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What Is a Vise Clamp?

By Sandi Johnson
Updated Feb 22, 2024
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The terms vise and vise clamp are often used interchangeably to refer to a variety of woodworking tools that are used to hold work pieces in place while work is performed. Although used interchangeably, a vise technically refers to a bench-mounted clamp, while a vise clamp refers to portable or handheld clamping tools. Whether permanently mounted or portable, each of the various types of clamps has similar features.

On a typical vise clamp, two jaws are situated parallel to each other, with a screw apparatus that allows the clamp to open and close. Turning the screw apparatus, which is sometimes nothing more than a long threaded bolt, presses the jaws together. Hand cranking allows for adjustments to achieve just the right amount of pressure on work pieces without causing damage. By placing pieces between the jaws and applying pressure, movement can be restricted without marring surfaces or leaving dents in wood or metal.

Woodworking projects such as gluing together joints, dye cutting, and drilling are the most common uses for a vise clamp. Metal and engineering projects, however, also use a variety of vise clamps designed specially for use with metal pieces. Whether used for wood, metal, welding or other projects, the purpose of a vise clamp is to restrict the movement of a work piece when precision and stability are important.

Design elements, operational features, shape, size, and material construction vary depending on the purpose of the vise clamp. For example, a type of vise clamp known as a C-clamp is a two piece clamp made of steel or cast iron. Named for its resemblance to the letter “C,” the main piece of the clamp is solid, with one flat edge. A threaded bolt with a matching flat edge makes the second piece and is inserted through a threaded opening at the opposite end of the main “C.” Turning the threaded bolt cranks the flat edges together to hold a particular piece in place.

Alternatively, on-bench clamps are permanently anchored to a work bench. One jaw is fixed in place while the the other jaw travels along a fine tooth track. Screw mechanisms mounted to the side or below the vise crank the movable jaw forward or backward as needed. Most on-bench clamps are intended for use with larger or heavier work pieces and have jaws with large, flat surfaces. In addition to C-clamps and bench vises, other vise clamp options include corner clamps, table clamps, and vise grips.

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