Best wood vise for a workbench: 5 unique types of woodworking vises

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Home » Woodworking » Workshop » Best wood vise for a workbench: 5 unique types of woodworking vises

Buying the best wood vise requires understanding where you’ll mount it, jaw size and how large of workpiece you’ll be clamping. But if you haven’t purchased or used a vice in awhile you’ll also want to understand features like quick release, pivot jaws, brands and your benchtop thickness. So, in this article learn how to pick the best vise for your bench.

A woodworking vice puts that perfect finishing touch on any bench. And while it’s possible in a lot of woodworking to not have a vise, once you install one you’ll wonder how you never worked without it. 

Perhaps you’re concerned it will take up room on top of your bench? Well, there are affordable vices like the Pony woodworkers vise  that just screw onto the face of your bench in seconds and don’t interfere with what is on the bench.

Getting started, we’ll look at vises that feature:

  • Easy installation on, under or into your workbench
  • Mounting style that fits your bench and clearance
  • Portable vises that let you bring your woodworking indoors
  • Benchtop woodworking vises to use when mounting under the bench isn’t an option
  • Cabinetmakers vises designed for disappearing into the side of the bench
Lastly, vises are subtly very customizable to your projects. Be sure to notice features like bench dogs that let you clamp wood in ways you didn’t think of. And if you’re making a DIY workbench be sure to plan an overhang to support your vise first!
  1. BEST OVERALL:  Eclipse Front Vise
  2. FOR WOODCARVERS:  WoodRiver Patternmakers
  3. CABINETMAKERS VISE:  Woodstock Vise
  4. BEST BUDGET:  Pony Medium Duty
  5. PORTABLE WOOD VISE:  Sjobergs
  6. BEST FRONT VISE:  Yost Tools

Choosing Which Type of Wood Vise is Best

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As you know, when it comes to a wood vise there isn’t a one size fits all. 

Which is helpful as not all benches were made the same. But, it makes deciding on a vise an unexpected decision process. 

Take, for example, a 3″ thick solid maple bench is designed to be half of the clamping surface and will send you down the path of a cabinetmakers wood vise. On the other hand, a bench made from 3/4″ plywood will require a self-contained vise that doesn’t rely on the benchtop to supply half of the clamping area.

Cabinetmakers Front Wood Vise

Wood Vise - Cabinetmakers Vise from Woodstock

You probably remember this vise from your woodshop days in high school, if that was your pursuit back then.

This type of vise is typically used under a solid wood bench with a top at least 1-1/2″ thick. And, because it can be adapted to any thickness of top, you can purchase one with an outer vise jaw installed or as just a plain vise and add your own jaw that matches your bench height. 

Here’s a few features to look for:

  • Bare metal for adapting to custom top thickness
  • Vise plus a wood jaw that’s pre-made for your bench thickness
  • Wood handle vs. metal
  • Lastly, a high quality, centered screw for even clamping force is desirable

Quick Release Wood Vise

Wood Vise - Yost Quick Release Vise

After you’ve installed your vise, opened it up and clamped a 4″ thick block of wood into you’ll have to do one thing when done.

You’ll need to screw the vise back closed.

Which, while easy to do, is time consuming.

So one feature to keep an eye out for is a quick release vise that dis-engages the screw mechanism and allows you to skip the screwing and just rapidly open OR close the vise.

Swivel Head Woodworkers Vise

Wood Vise - Swivel Head Vise

For the ultimate wood vise you’ll want to at least take a look at a swivel head vise that will clamp your stock firmly, and then swivel to let you work on the piece without re-adjusting or clamping.

When would you use one? Well, this patternmaking style of vise has been used for centuries by gunmakers for rotating the stock while clamped. And for most woodcarvers the rotation allows access to all project surfaces

Lastly, these are one of the most expensive vises as the mechanisms for supporting a 360-degree rotating head are complex. And, it will require a custom cut and install into your workbench (so make sure you are installing it where you want it!).

Pivot Jaw Wood Vise

Wood Vise - Pivot Jaw Vise

So what do you do with a piece of angled stock that needs to be clamped? 

Use a pivot jaw of course. Or, at least up to about 10-degrees of pivot. While this wood vise tends towards being one of the more “custom of custom” types of vises it’s a worth a look if you are regularly clamping irregular shapes.

