This is How to Choose Your Woodworking Bench Vise, your guide to picking out the right woodworking vise for your particular style of projects. I’ll show you everything you need to know so that way you can make the right choice. Enjoy.
Woodworking is Easier With a Vise
A woodworking vice is a holding tool that provides a helping hand while you are making your woodworking projects. It’s like having a free assistant in your shop, and it can make a lot of processes easier.
Due to the popularity of woodworking vices, there are several different kinds that you can buy, each one with certain advantages. There is everything from general woodworking vises, all the way down to specially made vices for specific tasks.
As a beginner, it can be a little overwhelming going into the store and looking at all of the different offerings. It would be nice if someone would just tell you which one you need, and that’s the purpose of this post.
Since I’m not with you into the store, the only thing I can do is show you the questions that you need to ask yourself, and the things you need to look at to make a good decision. Once you finish this post, you know exactly what to do to get the perfect vise for your bench.
See Also: Homemade Front Vise
What Projects Do You Make?
The first question you need to ask yourself is what projects you make. This will be the number one factor that determines the type of vice you need. All the other questions coming up feed off of this central idea.
For example, the type of vice that a guitar maker would need is different than the type of vise you would need for making wooden rings. It would also be different if you were making cabinets, or furniture pieces.
While there are some vises that are pretty universal, there are also some that are very specific. You can get along really well with a common style vice for many different projects, but if you know exactly what you’re making, you can do a little better.
Also, don’t worry about this changing over time. Your woodworking interests will definitely change over time, and you will definitely need different tools and vises. That’s just part of the hobby, so don’t let that stop you right now.
Do You Do Rough Work or Fine Work
Another question ask yourself about your vice is whether you do rough work or fine work. This is essentially whether you make really big things or really small things. Both types of projects can benefit from a different style of vise.
If you know in advance if you’re going to have to hold really large objects, or oddly shaped objects that are heavy, make the right decision and buy a large vice with a good holding capacity.
In contrast, if you know that you’re going to have to hold very small items, or intricate items that might even be a little on the oddly shaped side, then you need to pick a different wood vice with a different way of holding your project.
Small Spaces Can Benefit From a Small Bench Top Vise
The space that you have in the shop is also something to think about. If you have a tiny shop, you may not even be able to use a really large bench vice because you just don’t have the room to hold the pieces of wood.
Something that you can benefit from is a small bench top vise. These are meant to be mounted to the top of your bench, and they are a good universal holding tool. While they may not be able to grab the biggest pieces, they’ll be able to grab a good variety.
The other nice thing about a small bench top vise is that you can move it around. If you end up using it on a different bench, it’s as easy as moving some bolts and drilling some holes. Portability is nice, especially in a smaller working area.
Task Specific Vises Like for Jewelry Makers
You may also end up using your woodworking vise for one thing and looking for some task specific vices that are made for one purpose in woodworking. There are many like this, and if you do that particular style of project, you’ll know exactly what to buy.
For example, there are specific vices that are used to hold projects for carving. The makers of these vises know the carving projects are really oddly shaped, so the vice is designed to hold things that a normal vice wouldn’t.
There are also jewelry makers vases, that are good at holding very small objects without crushing them. In the case where you’re making jewelry, it’s a good idea to have one of these in your shop.
Take a look at the type of woodworking that you do, and see if there are any special units available. If there are, it might be worth your time just to get the right tool right at the beginning, that way you start out on your best foot.
General Purpose Vises Like a Front Vise
The other side of the coin when it comes to a bench vice is to go general instead of specific. This is a tool that will do everything well but only a very small amount of things tremendously. That’s the trade-off for universal.
If you are brand new to woodworking and you really have no idea what you’re going to make, or you know you’re going to make a lot of random projects, then a general use woodworking vise is probably your best bet.
A front vice or an end vice are both good options for your bench, and they’ve been used by traditional woodworkers for a very long time. You can do really well with a tool like this, especially when you might make a little bit of everything.
