Shop & Field: Bench Vise

After years of clamping work-pieces to improvised benches at various jobsites, I came to favor the endless versatility of clamps over traditional vises.

Now, however, I’ve decided it’s time for a proper vise.

Of course, before there can be a vise, there has to be a workbench to put it on.  I put together a bench that i like well enough several years ago.  When I get around to it, I’ll describe it in a post of its own.

But, because I like the bench I built, I’ve been quite reluctant to carve it up in order to install a traditional woodworking vise.  Further, the bench is designed to provide a large open working surface with the ability to clamp all around its perimeter.   I really didn’t want to break that up with a fixed vise in any single location.

Actually, I did fabricate a vise along one side of the bench last year using a pair of pipe clamps.  It can be removed in a few seconds, though, and provides enough utility to justify itself.

Anyway, It seemed like the time to add a good solid old fashioned woodworking vise.  I realized that mechanic’s benches typically sport a machinist vise mounted on one corner, right on the surface of the bench.   I figured that would work well for me: the extra height would be welcome (my bench is relatively low- more of a table. really), and I could arrange to clamp it in place where and when I needed it, and whisk it out of sight when I needed the full table top.

I spotted this CA Herriman No.7 on Facebook Marketplace for a mere $30.  Dirty but essentially complete, it even has a quick release screw.  As it was originally intended to be mounted on the face or edge of a thick workbench top, it took a little fiddling to come up with way to surface mount it.  As usual, I worked within the constraints of the materials I happened to have on hand when I started the project.

I knocked it together using time that I was supposed to use for something more important.  It still needs face pieces; I think I’ll scrounge some maple for that.  It’s a proper, traditional material for that purpose, and it’ll offer a little contrast against the oak.  I still plan to clamp it in place for the time being, but I think I’ll fasten a threaded plate under the benchtop so I can quickly attach/detach the vise with a pair of stout bolts.  I’ve already bored the holes in the vise’s base plate.


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