Chris Schwarz's Blog

2 More Ways to Improve your Vise’s Grip


We’re always looking for ways to improve the grip of the vises on our workbenches. During the last decade I’ve discussed how to use suede or adhesive-backed cork to improve a vise’s gripping power. Benchcrafted recommends “Crubber” (which I haven’t tried yet) and many woodworkers simply use adhesive-backed sandpaper.

Last year, Jennie Alexander sent me a piece of 3M Safety-Walk 370 adhesive-backed tread to try on my vises and handscrews. And I’m embarrassed to admit it that I am just now getting around to playing with it.

The 3M Safety-Walk 370 tape.

The 3M Safety-Walk 370 tape.

The 370 tape is beefy stuff – the surface is a coarse grey polymer that gently grips your workpieces but won’t mar them (at least in my experience so far). The stuff is a bit expensive, but if you search around you’ll find companies that will sell you just a couple feet of the stuff instead of a 60’ roll.

The 3M black tape from the home center.

The 3M black tape from the home center.

In searching around, I found some other 3M Safety-Walk tapes at my home center including the 7636NA, which is a grittier abrasive that feels like heavy rubberized sandpaper. You can also buy this in 60’ rolls or the home center will sell you 15’ feet of the 4”-wide stuff for about $21.

I picked up a roll of the 7636 tape this week and have been experimenting with both to see which one I prefer.

Here are my initial experiences.


Both tapes are heavy-duty with a strong adhesive and can be easily cut with scissors. They lay flat and stick hard.

In comparing their holding power, both tapes increased the grip of my handscrews. But they are different. The rubbery 370 tape didn’t add as much grip, but it didn’t mar the work. When the work did slip, it was unscathed.

Scratches made by the #M 7636 tape when the work slipped.

Scratches made by the 3M 7636 tape when the work slipped.

The black 7636 held the work better but when the piece eventually did slip (after putting all of my 185 lbs. on the workpiece), the tape left ugly scratches on the work – like what you’d get from #60-grit paper or coarser.

So I think I prefer the grey 370 stuff for woodworking.

— Christopher Schwarz

8 thoughts on “2 More Ways to Improve your Vise’s Grip

  1. katiedobe

    West Marine sells three types of non skid, by the foot. I have used the white stuff for years on my jigs and vice. No marring. The black is great for concrete steps or wood steps. But too coarse for the shop.

  2. BLZeebub

    This link will take you to $12 worth of the the gray stuff. No need to buy a whole roll.

    I bought a large scrap of 6oz. full grain cowhide from The Leather Guy on eBay to line the jaws of my face and tail vise. Holds great and no worrying about marring the work-piece. In my shop, most marring takes place out of the vise.

  3. Bernard Naish

    My work never slips in my Record QR big vice and I have only used a very thin layer of leather or sometimes cork sheet. I have found I don’t really need any of this to stop slipping or to protect the wood I am working. Thats all I am saying.

    1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

      If you work with flat stock and the parts aren’t big or heavy, you probably won’t have work slipping about.

      But if you deal with chair parts, spindles and the like, you might have slipping problems because you don’t have many points of contact. Also, I work a lot with heavy slabs. Edge planing an 8′-long, 20″-wide board pushes the limits of most vises.

      So these suggestions are offered for people who have problems. If your work doesn’t slip, then ignore them.

  4. delong1974

    There’s nothing wrong with using automotive rubber-cork gasket sheets, either. About six bucks for a sheet.

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