What is Vise?- Woodworking and Bench Vise in detail

What is Vise?

A vise is a mechanical apparatus used to secure an object to allow work to be performed on it. Vises have two parallel jaws, one fixed and the other movable, threaded in and out by a screw and lever.

A vise grip is not a vise but a pair of lever-actuated locking pliers.

Vise is a device consisting of two parallel jaws for holding a workpiece; one of the jaws is fixed and the other is movable by a screw, a lever, or a cam. When used for holding a workpiece during hand operations, such as filing, hammering, or sawing, the vise may be permanently bolted to a bench.

In vises designed to hold metallic workpieces, the active faces of the jaws are hardened steel plates, often removable, with serrations that grip the workpiece; to prevent damage to soft parts, the permanent jaws can be covered with temporary jaws made from sheet copper or leather.


Types of Vises

There are numerous types of vises, all suited for different purposes. Below is a list covering a wide range of vices that you may find out there. They all have unique purposes for workshop activities involving a bench vice.

1. Woodworking Vice

Woodworking vice is one of the most popular tools among the different types of vises we have today. A face vise is the standard woodworking vise, always securely attached to a workbench flush with its work surface. Its jaws are made of wood or metal, the latter usually faced with wood, called cheeks, to avoid marring the work. The movable jaw may include a retractable dog to hold work against a bench dog.

A “quick-release” woodworker’s vise employs a split nut that allows the screw to engage or disengage with a half-turn of the handle. When disengaged the movable jaw may be moved in or out throughout its entire range of motion, vastly speeding up the process of adjustment. Common thread types are Acme and buttress.

Traditional woodworking workbench vises are commonly either face vises, attached to the front of the workbench near the left end of its long side (for a right-handed worker), or end (or tail) vises, attached to or forming part of the right side of the narrow end of the bench.

The woodworking vice comes in many styles with each of them performing the type of work to be done, specifically.

  • Types/Variation: With the variable needs in mind, vice manufacturers have introduced various types of vises, each offering different uses.
  • Face Vice: The face vice is a kind of woodworking vice that consists of two jaws for holding work, including a screw device used to open and close the jaws. This will help keep in place what the metal or woodworker needs it to.
  • Leg Vice: The leg vice is also known as Solid Box or Post Vice. The leg vice typically works by firmly providing support to the ground while a work piece is being hammered, twisted or chiseled. It assures stability every single time.
  • End Vise: Also called tail vice, it is generally attached to the right side of a bench with the help of a jaw which makes a notch within the benchtop corner.

2. Engineer’s vice Or Bench vise

An engineer’s vise, also known as a metalworking vise, machinist’s vise, or, informally, a “bench vise”, is used to clamp metal instead of wood. It is used to hold metal when filing or cutting. It is sometimes made of cast steel or malleable cast iron, but most are made of cast iron. The jaws are often separate and replaceable, usually engraved with serrated or diamond teeth.

Soft jaw covers made of aluminum, copper, wood (for woodworking) or plastic may be used to protect delicate work. The jaw opening of an engineer’s vise generally equals its jaw width, though it may be wider.

An engineer’s vise is bolted onto the top surface of a workbench, with the face of the fixed jaw just forward of its front edge. The vise may include other features such as a small anvil on the back of its body. Most engineers’ vises have a swivel base.

Some engineers’ vises marketed as “homeowner grade” are made of pot metal or a very low grade of iron. Many homeowners’ bench vises have an exposed screw.

Different Bases Explained

  • Fixed, A vice with a fixed base attaches straight to the workbench as it supports stability.
  • Swivel, the swivel base vice can be rotated so that the position of the vice can be altered to suit activities.
  • Vacuum, this base work by holding onto the surface of a workpiece by sucking.
  • Clamp, it clamps or attaches a wide size range of metal materials due to its strength and ability to withstand pressure.


  • Metalworking vice, it is referring to a type of vice associated with two parallel iron jaws with a wide opening base. The metal jaws are simply used to hold down a workpiece as it is attached to a bench that secures its stability.
  • Multipurpose vise, it is equipped with integrated pipe jaws and a swivel base for holding a variety of objects/materials.
  • Table vise, it is a portable vice that enables quick clamping that doesn’t involve permanent bolting down onto a bench.

3. Pipe Vice

This is a type of vice that deals with holding a pipe or tube securely so that it can be cut or threaded. It is a plumbing tool that can also be used as an apparatus in the assembly of components for pipelines.

  • Types/Variants: Metalworking vises come in a few varieties which present a set of distinct thoughts in terms of mechanism and uses.
  • Chain Pipe Vise: This style is made with a high-tensile steel chain that tends to attach a workpiece by fastening it to the bench to provide a secured activity. It typically holds loops over irregularly shaped objects.
  • Hinged/Yoked Vise: It tends to hold onto pipes between a pair of V-shaped jaws with fixed bottom and movable top parts. The vise has a hardened steel physical property for clamping properly.

4. Vacuum Vise

This is among the multiple types of bench vise that is portable and be mounted neatly on any flat surface. It is a versatile tool that can have its base lever twisted as it immediately locks in place. Its base can swivel up to 360 degrees and can lock at any preferred angle.

It is commonly made of sturdy cast aluminum and particularly equipped with a suction mount. In general terms, the vacuum vise is ideal for any avid woodworker or metalworker that engages in securely detailing work on wood/metal down to a smooth surface.

5. Clamp-On Vise

Clamp-on vises are designed to perform clamping of thick workpieces to flat, smooth surfaces. They include sturdy jaws that can accommodate general-purpose, light-duty benchwork which tends to keep a workpiece steady. The clamp-on vise is known to work effectively for holding wood or metal to cut or plan.

