What Is a Shoulder Vise?

C.B. Fox

A shoulder vise is a tool that holds an object in place while it is being worked on. This type of vise is built onto the side of a workbench, which makes it a relatively strong and stable type of vise. A sturdy screw brings the two sides, or jaws, of the vise towards or away from one another so that objects of different sizes can be held between them. The shoulder vise may be used for many types of projects but is most commonly used in woodworking.

Man with a drill
Man with a drill

Similar in design to other types of vises, the shoulder vise has two jaws and a screw. A shoulder vise is often build directly into a workbench so that one side of the workbench forms one of the jaws of the vise. The other jaw is usually attached to a board that extends a couple of feet out from the workbench, giving the tool a shape reminiscent of a shoulder. Though it is possible to add a shoulder vise extension onto an existing workbench, these tools are much stronger when built into a new one. In most cases, the jaws of the vise are built from sturdy wood.

The movable jaw on a shoulder vise is attached to a large wood or metal screw. Turning the screw one way will cause the jaws to close, and turning it the other way will cause them to open. The screw is located in the center of the outside of the movable jaw. Placing the screw there allows objects to be held firmly in place directly between the workbench and the vise screw, a position that places a maximum amount of force on the object. The shoulder vise also has free space below and above the jaw area, making it ideal for working on objects that need to be held vertically.

In order to protect the object, the jaws of a shoulder vise are usually padded. Leather has been used as padding for hundreds of years, though rubber or sturdy foam may also be used. This padding allows the shoulder vise to be tightly closed around an object without causing so much stress on the object that it breaks, cracks or dents. Shoulder vises with leather padding are often used to work on wooden objects that could be dented by other types of vises.

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