Workbench Vise

I’ve been caught up in work lately, welcome to being OCD and manic-focused I guess.

Semi-related to making, my software engineering team at work just completed the latest update to Java, JDK 7 update 6.  And JavaFX 2.2.  I’ve always considered developing software to be a close analog to making physical things.  It’s about creation, using the tools and skills you have (which are generally never quite complete enough for the job at hand) and problem solving.  I’m probably the only guy that has that particular mental twist, so I’ll move along.

I volunteered to help build a prototype kiosk at work to show off the capabilities in the new JavaFX release, mostly because I have so much free time I guess (sarcasm alert).  More about that another time.

Before I could even make a start on the kiosk though I had to clean up my shop.  It was a disaster that had been building for years as the detritus of the chopper parts business accumulated.  Long story short, my son Kolya and I spent a good 8 hours putting tools away, cleaning and purging.  There was at least 5 pounds to grit, metal dust and polishing residue that we swept up.  And a pickup truck load of junk to go to the dump.  And we could easily spend another 5 or 6 hours cleaning to make thing nice, but at this point it’s usable.  More about that another time too.

I’ve been planning the next steps on my workbench in my mind.  It’s time to finish that project.  My plan is to mount an end vise and use the new benchtop to hold the legs for planing square as the very next step.  But I have been stuck on what to use for an end vise.  I really wanted a wagon vise, but I’m not willing to perform major surgery to install it.

I’ve been thinking I could make a wagon vise that bolts to the bottom of the bench and just requires a slot wide enough for the dog to stick through the bench.  A pair of beefy runners the support a carriage the all attached to the underside, with a strong boss that stick up in the slot to hold the dog.  I’m sure I could make something like that.

In a recent web search I came across Len Hovarter’s wagon vise setup.  I’ve seen his face vise mechanism before – although I have to confess I never thought through how it actually operates.  He’s since adapted the same locking mechanism to a wagon vise that meets my other criteria, with the additional benefit of it being a quick release.

The mechanism that enables the locking is unique, and really slick.  Other quick release vises have a threaded shaft to loosen/tighten the jaws.  The quick release mechanism involves a split nut that can be released from the threaded shaft.  The Hovarter mechanism doesn’t involve a threaded shaft.  Instead a gear rack is used to move a wedge forward.  The wedge presses against one edge of a “clutch” disk — really just a thick machined steel disk .  The disk first pinches on the shaft (it’s now canted) and then the wedge mechanism continues to push the disk and the trapped shaft forward to tighten the jaws.  Or at least the what I’ve been able to suss out.

Len Hovarter has a patent application filed for this, you can read the particulars of the patent claims and mechanism there.

I’ll need to talk to Len to see if he can make a version of this that will work with my thicker bench top, but I suspect I’m about to become a customer.

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5 thoughts on “Workbench Vise

  1. “If builders built buildings the way programmers write programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.” (Gerald M. Weinberg – Weinberg’s Second Law)

  2. I was just starting to wonder what happened to you.

    You vise idea is cool! i hope it works out, I’d love to know more about it. I’m wimping and putting a steel bench vise at the end of my bench in addition to my leg vise.

    • What a great feeling to work in the shop today — with everything cleaned and organized. I’m eager to get on with some of my projects!

  3. Geremy

    It might have just been an aside, but I’d be interested in reading more of your thoughts about software development and traditional making.
    Along those lines, Richard Sennett, for one, has discussed the craftsmanship of programmers and how closely their processes resemble those of other makers in his book The Craftsman. Might be worth checking out.

    • Interesting! I didn’t know about that book, thanks for pointing it out. I just got it on my kindle and will give it a read.

      I was a software engineer for a long time before I moved into managing engineers and I’ve seen example of good and poor craftsmanship both in the source code and in the practices of the engineers working on it. I’ll have to think more on this and see if I can better quantify this in my mind.

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