Best Wood Vise By Brand, Use and Budget

There’s no such thing as a “best” of anything as your needs are different. But, within each category of vise there are certain contenders that are worth looking at first.

Key review factors:

  • Brand reputation & longevity
  • Product performance
  • Durability and manufacturing quality

1. Best Wood Vise for a New or Existing Bench

Eclipse – EWWQR9-NA Quick Release Woodworking…
  • Quick release trigger allows you to quickly adjust the opening to either…
  • Fitted with an adjustable front stop (dog) to provide a normal vise and a…
  • Vise comes with two predrilled holes for quick sturdy mounting to your…
  • To increase safety, the fused tommy bar will bend before the vise can…

Last update on 2021-03-03 at 00:04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Overview

For a new workbench it’s best to plan ahead and design a spot for your vise. And, with the Eclipse quick release vise you’ll be able to choose from a 7, 9 or 10″ jaw size.

Here’s what to like about this vise:

  • Simple design makes it easy to install
  • Easy to install wood face pads to reduce marring
  • Quick release for fast opening and closing
  • And, quality construction with brand durability

Lastly, while Eclipse isn’t a name you may have run into, this Canadian tool supplier has been making vises since 1909. 

Vise Revew

While no vise does everything well, this vise excels as a multi-purpose woodworking vise with a quality build.

Pros

Cons

2. Best Entry Level Wood Vise for Woodworking

Pony 27091 8-Inch by 7-Inch Medium Duty…
  • 8 inch opening capacity
  • 7 inch jaw width
  • Designed to mount to the face of wood work benches
  • Vise is for medium duty home, shop or professional use

Last update on 2021-03-03 at 08:34 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Overview

It’s easy with vises to spend more on the vise than you’d spend on the workbench.

For that reason, if you’re looking to accessorize your bench and NOT break the bank than the popular Pony branded 27091 wood vise is a great entry point at a budget price. 

And you won’t be sacrificing all the features as it has:

  • Two large clamping surfaces you can outfit with wood pads
  • A solid steel handle
  • And, simple installation with just a few (not included) screws

Vise Revew

This no frills vise will clamp on to most benches and in minutes have you setup to hold your woodworking projects in place.

Pros

Cons

3. Best Front Vise For a Compact Vise

Yost Tools F10WW Yost 10″ Front Vise
  • Cabinet Maker’s Vise
  • Cast iron body for durability
  • 1-3/16″ diameter x 15-1/2″ Length screw
  • 3/4″ diameter guide Rods and 10-1/4″ width x 19-1/4″ Length vise

Last update on 2021-03-03 at 00:04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Overview

When it comes to a vise one very valid concern is a painful one. You’ll risk running your hip or side into it.

And, that makes a compact front vise that uses the edge of the bench as a clamping jaw a very attractive solution.

Key features of this type of vise include:

  • Mounts under your workbench
  • Simple frame typically made from cast iron
  • Woodworker installed front jaw to match your bench material and height
  • Simple screw design 
  • Lastly, the handle is usually not included

For a compact, built-in look this is a vise most woodworkers will initially overlook. However, with a little work and custom jaw you’ll add a professional touch to your workbench.

Vise Revew

While you can buy a cabinetmakers wood vise with the jaw or with the jaw the real things to look for are a cast iron design, a high quality screw and a handle that will fit.

Pros

Cons

4. Best Wood Vise for Woodcarving

WoodRiver Pattern Maker’s Vise
  • Swing a clamped workpiece up to horizontal
  • Rotates 360 degree in a vertical position
  • Main jaw pivots up to 5 degrees for clamping tapered work
  • Auxiliary jaw will pivot up to 30 degrees – Two dogs in each jaw allow…

Last update on 2021-03-03 at 04:17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Overview

For woodworking that is centered around small pieces, carving or if you just want that vise that will do everything then you’ll want to consider a swivel vise.

As it’s name implies, this WoodRiver vise will:

  • Swivel 360-degrees in a vertical rotation
  • Main jaw will swivel 5-degrees
  • And last but not least, an auxiliary jaw can be inserted that swivels 30 degrees for clamping uniquely shaped pieces.

Again, with vises not being brand name tools there is a definite niche of brands and WoodRiver is a brand name of Woodcraft.  

Vise Revew

As you’d expect, the swivel capability of this vise drives up its cost. So, if you are looking for a budget vise you’ll want to look elsewhere. 

