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What is the difference between a woodworking
vice and a metalworking vice?

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Donkee DIY guide Woodworking vices and metalworking vices are designed with different structures and for different purposes.

For information on these vices separately, visit What is a metalworking vice? and  What is a woodworking vice?

Material

wood and metal The most significant difference between the two vices is the type of material they are designed to hold. Obviously, metalworking vices are primarily manufactured to clamp metal and woodworking vices are designed to clamp wood.

Along with this, there are also a few other differences between the two types of vice.

Mounting

woodworking vice Most woodworking vices are designed to be permanently bolted onto a workbench, similarly to a metalworking vice.

However, a woodworking vice differs from a metalworking vice as it is usually attached underneath the workbench, instead of on top, with the upper edge of the jaws level with the surface of the workbench.

woodworking vice Woodworking vices are attached in this way in order to hold workpieces in a low position, to make applications such as sawing or planing easier for the user.

This is due to the vice being level with the surface of the bench, which is usually positioned at the optimum working height for its user. This then means the user is not stooping when working on an object. Having the vice in this position also keeps the surface of the workbench clear for the user to complete other tasks.

sawing wood Also, having the vice in a lower position often means that when completing applications such as sawing, the user can apply more pressure when working on tougher wood.

Jaws

woodworking vice with large jaws A major difference between a metalworking vice and a woodworking vice is the size of their jaws. The jaws of woodworking vices are broader which avoids cracking the wood as the clamping load is distributed over a large section of the workpiece.

Metalworking vices have narrower jaws, often with serrated surfaces, that could damage softer wood when clamped.

woodworking flat jaws Woodworking vice jaws differ from metalworking vice jaws as they do not have any serrations on them. Instead, they have flat surfaces in order to avoid making any damage or indentations to wood when clamping it. This is the key reason why a woodworking vice is specially designed for use on wood.

The smooth surfaces of these jaws also means the vice would not be able to have a firm grip on metal and so should not be used for clamping metal objects.

Screw

planks of wood As well as this, the main threaded screws in woodworking vices are often more coarse than metalworking ones, meaning that the thread form is larger.

This helps to prevent damage to the surface of the wood as there is less pressure exerted onto the workpiece. This is because a coarse thread means the jaws are not tightened as much when the screw is rotated.

Construction

guide bars labelled A final major difference between woodworking vices and metalworking vices is their construction. Woodworking vices have guide bars which work to support the screw and prevent it from being damaged by the weight of the sliding jaw.
slide labelled Metalworking vices, on the other hand, do not have guide bars. Instead, due to the difference in their design and structure, they have a slide which works in a similar way by supporting the screw.

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