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Thread: Emmert Vise versus Benchcrafted Leg Vise

  1. #1
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    Emmert Vise versus Benchcrafted Leg Vise

    I built my first and only woodworking bench several years ago when i was first getting started. Id call it my first legitimate woodworking project. At the time, i was on a very tight budget and i cheaped out on the bench hardware. I installed a lee valley large front vise on the end of the bench that also serves as a tail vise. I then had aspirations of making a less expensive leg vise using lee valley's tail vise screw. Long story short, i couldnt get the cobbled together leg vise to work without racking horribly. Even after installing a bottom support with pins. I ended up removing this "leg vise", and ive been using the front vise ever since. It works OK, but has a tendency to rack if workpieces are offcenter. Not really the vises fault, the chop is the width of my bench 26-28". Along with holdfasts and dogs, ive managed just fine for the last 6-7 years. My major downside is clamping long pieces. My bench is against a wall, so the front vise on the end isnt position to work long edges well. I will photograph the bench and it's position later tonight. Its a Roubo style with a cabinet under the bench for handtools.

    Theres the back story, now on to the main discussion. I have the means now to add a proper vise to my bench. For the last year or two i kept tossing around the idea of making an entirely new bench with benchcrafted hardware--what i would have done originally had i had the money at the time. The hardware is beautiful and it looks like it performs at the highest level. The legvise hardware and crisscross add puts me around $500. There would also be a bit of retrofitting to install it. On the other hand, i recently saw a video of a guy using an Emmert, which left one heck of an impression. I have never handled one, i just knew they fetch pretty high prices on the used market and that they are a big and heavy front vise. The ability to tilt and swivel seems incredibly versatile. I dont know i would use that feature often, but for the times i did use it, im sure it would help a lot. Im currently working on a maloof rocker, and i can see it being nice to hold the arms in place at an angle while i go at them with rasps. I think this vise would be a little easier to install on my bench than the criss cross glide, and it will be a little less expensive judging by my craigslist search. Im slightly leaning toward the Emmert to save some coin, and hopefully have an easier time installing it. Looking at the BC glide, i think i would need to empty out the hand tool cabinet, and then flip the bench on its side so i could create the recesses for the criss-cross mechanism.

  2. #2
    Patrick,
    I have two benches. The first one was a nicholson where I put a leg vise with a bottom support and it has worked ok, though the pin moving is a pain. I put in a lee valley end vise it works well.
    I couple years back, my friend called and said he could get a few Emmerts at $400 each, so i bought one. Now i had to make a bench to put it on, so i did the split roubo and mounted the Emmert. I absolutely love that vise expecially like the ability to rotate the front jaw to grip pieces that are not quite parallel. I have a bencrafted tail vise on the other end of the roubo and it is great, though seems a bit high priced.
    Mike Siemsen from Chisago MN made some simple crosses that worked fine on the leg vise. Maybe searching for that might be cheap or give him a call at his woodworking school.

  3. #3
    Patrick, you could also consider Hovarter vices. I doubt I spelled that correct.

  4. #4
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    I'm actually considering an Emmert type vice for a bench I'm considering building for luthery because of the rotation that makes it very versatile while at the same time lets the vice "disappear" when it's not in use.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  5. #5
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    Aside from the rotation, how strong is an Emmert K1 or Turtleback? I imagine this thing grips like a junkyard dog, but want to confirm. Can you put some force on them without doing harm? Im referencing cleaning up mortises with a chisel and mallet while the workpiece is in the vise.

    Im guessing there will be strong feelings about this, but are the import Emmert knockoffs any good? I read previous threads on SMC of guys saying they were good and others saying they were trash. They are smaller vises than the 18" original Emmerts.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Kane View Post
    Aside from the rotation, how strong is an Emmert K1 or Turtleback? I imagine this thing grips like a junkyard dog, but want to confirm. Can you put some force on them without doing harm? Im referencing cleaning up mortises with a chisel and mallet while the workpiece is in the vise.

    Im guessing there will be strong feelings about this, but are the import Emmert knockoffs any good? I read previous threads on SMC of guys saying they were good and others saying they were trash. They are smaller vises than the 18" original Emmerts.
    For what it is worth, I recall Gene Landon, a noted period furniture maker actually mortising with a chisel and mallet while in the Emmert vise.

