What Is A Vise [Vice] Tool?

A vise [vice] is a mechanical tool that is used to hold an object firmly in place so that work may be done on the object. A vise may come in a number of varieties, usually specialized for some purpose such as wood working, machining, blacksmithing, and general shop work.

Almost every commercial workshop will have a vise of some kind, usually they will have more than one, with one being a large and sturdy vise that can stand up to industrial work loads.

But the vise is not just a tool for large industrial organizations, many DIY hobbyist will have a vise in the garage. They are incredibly versatile and handy tools.

The most common type of vise has a stationary jaw and a jaw that is moved along a horizontal axis by a lead screw – which is in turn turned by a handle. The moving jaw is cranked towards the stationary jaw until a force large enough to hold an object in place is made.

If you are looking to buy a vise, check out my guide to the best 3 vises for sale online, otherwise read on!

an image illustrating the stationary jaw of a vise
The stationary jaw on this yost 750-di doesn’t move.
an image illustrating the dynamic / mobile jaw in a vise
The dynamic jaw is moved by the rotation of the hidden lead screw. This is the dynamic jaw on the yost 750-DI Vise
an image showing the casing a of a vise lead screw
Most vises have a case surrounding the lead screw as this increases the longevity of the screw. You don’t want dirt,dust, grime, and debris from work getting into the screw. Some cheaper / simpler models have the screw uncovered. The Vise In The Photo

A vise frees up a hand for the operator, and does a much better job of holding objects stationary than a hand would.

Vises are often called bench vises, as they are often designed to be clamped or bolted to a table. Portable vises tend to have a clamp – which is really just an offshoot of the same concept used at the top end of the vise! Immovable (permanent) vises will usually be bolted to the table.

an image of a bolt hole
A bolt hole on a my stationary vise

Heavy vises tend to be sturdier and will usually last longer than light weight vises. All vises will wear out faster if you subject them to shock blows or if you crank the vise tighter than what it is designed for. You will commonly see people use a “cheater” bar to crank the vise tighter than what it was designed for. Cheater bars are just bars (usually some combination of a wrench and pipe) that slip on the outside of the vise handle making it longer. A longer bar means it’s easier to apply more force…

and image of a vise handle
I couldn’t find my cheater bar for this photo, so you will have to just settle for the handle. Longer handles = more leverage. shown vise

However I would recommend caution when it comes to cheater bars, they WILL wear out your vise quicker than if you don’t use one. They can also greatly increase the risk of your vise (or the item between the vise) shattering, potentially injuring you and your property. Almost all manufacturers recommend that you don’t use a cheater bar.

an image illustrating a set of pipe jaws on a vise
A set of jaws designed for holding pipes. Notice how the pipe jaws are now on top in this photo, I pulled a pin shown in a photo later in the article to rotate the jaws.Check It Out For Yourself
an image that illustrated the pin that allows my vise to rotate
This pin allows me to rotate my rotating multi-jaw vise. Not all vises rotate, and not all rotating vises use a pin – some use friction.

So there you have it. A vise is a simple but incredibly useful tool!