Angled Leg Vises In the Mainstream ?

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Forum topic by OleGrump posted 09-27-2017 12:08 PM 1300 views 0 times favorited 1 reply Add to Favorites Watch
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518 posts in 953 days

09-27-2017 12:08 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

OK, I KNOW I’m old, and sometimes even ADMIT it, (and never in the presence of a young lady…..) and I’ve been in and around woodworking my entire life. I started out gluing up blocks from Pop-pop’s cabinet shop when I was quite small. I’ve seen a LOT of workbenches in my time.
It has long been WELL known that angled leg vises are a peculiarity that occurs on workbenches sometimes here in Maryland and in lower Pennsylvania. Not that most of us ever understood the “why” it just IS. (or was) Even Scott Landis remarks on this regional peculiarity in “The Workbench Book”, and muses briefly on it’s possible merits.
Suddenly, NOW, one of the Great Woodworking Gurus of the current generation has decided to design a hybrid workbench, which appears half “Nicholson” and half “Moravian”, and includes splayed legs and an angled leg vise. I stumbled upon this while doing some research while planning a workbench which will incorporate a recently acquired antique “squared thread” metal screw leg vise with a ratchet parallel adjustment mechanism. ( $15 at a flea market last weekend !) This one is a vertical leg vise which I intend to install in it’s entirety.
Anyway, my question is, does anyone here in the group know of any REAL historical precedent for this so-called “English” workbench ? Even the vintage benches here in the Mid-Atlantic which incorporated an angled leg vise are usually made with vertical legs and often a sliding “deadman” or “board jack”. Any ideas where the so called “English work bench” REALLY came from…......??? BTW, the areas where angled leg vises are/were common is about equally settled by British and Germanic immigrants.

“Inquiring minds want to know”, or is this a “Why ask Why” kinda thing…........ ??? (Like the “Twin Screw Vise” has become the “Moxon Vise” a few years ago….)

-- OleGrump

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518 posts in 953 days

#1 posted 09-27-2017 01:09 PM

Having had another cup of coffee, and getting nearer my “RDA” of it, I do recall seeing one workbench in the Emmitsburg, MD area (Just south of the PA border), which had the LEFT legs slightly splayed. The leg vise being attached to the front leg, matching it’s angle. Other than that peculiarity, it was a straight forward mortise and tenon build, the right hand legs being vertical, with the stretchers close to ground. The leg vise was the only vise on this particular bench. I remember asking if one clamped boards to be dovetailed between the screw and the pivot, (i.e. to the left of the wooden screw) but no one in the house knew an answer. The bench was in an outbuilding and was long since disused.
Before the tar and feathers begin, please let me be clear: I am NOT “bashing” or “knocking” the current bench designs which are presently popular. A good design is a good design, and each builds their bench to suit their needs and desires. I’m just asking if this is based on an actual historic design.

-- OleGrump

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