Roubo Leg Vise Upgrade

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Blog entry by BigRedKnothead posted 04-29-2014 11:51 PM 11599 reads 14 times favorited 25 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A year and a half into the life of my roubo bench I set my mind to improving the leg vise. Dropping the 4 bills for a retro fit Benchcrafted setup was one option, but what’s the fun in that? I decided to go my own route and save the cash.

I’ve never been that crazy about the performance of my leg vise. It had a fair amount of play and did not spin as freely as my other vises. The hardware was the basic Lee Valley Tail vise that most folks use:

The big nut/flange was installed waaaay on the inside of my bench leg. Which was a big part of the problem. The bench leg is 6” thick, combined with the 2” chop….and the weight of the chop. Well that’s a lot of downward pressure on that acme screw. So first I wanted to find a way to support the acme thread toward the front of the leg. I know Benchcrafted uses a piece of plastic installed in the leg. I figured I could do better than that…How about a bearing?

The bore of the bearing is a couple millimeters larger than the acme screw. That’s fine. I just needed to ensure with my layout that acme screw would rest on the bottom of the bearing….relieving the weight.

It was a little tricky installing. First I fitted a dowel in the old hole so I could center my forstner bit. Since the bearing is a funky metric size, and I don’t have a forstner bit that big anyway, I figured out a combo of using a forstner big and a rabbet bit in the router:

That got me pretty close. I finished the fitting with handle tools, tapped out the oak plug, and epoxied the outer edge of the bearing in place.
Now for the 2nd issue. After using my Benchcrafted moxon for a spell, I really began to appreciate the benefits of stout cast iron wheels on a vise. So along with the bearing, I ordered up a 10” wheel and a stopped bolt for the handle. This is even bigger that the BC 8” wheel;-)

Knocked the pin out of the old vise and headed to the machine shop:

After shopping around, I found a machine shop that would bore the hole for the shaft and drill/tap the hole for the handle for $50. It came back looking like this:

Let’s see, then I took a little 1.25” turning blank of Bolivian rosewood and turned myself a handle on the drill press. Much the same as I did in my blog about shop made screwdriver handles. Lookin good:

Last, I took the rest of that little blank, sliced it, bookmatched it on edge, and epoxied it for a “hub.” I cut it oversized, then filed and sanded it to fit.

When done, it looked like this:

The improvement in performance matches the improvement in appearance. The wheel spins freely for a couple rotations. The added weight from the cast iron does most of the work in regard to clamping force.

Can you tell I’ve been on vacation?;-) Questions and comments welcome knuckleheads, Rojo

The knob was too long. So I ordered a shorter bolt and turned another one.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

25 comments so far

View CL810's profile


3868 posts in 3188 days

#1 posted 04-29-2014 11:56 PM

Real nice Red! I like it. Do you offer free shipping??

-- "The only limits to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." - FDR

View lightcs1776's profile


4234 posts in 1854 days

#2 posted 04-29-2014 11:59 PM

Fantastic, Red. As always great work.

-- Chris ** If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. — Tom Paine **

View BigRedKnothead's profile


8542 posts in 2182 days

#3 posted 04-30-2014 12:01 AM

Sure Andy, but my union labor rate is pretty steep;-)

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View cyclops4069's profile


66 posts in 1777 days

#4 posted 04-30-2014 12:03 AM

just beautiful…..!!!!!

-- regards, cyclops4069

View Handtooler's profile


1628 posts in 2332 days

#5 posted 04-30-2014 12:09 AM

That is a mighty fine improvement to that superb bench and vise chop and crochet you’ve performed. I also appreciate the sliding deadman you’ve installed.

-- Russell Pitner Hixson, TN 37343

View Buckethead's profile


3194 posts in 2069 days

#6 posted 04-30-2014 12:13 AM

A beautiful addition to a beautiful bench. I just bought a book about the Shakers (and shaker style furniture) and one of the main philosophies was that function is beauty. Adornment being superfluous. I think your wheel passes that test.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View AnthonyReed's profile


10064 posts in 2640 days

#7 posted 04-30-2014 12:36 AM

Dead sexy bud. Beautiful work.

-- ~Tony

View Greg In Maryland's profile

Greg In Maryland

553 posts in 3198 days

#8 posted 04-30-2014 03:19 AM


View Hammerthumb's profile


2907 posts in 2175 days

#9 posted 04-30-2014 04:33 AM

Red – I was wondering if the handle on the wheel gets in the way while working at the bench? Looks are awesome though!

-- Paul, Duvall, WA

View Jake's profile


850 posts in 1831 days

#10 posted 04-30-2014 05:20 AM

That bench looks way too beat up to be in anyones shop, if you send me the details, I will pick it up from your place free of charge and take it away so you can build a proper workbench…

In all seriousness, Red, wtf, all your shop furniture looks better than my actual furniture.

-- Measure twice, cut once, cut again for good measure.

View ToddJB's profile


8294 posts in 2331 days

#11 posted 04-30-2014 01:20 PM

Wonderful addition. Looks great. What’s next – you gonna cut up a bed frame and make your own criss-cross?

-- I came - I sawed - I over-built

View BigRedKnothead's profile


8542 posts in 2182 days

#12 posted 04-30-2014 01:24 PM

Thanks Jake. I just enjoy making it nice. It challenges me.

Paul, ya know the bolt for the handle was a little longer than I expected. It’s definitely longer that the knob BC installs. I just figured I could try it for awhile. I can always order a shorter bolt and just shorten the turned handle to match. But so far it doesn’t bother me much. I kinda like the extra grip too.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View WayneC's profile (online now)


13784 posts in 4298 days

#13 posted 04-30-2014 01:56 PM

Very nice. When are you going to break down and buy a mini lathe?

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View BigRedKnothead's profile


8542 posts in 2182 days

#14 posted 04-30-2014 01:59 PM

hehehe. I know it Wayne. I never planned a lathe into the floor space of my shop. But I’m reconsidering;-)

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View theoldfart's profile


10168 posts in 2651 days

#15 posted 04-30-2014 02:07 PM

Red, I could see myself getting hurt in a sensitive area from that handle! Be careful where you walk, wouldn’t want you to get cranked. :-)

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

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