LumberJocks Chain Vise

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Review by lysdexic posted 03-13-2013 03:27 AM 9419 views 9 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch Chain Vise No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Chain Vise Kit

As I was blogging about my split Roubo bench build using BenchCrafted hardware, Jim (Boatman53) offered me a prototype of his chain drive for the leg vise. This is a chain that goes from the chop, through the front leg and then down to the parallel beam. It is really clever idea that eliminates the need for the parallel pin.

I’ve been using the chain vise for several months now and here are my thoughts.


Obviously the kit comes with everything needed. I just want to add a note to the quality of the components. They are all heavy duty and well machined. I have no doubt that they will last for the generations that my bench should.


There is really not much too it. However, since I was almost done with Bench Crafted leg vise I finished that and then installed the Chain Vise as a retro-fit. I drilled a 5/8” hole through the chop and front leg. The chop gets another 1” counter bore.

I did mortise the top sprocket but you can more easily do a surface mount.

Next, I cut out a notch on the top of the parallel beam to secure the chain attachment bracket. Once you thread the chain, you can adjust the tension to keep the chop parallel. You may have to remove some chain links depending on the length that you need.


The only caveat to this system is that there seems to be a little more lateral play in the parallel guide. I copied Derek Cohen's idea placing an adjustable guide for the beam.

In the end, it is mindless and that is the point. Once you set the tension the chop can provide tremendous clamping force at any position. I have not noticed any detriment in the action or smoothness of the vise. It works.


BenchCrafted now has their Crisscross for pinless leg vise operation. It looks pretty cool but requires a large mortise in the leg and vise. The real obstacle for me is that the Cricross requires a full length chop which I do not have. I really don’t want to make a new chop. The chain vise requires neither of these and is a lot easier to install.

For more complete info you can check out his website


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

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5348 posts in 3676 days

16 comments so far

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1304 posts in 3943 days

#1 posted 03-13-2013 04:34 AM

Clean, no fuss installation, great design.
Wish I’d have thought of that design first

-- Sawdust and shavings are therapeutic

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1065 posts in 3250 days

#2 posted 03-13-2013 11:38 AM

Thanks Scott, for your kind review. I would like to add again that the kit Scott installed was pre production and just had a roller at the bottom. While it worked I was concerned about crushing chain links. The sprockets now look like this.

And yes I did up grade Scott’s sockets, he just didn’t photograph them.

-- Jim, Mid coast, Maine home of the chain leg vise

View woodklutz's profile


221 posts in 3822 days

#3 posted 03-13-2013 12:49 PM

Your vise is nicer than my whole shop. Great work, great review.

-- honing my craft one mistake at a time.

View balidoug's profile


523 posts in 3532 days

#4 posted 03-13-2013 12:50 PM

Hoping to start one of these next year. I’ll be using your posts as a reference for sure.

-- From such crooked wood as that which man is made of, nothing straight can be fashioned. Immanuel Kant

View Mauricio's profile


7166 posts in 4205 days

#5 posted 03-13-2013 01:50 PM

Great design. The other advantage to this parallel guide is that it can be retrofit to any leg vise even those with wooden screws. Also it lets you clamp a long board below the screw which the BC Crisscross cant do.

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View terryR's profile


7642 posts in 3362 days

#6 posted 03-13-2013 02:12 PM

Thanks for the review, Scott…I’m certain if Jim made the parts, they are top quality.

Sure looks nice and user friendly…If my wheels don’t help my leg vise operate smoothly, I’m gonna have to save some cash, and email Jim to place an order! :)

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

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2796 posts in 3245 days

#7 posted 03-13-2013 05:44 PM

Iam nowhere near getting started building me a bench, still in the mental planning stage,. After reading through your blog and admiring your beautiful bench, this looks like one of the areas where i will make financial room to install especially with current back problems, using the pin for the glide was not appealing to me.

-- "....put that handsaw to work and make it earn its keep. - summerfi" <==< JuStiN >==>=->

View yuridichesky's profile


624 posts in 3017 days

#8 posted 03-13-2013 08:41 PM

I have to say once again: perfect!

And I have a question: clamping pressure tightens the chain so it tries to pull bottom roller/sprocket away, and so those 8 screws have to be pretty well secured to hold it inplace. Did you ever need to re-tighten those 8 screws? Do you think that softwood-made legs (pine in my case) will work here?

-- Yuri (10x4 -- yeah, that's my tiny shop!)

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1065 posts in 3250 days

#9 posted 03-13-2013 11:18 PM

Hi Yuri… I did not try it in pine. I did install one on a fir leg and tightened it far more than necessary, nothing moved. For pine legs I would definitely drill undersized pilot holes and perhaps use longer screws. Depending on the size of the leg it could be through bolted on the corner holes and the other holes with screws. The first one I made I through bolted because I just didn’t know the forces. Depending in the distance between the beam and the screw it can be 600 pounds that translates to less than 100 pounds per screw. The force is also at a 45 degree angle not straight out.

-- Jim, Mid coast, Maine home of the chain leg vise

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624 posts in 3017 days

#10 posted 03-14-2013 07:14 AM

Thank you, Jim.

Though I’m aiming now to the pinned design (sending you kit up here to Russia will be way too costly), but I’m keeping in mind possible retrofit because there’re chances that I’ll to the US for a few days this summer with a business trip. How much time beforehand shall I contact you to be sure I won’t miss it during my trip?

-- Yuri (10x4 -- yeah, that's my tiny shop!)

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1065 posts in 3250 days

#11 posted 03-14-2013 11:50 AM

Yuri….I ship them in a small priority mail flat rate box. It only takes a couple of days to anywhere in the US. I’ll check with the Post Office it might not be too bad unless you have additional taxes. I’ve shipped to Austraila, New Zealand, England, and Austria all were but 12$ USD additional for the shipping.

-- Jim, Mid coast, Maine home of the chain leg vise

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624 posts in 3017 days

#12 posted 03-14-2013 12:11 PM

Jim, thanks a lot. PM-ed to you.

-- Yuri (10x4 -- yeah, that's my tiny shop!)

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10165 posts in 3494 days

#13 posted 03-14-2013 10:04 PM

I don’t think Jim could have found a stronger endorsement for his stellar product. Nice thing keeping it in the LJ family too.

-- ~Tony

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8308 posts in 3896 days

#14 posted 03-16-2013 12:42 PM

Nice review Scott and a great design Jim. Congrats to both of you.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

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1065 posts in 3250 days

#15 posted 03-16-2013 04:44 PM

Thanks Andy and Tony.

-- Jim, Mid coast, Maine home of the chain leg vise

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