwSoprMPzZN1eglv1PmV_Ib_Zig-

    I have a much better idea–just create a trap door covered trough in front of your workbench. When you need to adjust the height for comfort you just open the trap door and stand in the trough. As you get older and stoop over more the trough will fill with sawdust and the appropriate height will be maintained…

    Seriously though, thanks for sharing this item with us in your blog– it serves as a reminder that discomfort is not a requirement when ww’ing… now or in the past. I have done a similar thing with a single board (albeit a very thick one) and a couple of clamps though doing so is a much less elegant solution.
    Lawrence

  3. Chris K

    I built a Moxon and used it a little, I hope to use it more this summer after school is out. I had considered using my screwbox to make the leg vise for a bench I hope to build this summer, but the pitch of the screw is still pretty fine when compared to the 2" bench screws.

    I cant wait to see your plans for the etaux, I will certianly love to make one!

  4. Greg M

    Score one for the traditional tail vise. I don’t think the first form of the etau (which simply means "vise" – etaux is the plural form) would be useable with a wagon vise.

  5. www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmfMxarUhnhpC0yAuLhFnccVXKNzLDK3_4

    Every time I see talk of a fancy jig to avoid bending over, one thing always strikes me; why not sit down? I simply pull up a properly sized stool and plop myself down. Of course, this becomes an issue if dovetailing wide carcase parts, where you don’t always have someplace to put your legs, but is there some drawback to sitting that I’m missing? That said, I still want to build one of these anti-stoop jigs…

  6. Niels

    Chris,

    Wow that’s cool- I almost looks like an early mongo saw vise.

    In the version from La Forge Royale, do you think there was a practical use for the flat surface on top of the table clamping section? Also what style are you thinking about making?

    Cheers,

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