An inexpensive way to add vises to a bench?

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Forum topic by HarveyDunn posted 02-16-2014 07:02 PM 4074 views 1 time favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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328 posts in 1906 days

02-16-2014 07:02 PM

I’m a newbie, setting up workspace on a tight budget – not enough money, not enough space, not enough time!

I don’t have a workbench; I don’t have the skills or the equipment to build a complex one myself. I’m working small – mostly keepsake boxes; nothing larger than an end table in my foreseeable future.

I know most benches have both a face and a tail vise. Do any of you get by with just a tail vise alone?

I’ve recently found two very inexpensive vises. There is this one, called a “pony” light duty vise from Highland Woodworking:

It doesn’t have much travel (4.5”, and I guess by the time you’ve added your wooden jaw plate that is reduced even futher). But it is only $24! I was wondering if two of these side by side would be sufficient for holding boards while planing edges.

There is also this one from Woodworker’s Supply:

Its on sale right now for $90 with $5 flat rate shipping. It has 9.125” inches of travel – I was thinking that with the addition of a wooden jaw plate with a benchdog hole in it I could use this for a tail vise.

What am I going to attach them to? I don’t know. I thought perhaps I’d get a wood door or a dining room table from Habitat for Humanity, cut them down to the best size for my space with a circular saw, then make some legs of the right height out of 2×4s. Then drill some benchdog holes.

Alternative: buy a bench.

Home Depot has a Sjobergs 53” Pine bench with one vise for $190:

Pretty lightweight, obviously, but it could be sandbagged if necessary.

Woodcraft has something similar but in birch and with a second vise for $350:

And of course there is always the option of waiting for the next sale and getting the HF bench for around $120 or so, depending upon the coupon.

Right now they are $165. The one set up in my local store is a mess – cracked top, very wobbly. But that could be a result of the incompetence of the staff – a few weeks ago I saw a half ton arbor go crashing to the floor because it had been put on the wrong stand and left unsecured.

Or it could be because it is just a piece of junk.

Your thoughts/advice will be greatly appreciated.

16 replies so far

View Tim's profile


3812 posts in 2137 days

#1 posted 02-16-2014 07:11 PM

There are lots of plans out there for beginner benches that don’t take tons of skill and tools. You can do better than a door on saw horses with very little skill.

You probably want to stay away from cheap vises. They will be a waste of money. Either hunt for used good ones or consider Paul’s ideas:
He has different wedge powered vises, wagon and leg vises. Take skill to build, but cheap for sure.

View waho6o9's profile


8486 posts in 2752 days

#2 posted 02-16-2014 07:14 PM

+1 for Tim’s suggestion.

View HarveyDunn's profile


328 posts in 1906 days

#3 posted 02-16-2014 07:27 PM

I don’t yet have the capacity to shape and glue up those pieces.

View CharlesA's profile


3342 posts in 1973 days

#4 posted 02-16-2014 07:36 PM

You’ve gotten some good advise. I found this front vise from Woodcraft. Regular price is $69, but I got it on sale for less. They have a large vise as well FOR $99. I used it for a tail vise. There are a number of benchtops for sale out there for a pretty good deal. I made my bench out of Southern Yellow Pine per Christopher Schwarz—fairly inexpensive and a great learning experience. You should also check Craigslist.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View Tedstor's profile


1678 posts in 2808 days

#5 posted 02-16-2014 07:44 PM

I’d avoid the tiny Pony vise as a primary vise. I have a similar sized/type vise mounted to a saw bench. It works ok for the lightest of duties…..but just OK. No way would I want to use it regularly for edge planing. Mounting two of these side-by-side ‘might’ get the job done, but it’d be cumbersome.

I recently got one of these Wilton Corner vises (see link). Its got a fairly robust 1” acme screw, a 7” jaw, and can hold stock vertically or horizontally. And these things were built to last. Probably the last vise you’ll ever need. And only $10 more than you’d pay for the ponies.

And to add: An old, wooden dresser/buffet with a solid core door on top makes a very good workbench. Your local restore might have both for peanuts. ( ijust re-read your OP and see you already knew this- sorry).

