How to Make a Bench Vise

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Bench vise
Bench vise (Image: John Gugie)

A vise is a tool used for holding or clamping items together to bond or work on with other tools. Vises usually have one fixed jaw and a parallel jaw, which is moved towards or away from the other jaw by the use of a screw. A bench vise is simply a vise that clamps to a table or work bench for a more stable surface and can be operated by one hand. These are usually made of metal and are very heavy and costly. The following is a guide to making a rudimentary bench vise with a few wooden boards and small vises.

Things You'll Need

  • Board (metal or wood)
  • Wooden board
  • 2 metal brackets
  • 4 screws
  • Wood glue
  • 4 small metal vises

Prepare the bench vise surface. This board protects the surface of the table or bench and provides a smooth work area for the objects to be clamped together. Find a wide board with which to use as the vise surface; it should be approximately 12 by 18 inches, flat, smooth and made of any hard material such as wood or metal. Place this board on the edge of the table or bench, so that the 18-inch side faces the edge and about 2 to 3 inches of the board hang over the edge of the table or bench. Clamp this to the table or bench with one vise on an inch or two in from each edge of the board. Be sure that the board is firmly clamped to the table or edge. (See diagram for details. Brown represents the table, gray represents the surface board and red represents the table vises.)

Create the jaws of the vise. Cut a smooth, flat, 24-inch length of 2-by-4 hard wood into four 6-inch-long pieces. Stand one 6-inch length vertically on it edge and lay another horizontally so that they are adjacent to each other, like an L-shape. Glue the edge of the horizontal piece to the bottom side of the vertical piece and press firmly until the bond. Place an L-shaped metal bracket on the inside intersection of the two boards and join them to the two pieces with screws. Repeat this process with the other two pieces. (See diagram for details. Black represents the wood pieces and gray represents the brackets and screws.)

Finish the bench vise. Place each of the jaws from Step 2 onto the surface from Step 1, so that each is on the edge of the surface board and the vertical ends are facing each other. Clamp each jaw to the surface board (not the table or bench) with a vertical vise on each horizontal part of the jaws. (See diagram for details.)

Use the bench vise. Loosen and remove the vise from one of the jaws, move the jaw to one edge of the surface board, and clamp it down firmly again with the vise. Loosen the vise on one of the jaw and move the jaw to the opposite edge of the surface board. Place the object(s) to be clamped between the jaws and up against the stationary jaw. Slide the loose jaw firmly against the opposite side of the object(s) and clamp it down firmly with the vise.

Tips & Warnings

  • For delicate items to clamp, rubber or felt pads can be added to the inside of the vise jaws. One of the vise jaws may be screwed down to the surface board to make it permanently stationary.

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