Chris Schwarz's Blog

My Benchcrafted Moxon Vise

Perhaps I should be the last person to buy a Moxon-style vise kit from Benchcrafted. After all, I’ve built six of these highly functional vises for myself and friends – not to mention all the ones I’ve built during classes during 2010.

But instead, I was one of the first to line up for the kit offered by Jameel Abraham and his partners in Benchcrafted. Why? Because Jameel, his brother (hey Father John!) and his father don’t do anything unless they are crazy in love with the idea themselves.

This tiny company in Iowa makes the best wagon/tail vise I’ve ever used and the best leg vise I’ve ever used. Now they make the best double-screw vise I’ve ever used. They make three vises, and all of them are 100 percent crazy over-the-top winners.

I’ve had the hardware for the Benchcrafted Moxon vise for several months, but I’ve been too busy with teaching, writing and other woodworking projects to build the vise – even though it is only three sticks of wood. But every now and then I’d take the vise hardware out to show a visitor and spin the beautiful cast wheels on the Acme-thread posts. That in itself is almost worth the price of the kit.

Last week I decided to turn off the phone, shut the laptop and just build the vise. It’s not hard, but you do have to do some careful layout, precise boring and hand-mortising.

The real genius of the Benchcrafted kit is that the threaded posts are stationary. The only moving parts are the heavy handwheels. This reduces considerably the amount of effort you need to exert to close the vise chop.

In the version I built earlier this year, I used wooden screws that I threaded. Then I tapped the rear chop. (You can read all about my efforts here.) If you are really nuts, read about the original prototype I built using large-scale wooden threads and a 2-3/8”-thick rear jaw (like Roubo’s version). That’s here.

When I built my vise last week, I made one major deviation from the plans. I made a large stopped chamfer with two lamb’s tongues on the top edge of the movable chop. Why? Well if you have used this vise as much as I have this year you immediately know why. When you are cutting traditional half-blind dovetails you need to point your dovetail saw to the ceiling to overcut your baseline. The chamfer allows you to get your saw in closer and get a couple more strokes without having to adjust the drawer front or remove it from the vise.

And the stopped chamfer was fun to make.

The Moxon vise kit from Benchcrafted is $149 and the parts are made entirely in the United States. The quality is over-the-top, and the finished vise will exceed your expectations. I’m so sold that I’m giving away my wooden-handled version to a woodworking friend next week. The Benchcrafted version just earned a permanent spot under my Roubo workbench.

— Christopher Schwarz

I wish to the dickens I’d had this double-screw vise when I wrote the book “The Joiner and Cabinet Maker” with Joel Moskowitz. This incredible little book is part forgotten history and part how-to. You can read more about the book in ShopWoodworking.com. Check it out here.

23 thoughts on “My Benchcrafted Moxon Vise

  1. tsade

    In a recent ww forum post Derek Cohen took issue with the chamfer because it sacrifices the use of the full width of the top of the movable jaw as a reference surface for leveling the floor of half-blind dovetails (pins board).

    He also suggested that there’s no danger of sawing into the front jaw with the pins board properly placed.

    After using your vise with the chamfer, do you think that there are merits to Derek’s points? Any regrets?

    Thanks,

    Tony

  2. metalworkingdude

    “In the version I built earlier this year, I used wooden screws that I threaded. Then I tapped the rear chop. (You can read all about my efforts here.) ”

    This links seems to be broken, the other link to the prototype is fine. Searching doesn’t seem to locate the article either.

    1. Megan Fitzpatrick

      I don’t know where that post went; I’ll try to figure it out. For now, I’ve linked to another post about the vise, with video of the thing in use.

  3. Jason

    So now we’re going to need a Schwarzian video take on cutting a lamb’s tongue.

