A multi-purpose vise (sometimes spelled vice), is a vise with additional functionality over a traditional vise. The most common multi-purpose vise is a vise that has both a set of parallel block jaws, and pipe jaws. The most popular models of multi-purpose vises will also have a swivel base.
These vises are also referred to as utility vises or combination vises.
What Is It Used For?
The same thing as all vises, clamping stuff tightly in place. More broadly, they are useful for holding stuff still while:
- holding steel rods and bars
- holding pipes
- holding lumber
The set of pipe jaws are very handy when working with pipe (duh). Holding pipe with traditional vise jaws is tricky, particularly for weaker materials like pvc. With a traditional vise jaw, you have to squeeze the pipe very tightly to get it to stay put, this will often distort the pipe’s geometry, throwing off any measurements you may have made.
A vise with a set of pipe jaws allows you to avoid these problems.
Multi purpose vises are best used for medium duty rather than heavy duty work. This is because the additional features that a multi purpose vise has over a traditional bench vise adds points of failure to the vise. This is especially true for swivel vises, as the inner base plate that allows the vise to turn is susceptible to shock damage.
If you plan on doing forging work, you are better off getting a leg vise or a post vise. If you don’t plan on doing work with a lot of shock blows, but will be working with heavy stock, you may still be better off with a heavier traditional vise.
But these are extreme cases. The top line multi-purpose vises are built fairly well.
For 95%+ of the work being done by your average DIY’er, a multi-purpose vise is the way to go.
I have one of my own, and I would recommend it to a friend. I review multi purpose vises in this article on the yost-750di, and this article on the top 3 bench vises.