Modern Moxen Vise

A few months ago I wrote about how I attached a Micro Fence to my Bosch Colt plunge router. The link is below:

The tool works great but I wished I had some sort of guide system to make routing tenons even easier. Then one day as I was cleaning up my shop, I came across a Popular Woodworking magazine I had stashed away. The issue was from Oct, 2012 and in it was an article about making an improved Moxon vise the writer called Gizmozilla. When I saw it I thought to myself “oh yeah, I forgot about that thing”. I stashed it away because I was planning on making it some day and since that I had the Colt plunge router, now would be a perfect time.

The writer of the article, Kenneth Speed, used maple to laminate a beam that was 3 1/2″ square by 4 feet long. I knew that was a little too big for me since I was using a small trim router instead of a big plunge router, so I milled a 4×4 to 2 1/2″ x 3″ x 3′ long.

I then built the trough system that would guide my Micro Fence fence. This was the most difficult part of the project because I needed to make sure that the trough of my fence was loose enough for my router to move freely, but not too loose that it would create slack completely defeating the purpose of using the Micro Fence. After a couple of attempts, I had the right thickness to make it work.

I then had to route a couple of grooves in the beam to accept T-tracks that I bought from Rockler. Those things didn’t come cheap as I paid nearly $20 a piece for them but I wanted to have adjustable stop blocks the same way Kenneth had. I also attached feet to the ends by laminating a couple of 3/4″ scrap plywood together. I have a couple of holes drilled through my workbench about four feet apart so I can hold the fixture to my bench with a couple of hold fasts.

Kenneth used store-bought knobs to hold the stops tight to the fixture but, I wanted to try to make my own so I grabbed some scrap maple, a 1 1/4″ hole saw, and drilled out six plugs to create little knobs.

Once the plugs were cut, I traced around a 1/4″ nut with a pencil and gently carved out the inside with a 1/4″ chisel.

After the area was all carved out, I inserted a nut and shaved three sides of the circle on my disc sander to create a soft triangular-shaped knob. Once all six knobs were made, I used some five-minute epoxy and glued the nut inside the knob so it wouldn’t slip out during use. The bolts that they are threaded to are nothing more than 1/4″ carriage bolts with modified squared off heads to pass through the T-track.

Kenneth used Jorgensen hold-down clamps and a fancy caul system to hold the wood to the fixture however, I wanted to keep the fixture as simple (and cheap) as possible so I simply use a couple of Jorgensen F-style clamps to hold the wood to the fixture.

Everything looks good but I needed to see how well it worked. I took a couple of pieces of scrap wood and placed a loose tenon over the joint and marked where I wanted the tenon.

I transferred those marks around the edges of the wood so I could then gauge where the router needed to cut. I also marked the “face” on each piece so I knew in which direction the piece needed to be place on the fixture so that the face of the boards would line up evenly.

I set the stop blocks where they needed to be and made a test cut while placing the face of the work piece on the inside of the fixture. Everything looked good on both pieces and fitted together nicely. This joint was super fast and easy to create!

The beautiful thing about using the Micro Fence is that if I do need a thicker tenon, I simply use the brass stops on the sliding bar of the fence to limit the travel of the router on the Y axis.

I now have accurate three-dimensional cutting availabilty using this fixture. The fence stops act as the X axis, the Micro Fence guide rails act as the Y axis, and the plunge router base acts as the Z axis.

Much like Kenneth’s Gizmozilla, the fixture can be used as a regular Moxon vise for cutting dovetails by hand or with a power router when I use my Keller Dovetail System.

This was a super simple fixture to make and it has already been very useful in my shop building a couple of outdoor benches. I’m sure it will be the most valuable jig/fixture I have ever made.

Adding a Micro Fence to a Bosch Colt plunge router base

After the last month of cleaning and selling a bunch of antique tools on eBay I bought last fall, I was finally able to get back in the shop. For months I’ve always had a Festool Domino on my wish list but for the nearly $1000.00 for one, I never pulled the trigger. So after cleaning out my router cabinet one day, I came across the Micro Fence I bought about ten years ago collecting dust. I bought it for my Porter Cable laminate trimmer and had intended to use it for inlay work. Needless to say I never used the damn thing as I don’t do inlay work. So I got the idea of using it with a Colt plunge router base for routing mortises for loose tenon joinery.

The first thing I had to do was retro fit the jig to work with the plunge router base. I had to custom make the bar that attached the base to the jig so I used a piece of scrap maple I had lying around. I went to Lowe’s and bought 7/16″ round bar stock and fitted them into the sliding section of base.

Next I threaded the rod and reamed the holes with a 7/16″ 14 TPI tap and die set. Took me a while to get that done because everywhere I looked, didn’t carry both the tap and die. I ended up buying the die at Menards and the tap at O’Reilly’s Auto Parts. A big pain in the ass.

After the base had the bar installed, I lined up the Micro Fence to the base, marked where the holes went and threaded those holes with a 5/16″ tap.

The finished piece was tight and clean with the Micro Fence able to come into full contact with the plunge router base.

I got lucky as the handle from the base was able to extend all the way down without touching any part of the Micro Fence. The distance between the handle and the brass screw is about 1/32″.

Once I got the fence to work, I quickly realized that the center hole on the base was too big to work with plunging mortises into end grain as the work piece would literally fall through the hole. So I had to buy a piece of 1/4″ acrylic plastic and make a zero clearance insert for the base.

The base worked well but the only caveat is that when routing, there is no place for the chips to escape the hole. I have to plunge a little bit, then vacuum or pry out the shavings from the hole, then deepen the cut. Not a big deal to me as I always turn off the router in between depth settings anyway.

The Micro Fence works well but thought it would be nice to add a little light so I could see what I was doing better. I stumbled upon this little book light at Half Price Books for $5.00 and hoped I could get it to work on the router.

I snapped off the piece that slides in a book, grabbed some double stick turners tape and stuck the light on the back of the router. The thing works perfectly. Like it was made for the tool. It has an easy touch on, touch off switch which makes it slick to use.

Now I just needed to put the tool to work to see how it performs.

After cutting a couple of loose tenons, I laid out where I wanted them on the piece to be mortised.

A couple of reference marks and some quick passes with the router, I got a perfect fit. I think this will quickly become one of my favorite tools. Not as slick as a Festool Domino but for the price of the plunge router base at $100 and an unused Micro Fence, I think it’s a really good bargain.