What Makes a Good Vice

Some of the best advice I followed when I decided to get into fine woodworking was that you should buy the best tool possible, when you need it.  The opposite of this would be to try and set up a full shop by going and buying as many cheap tools as possible so you feel like you have what you need all around you from the beginning.  If you are serious and really want to work on things, be it wood, metal, or boats, having lots of cheap tools is going to frustrate you and make good work very difficult to achieve.  Having a few quality tools forces you to become skilled at those tools and get as much out of them as you can.  When you grow your skill and need to buy a new tool for a specific application that cannot be solved with what you have, you know you are spending on something that you need and can integrate this into your arsenal.  Eventually you are surrounded by high quality tools that help get things done, that you are skilled at using, and that you actually need.

We just received our new vice.

forged steel vice

forged steel vice

I had to order it because the one in the shop got to be unusable and finally wore out.  A vice should be a lifetime tool, not a 4yr tool.  The problem was that it was purchased in order to fill out the shop and because it cost about $70.  This is fine at first, but we use this tool to bend metal, to hit metal with an eight pound sledge, and to hold metal for cutting.  The cheap vice is only for holding, not bending or hitting.

cast steel vice

cast steel vice

A good vice is made of forged steel and will cost more than a cast steel vice.  The cast steel is not as strong and is softer so can break or wear quickly.

turning the lever arm wore out the soft metal

turning the lever arm wore out the soft metal

A vice should be able to take some abuse and you never know when you will need to hit or bend metal on it.  This new vice is forged steel, has no play in the jaw movement, and is pretty much indestructible.  It will last longer than my lifetime.  That is what you want in a tool.


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