It Floats. It’s Full of Stars…. - Popular Woodworking Magazine

It Floats. It’s Full of Stars….

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Schwarz on Workbenches, Woodworking Blogs


I have lost track of how many vises I’ve built or installed on workbenches. So my early-morning giddiness about the Benchcrafted Crisscross is worth note.

This week I’m putting a leg vise on my Holtzapffel workbench that will have both the new Benchcrafted Classic vise screw and the Crisscross Retro (instead of a parallel guide). I’ve used vises with the Crisscross installed, but this is the first Crisscross I’ve installed personally.

It is surreal.

When you install a Crisscross on a leg vise, you should install the Crisscross first. (What’s a Crisscross? I’ve been writing about these devices for many years. Here’s my first article from 2007.) Once the Crisscross is attached to both the chop of the vise and the leg of the bench, the chop floats in and out.

“Floats” is the only word, and it’s a word rarely applied to workbenches.

Today I also shaped the chop of the vise and got everything ready to add the Classic’s vise screw. But I am missing one Forstner bit that will finish the job.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 19 comments
  • AustinBob

    Can you comment as to why you’ve switched out the vise and how you like it? Since I’m currently building this bench with the wide twin screw, I am interested in your thoughts on it.

  • clafollett


    What a timely blog post. I have a Crisscross Solo waiting to be used for my bench build. After reading the installation instructions regarding bolting the front front rail to the leg, I’m debating on going with the parallel guide instead.

    In your book, the attached the rails for the Holtzapffel using traditional M&T joinery. Your video doesn’t make it clear if you had to perform any surgery or add a bolt to keep your front rails joint tight.

    Did you just route your channel for the Crisscross through the tenon? Would having a short tenon and drawbore pinning them be enough?

    • clafollett

      Typo Correction:

      In your book, you attached the rails for the Holtzapffel using traditional M&T joinery.

    • Christopher Schwarz
      Christopher Schwarz

      In the French and Holtzapffel benches, all the strength is in the joint between the top and legs. The stretchers are basically along for the ride.

      I indeed cut through the tenon to install the Crisscross and it is no problem whatsoever. It’s one of the great advantages of the ancient designs.

      Hope this makes sense.

      • clafollett


        Thanks so much for the fast response on this Memorial Day and thanks also for all your hard work! Yes, your response makes perfect sense.

        I’ve been toiling over this decision almost the entire weekend. I’m at that stage of laying out the joinery for the legs and rails. I think I have paralysis by analysis! I’m really wanting to use the Crisscross Solo. It really is a nice piece of work. I’d hate to not use it with it sitting right there on my freshly finished top while I plan my next phase. I will forge forward as I originally planned without fear my joinery will be compromised. 🙂

        This leads me to another question. Since I can now plan for this, would it be better to cut the M&T to fit the channel or to route the channel with the tenon installed?

        My original plans called for 3″ tenons at the end of my rails. My legs ended up at 4 7/8″ square. Did your mortise and tenon bottom out visibly in the channel? Would cutting them to bottom out right at the edge of the channel look cleaner?


  • Plane Simple

    I really like the way you shaped the chop. Just so happens I will be shaping the chop for my new leg vise this weekend. Did you use a bandsaw to cut the radii at the corners of the cuts or is there another technique?

  • TikhonC

    Have you ever tried to make a Saint Peter’s cross out of wood?

    • Christopher Schwarz
      Christopher Schwarz

      I have not. But you should! I’d use maple, ash or hickory for strength.

      • TikhonC

        I’m thinking it’d be a good idea to use three arms to avoid the twisting strain, with the middle one forming one side of the cross, and the other two being parallel for the other side. I’ll have to think it through to be sure that, if it breaks, it wouldn’t make the Benchcrafted one too hard to install.

        It’ll be a while before I get to making my new bench, but I’m definitely going to give this a try.

  • fltckr

    Very nice Chris! This may be a future upgrade from the bottom ratchet & roller style chop I have now. Also, for the Galoots out there; my wagon vise screw was made by sawing off the threaded end of a yard-sale weight-lifting set. No, it doesn’t float, but it satisfies my urge to “make do”.

  • jwaldron

    Neat stuff, impressive gear. Question, tho:

    Looking at the size of the chop, the “edge chamfer” on the top seems to be quite a lot. I can see it’s beefy enough for 4/4 stock and 8/4 stock will probably be okay, but to my eye, it looks excessive and limiting on the most essential working part of the piece. Why so large a bevel?

    • apbeelen

      If I may…in my humble opinion, it looks better with a large bevel, and I doubt there’s any loss of strength, especially with maple. You could probably clamp a 1953 Iso Isetta in there without a problem. I also see a benefit if you’re sawing a piece of stock clamped in the vise…the large bevel prevents it from getting in the way of your sawing.

    • Christopher Schwarz
      Christopher Schwarz

      The bevel is for sawing, rasping and chiseling. It allows me to drop the handle of my tools without ramming into the chop. It’s especially helpful when sawing half-blind dovetails.

      The chop is 3-1/4″ thick with a 1″ flat at the top. As clamping force radiates at 45° angles and the vise screw is 8″ from the benchtop, there is unlikely to be any flexing at the top of the chop in my experience. There are also a lot of other factors at play: the chop toes in a little at the top, its face is covered in suede, and I never look to hold anything so hard that the chop would dent it.

      So I’m 100 percent confident the chop will be fine. It’s worked in the past….

      Hope this makes sense.

  • apbeelen

    Very cool.

    By the way, are those your legs, or are you riding a chicken?

    (sorry, I couldn’t resist…I get the same comment all the time)

  • robert

    Is that some sort of bird’s-eye, quilted or otherwise figured maple on the inside of the back leg? It looks like a cool piece of wood.

    • Christopher Schwarz
      Christopher Schwarz

      Yup. That is some crazy maple. A friend sold it to me about 10 years ago. It looks a lot like big leaf maple, but I don’t think it is. Weird stuff.

  • Christopher Schwarz
    Christopher Schwarz

    Yes, I routed.

  • bstjohn

    Yup, that pre-shaping chop sure is monolithic. And I love the cove detail on the finished chop. I know you avoid routers if possible, but did you use one for that?

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