Saw Vise prototype to debut at WIA!

I've been working feverishly behind the scenes these last few weeks. So many ideas and concepts running through my head, and only so much time to make them all. I finally completed a fully working prototype of my Saw Vise, using the same basc hardware as my Moxon Vise. The acme thread really allows a grip that conventional wooden threads can't offer repeatedly. 

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The beauty of the Saw Vise kit is the ability to adapt the vise to your own particular situation. I like to sharpen standing up, but I dislike bending over. The vise I made clamps up in my face vise, resting on the bench top so that sharpening takes place just below eye level for me, resulting in better results and reduced sharpening time due to less strain on the eyes and back. 

 

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My largest backsaw is 16". I made the vise jaws 18" wide, allowing me to sharpen any saw I own with a max of one repositioning. It's a time saver to say the least. The grip strength is unbelievable. The jaws are lined with leather, not only increasing grip, but also eliminating any blade chatter while sharpening. 

 

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I will have this prototype available for all to use at my booth at Woodworking In America. Please stop by and check it out! Once I see how it performs under strenuous use, I'll  work on having kits available for sale soon. This ones gonna be a game changer!!

We made mile and miles of Moxons...

Getting geared up for Woodworking In America 2014! I spent a bit of time this weekend with my good friend and skilled fabricator, Chris Scarborough. I've been prepping components for my Moxon and Saw Vise kits over these past few weeks. The time had come to assemble everything in a marathon metal fab session. Chris brought his TIG welder over and we went to town. I prepped the handle components on the drill press. A progression of sandpaper from 80 grit up to 320 grit leaves the right combination of a smooth finish and a surface temp that my hands can handle! I think it does a swell job. 

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Chris starts by tacking numerous handles together. Once he has quite a few built up, he welds them all solid. 

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Overall it was a very productive weekend. We have another twenty or so handles to make, but we still have plenty of time. 

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Soon we will start assembling the packaging and cutting the leather for the vise jaws. Stay tuned for more product updates! Lot of things happening behind the scenes right now. 

Texas Heritage Woodworks on the cover of Furniture & Cabinetmaking magazine!

It seems the blessings continue to bestow themselves upon us here at Texas Heritage. After having our aprons featured in issue 218 of Furniture & Cabinetmaking, I was contacted by the editor, Derek Jones, about writing an article covering the construction of a Moxon Vise interpretation that I devised. I gladly accepted the challenge and went straight to work. Having never written anything article worthy before, the challenge was a bit daunting at first. With some coaching from Derek and a few inspired late night writing sessions, the article began to take shape. My wife Sarah and I spent a bit of time in the shop documenting the construction process. Apparently we had a pretty good eye for photography, when it was all said and done my Moxon Vise article had made it onto the cover of the July 2014 issue! Check the article out below.

I can't express my gratitude enough to the staff at Furniture & Cabinetmaking magazine. They have been wonderful in their support of the small toomakers. Do yourself a favor and go subscribe to their magazine. They consistently have great content that you just won't find anywhere else. 

 

The Moxon Vise was originally intended to be built for myself, for personal use. Based on the tremendous feedback and support for this project, we have decided to start producing Moxon Hardware kits in limited runs. Our first run will be available at Woodworking In America this September in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Each kit will include two screws with wing nuts and a piece of leather for lining the jaw. The introductory price of the hardware kit will be $80. The hardware will come as bare steel, I will leave the finishing decision up to each individual person. After Woodworking In America, the kits will be available on the website for purchase. Stay tuned for more announcements about new products debuting at WIA2014! 

Applying the Flax Oil finish to some Moxon Vise hardware.

