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Home Tools Advice What Is a Vise and How to Buy the Right One

What Is a Vise and How to Buy the Right One

Are you wondering what is a vise? Being new to this, you might be surprised that it can help with a lot of things. Experienced handymen all over the globe know that a vise has a lot of uses, especially when working with metal and wood.

When it comes to DIY projects, most of us immediately think of a bench vise when people start talking about vises. However, there are actually other types of vises out there. What’s more, they aren’t just for clamping and securing a type of material in place; it has other functions as well.

What Is a Vise?

A vise is a piece of mechanical equipment that is used to secure an object so that you can easily do more work on it. It is designed with two jaws that are parallel to each other—one of which is fixed while the other one can be moved. Both of these jaws are threaded by a lever and screw.

With this combination, a vise can be used to hold whatever it is that you are working on so that both of your hands are free to do what needs to be done.

As mentioned, the most commonly known vise is the bench vise. While this does not necessarily have to be attached to a workbench, a lot of people mount it permanently for convenience. Doing so also means that you can use the bench vise effectively and up to its maximum potential.

Since bench vises usually have metal jaws, it is best to line them with a material that has the same strength. This is to ensure balance and stability. In addition, attaching it permanently on a bench means that changing the jaws would become much easier. In this way, you can also use it as an anvil.

Types of Bench Vises

While a bench vise is not the only type of vise out there, it also comes with its own subcategories. Bench vises are available as either a heavy-duty or medium-duty model.

  • Heavy-duty Bench Vise

These vises are usually made of iron so that it can take on stronger and heavier materials. As for the design, they have a precision slide bar, the main screw is threaded with acme, and the steel jaws are serrated. Also, there are fasteners that are used to secure the jaws to the vise.

Some designs are stationary, while others can swivel for up to 360 degrees. These can be used for heavy-duty cutting or simply clamping down heavy and strong materials, which include metal and hardwood.

  • Medium-duty Bench Vise

Medium-duty bench vises also have the same applications and parts as that of a heavy duty vise. The only difference is the weight and the make of the material that they can handle. These are usually made of iron and have steel top jaws that can be replaced.

There are also designs that can swivel for up to 360 degrees and can be used as an anvil. Furthermore, they can switch between smooth and serrated sides—all of which are based on what application you are going to use it for.

Other Types of Vises

Do you remember when we said that not all vises are the same? Well, below, you will find that it is indeed true. As promised, here are the other types of vises that you can choose from:

  • Engineer’s Vise

An engineer’s vise can also be called as a machinist’s vise. It is generally used to clamp metal, and it is also best used when holding down metal to cut or file it. Accordingly, it is made of malleable cast iron or cast steel.

  • Machine Vise

Machine vises can be put on grinding machines, milling machines, and drill presses. For those who have abrasive chop saws, this is the vise to use as it can withstand immense pressure. Some prefer this vise compared to a bench vise because it is lower in cost.

  • Vacuum Vise

A vacuum vise is used to hold model airplanes, circuit boards, and other projects that are smaller. It can be mounted with the use of a suction cup, and it usually has an articulated joint and a swiveling base. If you are a jeweler, this is a good choice.

  • Pipe Vise

This is regularly used by plumbers as it can be used to hold pipes for cutting and threading. You can choose from the yoke and chain type. The yoke uses a screw, while the chain type uses a chain to secure the pipe.

  • Clamp-on Vise

A clamp-on vise is considered a light-duty bench vise. It is most commonly used to hold and secure light metals, plastic, and wood. Furthermore, it also has serrated jaws.

  • Combination Vise

Combination vises are simple, basic vises that have a rotating design, a pipe, and bench jaws. Plumbers love to use this because it can work with both hard and soft materials.

How to Choose a Bench Vise

As with anything else, finding the right bench vise for your specific handyman needs—whether that be personal or professional—is not easy. Here are some of the factors to take into consideration when choosing a bench vise:

  • Main Use

Before getting a vise, you should first determine what you should use it for. You can use our discussion of the different types of vises to determine which one will fit your needs.

  • The Depth of the Throat

This is the measurement of the slide to the jaws at the top of the side. The rule of thumb is, the longer the throat depth is, the more you can put in large pieces of material. On the other hand, if it is too wide, it can limit the material that you can put in.

  • Construction

We cannot stress enough how important the overall built of a bench vise is because, again, you are going to use it to hold something securely. If you are working with strong and heavy materials, you should have a vise that can properly support it.

Aside from knowing whether or not it can hold down all kinds of material, you also need to ensure that it can last for years. This is specially true if you are going to pound on something more often than that. You have to make sure that your vise can take a beating.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know what is a vise, you can easily determine what type you should buy. Just keep in mind that it is not always about the size, but the make and construction of it. Keep in mind that the type of vise you have is detrimental on how well it will hold the material that you are going to clamp in.

Moreover, focus on your capacity as well. However good your vise it, it will all be for nothing if you cannot manage it. With that said, go on and get a vise. Surely, the one you choose will help you finish both big and small projects.


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