A good quality, well-designed vice can be an integral part of many different tasks – from woodworking, engineering and welding through to crafting, drilling and glueing. Make sure that when you select your vice you get the best one for your needs by following our simple guide to workbench vices.
What kind of work do you do?
There are some general-purpose vices out there, but unless you engage in a wide variety of different tasks you’ll want a vice specially designed for the type of work that you do. This can be quite specific – there are multi-purpose vices designed for woodwork, and there are also ones especially built for furniture-making.
Static vs moveable
Vices are typically supplied in one of two styles – bolt-down and clamp-on. Bolt-down vices are permanently fixed to the workbench, whereas clamp-on models can be relocated and repositioned as and when required because they use a simple clamp to hold on to the surface of your bench. If you are selecting the latter type, make sure your bench has a lip separating the perimeter of the surface from the frame, otherwise you won’t be able to clamp your vice into place.
The jaws of your vice hold the materials you are working on in place. So think about the type of jaws that your vice has – a smooth jaw is best for softer materials, crafting items and most woods whereas, for a better grip while filing or sawing metal, you might want the improved traction supplied by a textured jaw surface.
Size matters. Whether you do a lot of delicate work involving small components, or you regularly need to hold larger items like planks, motors or pipes you’ll need to look for a vice that can cope.
Depth refers to the distance between the upper surface of the jaw and the top of the slide that connects the two jaws. If you need to hold larger materials you’ll need a larger depth, but if you only work with small pieces and components you can save money and space by purchasing a vice with a shallow depth.
Vice width is the measurement of the horizontal plane of the jaws. This determines how large a piece the jaws can comfortably and safely hold.
How much the vice jaws can separate is the final dimension to consider – once again, if you are working on thinner or smaller parts and pieces you can get away with a much smaller vice opening.
Your vice needs to be relatively heavy-duty – in the course of its use you are likely to apply some pressure to it while sawing, drilling, bending or otherwise working on your projects. Good quality vices will be constructed from either steel or cast iron. Iron is much heavier, which can be a positive in terms of staying in place while you work, but it is a negative if you want to put the vice in and out of storage. Steel tends to be used for larger jaw widths and sizes.