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Many readers were interested in Bill Liebold’s sliding leg vise, which he installed on his Roubo-meets-Dominy-style workbench (I’m just going to call this form the “Bill Bench” from here out).

Liebold liked the sliding aspect of the leg vise because when you used it in tandem with a fixed leg vise, you could clamp just about anything. Need to dovetail a 24″-wide case side? That’s child’s play for this set-up. How about planing an entryway door? Just as easy.

This sliding leg vise arrangement was shown in a plate in Andre Roubo’s 18th century treatise on woodworking, but I’ve never seen one in the wild on an old bench. Perhaps that’s because there is a weakness to the original design (or my employer is not funding enough trips to France for me). Liebold said the pressure applied by the screw could bow the front edge of the bench out. This occurred because the vise runs in a track on the underside of the benchtop. When hard pressure was applied, the tongue that rides in the track would push out in some cases, bowing the front of the bench.

Liebold, however, has now fixed that problem. The solution? Steel.

“Well, I just had to make my sliding leg vice work in a permanent way so I wouldn’t have to worry about it breaking,” Liebold writes. He lined the track with steel (you can get this from a home center).

So how does it work?

“Now the weakest part of the vice is the parallel guide,” Liebold writes. “I cinched down on a piece of basswood until I could hear wood starting to crackle. I was able to dent the basswood and I bent the brass pin in the parallel guide. Success!”
– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 7 comments
  • Bill Liebold


    The bottom "V" track is not a problem, I thought it would be when I started. It’s hard to see in the photos but the sliding panel drops down about 3/8" behind the "V" and engages the flat of the stretcher. It doesn’t ride up the "V" at all. It does work well, no need for metal there, but if you want to beef yours up, that’s cool. I like the rectangular cross section idea on the bottom track but I’d make it integral to the stretcher not an add on strip. When I first made this it was an afterthought so I used the groove and "V" track from the sliding deadman, after all it was already there.

    What I mean buy the parallel guide is the weakest part of the vice is that it is the thinnest bit of wood on the vice and it has a metal pin through it. If enough force is applied to the screw, at some point something would fail. I’m betting the pin hole would take the first hit. I don’t know how much force it would take or that I could even exert that much force without putting an extension on the vice handle. I’m not up for testing the vice to destruction, it’s not an airplane wing.

    What I’m trying to say but I’m not doing a very good job is that after redoing the sliding leg vice it is now as strong as the fixed leg vice. I can’t imagine either one failing under normal use and perhaps a little abuse.

    If you make one, I wish you success. After using mine for a couple of months now I don’t understand why this isn’t the standard vice setup on most workbenches, I like it that much. But that’s just me, I’m sure it fell out of favor for some reason.

  • Ron Ashford

    The use of the “angle iron” fixed to the underside of the bench is a brilliant solution, I have been puzzling over the issue of strength at the top end for some time. If the parallel guide is now the weak link in the chain, why not fix an angle iron on the inside of the bottom rail as well (though it will catch a bit of dust). To keep it from riding up on the inverted "V" track, why not use a rectangular hardwood strip (or brass) as a guide. If you allowed a bit of play in the fit, it should slide easily? With careful fitting, the entire assembly could lift off the track when not needed.

  • Bill Liebold


    The trip to France sounds like a great idea. You can do one of those documentaries like they do when they look for Big Foot, only you’d be searching for the elusive sliding leg vice. Did it really exist or was it just a drawing made by a mad woodworker?
    You can start in Roubo’s home town, do some background work and look for possible clues. Then it’s into the obligatory Range Rover and off you go.
    I can see you interviewing a kid who claims to have played on one that was in an abandoned barn that burned down the previous year. Then you’d go to the site and find two charred vice screws, tantalizing evidence that maybe there was a bench with a sliding leg vice.
    It would be a great way to tour France and since Roubo refered to a German bench you’d have to venture into southern Germany to practice the most useful German phrase I know; "Bitte ein Bit". You can bring Jeff Sciver along for color commentary. It would be a hoot.
    Sign me up for the signed DVD!

  • Jameel Abraham

    Thanks Bill for the info. Much appreciated.

  • Bill Liebold

    The vice moves more smoothly that the deadman. My deadman is so light that it bobbles around and if I don’t push it from the bottom the top tilts in the track and does not want to move. The weight of the vice keeps it down so I can push it from the top and it does not tip sidways it just goes down the track. And I do keep the track waxed.

    I like the hinge pin idea. I used brass because I have alot of it in the shop. I would have to cut the head off the pin though, it would bit into the vice slider or the bench leg if you use it there.


  • AAAndrew

    Interesting to read the little side mention of the brass pin in the parallel guide. I’m building my bench now and plan on using a standard 4" hinge pin for my parallel guide. It fits perfectly in a 1/4" hole with just enough friction to keep it in, but not so much it falls out. It’s cheap, easy and should be very strong.

    I’ve actually been looking at these pins as a possible way of creating a reversible draw bored mortise and tenon. I’m going to experiment with a sample joint and see how easy it is to pop them out using the flat top of the pin. I’m going to cut a small notch at the edge that I can use to get a screwdriver under the head. I’m thinking of this for the long stretchers on my bench and/or the tenons joining the top to the legs. I want the bench to be knock-down, but strong.

    We’ll see.


  • Jameel Abraham

    Thanks for posting these Chris. Nice solution, Bill. I wonder how easily the vise slides, since it’s much heavier than a deadman?

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