New Carving Vise or Workholder - Made From Junk

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Blog entry by helluvawreck posted 12-29-2010 10:18 PM 8642 reads 4 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I haven’t carved anything for a couple of years other than a little whittling while I was up in the mountains last month. I’ve carved in fits and spurts for a good many years but only a week or so at each time. I’ve never been able to stick with it because of time constraints so I’ve never become very good at it but I sure would like to stick with it this time since I’ve got a little more time, now. I would really like to get good enough to decorate some of my furniture with carvings.

Last Weekend I carved about 8 hours total and I sure did enjoy it. However, the only way that I had to hold my wood was in my regular woodworking vise on my workbench. However, it’s way too low and that causes me to have to bend way over. Since I have a bad back and a couple of bad knees from previous injuries I have to be very careful. Unfortunately, the 8 hours of carving while bent over much of the time knocked my back out of whack so I decided that I needed to buy or build a carving vise or work holding fixture.

I made a forum post requesting the good people here on Lumberjocks to give me some advice about woodcarving vises and I had a few responses concerning this. I really do appreciate all of the advice that I received from Patron, mpounders, dennisgrosen, and michaela. From their advice I decided that the best thing to do was to build my own and make it as heavy and strong as possible. So I looked through all of my junk to see what I had that would be suitable. I believe that you will agree from the pictures that what I came up with is a very heavy duty carving vise or work holding fixture.

First of all, I had the base of a large industrial feeder. It has a bore of around 2-1/4 inches which makes it very strong. It also has a locking lever to lock it securely to the column. I thought that I was going to have to turn a shaft to go into the bore but I found a spline gear that was just about 4 or 5 inches long that was just about right. It was hardened, unfortunately, so I couldn’t turn it with the tools I have so I just carefully rotated it with my hands on a pedestal grinder to take off a few thousands off the diameter. It’s not perfect but is close enough to be held very securely in the base when it is tightened.

The base is a heavy casting. The bottom of the base is 5 inches by 6 inches and height is 6 inches so it makes a good foundation. The two blocks of steel just above the base are 2 inches square and 3 inches long and are solid steel. These two pieces were left over from a machine that we built about 10 years ago. These have two holes at right angles to each other that are accurately bored to a few thousands over 1 inch in diameter. One is welded to the spline gear that pivots 360 degrees in the base. The second block of steel is bolted to the first with a 1 inch x 5 inch long hex bolt. The second block can swivel on the bolt and be tightened at whatever angle desired.

In the second block is a 7-1/2 inch long piece of threaded rod with two locking hex nuts. On the end of the threaded rod is a 3×3 inch square plate with a hole in each corner. Wood screws will be used to mount the piece of wood to the top plate.

The 1 inch threaded rod allows me to rotate the part 360 degrees and the two hex nuts allow me to lock the part at any position desired. The two nuts will allow me to raise or lower the part as well. I will probably make several more of these threaded rods with different size and shape plates for holding different shape and size pieces of wood.

This is another view above.

And still another view above.

I will probably mount the base on a large block of wood and will be able to clamp the fixture in my wood vise or hold it to the top of my workbench with some good heavy c clamps.

I may also may take Dennis’ advise and build me a heavy pedestal out of steel where I can bolt the pedestal to the floor and the vise to the top of the pedestal so that it is the right height to carve while sitting in a chair. Most of the time I believe that I will carve while standing so that I can have the leverage and traction of my feet and legs.

Below, are a few more pictures:

I am really pleased with how this turned out. I found just the right parts for this and locating the parts only took an hour. It only to a little welding and grinding on the shaft. All total, I doubt there was three hours spent on it and it should last me a lifetime. I may modify the bolt and treaded rod shafts so that I have built in levers to tight the unit instead of using wrenches. This will get me by for now.

I appreciate you taking a look. It will save a lot of wear and tear on my back and I am very proud of it.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

14 comments so far

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 3338 days

#1 posted 12-29-2010 10:20 PM

Now that is one very neat carving clamp.

