Roubo Workbench Leg Vise Alternative – Linear Bearings

Ever since building my own Split-Top Roubo Workbench, I have been interested in the clever ideas people come up with in terms of hardware alternatives. Matt Armstrong came up with a solution using a steel shaft and a linear bearing that once setup, requires no adjustment. Let’s check it out! — Marc

glide-leg-viseThere are a variety of mechanisms and means to get a leg vise to clamp firmly. All of them, in one way or another, restrict the range of motion of the bottom of the chop in order to increase the force applied to the top of the chop. While a parallel guide and pin are a fine way to approach the problem, they require pin changes to accommodate differing material thickness along with additional complexity in construction. Furthermore, unless you use roller bearings (such as the “glide” system from BenchCrafted, pictured left), you have a fair amount of friction and/or slop to overcome in the mechanism. Alternatives to the parallel guide and pin are numerous – some are highly mechanical in nature, featuring chains, sprockets, gears, cams, and so on. Some of you may also have seen that Benchcrafted is reviving the St. Peter’s cross, a simple scissoring mechanism that keeps the chop parallel to the leg.

linear-bearing-leg-vise-01My design is nothing more than a hardened steel shaft and a linear bearing. Simple to design, simple to implement, and simple to maintain. I used a 30mm linear bearing and 500mm long shaft which ended up setting me back around $60 for the pair.

A hole was bored into the leg vise chop at a 1 degree angle (more or less) so that the top of the chop is tilted slightly forward. The hardened steel shaft was roughed up with sandpaper and then I used polyurethane glue to secure it in the chop. Another hole was bored into the leg for the linear bearing. The hole for the 1.25″ threaded rod and acme nut was match drilled once the bearing was installed, and then the rest of the steps are like any other leg vise installation (secure the nut to the back of the leg, attach the handwheel to the threaded rod, etc).

How does it work? Amazingly. The linear bearing not only restricts any out-of-parallel racking from clamping pressure, but supports and aligns the entire chop so that its motion is buttery smooth. Best of all, it was cheap and elegant. I saved a decent amount of money and, for once, time. I actually think it looks fairly cool, too!

linear-bearing-leg-vise-04 linear-bearing-leg-vise-05 linear-bearing-leg-vise-03 linear-bearing-leg-vise-02

The precision shaft, acme rod, and acme nut were McMaster-Carr purchases. The linear bearing came from vxb.com, and the handwheel was a splurge- a Kipp from Germany. I used a single sae841 thrust washer between the chop and the handwheel, and a roll pin to secure the handwheel to the rod. Lastly, to keep the threaded rod from binding, I put a bronze bushing inside the leg, similar to the function of the acetal block that benchcrafted sells. It wasn’t necessary, but it makes the mechanism even more precise.

Here are a couple videos of Matt showing off his new vise.

matt_armstrongMatt Armstrong is a Wood Whisperer Guild member hailing from the SF Bay Area who is a full time husband, new father, and software release manager. He has butchered thousands of board feet of wood in his garage shop and spends more time building shop furniture than working on the projects he promised his wife he’d do.

Categories: The Shop, Tools

Comments

  1. TennesseeYankee February 25, 2013

    awesome.

    Where did you buy the rod and the bearing?

  2. Very, very cool. I’m a huge fan of the Bench Crafted glide but after having to readjust it a few times in the past few months I’ve often found myself wondering if there was a better way. The simplicity of the linear bearing is pure genius in this application…wish I had thought of it. Great job!

  3. John Piwaon February 25, 2013

    Me too. I’ve got that hardware for a soon to be built bench, where’d the bearing and rod come from? How can we repeat that?

  4. Chris H February 25, 2013

    Another option – I use the “chain leg vice” from Jim Ritter, for a similar function, and love it!

    http://ancorayachtservice.com/?page_id=196

    -Chris

  5. Matt Armstrong February 25, 2013

    The precision shaft, acme rod, and acme nut were mcmaster-carr purchases. The linear bearing came from vxb.com, and the handwheel was a splurge- a kipp from Germany. I used a single sae841 thrust washer between the chop and the handwheel, and a roll pin to secure the handwheel to the rod. Lastly, to keep the threaded rod from binding, i put a bronze bushing inside the leg, similar to the function of the acetal block that benchcrafted sells. It wasnt necessary, but it makes the mechanism even more precise.

    • Brian Couch April 2, 2013

      Matt,
      Did you have to drill a 1 1/4 hole through the center of the handwheel?

