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Thread: Wood vs Metal Vise Threads

  1. #1
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    Wood vs Metal Vise Threads

    What are the advantages of a wood vise screw over a metal vise screw, if any -- aside from degree of neander-ness?

    My question was prompted by Woodworking Magazine's 23 July blog article on Jameel Abraham's "Deluxe Roubo" workbench, which uses wood vise screws on its two leg vises.

    Article: http://www.woodworking-magazine.com/...uxe+Roubo.aspx

  2. #2
    I don't know that there are any distinct advantages in wood screw vs. metal screw, but there are advantages in building your own vise, whether you use a wood or metal screw to do it. First, you can custom size it to your needs. In my bench, I replaced my metal quick release vise with a wood twin screw.



    The advantages I've seen so far are the ability to clamp long pieces between the screws without interference from the screws, in my case up to 18" wide; the ability to hold longer pieces for edge planing without using the board jack; the ability to clamp tapered stock (my vise chop is not fixed to the screws but slides loose, which can't typically be done with metal screws); and what I've found very convenient about this setup is that I can easily remove the vise from the bench just by unscrewing it. This is real nice for sticking long moldings where the vise is sometimes in the way. Just unscrew it and set it aside and the entire front of the bench is unobstructed. Note that this same vise could be built with two independant metal bench screws, but the wooden screws are cheaper to make than buying two quality metal screws, they are very easy to make (I don't even have a lathe) and they just have a cool factor that can't be described. I really like this new setup a lot.

    Joe D'Atillo and I built two of these vises, one for my bench and one for his, for around $100 for both, including the threading kit. The disadvantage to these types of screws is that the pitch of the screw is pretty fine at 6 tpi so they are certainly not quick release, but the clamping power will surprise you. Also, I would imagine that the threads on the wooden screw could break if you abuse them, which isn't an issue with metal screws. However, from my experience using these screws, you'd have to be awful hard on them to break the threads so that may not really be an issue.

    There is a guy manufacturing wooden bench screws with a much faster pitch (I think 2 tpi) that solves the slowness issue, however, I think the screws are going for about $100 each just for the screw and nut, which is way to rich for my frugal blood. Besides, building them was a fun project. I say just go for it, I think you'll be glad you did.
    Bob

    "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right."

  3. #3
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    The only advantage of wood over metal, is that the metal screw is less likely to leave a lubricant mark on your workpiece if/when it touches the threads.
    The advantage of metal over wood is potential longevity. Potential, as, treated with a reasonable amount of care, wooden threads have lasted centuries - but a single overload will strip the threads. While this is also true of metal, the effort required is significantly larger.
    Finally, metal screws are more readily available.

    So, it really comes down to personal choice.

    Mike
    From the workshop under the staircase, Clinton Township, MI
    Semper Audere!

  4. #4
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    [QUOTE=Robert Rozaieski;897019]... they are very easy to make (I don't even have a lathe) and they just have a cool factor that can't be described. I really like this new setup a lot.

    Joe D'Atillo and I built two of these vises, one for my bench and one for his, for around $100 for both, including the threading kit....

    Where'd you buy the threading kit? Did you try the Underhill manual method before buying?

    Pam

  5. #5
    [quote=Pam Niedermayer;897104]
    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Rozaieski View Post
    ... they are very easy to make (I don't even have a lathe) and they just have a cool factor that can't be described. I really like this new setup a lot.

    Joe D'Atillo and I built two of these vises, one for my bench and one for his, for around $100 for both, including the threading kit....

    Where'd you buy the threading kit? Did you try the Underhill manual method before buying?

    Pam
    Hi Pam,
    The threading kit is the 1˝" one from woodcraft ($42.99). I have seen St. Roy's version in his books as well as in the past episode online and considered building a threading box as it looks pretty straight forward. I've also seen the carved ones and while they look straight forward to do, they seem like they would be very time consuming. Problem is the tap. That is not as easy to make and finding an old one isn't so easy either. The scraper method for tapping crossed my mind, but in the end, it was just easier to spend the $43, especially since it was split two ways .

    Bob
    Bob

    "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right."

  6. #6
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    I won't argue with someone who likes the idea of wood screws for whatever reasons, but steel bench vise screws are simply stronger; even a 2" diameter wood screw will noticeably flex under the stress of tight clamping. Steel won't.

    Which isn't to say that wood screws don't work as well as necessary for the demands of woodworking.

  7. #7
    If the guide posts are in steel vs wood it is less likely to rack when tightening with a work piece on just one side of the jaws..

    You should never rack a vise wood or metal so always use a jack block.. Do as I say not as I do

    As for threads steel is dirt cheap and you can buy threaded rod any size you want with a nut and pin it to a wooden head..

