Carvers' Companion Gateway
Record Power Carvers Vise Model Number RPCV130
Manufacturer: Record Power Sheffield, England
Phone (0742) 449066
When I first started carving, everything that I was attempting to carve was always between 4 to 8 inches in height and in my opinion always small enough to be held in hand while carving; definitely no need for a vise. Since then, I have had several opportunities to re-evaluate my opinion and have since come to the conclusion that even with the smaller carvings, a vise is a handy tool to have.
With larger carvings that are to large to fit in hand, the vise will give you the stability and support to safely and accurately work on the carvings. However, the smaller the carvings, the more intricate the detail work can be; use of the vise will allow both hands to be used for stabilizing the cutting instrument and for creating the more precise cuts necessary.
In order to use a vise with the smaller carvings with out damaging the carving with the screws used for attachment to the vise, I have found that if I leave an extra block of wood attached to the carving when roughing it out (such as to the feet/shoes of a human or animal carving), I can use this as a base to attach the carving to the vise. When completed, a few simple cuts from a bandsaw and/or carving knife will remove the base and I will be left with a carving in which there are no "extra" holes from the screws.
There are several different styles/types of carving vises available as well as several different sizes. The basic parts to a vise include the base, stem, and the platform. The base is the section that attaches the vise to a bench or other stable surface. The platform holds the block of wood that you will be carving on. The stem is what connects the two sections together. Of course included in the vise is also the mechanics involved with adjusting the position of the carving once it is mounted.
When selecting a vise for use, the areas that I like to consider are:
The size of the vise is one of the two most important features. If the vise is too small, it could give way under the weight of the carving or to the impact of a mallet and cause damage to the carving and/or yourself. (Remember: while the carving can be modified to repair the damage, you may not be.) If the vise is too large and bulky, it could get in the way during carving.
The strength of the vise is the other most important feature. The strength of the base and how it attaches should be secure enough to withstand any carving necessary without coming loose or breaking away from the bench it is attached to. In addition the adjustment mechanisms should be strong enough to hold the carving in any position necessary without slipping or allowing the carving to move.
All parts of the vise should be constructed well enough to withstand years of work. This includes the strength of the materials used in construction, the size of any bolts and turn-screws used, and how resistant the surface is to rust.
I am not one that does a lot of traveling with my carvings and require portable setups that I can take with me but I do have a limited amount of space in my workshop and the shop is used for more than just wood carving. Therefore, when selecting a vise, I would like to have one that does not need to be permanently mounted to a bench via screws or bolts but one that can be easily mounted when I need it.
This area includes basically "How easy is it to setup?" and "How much pressure is needed to tighten the adjustment mechanisms so that they do not slip?". If I have to apply 80 pounds of torque just to keep the platform and carving from moving, then it would not be very practical to use.
The particular vise that I selected is the Record Power Carvers Vise and it is available for approximately $100 (US). The design of the vise is simple and somewhat compact. There is a total of only 5 individual parts as seen in Figure A below which are all constructed of hardened steel.
By providing a clamping mechanism for attaching to a bench, this vise allows you to remove and store it when not in use freeing up the valuable bench space. Another benefit to the clamping action is the ability to transport and work on a carving at another location (such as club meetings) without having to remove it from the clamp. The only drawback to this particular clamping action is the limit of only 4 inches on the opening. If you have a bench that is over 4 inches thick, then modifications to the bench will be needed.
The clamp operates by use of a turn-screw, 5/8 inches in diameter, which combined with the size of the face plates provide a secure attachment to the bench. Chances are that the bench would break before the clamp comes loose. In addition the face plates will pivot approximately 20 degrees to allow the clamp to securely attach to uneven surfaces. The stem and platform form a single piece.
The platform provides 4 screw-holes set at 90 degrees to each other which will accommodate up to a #6 through #10 wood screw and all sizes of drywall screws. The stem attaches to the base by way of a pressure "clamp".
If you will notice in Figure A, the 2 cylinder shaped objects in the center of the picture will fit together (the silver piece slides into the black piece). These will be placed on the left side of the base. The smaller turn-screw located in the bottom left of Figure A is feed through the base and attaches to the silver cylinder. The holes in the sides of the cylinders will be lined up and the stem will be placed through these holes; when the turn-screw is tightened, the stem will be securely held in place. Once clamped, the carving will be securely held in place resistant to movement from the pressures applied during carving.
This type of clamping action requires less pressure when tightening and will hold tighter than those that use a "ball" type action to pivot on. In testing the actual strength of the vise, I used a block of basswood, 23 x 7 x 4 (in inches), held in place by 4 - #10 wood screws (1 3/4 inch) and applied normal carving pressures to all sides of the block at various different angles. This included standard carving by hand, power carving, and the use of a mallet.
However I was still able
to force the block of wood to move downwards as the cylinders
pivoted on the turn-screw when applying a little extra force by
hand to the end of the block of wood. The second test I performed
was with a 11 inch tall cigar-store Indian carving in Mahogany.
The carving was attached to the platform using 2 - 1 inch drywall screws and tested at various angles as seen in Figures D, E, and F.
The stem was tightened to the base using normal pressure during hand tightening using only 1 hand. During the carving process (by hand and with use of a mallet), the carving held tightly in place. I was also unable to move the carving when applying excessive force by hand. (Of course, when the turn-screw was loosened, the carving moved freely into all positions.)
One feature of this vise that I have not found in many other brands, is the ability to raise and lower the carving. The stem will slide up and down by 9 inches to the base to allow for viewing and working on the carving at different heights. This feature helps to prevent excessive back and neck strain from having to bend over during carving sessions. The only maintenance required is to occasionally apply a light weight oil to the turn-screws and the stem to avoid any surface rust and to keep them moving freely when needed.
The general opinion that I have formed about this vise is that it is a very good vise for use with small to medium size carvings; this includes overall weight of the carving being up to 20 pounds. I found that I could adjust a carving to any position necessary and the vise required only normal hand pressure to be securely tighten into place.
The added benefit of being able to adjust the height of the carving while in the vise was an added bonus. When compared to other vises of this size, this particular vise would be the one that I would choose.
Woodcraft 210 Wood County Industrial Park P.O. Box 1686 Parkersburg, WV 26102-1686 USA 1-800-225-1153 web site: http://www.woodcraft.com/
Record Power Sheffield, England Phone: (0742) 449066