Plate vices are not, themselves, ‘true’ vices – in the sense that they lack jaws and any other moving parts.
The majority of ‘true’ vices are not suitable alternatives to plate vices, as they require the provision of a sturdy workbench in order to function. This greatly limits their usability in the field or on work sites.
The only genuine alternative to a plate vice for site use is a portable vice-and-bench system, known as a ‘portable workbench’ and often sold as the ‘Workmate’.
Portable work benches
Portable workbenches fold down for easy transportation, and incorporate anti-slip feet, making them suitable for use in wet and slippery conditions.
A portable workbench incorporates a horizontally opening jaw, with a maximum capacity of 205mm – just under twice the largest grip port size on a plate vice.
Also incorporated are five adjustable ‘gripping pegs’, which can be moved into the desired position by the user to hold a workpiece of almost any shape. This is an advantage over the plate vice, which features grip ports of set shapes and sizes, and can’t be adjusted.
Additionally, portable workbenches are able to grip vertically as well as horizontally, and can be set at heights of either 595 or 775mm, meaning the user won’t need to bend, kneel, or work at an awkward angle to the workpiece.
In all, a portable workbench is an excellent alternative to a plate vice if you need a gripping tool which is able to take a wider range of shapes and sizes.
However, if cost is a factor, and a plate vice is suitable for your workpiece’s size and shape, and you feel you are capable of working at what may be a less comfortable angle or position, a plate vice is much less expensive.
Plate vices are also lighter and smaller than portable workbenches, which must be folded down and opened out each time they are transported. This makes plate vices slightly easier to transport from site to site.