Wood Vise Vs. Metal Vise: What’s the Difference?


More often, beginners get confused with the difference between a wood vise and a metal vise. So, we will help you understand what’s the difference between these two different types of fasteners and their specific purposes.

The primary difference between a wood vise and a metal vise is the material that they hold together. They also differ in the material used to build the vise. Since a metal vise is especially for supporting pieces of Metal, they require sturdy components like cast steel or cast iron. When it comes to weight capacity that they can carry, usually a metal vise can handle more objects at a time. However, it may depend on its type. Overall, some might consider that a metal vise is a more flexible option over a wood vise.

Between a wood vise and metal vise, what should you choose? Find out the answers and more other useful bits of information here. As you read along, you’ll be able to learn more about the different vises and their uses. This article will help you pick the right kind for you. 

What Does a Vise Do?

A Vise is a tool or device with two parallel jaws that is responsible for holding a workpiece in place. One jaw is in stationary while the other is movable by a screw. More often, a vise is necessary for doing operations like filing, hammering, or sawing that requires stable support. It has various kinds depending on the application and material to hold, while other vises need permanent installation to a workbench.

The primary objective of using a vise is to secure an object that you want to work. It is beneficial in any situation wherein it requires you to keep your palms a safe distance away from the workpiece. A vise also helps when you have to use both hands to work on your project.

What is the Size of a Vise?

The size of a vise is the length of the two jaws from end to end. Also, it is the maximum amount of contact that the fastener as with the workpiece. Generally, for both wood and metal vises, a 4 to 5-inch clamp is already suitable for a reliable helping hand and provides steadfast support in most tasks.




Vises Came from What Materials?

Usually, both wood and metal vise are from two materials – iron and steel. The jaws, mainframe, and slide of these vises are generally from high-quality alloy. On the other hand, the jaw surfaces, handle, and screw comes from a cast of steel. Let’s have a short differentiation of each component.

  • Iron. Usually, the mainframe of a metal vise cast from either grey or ductile iron due to the expected heavy-duty load and applications. It is to withstand wear from frequent use. Grey Iron is famous for its strength under pressure and excellent shock-absorbing capabilities. On the other hand, ductile iron is less likely to rust.
    • Grey Iron. Some manufacturers call it ‘grey cast iron’ or ‘cast iron.’ Its compositions consist of 95% iron, 3% silicon and 2% carbon. Since they have excellent shock-absorbing capabilities, Grey Iron stops unwanted vibrations during clamping.
    • Ductile Iron. It is another type of cast iron from different materials that include carbon, silicon, and magnesium. Its graphite forms nodules rather than flakes. The rounded shape of these nodules signals that the iron is less brittle, where cracks are less likely to occur. It also provides enhanced flexibility to the vise.
  • Steel. It is an alloy of iron and carbon widely used in construction because of its tensile strength and high corrosion resistance. Most wood vises are all from hardened steel or sometimes with a combination of iron. Hardened steel increases the durability and power of the material. However, the greatest downfall of steel for a vise is that it has a low damping capacity, which may allow vibrations during work. 

Which Material Should You Choose?

The ideal material to choose is iron since you want to eliminate any vibration to occur. On the other hand, a grey iron vise is suitable for hammering, cutting, or filing where large volumes of fluctuations are most likely to happen. A steel vice is flexible and can stretch the vise to its limitation. So, put it into consideration if you need a clamper to hold your workpiece wider.




Getting to Know Wood Vises Further

Wood and Metal are two different types of vises. Their purpose is the same – to provide support and stability to a workpiece so that you can focus on working with both hands or keep them away whenever required. Both are durable in holding the materials they were assigned to support. 

Wood Vise or Woodworking Vise is the most common type of vise, which is mainly for holding pieces of wood. The jaws have two parts – one stationary and one that is movable to lock the workpiece in place. It consists of several components that are responsible for supporting a workpiece. Its jaws are usually from wood, plastic, or Metal, which depends on the specific application. 

  • Bench Vise. The most basic type of wood vise is a bench vise that attaches directly to the surface or the side of a workbench. However, it doesn’t have to connect at all times. For as long as the working surface is stable and the base is on a flat side. A bench vise’s strength depends on the materials used during their production. 
    • Face Vise or Front Vise. It is a kind of Bench vise that has two jaws, and a screw device for opening and closing the jaws. Its position is usually at the one side of the front edge of a workbench. It is beneficial in moving around the vise for various operations like drilling, sanding, planing, and relevant activities.
    • Leg Vise. Others call it as Solid Box or Post Vice, which works excellent provided that it features sturdy base support attached on the surface. Positioned at the leg of a workbench for more exceptional fierce support even on logs due to its large surface area.
    • End or Tail Vise. Its other term is tail vise because it is at the right or left side end of the workbench. 
  • Medium Duty Bench Vises. These are perfect for various applications. They are from iron and features replaceable steel top jaws, as well as pipe jaws.
  • Heavy-Duty Bench Vises. These are basically from Metal to withstand heavier applications and frequent use. Most Heavy-Duty Bench Vises are either stationary or have a 360-degree swivel.