    I think they’re a neat detail, but I very rarely see them on new furniture these days. I don’t know if that’s because of changing styles or simply because it’s an uncommon detail and as such people don’t think to add it to a piece. I’m in the process of adding them to my workbench. While the router-cut chamfers look fine, I’ve never been disappointed in taking an extra step to add a bit more detail to something.

  4. tbeyer2

    I have been planning to build the Holtzapfel bench for a while. Would this vise work in lieu of the permanent wood screw vise? Would this Moxon be just a good supplement? Thanks. Ted

  5. Bill Lattanzio

    This vice is next on my list simply because I love dovetailing and I love my leg vice, and sometimes the two don’t mix well. I see that they offer it with the chop preassembled for about $100.00 more? Is this worth it? If it is I would certainly consider it. Cutting dovetails is my business, and as much as I love tinkering with tools I would rather just get to work working wood and not the tools themselves.

  6. chris k.

    Chris,

    I really like the idea of the chamfer and the lambs tongue is a beautiful way to transition it.

    I love this vise, but cant wait to make the Joinery bench that Shannon Rodgers made with his kit!

    I currently have a 5′ bench so when the moxon is clamped up I dont have much other space on the bench.

    While I made a wooden screw version last January the wood movement in the summer made it a BEAR to use. The Moxon from Benchcrafted is a HUGE upgrade!

  7. Recruiter

    Chris:
    I only have one concern about the Benchcrafted Moxon Vise. Since they are using metal handwheels, my concern would be that over time, the wood behind the wheels would start to wear out, fairly rapidly. A wood on wood friction would wear evenly, as with the original version. There doesn’t appear to be any type of bushing for the handwheel to ride on. Isn’t this going to be an issue?
    Dave

      1. Recruiter

        Thanks Dean: When I went to the site, I saw the picture you referred to, but thought it was part of the handwheel. When I finally went to the Gallery section, and watched the video, it all makes sense. It’s like poetry in motion!

  8. remdds

    I just assembled my Benchcrafted Moxon vise last week and got to use it all weekend. It is the best tool I bought all year. I was happy with my bench vise but because of all of all your cheerleading about the Moxon style vise I took the plunge.

    It is so fast and sturdy. It also brings the work up to a better work height.

    I did some half blinds and you are correct that the saw comes very close to striking the
    moveable jaw. When I nail it a few times mine will get the chamfer treatment like yours.

    Thank you, thank you thank you!!!!

    (Someone asked about what adhesive to use on the suede, use 3m spray adhesive-very clean and easy)

  9. Mitch Wilson

    Let’s not forget Joel/TWW’s Bench-on-Bench. While it’s twin-screw vice is not as pretty nor elaborate as Jameel’s, it works perfectly well. And it provides a nice workbench top that can put your half-blind’s up high, flat and in your face. Works well for me.

  10. Duncan D

    Just finished my Benchcrafted Moxon Vise this week. It really is a joy to use. What did you use to glue on the suede? How did you make the stopped chamfer and lamb’s tongues?

    1. Steve_OH

      I can speak from experience on that point: I just finished building a Moxon vice using the BenchCrafted kit and some hard maple. I am also using a similar clamping mechanism for another purpose (hard to explain without pictures…), this time made from ordinary 2X stock, which in this case is southern yellow pine (which is actually pretty stiff as softwoods go).

      The maple in the Moxon vise is unquestionably stiffer than the pine in the other device. I can make either one bend if I try hard enough, but it’s a lot more work with the maple.

      Is it enough of a difference to be a concern? Probably not–the suede clamping surface has such high friction that you don’t normally need to apply a lot of force. In any event, you can always increase the stiffness of a softwood jaw by making it thicker, say 2-1/2″ thick instead of 1-3/4″. Obviously, you give up some clamping capacity by doing that.

      -Steve

  11. sqmorgan

    Chris,
    Thanks for sharing your woodworking passion. I’ve been reading your books and look forward to starting a workbench soon. Just a quick question…Are you using dog holes to keep it stable to the bench? Thanks.
    Sam

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