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If I’m going to get my workbench build started in December I’ll have to pull out all the stops. I’ve a project underway for which I soon hope to have a video done, and any Christmas knick knacks I might have planned to make as gifts will have to wait.

As far as my bench, with speed in mind, I’ve decided on a quick-release vise. I’ve enjoyed working with my traditional face vise, but I’ve also missed the versatile and robust quick-release function. We have six and one plain screw in our shop. Unless you want a small vise keep away from the plain screw as it’s dog slow. Should this be your choice? Not at all, there are so many options for you to consider. Mike Siemsen has a great introduction if you wish to go viseless and Bill Latanzino has just finished up installing a leg vise to his bench. However I think the quick-release is a top all rounder.

If you subscribe to my Instagram feed, you saw the speed of moving from two extremes in the post pictured above. It’s easy to see why in 1902 George Ellis wrote “The modern instantaneous grip iron bench screw is a great improvement on the old wood form, and will save its cost in a few months in economy of time.” Further, these vises grip hard, too. The one shown in these clips is very old and worn, but still bites nicely. It’s one of the surviving tools of our former workshop. Below is a crude demonstration of not just the grip but also my enormous strength (ha!).

This type of vise can be picked up new from suppliers such as Lee Valley or Highland Woodworking.

All of the vises at the benches in our shop are the 9″ variety and seem to satisfy our needs well. There is about 13″ between the jaws when they are fully opened on a typical 9″ – pretty generous! But instead of going for new, I checked out eBay and found a nice WODEN brand vice for £20 ($30). Record is also a brand of secondhand vise that is well respected here in the U.K. (Please mention in the comments any U.S. brands with which you’ve had good experience.)

One issue with trying go the secondhand route with a iron vise is the postage. Many of the listings are collection (pick-up) only. There are, however, ways around this. On this occasion, I owe thanks to furniture-making student Toby Nava. I’ve been following his journey through his early work on Facebook, and knew he lived close to where the vise was. So I hoped he would be happy to help! He was, and I’m very grateful; it’s a peach of a vise. The casting has a nice texture, it feels honest and has a real charm.

So … will I fit the inner jaw flush with the apron or allow it project? Stay tuned!

vise

—Graham Haydon


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Showing 22 comments
  • blidston

    Graham,

    A few years ago I brought a secondhand Record 521/2 very cheap on eBay from a dentist in Western Australia. Even allowing for the cost of shipping to the East coast it was one of the best investment I made. It took just $4 and a couple of hours to rehab the quick release mechanism and it is mounted on the LHS of my bench with the inner hardwood chop mounted flush with the edge of the bench.
    On the right hand end is a Wilton i brought new from the Australian distributor – there are numerous time I wish I had 2 Records.

    Looking forward to your next post

    Bob

  • richl

    I built a Roubo style bench with a leg vise and end vise. Both vises are from Hovater Vises (http://www.hovartercustomvise.com/products) and are quick release. These are really great vises and make vise work a quick snap. Just slide vise against work piece and 1/4 turn to lock the another 1/4 turn in reverse to unlock and slide away.

  • Danny H.

    I too pondered these options when I built my first dream work bench and ended up finding an old Columbian quick release on e-bay and yes the delivery charges were high. But in the end it was still a little less expensive than buying new and I wanted something “old” on my “new” workbench to add character and seal the marriage so to speak ( something old and something new). It was in very good condition and believe the paint to be original. I was wondering just how old it was, until I took off one of the solid cherry faces to find a message a father had written to his son, presenting the vise to him as a gift on his birthday in 1975. Would post a picture but doesn’t appear to be a place to do so.

  • Yoav Liberman

    Woden used to manufacture great tools. I own two Woden holdfasts which works fantastic. I agree with you, nothing matches the practicality and efficiency of a quick release cast iron & steel vise. The one that is currently installed on my bench is a second hand Indian knock off of the Record called APEX.

  • Matt_Rob

    I enjoy the fast action of the Jorgensen 40709 I have mounted to my general work bench. The Bench Crafted leg with the scissor and wagon wheel vices on my wood working Roubo style bench are super nice,but I find the wagon vice slowest of the three. With the replaceable faces on the Jorgensen 40709 I seldom hesitate to get medieval with it if the need arises.

  • scottp

    Graham,
    First of all thanks! I really appreciate the tenor of your posts. As far as the US goes, someone could do far worse than buying an older Colombian or Wilton quick release vise. The video wouldn’t be for the carpenters tool box would it? I’ve been looking forward to it since your original post on the topic!
    Regards,
    Scott

  • Sawtooth

    About 16 months ago I completed building a Roubo style bench following the plans in Chris Schwartz’s book (now it’s the old edition). I’ll take my leg vise any day. It’s great for the work that I do.

  • Bill Lattanzio

    You left out the part on doing all of this with one arm tied behind your back. 🙂
    Actually, this is just my opinion, by Lee Valley offers some nice vice-hardware going the “new” route that is reasonably priced. Tail vice (leg vice) hardware is under $50, and quick release under $100, at least it was last time I checked. Like you, I’ve come across some nice deals online, but often times the shipping cost was relatively high, or quite possibly not even an option at all.

  • TikhonC

    I recently bought a Record 52 1/2E quick release vintage vise (in USA). Dimensions seem identical to your Woden. I paid a premium because it had seen very little use, and it’s a gem to use!

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