I'm setting up my workshop and and am getting ready to purchase a bench vise. I've been steered away from the small, hobbyist-style vise, but I can't really spend more than about 50 dollars right now. Can I get a good vise that can handle long boards and a variety of projects for this amount, or should I wait and save up for a more heavy duty vise? Some of the ones in the Woodcraft catalogue run a bit more than I want to spend right now, but I'll save up if it's worth the price. Any suggestions?
I don't use a permanent bench vise on my workbench, it just gets in the way. The most inexpensive way to secure your work to your bench is a traditional holdfast (available from woodworking stores and Harbor Freight), they run about $3.00 to 9.00. You drill a series of 3/4" holes in your bench (which you can also use for dogs) and place the holdfast on the work and through the hole, then pound down on top. The holdfast cants in the hole and secures the work tightly anywhere on the bench. My bench has a front apron with holes for the same purpose.
When I do need a vise, I use a patternmaker's vise that I made which will hold virtually anything.
Jillian- Stephen's homemade vise is an elegant solution. I'd also recommend you get a library copy of Scott Landis' The Workbench Book...Taunton Press. Vises and their uses are fully discussed. You really won't need an expensive, huge vise "to handle long boards." Truth is, a moderately priced metal vise with wood-lined jaws, works in conjuction with other jigs on the bench to handle any size workpiece. I added a hardwood 2x4 to the right front leg of my little bench, with 3/4" dadoes cut across it at different levels. My square bench dog then slides into these gaps at whatever height I want to put it, supporting a large sheet or panel secured in the benchvise on the left. Check the advise in Landis' book..it's a classic.
Okay, Stephen, you finally convinced me I need to get a 3/4" tap set...I was going to use the 1/2" I have, but now I need one of these great pattern vises you've made. Question: Is the vise set against a benchdog out of sight behind the inner jaw, or are dowels locating it on the endge of the bench? And please explain your 'square peg in a round hole' sitting there...there has to be some way to secure the vise at a second point to prevent movement. This is great...makes me wish you'd write a book(!) :P
I actually use both 3/4" and 1" tap and die, the vise has threads cut with 1", but I have made them with 3/4 which works fine. The square peg in a round hole is a 3/4" wooden bolt, nut under bench that goes through any of my dog or holdfast holes anywhere on the bench including the front apron. The vise rotates 360? so you can access your work from any angle.
The flat nature of my workbenches and the smooth bottom of the vise holds it in place for most work. You can actually exert a great deal of pressure with the opposing forces of the two screws on the vise. The top one positions the vise jaws and the lower handle provides pressure, much like the old parallel jaw clamps.
Barb, I did write a book "Shepherds' Compleat Early Nineteenth Century Woodworker" published in 1981, hope to reprint it next year. Also the "Hide Glue Book" will be out in the spring.
When are you going to come down for another visi? My new/old shop is real cool.
I knew about your books...very glad to hear you have plans to reprint next year, and I've liked using the hide glue crystals you sent me; I fully intend to buy the glue book when it's out. Glad to hear you're well set up in a new/old shop! I hope it has more room than your basement shop I saw. I'd love to come see you again; when I can get there, I will definitely let you know. -Barb
Thank you so much for your advice, Stephen. It had never even occurred to me that I could make my own vise, but with the picture and explanation you provided I think that it is a project I will enjoy. I will also check out the holdfast which it seems will probably meet most of my needs for securing wood to the bench. Thanks too for saving me the $$$$!
Thanks for the advice, particularly the use of the jig you suggest. I'm learning good jigs are as important as good tools to getting the results one wants. I'll check out the book also. You expertise in this forum has been an outstanding resource for me.