How to Find the Best Types of Clamps and Vises

Be prepared for any project with a variety of clamps and vises

Clamps and Vises - Types Clamps and Vises

Clamps and vises provide an extra set of hands that can be useful for a range of projects, including cutting, sanding, gluing, drilling, soldering and more.

This guide will help you determine the type of clamp or vise best suited to your needs.

Safety: While clamps and vises are designed for easy use and will actually make most projects safer, take care when working with them, and make sure children are not allowed unsupervised access to them. Vises are incredibly strong and can cause serious injuries if misused. Clean and lubricate clamps and vises periodically to ensure proper operation.

Clamps

Clamps are used to grip, join or support an object. 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 duties.

Key terms

  • 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.


Clamp type Characteristics

Bar

  • Can be adjusted to clamp large widths
  • A pair of bar clamps is required for most applications
  • Some feature quick-release handles for easier use
  • Bar length determines clamp capacity

C-clamp

  • Features a C-shaped frame
  • Used to apply pressure to smaller objects
  • 1” to 8” capacity
  • 1” to 6 ¼” throat depth
  • Available with hand clamps for better grip

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 moulding and trim and in welding and soldering applications
  • May be easier than using a longer clamp for the same purpose
Hand-Screw - Clamps and Vises

Hand screw

  • Feature two wooden jaws, designed for use with nonparallel surfaces
  • Jaws won't mar or scratch the surface of your work
  • Multiple clamps may be needed
  • Available in a wide range of sizes
One-Handed - Clamps and Vises

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
  • 1” to 3” capacity
  • 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 workbench 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.

Vise type Characteristics

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 workbench and used for a number of different tasks
  • May be stationary or have a swiveling base
  • Provide stability for difficult projects

Clamp-on

  • 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

Utility

  • 3” to 6” wide jaws
  • Designed for use in a wide range of applications
  • Look for a swiveling base to make use easier

Woodworking

  • 6” to 13” jaws
  • Used primarily for woodworking applications
  • May feature a quick screw release
  • Some may be clamped onto a workbench or sawhorse

Features

Personalize your clamps and vises to fit your exact needs.

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.