Legvise with a twist (Chapter one)

In this post I thought I should spend some time documenting one of my preeminent projects to date. As stated earlier in a post on my alternative workbench/assembly table I decided to go with an adaptation of an assembly table to serve as a workbench until I have acquired the skills to build and the experience to design my ultimate work bench. In order to do a wide range of hand tool orientated tasks, I thought that a proper leg vise toiling in conjunction with a sliding deadman is essential. We will start with the leg vise and move on to the slithering deceased somewhere down the line.

Creating a leg vise for an assembly table with legs hiding quite some way away from the edge of the  top conjures up a formidable challenge. In the pictures and text to follow you can join me on my jaunt towards solving the mentioned poser.

If you read anything I have written so far you would be able to guess were this story starts. Yes, I went looking for some Assegaai. Where would I be without Assegaai? Well, come to think of it, several of my ancestors will have to scurry around frantically to find an alternative cause of death. Did I say that aloud?

In the pictures below you can see the foxy beauty of the assegaai tree (one of which is rooted on the slopes of Table Mountain), it’s leaves and the traditional weapon it derives it’s name from.

1_Assegai_tree_-_Curtisia_dentata_-_afromontaneCurtisia_dentata_-_Assegai_tree_-_Table_Mountain_slopes_5assegaai Curtisia_dentata blaarAssegaai


After a fervent root around (there seems to be a theme here), I found the boards as displayed in exhibit A and B below.


At this same time my father-in-law was visiting and helped me to laminate the Assegaai mixed with a bit of Witpeer into two boards. On the photo where he is cleaning off some glue, you can probably see how we mixed Assegaai with Witpeer. The Witpeer being the gray coloured wood and Assegaai more towards orange. I combined these two for a spesific reason. I wanted the elasticity and stability that the Assegaai brings and added the Witpeer for it’s rigidity. You can see that we laminated the two species to form alternating ribs that also adds the usual je ne sais quoi on the aesthetic side of things. To enhance the cerebral exercise that it was even more, I decided to use more Assegaai on the board that would become the face of the vise (increased flex) and more Witpeer on the board that was to become the leg (more rigid).


Next you can see how the boards looked after it came out of the clamps and a bit of tidying up.


In the picture below you can clearly see how the one board appears more orange in colour (Assegaai dominated) and the other grayish (Witpeer dominated).


Until this point my design for the vise was quite a bit different from how it was eventually put together. One day at work I thought about it and started scribbling on some paper, as you can see below. It led me into a different direction altogether. It might make more sense once you see how it paned out, but basically I decided to take advantage of the strengths of the construction of plywood in the design of the vise. You will see what I mean as we progress. On this piece of paper I also decided on the joinery with regards to the parallel guide and how I would tidy up the leather that I planned to use on the vise.


In order to strengthen the boards across it’s width, I used short Assegaai boards with it’s grain running 90 degrees to the rest of it. These were screwed on as gluing would cause havoc with seasonal movement of the wood. Therefore the shank holes were drilled significantly bigger than the actual shanks of the screws. You can also see in the second to last picture how I used a shim to create a consistent gap between these boards, also with seasonal movement in mind.





In the next compelling chapter we will look at what makes this leg vise different from others.

Thanks for commenting on Je ne sais quoi Woodworking