Not long ago I was shifting from flattening the face side of my massive Soft Maple boards (8 1/2″ W x 3 3/4″ D x 75″ L), to one of the edge faces. On one board both of the edge faces were about equal in perceived work, as each had some twist and similar nasty rough characteristic. Many times I’d grab my old Bailey #6 hand plane set up with a decently cambered iron, and start with the iron way out there, just to expedite the process, as I hate just getting a whisker or two on a pass, at least at this stage. Oh, and I am talking about wood that I purchased that is basically rough, to the point where it has some fuzzy all over.
On this board, I reached for my #6 and I’m really not sure why my hand re-directed to my 9-grain Auriou Rasp, which is my medium grit, as I also have a 5-grain for really heavy stuff and a 15-grain model makers for the super fine work (Auriou rasps 1-grain – 4-grain are intended for working stone, while 5-grain – 15-grain are good for wood).
From my perspective, the far right corner of my board was elevated, as was the near left corner, as you’d expect when you have some wind/twist. I stood the board on it’s opposite side, with a wedge under one corner, to keep it from rocking (or at least too bad). I grabbed the 9-grain Auriou with it’s handle in my right hand and the tip in my left, and held it in an almost 45-degree position with my left hand leading the way. As I touched the wood, I tried to keep both of my hands at a similar level from the floor, and started near the far end of the board. Since I already knew the high area was on the right, it was easy to use that to confirm I was keeping my hands fairly level, as I expected to see wood removed on the right and nothing on the left, and the area removed shouldn’t slope to the right.
Since I’d never tried using my Auriou like this before, I made a couple of passes and then stopped to see if it was worth continuing, or if I was just wasting my energy. Surprisingly, this medium-grit rasp was rapidly bringing the high sections down, and as is somewhat usual for Auriou, it was leaving a very decent texture to the surface. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it wasn’t chewing it up and/or ripping it to shreds! With the positive results, I really got into it and gradually worked my way to the other end of the board.
After the I had all of the major high areas lowered down, I shifted over to my #6 hand plane, with it set at a much more reasonable bite, and rapidly completed this edge face. When I was done, I wondered if I might should’ve tried bringing in the 5-grain Auriou, but that bad boy was probably overkill, at least for this level of stock removal.
For those who haven’t yet had the chance to use any of the Auriou line of rasps, I’ll share a tip that I found during my time with these tools. I think my first tendency with a rasp (maybe just because I’m a guy, but I can’t say for sure) is to lean into it while applying pressure, to get the wood out of the way. While this tactic will certainly remove wood briskly, the overall surface can seem like a chainsaw hit it. I’ve found that using a light touch on the downward force, and controlled strokes can still rapidly remove wood, but ends up leaving a much better surface. This seems to go for any of the Auriou rasps I’ve used (the three I listed are all the cabinet maker’s shape, with one flat side and one that is curved from side-to-side, but I also have a 13-grain in their handle-maker’s style, that has the same side-to-side curve, but also curves on the long axis, towards the tip), so if you buy or are lucky enough to receive as a gift, try this to get the best results from your rasps. Oh, and Auriou make their rasps as either a right-hand or a left-hand rasp, based on how the teeth of the rasp are created. If you are a right-handed person, and are using a left-handed rasp, you’ll end up roughing the surface rather than the teeth actually cutting like they are intended. Just keep that in mind if you are buying one of their rasps, whether new or used.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the information and may give it a try as well. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Early on in my woodworking, I always seemed to have such a hard time finding a good way to securely hold the wood I was either needing to saw, chisel or plane, on it’s edge or end. I hadn’t yet built a workbench, and even when I finally had my first bench, the cheap little vise (and it’s jaws that weren’t truly aligned) I had was all but useless.
Move forward a some years and I finally got a cabinet-style table saw, and the heft of the saw led me to design a vise that would take advantage of this stability. Initially, I had a couple of pieces of 6/4 Oak that were each about 24″ long and 6″-7″ wide, that didn’t have a project attached to them. I copied the layout of the mounting holes on the side of my table saw, where an extra wing could attach, and transferred this layout to the rear board of my vise design. I drilled these holes into the length of my Oak, and recessed them enough so the bolt heads with a washer, wouldn’t stand proud of the inside surface. I also made sure the placement of the vise was low enough so the top edge of both jaws couldn’t interfere with the normal table saw operations.
My first iteration on my design used two 12″ Jorgensen F-clamps, which slipped into slots I cut into both edges of the front and rear jaws, to apply pressure and hold the workpiece. After cutting these slots, I bolted the rear vise face to my table saw, making sure to use large washers to spread out the forces. I didn’t want to accidentally crack the mounting holes on my table saw. This first design worked reasonably well, but the jaws flexed more than I wanted, which made it difficult to apply enough gripping pressure to the workpiece, before the ends of the jaws met first.
