how do you build a front vise for your bench with basic hardware?

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Forum topic by parttimer posted 10-03-2011 06:52 PM 12939 views 1 time favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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10 posts in 2721 days

10-03-2011 06:52 PM

it seems like it should be easy enough to use basic hardware from a big box store to build a vise on the front of your bench. Have any of you done it? If so, how did you do it and what hardware did you use? I’m thinking about getting an old handwheel off ebay for a few bucks, a long threaded rod, and some nuts, and then trying to figure it out from there. any input is appreciated. thanks.

6 replies so far

View helluvawreck's profile


31417 posts in 2895 days

#1 posted 10-03-2011 07:14 PM

I’m not sure how good it would be with basic hardware. However, if you used a couple of pieces of 1 in steel shafts, some bushings to fit the shaft, and an acme screw and acme nut you could build a pretty good vise if you were careful. If you had access to a machine shop you could easily do it. You can get all you need at McMaster Carr.#

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3026 days

#2 posted 10-03-2011 07:58 PM

As an intellectual exercise that is fine. You are definitely not going to save money. It will cost you much more to make than to buy. If you are going the wooden screw route, for a proper screw thread type, it will be a pretty big project for a large bench screw. Thread boxes and taps are not cheap when you get up to large ones. Unless you are going to make more, it will cost more than just buying a vise.

The biggest problem is to prevent racking. (The jaws twisting out of parallel and pinching.)

The 30 degree angle on standard threads (Each side is 30 degrees giving 60 degrees included angle) is not going to give nearly the holding power of acme or other similar threads. They will also be an exercise in patience as the threads will be much finer than a vise and you will be turning forever to open and close it. They will also be more prone to over tightening as you don’t have as much feedback. I picked up a piece of Acme rod (1/2-10) for about $25 for a 6ft piece and the nuts were another $7 for two. You can get a pre-made one for around $30. Not much savings to be had.

I have seen some versions where people have used pipe clamps that go through the vise chops and use that camping for the vise.

(Image snagged from Popular Woodworking: )

The down side to this is that the locking washers on the other end to adjust are not easily accessible.

If it were me and I didn’t want a standard vise, I would go with other holding mechanisms. I really like holdfasts. There are some wedging types you could arrange as well.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View jeth's profile


262 posts in 2866 days

#3 posted 10-03-2011 08:04 PM

You can indeed get everything you need, but it will probably cost close to what a decent front vise does, not to mention the time to come up with a design, fabricate and tweak. You’re looking at close to 50 bucks for the acme screw and nut. Standard threaded rod as sold at the Big Box has a relatively fine thread thats not much up to the load bearing a viise requires.

Probably the best option, if you can find one, is one of the bench screws which come complete with nut, garter etc, cuts a big chunk off your engineering time and costs about the same as the plain rod and nut.

Be nice to see whatever you come up with.

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2722 days

#4 posted 10-03-2011 08:10 PM

There’s a LJ here that makes wooden screws for around $100 or so. They are really, really nice. I think the thread will be the limiting factor in a home brew. Acme threads are quite expensive.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 2999 days

#5 posted 10-03-2011 08:42 PM

I have a Groz quick release 9” face vise and really like it. Got it at Woodcraft. about a year ago for ~$117. It doesn’t rack or bind at all, and is solid. Does not have a dog or pin to lift up and clamp long items on top of the bench, however. I just added a maple face for the metal jaw and put dog holes in it. Works fine.

This vise is on clearance right now a Woodcraft for $57.00

I don’t think there is a better value out there anywhere. I just ordered me a second one to use as an end vise. The acme thread rod and nut would cost more than this whole vise.

View tr33surg3on's profile


21 posts in 2453 days

#6 posted 10-12-2011 10:46 PM

There are some DIY leg vise projects out there that look interesting and successful, but they all use a store bought bench screw. Lake Erie Toolworks has a workbench of the month blog that has many of these. Scott Landis’ “The Workbench Book” has a chapter on shop built vises, though again based around a store bought screw. If you’re dead set on making your own, the Woodwright’s shop had an episode on making screw boxes and taps for big wood screws (2” I think is the standard). Be prepared to forge your own cutter. I bought my very light-duty vises for $12 each used at a local swap shop.

-- Tim -- Tools to make tools to's tools all the way down.

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