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What Is a Workbench Vise?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

A workbench vise is a device that is affixed to a workbench for the purpose of securing materials in place when those materials are being worked on or otherwise altered. The design of this vise can vary significantly depending on what types of materials it is designed to hold. Some vises are mounted to the top of the workbench, while others are mounted to the sides of the bench. Woodworking vises are often mounted on the side of the bench so the jaws of the vise sit flush with the workbench surface.

One of the most common types of workbench vise is the tabletop vise. This vise is mounted to the top of the workbench, and is usually made of steel. The size can vary depending on the user's needs, and the larger the vise is, the heavier it is likely to be. This aids in stabilizing items that are clamped in the vise. The jaws of the workbench vise in this case may feature teeth designed to further help stabilize the piece being clamped; the jaws may even feature slots designed to hold pipes or other round materials.


Another common type of workbench vise is the woodworking vise. The jaws of this type of vise are likely to be broader than tabletop models to avoid damaging the wood being clamped. The jaws will also be made of wood, though some are metal; if the jaws are metal, they are usually lined with wood to prevent marring of the clamped piece. It is likely that the woodworking vise will be affixed to the side of the workbench rather than to the top, and the jaws will be lined up flush with the top of the workbench. This allows for easier manipulation of the piece being worked on. It may also contribute to the added stability of the piece.

Most workbench vise designs feature some sort of screw mechanism to move the jaws inward toward each other or outward away from each other. In most cases, this screw is turned using a hand crank made of metal or wood. Sometimes the vise may feature a quick-release design that allows the user to move the jaws in or out without screwing the device; once the piece is lightly clamped, the screw mechanism can be used to do fine clamping adjustments. It is very easy to over-tighten a clamped piece and damage it, so the screwing of the vise should usually be done slowly.

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Discussion Comments


@KaBoom - You're right, a bench vise does make the work easier and safer. Like the article said though, a workbench vise can potentially harm your work.

If you're working with wood, the last thing you need are clamp marks from an overtightened bench vise. That's why it's important to pay close attention to set up. I remember when I took that class in high school, I almost ruined a project by getting overzealous with the clamp. Luckily, the piece I was working on was small, and I was allowed to get another piece of wood to replace the one I had marred with the vise.


I remember using workbench vises when I took shop in high school. Our instructor lectured us at length about their importance. In his opinion, they were there for make the work easier, but also for safety. This instructor was big on safety, which I was glad about because I was a little scared of using the saws.

Anyway, if you're sawing something, or doing some other kind of operation, the last thing you need is for the wood to be unsteady. You could cut yourself or drop something on your foot. In my opinion a workbench vise is essential for any kind of shop type project.


@nony - Well that’s where I think that getting a work bench vise with a screw mechanism will get you better flexibility. You can adjust the pressure of the grip as needed so that you don’t ruin what you’re working on.


@Mammmood - The important thing with any bench vise in my opinion is the amount of grip that you need. That will vary depending on whether you are trying to secure wood or metal, and what shape the parts are in.

In my opinion a wooden two by four is easier to secure than a round, metal bicycle frame. The metal frame might need more grip but you want to make sure that it’s not too strong that you damage the frame, especially if you buy one of those high end racing bikes made of titanium or something like that.

When you go shopping for a vise you will discover that you have a range of options. Ask around at the home improvement store and emphasize the kind of work you will be doing with it so that you can get the best tool for the job.


When my daughter took her 12th grade physics class she was required to build a catapult. Of course she didn’t know how to do that so suddenly I was pulled in.

I had a load of tools to help me build it, but I can’t imagine how I could have gotten anything done without that all important work bench vise. I was able to use it to secure the wooden beams onto the table so that I could cut them and also drill some pieces together.

If you don’t have a vise I suppose you could lay your wood on the floor and elevate it with some concrete blocks, but that won’t give you any stability. A vise keeps your wood in place rock solid in my opinion.

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