      Brian

  6. John Piwaon February 25, 2013

    I just checked McMaster-Carr – there’s a linear bearing that looks like the one in the above picture p/n 6483K56 that costs $63.91 and there’s a choice of 1″ dia shafts – with or without a tapped hole in one end. An 18″ long 1″ dia shaft tapped one end is $62.49 Without the tapped hole it’s $21.18

    Interesting idea. If I can get past the $85 cost adder to an already expensive bench.

  7. I love the no fuss, no muss, adjustment free, no pin aspect to this. I’m wondering where one goes to purchase a the linear bearing and rod. I see someone beat me to that question.

  8. Ryan C February 25, 2013

    Cool stuff over at vxb.com They seem to be metric-favored: the 25mm ball-bearing flange is $30-40 depending on length. The 1″ is $60. Metric wins out in price this time. McMasterCarr does have the linear bearings at slightly higher cost.

    We need a head-to-head against the Benchcrafted criss cross!

    • Matt Armstrong February 25, 2013

      Definitely consider the non-flange mounted 30mm bearing from VXB. Something like 19.95 and it fits in a 45mm bored hole. Buy a forstner bit if you don’t already have one for that size, and bob’s your uncle. Cheap and effective.

  9. That vxb.com site has some neat stuff. I’ve been using clamps to push a work piece into a sliding dovetail and it’s very tedious. A jig using a threaded rod for pushing along with a linear bearing to eliminate racking may be the answer.

  10. Josh B February 25, 2013

    Hi Chaps,

    Interesting post, I suppose the idea is based on a very similar (even exact) design from Richard Maguire which I installed on my own bench a couple of years ago. There is loads of information about it on his blog which in my opinion is a great resource for woodworking especially if your a workbench enthusiast.

    Check it out below:
    http://www.theenglishwoodworker.com/

    Good work though, I always like to see usermade vices.

    Cheers

    • Matt Armstrong February 25, 2013

      Believe it or not, I hadn’t seen Maguire’s site until today. His is essentially identical to mine and he also touts the advantages of the linear bearing instead of alternatives. He even has some historical links of interest that I recommend anyone interested should check out.

  11. Jay February 25, 2013

    I think ingenuity like this is awesome especially because it’s built on existing technology that was recently improved. It’s an upward spiral!

  12. Marco Cano February 25, 2013

    Im sorry, perhaps I dont understand, if this is a linear bearing, what keeps the chop from racking?

    • Matt Armstrong February 25, 2013

      The linear bearing allows for linear travel, but does not permit rotation of the chop. Imagine extreme racking to envision what sorts of loads are on the linear bearing.

  13. Matt Armstrong February 25, 2013

    Just as another thought, a pair of linear bearings (like you might find on a sliding compound miter saw) in a vertical orientation (one low, one high) wouldn’t require as large of bearings (mostly a money thing). Maybe I’ll add another leg vise to the bench some time and try a pair of bearings instead…

  14. Ryan C February 25, 2013

    Matt – it looks like you had the bearing installed on the rear face of the leg and then moved it to the front face. Any reason for that?

    • Matt Armstrong February 26, 2013

      I had originally designed two bearings for fear that the one bearing wouldn’t be strong enough to prevent racking. It ended up being entirely unnecessary, but the bolt holes were drilled before I knew that… oops.

  15. Joe February 26, 2013

    What is the reason for that 1 degree declination?

    • Matt Armstrong February 26, 2013

      To angle the chop at about 1 degree inward, so that even under extreme clamping loads, the angle of the chop doesn’t go negative.

  16. iKhaled February 26, 2013

    This is really neat. Another cool thing to do is figure out a way to use a cordless drill to quickly (or effortlessly) open and close the vise. Maybe replace the bolt holding the wheel with a stud bolt that a cordless drill can grab.

    • Matt Armstrong February 26, 2013

      I sort of disagree. I’ve gone through the phase where I added motors to everything, and they eliminate the tactile feedback necessary for certain operations. I want to feel how much pressure I’m applying when I clamp.

      Now, that being said, if I just wanted a fixed amount of pressure on each clamping operation, pneumatic clamps would be better. But that would be ridiculous, although cool.

  17. AndyL February 26, 2013

    Matt,

    I really like the design. If possible can you let me know where you purchased the 30 mm bearing and 500 mm shaft from? I have been unable to find them at the price you mentioned.

    Thanks,

    Andy

    • Matt mentioned his sources in the previous comments and I added his comment to the original post for reference.

      • AndyL February 26, 2013

        Marc,

        Thanks for pointing that out.

