For anyone that has been following my blog, or my articles at Highland Woodworking for the last 5 years, you know I’ve had a bench build on my to-do list. For those that don’t know my background, I’ve had a number of iterations over the years, but never had all of the stars align to build a better bench.
I used a workmate for a little while, but struggled cutting precision joints, as there just wasn’t enough mass to knock out the saw vibrations. I attempted to build the base of my current bench, using some redwood from the big box stores, but I couldn’t get the joints to come together. Fast forward to when I got the earliest SawStop model saw, and integrated a home-made vise, to the holes on the left cast-iron wing. Finally I had the means to hold parts solidly, and also used the saw’s top as a “bench”. I pulled the base parts out of a storage stack, and re-worked the joints. All was good in the world again. With the base glued up, I had three layers of 3/4″ plywood, stacked as the bench top. From there it’s shifted to a double-layer of Ikea counter tops, 24″ x 48″, which is present day.
Today I chose some 12/4 Soft Maple at my local Dakota Premium Hardwoods, and they’ll drop it off here tomorrow. My cars just couldn’t handle two 14′ sticks and one 16′ stick. Haha.
Now I just have to wait to get the wood delivered, and fit the build into my “busy” schedule. 😉 You know I’ll be sure to document a good part of the build, so stay tuned. Sorry I missed the photo op today.
Thanks for stopping by.
I’ve had this hardware for a number of months now, but as many of the regular readers probably know, I’ve just had too much on my plate to make it happen. I was stoked to have some time yesterday, so I got after it.
I like to reuse wood that might have some visual imperfections, as long as it is structurally sound, which fits this Moxon. The rear jaw is one that I’ve used in similar configurations for the last 10 years (at least), and was at one time attached to the wing of my SawStop, so has some wood missing where the bolts and washers sat. The front jaw was also pre-used, in my most-recent setup, and is plenty solid.
The threaded posts that come in the kit, require a 3/4″ hole, for the initial installation. Since both jaws already had holes through them for the Press Screws that I used previously, using my drill-press, I aligned my 3/4″ forstner bit with the center of the existing holes, and quickly removed the excess wood. Oh, I forgot to mention that the forstner I am using is one of the Colt MaxiCut bits that is the best that I have ever, ever, used, or even seen used. I first saw this brand of forstner bit used in a video by Christopher Schwarz, and it blew me away. Even though I know Chris and trusted his data, I couldn’t wrap my head around it until I actually bought and used one of the bits. It has to be the fastest cutting bit I’ve ever experienced, and it leaves what is close to a perfect surface. They are a bit pricy, compared to some of the other forstners out there, but this again is in the realm of “you get what you pay for”. The only caveat I want to include, is the fact that once you do begin using the Colt MaxiCut forstner bits, it is oh so painful to ever go back to using any of the other forstners out there. (Be warned!)
On the front jaw, the drilled holes are elongated somewhat, to allow the vise to hold pieces that are angled. Forstner bits are known to excel in this type of situation, where the bit is only contacting the wood in a portion of it’s diameter or arc. Caution: You should not attempt to drill with a normal twist- type bit, when the center point of the bit isn’t engaged, as they have a tendency to flex away from the side that is engaged, and can possibly snap. Also, this operation, even when using a forstner, is safest when using a drill-press and the work is properly secured to the table.
The instructions that come with the kit, diagram removing wood around the drilled holes, in the shape of a rectangle, to a depth of 13/16″ on the inside face. While I’m certain this works fine, I decided to instead create a fitted hexagonal hole (for the nut that faces towards the front jaw), which was just more of a personal preference. To start, I fed one of the threaded posts through each of the drilled holes, and tightened a nuts on each side of the rear jaw. I used one of my marking knives, to trace around each nut a couple of times, to make sure it was sufficiently deep to hold the edge of a chisel. One note, I worked around the nut in a clockwise direction, so any unintentional force I might inadvertently apply couldn’t accidentally loosen the nut and shift my scribed lines. After I was satisfied with the depth of the scribing, I followed around the nut with my .3mm mechanical pencil, in the scribed lines. Even though the lines were deep enough to grab the edge of the chisel, I still like to see the chisel is in place, before striking the chisel. The quick application of pencil lead, down into the scribe lines, helps.
