Wood choice for vise?

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Forum topic by Rob posted 01-15-2009 03:21 AM 1314 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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216 posts in 3690 days

01-15-2009 03:21 AM

I’ve started work on a new bench and I have a question regarding the wood for the vise. The instructions call for a close grain hardwood like maple or birch. I was just looking through a price list of my local supplier and I see that I could get either red or gray elm, beech or ash for much less than maple or birch. Would these woods also be a suitable choice for a vise?

Also, I made my base out of constuction lumber. I believe it is spruce. I was thinking of using this for the top as well, but thought I should run it by the jocks in case there are some serious objections.



6 replies so far

View tooldad's profile


660 posts in 3738 days

#1 posted 01-15-2009 03:27 AM

Lots of people use some form of pine for the top, it is the economical version. Naturally it will be softer and show a ding or two, or 3 hundred. It’s all how you use it and care for it. The bench tops at school are maple and without having to explain too much, a bunch of teens can be the crap out of them. I have used oak, maple, whatever I had laying around that wasn’t pine to reline vises. Maple or birch would be the longest lasting, but really a vise cover isn’t that much material and can be replaced as needed for minimal $.

View Quixote's profile


206 posts in 3661 days

#2 posted 01-15-2009 03:31 AM

I’m in with tooldad here.

Better to put a dent in your workbench instead of your project.

Seems a softer material for your vice that you replace every so often isn’t such a bad idea.


-- I don't make sawdust...I produce vast quantities of "Micro Mulch."

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 3822 days

#3 posted 01-15-2009 03:57 AM

this does make sense.. but I have never damaged anything with a harder wood and I have yet to replace it.

I prefer to make projects than constantly have to tweak my shop.

-- making sawdust....

View Mike Lingenfelter's profile

Mike Lingenfelter

503 posts in 4137 days

#4 posted 01-15-2009 05:48 AM

I really don’t know why it would have be a closed grain wood. I used Oak for my vise and Oak is an open grain wood. It is working out just fine. You want something that isn’t going to “flex” or “bend” much. Ash would be an excellent choice. I used Douglas Fir for my bench, and it is working out fine too. It has a few dents in it, but nothing that will cause any issues.

View Rob 's profile


216 posts in 3690 days

#5 posted 01-15-2009 11:02 AM

I think the idea behind the close-grained wood is for stability. I hear they are less likely to warp and good for jigs, etc. Thanks for the link to your blog, I’ll check that out.

I checked out pine at my supplier and for the 36bft I need it will cost $80! Actually, probably more because 36 is my finished dimensions. Man, that’s a lot; I think it’s because they are a “specialty wood supplier”. I think I’ll check out the sawmill and maybe buy from there then get someone to dress it. Or I’ll just glue up some 2×4’s slap it on the base and dress it myself (I’m just concerned about all the knots in 2x lumber. Do you think 2×4’s are a bad idea??? It’s too bad wood is so expensive! Why can’t trees grow on trees?


View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4024 posts in 4087 days

#6 posted 01-15-2009 04:33 PM

I made my bench before I had a hardwood supplier or much woodworker sense. I think I’d make a torsion box top with baltic birch sheet goods and a replaceable Masonite top, if I decided to upgrade. Or maybe a John White/FWW “new-fangled workbench”. Google that here if you wish – I’m sure that several jocks have documented their workbench journey. Looks like your leg set will provide plenty of mass.

I devolve to the other comments regarding you jaw faces.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

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