Roubo Workbench #4: Which Vise Do I Nurse in My Bosom?

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Eric posted 06-22-2009 04:11 PM 4896 reads 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Cold Feet Part 4 of Roubo Workbench series Part 5: And Still More Roubo Musings »

Bear with me. It’ll make sense eventually.

I’ve got two vise screws. One was generously donated by a “homeboy” from the Porch, Bill Taggart, when I visited his place a couple few years ago. The other was a $10 eBay purchase. I’m trying to decide which one to use in my leg vise. Allow me to present the two candidates, and then leave your verdict in the comments below.

Candidate A is a standard metal vise screw. I dunno, looks like about an inch or so thick, and the screw itself is about 12” long. The nut might look a little odd to you because it was originally on a plate that was intended to mount to the underside of the bench. Bill Taggart hacksawed it off for me since I was going to mount it into the leg instead. I figured I’d just drill a hole in the leg to receive the nut, and then do a little chiseling to make room for the plate remnant.

Pros: Metal is strong. I shouldn’t have any problems with vise strength.
Cons: The screw is pretty short. Taking into account a 6” leg and a 2” jaw, I’ll be limited to clamping stock that is not much more than 4” thick. I suppose I could bury the nut inside the leg during the glueup, which would give me an additional 4” or so, but that would mean if I ever wanted to change vises I’d have to take an axe to the leg to hack the nut out, and then I’d have to build a new leg.

Candidate B is an old wooden bench screw (about 2” thick) that I just couldn’t pass up for $10 on eBay. This thing is in rough shape. At first glance it might not look too bad:

But pick it up (gingerly, now!) and you see that this is a fixer-upper. First the nut. Outside – ugh. Nasty. But the inside is solid and the threads are in perfect condition:

The screw itself is in great shape. There are one or maybe two places where a small segment of thread is missing, but otherwise it’s solid. But the head of the screw…oh my:

Pros: The vise jaw would be able to open about 10” or so. The threads are huge and in good shape, so the vise is theoretically very strong.
Cons: In order to keep the vise from shedding bits of wood anytime it’s handled, I’d have to plane/chisel/sand about 1/2” or maybe more off of the surface of the screw head (I’d likely leave the nut as is). Would that affect in any way the integrity of the vise? There’d be very little shoulder to catch the jaw of the vise, but I suppose if the hole for the screw is exactly the right size, I wouldn’t need much of a shoulder, right?

I have now presented the two candidates. For which one would you cast your vote?

P.S. Oh yes. The title of this post. I was looking for a witty title so I went searching for quotes containing the word “vice”. The title above came from Thornton Wilder. Below, for your reading pleasure, are more quotes with the word “vice” that almost make sense with the word “vise”.
  • We do not despise all those who have vices, but we despise all those who have not a single virtue. - Francois Duc de la Rochefoucauld
  • Vices of the time; vices of the man. [Lat., Vitia temporis; vitia hominis.] - Francis Bacon
  • Times change. The vices of your age are stylish today. - Aristophanes
  • There is no vice so simple but assumes some mark of virtue on his outward parts. -William Shakespeare
  • Vices are often habits rather than passions. -Antoine Rivarol
  • Nurse one vice in your bosom. Give it the attention it deserves and let your virtues spring up modestly around it. Then you’ll have the miser who’s no liar; and the drunkard who’s the benefactor of the whole city. -Thornton Wilder
  • It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues. – Abraham Lincoln

-- Eric at

13 comments so far

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3645 days

#1 posted 06-22-2009 04:36 PM

looks like the metal vice is a little short for this application. I would naturally go with the wooden one.

the nut shouldnt be much of an issue,as you can embed it in the leg, and not have to worry about it’s appearance.

the screw head – how about filling it with epoxy resin and shape it to it’s original form? this will keep the size, and integrity of the head. but it will have a mismatched look to it. but then again – it’s a heirloom screw.. and should look a little mismatched isnt it?

