wooden saw vise

During our session w Matt Cianci, one of our carpenters uncovered a wooden saw vise that caught my attention. I probably have walked by this thing a number of times in the past 20 years, but last week was ready to see it.

wooden saw vise
wooden saw vise

I’m sure many are used to this sort of device; I had never used one before. I had a borrowed Disston vise that I was never happy with; chattering and vibrating were common with it.

This one’s got mortise & tenon joints, I know how to cut them. So I decided I’d copy it. I think of it as 2 frames, the “front” short frame and the “rear” longer frame. That section is repaired on this original. Other than a pieced section added to restore the rear feet, the work is pretty average. Which means it’s not done very well. The cross-pieces are just scabbed on with nails & screws.

The original work is nicely joined. Looks like ring-porous hardwood that’s not oak. Ash or chestnut, and I vote for ash.

saw vise showing cam action


The front frame has the turned roller in it, that is mounted off-center. So when you twist it, the roller bears against the pieces mounted inside the rear frame. and the front frame pivots on those tenons between the frames. Presto – the jaws pinch tight.


There’s just enough play in the mortise in the front frame so it can move. So simple. I’m making mine mostly from ash, but I came up short one piece. So one rear leg will be red oak.

PF front frame
PF front frame

This requires tight joinery; good shoulders. No loose-fitting joints here. No twisting or wracking either.  Good practice for me.

PF joinery detail

I bet someone with fewer than 1.000 visitors a day could make this in short order. I fussed & fiddled with it today. Hope to mostly wrap it up tomorrow.

Many might want to ask “what are the dimensions?” or some such thing. Others will know better – I don’t work w drawings for the most part, certainly not when I have the object in front of me. The uprights are from 1 1/4″ x 1 1/2″ stock. there is 15″ between the uprights. The jaws are about 2 1/2″ high. I think. I forget.

In the photo just above you can see I have to plane the upright down in its thickness to match the slightly thinner jaw stock.

PS: for an excellent report on Matt’s session, see Jason’s blog http://thecluelesswoodwright.blogspot.com/2013/10/so-when-do-we-sharpen.html  – nice going Jason.


12 thoughts on “wooden saw vise

  1. Roy has a similar saw vise on a episode in the new season. I had been thinking about trying to make one myself, so am looking forward to watching your build and hearing your opinion. I really enjoyed the Joined Chest episodes, by the way. I am so glad you did them.

  2. Hi Peter,
    I think I would like to build one of these and was wondering if there is a gap between the frames at the pivoting loose tenon? The gap looks like about an 1/8″+. It also looks like the tenon is pinned higher in the back? Thanks for sharing this and everything else on your blog.
    All the best,

  3. Thanks Peter,
    One of the things I like about your blog is that I keep getting reminded that there are many ways to achieve the same goal. Let us know how it works out (chattering in use).

  4. Anyone with experience with this type of vise. How is the frame held steady while sharpening? Is it just leaned against the bench?

  5. Thanks for sharing this design, Peter. One of the features I like about it, compared to a manufactured cast saw vise, is the length of the jaws. No need to move the saw along during the sharpening process.

  6. I recently found a large wooden saw vise in a friends barn. It has two floating jaws that wedge into the top of the vise. It is quite large, about 36″ tall and at least 24″ wide. Is there a way to post photos here? Thanks.

  7. Wood is always very much utilized and multipurpose material everywhere and it is being used for crafting several beautiful shapes as well. Beautiful wood carving is taking a great place in people’s home and working places. The device shared here is also a nice creation using wood and it is appreciable as well.

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