Look around for the hardware and do it yourself. Or, you can simply buy a fully made unit and mount it to your existing bench. The choice is yours, but a good general purpose vice will not let you down.
See Also: Restoring a Workbench
Do You Have a Bench Already
Another question you can ask yourself is if you already have a woodworking bench. If you do, then you might just add a vise to it. This gives you a double win, because it makes your bench better and gets you a way to hold your projects.
Vices that go on the woodworking bench tend to be a general purpose, which is good if you’re doing a lot of different projects. They are also traditional standards in woodworking, so they have a very long track record.
If you don’t have a bench, then you need to look for something that attaches to a table, or something that you can attach to a large block of wood. You need some way to make it sturdy, but also not make it permanent because you don’t have a home for it yet.
If you’re serious about woodworking, you may even want to just make yourself a simple 2 x 4 bench that way you have something you can screw down onto. This is a straightforward project, and a great beginner woodworking project.
See Also: How to Find a Good Woodworking Bench
Specialty Vises Like for the Drill Press are Helpful
While you’re looking at vises, it’s a good idea to take a look at some of the smaller units that can assist you with some of your bigger tools. The most common is a small place for holding items on your drill press table.
I went a very long time without getting one of these, and when I finally bought one and I was really happy with it. It makes a huge difference when you’re drilling, and it frees up both hands which gives you more control.
These sit on the table top of your drill press, and a thread through one of the openings with a bolt and a nut. You can move it around really easy and then tighten it in place. It gets your hands out of the way, it also makes you safer.
Balance Quality and Price in Your Choice
With anything in woodworking, there’s a balance between price and quality. While it’s nice to buy the most expensive of anything, it’s also nice not to spend a lot of money. You need to find that balance that suits you the best.
I don’t know what it is about woodworking vice hardware, but you can spend a ton of money if you pick the right brand. I guess that’s similar across all hobbies, but there are certain brands that are just really expensive.
It’s not to say that they are a bad product, that you’re not getting your money’s worth, but some cases end up being so much more expensive that you could buy two or three other hardware packs instead.
Either way, if you want the absolute best of the best, then just buy it. If you have a little bit more of a budget, look at something in the middle price range, which is usually the best intersection of cost and value.
Make a Vise Yourself to Save Money
If you are really on a budget, then consider making your own woodworking vise and installing it on your bench yourself. There are a number of different plans online to make one, and you can follow any of them that meet your needs.
You can also look for a less expensive hardware, and build something directly into your bench. This way, you get the benefit of the nicer style vice but you don’t have to spend money on a fully completed unit.
Lastly, if you really want to get traditional, consider making a vice completely out of wood, where every component is made by hand. This is how it was done for hundreds of years before you, and it can be done again.
Find a Vise Second Hand to Save Money
Finally, if you’re looking to save some money, but you don’t really want to make one yourself, consider looking for one second hand. There are a number of places online that you can look, and if it’s in good shape you can get a good deal.
There really isn’t much of a difference between a used tool that was taken care of and a new tool out of the box. As long as the old tool wasn’t abused, and doesn’t have any parts that wear out, it’ll be very similar to the new tool.
The biggest difference is going to be the price. This is where you can take advantage of the fact that somebody is getting out of their hobby and you can get help getting into yours. You might find a really good deal, and if you do, go ahead and pick up the item.
Like anything you find used, make sure you test it first. If the vice doesn’t seem like it’s working properly, don’t buy it. However, if it is, and the deal is right, you can save a bit of money and get yourself a nice find.
Now that you know everything you need in order to find an awesome woodworking vise for your woodworking bench, it’s time to get out into the shop and take action. Figure out what you need, and answer the questions from the post.
Once you have your answers, it should be pretty easy to decide on a good vise that will help you with your woodworking. It will be like having a second set of hands in the shop, and it will make you more productive.
If you have any questions about how to pick out a woodworking bench vice, please post a question and I’ll be glad to answer them. Happy building.
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