For a western woodworker (especially a hand tool woodworker), the hub of the shop is the vice. It is the essential third hand that holds the workpiece so that you can focus on holding the tools. Things are in and out of the vice all day long. And the vice you choose depends on what you’re doing. I, for instance, am a very small-scale woodworker, but I have three vices.
The first is the vice that comes to mind when you talk of a “woodworking vice”. This is an iron model because I was retrofitting it onto an existing bench. Maybe one day I’ll get the big wooden vice…right after I build that Roubo bench I need…which comes after…
At any rate, I use this vice the most. If you hold something in your hands that I made, this vice was there first. It’s an old Columbian with leather-lined jaws that is extra worthy to me because it was made in Cleveland. Good old O-H-I-O. Maybe it doesn’t mean much to somebody else, but I always get a little warm feeling from such things. I grew up here, and I came back to here. As much as it be, this is my homeland. And for my tools to be made in the same land that I was made in is kind of special.
My next vice is also a Columbian. I use this machinist’s vice for most of my rasping work because it holds it up higher, and can pivot to more easily work on recalcitrant areas. For woodworking, I use the cork-lined inserts to avoid marring the work. But for metalworking (which I have to do sometimes), they come out and I can use either the steel flat jaws or the pipe jaws for curved work.
This most specialised vice I have is mounted to the same bench as my machinist’s vice.
This is a Gramercy Tools saw vice. I sharpen my own saws (after taking a sharpening class at Bad Axe Toolworks–highly recommended!), and I needed a way to hold them while I filed them. I tried field expedient filing chops that fit in another vice, and also vintage vices. I wasn’t very happy with either. This Gramercy vice is the best thing I found yet short of the massive Acme vices at Bad Axe (the only time I saw one for sale it went for $800, which was just out of my price range). It works smoothly and holds securely, with no fussing over fixing a hundred years of neglect.
There are two things needed to use this vice. First is that it needs a broad apron to screw into. If you don’t have one, you’ll have to make some sort of addition, but that’s not a big deal (there’s a best practises pamphlet illustrating suitable appliances included). The second is that you need to listen to Irish punk music while you use it.
Well, the second is just for me. For almost a month it seemed that I’d always end up sharpening saws on Saturday afternoon. Here in Central Ohio, that means that Toss the Feathers (which I’ve been listening to for a couple of decades) is playing on the local NPR station, and so it’s now shop tradition to have Celtic music going while I sharpen saws. I guess there are stranger practices…