        Would this be the bearing: http://www.vxb.com/page/bearin.....ms/Kit7258 $29.95

        Would this be the shaft: http://www.mcmaster.com/#precision-shafts/=lnf50h $35.38

        AndyL

        • Matt Armstrong February 26, 2013

          Sorry, for those who wanted to go the 30mm route from mcmaster and vxb, my order was:

          McMaster Parts:

          98935A877 Plain Steel General Purpose Acme Threaded Rod, Right Hand, 1-1/4″-4 Acme Size, 3′ Length

          94815A112 Plain Steel Acme 2g Hex Nut, Right-hand, 1-1/4″-4 Acme Size

          6112K74 Hardened Precision Metric Steel Shaft, 30 Mm Diameter, 500 Mm Length

          2879T36 Sae 863 Bronze Thrust Bearing, For 7/8″ Shaft Dia, 1-1/2″ Od X 1/8″ Thick

          91081A042 Plain Steel Type A Uss Flat Washer, 1-3/8″ Screw Size, 3-1/4″ Od, .15″-.22″ Thick

          VXB, I’d recommend this, which is the same thing I have, just not flange mounted:
          http://www.vxb.com/page/bearin.....s/Kit12129

        • Lim March 9, 2013

          Matt,
          Just curious, would a wood rod (hard maple) work in place of the steel rod?

  18. Another option for purchasing the linear shaft and bearing/bushing would be Misumi (http://us.misumi-ec.com/). They offer many of the same things as McMaster but with customization such as adding a tapped hole into the end of the shaft for mounting purposes. These services are very useful if you don’t have access to a metal fab shop.

    I would be curious how well the linear bearing holds up in this use. A bushing may be a more durable option (thought slightly higher friction) if the recirculating bearing unit fails.

  19. Gerry Rovner February 26, 2013

    Matt
    The use of the linear bearing and solid shaft is brilliant! Did you
    encounter any gotchas when you did the installation? Also would you please
    tell us where you sourced the parts. Thank you.

  20. Gerry Rovner February 26, 2013

    Oops! Re the sourcing, I had not read the other entries. Appologies.

  21. Ray February 26, 2013

    I have seen an alternative to the pin and guide. There was a scissor vice I can’t remember who made it. the scissor mechanism accompanied with a a bearing allowed a lot of freedom of movement with little play and no steel rod. Well? maybe in the hinge.
    I do agree this to be a good alternative, but not a fan of the steel rod. Galvanized,polished or what have you it will rust in the end,and give major problems when it starts to rust in the most exposed areas. I’m not sure it’s a good alternative in humid areas.
    I’m wondering why anyone would use a drill to tighten a vice????? Thats just silly!!
    Here’s the link it was is a bench crafted.
    http://www.popularwoodworking......G_1908.jpg
    Thanks have a good nite

  22. AndyL February 27, 2013

    Matt,

    I just wanted to thank you for the part numbers and web sites. I don’t know where I got 25mm in my head from.

    I was wondering if you think larger would be better, i.e. do you think a 40 mm rod would hold better then the 30 mm one?

    Andy

    • Matt Armstrong February 28, 2013

      I would think a 40mm would be more rigid and durable over time, but I’m not sure if the benefits are getting to be really inframarginal past that point.

      20mm would be too small, IMO

  23. Luis March 1, 2013

    Matt,

    It’s unclear to me where the you used the:
    2879T36 Sae 863 Bronze Thrust Bearing, For 7/8″ Shaft Dia, 1-1/2″ Od X 1/8″ Thick
    91081A042 Plain Steel Type A Uss Flat Washer, 1-3/8″ Screw Size, 3-1/4″ Od, .15″-.22″ Thick

    Since, the acme threaded rod is 1-1/4″ in diameter and the parallel guide is the 30mil diameter hardened steel shaft.

    • Matt Armstrong March 3, 2013

      I use the bronze bushing in between the chop and the handwheel. The threaded rod has to be ground/turned/tapped/somehow machined to attach to the handwheel, right? In my case, the bronze bushing I used was just larger than the ID of my handwheel.

  24. Dave Stanton March 1, 2013

    Well done Matt. No questions from me…just a pat on the back. Thanks for your lateral thinking!

  25. Danny H. March 2, 2013

    Nice work Matt ! I’ve been following all the threads on the various different methods to set up these vises . I was just about to go with BenchCrafted’s scissor method , but now I think you’ve swayed me to this one, especially since it’s so easy and inexpensive. Nice to see so much innovation. Thanks for sharing !

