We all know that Joseph Moxon didn’t invent the Moxon vise. But perhaps the Italians did?
I spent a fatigue-fueled weekend researching some red herrings and stumbled on this circa 1300 hand-drawn illustration of the construction of Noah’s Ark. I found the plate in “Les Rabots,” a fantastic modern book on handplanes in French. (Someone should really translate it; please don’t ask me to do it.)
The drawing from Northern Italy shows six Roman-style workbenches outfitted with massive edge-planing vises that span the entire length of the benches. On one end of the vise’s jaw is a bench screw. At the other end is a parallel guide that is pierced by holes for wooden pegs. The parallel guide is the pivot point for the vise jaw and allows the worker to operate the vise alone.
(Interestingly, two of the four benches have the screw on the left side of the bench. The other four have the screw on the right side. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.)
Judging from the scale in the drawing these vises and benches are 8’ and 10’ long. So yeah, they could handle a 24”-wide case side for dovetailing.
There’s a lot going on in this drawing. So I’ve included a large version of it for you to explore in this link:
— Christopher Schwarz