Home Clamps and Vises

Vises and clamps are useful tools for any home workshop. There is a wide variety of styles and sizes. Knowing which ones are helpful additions to a home tool collection can help you get more work done.

What types of clamps are useful in a home toolbox?

Unlike saws and hammers, where one or a small assortment is usually sufficient for home-based repair and woodworking projects, many styles of clamps are needed in a home toolbox. Clamps are specialized, so one size or style isn't designed to fit all projects. To start a collection for your home toolbox, the following styles are essential:

  • C-Clamps: Every collection should start with this versatile tool. Light-duty versions are sufficient for most home projects. Heavy duty ones are also available. The 4- to 8- inch sizes are usually the most useful, even for heavy duty. The size indicates the maximum clamping capacity.
  • Pipe Clamps: As the name suggests, these clamps use pipe to create bone-crushing pressure for projects that are heavy duty. You will need to purchase a fixture with this style. The common fixture diameters are 1/2 inch and 3/4 inch.
  • Bar Clamps: The bar version combines the power and long-arm stretch of the pipe clamp with the versatility and deep reach of the C-clamp. The most useful sizes are between 16 and 36 inches. For those engaging in big projects, sizes up to 79 inches are available.
  • One-Handed Bar Clamps: These are a common choice because, as the name implies, they can be operated with one hand, unlike other clamps. They typically have a sliding jaw and a fixed jaw attached to the bar. To create clamping power, the sliding jaw is moved along the bar toward the fixed jaw. Sizes range from 6 to 50 inches.
  • Spring Clamps: This versatile style resembles a clothespin. These are great for small projects or as a third hand to hold things. Those in 4- to 12-inch capacities are the most common sizes.
What types of vises are useful in a home workshop?

The primary vise categories are metalworking, woodworking, hand held, and machine. Which vises are needed for a home work area depends upon the types of projects they are needed for. Working with intricate wood creates the need for a different vice than when working with steel.

  • Metalworking Vises: Metalworking vises are usually used as a bench vise. They are strong enough to hold steel objects although they may also be used for lighter materials. They are not recommended for woodworking as their strong grip often damages wood.
  • Woodworking Vises: These are similar to the metalworking bench vises, but they are usually mounted below the workbench. They have softer jaws, which are designed specifically for working with wood.
  • Hand-held Vises: These are much smaller than bench vises. They are primarily used for small pieces while performing intricate work, such as painting or gluing.
  • Machine Vises: These are clamping devices that hold objects still while using a drill press or milling machine. This type of vise is clamped onto the machine table to steady the object being worked on, freeing the machine operator's hands from needing to hold the object in place.