Compared to an engineer’s vise, a table vise (sometimes spelled vice) tends to be smaller. but how much smaller? It can vary quite a lot! I will try and go over the different table vise sizes in this article.
Table vises are small tools, they must be in order to be portable. It’s not good having to lug around a 50lb vise. As such, most table vises weight between 2lb and 8lb. That’s roughly 1kg to 4kg in the metric system.
In contrast, most metal working vises are between 20lb and 50lb (9kg to 23kg), with some going up to 200lbs!
The jaw width is a measure of how wide the jaws are along the horizontal axis. It measured by taking the length between the top of one side of the jaw, to the otherside of the same jaw.
Again, table vises come in smaller sizes than other vise varieties, with sizes ranging between 1.5″ and 3″ (roughly 40mm to 75mm).
The jaw opening measurement measures how wide a pair of jaws can be opened.
The smallest table vises will have jaw opening of around 1″, with larger vises having 4″. That’s roughly 30mm to 100m in the metric system.
The throat depth measures how much space is between the top of the jaw pad and the top of the screw/slide. It is a good measure to see how big of a work pieces you can fit in between the jaw pads. Most table vises come within 1 inch of 1 inch (roughly 30mm).
This measures how big the c clamp screw is, and determines what surfaces you can attach your table vise to.
The clamp opening can vary from 1″ to 3″ (roughly 20-30mm).
How To Choose A Table Vise
Without knowing your intended purpose, it’s hard for me to give a specific and helpful answer to this question. But I will try anyways.
The number one mistake I see new vise owners make is they don’t pay enough attention to throat depth when buying a vise. Vise sellers love to promote the jaw width of a vise (which is important), but they tend to undersell the throat depth for whatever reason and bury it in the middle of their sales copy. Throat depth can be a huge limiter in what size of work pieces you can clamp in your vise, make sure to pay close attention to it.
Another mistake I see is people make is that they over-optimize on price and buy a vise just big enough for their intended purpose. What ends up happening is they eventually go on to buy 5 vises over time, as they always bought the smallest vise possible and kept having to buy bigger vises as their needs grew.
It’s generally a good idea to buy a vise 1.5x bigger than your current intended use. It’s much easier to put a small work piece in a bigger vise than it is to put a big work piece in a small vise.
But I understand no one has unlimited funds, and smaller vises are generally cheaper.
Another thing to consider is whether you should buy a table vise at all. If you don’t need the portability that the c clamp of a table vise provides, you may be better off just buying a bigger stationary engineers vise or metalworking vise. I have a guide where I go into details into what you should look for when purchasing one of the larger vises.