View Full Version : DUH, It's so simple!

harry strasil
01-24-2009, 12:13 AM
It's surprising no one has thought of it yet.

I am talking about the bottom adjustment on a Woodworkers Leg Vise. We use the same principle all the time while working in our Woodshops. Its just so simple and already proved itself.

Most Old Time WWing Leg Vises used an ordinary piece of scrap with many holes in it and put a pin in the right hole to keep the vise from Racking.

I have been sick most of the day and couldn't sleep last night or keep anything down. So I must have had a vision like the Indians did in the old days.

I was reading a good book by one of my Favorite Authors, and I assume my brain got bored and kicked into gear on the problem of a simple yet effective way to easily adjust the bottom racking adjuster, and then Bingo the answer was staring me in the face when I came down to the WW shop to put some of the tools away I have been using as there were stacks on several benches.

You probably won't believe it, but the ANSWER to the problem is at Harbor Freight. One of their CHEAP "F" clamps which have a habit of breaking the die cast ends.


1. Grab one of their Cheapo F clamps that has failed or another good one that is damaged, which has the serrated bar, long enough to span the whole length of your bottom vise adjusting board, (don't really know the proper name for the thing.)

2. Cut the serrated bar off to the proper length (the RED part in the drawing.)


3. Kerf the top center of the Adjustment board 2/3 to 3/4 the depth of the serrated bar as shown. The serrated bars are usually 3/16 thick and 3/4 wide. Make sure it is a nice tight drive in fit.

4. After the bar is seated in the adjustment board, mark in trom the top edge for some fastening pins, (I am going to use medium sized finish nails with the small head. Drill said holes about 3 inches apart on center, and smaller than the nail body.

5. Remove the bar and drill the holes in the metal bar so that the nail body with go thru it without binding.

6. Find a piece of 11 or 12 gauge metal (1/8 inch) approxiametly 2 inches wider than the wooden adjusting piece and long enough to have 1 inch of metal at the top, (the blue part in the drawing), and about 2 inches at the bottom.

7. Mark out the center,( a light coating of white spray can paint, will make the marks show up and after drying won't wipe off). For the lengh of the slot mark a 10 or 15 degree angle on one side of the Wood adjuster with the serrated clamp bar in the slot to obtain the necessary length of the slot.

8. Mark out the tab, it should be at least a 1/2 inch long,(the tab prevents the lock from eating into the wood of the bottom when its in use and tight.

9. Using the intersection of the side marks and the top of the tab, drill a hole on each side large enough so that a metal cutting Sabre saw blade with fit thru it. Secure the metal, then cut both directions the long ways from the hole. Then using one of the holes cut across the top of the tab. (AT THE END OF THE TAB CUTS, DRILL A SMALL HOLE AND COUNTER SINK BOTH SIDES A TAD, TO PREVENT THE TAB CORNERS FROM TEARING WHEN YOU BEND IT OVER.

10. (Remember to make the cuts on the sides of the TAB a little longer to compensate for the thickness of the metal when it is bent out.) Place the metal in a metal working vise with the bottom of the cuts even with the top of the Jaws, and using A Punch or other means BEND the tab over a little more than needed, so the cut end does not cut into the wood of the adjusting board.

11. Clean up all the edges with a file and debur the sharp edges. Rounding the very Bottom and Top Corners and the corners of the tab.

12. Clamp one side of the stop sticking out one side of the vise and file a 15 or 20 degree angle in the center of the top inside so that it is sharp enough to engage the serrations in the top of the clamp bar, with the bevel sloping up on the side facing the leg of the bench. If NECESSARY, you can file some of the notches deeper with a 3 cornered file used for Saw Sharpening.

13. Cut a Pinch Block as shown in the drawing,(Green part) Sticking Out enough that it will make the lock engage and still have clearance between the lock top and the bench leg, and secure it with at least 2 wood screws.

14. If you don't want to stoop over to adjust the lock. (Me), Drill a hole on one side of the lock and bend an eye on an old Coat Hanger or other suitable wire material and bolt it to the lock with the top end bent for a handle. Now you have a handle and if it's in the road, bend it out of the way.

Boy, the instructions for this little simple project got kinda long winded in the explanation.

But, I did get to use the free standing Drawing Board, I made out of some of that Veneered Sawdust board from the old Cheapo Computer desk Ma used in her Apartment when she lived in KC, Mo. before we were married.


Thiss is what I am going to use on my NuBench I am building.

Don C Peterson
01-24-2009, 12:56 AM
Very interesting idea Jr.

It seems like it would work well. Heck, it seems like you should patent the idea... Keep us up to date on your progress.

Jim Koepke
01-24-2009, 1:57 AM
I sort of get it, but a lot of pictures when you are done will drive it home.

I was just looking at the long grain shooting board. That can save a lot of time on one of my next projects.

I am even thinking about trying a blade from a #2 or 3 in a wider plane to save more of the shooting board edge.

Looking forward to how this leg vice improvement works and any revisions you may build in to it.


Jim Paulson
01-24-2009, 8:03 AM

Best wishes on this idea. I'll be interested to see some pictures too as Jim suggested.

Your knack for problem solving, a common trait among blacksmiths, reminds me of my attempt years ago to build a treadle scroll saw from scratch. My saw is sitting in the garage waiting for my next moment of inspiration. For me it is building a better blade clamping assembly.

Thanks for sharing.


David Keller NC
01-24-2009, 8:18 AM
Harry - Nice extension of the rack and catch method of keeping a leg vise parallel to inexpensive parts that are easy to come by.

