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 Bench Vises

The Ultimate Guide to Bench Vises

A bench vise is an indispensable tool for DIY enthusiasts, handymen, hobbyists, and professionals alike. It serves as an extra hand to hold your workpiece securely while you drill, saw, file, or perform any other task with precision and ease. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve deep into the world of bench vises, exploring their types, features, applications, and maintenance tips. By the end of this article, you'll be well-equipped to make an informed decision on the right bench vise for your needs.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction to Bench Vises 
  2. Types of Bench Vises 
  3. Key Features to Consider 
  4. Applications and Uses 
  5. Maintenance Tips 
  6. Conclusion 

Introduction to Bench Vises

A bench vise is a mechanical device that secures a workpiece, allowing the user to perform various tasks such as cutting, drilling, or shaping with precision and stability. Typically mounted on a workbench, it consists of two parallel jaws – one fixed and one movable – that can be adjusted to hold objects of various sizes.

Types of Bench Vises 

There are several types of bench vises available in the market. Understanding the differences between them will help you select the best one for your needs.

Metalworking Vises

These vises are designed for metalworking tasks, such as filing, sawing, or drilling. They usually have large, flat jaws made of hardened steel to provide a firm grip on the workpiece.

  • Engineer's Vise: Also known as a machinist's vise, this type features a swivel base that allows the user to rotate the vise for better access to the workpiece. The jaws are often serrated to ensure a secure grip on metal objects.
  • Drill Press Vise: This vise is specifically designed to be mounted on a drill press table. It holds the workpiece securely in place, allowing for precise drilling operations.

Woodworking Vises

Woodworking vises are designed for holding wooden workpieces. They typically have wooden or plastic jaw inserts to prevent marring the surface of the wood.

  • Face Vise: A face vise is mounted on the front edge of a workbench and is used for holding workpieces vertically for tasks like hand planing or chiseling. The jaws are usually wide and can accommodate larger pieces of wood.
  • End Vise: Also known as a tail vise, an end vise is mounted on the end of a workbench. It's commonly used with bench dogs – pegs that fit into holes in the workbench – to hold long workpieces securely for tasks like edge planing.

Multipurpose Vises

As the name suggests, multipurpose vises can be used for both metalworking and woodworking tasks. They usually have replaceable jaw inserts to accommodate different types of workpieces.

  • Quick-release Vise: This type of vise features a quick-release mechanism that allows the user to rapidly adjust the jaw opening width without turning the handle multiple times. It's ideal for situations where different-sized workpieces need to be secured quickly. 

Key Features to Consider 

When choosing a bench vise, there are several features to consider to ensure it meets your requirements.

Jaw Width and Opening Capacity

The jaw width determines the size of the workpiece that can be held by the vise. Wider jaws provide a larger clamping surface, which is useful for holding bigger workpieces. The opening capacity, on the other hand, refers to the maximum distance between the jaws when fully opened. Ensure that the vise you choose has an adequate jaw width and opening capacity for your needs.

Related Article: C-Clamp Comprehensive Guide

Construction Material

The durability and strength of a bench vise largely depend on its construction material. Cast iron vises are sturdy and long-lasting but may not withstand heavy-duty applications. Forged steel vises offer greater strength and durability, making them suitable for demanding tasks.

Swivel Base and Anvil

A swivel base allows you to rotate the vise for better access to the workpiece. This feature is particularly useful for tasks that require working from multiple angles. An anvil, typically found on metalworking vises, provides a hard, flat surface for hammering and shaping metal objects.

Applications and Uses 

Bench vises have a wide range of applications in various fields, including:

  • Woodworking: Bench vises are commonly used for tasks such as planing, chiseling, and carving wood. They hold the workpiece securely, allowing for precise and accurate cuts.
  • Metalworking: In metalworking, bench vises are used for sawing, filing, drilling, and shaping metal pieces. They provide a stable platform for these tasks, ensuring clean and accurate results.
  • Assembly and Repair: Bench vises are also invaluable during assembly and repair tasks. They hold components securely while you fasten, glue, or solder them together.

Maintenance Tips 

Proper maintenance of your bench vise will ensure its longevity and optimal performance. Here are some tips to keep your vise in top condition, along with detailed explanations and examples:

  • Lubrication

Regularly lubricate the vise's screw and sliding surfaces with a high-quality grease or oil to reduce friction and wear. This not only ensures smooth operation but also prevents excessive wear on the moving parts. It is recommended to lubricate your bench vise at least once every six months, or more frequently if used heavily. 

When applying lubricant, make sure to cover the entire length of the screw and all contact points between the sliding surfaces. A light coating of lubricant is sufficient – avoid using excessive amounts that may attract dirt and debris.

For general-purpose lubrication, you can use a lithium-based grease or a lightweight machine oil. Apply a thin layer of grease or oil to the screw threads and slide bars, then move the vise handle back and forth to distribute the lubricant evenly

  • Cleaning

Keep the vise clean by wiping away any dirt, debris, or excess lubricant with a soft cloth. This will prevent the buildup of grime that can hinder the vise's operation and cause premature wear. Make it a habit to clean your bench vise after each use, especially when working with materials that produce dust or shavings. If necessary, use a brush or compressed air to remove stubborn debris from hard-to-reach areas.

  • Inspection

Periodically inspect your bench vise for signs of wear or damage, such as cracks or loose components. Address any issues promptly to avoid further deterioration and ensure the safety and efficiency of your vise. Check the tightness of bolts and screws, paying close attention to the mounting hardware that secures the vise to your workbench. Inspect the jaws for signs of excessive wear or damage, and replace them if necessary. Also, examine the screw threads and sliding surfaces for any signs of galling or corrosion.

By following these maintenance tips, you can prolong the life of your bench vise and maintain its performance for years to come. Regular care and attention will not only save you money on potential repairs or replacements but also ensure that your bench vise remains a reliable and efficient tool in your workshop.


In summary, a bench vise is an indispensable tool for a wide range of professionals and enthusiasts, including DIY hobbyists, handymen, and craftsmen. As this comprehensive guide has demonstrated, selecting the appropriate bench vise involves understanding the various types, features, and applications to ensure the chosen vise meets your specific requirements.

Moreover, proper maintenance and care are crucial for the longevity and optimal performance of your bench vise. By regularly inspecting, cleaning, and lubricating the vise, you can prevent unnecessary wear and tear while ensuring its reliability and efficiency in your workspace.

Armed with the knowledge presented in this ultimate guide, you are now well-prepared to make an informed decision when purchasing your ideal bench vise. By investing time and effort into understanding and maintaining your bench vise, you can be confident that it will serve as a valuable and dependable asset in your workshop for years to come.

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