Handscrew Holding Device

In the process of making totes for handplanes the need for a good workholding device became apparent very early on. As time went on I continued to refine the methods of workholding until I reached a very satisfactory appliance. I call it the “handscrew vise”. This vise evolved from an oak board in my shoulder vise with the tote fixture held on with a wood handscrew. This method worked well, but the handscrew jaws often got in the way and I needed three hands to hold the fixture and tighten the screws. While I felt I was headed in the right direction I knew some refinement was needed.The result of that refinement, the “handscrew vise” is pictured here.

I chose red oak for the main beam and the jaw for it’s strength and stiffness. The screws are made from walnut because it is a good wood for threading. The main beam is 17″ long, 4″ wide and 1 3/4″ thick. This size gives the beam good strength and stiffness. The jaw is 9 1/2″ long, 3″ wide and 1 3/4″ thick. The jaw being narrower than the main beam allows the vise to be held low in a bench vise and not interfere with the operation of the jaw. The first hole in the main beam is 4 1/2″ dowm from the top and it is 1″ diameter clearance for the first screw. This allows 4″ depth to the first screw. The second hole is 6″ down from the first hole measured center to center and is tapped 1″-6 through. The first hole in the jaw is also 4 1/2″ down from the top and it is tapped 1″-6 through. The second hole is 6″ down from the first hole and it is 7/8″ diameter and 1/2″ deep. This hole accepts a 3/4″ long 7/8″ diameter that is turned on the end of the bottom screw. There is nothing fussy here except that the center to center distance of the holes must be exactly the same on the beam and the jaw or the screws will bind.

For the screws I started with 1 1/2″ square walnut blanks about 12″ long. Round the blank on your lathe then turn the 1″ diameter slightly undersize for threading with a threadbox. Leave about 4 1/2″ for a handle. Shape the handle to your liking, but leave about 3/16″ between the handle and the screw at full diameter. This will give you a good bearing surface against the main beam. The round handle looks better than the octagon handles I have seen and it allows the vise to be tightened very securely. Look at a handscrew…….round handles right! On the top screw leave about 1 1/2″ unthreaded at the handle end. This gives a good bearing surface for the screw in the main beam. On the tip of the bottom screw turn a 7/8″ diameter about 3/4″ long. This will ride in the 7/8″, 1/2″ deep hole in the jaw.

Finish the vise using your favorite finishing method. I used linseed oil on the handles rubbed in well on the lathe. For the screw threads, both on the screws and the internal threads in the beam and jaw is used a mixture of old fashioned boiled linseed oil, bees wax and turpentine. Slather it on generously and let it soak in. For the BLO I buy raw linseed oil and boil it myself or use Tried and True linseed oil. These oils are polymerized by heating and have no petroleum products that can cause the wood to darken. For the oak parts I used Bush Oil. This is an oil varnish mix that I happen to like. Actually no finish is necessary, but I recommend some kind of lubricating on the threads. Paste wax would work well for this purpose.


Professional furniture maker and restorer. Dealer and collector of vintage and antique woodworking tools.
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