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Whats so good about a leg vise?

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Forum topic by Tedstor posted 10-25-2013 02:03 PM 2151 views 0 times favorited 33 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Tedstor

1369 posts in 1323 days


10-25-2013 02:03 PM

I ask this question out of ignorance, as I’ve never used a leg vise before. But- I’ve have a Lee Valley Vise Screw sitting in my garage for 4-5 years now. I bought it from the restore for $5. I didn’t really need it, but for $5….it was coming home with me. I’ve considerd adding a leg vise to one of my benches, but never took the plunge. I suppose I don’t feel the need since my conventional metal vises have always met all my workholding needs.

However, I’ve been re-visiting the idea. Mainly just for kicks. But the more I look at pictures of a leg vise, the more skeptical I become of their practicality. Having to bend over and adjust the position of the lower pin seems like a hassle. And it also seems as if you need to plan the whoile workbench around a leg vise. A metal vise, on the other hand, can be easily retrofitted or incorparated on most any workbench. And I can’t imagine that a leg vise has THAT much more holding power (or does it?).
So with that said- why a leg vise? Maybe its a hand tool thing?


33 replies so far

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JustJoe

1554 posts in 728 days


#1 posted 10-25-2013 02:20 PM

This guy summed up the answer quite clearly in the second line of his blog. (I think leg vises gained popularity when...)

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unbob

421 posts in 593 days


#2 posted 10-25-2013 02:20 PM

Just installed one on an existing bench a few weeks ago.
It has a clear advantage of holding thin pieces as the lower part of the leg is adjustable for jaw angle, where a regular vise tends to want to spit out a thin piece.
It also holds work better for heavy chisel work, slip a block under the leg, makes for a much more solid hold then the regular vise.

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Tedstor

1369 posts in 1323 days


#3 posted 10-25-2013 03:02 PM

Joe- Many tools have become famous lately for THAT very reason. No one even knew what a fore plane was until CS wrote an article about one. The next day, ebay searches for fore planes trended off the charts. LOL.
If only I could get advance notice of his articles…....I could buy futures in obsolete tools and become filthy rich on insider trading.

In all seriousness, that article also pointed out some possible advantages. Accomodating larger workpieces seems like a legit upside. Being able to clamp piece close to the screw might be of benefit, but I’ve never had a piece slip out of my metal vises. In my case, cost would be legit since I got the screw assembly for peanuts. And they do look cool. As Dieon Sanders said “if you look good- you feel good, if you feel good- you play good”. LOL.

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JustJoe

1554 posts in 728 days


#4 posted 10-25-2013 03:24 PM

Yes, each generation chooses one or two people to annoint as woodworking gods to imitate. I remember the mid-eighties when Norm was at his peak and you couldn’t go to a Habitat For Humanity build – even in central TX in August – without seeing a dozen guys in flannel shirts. I wonder how many sweatshops went out of business when he retired? And the biscuit jointers – the man must have helped to sell 10 million of those things. I’m not knocking any of these guys, but it is cyclic and I’m sure 20 years from now people will have moved on to something bigger, better, and just different enough to demand a whole new set of tools (and boxes to put them in, specialized benches/shops to use them in, classes to learn how to use them…)
But back to your original question – I’ve got two regular wooden-faced vises on my bench, one on the side and one on the end. I haven’t had trouble holding anything thick or thin but it comes down to whatever you’re comfortable with.

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Loren

7739 posts in 2338 days


#5 posted 10-25-2013 03:28 PM

It’s a simper technology from another time which does not require
iron parts to hold work well. Compared to a tail vise a leg
vise is simple and it doesn’t have the limits of a shoulder vise.
The jaws can be canted as well.

-- http://lawoodworking.com

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Smitty_Cabinetshop

10054 posts in 1308 days


#6 posted 10-25-2013 03:43 PM

Practicality of a leg vise?

- Cheap. Dirt Cheap. $5 vise screw and a length of 2x stock and you are in business.

- Adaptable. Need something ‘deeper’ than say, 8” of clamping space? Drop the the screw lower. Try that with a metal vice

- Easy to install. Plan the whole bench around a leg vice? Except for getting the front of the legs co-planer with the front edge of the benchtop, it’s no problem at all. Don W. did a retrofit of his leg vise without that in place, either.

As far as why they’re all the rage, couldn’t care less other than to say there has to be merit to them or folks wouldn’t adopt them. I have one, and love it. Had a wooden face vise, traditional wood screw, thought it to be much less useful than the leg. Can’t clamp boards vertically, from floor to benchtop, and have them supported the whole length. Less wracking. More space on either side of the single screw, etc. etc.

