While my basement shop continues to grow (much to the chagrin of my wife, who thinks this whole “woodworking thing” is just a phase I’m going through), it is still a pretty tight space. I’m thus always on the look-out for devices that lend themselves to portability and, preferably, affordability.
In that vein, I recently picked up a small 6” portable “carpenter’s vise” at Harbor Freight. Now, I know many of you more seasoned woodworkers may thumb your nose at ol’ HF, but for cheapos like me, a pilgrimage at least monthly to the Central Machinery Mecca is a necessity.
In any event, this little vise isn’t bad for under 20 bucks, but just like lumber, measurements ain’t always what they seem: the jaw-opening of this “6-inch” vise is more like 5 ¼,” and once mounted on a bench, your effective jaw width before it gets wobbly is really closer to 4 ½”. I was worried that if I added thicker wood cheeks to the jaws, I would easily lose another good inch, leaving little useful room for the vise. I was afraid that thinner stock, though, might split if I tried screwing it in, especially since the screws would have to be countersunk. I also wanted to leave open the possibility of using the vise without the cheeks, which was yet another reason to avoid more permanent fixes.
I happened to have some rare earth magnets sticking around (I love magnet puns), and decided to see if embedding one or two on the back of the wood might help them stay attached to the vise. Lo and behold, it worked. Here I’ve used some scrap aspen pieces, cut a small hole in the back and glued in the magnets.
I used only one per piece and they hold very well but are easily removed. The wood doesn’t slide around at all with the pressure on the work piece and I can take them off as I please. I didn’t even bother to trim these. They’re askew in the photo, but the line up pretty well once I move them a bit.
It’s a great solution when working on smaller pieces where a larger vise isn’t very practical. I’m sure I’m not the first to figure this out, but since everything is new to me, I’ll take the credit for it anyway.
-- Cut first and ask questions later.