How to Build a Moxon Vise: Part 2

Continuing from part one, we’ll now build the Moxon vise step-by-step with hardware available at your local store. Remember, you can make the width capacity of the vise to suit your woodworking needs. Assemble the wood parts that you have prepared according to the first post.

Moxon vise

Moxon vise hardware:

  • 1. Carriage bolts 1/2-13 x 8″ (2)
  • 2. Bronze sleeve bearings 3/4″ O.D. x 1/2″ I.D. x 1 1/8″ long (2)
  • 3. Hex nuts 1/2-13 (2) or 1/2-13 x 2 1/2″ rod coupling nut (1)
  • 4. Thick nylon washers 1/2″ I.D. (2)
  • 5. Thin nylon washers 1/2″ I.D. (4) and springs, approximately 1/2″ I.D. x 1 1/2″ long (2)

Moxon vise hardware

A carriage bolt has a square section below the head, as seen below.

carriage bolt

Start with drilling the holes

Use an awl to mark two points on the outside face of the front jaw. Each should be 2 1/2″ from the outside edge and centered between the top and bottom of the 6″ wide jaw. Clamp the front and rear jaws together in the same orientation they will be in the completed vise and place the pair on the drill press table.

To make the vise work smoothly, it is important that the holes are drilled precisely perpendicular. If a drill press is unavailable, use a portable drill guide or at least a shop-made guide.

First, drill a 3/4″ diameter hole 1 1/4″ deep in each location. Then, use a 1/2″ diameter bit centered on the bottom of the larger hole to drill fully through the remaining thickness of both jaws. This will result in stepped holes in the front jaw.

The 1/2″ holes are pass holes for the bolts so slightly enlarge them with a round rasp when you get to the end of the building process. This will help ensure that the finished vise operates smoothly.

Moxon vise

Prepare the rear jaw

This version of the Moxon vise uses nuts in the rear jaw to accept the vise screws, thus eliminating long screws projecting from the front jaw toward you. Chisel a recess on the outer face of the rear jaw around each hole to capture a hex nut centered the hole.

Another option, which I used, is a coupling nut. I hacksawed a 2 1/2″-long coupling nut into two equal lengths. These longer nuts are more trouble to put in place, but they do make a somewhat more stable screw feed mechanism. Nevertheless, a standard 1/2-13 hex nut is about 1/2″ deep and should suffice. The photo below shows the embedded nut.

Moxon vise nut

In either case, for added strength, secure the nut against any chance of rotating by driving a wood screw from the end of the jaw. Make the pilot hole for this screw with a high-speed steel bit and allow the tip of the bit to make a small depression in the nut into which the screw tip will enter. The head of this screw (gold-colored) is visible on the left in the photo below.

At this point, you can glue the cleat into position on the rear jaw as shown below. Plane the bottom surfaces flush.

Moxon vise


Drill a 1/2″ diameter hole for the carriage bolts in each of two wood handle blanks. I used the same 1 3/4″ stock as for the rest of the vise. Chisel the top of the holes to accept the square section below the head of the bolt.

Most Moxon vise designs use straight projecting handles 1 1/2″ – 2″ in diameter. The handles I made are about 4 1/2″ across, which provides more moment to tighten the vise. I also find them less obtrusive than long straight handles. The handles can be plain or fancy. I shaped mine like chubby airplane propellers that are easy on the hands.

Epoxy the carriage bolt into the finished handle. Add a cross pin for strength by using a high-speed steel bit to drill a 3/32″ hole across the width of the handle, going right through the shank of the carriage bolt and out the far end of the wood. Carefully tap in a matching diameter brad, then nip off any excess and file it flush.

Moxon vise handle

Assemble the front jaw

Coat the proximal 1 1/4″ of bolt with epoxy to fill in the threads, as visible in the photo above. This will prevent galling of the bronze sleeve bearings. Let the epoxy dry completely, then file it smooth.

The handles and front jaw are assembled as shown below. Insert a bronze sleeve bearing into the 3/4″-diameter section of each hole in the front jaw. Place a thick nylon washer on the bolt and pass the handle-bolt assembly through the bearing.

bronze sleeve bearing

Assemble the vise

Slip onto each bolt a thin washer, a spring and a second thin washer, as shown below. Stand both jaws in place on a flat surface, then thread the bolts into the nuts in the rear jaw and advance them together.

In use, the springs automatically spread the jaws when you are preparing to set a work piece into the vise and after loosening the jaws to remove the piece.

To set up the vise for use, simply use F clamps on the rear cleat extensions to secure it near the front of your work surface. Position the inner face of the rear jaw flush with, or slightly proud of the front of the bench, as seen in the photo at the top.

Moxon vise

Though a finish is optional, I used an oil-varnish mixture on my vise. Avoid film finishes like varnish.

Whether you do your woodworking in a fully outfitted shop or just a corner of a room with no workbench, this Moxon-style vise will help you build things.

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