But since you're a smith, have you considered (or do you know about) Jameel Abraham's opposing-wheel arrangement for preventing a leg vise from racking? I suspect with your mechanical inclinations it'd be cake for you to make and scrounge the parts to do it, and the video on Jameel's site is very impressive - one push to the handle, and the vise travels in several turns under its own inertia.

John Schreiber
01-24-2009, 12:04 PM
It's surprising no one has thought of it yet.

I am talking about the bottom adjustment on a Woodworkers Leg Vise. We use the same principle all the time while working in our Woodshops. Its just so simple and already proved itself.
When I had read this far, I thought for a minute to see what you would come up with and it occurred to me. I'll bet he's going to make something like the Lee Valley twin screw, but vertical. Now I see that's not what you did, but that's another idea which is worth looking into. Especially with some roller guides along the bottom, and some provision for moving the chain side to side to give a bit of toe-in to-out control, that would be pretty sweet.

harry strasil
01-24-2009, 12:04 PM
David we are talking about 2 different kinds of racking , I have been using a leg vise on my demo workbench for quite a number of years and have had no problem with the racking Jameel is worried about even tho the leg the vise is mounted on is real soft Linden (Basswood), also my oak vise movable jaw is much lighter than Jameels, I just wanted an easier and quicker method than removing and replacing the pin all the time.



frank shic
01-24-2009, 1:10 PM
harry i like the through-tenoned stool in the background. looks a lot like the one i built based off of the ikea model.

David Keller NC
01-24-2009, 10:33 PM
Harry - Perhaps I'm confused, but I was under the distinct impression that Jameel's set-up was built so that a pin wasn't necessary (i.e., the pairs of rollers hold the vise parallel to the bench).

That's a really interesting note about using basswood for anything on a bench - kind of puts the lie to the idea that you have to have a hard, strong wood for a bench (always thought that was sort of suspect - most woods, other than balsa, should be OK if big enough in cross section).

harry strasil
01-24-2009, 11:16 PM
The top and the vise end leg are Basswood, I was looking for a thick plank for stability to make that bench and I needed it to be light as I have to move it in and out of the demo trailer, and that basswood plank fit the bill, The Sawyer had it in his kiln along with its mate, both 8 ft long and 4 inches thick and 12 wide. He wanted to get rid of it and he was a former customer of mine. When he only asked $20 and offered to plane it for me too for that price, I said yes real quick.

Like I said, I just needed something with mass to chisel on. if fit the bill, I have had no problems with it. The bench I am replacing is an Aluminum frame with folding legs that a customer wanted me to piece together from scrap Aluminum rectangular and square tubing he got from a salvage yard, He wanted to use it for a folding Butchering table. I had to clean it up and then weld it together which took some time and when he came to pick it up, he thought it was too much money and thought I would come down, I paid him for the aluminum, put it in my basement, laminated 2 4 by 8 sheets of plywood together and have been using it for quite a few years. It takes up too much room in my small shop area, so I am making the 27 by 60 bench so I can have more room and will move the other one to the other side of the basement for an assembly table. I knew that 5 ft long was sufficient from using the narrow 5 ft long demo bench.

some think that I am putting too many vises on the new one, but each has its purpose.

As for the bottom locking device, its not hard to figure out, just look at a pony pipe clamp or most F clamps, its the same principle,

I guess I think outside the box too much, from many years of solving other people problems while a Blacksmith.

Besides a Workbench is much like a Car or Pickup or Tractor, it has to suit the person who owns it, so their are many different kinds and models to choose from.

To me, my Workbench is sort of a sacred thing, its where I perfom most of my Woodworking and if it doesn't suit someone else, they can build there's different or wait till I kick off and try to acquire mine and change it to their specifies.

I like building/making tools and if I see something that I like and its beyond my budget, I just build my own. I rarely work from plans as then its someone elses work I am imitating.

I often go to great lengths to make things that contain no screws or nails, just because I can and want to. I like the simplicity and simple lines of Shaker made stuff, so I don't usually embelish things.

Wayne Morley
01-25-2009, 1:49 PM
Harry - Perhaps I'm confused, but I was under the distinct impression that Jameel's set-up was built so that a pin wasn't necessary (i.e., the pairs of rollers hold the vise parallel to the bench).

You’re not the only one who is under that mistaken impression. Jameel himself addressed this in his post in another thread. http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?p=1002051#poststop

Phillip Pattee
01-25-2009, 10:12 PM
It looks like it should work. Do you really need to set the bar into hardwood? It seems like you could just use the bar and the pinch block with the clamp mechanism.

We had another thread on leg vises, and Jameel showed us that he still has a pin in his vise.

David Keller NC
01-26-2009, 9:07 AM
"We had another thread on leg vises, and Jameel showed us that he still has a pin in his vise."

Yeah, I looked at the link Wayne provided. However, I really don't understand why Jameel's design, particularly if the rollers were made out of an engineering plastic like Xytel, or perhaps bronze or steel, shouldn't be able to take the force of the leg vise. That'd be a huge improvement along the lines of what Harry's suggesting, though I suppose some would comment that re-setting the pin just isn't that big of a deal.

harry strasil
01-26-2009, 10:46 AM
phillip the bottom adjuster is in a damage prone area, that could be kicked accidently or otherwise damaged, as the long portion of the jaw is below the vise screw and the 3/4 inch wide strip of metal could becomee bent and/or damaged enough to impair its ability to slide thru a narrow mortise that would not be easy to chop in the first place.