It is made of a solid, cast iron in many cases that is relatively light enough for its user to work around a table easily.

6. Combined Vise

Combination vises are the types of bench vises that are constructed to securely clamp straight workpieces and irregular-shaped objects. They are vises that merely merge the activities of a vise with that of a metalworker.

A paradigm for combination vises includes a revolving design that enhances the exercises of both pipe and bench jaws. They are predominantly used as part of modern plumbing tools today.

7. Handheld Vise

This is a tool used to clamp small-sized workpieces as they are worked upon. Deducing from its most significant feature, the vise is portable and can be used in any environment where needed. The hand-held vise tends to undergo fastening onto a bench vice in order to hold objects locked down. Relatively, it operates much lighter on workpieces compared to many other vises.


  • Hand Vise. This is a hand tool comprised of two connected handles with an integrated jaw on either end. It is typically used for craftworks and home DIY. And, who knows? This tool may help you greatly if you start a craft business one day.
  • Mini Hand Vice. It is like a smaller version of the hand vise. Due to its particular design, it is deemed ideal for performing smaller holding tasks.
  • Hollow-Hand Vise. Its prominent design is portrayed on the handle with a whole running through it which makes allowance of thin tubes, wires, and rods supported by jaws for clamping.

8. Angle Vise

This is known as a tilting machine vise that tends to tilt in order to set up a clamped workpiece at any specific angle for machining. The body of the vice can be subjected to an angular (90 degrees) position while the base remains fixed at a point on the machine’s bench surface. In essence, the user can place a workpiece in the most convenient position for tasks like drilling.

Its tilting feature is suitable for creating angled or diagonal holes through the workpiece. Milling applications can also be carried out with this vise such as preparing dovetail joints. There are still some varieties of this tool that have a swivel base added for rotating the vise up to 360 degrees during an activity.

9. Cross Vise

Among the flexible types of vises is the adjustable cross vise which constitutes jaws placed at different positions such that the base is not removed from the bench. One of its significant structural differences is its double mounts (no single) because the tool supports directional changes of an object clamped to it towards north or south positions.

The two mounts merely improve its versatility in clamping and related functions as the vice can alter a workpiece about the machine without the need to remove it from the jaws. Also, a workpiece can be slid across the tool’s cutting area to make cuts while being kept steady on the machine. It becomes very useful for works that involve several drillings of holes

10. Off-Center Vise

The off-center bench vise is mainly applied to the aspect of irregularly shaped or longer objects compared to other vises. It has the swivel feature that can be extended up to 360degrees upon locking down of the workpiece to the machine.

Off-center vises tend to support horizontal and vertical movements alongside a slide that has double ribs to facilitate extended accuracy on the workpiece.

One other interesting feature is its versatility including the ability to be operated as a common vise as well.

11. Rotary Vise

When it comes to the use of a rotary vise, there is the ability of the tool to rotate around the same axis as that of the hook’s shank. This feature allows its user to tie down material and rotate the hook to apply the workpiece. Consequently, this provides improved accuracy regarding the position of the workpiece on the machine.

Also, rotating the bobbin cradle on the vice almost totally prevents the problems in adding and removing turns of the thread when the vise is subjected to rotation.

12. Sine

Sine vises are typically known to use gauge blocks to bring about a highly accurate angle on a workpiece. It is a special type that is designed for holding workpieces at a more accurate angle than other different types of vises.

This tool is not the casual one that is suitable for DIY jobs on a daily basis. The designation, sine, is actually gotten from the theory of its user having to calculate the sine of angle preferred for the vise.

The structure of this tool depicts a screwless kind of vise that stays on two cylinders: one on the axis of rotation of the vise and the other at a specific distance from the axis of rotation.

13. Saw

A good tool to keep at arm’s reach when dealing with saw sharpening activities is the saw vise. Some stores sell the saw vise kit which includes threaded screw assembly, sufficient leather to line the jaws/hinge, and threaded brass inserts for the hinge.

The assembled weight is relatively light and with built-in clamps used for temporarily clamping to a table. Research shows that the best of antique vises was initially designed for mounting on a bench.

14. Diemakers’ Vise

This is a bench vise usually produced of high-quality steel, carburized to surface hardness which makes the tool relatively efficient compared to other inferior types. It can easily clamp any workpiece and secure it by rendering steadiness. The diemaker’s vise has great versatility including precision measurement, inspection, precision grinding, and wire cutting.

It also caters for enhanced accuracy in any position of a workpiece accompanied by single-piece construction with v-grooved jaws.

15. Pin Vise

This tool is typically deemed a miniature drill or twist drill. A pin vise can hold onto smaller tools such as drill bits, reamers, small files, and other related sizes of equipment. It also has a chuck head that can be removed and replaced suit various collet sizes that may be inserted. This tool can be gotten in varieties like swivel head pin vise and a ball-headed pin vise.

Pin vises are DIY tools that tend to create motion by hand while drilling a workpiece. Its chuck is an accessory inserted to initiate a power drill i.e., the force that exists upon drilling. The manual pin vise, however, tends to exhibit better competence with respect to precision on a workpiece rather than the power drill.

16. Rigging Vise

This type of vise can also be referred to as a triangular vise or splicing vise with its prominent characteristic of having three jaws. The rigging vise is ideal for performing tasks on a workpiece involving closing thimbles, splice rope, wire rope, and cable. It is normally made of aluminum alloy.

With the several types and “sub-types” of bench vises that exist, there are higher odds of one getting to misidentify one for another, much less understanding the different applications as a suit. This is why this article clearly elaborates on the various types you may find in different stores which will aid you to make correct and appropriate selections.