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Angled Leg Vises In the Mainstream ?

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Forum topic by OleGrump posted 09-27-2017 12:08 PM 2462 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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OleGrump

579 posts in 1426 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


6 replies so far

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OleGrump

579 posts in 1426 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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Bearcontrare

129 posts in 218 days


#2 posted 04-15-2021 09:53 PM

The answer is that this peculiarity seems to have come with early German settlers. Knowing that the Moravians who built the famous workbenches in New Salem, North Carolina, were a German religious sect helps clarify this.
Northern Maryland and much of Pennsylvania were also populated early on by German emigrees. This goes a long way in explaining the angled leg vise mystery.

-- Barry, in Maryland

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metolius

391 posts in 1812 days


#3 posted 04-15-2021 10:41 PM

I suspect Moravians have more of a Bohemian Czech origin than German. But that’s about as far apart as MD and PA, which is really far from me, so I don’t get to see much of this limp legged bench style around.

I think its fair to call a bench after the region its finding is most prominent. Maybe 100 years out, the limped legged vise bench will be called a “Marylandish Bench”, and people will yet wonder where it came from. I maybe Friesian, but my Dad’s bench sure looked French to me. How do I reconcile these things ?

-- derek / oregon

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Sylvain

1248 posts in 3581 days


#4 posted 04-20-2021 07:56 AM

have a look here:
https://hyvelbenk.wordpress.com/2020/07/21/hovelbenk-fra-utigard-evjen-na-uppigard-evjen-lundamo-trondelag/

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

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Bearcontrare

129 posts in 218 days


#5 posted 04-21-2021 12:42 AM

Thank you for sharing this link. The photos are very i interesting. Is there a translation available? While I speak some German, and it’s close enough that I can make out the title, I would like to read the article.

-- Barry, in Maryland

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Sylvain

1248 posts in 3581 days


#6 posted 04-21-2021 06:46 AM

Sorry, I don’t speak any Nordic language.
I would try google translation even if it is not always good with woodworking specific vocabulary.

What is strange with this workbench is that the feet are vertical while the vise is angled.

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

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