While coming up with the general concept of my Moxon Vise, I knew that the hardware was going to be the biggest challenge. It had to be strong, simple, and inexpensive. It also had to be easy to maintain. Metal corrodes. Any woodworker knows all too well the daily struggle to keep our metal tools rust free. This left me with a few options for my vise screws. I could paint them, but paint chips easily, and can look out of place on some wooden projects. I could leave it bare, but in my hot Texas garage, sweat is common and rust would pop up with tenacity after the first turn of the screw. I could oil or wax the metal, but this was liable to leave residue on my hands through use, which could then transfer to the material I was working with. Then I remembered a blog post by Jameel Abraham detailing the process of baking flax oil onto metal for a corrosion resistant polymer finish. It's all natural qualities appealed to my inner hippie and the chocolate bronze-ish color worked really well with the walnut i had set aside for this project. I tried it, and I loved it. Here are the steps I took. You can read the original blog post from Jameel here, http://benchcrafted.blogspot.com/2011/09/omega-3-fatty-acid-for-your-cast-iron.html?m=1

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 Like any finishing job, whether it's on wood, steel, or some exotic material, the prep work is the most important step. The finished product won't live up to its fullest potential if the surface to be covered is dirty or has a coarse finish. The ends of my Moxon Vise screws are finished rather crudely at first. Using some files and a sanding block, I prefer using a Mill Bastard and Smooth followed by 320 grit, I clean up the ends of the rods. The Mill Bastard file does quick work removing a bulk of the material. I've found that anything above 400 grit paper really doesn't make a noticeable difference. 

 Before being prepped

Before being prepped

 After a few minutes of light work. Now it's ready to be cleaned. 

After a few minutes of light work. Now it's ready to be cleaned. 

After the metal has been prepped, it needs to be thoroughly cleaned. From this point on, I wear disposable gloves while handling the hardware. I don't want to run the risk of baking a fingerprint or smudge into my hardware!  I use Denatured Alcohol to clean the metal. Mineral spirits work as well, DNA is just what I had on hand. I pay close attention to the hard to get places. Make sure there isn't any fuzz or fibers stuck on the metal, once they get oil on them they are near impossible to remove. 

 

 Wiping everything down with denatured alcohol

Wiping everything down with denatured alcohol

Once everything is clean, it's time to apply the oil. I use a cotton cloth, liberally soaked in Flax oil. I make a good point to saturate every single surface. It's ok at this point if you have runs and drips. The goal right now is coverage. Once you are convinced everything is coated, use a clean cloth to wipe everything down with the same attention to detail. It's important that the thinnest layer of flax oil is on the metal while baking. If it collects or pools, it will cure and look unpleasant. 

 Rubbing the screws down with the first coat of flax oil. 

Rubbing the screws down with the first coat of flax oil. 

 Wiping off all of the excess oil. You want the thinnest layer possible at this point. 

Wiping off all of the excess oil. You want the thinnest layer possible at this point. 

Now it's time to bake. I use our old toaster oven, it works just fine. The great thing about using flax oil is that is it a food grade oil. Completely safe to use. If you need to use your kitchen oven, it won't hurt a thing! My toaster oven only goes up to 450 degrees, so I crank it all the way up and set the timer for an hour. 

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After the hour is up, the hardware needs to cool. You can speed it up by taking it out of the oven and setting it in front of a fan. The color of the flax oil finish will darken with each successive coat. It's up to you when to stop. Once you get past 7 or 8 coats, it does start to get a little thick. You don't want the coating so thick that thread clearance is compromised. 

 After one coat of flax oil

After one coat of flax oil

 After four coats of flax oil

After four coats of flax oil

Once you get to your desired color, you're done. Just let it cool then put it to work! I've been using my hardware for a few months now. The threads on the rods are starting to show some signs of use, but nothing smtertible at this point. With the amount if force applied to these threads, I'm actually impressed with how well the baked oil finish has held up. 

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Get creative with this process. I ready have a box of parts that need treating. Everything from more vise hardware, to dovetail markers,  to the body of an old Miller Falls hand drill. Just be mindful as you prep, and the results will speak for themselves. 

Making the hardware for the Moxon vise

 

A few weekends ago, my good friend, Chris Scarborough came over to brew some beer and TIG weld some new Moxon hardware.  In between brewing steps, we worked together to hand craft the components. 

We started by cutting down some 1/2" steel rod to make the "wings" for the wing nuts. I used a bevel gauge to mark an approximate ten degree angle and used a cut off wheel in my grinder to make the initial cuts. All of the cut ends were then trued up on my bench sander. Then, the pieces were chucked up in my drill press and were cleaned and polished using various grits of sandpaper and finished off with a fine abrasive pad. 