  26. Tomfoolery March 2, 2013

    Great idea – I am working on the finishing touches on my Roubo build and want to do this rather than the current plans – when you say 1 degree drill offset – was that for the screw, the bearing/rod or both?

    • Matt Armstrong March 3, 2013

      The 1 degree offset is for any hole bored into the chop (linear rail, clearance hole for threaded rod). In theory, you could bore a straight hole for the threaded rod so long as it had enough clearance to angle a teeny bit – most people would do this anyway since you don’t want the threaded rod to rub on the chop.

      Word of advice – and I mentioned it, but didn’t speak to it – make sure to get a bronze bushing (or two) to set in the hole bored in the leg to support the threaded rod. This is going to be a good idea regardless of your vise mechanism (criss-cross, traditional guide rail, linear rail) – the 1.25″ threaded rod is heavy and will bind if not supported by a bushing. Benchcrafted uses the acetal block as a bushing, but I find that ugly as compared with a bronze bushing with an ID of 1.25″ thats simply hidden in the leg. Mcmaster sells cheap bronze bushings (oilite, super oillite, graphite impregnated, etc) that do the job perfectly and really help.

      • Joe in Florida April 16, 2013

        Matt, this is a great idea and just in time. I’m looking to add a leg vise to my bench and I’ve looked up the parts online, however I have a question. Did you add a garter to the back side of the chop between the leg and the handwheel? I think I can see the washer, but a washer alone won’t keep the screw from pulling out. I’m probably missing something since I haven’t build a leg vise yet. Any help, or additional pictures would be handy. Thanks for posting this.

  27. Nathan Wertman March 25, 2013

    Matt,

    I love the idea. I’m currently working on a Nicholson bench (per the Schwarz design). The legs are angled at 20 degrees from the floor. Do you think that this system would work if the threaded rod and the shaft/bearing are not in line with one another?

    In your design, what supports the vice chop, the shaft or the threaded rod? Do you see a problem if the weight for the chop was evenly distributed between the two?

    • Matt Armstrong June 19, 2014

      My design uses a bronze sleeve to support the threaded rod in the leg, and a needle bearing / thrust washer arrangement in the chop. If you follow the same arrangement but with a nicholson bench design, there may be a bit of axial load on the threaded rod from the weight of the chop, but nothing even remotely concerning.

      In case anyone is wondering – the bronze sleeve bearing is less about reducing mechanical friction and more about simply preventing wear on the inner diameter of the leg / chop from the threaded rod. It’s good practice to use sleeve bearings in scenarios like that.

  28. patrick anderson April 11, 2013

    Great idea fro the vice.

    I’ve ordered all the parts except the hand wheel. Do you have the part number for the kipp wheel you used as I’m unsure what the bore needs to be?

  29. patrick anderson April 11, 2013

    What part number is the hand wheel?

  30. Jose Santiago April 15, 2013

    Hi Matt
    Great vise and bench. I still am not sure about the 1 degree offset. Are both the screw and rod offset by one degree so that they remain parallel or is just the rod off set? My assumption is that only the rod is offset one degree and if so is that offset upward (inward) toward the screw or away (downward) from it? Thanks.

  31. Bill Loux April 22, 2013

    Very cool! I am building my bench now and will definitely be using this system. Quick question, does it matter the distance between center of the screw hole and the distance to the center of the bearing hole. Can’t tell from your bench but looks like your distance is about 12-13 inches? I am considering going all the way further down to the bottom of the leg, more like 20 inches. Seems like a heavy duty linear bearing, something like 1.25 inch should be strong enough to prevent racking but I guess at some distance that racking would get to much?? Any thoughts

    • Matt Armstrong June 19, 2014

      Greater separation between the threaded rod and the linear bearing will create a longer moment on the linear bearing. You’ll be better off than I am with less wear on the bearing (though I doubt we’re even approaching the loading limits of the linear bearing)

  32. Joel Harry May 10, 2013

    Probably a dumb question, but I’ve notice other table designs as well as Matt’s have the peg board for supporting long pieces. When would the peg positions below the threaded bar of the leg vise be used? I thought the advantage of the leg vise over other types was the ability to support very wide pieces. Am I missing something? I guess you could go wider than the top bolt as long as it outside of the bolt to the peg board side. Is that the idea? Just trying to understand the design as I’m getting ready to build a bench based on a woodsmith shop design and trying to decide if I should add a leg vise.

  33. Konstantin June 23, 2013

    I have a question, I don’t see a collar used to secure the screw to the chop. The rest of your design makes perfect sense, except for that part. Can you please show how you did that, and what part you used. Thanks!

