As I mentioned in the article I posted yesterday (here), I planned to make a Stitching Pony. While I was working on a project, I happened to recall seeing Jason Thigpen’s video over at TxHeritage.net a while ago, where he used his saw vise to hold leather he was stitching. I figured I should give my saw vise a try, at least in “Test Mode”, just to see how mine behaved for me.
At first I was a little concerned that I might not have enough travel, on the front jaw of my saw vise, to handle the thickness of leather I planned to use. It turned out that I had a little to spare, but not a great deal. I guess the positive thing, in my saw vise build, is the bolt I used isn’t glued into place and it would be simple to swap for one that is slightly longer. When building the vise, I never imagined wanting to hold any saw’s plate that would be anywhere near the thickness of two layers of this leather.
While I was mounting my awesome saw vise, I began thinking I really should go forward with building the Stitching Pony. This is in part because I expect I’ll do at least some leather stitching, at my bench inside my house, during the colder Winter months as well as the scorchers in the Summer.
I’ve seen a number of Stitching Pony ideas, and I’ve decided to make mine a little smaller in scale than some out there. At this point I’m not planning or expecting to do a ton of leather stitching, and the stuff in mind is fairly small, so it should do just fine. If something changes down the road, I can always make a larger version, and use the small one for smaller scale work.
I used some off-cuts that were in my shop, to get the two jaws of my future Pony glued and clamped up. I used polyurethane glue for the Pony jaws, and brought both inside so the glue would cure properly, and will leave them clamped overnight.
Tomorrow I plan to trim and shape the dried jaws, and I’ll see if I have enough spare time to complete my new little horsy, er um, Pony.
Thanks as always for stopping by and checking out the article. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
I’ve recently written about my earlier saw sharpening vise, which I made 5 years ago, and after finishing the article I thought about building a beefier version. I moved in a totally different direction, with the new vise build. I met Jason Thigpen (Texas Heritage Woodworks) at the Lie-Nielsen Toolworks Event in Round Rock, TX, last year, and I was really impressed with his take on saw sharpening vises. Jason is a truly nice guy and after we visited for a while, he told me I should just build my own. Thanks Jason, you were so right! 😉
I didn’t take any of the measurements from Jason’s vise, which didn’t matter since I wasn’t trying to duplicate his exact design. I ended up with a vise that I made partly from previously used wood, as well as some from wood that was in a discard bin, with very little outlay. The only portion I had to go purchase, was the 1/2″ bolt, nut and washer, used to close the vise.
My previous “Moxon” type vise provided a couple of White Oak “blanks” to use for the “heads”. They weren’t completely whole, as I’d taken some pieces out for alternate projects, but they still had plenty of meat on their bones. Initially, I sketched out my vise head shape and transferred it to some hardboard, to create a template. I like making templates like this, as they are easy to store, in case I decide to make another.
I transferred the template onto my Oak, and cut the two “heads” out on my bandsaw. I cleaned up the long flat sides, with a couple of different hand planes. I got after the shorter sections with my spokeshaves, and the remaining unreachable areas with my “Hock drawknife” which I wrote about recently.
I planed the inside face of both heads dead flat, and followed up by planing a graduated hollow in the center of each. This will make sure both ends touch the saw plate first, and as the vise is tightened, the jaws will make complete contact. The hollow is in the order of .005″ at the center. I also planed the lower surface, where they will meet their respective upright “legs”. I made sure they were both dead-flat, and square to their respective inside face.
The “leg” material is some 8/4-10/4 Pecan that went crazy during the kiln drying process, so it has twists, hills and valleys like no other. Haha. So, it required a bit more time and man-power to get them both flat and square. Yeah, I still did this work with my hand planes, and this was especially important since there was also a fair amount of figure in this wood. I didn’t want to chance sending any of this through my powered planer, only to have large chunks fly off, or possibly have the boards blow up! After prepping a good sized Pecan board, I marked and cut the board, to get the two “leg” pieces for this vise. The front “leg” piece is shorter, at approximately 14″ long, and the rear one longer at approximately 20″. This will provide enough extra length to the rear leg, to be held in my face vise, and putting the saw’s teeth up at a convenient height. This will help prevent my back from feeling the extra stress, that is fairly normal, whenever I’d sharpen a saw.
