I just finished installing the Veritas twin-screw vise on my workbench (an
exact copy of Sam Allen's joiner's bench from his workbench book) and
thought I'd write up my experience.
Things went fairly smoothly, but not without some hiccups.
First, the instructions are quite detailed and as many of you might have
heard before, the warning on the front page to not deviate from the
instructions are wise and I followed them for the most part. Also, the
materials for the vise were MOSTLY of very high quality, especially the
screws themselves, which I feel is the most important thing. All the parts
were there (which is good, since I bought this about 3 months ago), so I was
set to go.
I used hard maple for the jaws, and made them up at 2" thick, 7" tall, and
24" wide (the width of my bench). It was important to figure out the
minimum height of the jaws to accomodate the bench thickness and hardware,
but the instructions made this clear and not difficult. The next step was
to figure out the screw spacing and to adjust the length of the bicycle
chain. I used 14 5/8", so I had to remove 6 links from the chain. The
instructions say to file the pins down, but I found this to be extremely
slow going, so I used my bench grinder, which worked fine. I did have to
use a center punch to drive the pins out, which took a little more effort
than the instructions made it out to be. Also, the link supplied with the
chain to connect the two ends had the spring-clip alread attached. I don't
really see why Lee Valley sent it this way, and I would have rather had it
separate so as to avoid having to screw with the clip, and possibly bending
it (which I did slightly) removing it from the link pins.
Once the chain was set, the next step was laying out and drilling holes
through the jaws for the screws and other parts. I took my time here, and
was glad because everything went together fine the first try. I won't
really get into this except to say that having a good drill press with a
large stroke was a big advantage. Also, a few steps here could've contained
some more hints regarding placement of clamps, etc. I had to reposition my
clamps a few times to get clearance on my drill press. Also, the
instructions have you install the screw nuts onto the rear jaws before
drilling the bolt mounting holes. This didn't make much sense, because you
have to drill counterbores in the inside face of the rear jaw, so you have
to take the nuts off to lay the jaw flat on the drill press table.
After the holes were drilled through the faces of the jaws, and the mounting
holes for the rear jaw were in place, it was necessary to transfer the holes
to the end of the bench in order to drill for the rear jaw mounting bolts.
The rear jaw is attached with barrel bolts placed in cross-drilled holes
from the bottom of the bench. I found it pretty tricky to get the rear jaw
in position, but ended up clamping it across the width of the bench, across
the seam where the bench and rear jaw met. The idea was to have a small
amount of the rear jaw above the bench surface, so you can plane it down
even after you install it. Anyway, it worked out alright. The next step
was to drill the crossing holes for the barell bolts. Since my bench was
already constructed, I had to lay on the floor to do this, which could've
been more comfortable. If you have the opportunity to install this to your
benchtop with the top upside down on some supports, I would recommend it,
not only for comfort, but for the increased accuracy you're sure to have. I
made the jig for locating the crossing holes, but I got one wrong slightly
and had to drill an overlapping hole. It didn't seem to affect the mounting
of the rear jaw at all. One more caveat here, the instructions say to put
some crumpled paper in the hole for the barrel bolts to act as a spring in
aligning them with the bolts. Perhaps it was assumed that the benchtop
would be upside down, but I found this to be more of a hassle than a
So, now the rear jaw was installed after quite a bit of effort (at least
that's what my back was telling me). Next was the front jaw. In order to
install this, I had to drill clearance holes through the upper end cross
braces of my bench base. Because I had already mounted the rear jaw, this
meant drilling from the inside of the base outward (or removing the rear
jaw, which I wasn't going to do). Let's just say that laying contorted on
the floor, holding a cordless drill and drilling 1.5" holes through 1.5"
wood is not fun. Happily, I got the holes lined up just right the first
After that, the screws are installed, with the chain in place, and screwed
in by hand until they are holding the front jaw in place against the rear
jaw. After aligning the tops and sides of the jaws, the thrust plates are
attached with lag bolts and washers. This is where my first real gripe with
the vise hardware comes up. The instructions DO say to not overtighten the
bolts, so I guess I should've been warned. Even so, I managed to break the
head off one of the bolts! I was ticked off, because I had read the
instructions and was consciously not using very much force. I was getting a
firm fit, to be sure, but "overtight"? I don't think so. So, my question to
Lee Valley is, why don't you include better bolts that aren't made of cheap
material? In fact, I think you should include the BEST bolts that you can
find. I'm not sure how the lack of one of the bolts on the thrust plate
will have in the long run, but it seemed to be holding, so I proceeded
ahead. If anyone has any insight here, it would be appreciated.