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

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Greg In Maryland

403 posts in 1688 days


#7 posted 10-25-2013 04:01 PM

It is interesting how a single person can be so influential. I am not a blinded Schwartz fan boy, but in general I find what he promotes and how he promotes it to cogent and well thought out. I may not agree with it, but it does not invalidate his ideas. For example, tool chests are great. I have one and may have another, but I much prefer my tool wall. I cannot imagine using a tool chest in my work and constantly pulling this tool out and putting that tool away. I would drive myself crazy. However, I could see in a different situation where I would absolutely need one and a tool wall would not suffice.

I think that the recent evolution of woodworking tools/methodology (say post WW2) is a lesson in marking and influencing by the manufacturers. They constantly need to sell us the latest and greatest and for the longest time the latest and greatest must have tool was electron-based—routers, biscuit joiners, cordless drills, jointers, planers, table saws, compound mitre saws, etc, etc. where perhaps we discarded more ”traditional” methods and tools. The Schwartz, St. Roy, Lie-Nielsen, Veritas, etc, etc are the pushback to this.

As many pointed out, using the latest and greatest electronic tools does not invalidate me as a woodworker, and conversely using “traditional” tools does not elevate me at all. A crappy piece of work, no matter how it is constructed, is still crappy. See the rest of my projects for examples :)

So, even though The Schwartz may have had something to do with the reintroduction of the leg vise to the world, I am thoroughly glad that he did. Since I made my bench and installed the leg vise, there isn’t a project I haven’t used the leg vise on. I find that I can hold a piece far more securely using the leg vise than I can using my tail vise. I can really torque down on the piece using the leg vise in a way that I cannot with my other vise, and it does not move. No matter how big or how small, if it is between the chops it stays. That alone is worth the price of admission.

With regards to adjusting the pin, the times that I have to adjust it are very infrequent and I really find no issue with bending down to insert it. It is such a non-issue that I cannot imagine purchasing some of the fancy hardware (though it sure looks nice) to replace it. The biggest hassle I have is trying to keep my young sons from pulling the pin out and playing with it God knows where. Of course, talk to me in 20 years and I may be singing a different tune.

Since it sounds like you have the hardware (screw), so why not go to the effort and install a leg vise? It could be good for your work or not, but you wouldn’t have a lot invested if it wasn’t.

Greg

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Jorge G.

1526 posts in 1165 days


#8 posted 10-25-2013 04:09 PM

I think that in your case, the leg vise is something that it is easily retrofitted to your bench. As opposed something like the shoulder vise on a Scandinavian bench a la Klaus or Tage Fried. Give it a shot, you might like it.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View Mosquito's profile

Mosquito

4837 posts in 982 days


#9 posted 10-25-2013 04:10 PM

I’m with Smitty. I couldn’t care less why others have decided to adopt them in masses. I have one on my workbench, I like it, and it works for me. It is cheap, gives you much more depth (depending on the screw position) and holds very well. There are times when a metal face vise would be nicer, specifically when I’m edge planing pieces with differing thicknesses between pieces. That said, it’s probably more a fault of me using a 6TPI wooden screw I made myself instead of 2-3TPI wooden screw I could buy.

I did read Chris’s book on workbenches, and read through all the different vice options before I made my decision. I also work with hand tools almost exclusively, so why wouldn’t I use a vise that was traditionally used with hand tools when everyone was using hand tools? Made sense to me, anyway.

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN -- Stanley #45 Evangelist - www.youtube.com/MosquitoMods

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unbob

421 posts in 593 days


#10 posted 10-25-2013 04:51 PM

This one around 130yrs old.

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Clint Searl

1474 posts in 1051 days


#11 posted 10-25-2013 05:06 PM

Nothing; it’s superfluous. I don’t know if the leg vise is a Roubo thing, but the current bench craze is all fad and fashion, contributing little, if anything, to the quality of the end product.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

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schuft

122 posts in 1297 days


#12 posted 10-25-2013 05:14 PM

Where are you guys finding vise screws for $5? OP found his at ReStore of course, but I never see stuff like that at the ReStore where I live.

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Smitty_Cabinetshop

10054 posts in 1308 days


#13 posted 10-25-2013 05:16 PM

^ I disagree, Clint.

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

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Tedstor

1369 posts in 1323 days


#14 posted 10-25-2013 05:22 PM

Where are you guys finding vise screws for $5?

Thats what I was wondering? The closest thing I’ve been able to find was 1” threaded rod. And the threads were REALLY fine. It would take forever to actuate the chop if I had to spin the handle 50 times to move it an inch. Of course, I’m only talking about the actual screw. I’d still need to find the garters and other parts.

I’ve seen people make them out of threaded rod and plumbing supplies, probably for under $15, but they look kinda cheap/cheezy.

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Mosquito

4837 posts in 982 days


#15 posted 10-25-2013 05:27 PM

I also disagree Clint. In an all power tool shop that may be true, but try using only handtools on a workmate, or on a “work table” and tell me it’s still true. I can tell you it isn’t, from first hand experience, after using a workmate for a year first.

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN -- Stanley #45 Evangelist - www.youtube.com/MosquitoMods

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