Leg Vise (Threadless)





Introduction: Leg Vise (Threadless)

   I've been getting by with an engineer's bench vise for years now, always watching the catalogs for a sale that will drop this wood vise to a reasonable price. I knew this was never going to happen so I kept looking for alternatives, and instructables delivered, like always.
   The one that inspired me was by SlickSqueegie: https://www.instructables.com/id/Shop-mad-bench-vice/   The only obstacle I had was getting a acme threaded rod long enough to do the job. I searched for a while but couldn't get one without paying more than the price of a cheap wood vise (like this one). At some point on this search I had a moment of engineering clarity: I have one of those quick-grip bar clamps , why not use that instead of a screw... so I 'invented' a vise with a low pivot and place for the clamp.
  Naturally I had not invented anything, the leg vise has been used at least since the 18th century, see the second picture above. This is a good thing because I could research different styles of leg vises and modify my design.

I've also created a 3D model of this vise, so if you'd like to see it all in more detail you can download it here.

Step 1: Plan / Design

   I played with the plan in AutoCAD for a few days. At first I didn't have the slide (I don't know what it should be called, see the picture below to see what I'm talking about). The purpose for the slide is to keep the jaws parallel so that the whole face of the jaw holds the work piece, not just the top or bottom). It is adjustable to accommodate different work pieces.
   I've included my dimension sheet in the second photo but this will vary depending on the size or your workbench.

Step 2: Materials, Measure, Mark, & Cut

 -- I already had the bar clamp, it's 36" which it too big really but it works, 18", or 24" would be more manageable.
 -- All the wood I used was 2"x6" / 2"x8" cull lumber from a local hardware store (about 60cents a piece) (in case you don't know, when big box lumber/hardware stores get twisty or split lumber left over (and they get a lot) they cut it in half and sell it cheap).
 -- I found the 3/4" galvanized iron pipe (for the pivot and slide pin) in the trash (painted brown for some reason)
 -- To hold it all together I used wood screws.

   I used the cut sheet (previous step) to cut everything out.
   In the photo below I'm testing the fit of the back leg and jaw

Step 3: Slide Box

   When the vise is in use there is not really any weight on the slide (it is distributed through the slide pin to the shelf) so this step could be ignored. I built it mainly because this vise was taking up a lot of storage room (my shed is only 12'x10') and the box allowed me to stack things behind the vise and still use it.
   The sides of the box are slightly taller than the slide and is positioned directly behind the back legs. I had some plywood (3/4" I think) lying around so I used it as the box top.

Step 4: Slide

I used a scrap, screwed in place, as a spacer for the back of the slide

Step 5: Back Legs

   I knocked the back legs into place and screwed them in place at the bottom then screwed the back jaw into the bench top and the top of the back legs (make sure you countersink any screws in the jaw face so that they don't bite into your work piece). The angle iron slot I cut in the back of the back legs was tight enough that I just banged it in afterwards.

Step 6: Front Leg

I then attached the angle iron to the front legs. I did this because the slots I'd cut were a little sloppy, and the front needed to be stiffer. I did this with a single screw in each side. At this point I put the pivot pin in and stared at it for a while, looking for problems. I found a couple but ignored them.

Step 7: Jaws

The front jaw was attached by a (countersunk) screw into each leg. You can see the major problem in the photo below: the jaws don't meet up. You would think that something must have gone wrong in the measuring or cutting process which is why I'm going to blame the drill. I think a drill press might have been more accurate and stopped this... but it isn't a problem because the vise still functions (see the second photo).

Step 8: Fix Front Jaw

I could sleep that night, not with jaws out of alignment, so the next morning I cut the fir from test #1 down to size and planed it to a better fit. The paler wood makes a nice contrast... let's say that I intended to do this.

Step 9: Finished

The final product, well, almost. I'm not totally happy with the back jaw since it doesn't have a square edge. I might fix that one day it works very well (for the cost). The other worry in my little shed was how far out the vise stuck when not in use. In the position shown in the first photo, with the slide and jaws pushed all the way in (in this position the bar clamp can be hung up out of the way) it takes up 5" which isn't too much.
  Later I will also add a couple of bench dog holes (if I need them).

  The second picture shows the vise with the slide in the max open position (the widest it can go and still keep the jaws parallel): 11 inches. Of course, if you need to go wider you could add some more holes to the slide (and make the slide longer if you needed).

Step 10: Mount for Bench Vise

Now that I won't be using it as often, I built a base for my bench vise to fit in my new leg vise. Now I have a wood vise that's at a nice height for planing, etc, and a metal vise that holds things a bit higher, perfect for cutting pipe and other metal things.

Thanks for reading.



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    30 Discussions

    I made this vise in a pinch awhile back, but it's just a 2x4 and a long threaded rod with a nut under the table to hold it in place.
    It's not pretty, but it'll hold just about anything I need to hold. The pivot at the bottom is just held in place with lag bolts and the pin is some steel rod with a cheap handle. I'll get around to making a prettier one someday, but for now it works.

