stevenbunn Fri, 02/27/2015 - 15:22
Movable jaw with bench-screw and guide bars installed
I used 5/16 inch round bar stock for my guide bars. You may also make the guide bars from wood. Simply make two battens 3/8 inch by 3/4 inches wide and about as long as your bench screw. Screw these to the bottom edge of the moving jaw, one on each end of the jaw. The battens will run under and rub up againt the lower edge of the fixed jaw. With metal or wooden guide bars the movable jaw when loosened twists and fall either to the left or right, pivoting on the shaft of the screw. The guide bars negate this tendency and keep the two jaws of the vise aligned.
stevenbunn Fri, 02/27/2015 - 15:12
Assembled jaw with bench-screw and garter
stevenbunn Fri, 02/27/2015 - 15:08
Bench-screw and garter
A simple shot of the bench-screw and garter, showing how the fingers of the garter seat in the groove. Make the mortise for the garter deep enough in the base of the jaw so that both the garter fingers and U-shaped lower diameter fully engage the slot in the screw. This helps even out the wear on the garter fingers, prolonging the life of the garter.
stevenbunn Fri, 02/27/2015 - 14:58
Bench -screw with handle and garter
The head and shaft of the bench-screw along with the handle are turned on the lathe. I don't mark and cut the groove for the garter until after I have bored the mortise for the garter in the jaw. I set the screw with the shaft over and in line with the garter mortise, it's head pushed tightly against against the outer face of the movable jaw. Then I carefully transfer the mortise location to the body of the screw with tick marks made with the point of a pencil. Turning the screw on the lathe is an easy project. To cut the garter groove, remount the screw in the lathe. Remark the tick-marks while the lathe is running. And cut the groove into the spinning shaft to a depth of about 3/16 inch. Turn the part of the shaft that will be threaded a little undersize in diameter. You want the shaft to fit easily in the thread-box. If the screw binds it can cause the screw-box to hang up and basically turn in place wrecking the tapered thread the box is cutting. If the box binds, STOP. Back the screw-box off the partially threaded shaft. Put it back on the lathe and take a little more thickness off the diameter of the un-threaded section. Thread the shaft down to a point where the threads just pass the plane of the face of the fixed jaw. At the same time be careful not to cut the threads down the shaft to close to the garter groove. If you do, the shoulder of the garter groove nearest the threads is prone to breaking out, weakening the ability of the garter to hold the bench screw in the moving jaw.
stevenbunn Fri, 02/27/2015 - 12:28

Why Write?

I am sitting at the computer this morning working on a series of posts. Outside it is sunny and cold. Today is the only day this week when it hasn't snowed. The good news is that friday is donut day at the Town Landing, the cafe down at the foot of the hill next to the river. Fortified with hash and donuts I came home ready to work. The shop is a balmy 38 degrees. If I am really lucky and get the wood-stove cranking, the shop might reach above 50 degrees by the end of the day. Then again, it might not. So, I have convinced myself that I am achieving worthwhile work by writting in the blog today. I was motivated to work on these posts about crafting a wooden vise for a mini-bench, because of questions and comments sent in by Brian, from West Virginia. He asked about the vise pictured in one of my posts. By the time I finished writing a letter in reply to his questions, I had written enough material to form the draft of a magazine article. Which is good. The problem is finding someone interested in doing so. Frankly, if I sent these pages to FWW, they would reject them because "they've just printed something nearly identical in subject." One of the major reasons I added a blog to my website was that I wanted to reach out and have a conversation with other woodworkers. And, as much as I love to be paid, reaching past the editorial Berlin Wall to anyone who reads this post is more important.

The question remains, "Why write?" Part of my answer has to do with the state of craft in America. I work part-time at a local college as a cabinet-maker. It is great job. I was motivated to take it because the college provided health-care insurance and other benefits (paid vacation anyone?) that just don't exist for the self employed. Everyone I work with has a Masters degree or Ph.d. Me, I have a grotty BS in Forestry, and only thirty-three years experience as a woodworker. But what do I know? I'm  a serf because I lack an advanced degree. For me the problem comes down to I want to make things, not talk about things. Yes, if I had gone to graduate school and pursued a Masters degree in Fine Arts, I might be making more money, and would certainly have more credibilty in the academic world. But having a MFA with a concentration in Early American silver-ware is not the same thing as being able to make a silver spoon. I love antiques and collect a number of things from militaria, tools, painted dial faces for Tall-case clocks, to hand-thrown American stoneware. Too many things in fact. I can talk about stoneware all day with the local antiques dealers, But, I've never thrown a pot in my life. And back in the old days, I would have had to work for someone at least five years before I would be considered as qualied to call myself a potter. What does being a "Master" in today's world mean? And of course the question of Creditionalism versus Professionalism (read Competence) is in the news today.

