Two things usually differentiate excellent woodwork from mediocre work: precision and attention to detail. To achieve precision with any woodwork, the marking, cutting, and joining of the different pieces must be perfect. These are only possible when the wood being worked on can be held securely to the work table.
Vises and clamps are used to hold wood on a table. They are grouped under the class of woodworking tools known as “holding tools.” There are many variations of these holding tools, and each one is designed for a specific type of wood holding task.
In this article, we will explore this sub-category of woodworking tools to understand the different types and their specific applications. We will also look at some safety best practices to ensure you don’t get hurt while working with these tools.
Types and Uses of Wood Holding Tools
It is pretty common to see words like “clamps” and “vises” being inter-used quite frequently. While they are both holding tools, they actually have some key differences. Let’s first look at these two and the differences between them before we begin to look at the different types available.
One of the main differentiating characteristics of the vise is that it is usually bench mounted. Another critical feature to note is that one of its two jaws is often fixed, allowing the second jaw to move along some kind of guide, providing it with adjustability.
Clamps are often portable or handheld holding tools. Because of its ease of use, this class of holding tools is often used for holding pieces of wood together. They can also be used to hold wood to a workbench. However, since they may not provide enough grip, their use in this regard is usually limited to applications that do not require high pressure.
Let’s now look at some popular types of both vises and clamps.
Types of Vises
The table below outlines some of the most common types of vises and their benefits and drawbacks.
|Face Vise||These are installed at the top end of the table, along the lengthwise edge, usually on the left side. Left-handed folks can, however, have theirs installed on the right side of the workbench.||They are great for holding wood pieces of all sizes to the workbench for planing, sawing, and more.||Installation can be tricky, requiring expertise and care.|
|Tail (End) Vise||Unlike the face vise, this is installed on the other end of the table along the width.||It facilitates the use of the entire length of the table as one big clamp.||It also requires great care with its installation and may present a bit of a learning curve.|
|Leg Vise||As the name implies, this is installed down the leg of the workbench. It’s an old vise that is not very much in use today.||It’s strong but also easy to build.||It’s a bit old-fashioned.|
|The Engineer’s Vise||Unlike other types of vises, these are mounted on top of the workbench. Aside from holding wood pieces on the table, they are sometimes used as hammering blocks.||It can be used for a variety of tasks, including metal work.||They can be pretty heavy.|
Types of Clamps
The table below outlines common types of clamps and the ways in which they differ.
|C-Clamps||These can be used to hold wood to the workbench.||They can exert a lot of force.||They can dent the wood surface and can be clunky to use.|
|Handscrew Clamps||Can be used to hold tapered wood pieces and usually offer a longer throat depth for holding longer pieces.||They can exert a lot of force, and the wooden jaws are less likely to mar wood surfaces.||They are regarded as old-fashioned and can be bulky, especially when a more extended throat depth is required.|
|Spring Clamps||They are ideal for jobs that require several light clampings.||They are mostly inexpensive and easy to use.||They don’t exert a lot of pressure.|
|F-Clamps||They are versatile and offer a wide range of applications.||They are really strong, versatile, and inexpensive. They can also exert much force.||Longer variations can bow when too much pressure is exerted on them.|
|Pistol Grip Clamps||These are a variation of F-clamps that use a trigger release instead of screws. They are best suited for glue-up jobs.||You can easily use this clamp with one hand. They are also relatively affordable.||These do not exert as much force as the F-clamp. The trigger for some can break if you try to exert too much force.|
|Pipe Clamps||Because of their strength and availability in different lengths, they are great for gluing panels that need to be laid out on your workbench.||They are really strong and can be purchased at almost any length.||They are usually quite heavy.|
|Parallel Clamps||They offer jaws that stay parallel to each other even as you tighten them. They also offer a deeper throat depth that makes using them for product assembly easier.||They are strong and offer convenience of use.||They can be heavy and expensive.|
|Miter (corner) Clamps||These are used to hold two pieces of wood at precisely 90 degrees.||They make joining pieces of wood at 90 degrees easy.||They are pretty restrictive in their application.|
Safety Tips for Working With Woodwork Holding Tools
The following are some safety tips you may want to adopt while using these tools. They will help ensure that you get the most out of them while also helping you stay safe while you use them.
- Always use high-quality tools.
- Always ensure that the tools are well-fastened to the workbench before you begin to work with them.
- Tighten the screws just enough to hold the piece of wood you are working with securely. Overdoing this can deface the wood or damage the tool.
- Always keep the thread oiled to ensure that you can easily tighten and loosen the screw.
- When loosening the screw, stay within the range limit.
- A professional should look at any damage to your tool to avoid any accidents in your workshop.
- Finally, always cover your eyes with protective goggles to protect against any flying particles.
We’ve looked at the different tools that you can use to hold wood directly to your workbench or to hold two pieces of wood together on your workbench as you work on them. While you may not need all of these tools, knowing about them can be valuable.
The exact types of wood holding tools you need will depend on the kind of woodworking you do. Once you know the exact woodwork you will be doing, especially as a DIYer, choosing the right holding tool for your needs will be much easier.