For many years I’ve lined the jaws of all my vises with sueded leather to improve their grip. Whenever I mention that I do this, I get a barrage of questions:
- Where do you buy suede? (Really? Any craft store, fabric store, Tandy etc.)
- What glue do you use? (Any glue. Hide, yellow glue, epoxy, contact cement etc.)
- How do you apply the leather? (Like veneer. Clamp a caul on the leather and let the glue cure).
Despite those above instructions, many woodworkers hesitate. And so I offer this simpler solution: adhesive-backed cork contact paper, which you can buy at any decent kitchen store. I bought mine at The Container Store.
After getting a tip from some chairmakers, I’ve began experimenting with using cork floor tiles, wall tiles and other bits of cork in the shop. I wasn’t happy with the floor tiles or wall tiles because most were really thick, and it was difficult to find ones that were self-stick.
So I’ve settled on cork contact paper, usually used to line shelves or drawer bottoms in kitchens. The cork is about 1/16” thick and has a paper back that covers the adhesive. Cut the cork to size with a shop knife, remove the backing and stick it in place. That’s it.
The contact paper is also nice because the paper backing has a cutting grid on the back (sort of like wrapping paper), which makes it easy to get precise and square cuts.
The cost? It was $10 for a roll that was 18” x 48”.
I lined the chops of my leg vises with the stuff and even put it on the underside of the doe’s foot I use instead of a tail vise. It grips just as well as leather. I think I’m going to line the bottom of my tool chest’s sliding trays with the leftovers.
(Oh, one more detail because I know it will come up: It’s OK to put the cork (or leather) on the front edge of the benchtop. No, it does not affect edge-jointing. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.)
— Christopher Schwarz
For more workbench advice, check out my newly revised “Workbenches: From Design and Theory to Construction & Use,” available at ShopWoodworking.com.
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