It was now time to get the “heads” connected to the “legs”. I decided to try connecting the “head” and “leg” in what I’ll call a bit non-traditionally, by using my Festool Domino. As it turns out, there was enough room to place two #8 dominos centered on the thickness of the heads, with an inch or so between them. I initially thought I’d probably use a couple of #10 dominos, but when I compared the actual pieces with the wooden dominos, the #8’s looked to be the best fit. While the #8 dominos are a bit less beefy, they should still be plenty strong.
I measured, located and marked the centerline on the “head” and “leg” pieces. With those marked, I put each “head” up against it’s mating “leg”, and with the centerlines aligned, marked two lines across from the “head” to the “leg”. These will be the center points of the dominos, and the Domino machine has a line on it’s gauge which is placed so it coincides with these marks on the boards. I just needed to set my Domino’s fence so it would make the holes in the center of the stock’s thickness, and set the depth of cut so the two holes cut slightly deeper than the total length of the #8 dominos. (Tip: If I want the thickness of a specific domino, but don’t have the depth for a normally sized piece, I set the depth of cut to a lower dimension and trim the length of my dominos.)
The Domino is an amazingly simple tool to operate. Just hold the fence against the marked face, turn the switch on, and push the head forward until the depth-stop is reached. Done!
After all the pieces had their domino holes, I used polyurethane glue to put everything together. Most glues of this type work best if there is moisture available to kick off the curing process. Some labels advise to apply the glue to one piece, and to wipe the mating piece with a damp rag. Since my wood lives in my shop, which is also a garage, there is no doubt it has enough moisture, as is. I set out two of my parallel-headed clamps, and opened them so they would be ready to hold the “head” and “leg” together firmly. I put some glue on each domino, and on the surface next to the holes, on one of the two pieces. I tried to eyeball the amount, so I’d have a little squeeze-out, but not overdo it. So after the two sections were both in the clamps, it was off to get a bite to eat. I let them sit in the clamps for a little over an hour, and checked to see if the foam was still sticky. Since the foam around the edges was still slightly sticky, I let it sit until it was dry. I used a scraper very lightly, to clean up the small areas of foam. For those who haven’t ever used a polyurethane glue, any of the glue that isn’t under pressure, will foam up. This is at least one of the reasons why your parts need to fit well, in order to use this glue. It isn’t a glue that should be used to fill voids, especially if the voids need to be strong, as the foam has no strength.
I decided I’d glue some suede leather to the inside of both jaws, which helps them grip better, even when less pressure is applied. My source for this leather may sound somewhat funny, but it is from a discarded pair of suede leather shorts, my mother found at a garage sale for a dollar. Ok, so I love to utilize what I have on hand. Haha. I cut a strip off the shorts that was about 1″ wide, for each jaw, and glued them down with more of the polyurethane glue. I used a weight on top of a caul on each jaw, with a piece of wax paper between the caul and the leather, so the caul didn’t become part of my vise.
After the glue was totally dried, I placed the two jaws together, to determine where I wanted the bolt and the leather strips, on this vise. The bolt was originally planned to be 3 1/2″ long and 1/2″ diameter, but the components will end up requiring a bolt that is 4 1/2″ long. On the short front leg, I marked an oval, with the two extremes ending in a 1/2″ circles. I drilled the two circles with my drill press first, using a 1/2″ forstner bit, and then drilled out the remaining connecting area with the same. I reset the drill press table, so there was enough room for both legs together, under the bit. With the two jaws aligned perfectly and the power off on the drill press, I extended the bit down through the uppermost drilling position on the short leg, until the bit pressed into the lower leg. After removing the already-drilled short leg, I drilled through the longer rear leg, at the mark the bit left.
Back at my bench, I inserted the 1/2″ bolt until the head was against the rear leg, and tightened the nut against the front let. Using one of my marking knives, I scored around all six facets on the nut, making multiple passes to get a deep perimeter.
I removed the nut and the bolt from the rear leg, and using a small Pfeil chisel, carefully removed wood inside the perimeter of my score line. Initially, it is extremely critical to pay attention to your score line, as it is easy to accidentally cut through or over it. After you remove some wood, all the way around the perimeter, you can work more freely, but try to keep a crisp outside wall.
After the first two passes, I shifted to using a chisel to strike-in the perimeter, rather than continuing to use the marking knife. This creates a deeper line, with less time, speeding up the process. I moved to using a couple of 3/8″ mortising chisels (a Lie-Nielsen and a Barr), both in the striking and also in a paring manner. The extra heft of these chisels felt nice and solid, even when I was paring away material approaching 1/8″ of thickness, in a single pass. As I started going deeper into the recess, I flipped the chisels over, so they were now bevel down. Bevel up worked fine up close to the surface, but will dive down into the wood, when much of a declining angle is used. I re-inserted the bolt on a somewhat regular basis, to verify how much material still needed to come out, and to make sure I didn’t go too deep. When I had the bolt head just below the rear surface, it was time to call that work done.
