What To Do With A Bench Vise
If you run a construction company or wood-working shop, you likely worry constantly about your employee's safety. Workers in these environments face risks like hearing loss, head trauma, and life-threatening cuts. A bench vise can at least reduce the risk of the latter. This tool holds a workpiece, like a board of wood or sheet of metal, stationary while a person does things like sawing, drilling or boring it. As the tool's name implies, it usually attaches to a work bench, and typically sits flush with the work surface. The amount of force many power tools apply to a workpiece can be so powerful, that a human hand alone cannot hold it in place.
Anyone who has a workshop of any kind will find that a bench vise has plenty of uses. If you are completing a project in which the pieces must be held together by glue, a bench vise can hold them in place while the glue dries properly. Cutting into lumber with an electric chainsaw is much easier when the wood is held in place by a bench vise, and it will ensure the straightest edges. A bench vise is also essential when doing any sort of drilling, especially if you need your holes to be precise in their location and size.
There is no question that anyone who cuts materials for commercial use cannot afford to be without a bench vise. In many applications, precision cuts are necessary. Making an improper cut time and again can become costly very quickly. One may have to start all over again with a brand new workpiece. If working with expensive materials, this can add up to hundreds of dollars on a single job. Bench vises reduce the chances of making improper cuts, not only saving money, but time too.
What To Look For In A Bench Vise
If you need to clamp onto large pieces of wood, look for a quality metal dog in your vise. Square dogs tend to provide the greatest grip. Vises with countersunk holes are the easiest to attach to a work bench, as are those made from a lightweight material like aluminum. Just make sure the rods stay tight so your vise doesn't move while you're working as contact with equipment is one of the top causes of injuries on construction sites.
If you work with delicate materials, or simply want a finished product that has very little markings on it, consider a bench vise with rubber covering on its clamps. This will reduce the amount of scuffs and scratches on your materials. Depending on your needs, you may either want a small, portable bench vise, or you may need a heavy duty, more permanent one. Some can assert thousands of pounds of pressure and have impressive tensile strength so they will not break under extreme tension. The heftier vises have double lockdowns to ensure they stay in place under the most strenuous jobs. Just make sure, especially with the heavier vises, that the u-channel glides easily.
If you work with materials that create very little surface friction, like metal, make sure your vise clamps have non-slip markings to grip onto them. This will look slightly like the tread on the bottom of a boot. Those who work outdoors or in humid climates should look for a bench vise with powder coating to prevent rusting, which can happen to materials one wouldn't even expect, like stainless steel.
The History Of The Bench Vise
It's a mystery who invented the very first form of the bench vise, but before it came to be, workers would simply clamp items together through the use of a wedge and hammer. The first version of the bench vise came about in the middle ages and used clamps with threads. These held workpieces vertically, though, and would tend to tilt. The year 1750 saw the creation of the parallel vice. On this tool, the jaws moved on adjustable horizontal slots, which held materials in place much better than the previous model. But it is most likely that the first patents for such a tool didn't exist until the early 1900s.
The English began making cast iron vises in 1830, but because air bubbles would form during the pouring of the liquid iron, these models could be quite frail. Many of them would break if one applied to much tension, so they were useless for heavy duty jobs. This ushered in the need for vises made from forged steel.
In 1925, German inventor Josef Heuer created the drop-forge vise, with its innovative dual-prism guide track. Brockhaus Heuer is still one of the leading manufacturers of bench vises. With their first vise, the Heuer Prism, seeing much success, the company's team set to work creating a new vise to piggyback on the popularity of their first one. And so came to be the Heuer Front, a vise that opened in the front, towards the worker.