After seven days of teaching and 1,400 miles of driving, I arrived home last night. I kissed my family, ate dinner with them and (when they weren’t looking) slinked down to the shop to work on the leg vise of my French oak workbench.
My leg vise is patterned as closely as possible to the one shown in A.-J. Roubo’s plate 11. That means no fancy curves (just one curve), no parallel guide and no garter. This makes the leg vise simple to make, but there are still some significant details to execute.
1. Relieve the clamping face of the chop. Roubo writes: “You also close the piece of the press “n” a bit hollowed on its length [canted inward at its top], so that in being closed, it can still pinch at the end.” This detail is also shown on plate 11. I relieved the rear of the jaw to make it look as much as it does on plate 11 by using a stop-cut on my powered jointer.
While I was working on the chop, I also sawed and rasped the 2”-radius curve on the top of the chop. This is not just for looks. It allows you to clamp stuff close to the bench and work it with tools at a steep angle (such as rasps and chisels). It’s a very smart detail in my opinion.
2. Add a ring of iron to the hub of the vise screw. Roubo writes: “This screw is normally of wood, across the head of which passes an iron bar “r,” with which you tighten and untighten according to your need, and you supplement the edge of the head of the screw with an iron ring for fear that it will split.” I turned down a rabbet on the end of the hub until I could drive on the iron ring, which was made by blacksmith Peter Ross. As per plate 11, I will drill and countersink a hole through the ring so I can screw the ring to the hub.
I was going to wait until winter to turn down the hub so that the wooden screw will be at its minimum diameter. But I was eager to get it done. We’ll see if I get snake-bit.
Now I just have to clean up the chop a bit, and I’ll be ready to mount the vise.
Tomorrow, I’m working on the planing stop, a 3” x 3” x 12” piece of oak I need to mortise into the benchtop. I’ll make the mortise with the help of WoodOwl bits, which Jameel Abraham turned me onto. These relatively inexpensive bits are going to change the way I build benches in the future.
I’ll post a video of them at work tomorrow.
— Christopher Schwarz