Installing a Bench Vise

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Let’s face it: a workbench without vises is really nothing more than an assembly table. Vises offer the strength required to secure workpieces during planing, sawing, routing, and other tooling operations. The venerable Record vise is one of the many commercial types that has withstood the test of time because it is simple to install, simple to use, and built to last generations.

Although it is no longer manufactured, there are many clones available, including the Eclipse vise, which I demonstrate in this post. The characteristics of comparable vises may vary, but the attachment is the same.

I’ll show you two mounting possibilities here. The first is a straightforward technique that is ideal for an end vise application. The second method entails recessing the back jaw flush with the bench’s edge.

Because the whole length of a board held for edge work will touch the bench edge for support and further clamping, this is the ideal method for a face vise. Have your vise(s) ready before you begin, regardless of the kind of mounting, so you can establish the size of the spacers, jaws, and hardware required for a trouble-free installation.

Note: Knowing the best bench vise in the market is also great!

Vise Location and Selection

A vise’s location on the bench determines what it’s called. Face vises are connected to the bench’s front; end vises are fastened to the end. If you can only afford one, get a face vise.

Right-handers should install a face vise at the bench’s far left front edge and an end vise at the bench’s far right corner. Southpaws will want to do the opposite. Verify that the vise mechanism does not interfere with the bench legs during retrofitting. Adjust the top to fit the vise.

Because a face vise is utilized for both general work and edge planing, I suggest a bigger vise (at least 10″). A smaller end vise should work well with bench dogs to secure boards for face-planing. For face-planing and other tasks, I use a tiny (7″) model since the dog is only 312″ from the front edge of the bench.


Simple Vise Mounting

The simplest installation involves creating spacer blocks and fastening the vise to the bottom of a bench. To begin, remove the connecting bracket and front jaw, then degrease the vise.

Place the rear jaw upside down on the inverted benchtop and measure how far the top of the jaw extends below the bottom. 14″ for a 7″ vise, 12″ for a 10″ vice (The former is required for the smaller vise.)

Add enough to the cheek width to make it approximately 18″ above the bench surface when mounted. Next, use 34″-thick hardwood to create both cheeks the same size. Attach the rear cheek using flathead wood screws and the front cheek with roundhead screws and washers.

Creating a spacer (s). (Use two for a dog clearance end vise.) Plane them to the desired thickness, then size them to the mounting holes on the rear jaw bracket. Drill clearance holes through the spacers and sandwich the bracket between the bench and the blocks. Attach the spacers with screws or glue, then the vise with 3/8″ lag screws.

Reattach the connecting bracket, washer, and roll pin. After turning the benchtop upright, hand-plane the tops of the wooden cheeks flush to the benchtop.


Drilling Dog Holes

Because most vises come with a dog, a row of dog holes on your workbench makes logical. Most commercial dogs fit 34-mm holes bored perpendicular to the tabletop. Make a drill guide block from 2″ thick material by drilling a 34″ diameter hole in the middle.

Glue the block to a hooked standoff that meets the bench’s edge. (Align the hole with the vise’s dog.) Draw a centerline along the block’s back face for reference. Layout the dog hole locations on the bench using a square, 6″ apart beginning at the end.

Drill each hole by clamping the jig to the bench with a backup board below. Drill a 3″ brad-point bit into the hole.


Flash-Mount

Undoubtedly, a flush-mounted face vise provides the greatest flexibility. (Like before, disassembling the vise makes handling simpler.) First, mark the benchtop notch. The length should be the jaw width + 1 “. The depth should be the back jaw thickness + 34% “.

Backsaw the crosscut into the benchtop edge. Then use a circular saw to cut the notch with a straightedge clamped to the bench. Then rip the notch until it intersects the previous crosscut.

Make a strong hardwood spacer block to position the vise jaws 12 “below the top of the bench, measuring as for a straightforward installation. Mark the spacer with the jaw’s contour and screw holes. Next, drill four holes in the spacer block to secure it to the tabletop, avoiding the vise mounting screws. Counterbore the 716 “-diameter holes in the spacer block. The block should be centered in the notch, with the front edges flush. Attach the block to the tabletop using lag screws and washers, as indicated.

First, measure the thickness of the jaw to create the wooden cheek. Using a 1 inch thick hardwood board “Plane it to the jaw’s thickness if it’s broader. In order to make the rear jaw, align the bottom borders as indicated in Figure 1 “at either end To create the U-shaped cheek filler, crosscut and bandsaw the piece. Glue it on 34 “-similar size thick stock, as indicated.

Table saw the cheek assembly to rough width, leaving the filler at 58 “top-wide Cut it to size using a crosscut. Attach the cheek to the back jaw as indicated.

Place the vise on the spacer block, cheek in notch. Mark and drill pilot holes, then lag bolt the vise in place. Using a straightedge, align the jaw with the bench’s edge. If it’s prideful, plane it.

Make the front cheek, reassemble the vise, and flip the benchtop. Finish by hand-planing the cheeks. Because my bench had rounded sides, I chipped away the sharp cheek corner. Finally, wipe-on finish any bare wood surfaces.


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