    Like Kurt did here for his son
    http://www.loup-garou.net/apprenticebench.html

    He also modded his bench with a 1 1/2" acme thread and a 3" wooden head last year and I made some some 3" brass washers for but he did not add the pics to his website
    Last edited by Johnny Kleso; 07-28-2008 at 1:14 PM.
    aka rarebear - Hand Planes 101 - RexMill - The Resource

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Rozaieski View Post
    ...The threading kit is the 1˝" one from woodcraft ($42.99). I have seen St. Roy's version in his books as well as in the past episode online and considered building a threading box as it looks pretty straight forward. I've also seen the carved ones and while they look straight forward to do, they seem like they would be very time consuming. Problem is the tap. That is not as easy to make and finding an old one isn't so easy either. The scraper method for tapping crossed my mind, but in the end, it was just easier to spend the $43, especially since it was split two ways .

    Thanks, Robert, thought maybe your threads were a lot larger than 1.5". BTW, Roy also has a show on how to build a wooden receiver, no tap required.

    Pam

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Pam Niedermayer View Post
    Thanks, Robert, thought maybe your threads were a lot larger than 1.5". BTW, Roy also has a show on how to build a wooden receiver, no tap required.

    Pam
    I'd be interested to see that one.
    Bob

    "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right."

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike holden View Post
    The only advantage of wood over metal, is that the metal screw is less likely to leave a lubricant mark on your workpiece if/when it touches the threads.
    Another advantage is that the threads are almost always lower threads per inch, meaning the vise doesn't require as much cranking to move the jaws. A third advantage is that being wood it has a little "give" that might save you when you get a little too aggressive cranking.

    Of course the biggest advantage is that you get to research cutting large diameter wood screws and build nifty gizmos to let you cut the screws and nuts.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Rozaieski View Post
    I'd be interested to see that one.
    I bought the video tape when pbs had a slight sale.

    Pam

  12. Crystal Creek wooden screws

    Here is a pic of the wooden screws going on my bench. They are 1 3/4" in diameter. I think one of the most difficult aspects of using this particular screw is how to incorporate the nut into the bench. I am not sure if advantage is really something I thought about when choosing wood over metal.
    I think metal or wood, properly built, used and cared for either one will probably outlast me. Maybe a better question is how much more time and effort are you willing to spend to create the vise.
    Good luck!
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  13. #13
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    I wish Crystal Creek had a web site (or that I could find it if they do).

    I've seen the nuts for the screws from Big Wood Vise.com attached to the bench material as part of a scarf joint. I'd be tempted to use an apron thick enough to cut a mortise to capture it and drill a hole 90 degrees to the mortise to accommodate the screw.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Hammers View Post
    Here is a pic of the wooden screws going on my bench. They are 1 3/4" in diameter. I think one of the most difficult aspects of using this particular screw is how to incorporate the nut into the bench. I am not sure if advantage is really something I thought about when choosing wood over metal.
    I think metal or wood, properly built, used and cared for either one will probably outlast me. Maybe a better question is how much more time and effort are you willing to spend to create the vise.
    Good luck!

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Hammers View Post
    Here is a pic of the wooden screws going on my bench. They are 1 3/4" in diameter. I think one of the most difficult aspects of using this particular screw is how to incorporate the nut into the bench. I am not sure if advantage is really something I thought about when choosing wood over metal.
    I think metal or wood, properly built, used and cared for either one will probably outlast me. Maybe a better question is how much more time and effort are you willing to spend to create the vise.
    Good luck!
    One of the advantages to building over buying wood screws is that there is no separate nut that needs to be incorporated into the bench. I simply extended the front of the bench top on mine and tapped holes in it. The benchtop extension is bolted on from underneath because mine was a retrofit but if building new you could easily just make the front laminations a little wider. You could also add an apron and tap that.

    Also, if I break a screw or the threads chip. I can easily make another.

    ViseRemoved.JPG
    Bob

    "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right."

  15. I am afraid the gentleman who made these at Crystal Creek has now retired. Chris Schwartz has a list of a few folks who can make them on his blog.
    Robert, you are correct. Turning your own screws does give you a distinct advantage in being able to incorporate the nut. I am going a more traditional route with a Federal style bench. According to my readings a joiner would have had a solid top with a nut "cut" into the face. This is what I am doing.
    The face vise is twin screw and the theory is that if you eventually wore out the vise threads or they became damaged, you could simply remove the nut and replace it. If the threads were made directly into the face of the bench you would be, pardon the pun "screwed"
    Also, my screws are much larger than from what can be easily produced with threading kits. Howard had a special way he produced these and I am not even exactly sure how that is.
    I was intrigued by Chris Schwartz's article on the twin screw face vise in which he made his receiving end and mounted it from underneath the bench via bolts. This really wasn’t an option for me because I am at 4" in thickness and this would put that whole assembly too far below the bench line. I am also a little dubious of the stressors involved with going that route.
    I am going to be installing the screws next month and will document that process. The thought of having to cut two reliefs in the face of the bench is very unnerving. I also will have to relieve two areas for the screw itself to travel on the underside of the bench.
    The tail vise screw will hopefully be easier as I am going to scarf joint the nut into the end cap itself.
    MSH
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    Last edited by Michael Hammers; 07-31-2008 at 11:50 AM. Reason: smiley guy
    "Simplicity is at the heart of so much that is fine"
    James Krenov

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