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Blacksmithing and metalworking questions answered.

(l')eteau, der Schraubstock, Schmiedeschraubstock, el tornillo de banco, skruvstycke, bankschroef, beenskroef,
Anvils in America, THE book about anvils Vise Gallery

anvilfire Vice Gallery

More Vise Stuff

By Jock Dempsey.

Vice Value:

Take care of your screw vice. While you may not have paid much for your used vise they are expensive new and no longer made to the quality they once were. Metalworking vises were so valuable to bench workers that they were being manufactured 300 years before the technology to machine the nuts (box) was available. The fabrication and brazing process used was expensive and difficult. Generally pound for pound a good vise is more expensive than a good anvil.

In many shops with only one anvil there will be several vises not including special vices such as a drill press or band saw vise. In the blacksmith shop there is a vise at the forge for hot work and another at the bench for cold work. In the welding shop there is often a vise at the general purpose welding station and others as needed.

Vice Setup:

A vise is no better than the way it is mounted. The heavier the bench the better but a relatively light bench that is bolted to the floor and wall is often satisfactory. Wood or metal, either is sufficient.

Traditionally in dirt floor shops one leg of the bench was a post set into the ground with another post set next to it and cut off near ground level. To these the leg vise was attached, supported at the top by one post and the leg setting on the other.

For sawing it is better to have a vise mounted on a bench corner on the hand you use (right side if right handed and left on the left). For general metal work a vise mounted diagonally on the corner of a bench (or forge) gives 270 degree access.

Free standing vise stands need to be sturdier than benches and usually bolted to the floor. The bolting needs to be able to withstand high torquing forces from leverage tools. Stumps, filled brake drums, etc are NOT suitable resulting in a rolly polly mount that can tip over. These need to be bolted down except for the lightest use.

The best portable vise mount is a plate large enough to bolt the stand to and for the user to stand on. This configuration is absolutely immovable by the user. The only down side is the flexibility of the plate can result in a springy mount. This is most noticeable when sawing and the work starts bouncing. Too thick of a plate becomes a trip hazard. The best arrangement would be several plates built up to an inch thick at the point where the vise is mounted with a middle plate about half the size as the bottom plate.

Be sure to use bolts or screws in all the vise ears. Many users like to make heavy duty washers to get the maximum support on the base. On rotary base vises the third (middle) ear should be aligned to the back of the vise.

As a universal work station a free standing vise is a good place to run under floor air and electric to OR locate drop down reels overhead for the many portable rotary and impact tools used at the vise. -- Just a point to think about when planning or reorganizing a shop.

Vice Tooling:

[ illustrated article to follow ]

In recent years some very useful special tools have been developed to use in vices, particularly in the blacksmith shop. Being relatively new ideas they will not be found in standard books on metalworking. Others are very old tools that were quite common but have fallen out of general use. Many of these devices will fit any size vice but they can be proportioned as necessary, some for the work, some the vise. If you have several size vises in the shop it would be good to have a complete set of tooling to fit both.

Angle or Carving Block (new)
This tool supports the work so that it cannot rotate and slip in the vise. It is used primarily for hot work such as carving animal heads, embossing decorative work. While these are a universal vise tool (one size fits all), for best performance they should be customized to fit securely into one vise.

Spacer Set (new)
These are used to support the off side of the vise jaws when clamping narrow work on one side. This is more important on leg vises as the poorly supported jaws can twist and be bent. Spacer sets vary in range and increments.

Pin Bending Jig (new)
This two part fixture is held in the vise and adjusts simply by moving the parts and clamping them in the vise. See Bending 1.

Odd or Tapered Work Soft Jaws (new)
These arc shaped wooden jaws work best in larger bench vises and wood working vises. Being arc shaped the flat side of the jaws will fit tapers and odd shaped work. Being made of or faced with softwood they do not mark up wood, plastic or finely finished metal. A guru original

Chamfering or Angle Vise, Pin Vise, Narrow Jaws (old)
Small vise like a hand vise that clamps into a larger fixed vise. Jaws are at a 45 degree angle for small detail work and chamfering. Some have pockets for special shapes. Some are hinged, some have spring joints. See Chamfering Vise

Hinged Wood Soft Jaws. (old)
A pair of raised jaw inserts hinged together with a spring. These can be used to handle delicate work or be modified to fit various shaped work. They are also nice for close filing work the wood jaws not wearing the file. A commercial product in the .

Spring Heading Dies (old)
An early tool. These clamp in the vise and are opened by a leaf spring. They are used for upsetting heads on small round and square stock for bolts, spikes and rivets.

Jaw Covers (old)
These are not really tools so much as a vise accessory. Jaw covers are made of soft copper, brass, aluminium or even thin steel plate, to protect work from the vise jaw teeth. They can be purchased commercially but are just as often hand made. If well fitted out of springy material they will snap on, some are screwed on or attached with wire. Commercial covers usually have long fingers that bend around the jaws to hold them in place. Personally I prefer worn or smooth jaws in a vise and probably would grind the teeth off new jaws.

General Purpose Tooling Support:

The vise can hold either work OR tools and sometimes both at the same time. If a vise were used for nothing other than a universal tool holder it would more than pay for itself. While an anvil will only hold one size and shape hardy shank the vise will hold all sizes. Whole series of tools are made to clamp into the vise such as benders built on short lengths of angle iron. Almost any short term use tool that does not warrant bench space for permanent mounting can be supported in the vise.

Special Uses:

Bending bar and sheet metal. A vise can substitute for a small break for up to 90°, the larger the vise the longer the bend.

In a pinch for a ball stake? The handle on your vise may serve depending on the size of the vise.

Edges of vise jaws have many shapes that can be used for light shaping. I've ground out some old nicks on mine to do cleaner work.

Vice Guidelines and Maintenance:

1) Despite anvil horn features a cast vise is NOT an anvil. Minor straightening and bending may be done in a vise using a hammer judiciously but NO heavy pounding. Use (un)common sense. Think before striking.

Forged leg vises can take more abuse per pound BUT most are made of soft wrought iron or mild steel and the frames will bend, usually at the screw eye. Forged bench vises are also much more durable than cast BUT they are still not anvils. Their ductillity is also their downfall as the body can be mashed around the slide preventing operation. NOT an anvil, judicial hammering. . .

2) Using a cheater bar OR handle extension is vise abuse and may break, bend or strip something. If using the vise for a 3 pin straightening fixture a handle extension may be used to increase one's "touch" but not to increase overall leverage.

3) Some say a vise should not be used as a press but this is not so. Vises make an excellent press as long as the force needed is within the normal capacity of the vice (no cheater bars). A vise is great for pressing together bearings, seals and other parts.

4) When electric welding on work held in a vise the ground should be clamped to the WORK not the vise. Arc burn can damage the jaws and work OR vise screw/nut. Remove sputter balls with every use as they are hard and can damage work.

5) Setup a lubrication schedule. At least once a year the vise screw or slide and screw should be removed, cleaned and lubricated. The thrust surfaces at the screw shoulder may need lubrication about once a month. All machinery, even vices, need an oil-can kept nearby for as-needed lubrication.

Quote the Tinman in a thin squeaky voice, "Oil me, oil me".

Evil Anvil Thumbnail
Vise Safety Cartoon By The Great Nippolini.

Premntiss Vise Gallery Thumbnail

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