Tuesday, October 02, 2012

castle vise...

Jason's Castle Vise uses c-clamps to secure vise to table and wood to vise
Blog reader Jason has begun a woodworking program in his school in Canada where he teaches French Immursion. Wanting to teach woodworking (what a great way to learn French!) without a wood shop, he came up with a simple vise for holding wood while it is safely cut. He notes:
The bench fixture was born out of necessity. Because we work out of a regular classroom and don't have dedicated work benches, at first we were clamping to the tables and student desks, the wood was vibrating a lot and the students, being shorter than I, had problems getting over their work when cutting with the coping saw. Some students resorted to cutting while on their knees all the while getting saw dust in their eyes. Not good, to say the least. The tables also took a beating in very little time.

I wanted the students to learn proper posture while cutting so, I quickly made the fixtures out of left over 2x8 fascia boards and only screwed the two pieces together. After a full year's use I will need to add an angled piece behind to provide more rigidity to the upright. The first version of the fixture only had the 'L' shape with no cut outs.
I found that the students weren't able to steady their work piece against the fixture and at the same time position and tighten the C clamp to secure the work. So, I cut the sections out and that allowed the C clamp to stay in one place atop the fixture as the students readied the work to be clamped. It also allowed the C clamp to clamp farther down providing more evenly distributed pressure to the wood being clamped. I also had a number of students who were left hand dominant and so I cut out the same on both sides so students could use any bench support.

With this set up the students can use the support to:

cut pieces to length using the side as a straight edge guide,
secure wood while using the coping saw,
cut out sections of their wood that fall inline with the little cut-out sections of the fixture and,
secure wood with the edge almost even with the top of the fixture to plane the edge square using the fixture as a support.

I hope this all makes sense. I'd love to hear any ideas that you have that could improve on the design or other potential uses for the jig.

As an aside, the use of C clamps is something that the boys in particular like using because they get to crank as hard as they can and it only holds their work better; win-win. But then they need to unscrew it with the same amount of enthusiasm;-)
 I did a quick sketch up illustration of the castle vise (shown above), so you can see where it gets its name. One c-clamp is used through the open arch to secure the vise to the table or desk and another to hold the lumber in place for cutting. The notches at the top give c-clamps a place to rest, making them easier to use. Necessity is often the mother of invention. What Jason has come up with may be useful to others in the same situation.

In the photo at left, you can see progress in my box making.

Make, fix and create...


  1. That has certainly given me some new ideas - thankyou!
    The specific problem I had during my project, was that I wanted the children to be able to shape little wooden boat hulls - irregular shapes, very difficult to clamp. I came up with an angled stick to which the boats were screwed upside down, and could also be clamped to the desks. It worked quite well, except that we always had to get one pupil to actually sit on the desk so that it wouldn't go flying through the room while her friend was spokeshaving the model!
    You can see a picture of this in action: http://ruiandanke.blogspot.ie/2012/05/making-wooden-boat-models-with-children.html

    kind regards and thankyou for your feedback

  2. Anke, not having bench vises presents a challenge. But I love the project. I think that coarse rasps may be better for shaping that kind of thing than spokeshaves, but spokeshaves offer a better sense of wood grain, and how it works. I love the finished boats. They are so colorful being made of layers. Thanks for sharing this project. I look forward to seeing more.