PS. you could always get a replacement wooden screw later (find same diameter screw, or have one fabricated) if you really need it.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3780 days

#2 posted 06-22-2009 04:49 PM

Interesting, PurpLev. I have heard of epoxy resin but frankly have no idea what it is. I mean, I know what epoxy is. Wait – is resin just one part of the two-part epoxy? I gotta go do some googling…but your idea sounds great because it would let me keep the original size (and presumably strength) of the larger-sized head.

-- Eric at

View Jon3's profile


497 posts in 4102 days

#3 posted 06-22-2009 04:51 PM

As PurpLev mentioned, the metal vise seems short, Especially when you consider a thick chop, plus the recessed support you’ll need for that tiny nut. The wood screw looks cool, but seems to be well on its way to becoming fertilizer.

I’d kick in the $39.95 and get one from Lee Valley.

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3645 days

#4 posted 06-22-2009 05:28 PM

I’m actually ordering 2 (might wait on the 3rd one for now) of the screws Jon3 posted. they are 1 1/8” in diameter, long (21” total length, 17” capacity (minus jaw/leg)) and are not too expensive.

Edit: Epoxy Resin is the actual Epoxy substance – once mixed with the hardener, you get the epoxy. which is what I meant. basically epoxy glue.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3582 days

#5 posted 06-22-2009 05:37 PM

This year I need to build a workbench.I have all the hardware minus wood which I need bech screws and quite a few woodworking vises and one of them I got new four years ago a wilton anyway love what your doing keep up the good work.Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3670 days

#6 posted 06-23-2009 12:22 AM

This is going to be a fun workbench! I also need to build with a new workbench with vises.

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 3439 days

#7 posted 06-23-2009 12:24 AM

Can I be blunt. Gotta say neither of those looks like a winner to me. The fact that you are asking the question means you actually know the answer as well, both of these look like a comprimise which will catch you out sooner or later. Do you have “hole in the wall” enginering workshops where you are? They should be able to make one up for not much money. If you,re going to spend time and money on such a project then don,t skimp on one of the most important elements.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View JuniorJoiner's profile


486 posts in 3437 days

#8 posted 06-23-2009 02:18 AM

I have to agree with kiwi, neither screw will be anything more than a compromise. I suggest ordering one, or perhaps making your own. a bench is a huge investment of wood and time, cutting corners will give you regret in the future.
best of luck

-- Junior -Quality is never an accident-it is the reward for the effort involved.

View kenn's profile


810 posts in 3717 days

#9 posted 06-23-2009 02:49 AM

Listen to these guys and put the money down for something like the Lee Valley screw. Your time and effort are your biggest investment and both those screws have flaws that will cause problems. Jon3, Kiwi and Jr are giving you good advice. The key to a great bench is a flat, stable top and strong vises in the right places. Good luck with yor decision.

-- Every cloud has a silver lining

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3780 days

#10 posted 06-23-2009 04:22 AM

Sweet, thanks for all your comments. I am overwhelmed with how underwhelmed you all are with my two options! I feel like someone who wasn’t really paying attention when crossing the street and then getting brought back to earth with the sound of a huge semi blaring its horn at me. So, uh, I guess that makes you all the boy scout who pushes me out of the way of danger.

Your medal of honor is on its way.

-- Eric at

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3780 days

#11 posted 06-23-2009 04:24 AM

Oh…and kiwi1969 – yes, there are tons of places like that here. Do they have tap and die sets to make screws? Hmm, I suppose so but I never thought about it. I’ll check! I already have in mind to go to one of them to try to get a St. Peter’s Cross made for my leg vise.

-- Eric at

View DoctorDan's profile


281 posts in 3012 days

#12 posted 03-19-2010 01:37 AM

wow they are some interesting looking vices.
i’m keen to see how it works out.

-- Daniel -

View sphere's profile


109 posts in 3028 days

#13 posted 03-19-2010 02:16 AM

Use Abatron liquid wood repair and yer all set, then use the wood epox ( like a bondo but better) or what I like is Fiberglass liquid resin ( and hardner) it’s for auto body or boats..good stuff to strengthen or reinforce old rotted / missing wood.

-- Spheramid Enterprises Architectural Wood Works

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics