The Double Screw vise, aka The Moxon vise.

I was recently asked to build a Moxon vise for a bookbinding friend. For those of you not familiar with the term, it is named after a 17th century man by the name of  Joseph Moxon. Moxon published a number of  parts that would later be collected as two volume s entitled ” Mechanick exercises”. One of the many mechanical devises Moxon detailed was a double screw vise. Some depictions state that the style of the vise was ancient and attributed to the Romans, however a blog entry from the St Thomas guild discussing the moxon vise shows depictions in the mid 15th century.

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This entry is less about a perfectly created reproduction and more about a tool that produces the correct results that most anyone can make with available tools. This vise is based on a closed block size of 18″ long, 3″ wide, and 3″tall with a usable space when open of 12″ long, 7″ wide, and 3″ tall.

I started with a block of 2″ thick maple that was about 8″ wide and about 4′ long. From this I was able to get the bodies of two vises but for the base to clamp to the table a second piece of maple 22″ long, 4″ wide, and 1″ thick. Buying from a good lumber yard you can get lumber that is already surfaced, often referred to as S2S or S4S. S2S is lumber that has been jointed and planed flat and smooth so that the top and bottom are parallel to each other but the sides can be rough. S4S means that the top and bottom are flat and parallel, and the sides have been cut to be square and perpendicular to the bottom. Your edges should be at 90 degrees to each other. For those who do not have access to a joiner or skill with a hand plane, or are in a hurry, this is the best option.

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From here I used my table sled and table saw to square the ends and cut to my finished length of 18″.

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I next ran my lumber through the saw to reduce it to proper thickness and proper height. My end result being two boards that were 18″ long, 1 1/2″ thick, and 3″ tall.

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Mark your boards to what will be the inside face of the vise and the top so you don’t get them confused later. Next clamp your boards together ensuring they are lined up squarely.

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Next is to mark for drilling the holes for the screws to go through. I used 3/4″ coarse thread all thread. If you are not familiar with all thread you can find it at most home improvement places as either all thread or threaded rod and it’s usually available in lengths of 24″ to 48″. For this vise I used two pieces that were 12″ long as well as appropriately sized nuts, two locking nuts and two regular nuts.

I wanted the jaws to have suitable material on all sides of the threaded rod to be strong so the holes are set 1 3/8″ away from the end and centered, giving a solid 1″ of wood on all sides.

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I then moved to the drill press with a 3/4″ spade bit and drilled until the bit just poked through the far side before flipping it and drilling in from the other side, minimizing tear out on the back side.

The next step is to thread the regular nut onto the end of the rod and slide it in so the nut is against the back side of the vise and trace around it. When you have done that the next step is to cut a recess for the nut to go in. My method is to return to the drill press and put in a forstner bit as close to the size of the nut as you have and use the depth stop the remove some of the waste material.

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Once that is done grab a chisel and pare back to the line, being careful to remove the cross grain first to minimize splitting. Pare back small amounts and check the nut frequently until it fits in the recess snugly.

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Repeat for the other end of the back.

Next will be to attach the base to the back side of the vise so that the front of the foot board is even with or slightly back from the inside face of the back part of the vise. Center the board, glue and clamp. Your inset nuts should be facing the back side.

 

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While the back side is drying you can work on the toggles for the front. There are a number of ways to do that depending on the style and shape you prefer. I went with a simple shape started in with a rectangle 4″long, 2″wide, and 1″ thick and reduced the corners to make it comfortable. As with the back of the vise you will be insetting the nuts into this piece, Make sure you are using the lock nuts for these as the sizes may be slighty different. The lock nuts set into the toggles should be sturdy and well seated but you may wish to add some lock tight to the threads prior to screwing the rod all the way into the lock nuts.

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As the toggles are thinner than the back face, and the lock nuts are thicker than the regular nuts I left the lock nuts proud on the toggle.

At this point you are done with construction and, once glue is dried, ready to move on to finish.

I assembled the vise completely and sanded away any remaining tool marks as well as chamfering the top edges of the vise. Do not chamfer the inside edges of the vise face.

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You should be ready to finish. I like boiled linseed oil (BLO) for the tone and sheen it gives to the wood, but use what you like.

 

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Clamped down and holding a bunch of loose sheets of paper. The double screw vise makes for a solid, portable vise that you can move around as needed.

 

Happy building.

Alasdair

2 thoughts on “The Double Screw vise, aka The Moxon vise.

  1. good article. I wonder why you used nuts that you recessed into the wood rather than T-nuts. Was it for reproduction purposes or a conscious choice?

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    1. Thanks. I used the nuts for easy accessibility. They are easy to find and most people are familiar with them. The t nuts would still need to be inset or nailed. My project was about making a vise that would be useable and approximate the function of a historically accurate piece.

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