What do you need a face vise for? Reviewing my Holding Methods matrix from the previous post you will find that the primary purpose of a face vise is to hold work when planing edges and when sawing edges and ends. I think you will agree those are important tasks.
But is a vise absolutely essential for holding work when carrying out these tasks? Here Steve Branam from Close Grain uses what he calls a frog (because it is wider?) along with holdfasts while planing a board on his portable workbench.
This photo from Peter Follansbee’s web site shows how he locks a board into a crochet that sports a Moxon style screw clamp.
Here is Peter again this time clamping a board into position so he can work on its end using only a holdfast. So, it’s entirely possible to get away without a face vise. But I’m going to put one on my bench anyway.
Which is the best face vise? No, this isn’t it.
Nor this one. Nothing with a bunch of metal bars limiting the clamping depth.
My workbench design is based on the Holtzapffel bench presented in Woodworking magazine. Why not just go with the twin screw vise? It is said to be perfect for dovetailing carcase parts, 1st choice in my matrix. But I think it will be a royal pain having to turn both screws when clamping and unclamping.
But this new twin screw vise developed by Len Hovarter might change my thinking. The shafts are threadless, just push the chop up to the work and give one of the handles a quick turn to clamp it tight. That’s right, they are synchronized by a transfer bar mounted under the benchtop. Priced near $400 it is far more than I can afford.
Another vise a lot of people talk about but few people seem to have is a shoulder vise. Even though it is the 1st choice of vise for dovetailing drawer parts it looks like it would be in the way the rest of the time. I should tell you that this photo comes from workbenchdesign.net, THE goto place for all things workbench related.
This is a drawing of a vise that Edwin Sprague received a patent for in 1871 and it sparked my creative juices. In the vertical position it raises the work up higher making it easier to saw dovetails without having to bend over. Swing it into the horizontal position it provides a long clamping area for holding long boards for planing. I call it a swing vise and once I get my workbench built I might fully develop this design.
We are left with leg vises and this one is a beauty, the Glide leg vise by Benchcrafted. More than $300, it’s too rich for my blood.
This vise on Chris’ monster Roubo bench is also a beauty with its Big Wood screw that runs $145 for the kit but they are currently unavailable. Shucks, have to go to Lake Erie Toolworks to get a wood screw now.
Update: Jeff Dombrowski points out that this is actually his Lake Erie Toolworks screw, not the Big Wood one. My mistake.
I’ve settled on the homemade version like the one on Chris Schwarz’s Roubo bench in his book Workbenches: from Design & Theory to Construction & Use. It is going to get a $36 steel screw from Lee Valley.
A concern I have with my design is deciding where to put the guide at the bottom of the chop. I’m not certain about the benchtop height and I may want to shorten the legs in the future so I need to leave room below the stretchers for doing that. I also don’t want to interfere with the stretcher joinery.
One option is to place the guide a higher, above the stretchers but I’m wondering if that might make the lever arm too short for good clamping pressure.
Another option I found in the reprint of Exercises in Wood-Working by Ivin Sickels available from Popular Woodworking books. This shows a leg vise with its guide offset to the left. Implementing something like this I could place the guide at any height along the leg and it would also eliminate racking when clamping longer pieces to the right of the screw (though I’ve never heard anyone mention this is a problem with a leg vise).
Think some of this stuff gets overthunk?