How to use an engineer’s vise

It’s pretty easy to use an engineer’s vise (sometimes spelled vice). I’ll go through how to use in the paragraphs below:

Mounting your vise

The first step to using your vise is to mount it. I usually recommend mounting your vise on the corner of your table, as this gives you more room to work. If you mount it in the middle of the table, you run a much larger risk of:

  • not being able to to fit your work piece into the vise as it will run into the table.
  • not being able to work ergonomically as the table will be in your way.
  • not being able to effectively rotate your vise if it has a swivel base.

You can mount your vise in the middle of the able, it’s just clunky and inconvenient to do so. Make sure you don’t put your vise too far back on the table if it is a tall vise with a rotating head.

Most right handers will mount their vise on the left hand corner, with left handed people mounting their vise on the right handed corner. Most vise instruction manual will also recommend this. I have tried to figure out why, but the only reason I could come up with is that for planing and chiseling operations it’s easier to move your tools towards the vise rather than away.

Do whichever side feels most comfortable to you, but I do strongly recommend you pick a corner for your first vise.

Open Vise Jaws

This parts easy: just rotate the vise handle counter-clockwise to open the jaws. Open the jaws until they are wide enough to hold your work piece.

Place Vise Jaw Covers (If Needed)

If you are working with softer materials like aluminum, brass, or wood, place a vise jaw cover on your vise to prevent the clamping pressure from marring or scratching your work material. These are relatively cheap, and easy to take on and off. They are worth it.

Clamp Your Vise Jaws

Place your work piece within your vise jaws and then rotate your vise handle clockwise to close the vise. Make sure your vise is clamped hard enough to hold the piece without it moving, but don’t overdo it. Clamping with excessive pressure increases wear and tear on your vise, and runs the risk of scratching your work piece.

Make sure to support long boards or rods with an adjustable stand or table at the far end of the work piece. This takes strain off your vise increasing it’s longevity. It also provides support to the work piece.

And that’s it! Enjoy your new vise : ). If you don’t have one yet, make sure to check out my vise buyer’s guide.