Woodworking Bench Vise

When you’re working with hand tools, holding the workpiece securely is a must – and a solid bench vise is like an extra set of very strong hands. It can hold stock in a variety of positions, enabling you to make smoother saw cuts and more steady plane strokes. We carry several types and sizes of vises, including models that permanently attach to your bench and others that can be clamped on and then removed between uses. Here’s a little information to help you pick the vise that makes the most sense for your shop. There are two basic types of bench vise: the front vise and the end vise. The front vise, most often installed at the left corner of the long edge of the workbench, is great for holding a drawer side upright while you cut the tails of a dovetail joint or holding a board edge-up horizontally for hand planing. The end vise, so named because it is installed at one end of the bench, is designed to hold material flat on the surface of the bench, secured between one or more “dogs” sticking up from the top of the vise’s jaw and corresponding dogs fitted into holes in the bench surface. (Many front vises also have a pop-up dog on the outer jaw to you hold stock flat on the table.) A common type of front vise has cast-iron jaws and a steel screw that tightens and loosens the jaws. Most also have steel rods to keep the jaws aligned and prevent flexing, and some have a quick-release mechanism that makes adjustment easy. Usually, the width of the jaws is used to describe the vise – Rockler’s 7″ Quick Release Vise has 7″ wide jaws, for example. Be sure to look for a vise that opens wide enough to accommodate the thickest piece of stock you can imagine yourself working on, and remember that you’ll need to subtract the thickness of the of the wooden pads that you’ll be installing on the cast-iron jaw faces. Good end vises also employ the screw-and-rod design, and they usually are sold with just the screw and guide-rod mechanism. You add the wooden jaw.
woodworking bench vise 1

Woodworking Bench Vise

There are two basic types of bench vise: the front vise and the end vise. The front vise, most often installed at the left corner of the long edge of the workbench, is great for holding a drawer side upright while you cut the tails of a dovetail joint or holding a board edge-up horizontally for hand planing. The end vise, so named because it is installed at one end of the bench, is designed to hold material flat on the surface of the bench, secured between one or more “dogs” sticking up from the top of the vise’s jaw and corresponding dogs fitted into holes in the bench surface. (Many front vises also have a pop-up dog on the outer jaw to you hold stock flat on the table.)
woodworking bench vise 2

Woodworking Bench Vise

I made my version of a Roubo bench over 20 years ago. According to the latest bench rules it is too tall, too wide, has too many vises (I use both sides of my bench and that might be a no no, not sure ), and has far too many holes. Did I mention that I have a double row of dog holes with a user made dual row wagon vise? I had no idea they were called a wagon vise back then. Being a tool maker and tinkerer at heart I just made a vise that I thought at the time was an original idea for the main side. Couple of dowels in a piece of wood straddling the two rows and I have a bench stop, or a different variation gives me a 3 point clamping system. If that isn’t bad enough it also has drawers on the bottom to store seldom used tools and supplies. Maybe if it had taken me a few weeks to drill all those holes and mount a few vises I would only have one vise and 8 holes too. I dunno
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Woodworking Bench Vise

Thanks! Great information. As an advanced novice worker, I finally decided to build my first bench a couple years ago. After reading several of your blogs knowing full well mortised dove tale leg joinery is yet beyond my capability, I elected to build Robert Lang’s “21st Century Workbench”. I also chose his VERITAS Twin Screw Vise in the face vise position. Used an old Craftsman face vise in the tail vise position. Constructed of laminated 9/4 x 31/2″ Pecan and 60″ long because of my small crowed shop. Super happy to this point. As I mature in woodworking I may live to construct one of a different choice at a latter date, but I’m 73 so we’ll see. Thanks again for the advise.
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Woodworking Bench Vise

Great advice. May I add #11?…if you’re left handed (like me), build a left handed bench. It sounds obvious, but when I made my bench, I had looked at all the pictures in my books, laid out plans for a nice, traditional bench, built it, then realized my front vise should have been on the other end (I have no tail vise). I plane from left to right, and the front vise is always in the way.
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Woodworking Bench Vise

I’ve built workbenches with more than 100 students. In every class, there’s one guy who wants to put a vise on every corner of the bench. Not because it’s a partner’s bench for two people. Just because he wants it that way. While I support your freedom to choose, I also don’t want to spend two weeks installing complex tail-vise hardware on your bench when we could be building furniture instead.
woodworking bench vise 6

Woodworking Bench Vise

Usually, the width of the jaws is used to describe the vise – Rockler’s 7″ Quick Release Vise has 7″ wide jaws, for example. Be sure to look for a vise that opens wide enough to accommodate the thickest piece of stock you can imagine yourself working on, and remember that you’ll need to subtract the thickness of the of the wooden pads that you’ll be installing on the cast-iron jaw faces.
woodworking bench vise 7

Woodworking Bench Vise

The bench is not difficult to build, but it requires a methodical construction process. If you follow the procedure carefully, you get a massive top that's flat, square, and needs hardly any cleanup after it's glued together. The top has four rows of bench-dog holes bored into it. Specialized hardware called bench dogs fit into these holes, and when combined with other accessories and our Yost woodworking vise, the benchtop can hold a workpiece of just about any shape or reasonable size…
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You Can Build This Gorgeous, Do-it-All WorkbenchYost WoodworkingWoodworking SpacesWoodworking PostsWoodworking BenchesPopular WoodworkingAwesome WoodworkingWoodworking WorkshopWoodworking ShopWoodworking ProjectsForwardThe bench is not difficult to build, but it requires a methodical construction process. If you follow the procedure carefully, you get a massive top that's flat, square, and needs hardly any cleanup after it's glued together. The top has four rows of bench-dog holes bored into it. Specialized hardware called bench dogs fit into these holes, and when combined with other accessories and our Yost woodworking vise, the benchtop can hold a workpiece of just about any shape or reasonable size…See More
woodworking bench vise 9

Yost WoodworkingWoodworking SpacesWoodworking PostsWoodworking BenchesPopular WoodworkingAwesome WoodworkingWoodworking WorkshopWoodworking ShopWoodworking ProjectsForwardThe bench is not difficult to build, but it requires a methodical construction process. If you follow the procedure carefully, you get a massive top that's flat, square, and needs hardly any cleanup after it's glued together. The top has four rows of bench-dog holes bored into it. Specialized hardware called bench dogs fit into these holes, and when combined with other accessories and our Yost woodworking vise, the benchtop can hold a workpiece of just about any shape or reasonable size…See More
woodworking bench vise 10

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The new bench will be more spare, from Menards Doug Fir 4×4’s for legs and top. Leg vise will be added, and some bench dog holes for my holdfasts. And lower than the old one. I’ve learned that planing requires, for me, a lower bench. But I’ll be keeping the old bench. It’s been a good friend for almost 20 years, and has served me well.
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Ed Pirnik and Gary Junken A cast-iron vise is easy to install and a great addition to any bench. In this video, Ed Pirnik shows you how to mount one to your workbench. Get woodworking tips, expert advice and special offers in your inbox Sign Up ×

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