[Moxon Mini-Bench] Save thy back.

Well, after stooping over to cut three of the four dovetail joints for the project I’m working on, I realized two things—(1) I take a long time to join (I’m averaging about an hour and a half) and (2) that much time stooped over the leg vise is killing my back in the cold (30-40*) garage!  So I tooled around the internet looking for solutions to my problem, all the while trying to keep calm, because that ticking clock in the back of my head is getting insistent that I get a move on…

My solution came from a few sources, not surprising the Schwarz was one of them.  I had read his blog entry on Moxon vises and seen the episode of Woodwright’s Shop (I think the title was “2 screws for you” or something like that) where he demonstrated it’s use.  At the time I thought it was neat, but not really necessary for my work.  But now?  Oh yes, I need.

That led me to this website, where there is a handy article on making just such a device, on the cheap!  I like it even more.

I decided (of course) to modify it to suit my needs, namely, to clamp and raise the work piece up about a foot to make it easier for me to cut dovetails, carve (eventually) and do detail work without stooping.

Just happens that I have a spare oak step tread from my father-in-law that’s been sitting in his garage for a while and in my garage for the last few months.  Then I spotted the 4×4 cutoffs from when I built my bench…an idea started to brew.

I decided to make a mini bench that I could clamp to the surface of my main bench, and throw a Moxon vise (on the cheap) on the front.  A quick trip to the BORG and I had the supplies I needed: an 8 ft 2×6, a 3 foot 3/8″ threaded rod, some nuts and washers to fit said rod, and I was in business.  I had some scrap 1/2″ poplar laying around for some reason, so I decided to make the handles of the Moxon vise like the handle on my leg vise, in miniature!

First, I cut the 4x4s to length, 10 1/4″ for the front legs (which will sit on a 3/4″ thick scrap of plywood that will extend on either side of the Moxon mini-bench so it can be clamped flush with the front of the main bench).  When I went to cut the two rear legs (11″ to make the thing level) I discovered to my horror that I only had enough 4×4 scrap for one leg.  So…I cut two 11″ sections of 2×4 scrap and screwed them together.

Before I attached the legs, I decided to clean up the bottom of the shelf.  I cut it to length (about 28″).  Nice solid oak.  The top was stained and finished glossy, so I decided to make that the bottom.  The other side side was dirty, dusty and a bit moldy and rough.  So I took the #4 plane and cleaned it up.  IMAG2810

The picture shows what the step looked like before (the cutoff on the right) and after.  It didn’t take long—-really glad I put the plane away last time with a sharp iron.  There was a bit of a cup in the plank as well, so I smoothed that out and made it more level before attaching the legs.

To attach the legs, I countersunk pilot holes for 3″ Deckmate screws and put three in each leg, with 4 in the 2×4 leg.  I put the heads of the screws about 1/16″ below the surface to allow me to plane the surface a little more and clean up the edges of the countersunk holes.IMAG2814

Then I flipped it over, marveling at how solid it felt already, and attached the plywood clamp base to the front legs with some more Deckmates.  I may attach rails to the legs to keep it a little more rigid..after all they’re only held on with 3 screws (4 on the 2×4 leg).  We’ll see.

Flipped back right-side up, the next task was to mount half the Moxon vise.  IMAG2812Before I attached, it, I took the back and the front and lined them up, then whipped out the drill press to make some holes for the threaded rods to slip through.  Once they were lined up and then enlarged just a bit (I need  the hole big enough that the rod will move freely, but the 3/8″ nut I plan to embed in the wood won’t move).

On the back of the vise, I chiseled out two little holes for nuts to be sunk.  IMAG2815Then I lined up the back of the vise and attached it to the front legs with more Deckmates.IMAG2816

Some swipes with the #4 and the vise backing was flush with the bench top.  Nice.   So far, I’m pretty pleased with the way this is turning out.


About Steven M. Vaught

A native son of Delaware, now living in Illinois, Steven is a writer, family historian, amateur astronomer, sometimes-gardener, woodworker, father to three wonderful children, husband to a wonderful wife, and caretaker of one cheeky vizsla.
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One Response to [Moxon Mini-Bench] Save thy back.

  1. Paul says:

    All is OK, however I would’ve used oak for vise. (A little monday-mornin Q- backing).


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