I’m a huge fan of installing a grippy liner on your bench vise. Wood faces grip your work OK. Add the right liner and the grip will become fantastic. Here are some details on choosing and installing a liner.
What’s a Good Liner?
Most people prefer leather, cork, felt or a rubber such as Crubber. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Peel-and-stick cork is fast to install but isn’t very durable. Thick felt is difficult to glue but can hold odd-shaped pieces (chairmakers love it). Leather can be a little pricey and isn’t particularly easy to glue. Crubber is also a bit pricey but seems to take adhesive better than leather.
For the last decade I’ve mostly used leather and cork. Today I decided to remove cork from one of my vises and replace it with Crubber.
Installing a Liner
The liner can be installed on the benchtop, the vise’s jaw or both. The most important part of the installation is – in my opinion – getting the edges of the liner firmly glued. If the edges aren’t glued securely it will peel away gradually from the bench.
Second tip: Eliminate all glue-squeeze-out after installing the liner. Hard bits of glue will damage your work.
Cut the liner to size and decide what adhesive you are going to use. Epoxy is my default choice because I always have it on hand. Contact cement works, but you get only one shot to position the liner. Hide glue works fine with leather liners. Yellow glue is my last choice for a liner. I haven’t tried polyurethane glue.
Spread the adhesive on the liner. Make sure to get glue on the edges of the liner. This will create some squeeze-out, but you can cut it away later with a razor.
Position the layer on the vise chop or benchtop. Tape it in place to prevent it from shifting when you apply clamp pressure. You can use the vise itself to apply pressure, but I have had better luck with a caul and clamps. To prevent the squeeze-out from sticking to the caul, tape on a layer of wax paper or wax the caul.
Clamp the caul in place and let the adhesive dry. Remove the caul and cut away all the squeeze-out you can find.
So far, the Crubber performs great. It feels as grippy as suede. We’ll see how durable it is in the coming months of use and abuse.
— Christopher Schwarz