Tool: Pipe Vise
Manufacturer: Lee Valley
A tail vise is an essential part of a first-class workbench. It’s used to hold work on top of the bench, between dogs. Most types of tail vises are quite complicated to build, but the folks at Lee Valley have figured out a way to make a simple one from an ordinary pipe clamp.
I remember trying to do this years ago, but my design never worked. First, the stock handle on my pipe clamp was too long, so it stuck up above the top of the bench. Second, the clamp was very awkward to adjust in and out. And third, my mounting block was, well, inadequate.
Lee Valley has solved all of these problems. The handle on their clamp has a low profile, there’s a quick release mechanism that’s very easy to operate, and the mounting block is quite robust. You’ll have to supply the pipe, a wooden jaw and a bench dog.
I’m not so keen about using this device as a substitute for a metal-jawed face vise, however. Lacking guide bars, the pipe clamp vise racks too much, both up and down and side to side. It will rotate, too. This may sound bad, but it’s not a deal-breaker for a tail vise. Up and down racking and rotation aren’t a problem as long as you don’t use the vise for support; side to side racking isn’t an issue because a round bench dog can rotate to compensate for this movement.
As you’d expect from Lee Valley, this is a well-made tool. It’s a good value if you’re trying to quickly get set up on a small budget.