Friday, January 7, 2011

Installing a Twin-Screw Vise

A couple of years ago, I bought the Veritas twin-screw vise from Lee Valley.  Since then, it has been sitting on the bottom shelf of my old workbench, awaiting the day when I would be able to install it.  With the near completion of my new workbench top, shown in the photo, that day finally came.  I should say days, plural, because installation was anything but simple, though in the end everything works pretty much as it should.

I built my bench with an apron the width of the outer vise jaw that extends the full length of the bench. (I know, Chris Schwarz recommends not having an apron on your bench to make clamping easier.  But I intend to drill dog holes horizontally to support long boards for edge planing.)  The apron became the back jaw of the vise.  As you can see, I also installed it on the left end of the side of the bench and not on the end as Lee Valley shows in their photo.

The installation went pretty much according to the instructions.  I have a caveat, the one given to me by a friend before I started my own installation--"read the instructions at least a thousand times."  One of the key points is drilling the large holes for the screws.  Their location must be measured very accurately so it is well worth triple checking the measurements.  Also, my friend had drilled his holes by hand-holding his drill. As a result, his jaws bind up when fully extended.  I used a drill guide I got from Woodcraft to hold the drill at 90 degrees, the same jig I'll use to drill dog holes later on.  Even so, my holes got slightly off and I had to ream them out with a file so the fittings would lay at 90 degrees to the rear jaw.  After that, with the exception of making the chain fit (the instructions are weak on the point of assembling the chain), it was pretty much a piece of cake.  The result--it works as it should.

Almost.  The instructions call for planing the outer jaw at an angle so it is tighter at the top than at the bottom. I tried doing this with a hand plane and made a mess of it.  So I ran it through the planer to make it flat again.  Having done that, the jaws don't pull entirely tight at the top.  So someday I will disassemble the vise and re-plane the outer jaw at the suggested angle.  I recommend doing it according to instructions the first time.

In the end, it is a great vise and I am delighted to have it in place where I can use it.  The lack of a vise was one of the main reasons I built the new workbench top.  Now I'm ready for projects that will make good use of it.


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