A place for me to display some of the varied projects that come out of my shop, as well as to "talk" about some of my experiences working with wood.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Bench Vise Upgrade

I built my workbench over 20 years ago as one of my first real woodworking projects. It is what is known as a European style with a face vise and end vise with sliding dog block.There is lots of talk today about different types of benches, but this is the original and still my all-time favourite design.
I have never been one to jump on the trend bandwagon just because everyone is talking about it.

heavily cropped shot of original end vise handle

I had been tossing back and forth a few ideas with my machinist buddy and wanted a better solution for the end vise than the old style wooden handle I had replaced 3 or 4 times over the years. When the vise was being used the handle was constantly in the way with the wooden part in the wrong place, if you know what I'm saying.

We were talking about wheel design for a Moxon vise (more on that in another post), and I thought a wheel would be great for the end vise, the challenge was the apron is only 3 1/2" high and the post is centred which means a wheel of any size would protrude above the bench and interfere with its use. To solve this problem we flattened one of the edges and when the vise is not in use it hangs out of the way.
View showing relief cut in handle to clear material on bench top when
not in use.

Vise wheel with cocobolo knob from an old plane.

I also added a knob to the metal sleeve on the new wheel to make it easier to turn, this was a knob I had lying around for years, I think it was an extra sent to me by Lie-Nielsen to upgrade a plane. Glad to finally put it to good use.

This makes the vise much easier to use now, don't know why I did not do this 10 years ago.

The new sliding dog to replace the one that had split.
Needs a few battle scars - maybe I better rub a little stain on it!

At the same time as this was disassembled for the handle upgrade I built a new dog block, the old one had split along one of the joint lines as it was built from a glueup. This time around I used a solid piece of ash which should be stronger than the last piece and will likely be usable for the next user of this bench when I am done with it.

The other thing that I laugh at with the whole bench craze nowadays is the guys who need to keep their bench looking like new, and re-surface (plane) it regularly to keep it so. Hey guys its a WORK-bench, what's wrong with it showing that it has been used for the intended purpose?  My bench has remnants from almost every project ever built on it and that's what makes it a treasure.

I was visiting the kitchens at Chateau Chenonceau on the river Cher in France last year and the chef's bench had a big "swayback" depression in the middle from hundreds of years of butchering. Now that bench had a story to tell...that's what I'm after.

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