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Building a Moxon Vise

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Blog entry by Brandon posted 12-21-2011 04:46 PM 21319 reads 51 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Why I wanted to Build a Moxon Vise

Work benches are low. When I was first learning about traditional woodworking, I noticed how low my friend’s workbench was. He informed me that the lower benches were better for hand planing. This is true, but sometimes you just want to work with something at a higher height, for instance cutting dovetails. This is part of the reason why I found the idea of a Moxon vise so appealing. It’s a large, double-screw vise that is detachable from the bench (in its recent manifestations). One of its primary uses is to raise the work piece to a higher level to more easily make cuts or detailed work. Plus, did I mention that this thing is sexy? Because it is. I won’t go into detail about the history of the Moxon vise because Chris Schwarz and others have already done that, but if you’re interested see the instructions on Benchcrafted’s website for a history lesson.

My design

Benchcrafted sells a Moxon vise or just the hardware to needed to build one. Their tools are beautiful and if I had more money to spend on these types of things, I’d go with them. Yet since I’m on a graduate student income I settled on a cheaper alternative. I decided to build my own version using wood I already had on hand and some inexpensive hardware. Here’s where I started.

I started out with some 8/4 red oak that was about 6 1/2” wide and roughly 8’ long. I cut it into two pieces that were 6” wide and 32” long. These would be the two main elements in the beefy vise.

On the facing board of the vise, I beveled the front edge to allow more room for my dovetail saw angles. An aggressive hand plane made short order of the chamfering process.

Instead of purchasing an acme rod and handwheel which would have driven up the price dramatically (and added extra work by having to chisel out some spots for the nuts), I decided to use a press screw. I already had one on hand because I was going to build a book press (remnants of a hobby of yesterday), and so I’d only need to buy one press screw from Highland which was about 16.99.

I drilled small pilot holes with my drill press and then made the large holes for the press screw using a brace with an auger bit. I made pilot holes because I don’t yet trust my accuracy with the brace yet. Yes, Andy, I know my brace needs a good cleaning.

Now what this thing needs is back support and a place to attach the vise to the table with holdfasts (even though I don’t have a proper workbench yet). So for the back piece I used that same 8/4 red oak and screwed it in place, then covered the screw holes with a 3/8” oak dowel I had on hand.

All that is left is putting the screws in place. I used a 5/8 washer between the handle and the face piece so that the handle doesn’t dig into the face of the vise. At 36 cents each, it’s a good investment. The nut section of the press screw is attached to the back of the vise with screws.

Here’s how I currently clamp the vise to the workbench.

Some Uses of the Moxon Vise

I haven’t really had a chance to use the Moxon vise all that much, but here are some ideas on how it might be used. Cutting dovetails, of course! Detail planing, such as rounding the edges on a cutting board.

In the end I have a very versatile vise that’s also super strong. And I spent under $40 in hardware. This will look very nice when I actually have a new workbench on which I can attach it. Hopefully I’ve covered everything.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"



17 comments so far

View Tyler's profile

Tyler

174 posts in 1445 days


#1 posted 12-21-2011 05:11 PM

Great build! This looks extremely useful.

View Don W's profile

Don W

15563 posts in 1319 days


#2 posted 12-21-2011 05:50 PM

another nice project Brandon. I’ve thought about building something similar for a while.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.com

View Dave's profile

Dave

11205 posts in 1592 days


#3 posted 12-21-2011 07:53 PM

A very nice moxin build. I do like the screws you used. Excellent job.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are." http://chiselandforge.com

View lysdexic's profile

lysdexic

4892 posts in 1374 days


#4 posted 12-21-2011 08:00 PM

Well done sir! DId you glue the back support or just screws? I see the glue in the background.

A moxon bench vise is on my to do list. Thanks for sharing.

-- It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe. - Muhammad Ali

View Brandon's profile

Brandon

4145 posts in 1703 days


#5 posted 12-21-2011 08:06 PM

Thanks guys. Yes, Scott, I glued the back on as well as screws. SuperDav, the press screws work very well and are very easy to turn and tighten—not bad for being so cheap.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View AgentTwitch's profile

AgentTwitch

209 posts in 2248 days


#6 posted 12-21-2011 09:36 PM

I was thinking about doing the same thing to simplify the moxon vise build ever since reading the Jeff Miller bench top bench article in FWW. Now I am off to price the hardware! Great inspiration and well done

-- Regards, Norm

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

10374 posts in 1370 days


#7 posted 12-22-2011 12:08 AM

I am SO going to make one of these with these press screws…

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive

View Dave's profile

Dave

11205 posts in 1592 days


#8 posted 12-22-2011 12:57 AM

Brandon did you elongate the holes horizontally on the front face so the vice would not bind as much. I did on mine and it was a great improvement.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are." http://chiselandforge.com

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112934 posts in 2329 days


#9 posted 12-22-2011 01:54 AM

A great addition to your shop well done.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View Brandon's profile

Brandon

4145 posts in 1703 days


#10 posted 12-22-2011 04:44 AM

SuperDav, No, I didn’t elongate the holes. So far binding hasn’t been too much of an issue, but that’s a good suggestion.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View Richard's profile

Richard

7 posts in 869 days


#11 posted 08-21-2012 03:52 AM

Brandon,

I’m new to LJ and a fledgling woodworker, and I have been looking all over the place for a description and pictures of how to build this vise and save myself a ton of money when I build my bench. Thanks for sharing this—I’m considering building two and using one as the face vise and one for the tail, complete with onboard dogs. Any thoughts?

And how’s it holding up nearly a year later?

-- Richard, The Upside-Down Table Saw -- http://upsidedowntablesaw.blogspot.com

View Dez's profile

Dez

1125 posts in 2829 days


#12 posted 09-04-2012 11:38 PM

Just how tall are you?
(From a vertically challenged person!)

-- Folly ever comes cloaked in opportunity!

View bigike's profile

bigike

4035 posts in 2040 days


#13 posted 09-05-2012 12:23 AM

Nice

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop, http://www.icombadaniels@yahoo.com

View s_grifter's profile

s_grifter

167 posts in 1219 days


#14 posted 12-09-2012 12:48 PM

Thanks for the post. I was thinking of doing it this way and wasnt sure if it would work. After your sucess, I believe this is how I am going to go.

View Mark Colan's profile

Mark Colan

209 posts in 1597 days


#15 posted 09-19-2013 08:46 AM

The end piece of the Jorgensen screw is not shown in any of your pictures, except for the picture of the screw itself. I assume you had to attach it somewhere, but it comes undrilled. How/where did you do that?

-- Mark, hack amateur woodworker, Medford (greater Boston) MA

showing 1 through 15 of 17 comments

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