Bench Vices

I’ve been looking through the web at a lot of different types, styles, and prices! of bench vices, and it raises as many questions as get answered.

Wonder how many vices is too many on a bench?

So far I have been looking at tail vices, leg vices, wagon vices and end vices. Sure is a massive range of options out there.

A leg vice is just that – a vice on the leg of the workbench (or at least a vertical component of the bench). It seems that this is one that contains very little metal components, and can possibly be made easily, although achieving a quality product such as this isn’t within most people’s capabilities

BenchCrafted make some real quality-looking vices (and have a price tag to prove it).  The examples of their products really showcase some of the different vice types.

Leg Vice Closed

Leg Vice Closed

From this, and the following photo, you can see just how simple the leg vice is.  A pivot point at the bottom means there is a very large jaw area for vertically-held boards.  A simple threaded rod is the main component of the vice. On the BenchCrafted website, there are a couple of videos of this clamp in action – very impressive – smooth operation, and I can really see where the wheel comes into its own (rather than a standard bar/handle).  There is no question you can achieve sufficient clamping force with a wheel-actuated mechanism.  The lower pin is set and ensures the vice tightens at the top of the leg, rather than the bottom, and you choose the hole for the pin based on the thickness of the material to be clamped.

Wide opening w parallel jaw

Wide opening w parallel jaw

What I find really interesting with the better designed leg clamps such as the BenchCrafted is the ability to move the lower pivot point out by an equal distance to the width of the material, resulting in a jaw that remains parallel to the work being clamped (In the BenchCrafted case, there is no lower pivot per say (other than the stop-bar)).  Poorer designed leg clamps don’t have this ability, so are quickly rendered ineffective when the item to be clamped becomes too thick.

BenchCrafted Leg Vice Mechanism

BenchCrafted Leg Vice Mechanism (the "Glide")

A tail vice makes use of the bench corner, and is used to clamp items such a drawers within the jaws, or long items along the top of the bench, with bench dogs supporting the other end of the item.  There are some different designs, but this seems to be a good version of one.

Frank Klausz Tail Vice

Frank Klausz style Tail Vice

Some tail vices are designed so they are flush with the corner when fully closed. Now a similar design and mechanism is an interesting concept for joinery, and is called a wagon vice. The jaw runs in a track fully contained within the table, and unlike the end vice where it is said over time there can be some sag, or looseness creep in, and particularly with the tail vice, that portion of the bench is not usable for other (read hammering-like) activities.

Wagon Vice

Wagon Vice

Other than the obvious clamping ability – between the bench dogs for planing/scraping work on the benchtop, you can drop a board vertically through the slot in the table and use the wagon vice for other activities, such as handcutting dovetails.

BenchCrafted Wagon Vice Mechanism

BenchCrafted Wagon Vice Mechanism

The final vice of current interest is the end vice.  It can take up the entire end of the vice, or the same mechanism can be used on the side of the vice.

Irrespective, the typical standout vice for this is the Veritas twin-screw vice.  It is kept parallel with uniform clamping pressure by the use of a chain-connected twin screw. Originally the Veritas clamp had a plastic chain cover, but rightly so, purchasers of the vice jumped up and down, and the clamp is now supplied with an aluminium chain casing.  I must admit that I was put off by the plastic housing, so am pleased to hear it is now something more substantial. (In the next 2 photos, the first has an aluminium housing, the second a plastic one)

Veritas Twin Screw End Vice

Veritas Twin Screw End Vice

Veritas Bench from Workbench World

Veritas Bench from WorkbenchWorld.com.au

This is an interesting bench, by Matthew Sanfilippo incorporating the Veritas vice (used here in the primary vice position, rather than on the end), and a tool tidy which does not extend the length of the bench which I thought was an elegant solution. Oh to have a workshop large enouh to contain such as this.

Workbench Example

Workbench Example

This workbench has been designed with significant influence from Christopher Schwarz’ book “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use” which I am definitely planning on tracking down. In the meantime, you can read a couple of chapters from the book here: Chapter 1, Chapter 9. If you can track down the deluxe edition, it includes a CD with plans and extra example images of a workbench construction.

Chis Schwartz Workbench Book

Chris Schwarz Workbench Book

Finally, a bench of particular interest is this one, again by BenchCrafted, which obviously incorporates their different vices.  Their blog has a really nice breakdown description and photo set of the bench being made.

BenchCrafted Display Workbench

BenchCrafted Display Workbench

6 Responses

  1. Stuart,

    Ultimately, the vise you select will largely depend on the *type* of bench you decide to build.

    For background, you might be interested in viewing the Chris Schwarz session I I shot during WIA last November. I split his session into 3 episodes, for easier viewing and downloading.

    While I am here, a brief comment on the Benchcrafted leg vise: It is a marvelously engineered vise – there is nothing like it available anywhere else! In fact, The Schwarz has an entry with several links back to Jameel’s wonderful Roubo bench, at this link:

    http://blog.woodworking-magazine.com/blog/SearchView.aspx?q=deluxe

    I am sure that while price might be a consideration, one should look at what each version offers, its versatility, etc. You will find the Travel Bench blog entries at Jameel’s blog, at the following link:

    http://benchcrafted.blogspot.com/search?q=roubo

    The video he made of the leg vise is pretty impressive, too!

    Enjoy!

    Al Navas
    Sandal Woods – Fine Woodworking

  2. Sorry! I forgot to post the link to the WIA videos on Forgotten Workbenches:

    http://sandal-woodsblog.com/?s=forgotten+workbenches+and+workholding

    Al Navas

  3. Stu,
    Chris Schwartz “Workbench Book” is on special 34% off $US 19.74 plus postage and handling at http://www.woodworkersbookshop.com/category/books/
    Frank

  4. […] again about the options we have, particularly in Australia.  (I first looked at the topic back July or so last year)  There seems to be a large hole in the market-  you can buy an end vice for either […]

  5. I’d like to know what tool do you use to make square dogholes.
    What depth and width should they be? etc.

    • Square dog holes are rarely cut – they are much more commonly created by using multiple blocks joined together. (Look closely at one of the top photos to see the individual components).

      If you are cutting them (masochist), then drill out the majority of material and use a chisel to square the holes up. Alternately, a mortiser will achieve the hole as well. The size of the hole is very much based on the dogs you buy (or make), and the amount of force they have to endure.

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