What does being a Master craftsman mean in a world that has thrown the old guild system on the ash heap? Take three courses with Michael Dunbar and you are according to him, a Master Chair-maker. The standards of  Early American Life magazine's juried List of Traditional American Crafts-men, state that anyone listed is, in their estimation, a master of their craft. So by their standards, I can call myself a "Master Craftsman." I have had a number of apprentices over the years, built so many chairs I've lost count, taught chair-making classes, but am still squeemish about about the word Master. There is to much I don't know. To many things I still need or want to learn. I joke that I now put things on the to-do list for my fourth or fifth life time. As if that were only possible. Getting to the point of having articles accepted and published is about as good as it has gotten. It is not a degree, but it is recognition of having achieved a certain level of skill. Working alone in the shop I hold great conversations in my head. But even the dog shakes his head and says, "Stop, I've heard that one a hundred times!", when I start one of my stories. So the blog gives me a new outlet. Bear with me, and join the conversation if you want.


stevenbunn Fri, 02/27/2015 - 10:36
Garter Mortise in underside of the Movable Jaw
The mortise for the garter is 3/8 inches wide, two inches long and two inches deep. I roughed out the mortise using my drill press with a temporary adjustable fence. I cleaned up the faces of the mortise with a bench chisel.
stevenbunn Fri, 02/27/2015 - 10:24
The inside face of the Movable Jaw
This image gives you a different view of the hole in the jaw for the bench screw. You can also see the 5/16 inch diameter stopped holes that hold the metal bar stock that form the guide bars of the vise. When I see this photo, and the next on in the series, which shows the stained weathered edge on one end of the stock, I think of Tim, my editor at American Woodworker Magazine. He might like everything about this photo. But, he would still send me back and have me do it over, even if it meant I had to make up a completely new jaw. The magazine's photograph standards did not allow saw burn marks and other defects in the finished article. These were distracting to the readers, and always led to letters of complaint to the magazine. Tim was always telling me that he loved image #33 of maybe fourty or more shots. But could I shoot the same image over, because, well there some tweaks to be done. So, apologies to Tim.
stevenbunn Fri, 02/27/2015 - 09:41
Front view of the moving jaw
Front Jaw Construction
This photo of the front jaw shows the rounded profile easing the jaw's outer edges. It also shows the location of the 1-1/4 inch diameter hole in which the bench screw seats. The garter slot cut in the bottom edge of the work-piece can be seen as well. As you can clearly see, I let a flat face on the jaw's top around the mortise drilled for the round shaft of the plastic bench-dog. The hole for the bench screw is centered in the length of the jaw and up 1-5/8 inch from the bottom edge. The block which forms the moving front jaw of the vise is to small to safely rout free hand. I cut mitered faces on the ends of the jaw using my table-saw and miter fence. Then I used a file and a spokeshave to round over the flat facets creating the curved profile you see here. I used the spokeshave again to form the interrupted curve on the top edge of the block.
stevenbunn Thu, 02/26/2015 - 16:04
Here is another view of the fixed jaw, showing the front view of the jaw. You can clearly see the #8 woodscrews that help hold the jaw in position, as well as the threaded hole for the bench screw, and the two holes through which the guide bars pass. Note that you have to make matching holes in the center plate of the nearer pair of legs for the guide bars and shaft of the bench screw to pass.
stevenbunn Thu, 02/26/2015 - 15:19

 To recap from an earlier post. I really liked the min-bench featured in the December 2014 issue of FWW. I wanted to make a copy of it. But I also wanted to keep the cost of materials down, and frankly, I am incapable of following any published plan exactly. I like traditional wooden vises and hand-turned wooden bench screws. So the version of the small bench I made incorporated a vise I made, and the other parts were constructed from scraps and cut-offs, which might otherwise have gone in the woodstove. The bench I built is inspired by the FWW bench, but is not a duplicate of it. Consequently be aware that any dimensions I mention may not agree with similar measurements given in the earlier article. You are free to use the information given in this and the following posts to make a similar vise for your mini-bench. The only cost to you is a beer drunk to my health, in thanks. To keep things simple, rather than attempt one article length post, I am breaking the story up into smaller segments. This keeps things sane for me and keeps the number and size of the accompanying photos within the limits set by the blog program.

Building A Wooden Vise for Your Mini-bench

The Fixed Jaw

The mini-bench I built has a Maple top 2-1/2 inches thick, 9-1/2 inches in width, and a length of a little over 42 inches. Adjust any of the measurements shown here to fit your top. The  faces of the vise are both made from material 1-1/2 inches in thickness, 5 inches wide and 9-1/2 inches in length. I started construction of the fixed jaw by cutting away a chuck of waste to create a large rabbet in the work piece 1 inch deep and 2-1/2 inches wide. This created an L shaped block. The rabbet seats against the end of your top, with the narrow lip forming the gripping face of the fixed jaw, and wider lower section, fitting tightly against the underside of the top, is threaded and lag-bolted to the bench top.


In this small block drill seven holes. In the upper narrow section, two counter-sunk screw holes for the #8 x 2 inch wood screws that secure the jaw to the end of the bench. A larger thru hole centered in the length of the block, and 1-5/8 inch up from the bottom face of the stock. This hole will be threaded, so the diameter of the hole you drill should equal the root diameter of the tap you use. The used a 1-1/4 inch tap and die set. The hole I drilled at this point was 1-1/16 inches in diameter. There are two 7/16 inch diameter through holes in the  lower face of the jaw through which the guide bars in the movable jaw pass. And two 3/8 inch diameter holes drilled vertically in the lower arm of the L, so that 3-1/2 inch lag bolts can be screwed into the underside of the top to lock the jaw securely in place. Note: I will add a dimensional drawing later this week showing the location of the holes described to this post.