A bench vise is a mechanical device that uses a screw and pair of jaws to hold or clamp a work piece while it is being worked on. The device is attached to a bench or table and be permanently or temporarily attached, which is why it may also be referred to as a workbench vice. Vises typically have one fixed jaw, while the other is moved towards and away from the fixed one using a handle attached to a screw.
Woodworking Bench Vise
A woodworking bench vice may have jaws made of wood, plastic, or from metal. If the jaws are made from metal, you will find that the jaws are typically faced with wood to avoid damage to the work piece. A split nut is often used in the modern metal woodworkers’ vices. This means that the nut is in two parts so that it can be removed and reattached quickly, allowing for faster adjustment of the jaws. Once the nut is removed, the movable jaw can be slid in or out, and the nut reattached for final tightening. This saves a lot of time that may otherwise be spent turning an empty vise. For the vice to be effective, it is typically mounted to a bench or table, making it a workbench vise. Although this type of vice is particularly heavy, they need to be fastened to prevent the project from moving while being planned, sanded, or hammered on.
Wood Bench Vise
A wood bench vise is quite simply a vice with wooden jaws. These are typically used for woodworking to prevent the marring of the project being clamped. The jaws are generally faced with a soft wood such a pine so that when holding harder woods, it is the jaw face that will give first in the event of over-tightening. The pieces of wood used for facing are designed to be replaced when they get too old and marred to work effectively. Another effective reason to use wood is that wood will grip to metal better than other metal, without marking it. For example, if you were trying to unscrew a rusted cap from a chrome-plated pipe, and you needed to re-use the pipe, holding the pipe with a metal vice would require the vice face have grooves to prevent the pipe from rotating. Those same grooves could put marks on the polished surface if too much force was used. In a wood bench vice, the polished surface would be safe, even if it did rotate slightly.
The first workbench vise I would like to tell you about today is the Stanley MaxSteel 83-069 Multi-Angle Vise. This vise is designed to be attached to a workbench or table, and (as the name implies), the jaws are able to rotate to multiple angles so that your project can be held at the best position for you to work on it. This very practical vise sells for $29.99. It is designed for arts and crafts, model building, and electronics. You will not be able to apply large force to the project without the vice moving. It is used more as another hand to hold your project while you work on it. It has a swivel-ball design that allows for infinite adjustments to the angle. It has a locking screw, as well, to hold it in position once the proper angle is found. The durable cast-aluminum and steel construction is built to last a lifetime, while the removable jaw pads protect surfaces from marring and damage and are meant to be replaced when worn out. The vise is held to a table or a workbench with rubber-coated clamping jaws.
The bench vise reviews rate this item vary high, noting that the vice is easy to use, holds well to nearly any surface, and is unlike any vise they have used before. They find the multiple angles a fantastic feature that is extremely helpful.
The next most popular vice found on Amazon.com is the Adjustable Clamp 13025 2-1/2" Light-Duty Clamp-On Vise. This portable vise features 3-inch serrated jaws that will table mount on any surface up to 2” thick. This small vice is loaded with big features, such as the double guide bars for solid, positive clamping. The vise is made with plated steel for a good look and long life. The jaws will open to 2 ½” for holding a variety of materials.
Reviews from customers who own this product rate it extremely high, saying it is better than having another hand to help you in your small projects. One reviewer uses this vise for jewelry work, and has rated it 5 out of 5 stars. She finds that this vise is solid enough for light hammering, “precise and smooth in operation” and “a very well-made tool”.
The final bench vise review I will do today is for the Jorgensen 41012 Woodworkers Vise. This full-size, heavy-duty woodworker’s vise sells for $52 under the list price on Amazon.com at only $142.25. This bench vise has a solid-steel dog and toed-in jaw, and is designed for woodworking projects. The jaws are drilled for optional wood facings that are not included, but highly recommended to prevent marring of your projects. The massive 3 ½” x 10” jaws open to a 12” maximum opening, giving you plenty of holding power for almost any project. There is no equal to this heavy-duty vise in quality. For fast opening and closing, this model is equipped with a “quick-release” action that lets you bypass the screw.
Several people have reviewed this product, raving that “The vise itself is very solid and can grip tighter than I can ever imagine that I will need”. They have found the quick release mechanism easy to use and invaluable.
There are several different types of bench vises available, from the small, portable models designed for light-duty work as a third hand to the heavy-duty workbench vises designed to hold large projects still while you apply hundreds of ft/lbs of force to them. Whatever your need, be sure to purchase the vise that is appropriate for your use. You will be disappointed on how a large woodworker’s vice operates if you are making jewelry, but you will be upset if you purchase a portable vise when it won’t hold your threaded pipe still as you try to unscrew the rusted cap. Just because it is called a “vise” does not mean it holds anything as tight as you need. If you are looking for the third hand, the current owners of the Stanley certainly think you would be happy with the models they own. Likewise, woodworkers feel you can’t go wrong with the Jorgensen if you are seeking a heavy-duty woodworker bench vise.