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Jasper's Wooden Saw Vise

In the back saw article, I referred to an article on building a saw vise on the Cornish Workshop web site.  That vise, while a very well designed vise, is not useable as shown for backsaws.  It is designed, rather, for larger saws that don't have the back, so is inappropriate for back saws without some significant design changes.

Here is a shot of one I saw on ebay a while ago I thought was interesting.  This design is very similar to a wooden saw vise I built years ago, and used until quite recently (the one I had just plain wore out):

One problem I had with this design was that the center support would hold the saw well in the middle of the vise, but the outer edges would not hold as well.  I solved this somewhat by planing a slight hollow into the middle of the vise, but the problem never quite went away completely.  I was considering installing a leather strip about the time the vise I had finally went south.

I since have purchased a cast iron Disston saw vise (OK - actually a few) for my own use.  Not everybody has access to one, though, and as time goes on they will also become either more scarce or more worn out.  I know I have had one old one that had simply worn out, and another that broke - I even have a third type that doesn't work well for back saws for much the same reason as the one documented in the Cornish Workshop article.  I was fortunate enough to be able to replace them with a proper working one, but I suspect that won't be the case for everyone.  BTW - my favorite cast iron vise for those that are curious is a Disston #3.  They are heavy, though - the shipping costs alone for the last one I bought was twice the cost of the vise itself.

Another Solution

There is a great sketchup model of a somewhat similar vise to created by Popular Woodworking that is available at this link:

Google 3D Warehouse

Also - Dominic Greco has built a version of Jasper's saw vice for a Lee Valley newsletter, an it's a good one - take a look.  It's also available on WoodCentral, including in  PDF form.


Jasper Homminga, a fellow woodworker (a small warning, Jasper is from the Netherlands, so his measurements are all in metric - a good excuse to use that other side of your ruler for once, right?), recently shared his version of a wooden saw vise that is appropriate for back saws - and has graciously allowed me to reproduce his how-to article here.  It's a wonderfully simple, classic design that I thought would be a great benefit to the readers of this site, and I thank him for his efforts! Here is the vise Jasper constructed:


I think the double leg design would be better than the one pictured above it - especially if you add the extra pieces of wood to create 2 "H" shapes, like Jasper notes below. Such an addition would also allow the use of a single screw for tightening similar (in concept, anyway) to the one used on the vise pictured at the top.  I would suggest using a very tough wood such as hickory.  

Jasper uses the metric system in his construction details.  If you build this vise, I would suggest you give it a try in that system... However, if you must convert, the Washington State DOT offers a program for converting metric to imperial measurements, and is available for download from that site, a file of about 600k in size.

One possible suggestion - you could route a small groove into the jaw that could house a replaceable rubber insert such as the type used for holding in metal screens, or possibly a leather strip.  Yet another variation of this design might use hinges somehow at the bottom of the short legs.  I've personally not done this, they are just suggestions, so take them for what they are.  Anyway, enough of my blathering on - the writing  that follows is Jasper's.  


The design of this sawvise is based on a picture in the "Classic Hand Tools" book by Garrett Hack, albeit that the wooden sawvise in that book is much (MUCH) nicer. All sizes are in metric, I thought about using imperial, but I just don't know what size threads you have in imperial. 

Needed (in millimetres):
2x 40x30x300
2x 40x30x400
2x 50x30x450
2x 120 mm threaded rods (M8)
2x 90 mm threaded rods (M8)
2x M8 nuts
2x M8 wingnuts
2x M8 capnuts
4x M8 large washers

Constructing the Vise


Start with the wooden parts: saw, chisel, plane and file the wooden parts to the dimensions in the drawings.
Drill the holes in the legs (7mm for the long legs and 9mm for the short legs).
1. Screw the 90mm threaded rods into the lower holes of the long legs (don't over tighten it, you will split the wood).
2. Screw the 120mm threaded rods into the upper holes of the long legs and secure it with a nut.
3. Place a nut and a washer on both 90mm threaded rods
4. Place the short legs over the threaded rods.
5. Place a washer and wingnut on the 120mm threaded rods.
6. Add glue between the jaws and the legs. Use the sawvise as a glue clamp making certain the jaw and legs make good contact.

Next morning you put the long legs in your benchvise and your sawvise is ready for use. The lower nuts control the vertical angle that the jaws make, the upper nuts deliver the force.

Jaw Measurements

Short Leg Measurements


Long Leg Measurements


Stages of Construction

  • The narrower ends of the jaws allowed my backsaws to be mounted without removing the handle, you may have to change the shape there to suit your saws.
  • When I first used it, the saw would slide down between the jaws during filing. A rubbery lining solved the problem easily.
  • The nut that secures the 120mm rod may not be needed, threading the rod into the wood may be enough.
  • Connecting the legs by another piece of wood (creating two H-shapes, as in the "Classic Hand Tools" book by Garrett Hack) would increase the stiffness remarkably. So far I have not needed the extra stiffness, but still.

Thanks, Jasper!