  7. #7
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    I really can't speak for the more recent Emmert knockoffs, but many years ago I purchased one from a now defunct but highly respected woodworking machinery dealer in York PA (Can't recall the name, but you could go to the showroom and get hands on all the machines). It has served me well for at least twenty years and I'd buy another in a flash if the quality was there.

  8. #8
    I have an old Emmert vise. Some previous owner tightened too tight at an angle, and snapped some edges off a tilt adjusting ring. Another insult was breaking the plate that is mortised into the bench top. I had the cast iron repaired at a machine shop.

    Recently I was making 8/4 x 12"-14" x 16' grooved and beaded, then hand planed, boards. I set up two 8' benches end to end, and held the wood on one end with that vise. The wood rested on a cleat on the other end. The vise worked great. The built in dogs are good for clamping work pieces by the edges. Spinning the vise sideways allows me to clamp one end of a door, and hold the other end up with a cleat. I use this for hinge and mortise lock cuts. Using it to hold wood while cutting a mortise sounds reasonable.

  9. #9
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    Think I found my vise for a reasonable price. Looking at my bench for a minute tonight, I donít have as much room on the end as I was imagining. Looks to be about 11Ē from the end of the bench top to the leg. Is that enough space to mount an Emmert? The tilting plate looks like itís 5-7Ē wide, so Iím guessing it will fit with adequate support on either end. My bench is pretty thick at 3-3.5Ē, so I am confident it can support the vise.

    Iíll have to post the photos tomorrow, I canít from my phone.

  10. #10
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    I have the Benchcrafted leg vise, the Lie-Nielsen twin screw, and a pattern makers vise on my bench. The patternmakers vise by far gets the most use, followed by the Lie-Nielsen, and then a distant last for the leg vise, which is only used for holding long boards for jointing along with the deadman or leg hole and holdfast.

    The patternmaker vise is just so versatile and I do a lot of curved work with the boat build. I just love putting a piece in, working it with a spokeshave, then rotating it as I work, or tilting the vise up to hold it at just the right angle. It also is used for whenever I want to hold something metal.

  11. #11
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    I've been looking for one for decades, but I've never lucked into the right timing, and always get beaten to it.

  12. #12
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    Tom, i have been looking too, and it seems with the same success rate, However, i think Malcolm got the Highland Hardware version of the pattern maker’s vise - his bench build video was pretty good - and given his positive experience with it i am planning on trying one as well. Unless LV suddenly resurrects the Tucker version . . . . Which seems unlikely.

  13. #13
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    I recently saw someone selling a Tucker for $2,500. Not sure if i understand that one. Assuming I am able to meet this guy tomorrow, i should be the owner of one tomorrow. Which means i can hopefully get it on my bench this weekend just in time for all the carving and sculpting i need to do on this maloof rocker. I have the chair put together except for the spindles and rockers, but the parts have only been roughed at the bandsaw.

    Looks like this used vise is missing the dogs. Can these be fashioned out of wood, or sourced elsewhere? Im not sure how important they will be to me, but something to consider. My last question for those that have them, is where to position this thing? is 10-11" of overhang enough room to mount the vise and have it fully operational? I dont figure out the dimensions of that mounting plate, but it looks like its about 6" wide. if I do put it there, i will need to move my bench down a foot or two towards the cyclone, or else i will be whacking my hip off the vise 50% of the time i use my jointer. Its only a 24-30" pathway between my router table and bench and my jointer. I imagine the the emmert vise is 7-8" deep when its fully closed.
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  14. #14
    At one point I had a dozen emmerts.

    Down to a couple rare ones.

    Absolutely great vise.

  15. #15
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    My turtleback has the 18 1/4" wide jaws. My bench overhang is 13 5/8" with the vise flush to the end of the bench. The hinge is 7 3/8" x 3 3/4" with 2 5/8" mortised into the edge of the bench.
    From the edge of the bench to the outside of the handle is 8 5/8". The jaws open 14" and are still fully in the nut. Mine also required a scalloped cut into the bottom of the bench for clearance for the screw. I forget now but I think it weighs 70-80lbs. Post photos when you get it. Good luck.

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