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Make a Simple Saw Vise

I could have made a saw vise out of angle iron and suede.

I’ve got plenty of suede. But I don’t have any angle iron. And by the time I went out to get it, I could’ve made the vise out of wood.

So that's what I did.

Preparing the stock

Just about any wood will work for this project, but you might want stock that's easy to plane. Your only real constraint for length is to make sure the jaws are big enough to sharpen your longest saw. You also want to make sure that the lower edge of each jaw was square to it's inside face.

This particular board didn’t have much wind in it, so I didn’t bother checking it with the winding sticks.

Adding spring to the outer jaw

I plan to use these jaws in my leg vise. The chop of this vise is only 8 inches wide. If the jaws are perfectly parallel, there will be plenty of clamping force in the center and not so much on the ends. So I want them to be sprung open in the center. Since the inner jaw is going to be clamped against the front edge of the workbench, it won’t be able to flex. So I’m only adding spring to the outer jaw.

You’re gonna need a hand plane with a wide open mouth and a coarsely set iron for this step. Before you start, it’s important to make sure that the bottom edge is square to the inside face of the outer jaw. Don't skip that step. You're going to be removing a good deal of material and you need that bottom edge as a reference to bring the face of the jaw back to square.

I think we’re gonna need some bigger clamps

Those little Bessie clamps just didn’t have enough pressure to bend the jaws while I tightened the screws. So I got something stronger. You should start with the big clamps.

Beveling the upper edges

This is another one of those things that seems like a great idea now, but may or may not be useful when it comes time to use the vise.

Adding the rests

You're gonna have your hands full trying to hold on to the jaws and a saw plate while you open and close the vise. I recommend adding some pieces of scrap to both of the jaws. These will keep the jaws and the saw in the vise, instead of on the floor.

Connecting the jaws

If you've got saw a collection going, you'll have to sharpen a lot of different plate thicknesses. You might want to be able to make fine adjustments to the opening of the vise jaws to account for this. Use a pair of screws to connect the ends of the jaws. This may not be something you ever do in practice. But it's there if you need it.

As I assembled the jaws, I realized the outer jaw wasn’t going to open and close freely. It needs to slide in and out on the screws. The clearance holes through the back jaw didn’t have enough clearance. So I grabbed a larger drill bit and opened up those holes.

Using the saw vise

When you're ready to sharpen, insert the saw plate and slide it to one end. Tighten the screw until it just starts to grip the plate. move to the other end and repeat the process. The jaw opening is now the same as the plate thickness and you'll get even, solid pressure along the entire length.


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