Small Changes to my Moxon Vises - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Small Changes to my Moxon Vises

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Schwarz on Workbenches, Woodworking Blogs

Moxon Vises

Since I began making Moxon-style vises in 2010, I’m made several dozens for students customers and have made some small changes to the way I build them.

Above all, I try to keep my Moxon vises as simple and compact as possible, which is why I haven’t added tables or other gizmos. Here is what my latest one, which ships out today, looks like.

The most significant change is that I now bevel all four edges of the front chop, as shown above. This reduces weight without changing the clamping pressure applied by the screws (clamping pressure radiates from 45° from the pressure point).

Why reduce the weight? To shift the balance of the vise onto the bench. The vise shown above sits with the rear chop on the benchtop without tipping forward. That makes it easier to clamp the vise down with only two hands. The bevel on the edges also makes it easier to saw the pins in half-blind dovetails without the saw encountering the chop.

Moxon Vises

The second change is that I line both jaws with adhesive cork instead of leather. Cork is inexpensive, easy to install and I can plane and bore it like wood. I like to have the cork cover the entire surfaces of both chops so I can clamp outside the screws. This is helpful for when sawing the half pin off the tailboard in casework. With the cork I can get a lot of pressure both inside and outside the screws.

The handles are also a little different. After so many disasters with the Chinese wood-threading kits I buckled down and bought a 28mm German one from Dieter Schmid. Yes, it’s expensive, but this thing has paid for itself many times over already. (Note: I also had to buy a 23mm Forstner for the pilot hole.)

Moxon Vises

Another change to the handles: I now use teak offcuts whenever possible. Teak is ideal for this part. It is tough and is naturally waxy. These are a joy to work with no squeaking.

Moxon Vises

The final change is mostly cosmetic. I now add a few die-forged French nails to attach the cleat to the back of the rear chop – in addition to gluing the cleat. I just like the way it looks.

The Moxon vise is still one of my most-used shop appliances. My back thanks me for the vise every time I have to cut dovetails for casework or drawers.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 17 comments
  • 8iowa

    Arey ou going to have an instructional DVD on making this vise, or perhaps include the plans in a new book?

  • amoscalie

    What no lambs tongues!

  • jbatesy

    Great looking vise. I noticed the handles don’t have cranks. Do you get enough torque tightening these by hand?

    • Christopher Schwarz
      Christopher Schwarz

      The original handles from the 17th century were like there. They offer more than enough pressure.

  • WadeH

    I do understand paying for quality and I can see Chris paying that kind of money for the tap and die. But for someone like me who would only make maybe 5 or 6 of these in several years. Is there a cheaper version available that would still work pretty good?

    • tsstahl

      You might give Beall a look:
      You need a router, too, which can drive up the cost significantly.

    • Christopher Schwarz
      Christopher Schwarz

      Vintage ones can be rehabbed. They were a common tool at one time.

    • Harvey Rogers

      Thanks for another excellent post and another appealing design!

      This is probably a really dumb question, but I can’t figure out the answer looking at the pictures. Do you clamp this vice to the workbench table top using holdfasts? If you do, do you have to worry about the depth of the vice in relation to the distance between the front edge of the bench and the holes in the benchtop? If not, how do you clamp it?

      Apologies if the answers are obvious.

      • Christopher Schwarz
        Christopher Schwarz

        You can use either holdfasts (if your holes are in the right place) or just clamp the rear jaw to the benchtop – that’s why the rear jaw is longer than the front jaw.

    • Alex

      I have had really good success using acme threaded rod by epoxying it into the handle. Then you simply attached an acme thread nut to the back and you have avoided the need for a tap and die.

  • BaileyNo5

    OK….I’ll ask the obvious question…..why not bevel the top of the back piece as well?

    • BrianRamsay

      He wants to shift the center of gravity over the bench so the vise can sit unsupported. If he removed weight from the rear chop he’d be negating the weight loss from the front

  • jeckman

    I use a Moxon vice from the Robert Wearing Jig and Fixture book. A couple of chunks of leftover 2x stock, a couple of threaded inserts, some all-thread, thrust washers, and a couple of tool handles, pretty much stuff I had lying around so effectively free.

  • rmertens

    What dimensions have you found most useful for your vise? Do you keep a long one around for casework, and a shorter one for narrower stock?

    • Christopher Schwarz
      Christopher Schwarz

      I just have one. There is 24-1/4″ between the screws. The jaws are about 7″ wide.

  • Jennie Alexander

    The Dieter Schmidt tap and die is certainly something. Said this before. I am thrifty Jennie and the price is scary if you don’t have one already. So I will say it again. Mine is stamped West Gemany and it is still functioning perfectly. Beware , Company literature suggests soaking the thread stock in water before threading. Yuk. There goes dimension, here comes cutter rust. Use tallow.
    Would like to drop the term Moxon Vise. It isn’t. Moxon himself called it the “double bench screw” , a wonderfully apt term.
    Thrifty jennie cobbled up a double bench screw for under $50. You don’t need the the Dieter Schmidt tap and die. Chris has the two of them that Mike Siemsen kindly made for us – the dovetailer’s biggie and the modest chairmaker’s version. Chris, please send me the baby and test the biggie. They aren’t mellow and traditional but what a price. I would like to hear from Chris if he think’s they work.

  • Kevin0611

    I know it wasn’t the priority but that simple bevel really makes the vise stand-out aesthetically.

    (and yes, I’m all for beautiful tools and appliances in the shop. We love wood, we love craftsmanship. Why not surround ourselves with it in the shop when possible and not impractical)

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