Building a Moxon Vise

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Blog entry by Brandon posted 12-21-2011 04:46 PM 50870 reads 62 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Why I wanted to Build a Moxon Vise

Work benches are low. When I was first learning about traditional woodworking, I noticed how low my friend’s workbench was. He informed me that the lower benches were better for hand planing. This is true, but sometimes you just want to work with something at a higher height, for instance cutting dovetails. This is part of the reason why I found the idea of a Moxon vise so appealing. It’s a large, double-screw vise that is detachable from the bench (in its recent manifestations). One of its primary uses is to raise the work piece to a higher level to more easily make cuts or detailed work. Plus, did I mention that this thing is sexy? Because it is. I won’t go into detail about the history of the Moxon vise because Chris Schwarz and others have already done that, but if you’re interested see the instructions on Benchcrafted’s website for a history lesson.

My design

Benchcrafted sells a Moxon vise or just the hardware to needed to build one. Their tools are beautiful and if I had more money to spend on these types of things, I’d go with them. Yet since I’m on a graduate student income I settled on a cheaper alternative. I decided to build my own version using wood I already had on hand and some inexpensive hardware. Here’s where I started.

I started out with some 8/4 red oak that was about 6 1/2” wide and roughly 8’ long. I cut it into two pieces that were 6” wide and 32” long. These would be the two main elements in the beefy vise.

On the facing board of the vise, I beveled the front edge to allow more room for my dovetail saw angles. An aggressive hand plane made short order of the chamfering process.

Instead of purchasing an acme rod and handwheel which would have driven up the price dramatically (and added extra work by having to chisel out some spots for the nuts), I decided to use a press screw. I already had one on hand because I was going to build a book press (remnants of a hobby of yesterday), and so I’d only need to buy one press screw from Highland which was about 16.99.

I drilled small pilot holes with my drill press and then made the large holes for the press screw using a brace with an auger bit. I made pilot holes because I don’t yet trust my accuracy with the brace yet. Yes, Andy, I know my brace needs a good cleaning.

Now what this thing needs is back support and a place to attach the vise to the table with holdfasts (even though I don’t have a proper workbench yet). So for the back piece I used that same 8/4 red oak and screwed it in place, then covered the screw holes with a 3/8” oak dowel I had on hand.

All that is left is putting the screws in place. I used a 5/8 washer between the handle and the face piece so that the handle doesn’t dig into the face of the vise. At 36 cents each, it’s a good investment. The nut section of the press screw is attached to the back of the vise with screws.

Here’s how I currently clamp the vise to the workbench.

Some Uses of the Moxon Vise

I haven’t really had a chance to use the Moxon vise all that much, but here are some ideas on how it might be used. Cutting dovetails, of course! Detail planing, such as rounding the edges on a cutting board.

In the end I have a very versatile vise that’s also super strong. And I spent under $40 in hardware. This will look very nice when I actually have a new workbench on which I can attach it. Hopefully I’ve covered everything.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

17 comments so far

View Tyler's profile


174 posts in 4192 days

#1 posted 12-21-2011 05:11 PM

Great build! This looks extremely useful.

View Don W's profile

Don W

20446 posts in 4066 days

#2 posted 12-21-2011 05:50 PM

another nice project Brandon. I’ve thought about building something similar for a while.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Dave's profile


11435 posts in 4338 days

#3 posted 12-21-2011 07:53 PM

A very nice moxin build. I do like the screws you used. Excellent job.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View lysdexic's profile


5353 posts in 4121 days

#4 posted 12-21-2011 08:00 PM

Well done sir! DId you glue the back support or just screws? I see the glue in the background.

A moxon bench vise is on my to do list. Thanks for sharing.

-- "It's only wood. Use it." - Smitty || Instagram - nobodhi_here

View Brandon's profile


4382 posts in 4450 days

#5 posted 12-21-2011 08:06 PM

Thanks guys. Yes, Scott, I glued the back on as well as screws. SuperDav, the press screws work very well and are very easy to turn and tighten—not bad for being so cheap.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View AgentTwitch's profile


631 posts in 4995 days

#6 posted 12-21-2011 09:36 PM

I was thinking about doing the same thing to simplify the moxon vise build ever since reading the Jeff Miller bench top bench article in FWW. Now I am off to price the hardware! Great inspiration and well done

-- Regards, Norm

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17836 posts in 4117 days

#7 posted 12-22-2011 12:08 AM

I am SO going to make one of these with these press screws…

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View Dave's profile


11435 posts in 4338 days

#8 posted 12-22-2011 12:57 AM

Brandon did you elongate the holes horizontally on the front face so the vice would not bind as much. I did on mine and it was a great improvement.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View a1Jim's profile


118334 posts in 5075 days

#9 posted 12-22-2011 01:54 AM

A great addition to your shop well done.


View Brandon's profile


4382 posts in 4450 days

#10 posted 12-22-2011 04:44 AM

SuperDav, No, I didn’t elongate the holes. So far binding hasn’t been too much of an issue, but that’s a good suggestion.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View Richard's profile


7 posts in 3615 days

#11 posted 08-21-2012 03:52 AM


I’m new to LJ and a fledgling woodworker, and I have been looking all over the place for a description and pictures of how to build this vise and save myself a ton of money when I build my bench. Thanks for sharing this—I’m considering building two and using one as the face vise and one for the tail, complete with onboard dogs. Any thoughts?

And how’s it holding up nearly a year later?

-- Richard, The Upside-Down Table Saw --

View Dez's profile


1176 posts in 5576 days

#12 posted 09-04-2012 11:38 PM

Just how tall are you?
(From a vertically challenged person!)

-- Folly ever comes cloaked in opportunity!

View bigike's profile


4059 posts in 4787 days

#13 posted 09-05-2012 12:23 AM


-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop, http://[email protected]

View s_grifter's profile


186 posts in 3966 days

#14 posted 12-09-2012 12:48 PM

Thanks for the post. I was thinking of doing it this way and wasnt sure if it would work. After your sucess, I believe this is how I am going to go.

View Mark Colan's profile

Mark Colan

211 posts in 4344 days

#15 posted 09-19-2013 08:46 AM

The end piece of the Jorgensen screw is not shown in any of your pictures, except for the picture of the screw itself. I assume you had to attach it somewhere, but it comes undrilled. How/where did you do that?

-- Mark, hack amateur woodworker, Medford (greater Boston) MA

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