After removing all of the hardware from the rear jaw, I placed it onto my bench, and found a chisel who’s width was slightly less than the length of one of the hexagonal legs, on the large nuts. It turned out this was one of the Japanese chisels I bought in Japan, on our trip in 2001. At the beginning of this process, I used a large wooden mallet to strike the chisel gently, establishing a deeper outline of the nut. I liked using the wooden mallet, since it had a fairly large hitting area, and I could place almost all of my focus on the chisels edge placement, while still knowing I’d get a solid strike on the chisel. After the outline was fairly deep, I shifted over to my Glen-Drake hammer, as it does a great job of applying a forceful and focused strike. After working my way around the outline a few times, I set the chisel bevel-up just inside the outline, and with the chisel about 15-degrees up from flat, gave it a solid strike. This removed an angled section of wood, from the outline, angling down towards the center hole, relieving some pressure against the outer wall. I worked my way around the outline again, and then with the chisel flipped so the bevel was now facing down, I drove the chisel into the waste, taking about 1/8″ bite. To clarify, I did this by moving the chisel’s tip across the layout area, over the drilled hole, and into the waste. This allowed me to remove a decent amount of waste, fairly quickly, but I tried to only remove a thickness equal to what I had severed, working vertical around the layout. I repeated this process, testing the nut every so often, to see how much to remove. As I got close, I used my Lie-Nielsen Large Router Plane with the bit set to the same depth, as the nut is thick. With this setting, and the cutting edge against the inside surface of the drilled hole, I moved the plane to slice until it cut all the way around. I shifted back to my chisel, to remove most of the scored wood. I found moving back and forth between the Router Plane and my chisel, provided a nice flat surface, inside the excised hole.
After re-installing all of the hardware onto the rear jaw, I tested to make sure the holes on the front jaw fit easily over the threaded posts. As it turned out, there was a very small variance, that impeded the outside jaw’s movement. I took out one of my Auriou rasps, that has a curved tip, like you’d use if making handles. This rasp has teeth that are 13 grain, which means it is two away from the least aggressive, as they run from 1 (most coarse and for use on rock) to 15 (finest). The size of the rasp’s blank was just a bit under 3/4″ in width, and the outside surface is curved to fit inside a circle, which was perfect for removing the excess material. The 13 grain was just perfect for this type of work, as it was extremely quick, yet left a wonderful surface. I tested using an old large Nicholson rattail file in between fittings, but this file was very slow, and hard to keep from making lots of ruts, rather than one flowing surface.
The last thing I planned to do, was create a stopped chamfer, and while I was at it, maybe try out some lambs-tongues. As this chamfer is to be 45-degrees, back from the front face, I just held a pencil a given length, and used my fingers to ride against the edge. I made the first mark on the upper section of the front jaw, and the second on the face section of the same. For the end point of the chamfer, I decided to cut into the board with my Lie-Nielsen Tapered Carcass handsaw tilted 30-45 degrees, so that each end cut was headed towards the center of the vise. For all of the remaining chamfer area, I cut down until I just reached the two marked lines, again using my handsaw. I made saw cuts between 1/2″ – 3/4″ intervals, between the two end cuts. To help prevent any splitting, I set my Glen-Drake Tite-Mark to match the drawn lines, and scored along the full length of both. Instead of just wailing on all of the little “mountains” left from the saw cuts, I again took the same Japanese chisel, and gave it a firm rap along the scored lines. When both lines were outlined, I changed the angle I was using the chisel, to approximately 45-degrees. A couple of firm raps from the upper line, and then the same from the lower, removed the majority of the material. I followed that up with a draw knife, and as I got close, shifted back to my amazing Japanese chisel. It was still paring wood with the best of them, and it’s size was easy to wield without any mallet or hammer. I pared back until I was getting a fairly consistent surface, and then shifted to my flat-soled Boggs spokeshave. Another great tool, that does its job so perfectly. When all of this was to the point I could live with, I used the same chisel (no sharpening between or during any of this hard work) to rough out a lamb’s-tongue at each end of the chamfer. This is purely decorative, but seems to add something extra to the overall look. I used a gouge turned upside down on a bit of the lamb’s-tongue, and then finished it up with a couple of Auriou rasps. I again used the 13-grain curved rasp, and followed up with the 15-grain modeler’s rasp. They aren’t perfect, but as this vise is for function, I didn’t mind testing the look, which I like!
With the front jaw fitting over the threaded posts, with no effort required, it was ready for the cast iron handles. Just slip an included washer over each post, before threading on the handle, and your Moxon vise is just about ready for action. Actually, you can certainly use it in this form, but the included leather for the inside face of the front board, will give the vise that “easy, yet firm” grab on your work. Without the leather, it seems to require a bit more pressure with the handles, which can mark your work, or if you use less pressure, the work might slip slightly. Overall, I’d suggest installing the included leather, and let the vise work at it’s peak ability. The suggested method, for applying the leather, is to use rubber cement. I already had some leather on the inside surface of the front jaw, so I have yet to install the included piece. When I do, I plan to apply a light coating to the area where the leather will sit, as well as to one side of the leather. After applying the leather to the jaw, place a piece of waxed paper over the leather, and using the vise’s holding capabilities, apply a light pressure. I’d leave the vise sit like this, until the glue had set, based on the manufacturer’s suggested information. Obviously, you can leave it a bit longer, if you so desire, to allow all of the bonding to occur. When ready, open the vise jaws and remove the waxed paper. Your Moxon vise is ready to take on the world!
Thanks to everyone that stopped by to read my article. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
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