Introduction: Tabletop Bench and Moxon Vice

About: I am a physicist working in research, Making things and sharing the experience with others, helps me in many ways.
  • Woodworking requires a dedicated surface and of course an appropriate vice. Until now I have avoided mounting a permanent woodworking vice on my small table because this would limit storage space even more. Instead I looked for a tabletop solution.
  • There are several ideas for tabletop benches, for example this or this bench on a bench
  • These are constructions to be placed on regular woodworking benches in order to raise the working surface and facilitate precision work like dovetail joints.
  • The same is true for the glorious Moxon Vice , a very versatile tool, which initially was used as a separate construction to be mounted on the bench. The interest about this vice has revived.
  • I decided to build a combination of a portable bench/vice which is best suited to my needs and more adapted to my limited space. Furthermore I used wood leftovers to minimize the cost.

Step 1: Design and Features

    Here is what I was aiming :

    • To perform the basic woodworking tasks including sawing , smoothing and patterning surfaces as well as making variable types of joints.
    • To use it for other purposes, for example as a press for book binding or a large clamp.
    • To allow the use of clamps all around the surface.
    • To provide a surface free of obstacles.
    • To make it portable in order to mount it on other tables as well.
    • To move it around the table and clamp it in various positions

    The construction consists of three levels: a) the working surface b) the frame for the vice and c) the bottom. The size of the top surface is 55cm x 35cm

    My initial sketch in AutoCad is included. The types of joints are not specified and in the course of construction I added/changed a couple of things but the layout is close to the final result.

    Step 2: Materials and Tools

    The construction was made entirely from wood leftovers including plywood and pallet wood. The only part I ordered was the plywood for the top surface. I also got a 14mm screw for the Moxon vice.

    I used a few basic hand tools, some shown above, a pull saw, a couple of planes a few chisels and a Stanley 71 router plane for making the dado housings. Furthermore I used a hand drill and a drill press.

    Step 3: Constructing the Frame

    • The supporting frame is the most complicated part of the construction and one should start from this. It took me some time to make the joints and square the frame.
    • The issue here is to make something that can stand forces applied in all directions when planing or sawing on the bench. So, I selected to use different joints in the various parts such as dovetails, dado housings and lap joints.
    • Finally I strengthened all joints by glue and wood screws. I did not use glue to connect the base and the top and this was a wise decision since I had to disassemble the bench 2-3 times for various reasons.

    Step 4: The Moxon Vice

    • After constructing the supporting frame , I took care to align the holes for the screws of the vice.
    • It is important to enforce the holes through which the screws of the vice will pass. For this purpose I used metal tube pieces as bushings.
    • I also made housings for the bolts which were secured with epoxy glue.
    • The vice parts are at the same level with the base of the construction. In this way when the vice is open it is supported from the table surface. This is useful in those applications when it is required to clamp a piece staying on the table. The maximum opening of the vice is 15cm.

    Step 5: Making the Handles

    I used a scrap furniture piece I found. It contained two equal "knob" shapes which I cut out in a mitre box, marked the centers, drilled and secured pegs in them and then I sanded them on the drill press to regain the wooden surface. While on the drill press I covered them with varnish.

    Step 6: The Working Surface

    The working surface consists of two plywood boards size 55cmx35cm and thickness 12mm glued together. I made a pattern for the bench dog holes and a simple template to make them. I designed a series of peripheral holes and a series of holes in the middle to be used in combination with the Moxon vice.

    Step 7: Final Assembly

    First I assembled the supporting frame and strengthened the joints with glue and screws.

    The working surface and the base are secured with screws only, no glue here.

    Step 8: Bench Dogs and Other Accessories

    I made 6 bench dogs from a 12mm diameter rod.

    I also made a stop piece with 2 pegs that can fit in many places on the surface.This is very useful. I usually put it vertically in the left side to support the working piece for planing.

    Step 9: Adapting a Mitre Box

    The plastic mitre box I use has a protrusion in order to hold it against the table edge. I strengthened this by fitting a wooden inset and now it can be secured using the vice.

    Step 10: A Shooting Board / Sawing Guide

    • A bench hook is a small board that can be pushed against the bench and support the wood you are sawing. The wood stop is also used as a sawing guide.
    • A shooting board is a similar construction that is used to plane the edge you just cut across the grain. A stop made from a hardwood is used to avoid tearing the wood fibers while planing across the grain. Since the plane is held vertical to its normal position. the working piece has to be raised a little in respect to the plane level. .
    • A shooting board/bench hook is a doable combination. Check this one.

    • I preferred to build a shooting board which works as a sawing guide when flipped on the bench. This can be used on any table, or it can be fixed on the table top bench on the Moxon vice.

    Step 11: Press

    • This construction may be used as a small press either with clamps or screws through the peg holes. For this I made two screws from 6mm material and used wooden bushings to match the hole diameter of 12mm. I glued the bushings with epoxy on the screws.
    • For repairing books this is a convenient small press that allows correct alignment. More weight or even additional clamps may be added o the top of this.

    Step 12: Supporting the Work on the Table Surface

    • In case one needs to use the surface of the table as a support for the working piece, the vice can be moved entirely on the surface and clamped from the side.

    Step 13: A Bench Vice As a Tail Vice

    It would be too much to build a tail vice for such a small "bench". However when designing this I took care to match the height of the working surface to the level of the bench vice. This can act as a tail vice with the use of a piece of wood pushing the work against a benchdog.

    Step 14: Final Considerations

    • I finished this bench/vice a few weeks ago and I already use it a lot. The design is satisfactory and it was an interesting project to make with a couple of problems to solve along the way.
    • One thing to watch is the endurance of the bolts because of the pressure involved. I checked and everything seems fine for the moment.
    • Overall the best and most beautiful solution to my opinion is to use wooden screws for the vice. However the tools to make them are not exactly cheap.
    • Another issue is the bending of the vice when mounting something at the center. The movable part of the vice should be thicker and the wood harder. I'll simply watch it and either change the front plate or glue another plate on it, if necessary.
    • Eventually one may increase the grip of the vice by adding cork or leather in the internal surfaces. Something to check also.