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What is a workbench vice?

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workbench with face and tail vices A workbench vice is a clamping apparatus that can be built into the workbench itself. This type of vice is mainly found and used in the US, rather than in the UK. There are different workbench vices available, including face, tail and leg vices, which are built into different parts of a workbench.
leg vice These vices are categorised by the position they assume on the workbench.

This means that a face vice is named so because it takes position on the front of a workbench. Similarly, a tail vice is positioned at the end, while a leg vice is positioned on one of the workbench’s legs.

What is it used for?

wood Similar to other woodworking vices, a workbench vice is used to clamp wood securely. A workbench vice is built into the workbench’s structure, meaning it is capable of clamping large and heavy pieces of wood.
face vice As face, tail and leg vices are installed within the bench, they have extra strength and a high pressure tolerance because the workbench provides support while clamping. This results in decreased strain on the screw, even when the vice is at the maximum opening width.
sawing This means they can be used for a variety of woodworking tasks, which include sawing, planing and chiselling.
bench vice installation The fact that these vices require assembling and installing within the workbench means they are more commonly used by professional woodworkers and craftsmen, rather than by woodworking novices. However, it is possible to purchase workbenches with these vices already fully installed.

To find out how to install a workbench vice, please check the manufacturer’s instructions, as each model may be different.

Characteristics

vice screw Workbench vices are simple in construction, as unlike other types, the jaws and handle of a face/tail vice are not included in their design. These parts are usually built and installed by the user.

For information on what parts are included in each vice, visit What are the different types of workbench vice?

  Wonkee Donkee says: 'The jaws of workbench vices are made out of wood, so there is no need for jaw pads.'
wooden vice handle Wooden or metal handles, however, can often be purchased ready-made for the vices.

For information on the advantages and disadvantages of both materials, visit Metal vs. wooden vice parts.

measuring As a workbench vice’s jaws are often self-built, their width and height can vary depending on the size of the workbench itself and the vice manufacturer. To see what size jaws are recommended, please check the manufacturer’s instructions.
face vice

Face vices

A face vice is positioned on the front edge of a workbench and works in conjunction with the bench’s edge to clamp objects for woodworking. This makes it the ideal vice to be used while carrying out operations such as planing and sawing, as it can hold longer workpieces as the back edge of the bench provides the support.

tail vice clamping wood with bench dog

Tail vices

A tail vice is positioned at the end of a workbench. It is more commonly used in combination with a bench dog, to clamp workpieces on top of the bench. However, it is versatile and can also clamp an object to the side of a workbench, if needed, by using the edge of the bench as a jaw.

For more information on a dog, visit What is a dog feature?

leg vice clamping tree trunk

Leg vices

A leg vice, as the name suggests, is positioned on the leg of a workbench. This vice can offer a great amount of clamping force due to its large surface area. Its height means it is ideal for holding large and heavy workpieces, for example, wooden doors, beams or tree trunks.