The next thing on the build, was to layout and then drill two through-holes, in the short leg first. I used my drill press and a 1/4″ forstner bit for these holes, which was probably overkill, since each hole takes quite a bit longer on deep holes. This is mainly because the small forstner bits don’t evacuate the wood chips very efficiently, and tend to heat up pretty quickly, if you try to push deeper without clearing. On the other side of the coin, the forstner bits do create a nice hole, but sharp twist bits can as well. So, after using the small forstner for these two holes down near the bottom of the leg, I tightened the main bolt to cinch the legs together, after making sure everything was in alignment. I used the 1/4″ holes in the front leg as guides, for a 1/4″ twist bit in my cordless drill, to drill two shallow pilot holes in the rear leg. I removed the bolt and the front leg, and then drilled through the remaining thickness of the rear leg, with the 1/4″ twist bit. I put an off-cut against the back of the rear leg, to support the fibers as the bit exited the leg, so it wouldn’t splinter or tear out.
Now that I had all of the necessary holes drilled, I thought about multiple ways I could handle the pivot for the vise, and sketched out my favorite solutions.This will provide enough space in the lower jaw region, so a back saw could fit inside, without the jaws contacting the thicker back, before clamping the saw plate. It also focuses the clamping forces out at the top edge of the jaws. I initially decided I’d test three layers of leather, stacked and glued together. After the leather “block” came out of the clamps, I was less sure it was the one. After a few other iterations, I decided to use a cylinder of wood, as the pivot. I had some leftover pieces of Pecan, from the original leg board, so I cut the pieces into some blanks I could turn on my lathe. I originally planned to make the cylinder’s length match the width of the legs, and to drill two matching holes through the cylinder, to allow my connection material to pass through from the two legs. While I was turning a piece of the Pecan, I came up with yet another slight modification on this design. Since the two through-holes were spaced fairly far apart, I’d cut the cylinder down so it would just fit between the two holes. The cylinder would still provided enough baring length, so the jaws would feel solid, and wouldn’t have a tendency to tip from side to side.
After reaching the diameter I planned for the pivot, I measured its length and using my marking gauge, scored around it’s diameter. I used my Lie-Nielsen tapered cross-cut saw, to gradually work my way around the cylinder, following the scored line. This is much more accurate than attempting to cut all the way through from one side of the cylinder. I cleaned up the cut end with my amazing narrow Japanese paring chisel (100 + years old), and broke each end’s edges on some 320-grit sandpaper.
I recently got a tabletop spindle sander, and I took advantage of it during this build. Since I designed my pivot as a cylinder, I decided to create a shallow recess that would match the outside curvature of this cylinder, with the spindle sander. I installed the rubber drum of the same rough diameter, along with the sandpaper sleeve, and created a recess across the inside surface of the front board, at the same location as the two 1/4″ holes.
I hand sanded the pivot cylinder to 800-grit, except for the small section that will mate to the recess in the front leg, which I left at 180-grit so the glue would hold better. I mixed up a small portion of epoxy, and spread it very lightly in the recess, between the two holes. I clamped the pivot cylinder in place, and left it to cure for a couple of hours, before removing the clamps.
Originally, I had planned to use some bolts to connect the rear pivoting portion of the legs, much like the main bolt, but I had some leather in my shop that caught my eye. This was some heavy-weight tanned leather, from a number of years ago, from which I cut two strips that were just slightly less than 1/4″ wide. With the two jaws in place, I fed a leather strip into one hole, and passed the end through to the other side of the vise. I made a knot on one end, and then with the strip pulled snug, did the same on the opposite end. The other strip went through the other set of holes, and was handled the same. These leather strips were somewhat stiff, but providing both flexibility, and some stability. Ultimately, this turned out to be the perfect blend of attributes.
Now it is just a matter of clamping the rear leg of the saw vise, in the face vise on the bench, and then loading a saw. This is one stout saw vise and even though I made it from re-used wood, that had some imperfections, to say the least, it might be the last saw vise I ever need to make. Now, I might make more, but I doubt it will be due to need.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the article and maybe you’ll also want to try making one yourself. Thanks for stopping by and let me know if you have any questions or comments.