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.
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"