What are the different types of engineer’s vise?

This is honestly kind of hard question to answer, as vise names are largely colloquial. Neither people that use vises, nor companies that sell vises really adhere to strict naming conventions. But I will take a stab at it anyways, as enough people search for this question that it’s worth examining.

*Side note #1: If you DO know of any precise conventions, feel free to shoot me an email pointing me in their direction. As far as I can tell, a lot of terms are used interchangeably.

**Side note #2: Vises are sometimes spelled Vices with a C.

Other names for an engineer’s vise

An engineer’s vise goes by many other names. Name such as:

  • Mechanics Vise
  • Bench Vise
  • Workshop Vise
  • Table Vise – could technically be any vise that sits on a table
  • Machinist Vise*
  • Fitter Vise

*Machinists vise can be a bit different, as they are designed specifically for drilling,milling, and other machining operations.

Almost all of these variations are pretty similar in their build. They consist of a stationary jaw that doesn’t move, and a dynamic jaw which is moved via a lead screw. The lead screws are usually built using a hardened steel. The bodies of these vises are usually made of ductile cast iron, gray cast iron, or more rarely forged steel.

all of the above vises can come with a number of features and gizmos such as:

  • Quick release features
  • swivel base
  • swivel head
  • multi head vise
  • anvils
  • pipe jaws
  • and more. Manufacturers are always look for ways to make vises better

Regardless of the number of doo-dads and gizmos a vise may have, they are all used for a pretty similar purpose. Such as:

  • sawing
  • filing
  • fitting
  • chipping
  • sanding
  • grinding
  • cutting
  • marking
  • measuring
  • gluing
  • holding things still

So to summarize: The terms and names for variations in engineering vises are not standardized. Two vises can be called engineering vises despite having a number of different features. All share a common purpose of clamping stuff in place. If you are looking for more specific information on specific vise models, check out my article on the following vises.