 Handle components during various stages of finishing

Handle components during various stages of finishing

I used a scrap of Maple to create a jig of sorts for assembly. This ensures all of the handles are angled consistently. The nut is clamped in place and the "wings" held in place while they are tacked in a few places. 

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Once tacked, all of the wing nuts are compared side by side to verify all are consistent. Once this is determined, they are welded solid. 

 Wing nuts tacked in place, ready for final welding

Wing nuts tacked in place, ready for final welding

My buddy Chris restores vintage Jaguars and street rods for a living. His welding skills are second to none. The welds are all beautiful, strong, and meant to last. 

 Two sets of Moxon vise wing nuts and three Saw vise wing nuts, ready for final finishing. 

Two sets of Moxon vise wing nuts and three Saw vise wing nuts, ready for final finishing. 

Some of these wing nuts will be left bare, leaving the final finish up to the customer. One of these is destined for my upcoming Saw  Vise build. It will be finished using the flax oil technique used on my original Moxon build. I will document this thoroughly in the very near future. Stay tuned....

Budget Moxon Vise

With all of the recent interest in the Moxon vise, how could I not want one?? The benefits are readily apparent. I can easily see how this simple tool can assist me in the shop in multiple ways. What I didn't like were the higher prices listed for some of the readily available kits. While I understand the costs involved in research and the manufacturing process, I just couldn't bring myself to drop that kind of cash. And wood screws were not an option for me. I don't have a lathe. I don't have a wood thread kit. And I just prefer metal when it comes to screws. So, I decided to kick my brain cells into high gear and figure out a way to build a Moxon on the cheap, without sacrificing any of the abilities of the kits available at this time. 

Enco supply had a sale recently on Acme rod and nuts. I purchased a three foot section of 5/8-8tpi rod for $9.99. The nuts were just over $1 each and the washers were equally affordable. I went with 5/8" instead of the 3/4" offered by other companies for one reason, the total clamping capacity of my vise will be 13.5", not 24". I have the Lee Valley twin screw vise on my bench that has a capacity of around 25". Any large case work can be clamped in there. I needed something for the more common work that I do.  

I started out by using a cut off wheel in my grinder to cut two 8" lengths of the rod. I also purchased a length of 1/2" barstock from Home Depot to use for the "wing nuts". I cut it down using the same cut off wheel. I chucked it up in my drill press and cleaned it up with some sandpaper. 

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I made a trip to my buddy's house to try out his new TIG welder. It really simplified the process! I forgot how much I enjoy TIG welding!

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These handles should be able to handle anything I can throw at them. Instead of leaving the steel bare, or covering it in a thick layer of paint, I opted for the flax oil technique outlined over at benchcrafted.com. Jameel has an excellent write up on the corrosion resistant finish. I love the chocolate bronze color that this process brings forth! 

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I had a chunk of 6/4 walnut left over from a previous commission project. It was just the right size for what I had intended. I broke out my trusty Atkins panel crosscut saw and went to work. 

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After drilling the holes through both jaws for the threaded rod, it was time to cut the mortises in the back jaw for the nuts to sit into. I aligned both nuts with a straight edge and marked the outlines with my knife. Using a combination of my mortise chisel, bench chisel, and router plane, I made quick work of the recesses. 

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The rest of the build wasn't documented as heavily as the first part. Just basic run of the mill stuff that has been covered one hundred times over. It involves the shaping of the moveable jaw and the decorative cut outs on the back jaw. I also glued the leather face to the moveable jaw using hide glue. Instead of clamping my vise to the bench, I opted for creating flat tabs on each end of the rear jaw for my holdfasts to clamp down on. A few coats of boiled linseed oil and some paste wax finished it off. 

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This vise was a great project. Only took a few hours of time and a minimum investment. Total cost involved was right at $10. I still have enough threaded rod for another vise! Clamping power is insane. And the work is brought up to the perfect height for sawing.  

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 If you have been looking at building a Moxon vise, I encourage you to seek out more affordable ways to make one. If you have the money for the pre fab kits, go for it. No doubt they will serve you for a very long time. As for me, I'd rather put the over $100 I saved towards more tools. But, that's just me...