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CATEGORIES (articles) > Tools of the trade > Hand Tools and supplies > Workbench Vice

Workbench Vice


A vise (or vice in the United Kingdom and some other places) is a mechanical screw apparatus used for holding or clamping a work piece to allow work to be performed on it using other tools, such as saws, planes, drills, mills, screwdrivers, sandpaper, etc. In general, vises have a fixed jaw with another moved in relation to it by the use of the screw.

Varieties of vise or vice

Without qualification, 'vise' usually refers to a bench vise with flat, parallel jaws, attached to a workbench.

  • A woodworker's bench vice is a more or less integral part of the bench.
  • An engineer's bench vise is bolted onto the top of the bench.

Other kinds of vise include:

  • hand vises (hand-held),
  • machine vises - drill vises (lie flat on a drill press bed). Vises of the same general form are used also on milling machines and grinding machines.
  • compound slide vises are more complex machine vises. They allow speed and precision in the placement of the work.
  • off-center vises,
  • angle vises,
  • sine vises,
  • rotary vises,
  • diemakers' vises,
  • table vises,
  • pin vises (for holding thin, long cylindrical objects by one end),
  • jewellers' vises and by contrast,
  • leg vises, which are attached to a bench but also supported from the ground so as to be stable under the very heavy use imposed by a blacksmith's work.

Woodworking vises

For woodworking, the jaws are made of wood or from metal, in the latter case they are usually faced with wood to avoid marring the work piece. The top edges of the jaws are typically brought flush with the bench top by the extension of the wooden face above the top of the iron moveable jaw. This jaw may include a dog hole to hold a bench dog. In modern metal woodworkers' vises, a split nut is almost universally used. The nut in which the screw turns is in two parts so that, by means of a lever, it can be removed from the screw and the screw and moveable jaw quickly slid into a suitable position at which point the nut is again closed onto the screw so that the vise may be colsed firmly onto the work.

Metalworkers' vises

For metalworking, the jaws are made of metal which may be hardened steel with a coarse gripping finish. Removable soft jaws are usually kept for use where appropriate, to protect the work from damage by this.

Metalworking bench vises, known as engineers' or fitters' vises, are bolted onto the top surface of the bench with the face of the fixed jaws just forward of the front edge of the bench. The bench height should be such that the top of the vise jaws is at or just below the elbow height of the user when standing upright. Were several people use the one vise, this is a counsel of perfection but is still a good guide.

The nut in which the screw turns may be split so that, by means of a lever, it can be removed from the screw and the screw and moveable jaw quickly slid into a suitable position at which point the nut is again closed onto the screw. Many fitters prefer to use the greater precision available from a plain screw vise. The vise may include other features such as a small small anvil on the back of its body but it is in general, better to separate the functions of the various tools.

Vise screws are usually either of an Acme thread form or a buttress thread. Those with a quick-release nut use a buttress thread.

The word 'vise' comes ultimately, from the Latin word vitis (vine), referring to the helical tendrils of the vine. The more direct source is the French vis, screw.






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