    Very nice, but why did you make it threadless since you used Iron : you could have soldered easily a couple of nuts to them to insert a thread. Or am I missing something ? … 

    2 replies

    I wanted to use a screw but the appropriate threaded rod to use would have an acme thread and these (and the nuts) are quite expensive in a length that I would need (http://goo.gl/AoLmx8). I spent some time looking at screw jacks and old c-clamps but nothing I could find (for cheap or free) was long enough.

    Just thought of a great idea, which im going to do with my model that I made. Put two holes in the top of the outside clamp piece, and two holes on the workbench for bench dogs. The two in the clamp can be just 2 inches down or so, and the bench holes will go straight through and rely on the bench dog's "stop". I'll post pictures when I'm done.

    Nice, nice job. When my parents passed, I brought my dad's vice home. Before I wa born, he used it to build his first house and growing up, I used it to build my projects. The wood jaws were too heavy and bulky to ship, so I packed the hardware, handle and "slide" as you call it. I threw the dimensions of the jaws in with the parts and sent it home. It sat around for a decade until last year when I built new jaws and put it together again. Now I'm using it to build my projects again.

    Instead of a bar clamp, could the hardware for a pipe clamp to be welded to the forward steel cross beam that would float in and out with the forward jaw? That way, the clamp wouldn't stick beyond the outer jaw and the slide part of the clamp would stay with the rear steel under your bench and out of the way. to tighten it, the bar clamp adjust screw could push against another steel bar that's securely attached to your outer jaws. The angle iron you show in your photo would slide partially out of the grooves in the vice's jaws as the jaws move backward, tightening against the work piece being held.

    13 replies

    Excellent idea. putting my clamp the other way around wasn't possible because of a shelf I have back there.

    I have a shelf behind my dad's vice too. I moved the vice over so the threaded rod and the slide run just outside the bench's legs. Not a perfect mount, as the back jaw overhangs the top of the table by 5/8" but I've had no problems with it so far. btw, those 2 pieces of grey painted wood, the slide and the handle are about 80 years old. They're the only wood parts I brought back with me.


    I think I'm going to have to take my vise apart and refinish its hardware now. Yours looks so much nicer! It's the little things ...


    No... It's the fine patina of the gently aged wood:)

    Well I was thinking more cleaning and painting the metal. The wood forget about it. It did look good at one time. Let me see if I can find a picture going back that far. Ah, here is one:


    Nice... Mine had to go on one of the long sides (space issues). I never touched the metal from when I brought the vertical vice home. Same with the slide and handle... The slide is torn up at the far end, but because it's original, I won't touch it.

    btw, Did you get the pictures of the speed vice attachment I made from your Instructable? By using spring steel wire, it's clean and works beautifully... Because the handle is wood, it was possible to add an additional aid to make everything faster yet:) (the crank is a 5/8" dowel. I thought it might get in the way, but it rotates down 90º and out of the way (and stays that way) until it's needed again. I love your idea... Next will be my 3-1/2" bench vice.

    Here's what it looks like, plus I also wrapped the handle of a bar clamp (hard to see, but check how I hid the wire ends). If markbyounger (it IS his thread, after all) decides he can use a bar clamp with his unique setup, it would also have those capabilities.

    Photo Jan 25, 2 34 56 AM.jpgPhoto Jan 25, 4 59 48 PM.jpgPhoto Jan 25, 4 58 43 PM.jpg

    You know, I think you are the first person that ever made anything I posted here. I was using some C clamps earlier today and thought about wiring them up, but I just struggled with them like I always do. I thought it would have been a bit extreme, but they do the same thing vises do. So I might end up wiring some of my clamps.

    I doubt I'm the first, but maybe the first to tell you about it. Back when I was attempting to sell my ideas to industry, the biggest problem was showing them that simple ideas do, in fact work. I've had to travel to Virginia because patent examiner's had to be shown a working model before they understood how something worked. Once they experience it, it makes sense, but trying to show something via description, drawings or photos is nearly impossible. People have too many prior assumptions about what they "know" does and does not work. They have to physically see something operate before they go "duh".

    What you describe brings to mind my theory that life is naturally counter intuitive. Rare is the gift of clear sight.

    If you enjoy reading this is something I have found inspirational:


    Shows what hyper clarity of vision can accomplish! The body of work speaks better than I can, but I'll just say since I finished it I've looked at everything differently.

    Any shot you could post the book you guys are talking about again- that link is cranky for me! Thanks!


    It starts off slow but give it a chance. My words can't do it justice. I'm not sure if he invented anything flat out, he just figured out better ways of doing things people were doing really stupidly for long periods of time. But in doing just that he shaped the modern world!

    I bet he was a real SOB IRL still, it would have been cool to have known him personally.