The first upgrade was to replace the rear vise jaw with a somewhat rough piece of 8/4 Maple, where the rough section was on the side facing away from the workpiece. Rather than cutting the slot in the ends of this board, so I could continue to use the F-clamps, I bought three veneer press screws as replacements for the clamps. Each of the press screws came with a threaded cast-iron nut, of sorts. I drilled holes for each of these three press screws, laid out with one on each end and the last about a third from one of the ends. I drilled these holes with a bit that was just slightly larger than the screw’s shafts, to keep the slop to a minimum. The nuts that came with the press screws, were oddly shaped; they were each sort of deep and shaped like a section of a cone. I drilled with different sized bits, to different depths, until I had a hole that was close to fitting the nut. I carved out the last little bit with a number of different tools, until the fit was solid. The press screws also came with an end-piece that fit over the tip of the screw, and had a set screw that went into a shallow recess. I attached each of these, so there was less chance I’d accidentally unscrew any to the point where they disengaged with their nut.
I mentioned earlier that I placed the mid press screw about a third from one of the ends. I did this so I had the option of using the two outside screws, when working on a very large panel, but the choice of two other sizes, depending on the size of my workpiece. I was afraid this new setup might also flex more than planned, and the shorter the section between screws, the more rigid, using the same materials.
When I transitioned to the Maple rear jaw and the press screws, I didn’t have enough 8/4 Maple to also make a full-sized front jaw, but I did have enough to make one that was about 3″ tall. I centered this on the press screw shanks, and it did a better job of diminishing the side-to-side flex, but didn’t hold tight enough at the top of the rear jaw. This deficiency allowed the workpiece to vibrate during a saw cut, so was another learning experience.
During the period where I was making some changes to the vise, I had also built a workbench and even though it was somewhat small, it was pretty solid. It was time to remove the vise from the table saw, thank it for it’s service, and turn the vise into a free-standing model. I attached a small piece of plywood with a screw, to the inside face of the rear jaw, at both ends. This helped index it against the workbench top, so I could easily tell it was where it should be. I also cut both ends, of the rear jaw, from the top down about 3″. With these “ledges”, I could grip the vise with a couple of clamps, or hold-fasts. This really made it much better and provided me choices as to where I wanted to place the vise, and it sat higher, so I didn’t need to bend over as far. Definitely good for my back.
A friend was kind enough to give me a load of 8/4 Pecan that had a lot of internal stresses, which didn’t allow for machine planing, or could likely cause all sorts of problems for the plane or the operator. I like using my hand planes and chose a board that was somewhat similar in size to the rear Maple vise jaw. After working what would be the inside face of the board so it was flat and true, I did the same on the exterior face, except some of the “dips” were so extreme that I decided to only take it down enough so it ended up around 75%-85% flat. I didn’t want to lose any more of the strength the thickness of the board would provide. I cut the board so it was the same length as the Maple jaw, transferred the location of the holes to the front jaw, and drilled the holes at my drill press.
One of the next modification was to glue some leather on the inside of both front and rear jaws, which elevated the performance of the vise even more. I had bought the leather a couple of years earlier for another project, and luckily had a good amount left over. I just used some of the Titebond glue I had on hand in my shop, to attach the leather to the vise jaws. After I applied the glue and leather to both jaws, I put a double layer of wax paper between the jaws, and let the pressure from the press screws hold it snuggly until the glue cured. It was amazing just how much difference the leather makes, in a vise situation. I suppose this extra gripping, which I see as the leather conforming to the workpiece, might be a good example why stropping the back of a chisel or plane iron on leather, can potentially roll it’s edge.
Well, this setup was decent and functioned, but I’d been eyeing one of the BenchCrafted Moxon vise kits for quite some time. Imagine my surprise at Christmas when one of their kits was underneath our tree, with my name on it! With all I’ve had on my plate, I am almost to the point where I can make the change to their cool gear. For those that haven’t ever checked out BenchCrafted, their website and their blog, I believe you have been missing a lot. Jameel and Father John are great guys and have wonderful products. Oh, and this kit was purchased at full retail price, just so that is clear.
I plan to install the new hardware and have a new post with all of the details, in the near future.
Thanks for visiting my blog and I hope this article might provide some alternate ideas for this style of vise. Most of us start with something that can get us through, until we can make our dreams happen. Let me know if you have any questions or comments. At the time of this post, I’ve not found any photos of the first vise I made. If I do happen to find some in the archives, I’ll post them in the article.
A couple of nights ago I went out to my shop to update the “clamping” jaw of my dovetail vise. I previously had a 2″ x 2″ piece of Maple running the length of the vise (centered in the vertical plane), as the clamping jaw, and to hold well seemed to require too much force, […]
I’ll start this entry by just saying it out loud, “I love chisels”! There, now no one will ever mistake why I have so many from different makers. Haha. I ordered the four piece chisel set (1/4″, 1/2″, 3/4″, 1″) from Highland Woodworking and with the length of time it took to ship from Barr, […]