A vise (American English) or vice (British English) 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.
Woodworking vises are attached to a workbench, typically flush with its work surface. Their 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.
"Quick-release" vises employ 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 workbench vises are commonly either face vises, attached to the front of the workbench, near the left end (for a right-handed worker) or end vises, attached to or forming part of the right end of the bench.
One common variety of face vise is the leg vise, which has a long extension down to the floor, with a provision to adjust the spacing of the bottom of the leg, to keep the clamping surfaces of the jaws approximately parallel, even though the work to be clamped may be of various thicknesses.
An engineer's vise, also known as a metalworking vise or machinist's 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. However, most heavy duty vises are 55,000 psi cast steel or 65,000 psi ductile iron. Some vises have a cast iron body but a steel channel bar. Cast iron is popular because it is typically 30,000 psi grey iron which is rigid, strong and inexpensive. 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 is almost always the same size as the jaw width, if not bigger.
An engineer's vise is bolted onto the top surface of a workbench, with the face of the fixed jaws just forward of its front edge. The vise may include other features such as a small anvil on the back of its body. Most engineer's vises have a swivel base. Some engineer's vises marketed as "Homeowner Grade" are not made of steel or cast iron, but of pot metal or a very low grade of iron, typically with a tensile strength of under 10 ksi. Most homeowner's bench vises have an exposed screw.
Machine vises are mounted on drill presses, grinding machines and milling machines. Abrasive chop saws have a special type of machine vise built into the saw. Some hobbyists use a machine vise as a bench vise because of the low cost and small size.
A vacuum vise is a hobbyist's tool, commonly used to hold circuit boards, model airplanes and other small work. They are mounted with a suction cup and often have an articulated joint in the middle to allow the vise to pivot and swivel. Jewelers also use vacuum vises to hold jewelry.
Pipe vises are a plumber's tool, often used to hold pipes in place for threading and cutting. There are two main styles: chain and yoke. The yoke type vise uses a screw to clamp down the pipe, and the chain style uses a chain for securing the pipe.
Clamp-on vises are basically very light-duty bench vises. They usually have smooth jaws for wood, plastic and light metalworking, but some have serrated jaws for getting a better grip on metal. Some unique vises combine these features in a rotating design. They also help to secure an object while working on the object.
Vises that combine the functions of a pipe vise with a metalworker's vise do exist, and are quite common. Some vises have a rotating design to provide both bench and pipe jaws. These are often used by plumbers.
Other kinds of vise include:
- Hand vises
- Compound slide vises are more complex machine vises. They allow speed and precision in the placement of the work.
- Cross vises, which can be adjusted using leadscrews in the X and Y axes; these are useful if many holes need to be drilled in the same workpiece using a drill press. Compare router table.
- Off-center vises
- Angle vises
- Sine vises, which use gauge blocks to set up a highly accurate angle
- Rotary vises
- Suction vices
- Diemakers' vise
- Saw vices – used for sharpening hand saws
- Pin vises (for holding thin, long cylindrical objects by one end, or used as a drill (scale modeler's pin vise))
- Jewellers' vises and by contrast
- Fly tying vise, used to secure fishing hook in fly tying
- Leg vises, which are attached to a bench but also supported from the ground so as to be stable under the very heavy use imposed by a blacksmith's work
- Trailer hitch vice
- Shaker broom vise
- Rigging vise, otherwise known as a triangle vise or splicing vise, which has three jaws. Used to close thimbles and splice rope, cable, and wire rope.
A vise is sometimes misused as a makeshift press. Sometimes people will extend the handle with a cheater bar or hit it with a hammer. This typically will void the warranty of the vise and possibly damage it. This type of misuse is frequently covered in the instruction manuals for vises. Another way to misuse a vise is by pulling back too strongly against the movable face.
- Bentzley, Craig (2011). "Installing a Bench Vise" (PDF). Woodcraft Magazine (June/July): 50–53.
- Haan, E. R. (October 1954), "Selecting and using a bench vise", Popular Mechanics, 102 (4): 233–235, ISSN 0032-4558.
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