Jewelers Bench Vice

Depending on what sort of work you do, a bench vice could be an absolute essential must-have piece of equipment or just a nice bonus. I got myself a Proxxon Precision clamp-on vice which basically fulfilled all the requirements I had for a vice at the time.

Proxxon Vice

That said, some people would say it’s a “toy,” but if you are not doing heavy work that require a really solid large vice it’s perfect. But let’s take a step back. I’ll take you through what you should consider when you start looking for a vice.

The first place to start is considering what sort of work you be using the vice for. As an example, if you need it to hole stakes to do some serious forming with lots of hard hammer blows, you obviously need something totally different from someone who is doing a lot of extremely fine work and needs non-marring jaws and a head that can be tilted in any direction.

The location you want to mount your vice will also influence what type you should go for. If you have a large solid bench where the vice can be screwed directly in or if you are a bit constrained for space so a clamp-on that can be removed when not in use will determine which is more appropriate.

So generally speaking there‘s no such thing as the “right” jewelers vice although there are obviously some types that are better suited for jewelry work than others. So although a pattern maker’s vice is a really cool and useful gadget (for a pattern maker!), it won’t be ideal for most jewelry work.

Likewise, the urge to choose the biggest baddest auto or metalworker’s vice may not always be the best approach.Palmgren bench vice

When I did the research for the vice I wanted, I had some criteria that I was looking to get fulfilled:

Great quality.

No point in getting one that would not hold the jaws closed or where the jaws don’t close evenly.

Not too large

Although I initially thought it would be a good idea to go for the largest vice I could fit on the workbench, I quickly realized that I really didn’t do that much work that would need a lot of clamping power. I haven’t done much stake work and forming so far, so from that perspective I decided that where I was at with my work at the moment, a smaller, more moveable vice would suit me better..

Swivel head

Being able to hold things at any angle was one of the key requirements I had. In hindsight, this requirement was probably not that important since I have so far mainly used the vice in the standard upright position.

Non-marring Jaws

This is rather important if you plan to clamp your work piece into the vice. If, on the other hand, you plan to use the vice to hold stakes or other tool implements like drawing plates etc., it is probably not all that important.

Clamp Mount

Most large solid vices are screwed into the work surface. I wasn’t really that keen on screwing some nasty large screws into the workbench table top when I had just spent a copious amount of time sanding and oiling it…but maybe once my tabletop gets a bit more roughed up I’ll change my vice to a “drill into the top” type mount.

With those criteria in hand I went searching. As always, I started with an image search on Google. From there I drill into the models that look to come closest to meeting my criteria.

In this case there is an incredible amount of mini jewelers vices that all look to come out of the same “el cheapo” factory in China. They come in all different shapes and colors but they’re mostly the same.

Mini bench vice 02Mini bench vice 01Mini bench vice 04Mini bench vice 03

In most cases the quality is doubtful at best and as a serious work tool I’d probably give those a miss.

Then there are the insanely expensive ones:

Wilton 63201 6-1:2-Inch Jaw bench vice

This large Wilton Vice is a great example of a top quality Vice with an equally high price point, but if you have a need for a large vice and you feel like spending the cash this is a rather nice piece of hardware.

This is a midrange good but not over the top. They screw into the bench vices.

Wilton Large Bench viceGrizzly Bench Vice

The more specialty ones like this parrot vice can be mounted in a number of different ways.

Parrot Vice 01   Parrot Vice 02

The smaller clamp on models with a swivel head

Stanley Multiangle ViceUniversal Swivel Head ViceDremel Multi viceAmico Mini Clamp on Vice

If you, like me, are not scared of a bit of tool “renovation” work you may be getting a much better quality vice by jumping on eBay or one of the other secondhand tool sites to get an old but well-made version.

Craftmand Vice 01Craftmand Vice 02Vintage Stanley Bench ViceColumbian Bench Vice

So as you can see, there are about as many options as there are different vices. But the trick is to think through what your requirements are and then do the necessary research to get the best possible fit at the right price.