A vise is one of the must-have tools for a workshop. Whatever project you will be working on at some point you will need a secure way to hold workpieces in place. Using a metal vise is not always beneficial. They are heavy and difficult to transfer, and for more delicate woodworking projects, you’d better use a wooden vise with wooden jaws.
Making your own wooden vise can be a fun and rewarding DIY project, and it is also an excellent way to save money compared to buying a shop vise. The process involves making a stand, the jaws, a screw mechanism, and the handle. All the materials are inexpensive and easily available, and with a little bit of woodworking experience, you can make a nice addon to your workshop.
In this article, I will be showing step-by-step how to make a benchtop wood vise that can be easily mounted to a workbench and used when needed.
There are several benefits to having a wooden vise in your shop. First, a wooden vise is much cheaper than a metal vise, making it easier on your wallet. A wooden vise is less likely to damage your workpieces and has a lower risk of leaving marks and scratches on the surface since the jaws are made of wood, and generally it has a softer grip in comparison to a metal vise. A wooden vise is a great choice for more delicate woodworking projects.
It takes some time to build a high-quality wooden vise, but the time spent is well worth it. If you are looking for a larger wooden vise, then you should consider making a Moxon vise.
Read on to find out how to build a wooden vise for your workbench, how to assemble it, and how to use it.
DIY Wood Vise Video
If you want to build a wooden woodworking bench vise watch the video below for a step-by-step guide on how to do it.
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Table of Contents
- The Material you will need
- How to Make a Wood Vise for Your Workbench
- Step 1: Build the Wood Vise Stand
- Step 2: Build the Wood Vise Jaws
- Step 3: Install the Wood Vise Screw
- Step 4: Make the Wood Vise Handle
- Wood Vise Improvements
- How to Set up and Use a Wooden Vise for Woodworking
- Woodworking Jigs used for the project
*Safety is your responsibility. Make sure you know what you’re doing and take all necessary safety precautions while working with power tools. Safety comes first!
Always be cautious and careful when using any power tool.
What you'll need to make a Benchtop Wooden Vise
Wood Vise Stand
Plywood 1x – 20cm x 16cm x 1,2cm
Plywood 2x – 18cm x 1,5cm x 1,2cm
Plywood 1x – 18cm x 8cm x 1,2cm
Plywood 3x – 3,5cm x 5cm x 1,2cm
Aluminum bar – 17cm x 3cm x 0,6cm
Plywood 1x – 22cm x 5cm x 1,2cm
Plywood 4x – 3,5cm x 5cm x 1,2cm
Plywood 4x – 3,5cm x 10cm x 1,2cm
Wood Vise Jaws
Plywood 2x – 10cm x 3cm x 0,9cm
Plywood 14x – 3cm x 2,2cm x 1,2cm
Plywood 4x – 3cm x 2,2cm x 0,9cm
Beechwood 2x – 11cm x 4cm x 1cm (removable)
Wood Vise Screw
Threaded rod 10mm, Nuts + Washers
Wood Vise Handle
Beechwood – 4cm x 4cm x 4cm
Steel Rod 8mm, 22cm
Beechwood 2x – 1,5cm x 1,5cm x 1,5cm
M4 Bolts + T-nuts, wood screws
Drill bit 6mm, Router bit 6mm, Countersink drill bit
Epoxy for metal, Wood Glue, Forsner bits
Japanese Ryoba saw
Proxxon Mini Table Saw
Dewalt Trim Router
Bosch Hand Drill
Makita Hand Drill
Dewalt Trim Router
Let's start building!
The wooden vise consists of 4 main parts – the vise stand, the jaws, the screw, and the handle.
The entire vise is mainly made of Baltic birch plywood. Baltic birch is great due to its high density, stability, and durability – a perfect choice for a wooden vise.
The overall dimensions of the vise are 29 x 16 x 13,5cm. The jaws are replaceable and can open up to 10cm. The vise is portable and you can easily attach it to a workbench with hold-down clamps.
Wood vise properties:
- Material: Baltic birch plywood, Aluminum bars, Steel rod
- Total dimensions: 29 x 16 x 13,5cm (11.4 x 6.3 x 5.3 inches)
- Jaw Width: 11cm (4.3 inches)
- Jaw Opening: up to 10cm (4 inches)
- Depth of the throat: 7,5cm (2.95 inches)
- Weight: 1,3kg (2.87 pounds)
- Replaceable jaws
Note, that this is not a woodworking project for complete beginners. It will take quite a bit of time to finish the vise. A weekend might not be sufficient to finish it. Nevertheless, it is worth it.
NOTE: The most important part of the build is to make sure the front jaw slides smoothly and securely in the vise. That means the screw mechanism needs to be in the lower part of the vise, close to the sliding part. Also, be careful when making the jaws. The jaws need to align and close perfectly parallel to each other. Pay attention to detail in the building process.
How to Make a Wood Vise for Your Workbench
Step 1: Build the Wood Vise Stand
Cut all the plywood pieces to size. I made all the cuts using a circular saw and the Proxxon mini table saw in combination with a straight-edge guide and a small crosscut sled. This method was quite tedious and honestly, quite demanding.
TIP: If you have a standard table saw and a crosscut sled, use it. You will save a lot of time on preparation. Preparation is one of the most important parts of making a wooden vise, you want to get the measurements right. If you don’t have one, that’s okay, it’s still possible.
