Toolsday: Bench Vise

I resited getting one of these for a while, but after using one during a class, I ran right out and bought one.

Bench Vise

A large bench vise like this can hold work pieces in ways that are difficult or impossible with clamps. Not only can the vise be used to hold objects directly, the slide-up tab (the wing nut secured item) on a vise like this can be used in conjunction with bench dogs, creating a clamp the size of your work bench. This vise is not installed correctly to let me do that, but it's a possibility for my next workbench. I could also attach a dog to the top of the moving jaw of the vise to approximate this in the mean time.

The vise doesn't come with the wood jaws, I had to install those myself. Large, soft jaws are vital for a vise. You want to be able to really crank them down for a firm hold, without damaging the work piece. I made mine tall enough to match the top surface of my bench.

One feature you might not notice from the picture is a "quick release" lever in the lower right. I can pull up on this lever to disengage the screw drive so that the jaws just slide open and closed. This makes large adjustments go quickly, instead of cranking and cranking.

These jaws actually open wide enough that I can put a nominally 8" wide board in there for planing. That comes in super-handy, let me tell you. The workbench is so heavy that it's pretty immobile.

A vise like this can be pretty expensive, but if you're willing to take a risk on cheap Chinese stuff, this one is available at Harbor Freight for about $60.

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2010.06.22 at 12:00am EDT