Fact Checked

What Is a Wood Vise?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

A wood vise is a clamping device used by woodworkers to secure a piece of wood in place while it is being worked on. The jaws of the vise are usually made of wood, plastic, or metal, and the surfaces of the jaws are flat to avoid damaging the wood piece being worked on. If the jaws of the clamp are metal, they are usually lined with wood to further protect the work in progress. In many cases, the vise is mounted directly to a workbench, and the jaws of the vise are mounted flush with the work surface of the bench.

A vise is essentially a mechanical screw, which means the two jaws of the wood vise are able to move either inward toward each other to secure a piece or outward from each other to release that piece. A hand crank is usually attached to the vise to allow the user to easily move the jaws inward and outward; this crank is often made of either wood or metal for durability and ease of use. The location of the screw that connects the two jaws can limit the size of the piece of wood being secured, though many designs account for this by locating the screw in a place that will not interfere with the piece of wood.

Man with a drill
Man with a drill

The size of the jaws of a wood vise can vary as well. Larger jaws are designed to hold larger pieces of wood, while smaller jaws are suitable for smaller pieces of wood or more intricate placements. The positioning of the jaws in relation to the work surface will also affect how a piece is held, and modifications can be made to the wood vise to accommodate certain projects. Jigs, for example, can be designed to work in conjunction with the wood vise to secure a work piece of an odd shape, length, or size.

Sometimes a wood vise is designed with a split nut, which is a special type of nut that allows the jaws of the vise to be moved without turning the hand crank. Once in place, the jaws can be secured; the hand crank can be used for fine tightening. The jaws of the vise may be able to be released in the same manner. This allows for quicker clamping and easier maneuvering of the work piece within the vise. Not all wood vises will have this feature, and more traditional styles will most certainly lack this feature.

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Discussion Comments


@Izzy78 - I agree, homemade vises are a pretty neat project. I made one a couple of years ago, and went ahead and just bought a wood vise screw to keep everything looking consistent. It has worked out really well so far. I found my plans by searching around online for a while. It was too long ago, though, so I couldn't tell you where I found it.

I was also wondering if anyone here had any experience with a wood carving vise. I have started getting into some work where I really need to do some carving, but I don't really have the right equipment. How much does a good vise cost, and is there anything specifically that you should look for when you're buying it? Also, does it just bolt to a bench? I'd really like something that I could put up and take down, so that it's not always taking up space on my workbench.


Has anyone here ever tried to make their own wooden vise? I was at a buddy's house the other day, and that is the project he is currently working on. He is making his out of cedar, and oak, but I would guess that you could probably use about any type of wood. He's using a lathe to turn the handle and everything. He is taking a shortcut by using a metal screw to tighten the thing, but I can't blame him for that.

He is a lot better designer than I am, so he came up with the plans on his own, but I am curious if anyone knows of anywhere to get the plans for a woodworking vise that you can make on your own. I've looked through most of my catalogs and haven't been able to find anything. If nothing else, maybe I can talk him into drawing me up some plans for a vise that will work for my bench.


@jcraig - If you look at both faces of the vise, you should see a couple of holes on each side. You can just cut your wood to fit the faces and then screw them on through those holes. When you put the screws though, make sure you countersink them, too, otherwise you will end up with screw marks in the face of the wood you put in the vice. I don't know if this really matters or not, but my dad always told me to do it, so I always have, but he said that you should use pine or a softwood for the faces, since it will have more give.

I am pretty sure you can usually find rubber covers that will go over the vise faces, too. They are kind of like the caps you can get for C-clamps. I wouldn't both with those, though, since they wouldn't be nearly as durable. They would also start to stretch after a while, too. Since vices can be different sizes, even finding some that fit might be difficult.


So, I just bought my first vise, and it didn't come with any sort of wooden faces on it. I know a lot of them I have seen people use have had wood on them like the article mentions, but when I was at the place looking at them, all of the vises you could choose from were just all metal. How are you supposed to get the wooden faces? If that isn't possible, is there some sort of covering you can get? I just don't want the wood to end up getting marks in it from the vise.

Also, does anyone have any good advise for attaching a vise to a workbench? What type of bolts are the best to use, and have you ever had any problem with the vise coming loose or anything like that?

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