Lee Valley Tools    Woodworking Newsletter
   Vol. 5, Issue 2
   November 2010
   Shop-Built Saw Vise

Saw vise
The author's shop-built saw vise shown with a D-4 backsaw in its jaws.

Drawing inspiration from some of the instructors at the Woodworking in America conference I attended in 2009, in particular, master housewright and carpenter Ron Herman and saw maker Mike Wenzloff, I decided to outfit myself with the tools necessary to sharpen my saws. I had a saw set and a set of files; all I was lacking was a vise, so I decided to build my own.

I found a couple of good examples of shop-built vises online. The first, by Daryl Weir (referred to hereinafter as plan A), involved using plywood trimmed with thick hardwood jaws to make a stable assembly. I liked the simple design, but I thought the plywood web would make it difficult to hold a saw prior to tightening the knobs.

The second, by Jasper Homminga (plan B), involved using solid wood joined by dados and half laps. One set of legs was longer, allowing the user to hold the vise by these longer legs using the workbench's vise or some holdfasts. In my opinion, this design lacked lateral stability and could benefit from the addition of some stretchers (which the creator acknowledged). In addition, the jaw assemblies used two bolts as a pivot, a feature I felt I could definitely improve upon.

I decided to take the features I liked from plan A and incorporate them into my version of the plan B vise. I added stretcher panels to the jaw assemblies to increase their stability and replaced the pivot bolts with a piano hinge. In place of the wing nuts on the saw vise, I used a set of cam clamps to provide a more secure clamping mechanism. These clamps allow you to tighten enough so that you can get the saw in and out, but when you move the lever into the locked position, they exert the right amount of force to lock the jaws in place. Some saw-savvy friends advised me to increase the bevel angle on the outer portion of the jaws to allow filing below the horizontal plane.
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