A Prototype Double-screw Vise

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For chairmaking and other handwork, a small double-screw vise can be handy. Check out Peter Follansbee’s bench and you’ll see these appliances lurking – or in use in surprising ways. Jennie Alexander uses them for many aspects of constructing her iconic chair.

During the last six months, I’ve been working with Alexander and chairmaker Larry Barrett to completely revise Alexander’s “Make a Chair from a Tree.” I don’t have a timeline as to when the project will be done as Alexander and Barrett are rebuilding the book from the roots up.

One of the small things I’m doing to help the project is prototyping a double-screw vise for the book. While all of us would prefer an all-wood vise with wooden screws, the current sorry crop of hand-powered threadboxes has pushed us into introducing a little metal.

The vise above is not the one that is going to be in the book. It still needs work. But it does work well on the bench.

The jaws are 1-1/2” x 2-1/2” x 20″ oak, with the screws on 10” centers. The 1-3/4” x 1-3/4” x 6” mahogany handles drive 3/4” x 12” Acme-threaded rod. Inside the rear jaw is buried plain steel 3/4” x 5 nuts. The handles push against 3/4” steel washers (though these are likely unnecessary).

The threaded rod is simply epoxied into the handles – about 3-1/2” worth. For the final version I’m going to tap the handles and epoxy the rod in place. Nothing like overkill.

I’m sure there will be more design changes to come.

With this vise in the mail to Alexander, I can return to tapering legs for “The Furniture of Necessity.”

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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24 Responses to A Prototype Double-screw Vise

  1. amvolk says:

    For the cost of the hardware in this vise, I could buy a new “sorry … hand-powered threadbox…” Probably could make a couple of vices before it gave out.

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    • Good luck getting a new one to make even one screw….

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      • Raul Magmar says:

        Are those 50-60 $ hand powered threading tools so bad today that they are not worth of bying? I thought that I would buy one of smaller sizes, 25 mm. Maybe it depends of thread diameter too (I know biggest one that is available is 1 1/2 inches, I own one but haven’t used it yet).

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        • Raul,

          I have five of the recent ones. They are so poorly made that the thread count of the tap does not match that of the threadbox. In other words, they are utter junk. And until someone tells me otherwise, I’m not throwing any more money down that rathole.

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  2. meanmna says:

    How wide could you go with these? I assume it would work for a wide Moxon vise similar to the Benchcrafted model but using these “blended material” screws?

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  3. ejcampbell says:

    So how does this differ in use from the common hand screw? Looks the same except the handles are both on the same side if the Vise faces. (You’ve also got much nicer handles. Probably significantly more leverage from octagonal handles than round ones.)

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  4. corpmule says:

    I did this same thing a while back. But, I used standard hardware from the big box stores. I eventually modified the handles a little bit. Scroll down the page linked below to see that.

    Twin Screw (Moxon) Vise
    http://lumberjocks.com/projects/76814

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  5. acornbob says:

    You can get the acme rod and nuts on sale from use-enco.com right now. The 3/4 size is 6 tpi though but it’s only $14.36 for 3 feet (KT408-0206) or $24 for 6 feet (KT408-0226). The nuts are $2.58 (KT407-2206). There’s also free shipping for orders over $25 (code JANFS25). There are other diameters with varying tpi on sale.

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  6. rondennis303 says:

    Chris, if you’re going to the trouble to tap & epoxy the final handles, why not drill & pin them too?

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  7. eeyoris21 says:

    The Beall Tool Company sells a product they call the “The Big Threader” that will use a jig and a router bit to machine a wood screw 1-1/2″ D with 5 TPI. I do not personally own this tool yet, but it has been on my wish list for a while. I was waiting till I actually built my bench first.

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    • I have one of those I used for another project. It works well. But by the time you factor in the other costs, the steel screw was faster and cheaper. Which was the goal of this project.

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  8. Looks nice. I used to have an antique one of these…all wood. I deemed it to be a book binder’s clamp, and sold it as such, deciding that I would not find much use for it in woodworking. I suppose someday I’ll regret that, even more than I do today.

    I agree with Chris’ assessment of the new screw boxes. Junk.

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  9. I know you said hand powered but I have the large Beal one and it worked well for me. I’ll get you a photo of the threads it produces if I get a chance.

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  10. Jeff Faulk says:

    I recently used a 1-1/2″ thread-box and taps from Highland Woodworking with success. It’s a bit heavy to use for a Moxon like the above, but I was making vises, so that wasn’t an issue. I did adjust the cutter slightly and hone it a bit before I used it. Of course, I don’t know if what I got was NOS or new, but I don’t think I would hesitate to get Highland’s threadboxes again.

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  11. William Bee says:

    Was this vice lined with leather you got from Megan Fitzpatrick?

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  12. How is this vice typically used? Held to a bench with holdfasts or used like a clamp?

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  13. richardmertens says:

    I’ve made two Moxon vises with what you might call the lazy man’s version of wooden screws. I simply find an old wooden clamp–they’re around in various sizes. I cut it up and fasten the screw box of each screw to the back of the inner jaw. I drill holes in both jaws to admit the screw. It works fine.

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  14. I made one of these this weekend after seeing your and Follanbee’s posts on the topic. This thing is pretty awesome. I’ve already used it for a cutting some small dovetail tenons. I didn’t use washers. but because of a little play, the loose jaw moves out of alignment as I tighten it. I’ll be adding some washers tomorrow.

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  15. So if I understand you correctly the threading tools you had brought to Roy’s Studio are not worth the want to get. Whereas Roy’s tap from Beall’s company plus a couple of hand crafted tools from yesteryear, perhaps is the wiser avenue overall.

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