Another gripe I have is that there weren't any instructions on how to get
the vise handles to line up parallel to each other. I tried to install the
chain so that they would be that way, but by the time I had hand tightened
the screws up to the front jaw, and tightened them down in order to install
the thrust plates, they had become out of alignment. I couldn't figure out
any way to adjust them, so hopefully Robin Lee is reading this and can expla
in how this is done. I know I've seen many pictures of the vise on benches
with the handles perfectly parallel, so it must be possible. I'm sure
everyone that installs the vise would want their handles aligned, so why
there isn't instructions regarding this I really don't understand.
Ok, now that the jaws were installed, the cover was ready to go on. The
cover consists of two half-round end caps and a center aluminum section.
Because I had shorted the chain and had a smaller screw separation, I had to
shorten the cover in order for it to fit between the screw mechanisms. The
instructions say that a hacksaw can be used, and that's true and what I did.
All I can say is, I'm not that proficient at cutting curved pieces of metal
in straight lines with the hacksaw. I did have the idea (probably not
novel, I'm sure) of making shallow cuts on either side of the cover, and
then cutting down to the face on both sides at the same time, so at least I
ended up with a fairly straight edge. Overall, however I was pretty
frustrated by this. I didn't realize how fragile the finish on the cover
was, and the initial hacksawing I did was with it held by hand on the bench
top. This resulted in a very scratched finish, which pretty much sucks. I
wish the instructions would have warned me about this. Even more, however, I
wish Lee Valley would just have a question when you order the vise as to the
size of the cover you need and have it precut for you. For the price of the
vise, I think this is a reasonable request. At any rate, I got the cover in
place, albeit pretty well scratched up.
So, the final chapter (I didn't realize how long winded this was going to
be) was installing the handles. I only mention this because I ran into
another example of cheap hardware. The screws provided to attach the handle
end caps to the handles were square drive #8 1-1/4" (maybe 1-1/2"?) wood
screws. I drilled pilot holes were the instructions, and set my drill's
adjustable torque to 10 (out of 20), which considering the handles are
hardwood, should have been fine. Well, as you might have guessed, I broke
the head off one of the screws. Luckily I have a supply of panhead coarse
thread pocket hole screws, and one of these worked fine to replace the
broken screw. But, it just illustrates the point that some of the hardware
was not of the best quality in the kit.
I did put the vise through it's paces briefly after the install was finished
and I have to say that the vise is GREAT! I was extremely impressed with
how much clamping force I could generate. I tried holding a big panel in
place with bench dogs across the full vise width, and it worked wonderfully.
I also clamped a 10" wide board vertically in the vise (as if to cut
dovetails or something), and it also worked just as I had hoped. I can't
wait to actually use it on my upcoming projects.
So, in summary, I will have to give the vise a score of maybe 8.5/10, due to
the small issues I have with some of the components. I admit that the
problems could have been avoided, but I feel I was using a reasonable amount
of caution and just got stuck by having a few bad parts. I just hope the
lack of one of the thrust plate bolts doesn't mess me up in the future.
I hope this has been useful for anyone considering this vise. I would
definitely buy it again, so that might be the most telling thing of all.