However if you want a vise that will let you grow into any style of woodworking then this is a place to start.

Pros

Cons

5. Portable Woodworking Vise

Sjobergs SJO-33274 Woodworking Portable Smart Vice…
  • EXCEPTIONAL CLAMPING WIDTH – The Smart Vice jaws measure 4 ½” wide…
  • HEAVY DUTY SUPPORT – 1” Thick MDF top, with the vice measuring 14 ¼”…
  • EXTREMELY VERSATILE – Four ¾” round bench dogs make for optimal…
  • THREE MOUNTING OPTIONS – Choose from dowels, screws, or clamps, making it…

Last update on 2021-03-03 at 00:04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Overview

Every now and then you run across a tool you hadn’t seen before.

And, for many (including me), the Sjoberg portable vise is a unique tool that is PERFECT for interior wood projects that require holding and clamping a workpiece.

This unique, self contained vise will:

  • Clamp to most surfaces
  • Use integrated bench dogs to hold flat pieces horizontally (eg. sanding)
  • Open to 4-1/2″ to clamp most projects

So, if your woodworking projects take you indoors this is the rare vise that will follow you inside. And that includes simply clamping to your countertop or kitchen table.

Just don’t get in trouble with any dust…

Vise Revew

With not all woodworkers outfitted with a workshop and bench, this unique vise opens up your projects to the indoors and patio tables.

And, with a high quality vise, solid face, bench dogs and other features it’s not just a gadget.

Pros

Cons

Wood Vise Features and Review Criteria

Best Wood Vise for Woodworking

By now you probably realize that there are a variety of woodworking vises. From features like quick release, pivoting jaws to integrated dogs for horizontal clamping there is a lot to consider.

Not sure where to start? It’s always safest to start small, go with the features that fit your budget. But most importantly – DO NOT cut your workbench until you are satisfied your purchase is what you actually needed.

Tips to Installing a Woodworking Vise

First, you’ll want to wait until your vise arrives before tackling any step of the installation. While that might seem obvious, don’t go download templates and attempt to precut a patternmakers vise. 

But, there’s other things to consider:

  • Screws: Head to a hardwood store and find the highest
  • Holes: Use all of the holes supplied
  • Pre-drilling: Make sure to predrill your holes. Failure to do so can split your workbench top. Or worse, leave you with a broken and twisted off screw.

Best Wood for a Wood Vise Jaw

Best Wood for a Vise Jaw

If you’ve made the (wise) decision to go with either a jawless face vise or a larger flat jawed open vise you’ll need wood to protect your projects.

So what wood is best for a wood jaw vise? Well, consider these options:

  • A hard maple is often the best as it will give long term durability, a firm hold on hardwoods but a soft edge for less dense woods.
  • If your projects will be softwoods like 2×4 or other dimensioned lumber than go with a sapless cut of quality pine.
  • Last, if you want a softer surface yet you can look at either contact cementing a felt or mar-free rubber.

Safety Considerations

Well, this shouldn’t be an issue. But, a wood vise must be mounted securely into your workbench. Needless to say, if you put a 100-pound cabinet on it you’ll need a bench made to hold that weight. And screws installed securely.

Not sure on screws? It’s also OK to recess a lag bolt for that extra security.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of wood is used for wood vise jaws?

Generally, maple is used for wood vise jaws as it is durable enough to withstand the clamping force of a vise. However, softer woods such as pine can be used if your projects will be made from mostly soft hardwoods like cherry to prevent marring.

How do you mount a woodworking vise?

Most woodworking vices are mounted from underneath a solid wood bench top. And, since most vice manufacturers do not include screws you’ll want to be sure to use heavy duty lag bolts with a pre-drilled hole to avoid splitting.

How do you choose a vise?

Choosing a vice is ultimately a decision on budget, your style of workbench and what types of woodworking projects you’ll tackle. While an expensive patternmakers vise is a top pick, if you don’t need the pivoting head and have limited space it will be more awkward than useful in your shop. On the other hand, if you go too cheap you’ll regret the decision and look to upgrade later.

Summary

Installed properly the best wood vise will make your woodworking projects easier and, more than likely, improve quality as you’ll have a third hand to hold your projects.

Have another vise you’d recommend? Be sure to include a comment below.

Wood Vises on Amazon

Last update on 2021-03-03 at 02:47 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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