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Miter Boxes


Restoring Miscellaneous Tools and Shop Appliances

  Family Heirloom - Leg Vise by Charlie Driggs 1 of 3  

This project resulted from a double realization of how to install the leg vise I salvaged from the family farm over two years ago and how to construct a similar vise using a bought-new-at-a-bargain-price Record vise screw I've had laying around here for about ten years.

My 98 year old uncle passed away in May '04, triggering plans for sale of both his home and the family farm he and his late brother had worked for most of their lives.  Our cousins invited my brother Dave and I down to see if there was anything we would like to keep from the farm before it was put up for auction; we went the first weekend in August.  Joanne and I drove up and met Dave there, along with several cousins and our one surviving aunt, and we went through the house and ten outbuildings over two days.

Joanne and I half expected to be bringing home a few items of furniture, maybe a few items of silverware, and I thought maybe the tools from my one uncle's chair repair (side-) business might still be there.  We didn't come home with much furniture, but Dave and I did find a little motherload of tool items our cousins were happy to see go to a good home.  Full inventory and pictures is available on my website for those interested.

The revelation was realizing that if mounted both vises in combination, I could avoid some of the difficulties of cutting larger boards with a handsaw.  I don't have room for a sawbench, but I could use more end vise capability and... hey... that might work.  Last weekend yielded the new vise using the Record vise screw and some scrap 5/4 oak.  I had to add a spacer block to correctly position the screw's captive nut during the week, but the installation of the all-new vise was essentially finished by late Sunday night.

Not a gorgeous installation, but I don't have a showroom quality bench to begin with, as I prefer to focus my available time and efforts on projects rather than on making the ultimate workbench.  LOML already thinks I'm building the ultimate workshop down there, so I don't need to add to her perception. If she only knew what I really want for a shop... but I digress.

Most of today went towards mounting what probably was my grandfather's leg vise, as it came off a horrendously abused cabinetmaker's bench in the farmhouse basement, and my uncles and great-grandfather were not cabinetmaking inclined like my grandfather.

This vise was almost as well used as the wreck of a bench, and the mystery wood it was made of was in well-weathered condition, fully oxidized in spots.

Part of the original inspiration on how to mount this "family heirloom" was driven by a wish that I quit tripping on the thing or getting my shin smacked when it repeatedly fell over.  But if I was going to re-use it, I had to eliminate all the rough, splintered edges and true up the working face. 

Best I can determine from my wood identification books, the vertical member and mounting block are either American Elm or Red Elm (also known as brown elm and relatively rare in the Eastern US) - heavily weathered on the surface, but very solid underneath.

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Starrett Tools



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