Lincoln and the Leg Vice

by | Mar 7, 2014 | 5 comments

A few weeks ago we had a phone call from our good friend Richard Arnold who had a little something which he wanted to offer to me and was able to come out our way. We don’t get out much so we jumped at the chance and planned to meet up with Richard and his wife Kate in Lincoln. It was Saturday and fairly busy but we managed to get the car parked and headed off to find them. After trekking up the well named ‘Steep Hill’ which is always good fun, we got another buzz just to let us know that they were waiting inside a small coffee shop. I turned around and bugger me, there he was sat by the window with me still sweating buckets not having had any sneaky cool off time from the climb!

It’s always a pleasure chatting with Richard and Kate and quite rare to find people as passionate about traditional woodwork as we are. If you’ve ever met Bill and Sarah Carter then you’ll know exactly what I mean by saying that Richard and Kate are likely cut from the same cloth; they’re just incredibly genuine, generous and passionate and never ask for anything. It’s a lovely place to be in the woodworking world when there’s great people like this, you can never say that old crafts are dead. Whilst enjoying our tea I couldn’t help but notice how Richard was looking around and taking note of all of the woodwork in the little old room – fascinated with the joinery on the wall panels and windows. I always think you can tell a craftsman by how he looks over something; give him an item of steel and he will look straight to the welds.

There was an extra gift which I hadn’t been expecting; Richard presented me with a lovely little book, but more on that one latter. The main thing which he’d brought along was waiting in his car because it was too heavy to carry, so after a good natter we headed out to find it.
The car was parked just around the corner near the cathedral. We were parked down the other way so we set off on what turned in to an epic journey across time and space, a seemingly endless voyage. Basically, Richard had forgot where he parked his bloody car. After a few near domestics and the constant “well, it’s around here somewhere” we stumbled in to the help of a very well spoken man in yellow trousers and did finally find it. Leg viceThere it was – the leg vice I’d heard about. Richard had told me this screw was big but I wasn’t quite expecting this. The thing weighed like a bag of cement, and we took it in shifts walking it back in to Lincoln where we eventually parted way and then Helen and I spent at least another age trying to find where we’d parked our own car.Hefty steel screwWhen I heard about this screw I was hoping the same as what Richard was suggesting which was to install it in to my English bench which I’m currently building but I don’t think that bench is quite up to it. It’s not nearly posh enough and I’m going to need a bloody big leg to fit this in. Besides that, the second I saw it I had this other bench flash in front of my face which I’m really going to have to build now – so that’s another thing that will be added to the agenda.

When it comes to vice screws I tend to recommend wooden over metal. I love wood so it makes sense to use it and a really large diameter, large pitch thread is unbeatably smooth. That was before I saw this thing! This thread is as big as our wooden screws, it turns at the same pace, and it is just absolutely stunning in every way – Beautiful and smooth.
Richard had had the vice stored away for so long that he couldn’t recall where he found it. I’m usually pretty good at guessing where vices originated and I’ve stared at enough pictures to surmise but this isn’t like anything I’ve seen. If I was just looking at the thread and nut then I would definitely think it was straight out of the steel industry but the big, beautiful rounded head on it and two piece garter make me feel it has always been a craftsman’s vice, it’s too decorative otherwise. I think Richard suggested it could have come out of a wheelwright’s shop and that would make sense – it had to be for something very heavy duty.Decorative headWe don’t get about an awful lot but we really enjoyed our day in Lincoln. We’re lucky to have such a wonderful city not far away and walking around it is always inspiring. When a place has such a number of important historical buildings you realise that we’re not likely to let our crafts die any time soon. There’s restoration and heritage work going on everywhere, the last time I went much of the Cathedral was covered in scaffolding and now some has been removed to reveal a number of new and spectacular carvings in the stone work. There’s a constant stream of craftsman being trained up and employed at the Cathedral and Castle here and it’s certainly great to know there’s so much skill all in one place.

So thanks again Richard and Kate for what was a lovely day.

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About Richard Maguire

About Richard Maguire

As a professional hand tool woodworker, Richard found hand tools to be the far more efficient solution for a one man workshop. Richard runs 'The English Woodworker' as an online resource and video education for those looking for a fuss free approach to building fine furniture by hand. Learn More About Richard & The English Woodworker.


  1. Chris Buckingham

    What a lovely vice, is there any name on the screw boss ? The pitch of the tread would at least indicate if it is English, or continental.
    There is no sense of scale on the photo, it looks about 2″ dia.

  2. Bernard Naish

    I am not at all sure that crafts are not dying very fast. Many young carpenters on building sites do not know how to use a hand saw or a hand hammer and hand crafts are being levered out of most schools.

    I know that quite a number of wood workers are actively trying to ensure that hand crafting of wood is preserved and encouraged both here and in North America. Judging by the preponderance of articles using only machine minding in the wood work magazines we may be kidding ourselves into believing we are being effective in this! These magazines have a profound influence and are controled by the advertising placed by the manufacturers of the machine tools. I see again and again images of battery powered hand drills being used to put in just a few screws. Just being lazy or because it has become accepted practise????

    Lovely vice on a lovely web site.

    • Kevin

      I dont really think that crafts are dying very fast at all .The course run at Lincoln are excellent and I believe generally full . I have been a carpenter for 40 years now and young carpenters are being trained to work on mainstream sites where power tools are king . because you need to make a living !(imagine the uproar when the yankee screwdriver was brought in ? ) The good ones filter through to conservation work and soon discover that hand tools can be more convient and quicker . Then you have the adult entry which you never had before, more often than not these guys and girls are super passionate . Most working carpenters I know have never brought a woodworking magazine in their life so are not influenced by them at all . I use all manner of screwdrivers in the course of a day but across the industy the battery driver is king because it is good at what it does and actually less prone to causing tennis elbow . I agree that it is a massive shame and mistake that handcrafts are being left out of schools and we have less well rounded citizens because of it.

  3. Steve

    10 years ago I purchased a grand old victorian in Vermont. It is a running B&B. The thing I really liked about the place was the full basement with a cement floor and at 6 ft tall I can walk around in the basement without hitting my head on pipe, plumbing or the ceiling in general.

    Along the south wall under a window is a massive built in bench. The top is rugged which means to me it has seen a lot of action not only from wood workers but also children who borrowed Dad’s tools and just played.

    Anyways I noticed from the moment I first set eyes on it that there used to be a leg vise on the front left leg. There is the large (almost huge) hole for where the screw went in and then there is the slot in the bottom for the slider. I often wondered what happened to that vise, given the size of the bench and the leg (it must be an 8×8 timber) it was attached to I am convinced the leg vise was massive.

    The pictures of what you show look like it would fit nicely on my bench.


  4. Rhys

    Hi. I believe I have a relative of your vice, I’m still wondering what to do with it!!
    I can send a link or picture. It would be good to compare dimensions.


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