1. Make the sliding mechanism
Cut a slot in the front jaw’s base (22cm x 5cm x 1,2cm). The slot dimensions equal the dimensions of the aluminum bar (17cm x 3cm x 0,6cm). Use a router dado jig to cut a perfect slot.
Glue the aluminum bar on the fixed part of the base with epoxy. Additionally, you can add a few screws. Make sure the bar is centered.
Add the 3 bottom plywood pieces of the back jaw on the piece with the aluminum bar, glue them together, and secure them with screws. It is important to do it in this step, as you won’t be having access to the piece once it is glued to the base.
2. Assemble the pieces of the base
Glue 2 plywood strips to the baseboard (18cm x 1,5cm x 1,2cm). The distance between the strips equals the width of the front jaw’s sliding part. Make sure the pieces are centered. Then, glue the piece with the aluminum bar on top of them – the aluminum bar faces downwards. Once the glue is dry, secure all the pieces with screws.
Together the pieces create a pocket into which the movable part of the front jaw will slide.
Step 2: Build the Wood Vise Jaws
1. Make the jaw stands
First, add 4 plywood bottom pieces onto the sliding part of the front jaw (that will level the height of both jaws stands). Then glue 2 additional pieces on top of the stands.
NOTE: I cut the top pieces at an angle using a Japanese Ryoba saw and used a drill disc sander to smooth the surfaces and the edges. This step is optional but gives a nice “vise look” to the vise 😉.
Then run a few screws though all the pieces.
2. Make the jaw holders
Cut two 4mm holes in the front plywood piece and then cut two 15mm holes with a Forstner bit to sink in two t-nuts. Make sure the t-nuts are flush with the surface. This setup will allow you to change the jaws as needed.
Glue the front piece with all the other small jaw pieces and wait until the glue fully dries. Smooth the edges with sandpaper or a sander.
3. Install the jaw holders
Glue the jaw holders on the stands. When attaching the holders make sure the jaws align and close perfectly parallel to each other. This is one of the most important steps of the whole process.
To make sure the jaws are positioned correctly, insert a wooden strip between the jaws and use clamps to tighten the jaws against each other, and press them to the stands. Add a few screws from the bottom.
NOTE: The jaw holders are aligned with the stands on the outside. That leaves space on the inside for the jaws.
4. Mount the jaws on the vise
Cut the jaws to size and mount them on the vise using 4mm screws. Use flat head screws and make sure they are flush with the surface. I am using beechwood for the jaws. Once the jaws wear out, you can simply replace them with other ones.
NOTE: for further work you can remove the jaws for now.
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Step 3: Install the Wood Vise Screw
Close the jaws and drill a 10,5mm hole through both the stands for the threaded rod. Cut the threaded rod to size and use epoxy for metal to attach a head at the end of the screw.
Before attaching the head drill in a hole for the screw and a hole for the handle.
TIP: I am using a drill press to attach the head to the threaded rod and to make sure the screw is perfectly perpendicular to the head.
Cut a hexagon for an M10 nut in the plywood counter piece and use epoxy to glue it in. Then glue the piece on the body of the vise. Make sure the bolt’s center is level with the holes for the spindle. This step is very important in order to make the vise slide and screw smoothly.
Screw the spindle in the nut. Mark the position for the “pulling” nut on the screw and attach it to the screw permanently with epoxy.
TIP: I used a nut and a washer to get a larger pulling surface and used painter’s tape to prevent the epoxy from staining the stand. Before fixing the nut to the screw make sure it doesn’t stand in the way and the vise jaws can touch easily. If not chisel a square in the back jaw stand until the jaws connect.
Step 4: Make the Wood Vise Handle
Cut the steel rod to size, sand the ends, and insert it into the spindle. Apply epoxy on the ends and cover them with caps.
Below is a picture of a finished wood vise for a workbench.
Possible improvements to the vise
- Stronger front jaw – The sliding (bottom) part of the front jaw can break if too much pressure is applied. A quick fix is to insert a pad between the front jaw and the back jaw to even the pressure.
A long-term solution is to either move the screw closer to the lower part of the front jaw or to make a vise with a stronger base. However, by strengthening the base, the vise will increase in size.
How to Set up and Use a Wooden Bench Vise for Woodworking
The steps provided below describe how to set up and use a wooden bench vise. For a better understanding of how to build it, and how to assemble it, refer to the included video.
How to use a wooden vise for woodworking:
- Install the vise on the workbench and secure it with clamps.
- Open the jaws of the vise by turning the handle clockwise.
- Place the workpiece between the jaws and tighten them adequately. Do not overtighten the vise to prevent damage to the jaws and the workpiece.
- Adjust the position of the workpiece as necessary during work.
Tips when using a wooden vise:
- A wooden vise is not as durable as a metal vise. Be careful not to overload the lower part of the front jaw when tightening the vise. That could lead to uneven pressure and breaking the jaw. In case of strong tightening, pad the bottom of the front jaw.
- Use protective pads to prevent damage to the jaws and the workpiece. Leather and rubber are suitable materials.
- Do not overtighten the vise. This can easily damage both the vise and the workpiece.
- Regularly lubricate the vise’s screw to ensure the vise moves smoothly.
NOTE: If you are planning to use the jig with water as lubricant you should consider coating the base with a water-resistant finish.
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