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Clamps & Vises

Choose the right clamps and vises for all your home improvement projects

It's always nice to have someone around when you need help in the workshop or garage. Unfortunately, it isn't always possible to find an assistant who is available when you need them. That doesn't mean, however, that you'll have to put your work aside for another day. Clamps and vises provide an extra set of "hands" that can be very useful for a range of projects, including cutting, sanding, gluing and more. No matter what the requirements of the job you're working on, there is likely a design suited to your needs. Keep the following questions in mind as you consider what types of vises and clamps are best for your tasks:

  • What types of clamps are available?
  • What types of vises are available?
  • What projects can clamps and vises be used for?
  • How big do you need a clamp or vise to be?
  • What special features are available?

Uses, Clamps and Vises

The type of clamp or vise you purchase will depend largely on what type of project you plan to use it for. In general, clamps are considerably cheaper than vises, so while you may only have one or perhaps two vises in your workshop, you'll probably want to keep a number of different clamps on hand to cover a multitude of potential tasks. Some clamps and vises are designed for very specialized purposes and will only prove useful for a small number of tasks, so you may want to forego purchasing one if you can make due with a more general-purpose clamp or vise.

Uses and Usage: Both clamps and vises hold objects in place, freeing up your hands for cutting, sharpening, sanding and more. By holding objects securely in place, they reduce the risk of slipping or separation that can lead to poor quality results or create hazardous workshop conditions. It's hard to imagine a woodworking project that wouldn't be a little easier with the help of a clamp or vise. Perhaps the most useful application of clamps and vises is securing adhesives. While they are designed for easy use and will actually make most projects safer, make sure to take care when working with them, and make sure children are not allowed unsupervised access to them. Vises in particular are incredibly strong and can cause serious injuries if misused. Clean and lubricate clamps and vises periodically to ensure proper operation.

  • Clamps can be used for a wide variety of tasks ranging from light- to heavy-duty
  • Vises are ideal for handling tough projects, including drilling and soldering
  • Both devices can be used for household, worksite and automotive tasks
  • Some joints may need to be clamped for up to 24 hours, depending on the adhesive

Clamps: Clamps are used to grip, join or support an object. They come in an incredible array of sizes, shapes and designs, making it easy to find one that's ideally suited to the job you're working on. Some clamps, such as corner clamps, are designed for more specific tasks while spring clamps and C-clamps will come in handy for a wide range of applications. The capacity of a clamp determines how large of a piece it can hold when the screw is fully extended. The throat depth is the distance from the center of the screw to the inside edge of the frame. The chart below provides information on some of the more commonly found clamps.

Clamp Description and Uses Points to Consider
Bar Used for long spans of up to 5' and provide tremendous versatility.
  • A pair is required for most applications
  • Look for clamps with quick-release handles for easier use
  • Bar length determines clamp capacity
Belt Designed for use in situations that would require multiple single clamps. Constructed from nylon.
  • Can be wrapped around large objects in lieu of using multiple clamps
  • Ideal for light to moderate tasks
C-Clamp Have a C-shaped frame and are used to apply pressure to smaller objects.
  • Generally have capacities between 1" and 8"
  • Throat depths tend to range from 1" to 6-1/4"
Corner or Right-Angle Used for joining wood at right angles.
  • Frame clamps can be used to assemble four corners at once
  • Band clamps can be used for circular frames in addition to square frames
Edge Used to install molding and trim as well as for welding and soldering applications.
  • Hold the edging strips, trim, molding and more
  • May be easier than using a longer clamp for the same purpose
Hand-Screw Feature two wooden jaws and are designed for use with nonparallel surfaces.
  • Jaws won't mar or scratch the surface of your work
  • You may need to use multiple clamps
  • Available in a wide range of sizes
One-Handed Feature a trigger design that allows for one-handed use.
  • Designed for quick and easy setting and tightening
Pipe Use varying lengths of pipe to adjust for different projects.
  • Cut pipes to size to fit each new project
  • Pipes are often threaded and screwed into place
  • Some types don't require threaded pipes and use a set screw instead
  • Provide virtually unlimited capacity
  • Pipe element may be sold separately
Spring Function in a manner similar to a clothespin.
  • Ideal for light pressure or use with odd shapes
  • Capacities range from 1" to 3"
  • Usually inexpensive



Vises: Vises function similarly to clamps, but they usually have larger contact areas. A vise features two sides, or jaws, one of which is fixed and one of which travels along a guide rod or bar. A handle is used to turn a threaded rod, which in turn causes the moveable side to slide back and forth. Some vises are secured to a work bench or other surface while others offer portability for easy use wherever you're working. Vises exert extremely high pressure on the work surface, making them ideal for tough tasks. Size is measured by both the width of the jaw and the vise's capacity when the sides are fully open. Like clamps, they are available in a number of different configurations. Use the chart below to learn more.

Vise Description and Uses Points to Consider
Angle Can be used in a flat position like a regular vise or at an angle.
  • Make it easier to work with oddly shaped objects or tasks that would be difficult with a regular vise
Bench Installed on a work bench and used for a number of different tasks.
  • May be stationary or have a swiveling base
  • Provide stability for difficult applications
Clamp Feature a clamp at the bottom that allows the vise to be fixed.
  • Combines convenient portability with the stability of a fixed vise
Hinged-Pipe Designed to hold pipe.
  • May be used for threading and cutting applications
Miter Designed for working with mitered corners and frames.
  • A saw slot makes it easy to trim joints quickly
Utility Jaws usually range from 3" to 6" in width. Designed for use in a wide range of applications.
  • Look for a swiveling base to make use easier
Woodworking Have jaws ranging from 6" to 13" or more and are used primarily for woodworking applications.
  • May feature a quick screw release
  • Some units may be clamped onto a workbench or sawhorse



Features

Suction Cups: If you don't want to secure a vise to your workbench but want the stability of a fixed unit, look for a vise with suction cups on the bottom. Generally, these devices feature a lever that operates the cups.

Plastic Jaws: Like wooden jaws, plastic jaws won't mar the surface of the piece you're working on.

Removable Handle: Some clamps feature removable handles that come off so you can tighten the clamp more securely with a wrench.

Swivel Base: Vises with this feature allow you to swivel them back and forth, providing a wider variety of angles from which to work.

Quick-Action Release: This feature allows you to fully open a vise quickly without having to manually crank the handle, a handy benefit that saves both time and effort.

Specialty Vises: There are a number of vises designed for particular applications, such as a machinist's vise, patternmaker's vise and jeweler's vise.

 
Don’t Forget

The Home Depot carries a wide selection of work benches and tables that are perfect for holding your new vise.