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A bench vise, B machine vise, C hand vise

A vise or vice (British English) is a mechanical apparatus used to secure an object to allow work to be performed on it. Vises have two parallel jaws, one fixed and the other movable, threaded in and out by a screw and lever.

A vise grip is not a vise but a pair of lever-actuated locking pliers.


The etymology of vise can be tracked via Middle English vys Anglo-French vyz from Latin vitis "vine".[1] The tight grip of the mechanical device was likened to that of the twines of the plant.



Wooden vise from Löffelholz-Codex, Nuremberg 1505
Woodworker's face vise, with entirely wooden jaws

A face vise is the standard woodworking vise, always securely attached to a workbench flush with its work surface. Its jaws are made of wood or metal, the latter usually faced with wood, called cheeks, to avoid marring the work.[2] The movable jaw may include a retractable dog to hold work against a bench dog.

A "quick-release" woodworker's vise employs a split nut that allows the screw to engage or disengage with a half-turn of the handle. When disengaged the movable jaw may be moved in or out throughout its entire range of motion, vastly speeding up the process of adjustment. Common thread types are Acme and buttress.

Traditional woodworking workbench vises are commonly either face vises, attached to the front of the workbench near the left end of its long side (for a right-handed worker), or end (or tail) vises, attached to or forming part of the right side of the narrow end of the bench.


Engineer's bench vise made of cast iron - image inset shows soft jaws
Basic workshop grade "bench" vise

An engineer's vise, also known as a metalworking vise, machinist's vise, or, informally, a "bench vise", is used to clamp metal instead of wood. It is used to hold metal when filing or cutting. It is sometimes made of cast steel or malleable cast iron, but most are made of cast iron. The jaws are often separate and replaceable, usually engraved with serrated or diamond teeth. Soft jaw covers made of aluminum, copper, wood (for woodworking) or plastic may be used to protect delicate work. The jaw opening of an engineer's vise generally equals its jaw width, though it may be wider.

An engineer's vise is bolted onto the top surface of a workbench,[3] with the face of the fixed jaw just forward of its front edge. The vise may include other features such as a small anvil on the back of its body. Most engineer's vises have a swivel base. Some engineer's vises marketed as "homeowner grade" are made of pot metal or a very low grade of iron.[citation needed] Many homeowner's bench vises have an exposed screw.



A combination-vise combines an engineer-style vise with a subsidiary set of curved serrated jaws below the main for clamping pipe. A pivoting base is standard.


A clamp-on vise is a light-duty bench vise secured to a board, table, or bench by a vise-type screw on its base which rarely is able to pivot.

A miniature vise with a suction cup base

A vacuum-mounted vise is a small engineer's vise secured by a suction cup base and is typically used by hobbyists for very light-duty work.


Machine vises are mounted on drill presses, grinding machines and milling machines. Abrasive chop saws have a coarse-threaded or cam-actuated machine-type vise built into the saw.


A pipe vise is used by a plumber to hold pipes for threading and cutting. There are two main styles, yoke and chain. The yoke uses a top-mounted screw to clamp the pipe between two fixed angled jaws at its base; the chain style secures the pipe by wrapping it within a chain designed to adjust to length by link, tightened by a cam lever.


Hand vices
Leg vise

Other kinds of vises include:

See also


  1. ^ Merriam-Webster: vise
  2. ^ Bentzley, Craig (2011). "Installing a Bench Vise" (PDF). Woodcraft Magazine (June/July): 50–53.
  3. ^ Haan, E. R. (October 1954), "Selecting and using a bench vise", Popular Mechanics, 102 (4): 233–235, ISSN 0032-4558.
  4. ^ "Tools for Setting up a Blacksmith Shop - The Ploughshare Institute". 8 May 2019.
  5. ^ "The cover of American Machinist" (PDF). American Machinist. May 10, 1923.