View CharlesA's profile


3342 posts in 1973 days

#6 posted 02-16-2014 07:56 PM

Two more thoughts. If you have a Habitat Re-Store near you, its worth a visit to see if they have something that would serve as a workbench.

also, I agree on not getting the Pony, but do remember that woodworking vise has at least two major functions: to clamp something in the jaws and to hold fast large pieces with bench dogs, etc. I’ve found the latter to be as big a help as the former. That’s why I went with the two Woodcraft vises in my post above (although there are lots of options out there). By installing them with stout wooden vise faces (mine are two pieces of SYP with some Ash sandwiched between) and drilling them for bench dogs I can control my work much more easily. OTOH, I did a lot of good work with a vise similar to the Pony until I could go this route.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View Dez's profile


1166 posts in 4253 days

#7 posted 02-16-2014 08:31 PM

Have you looked at this Lumberjock’s solution?

I rather like the simplicity and the cost is quite reasonable. You could add the vices to your “found” bench if you don’t want to build the whole bench!
I plan on using his design one way or another when I replace my current bench.

-- Folly ever comes cloaked in opportunity!

View 12strings's profile


434 posts in 2560 days

#8 posted 02-16-2014 08:59 PM

If you already have 2 pipe clamps and a 2×4, you’re set!

Added to an existing 2×4 bench:

or, incorporated into a new build:

I would agree that if you wen to to HD and bought a sheet of plywood and some 2×4’s you could make something sturdier than those cheap benches, especially the HF one… Although I suppose you could buy it with the intent of imediately bracing it up with more wood so it doesn’t wobble…but no, it wasn’t their assembly…It just wobbles…period. Until you start attaching more wood to brace it.

-- I'm strictly hand-tool only...unless the power tool is faster and easier!

View OasisArt's profile


6 posts in 1739 days

#9 posted 02-17-2014 04:51 AM

I bought the HF bench a couple of years ago, don’t remember why now, anyway wasn’t much good so I built one that has worked well for me. Nothing fancy just plywood and 2×4’s and I’m adding some vice’s from lowes for under 20.00 for now. Am planning to build a much better one when I get settled in the new home and some other projects completed.

Doesn’t have to look great, or be prefect to be functional. BTW I did put rollers on mine as I needed to move it around a lot due to my wife insisting on parking her car in my shop.

-- Sawdust making artesian

View basswood's profile


261 posts in 1796 days

#10 posted 02-17-2014 05:08 AM

This is how I made my own bench vises. I doubt you could find a less expensive method:


View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15649 posts in 2794 days

#11 posted 02-17-2014 05:14 AM

Leg vise. Pls consider one. Versitile, cheap, hold is incredible.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Dakkar's profile


345 posts in 2103 days

#12 posted 02-17-2014 05:20 AM

I picked up an earlier version of that Harbor Freight bench some years ago and, while it works fine for the limited use I have for it now, it wouldn’t have right out of the box. Mine had two vises and one was so badly out of alignment I had to re-drill the holes and install a piece of pipe to make it work, but it’s OK now. The overall structure of the bench was unusably wobbly, but I just used a couple of 3/4” plywood panels as end braces and it sturdied up just fine.

In my experience the tradeoff for low prices at HF is to be prepared to either return the item or fix it yourself.

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5623 posts in 3888 days

#13 posted 02-17-2014 05:27 AM

Paul Sellers has a good series on making a bench with rudimentary skills and tools.

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2545 days

#14 posted 02-17-2014 02:09 PM

I saw Basswood’s vise plans when he posted them, and they’ve gone on my to-do list, near the top. I don’t have a woodworking vise, just a machinist’s vise I put wooden jaws on. My current bench/cabinet setup won’t let me put on a true vise without losing 1 or two drawers of storage. I have a bunch of those clamps and I think I could hack something together.

So yeah, plus 1 to Basswood’s awesome idea.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View JayT's profile


5927 posts in 2386 days

#15 posted 02-17-2014 02:48 PM

The vises on my bench were picked up second hand and took a little refurbishing, but it was straight forward.

I found one at a flea market and picked up the other off ebay for cheap. Total initial outlay for both was about $70. With the number of schools closing down woodworking programs, these type of vises can show up very cheap in large batched once in a while.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

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