Introduction: 'NoMatterWhatHorn' - a Really Heavy Custom Vice

About: Failure is not the opposite of success, it's part of success.

A solitary vice - a vice not fixed to a workbench - is something very useful in a workshop. Some projects just need to be clamped steady & sturdy while you need all the space around you can get.

Making a canoe-paddle, for example, starting from a complete log. You want it steady and so you need a vice. But there are 4 sides to profile. Yep. Not easy in a classic setup - unless you love climbing your workbench to work the backside of your project.

I don't like it, that workbenclimbing. So: let's go for a solitary vice.

Anchoring a pole in the ground and fixing that vice to it can be a solution. It'll be great that moment you're needing it - let's say once a month - but the rest of the time all you've got is a f... pole in the middle of your workshop. And a damaged car. And blue knees.

Anticipating is not my strongest point, but I choose wisely to build a relatively easy to move all-in-one heavy vice.

'Relatively' is an important word here, since there's also 'really heavy' in the title.

It took me a while to design this project and more than a few days to build it, but in those few years I'm using it it's become one of those tools I really like. It IS heavy enough. It IS stable. It IS movable - relatively - and it IS really really helpful.

I like it, my NoMatterWhatHorn.

Time for an upgrade.

Step 1: Inspiration

The name comes from one of the most epic mountains in the Swiss Alps, called The Matterhorn.

This block of rock - in reality a piece of continental African earth crust that's been left on the Eurasian continent after the collision between the two plates, forming the Alps, amazing story - has exactly the same shape as the wooden base of my tool.

The only difference is the weight.

Mine is heavier. Sure.

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Step 2: Finding the Right Wood

I could have used heavy steel I-profiles, but I wouldn't. Big heavy wood, that's what I wanted. So I found a 'declassified' beam of badi - a beautiful yellow African hardwood often used for construction purposes.

5x5 inches thick, 15 feet long. Heavy. Paid it halfprice. Just what I was looking for.

Commercial & local name: Bundui, Badi, Kusia, Opepe, Akondonc, Aloma, N'gulu-maza, Kilingi, Angolo, Mokese, Linzi

Also called: Kilu, Bonkangu, Sibo, Bedo, Ekusamba, Eke

Note: Always look for 'declassified' wood aka cracks with some wood around.

Most people hate them, those cracks, but I just didn't care - especially when I heard the price of it.

Step 3: Planing the Beam

Dirty outside, beautiful inside.

No sanding, just planing.

Badi is beautiful.

But Badi is heavy.

Step 4: Cutting the Main Sections

To build a the 'Big A', 2 legs were needed.

To get that A straight up, 2 more were needed.

Measuring lengths & measuring angles, cutting with a handsaw & correcting with a plane.

At the end you've got 4 legs pushing a car.

Step 5: Building the Centerpiece

This PI-shaped piece holds the Big A together and maintains the base of NoMatterWhatHorns arm later.

Built from a log of oak, 3 inch thick.

Glued & screwed together - 5 inch inox screws, torx bit.

Note the hole drilled in the side. This will serve the steel pin that will hold the adjustable arm in place.

Step 6: Digging the 'Big A'

The centerpiece holds the two legs of the Big A together.

Instead of just glueing & screwing I prefered it to be 'sunk' to make it more solid.

So, I started pre-cutting the badi with the PMF, and after that cheap tool started burning I finished the job the old fashioned way with the chisel.

Step 7: Assembling the 'Big A'

When the digging was done, centerpiece & legs could come together.

The whole would be screwglued, so holes needed to be drilled: small holes from inside to outside to guide the screws, bigger holes with the flat drill from outside to inside to sink the screwheads.

Heavy duty wood glue and inox screws, useful.

Ready was the 'Big A'.

Next step: the 'Small A'.

Step 8: Building the 'Small A'

Measuring, cutting, digging, assembling.

Same process, different shape.

The Big & Small A finally came together and were screwed with only 3 screws - easy to set up, easy to dismantle & transport.

Step 9: Some Fineshaping

Before building the arm angles had to be cut.

Head & heels were chopped with saw & angle sander and the whole was set to level.

Step 10: Building the Articulated Arm

One more piece needed to be built: NoMatterWhatHorns Arm.

The arm is made of two pieces of oak:
- one horizontal that slides into the heart of the Big A
- one vertical that will articulate in the first one and that will move towards the Big A with the help of a threaded rod

The horizontal: cutting & drilling - note the digged out zone in the Small A
The vertical: using flat drill bit to drill the first holes in the oak beam & circular saw to dig out the zone between those holes. Rasp & sanding paper finish the job.

- a bolt hole is drilled in the back of the Big A to hold the bolt of the rod. Small hole first, flat drill afterwards.
- in the horizontal piece of the arm a number of holes are drilled to adjust the whole in function of the size of stuff that you'll work with
- steel pins finish the articulation

Step 11: Plastic Surgery & Oiling

The wood cracks are filled up with chemical anchor - a resin used in construction to hold threaded rods in concrete.

Fast hardening, hard as concrete, the perfect hack.

I finished the whole with a few layers of teak 'tung' oil, wiping the excess away after each oiling session.

Note the two 'shoulders' attached to the Big A: a little helping hand to hold whatever you want perfectly in place.

Step 12: Big Wheel Keep on Turning

No bench screw without a cast iron handwheel.

Paid it a small fortune (almost 100 $) - as much as the whole wooden structure..

Some adjustments - cutting the rod to human size & adding a second bolt to stabilize, some welding & grinding & done was the whole.

Step 13: A Few Years Later...

And a lot wiser, I decided to upgrade NoMatterWhatHorn 1.0 to version 2.0

This upgrade was needed since I had discovered that the tool just wasn't helpful to work bigger sections of wood. There wasn't enough clamping space and the heavily payed iron wheel wasn't useful at all.

I needed more grip & more power, and so I went to my local steel supply and came home with a few new friends.

A big L-profile was added on top of the mountain, the atriculated arm was made longer and the iron wheel was replaced by a long handle my father made a thousands years ago for a tool to bend steel plates - tool-making is a family affair where I come from...

More steel, more weight, more power, more stability, more possibilities.

Adding a heavy ash-log - I need a paddle for my canoe - to the equation felt like coming home. Thàt was what we were talking about, thàt was the setup I was looking for!

No matter what, this device is stable as a rock. But a bit difficult to move, yeah...

Just like single malt, it's gettin' better with the years...