No overkill.


-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View patron's profile


13650 posts in 3823 days

#2 posted 12-29-2010 10:36 PM

now you’r talkin

the great thing with this
is you know how to use it
right out of the box !

don’t need to read the instructions lol

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18658 posts in 4158 days

#3 posted 12-29-2010 10:41 PM

Looks like a heavy duty carving vise there Helluva. You could probably get enough from the scrap man to buy a couple of good carving vises, but they would not be strong enough to do full sized totem poles like yours is ;-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3597 days

#4 posted 12-29-2010 10:57 PM

hey you crazy helluva man :-) you are fast when your braincells had turn a copple of times
and knocked into each other another copple of times :—))
you surdently now your way truogh the cave of treassures…lol


and as you self said only a few handles is needed on the nuts now and its ready to fly
thank´s for sharing it and your knowledge on how to cut truogh and just make it

ENJOY ENJOY ENJOY well did I say ENJOY your new toy but don´t abuse it too hard
it looks a little fragile….LOL

take care

Edit : up into the projects with it so others can find it …....yes its a woodworking project

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2496 posts in 3589 days

#5 posted 12-29-2010 11:17 PM

I have to agree with Dennis, be very careful with this light duty rig. Are you sure that 1” grade eight bolt is going to handle the stress of your carving? I can see it now, a chunk of hardwood, an air compressor and a jackhammer, chips flying…... lol…and the bench crumbles.

Great job. Isn’t it great having your treasure trove to go through to gather parts? Best wishes and happy carving, Rand

View lew's profile


12842 posts in 4237 days

#6 posted 12-30-2010 03:19 AM

I’m sure “Tim the Tool Man” would give his stamp of approval on this one!

Nice Job.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 3370 days

#7 posted 12-30-2010 03:55 AM

You planning on carving a replacement for the Statue of Liberty? (grin)
That’s one solid looking carver’s vice!

-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View mafe's profile


12096 posts in 3571 days

#8 posted 12-30-2010 01:37 PM

Thats the coolest carvers vice on the planet!
A little paint, and some dark woodhandles and this will be the vice to end all vices.
I sure could spend days in that workshop, to fool arround finding scaps and pieces – hmmmm.
(Now time to be teasing – do you have some one arround that can help you with the weldings…) laugh.
Best thoughts my friend, and happy new year,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View racerglen's profile


3112 posts in 3262 days

#9 posted 12-30-2010 02:06 PM

Oh wow ! That’d be perfect for that 800 lb Madrone burl I saw for sale rescently.. or maybe
a life size african elephant ! Gotta be nice to have those stocks of materials to draw on !

-- Glen, B.C. Canada

View jamsie's profile


90 posts in 3720 days

#10 posted 12-30-2010 03:05 PM

Are ye goin’ to carve a tree???
That’s awesome!!

-- Jamsie

View mpounders's profile


933 posts in 3377 days

#11 posted 12-30-2010 08:20 PM

That is great! I usually position my work so that it is about chest high when I am standing and a little lower than that when I am sitting. That seems to help with my back and I like being able to move around and use my weight, plus it’s easier to step back and get the long range view!

-- Mike P., Arkansas,

View stefang's profile


16717 posts in 3816 days

#12 posted 01-17-2011 01:06 PM

A REALLY solid carving vise! I doubt you will ever need another one. Fantastic work and a very good start for your carving career.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View nubby's profile


23 posts in 3879 days

#13 posted 01-17-2011 03:30 PM

Sir, that is a work of art in it’s self. I have become friends with a metal fabricator (we swap work, wood for metal) and I am seeing the difficulty involved in fabricating something like this. How long did it take you to make?

-- Ben,in Dixie,

View rivergirl's profile


3201 posts in 3320 days

#14 posted 07-21-2011 09:14 PM

This is some kind of super contraption my friend. What a talent – to make a tool from scratch! Will now go and catch up on your carving blog. I haven’t been online for anymore than 30 seconds in months.

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

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