The Best $139 I’ve Spent on my Bench
After 19 years of building workbenches and testing workholding devices, I am darn picky about what equipment I have on my benches.
In truth, I don’t have a lot of vises on my benches because I prefer simple workholding. But when it comes to my leg vise – the most important part of my bench – I am an absolute fool for Benchcrafted’s Crisscross. Paired with the company’s Classic vise screw, you get a leg vise that has no equal. And I can actually say that because I’ve tried (and endured) every form imaginable on the planet.
I have the Crisscross currently installed on my Holtzapffel bench, which is at the back of my shop. At the front of the shop I have an 18th-century-style oak bench that I vowed to keep very un-modern. No tail vise. No parallel guide for the leg vise. No dogs. Just a holdfast, a planing stop and a dirt-simple leg vise for workholding.
After 19 months with that setup, I am satisfied with everything but the leg vise. I want a Crisscross. And so today I started installing one – I bought the “retro” because it’s easy to retrofit on an existing bench.
Why am I so wild about the Crisscross? Because it makes workholding absolutely effortless and allows me to clamp things that would be painful to deal with if I had a quick-release vise. It works almost like magic. When the jaw encounters the work, the two iron arms tense up against the leg to hold the work in the perfect position without bowing, racking or denting the piece.
The technology has been around for a long time. I’ve seen it advertised in 19th-century publications. But for some reason it never caught on like it should have.
I love it. And if you are thinking about building a bench this year, I highly recommend you consider adding a Crisscross. It’s $99 for the kit for new benches and $139 for the retrofit version.
The Benchcrafted site is down for inventory today, but they will reopen on Jan. 1, 2016. Read all about it here.
— Christopher Schwarz