Saturday, June 25, 2011

Building A Lie-Nielsen Saw Vise

This simple saw vise took about 30 minutes to build from scraps. The upper and lower spacers provide clearance for saw handles and backsaw spines. The halves are hinged with squares of leather.

In his videos about sharpening rip and crosscut saws, Tom Lie-Nielsen uses a simple plywood saw vise that he says they use every day in the saw shop. It sits on the screw and guide rails of a bench vise and grips the edge of the saw for filing. I like its simplicity and ease of use for both tiny backsaws and large panel saws.

I made mine 8"x18". That's larger than necessary for joinery backsaws, but accommodates my largest rip saw. It's made from 1/2" plywood and 3/4" pine. Since I have a leg vise on my Roubo workbench rather than a bench vise with guide rods, I added cleats to the sides, 4 1/2" from the bottom edge; they sit on the top of the bench and leg vise chop to support the saw vise when the leg vise is loose. They also work well with my bench-on-bench.

Cutting the sides from 1/2" plywood.

Ripping a pine 1x2 (actual dimensions 3/4"x1 1/2") down the middle for the upper spacers.

Nailing on an upper spacer; the lower spacer is 3/4"x1 1/4". The spacers are also  glued on.

A sharp chisel makes a good leather cutter.

Nailing a leather hinge onto the lower spacers.

Nailing on a side cleat.

With the saw vise clamped into the leg vise, chamfering the outside edges and planing the spacers down even. Other than good mating surfaces, there's not much precision required here.

My largest saw clamped up for sharpening. The bottom edge of the handle just sits on the lower spacer, leaving the teeth exposed for filing, but fully gripped by the upper spacer to minimize vibration (i.e. SCREECHING as you run the file across).

My smallest backsaw, a fine LN dovetail saw, going in for sharpening. You can see how the cleats on the sides support the saw vise when the leg vise is loose.

This vise also works well with my bench-on-bench, bringing the sharpening work up to a good height so I don't have to stoop over. Again, the cleats support the saw vise when the twin-screw vise is loose.

Sharpening saws is easy, only takes about 10 minutes and well worth the time, but is a bit close and tedious. A 26"-long saw plate filed at 6 PPI has 156 little teeth, and a 9" backsaw plate at 15 PPI has 135! A decent saw vise is a big help.


  1. Great job Steve! Simple, yet effective. Something that may make it even more useful would be to draw lines across the top in both directions every inch or so at your preferred fleam angle to give you a visual aid. I saw this done somewhere. I think it may have been on Matt Cianci's Saw Blog.

    Jamie Bacon

  2. This is *EXACTLY* what I need! Thanks, Steve!

  3. Thanks, guys! Just remember that I'm standing on the shoulders of giants here. Be sure to watch his videos, including the third one about setting the teeth. He does a very good job with all three.

  4. Whats up with the green and yellow racing stripes on your plane?

  5. Ah, those are my gear markings. I used to mark all my climbing gear with green and yellow electrical tape, and I started marking my tools with the paint when I took a class at Al Breed's, since I figured I wasn't the only one who would have Pfeil carving gouges! When multiple people have nearly identical tools, you need to be able to tell them apart. I once saw a wooden spokeshave and other tools that had been dipped whole in pink paint. Nobody was going to mistake those for their own!

  6. I finished one of these vises yesterday. It *is* the best thing ever. Only glued the upper spacers; everything else is just nailed and clinched. The vise works extremely well. Thanks, Steve :)

  7. Beginner sharpener/carpenter here... Thank you for the simple yet effective take on this... much needed inspiration for the day ahead. Some other designs I've come across don't appear to have much clamping power (carriage bolts). Although I'm going to have to find a way of clamping the saw since I don't have large bench vice. Perhaps vice grips.

  8. Many thanks for your post and inspiration. I made one saw vise and it's quite good. And easy to make. Your blog is quite instructive and helpful.

  9. Not nearly enough angle on the vise jaws .More like 45 degs at least.


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