Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Revisiting the Poor Man's Vise

Some of you may be familiar with the so-called Poor Man's Carving Vise featured in WCI Issue #5. The vise was built by Lynn Diel, based on a 1797 design. I found it also featured in Jerry Hartzell's blog.
The real beauty of the vise is that it is flexible, allowing the user to turn and angle the carving to just about any position. It is also very inexpensive - under $20. But it has a serious achille's heel. The point where the armature (the smaller pipe) passes through the eye bolt is just not enough bearing surface and the carving block will move if you put much force behind a carving tool. This forces you to use one hand to support the block and now you have a very unsafe situation. The taller the carving and the more of a horizontal position it's in, the more it will move. Forget using a mallet behind your tool.

As I said, the vise is flexible and one of the adjustments is the armature post being able to move up and down through the eye bolt. I found that I almost never need to make that adjustment, so I'm willing to give it up for a more secure vise. The solution is fairly apparent - simply weld the pipe to the eye of the bolt.  Reading some of the comments on Jerry's vise reveals others have been successful with that very solution. I even have a friend that would probably do the welding for me at no cost. I'm all about no cost and I felt there might be other solutions. There is! But it took a few failed efforts to get there. 

The solution I came up with is even less expensive than the original. I decided to scrap the pipe and flange that mount to the carving block altogether. In it's place, I cut a scrap of maple to about 1 1/2" X 1 1/2" X 3". In my odds 'n' ends bin, I found a sort of "L" bolt (1/4" X 4") with a fender washer and wing nut. Through the middle of the maple block I drilled a hole and then carved a little mortise for the "L" part. Then I drilled two "pocket holes" for the screws to mount the block to my carving blank. This rig worked about as good as the pipe version - still moves. First failure: the torque I needed to keep the block for moving bent the fender washer. I added two more washers. Second failure: the "L" part of the bolt bent. I realized I would need more than a 1/4". It turned out the "L" bolt was too specialized and I had to find another solution. I decided to try a 3/3" X 6" Carriage Bolt. (The square part of the bolt should hold is it was jammed tight into the maple). Well, that worked better, but still some movement. I filed some radial grooves in the end of the T-pipe, - the problematic bearing surface. I used a large wrench for extra torque and I seem to have solved my problem! Now I can even bang away with a carvers mallet and the block stays secure. I'm still going to get that pipe welded as a backup!

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