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This week I’m cutting a bunch of half-blind dovetails in oak – oak on the pin board and oak on the tail board.

This is somewhat trickier than dovetailing softer woods, or when dovetailing a soft wood, which compresses, into a hard wood, which does not. Add to that the fact that oak really likes to rive, and you have to be on high alert when chopping out your waste.

The most difficult part for me is chopping out the waste in the half-blind tail sockets. There are times when I have to chop straight down into the socket to remove waste in the corners. If I chop too vigorously, I can (and have) split the pin board.

Moxon to the rescue.

One of the nice features of any twin-screw or double-screw vise is that you have a huge clamping surface to play with. So when I need to chop out my sockets, I secure the pin board so the end of the pin board is flush to the top of the vise’s jaws, as shown in the photo above.

Knock wood, but I have never split a pin board when chopping in this manner.

There is one inconvenience: The sockets fill with waste. So I have to unclamp the pin board at the end, raise it up in the vise, reclamp it and then do my final clean-up in the corners.

This slows me down a bit, but not as much as having to reglue a pinboard that I have cleaved in twain.

— Christopher Schwarz

The plans for the Moxon vise are featured in the December 2010 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, which is available in ShopWoodworking.

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Showing 22 comments
  • davidkalton

    Why not use the shop vac to clean out? Will save a lot of time releasing and reclamping.

  • Steve

    I love this picture, Chris. Maybe you could offer some woodworking calenders or art prints…

  • rmcnabb

    More woodworking words from Megan! Down with the Bearded One and up with the Redhead!

  • DoctorJ

    It looks like the edge on one side of the board is contained within the vise and the other raised above. I thought the jaws of the vise were level with each other?

  • K Wilson

    A minor linguistic quibble – it should be “that I have cloven in twain”, something anyone from the 1700s would know. If you’re going to be archaic, gotta do it right. ;-D

  • Clay Dowling

    Glad I’m not the only one that happens to. Built a gentleman’s valet for my sister in law’s boyfriend, only to have the tail board split out when the fit was a tad too tight. Thankfully, the same properties that make oak rive so easily also hide glue lines really well.

  • metalworkingdude

    What, no video with groovy music showing a split propagate across the board?

  • ecafsub

    Shop vac? Heresy! He should use a bellows.

  • mdhills

    Can you get similar benefit by using a backer board? This way you can keep the sockets above the lip of the Moxon, affording better access to alternate the chopping and paring.

    (this is what I’m doing now after having one piece split… has worked so far, but don’t have enough run time to be sure it always works)


  • Ajax Alexandre

    I can see a shop vac making it into your shop to clean out the sockets.

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