If you are a beginner woodworker, you’ll need to have a decent collection of vices to hold your projects together. They are especially useful for cabinetmaking and other projects where pieces have to be glued together.
A woodworking vise by definition has jaws for holding the job and a screw mechanism that adjusts the grip on the workpiece. The main feature of a woodworking vise is that the jaws are made of wood (or covered with a piece of wood) to protect the wood surface of the pieces you are stabilizing in the vise.
However, there are a diverse lot of vise types, so you would need to know exactly what each woodworking vise can do. As you get more involved in your woodworking projects, you will have specific needs in woodworking vises. Here are the most common types of woodworking vises and how they are used.
Types of Woodworking Vises
Although you can get a wide variety of vises, here we will focus on the various types of woodworking vises. So, here we go…
Woodwork Vises: a woodwork vise is a heavy-duty tool used for clamping large pieces of wood together. Professional woodworkers and manufacturing units usually use this type of vise. There are variations in the type of woodwork vises used. You usually attach a woodwork vise to the underneath of the workbench. This enables the jaws of the vise to be level with the surface of the workbench. There are three categories of woodwork vises as follows:
- Plain screw vise
- Quick-release vise
- Woodcraft vise
Plain Screw Vise
Usually made from cast iron, these vises are finely machined for a high level of precision. They have a sliding motion and move along the steel main screw which has buttress threads.
A quick-release vise does exactly what its name suggests. On completion of the job, you can swiftly release it by opening the split nut. Now, you release the jaws with a single twist of the lever, rather than the multiple turns that you need with most other types of vises. Therefore, this type of vise finds itself commonly used in bulk production jobs with repetitive operations. The action of the quick-release split nut greatly increases the speed of operation.
Unlike woodwork vises which tend to be heavier, the woodcraft vise, being relatively lighter, is easier to manipulate and carry about.
We usually use a woodcraft vise for clamping small woodwork items. Although hobbyists and handymen usually favor this type of vise, it is a tool that is also seen in many professional woodworking workshops.
The woodcraft vise also finds uses in repairing various wooden household items where glued joints need to be clamped together.
Pattern Maker’s Vise
A pattern maker’s vise is a precision tool that serves various purposes in woodcraft. This vise can rotate, tilt and pivot which makes it a versatile tool to clamp a workpiece in any desired position. There are not many variations of the pattern maker’s vise, but it is a tool that is indispensable to a woodworker who engages in a wide variety of woodworking operations.
Workbench Vises: Here is the tool that adorns every woodworker’s workbench. However, this particular model occurs more in the US rather than in the UK. The difference between this vise from other types of vises is that we do not fix it at another location, but make it an integral part of the workbench. We attach the jaws and handle permanently to the workbench and will not dismantle them. Here again, there are three varieties of workbench vises:
Face Workbench Vise (or Front Vise)
Leg Workbench Vise
As the name of each category of workbench vise suggests, they restrict themselves to a particular location of the workbench. Hence, you will find a face vise at the front of the workbench, a leg vise at the leg, and a tail vise at the end of the workbench.
No discussion on vises would be quite complete without mentioning the engineer’s or machinist’s vise. This is one of the most widely-used vises.
With the word “vise“, what comes to mind is this type of vise. However, we do not attach this standalone fixture to the workbench the way we fix woodworking vises.
The engineer’s vise usually comes in cast iron and you need to bolt it to a fixed surface. Being as heavy as an anvil, in fact, it even doubles up as one due to the heavy, hard, and flat surfaces on the vice upon which you can hammer. You can use an engineer’s vise primarily to grip objects when you want to work on them.
However, the hard jaws of the vise can easily damage the wood that you are working on. You can buy jaw liners or make your own by adding blocks of wood in case you need to hold your piece of wood between the jaws of the engineer’s vise.
Nevertheless, you will find that an engineer’s vise is quite an essential part of any woodworking workshop. For instance, if you need to work on some metallic objects being used on wood, you can work on them on the engineer’s vise. Machinist vises also come with a swivel action wherein you can angulate the workpiece as desired.
Related Video: Woodworking Vises In Action
This video is a great example of how to effectively use vises on a project.
Vise Saftey Tips:
We can consider vises as a safer category of tools compared to saws, hammers, and other hand tools. However, there are some potential hazards, and you would do well to follow these simple safety tips and best practices:
- Ensure to cover your eyes and face with a shield and goggles before operating the vise.
- Secure the vise firmly to a fixed surface like a workbench with the bolts tightened suitably.
- The stationary jaw should be a bit outside the work table to prevent long pieces from causing obstructions. Ensure that long workpieces don’t obstruct movement in the room.
- Never loosen the jaws of the vise beyond the recommended limit.
- Do not over-tighten the vise. If you force it, you may risk damaging the threads and you could even crack the vise material. This can be dangerous as it could result in heavy pieces of the damaged vise falling on the floor and causing injury.
- Get any visible damage to the vise repaired immediately.
- Never try to repair the vise or do any welding yourself. You may not only void the warranty, but you may also cause further damage and possible injury.
- Always keep the threads of your vise well-greased.
- Last but not least, use good quality products (we have featured a few good models above).
We have highlighted the common woodworking vises used by most woodworking workshops. We also provided links to some of the well-known brands on the market, so you can get relevant information about the products. Please be on the lookout for some of our detailed reviews on the products mentioned here in our future posts.