    • Bill Loux July 10, 2013

      Yeah, I was wondering about this too, I see that if you screw it in the thrust bearing / washer or whatever will push against the chop and close the vice but when you unscrew the vice and the screw is not attached to the chop why wouldn’t the hand wheel and screw simply screw out and the chop would just stay where it is, doesn’t the screw have to be attached somehow to the chop?

      • Matt Armstrong June 19, 2014

        The threaded rod is turned down on the end, then cross drilled with a roll pin to attach it to the handwheel. The hole drilled in the chop has a smaller ID where the turned down portion of the threaded rod passes through. A bronze thrust washer is held captive between the turned down portion of the rod and the inner face of the chop where the inner diameter is reduced. Another bronze thrust washer is held captive between the handwheel and the outer face of the chop.

  34. Tim Boyles August 2, 2013

    What is the part # for the handwheel?

  35. Josh Salomon February 23, 2014

    Would this work on a smaller scale? I am planning to build an etau (see http://benchcrafted.blogspot.c.....r-you.html), and like the idea of a linear bearing as an alternative to a St. Peter’s cross or a lower screw/nut mechanism. So, the question is whether the linear bearing would maintain parallel well with only a small distance between upper and lower rods. Thanks!

  36. Rob Culver February 26, 2014

    Hello this is a great idea I plan on building a bench in a few weeks im wondering what the part number from kipp was for the hand wheel. Also I see that later on in the tread you recommended a bearing without a flange what was your reasoning for this it seems to me a flange mounted bearing would be more stable?Is that bearing mounted on a slight angle or it mounted straight?

    • Matt Armstrong June 19, 2014

      It’s mounted at a slight angle. I figured there would be some minor deflection in the system (between the chop, the hardened guide rod, material deflection in the leg, etc) so this would accommodate that. So far, so good.

  37. Ian S May 11, 2014

    A late question … does your vise chop tend to toe in at the bottom as you tighten it up on the workpiece? In other words, when the vise is tightened up on the workpiece, is the distance between vise and chop less at the bottom than at the top?

    If so, how is that affecting grip on the workpiece, especially as you plane the workpiece or apply other dynamic loads on it (like chiseling)?

    • Matt Armstrong June 19, 2014

      I think the total misalignment at rest is just a few degrees. The suede on the chop and on the leg provide a lot of friction and some compliance for slightly tapered / imperfect workpieces. Most ordinary pieces you’d clamp in a leg vice, though, can be clamped until the chop is parallel, at which point it applies an insane amount of pressure to the workpiece if you try to cinch it down any further.

  38. VJ June 11, 2014

    Great and simple design Matt,

    I am really new to woodworking and was searching for simple design of the vise, could you please provide me more details for the installation or if you have posted youtube video of it, can you please provide me the link

    thanks

  39. James L July 17, 2014

    Do you have a more detailed item number for the vxb linear bearing? The vxb link is “not found” on your link.

  40. I got to ask a potentially dumb question…

    Excellent idea!!! Excellent Work!

    I got how mostly all the hardware goes together, except for the acme nut holding the threaded rod to the leg. It looks like a flange nut bolted to the leg, but the nut listed from McMasterCarr is a regular hex nut (or appears to be). Did you epoxy a washer to the nut and then bolt the nut or am I missing something.

    Sorry if it’s a dumb question, but I’m planning on starting a roubo bench in the next 2 weeks and want to get all the hardware ordered.

    Thanks in advance

  41. Michael August 28, 2014

    Earlier someone asked about combining your linear bearing with a wood screw, e.g. by Lake Erie Toolworks, The Traditional Carpenter, etc. I don’t see why not, but perhaps I’m missing some complication.

    Thanks for a great design and all the detailed information.

    Michael

  42. Oscar O. September 3, 2014

    Hi,

    I found this inexpensive screw that I think can be used for the top at Lee Valley.

    http://www.leevalley.com/us/wo.....at=1,41659

    Oscar

  43. Oscar O. September 17, 2014

    Found the linear Bering at amazon for $16.26. Got it today and looks great! Here is the link:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/produ.....#038;psc=1

    Oscar

  44. Herb M. October 7, 2014

    Hi Matt,

    thanks for your great work and advise.
    I still did’t get it completely.
    Is the whole leg vise installed at a slight angle, so both, the upper ACME rod plus screw and the lower linear bearing system, have an angle? Are they parallel to each other? Or is just the lower linear bearing slightly angled and the ACME rod is straight? The later would bend the chop especially when the vise is opened widely, I suppose.

    Thanks for your answer.

    Best regards, Herb

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