What is a metalworking vise?

A metalworking vise is a tool design to clamp metal objects and keep them still so that you may work on them. Metalworking vises are made with sturdier materials and harder materials that will not wear out as quickly when you use them to work metal.

These vises are useful for a number of tasks such as:

  • Filing
  • Shearing
  • Grinding
  • Cutting
  • Drilling
  • Machining (machinist vise)

A metal working vise allows a craftsman to keep an object still without having to use his hands.

Metalworking vises are made to be sturdy. They are heavy, often made of cast iron or ductile iron. For more information on these materials and how the affect your vise, check out my guide what are vises made of? Most models of metalworking vises have bolt holes, which allows them to be bolted into a sturdy structure like a workbench or table. This gives them stability on par with the table they are placed on.

There are some exceptions, such as the table vise, which is a vise that clamps to a table using a c clamp on the underside of the vise. This makes the vise portable, but makes it less sturdy. These clamp vises work well on flat surfaces, but do not work as well on uneven or irregular surfaces. For a more detailed explanation, check out my article on portable vs permanent vises.

The jaws of metalworking vises are made of hardened steel with a serrated surface. As a general rule, hard scuffs soft. So the hardened jaws allow the vise to work with hard metallic stock without being subjected to a lot of wear and tear. The serrated or ridged surface allows the vise to have better grip on metallic substances – which can often be slick. The downside is that these hard vise jaws may scuff soft materials such as wood. I give more info on this in my article on vise jaw coverings.

Metalworking vises may have many different bell’s and whistles. These features can include a swivel base, which allows you to rotate the vise in a circle. Multi paradigm jaws, which for example, may have a pipe jaw on one end of the vise, and a normal vise jaw on the other. Some vises have a quick release mechanism, which allows you to open and close the jaw very quickly without having to turn the lead screw every time. Some vises, particularly machining vises, will have a tilt features that allows you to tilt the vise jaws at an angle. This tilt feature is great for drilling, as you will often have to drill holes at different angles.

Metalworking vises are great tools, and almost every workshop will have one. You will use your vise constantly, so it’s worthwhile picking out a great vise that will last a long time.