What is the Best Type of Wood Vise Should You Choose?

Choosing the type of wood vise based on our list should depend on your purpose and application that you aim to complete. Generally, most woodworkers prefer to use various kinds of a bench vise. To give you an idea, here’s our simple explanation aside from the fact that they are always within reach.




  • A face vise will allow you to work in different positions once you have clamped your workpiece in place. Also, it helps hold materials in horizontal state sawing, planing, and dovetailing because the width of its jaws can withstand heavy-duty pressure.
  • A leg vise is suitable for long or heavy workpieces. However, be mindful of its greatest downfall. You may have to learn while working because of its low position on the workbench. 
  • Most vise users prefer a tail vise in conjunction with bench dogs for clamping workpieces horizontally. The difference between a face vise is that they clamp it across the surface of the workbench, which makes it ideal for very large workpieces.

Understanding the Basics of a Metal Vise

Metal Vise or Metalworking Vise supports various pieces of Metal in place instead of wood for cutting, sanding, and filling. One noticeable difference is that the jaws of a metal vise are often a separate piece so that they’re replaceable. Some types come from cast steel, but most Metal Vise is from cast iron. It is a popular choice to use in production because it’s rigid, durable, and inexpensive.

  • Engineer’s Vise. This kind of vise is heavy-weighted and has a thick metal body for firm support. IT works effectively by clamping large objects between its jaws and secure it during a specific operation.
  • Multi-Purpose Vises. These are usually on top of swivel bases to allow a 360-degree turn to the optimum position. Multi-Purpose Vices also have a built-in anvil on the main body, and integrated pipe jaws underneath the primary jaws to make ideal for multi-tasking.
  • Table Vises. They are lighter duty types of vices that are usually small and portable, which makes it perfect for most hobbyists. It clamps conveniently to almost any working surface. These vises are suitable for light to medium-duty tasks.
  • Different Metal Vises Based Depending on Various Bases. 
    • Fixed Metal Vise. It has a fixed based attached at the workbench that provides support and stability.
    • Swivel Metal Vise. It has a base that rotates so that its position can change depending on the operation required.
    • Vacuum Metal Vise. This base works by sucking the surface to hold the workpiece.
    • ClampMetal Vise. This base clamps or uses a full-size metal fastener to withstand pressure.

What is the Best Type of Metal Vise Should You Choose?

As we would always say – it depends on your case. When it comes to metal vises, you can rely on that they have excellent features because of the materials used during their production. It’s all about identifying the right type for the size of your metal. Also, make sure that you take into consideration the kind of activity that you’re going to do more often. Intense operations require sturdier metal vise. 

Can You Use a Wood Vise for Metal, and Metal Vise for Wood?

If you’re only holding a piece of metal using a wood vise; maybe it wouldn’t hurt a little. However, be sure that the material is small, thin, and not frequently done. Otherwise, it may ruin the quality of your wood vise. It’s because its components are not suitable for handling various metal.




On the other hand, a metal vise can hold a wood. You might say that it is overqualified for this kind of job because it has more robust components used during its production. However, be mindful that the jaws of a metal vise are harder than of a wood vise. Therefore, it may leave marks on your lumber when clamped.

How Much Does a Wood Vise and Metal Vise Cost?

The price range of good quality wood or metal vise varies from $100 to $200 depending on the size, material used, manufacturer, and other special features. The great news is that you have various choices from different kinds of these vises available on the market. You can find some that are lower than $100, but make sure to inspect their quality before buying or look for a warranty.

Are Any Differences in the Parts of a Wood Vise and Metal Vise?

Both metal and wood vise almost work just the same, so they pretty much have equal parts. The difference is unnoticeable, and it does not make any significant deviations. So, let’s differentiate the components of wood and metal vise.

WOOD VISEMETAL VISE
Jaws. Woodworking vises have two jaws for locking a workpiece in place – stationary and sliding jaw. Usually, they are from metal or wood, depending on the type and model. Jaws. Metal vises also have two replaceable jaws, and their size varies depending on the type and model of the fastener. They have an adjustable teeth portion that holds the workpiece firmly. Metalworking vices have serrated jaw surfaces made from hardened steel for better grip.
Screw. It controls the opening and closing of the jaws. Meanwhile, its length determines how wide the jaws will open its mouth. The threaded screw offers more strength and ease of use. Screw. It embodies within the slide that controls the opening and closing of the jaws. Also, the length of the screw tells how wide you can open the jaws.
Guide Bars. These run through the whole vise to support the screw and connect the two jaws in position. It also helps in preventing any damage caused by holding too heavy workpieces. Besides, guide bars Slide. It is the machined extension part of the vice that connects with the sliding jaw. It works by moving in and out of the vise’s body to keep the sliding jaw perfectly aligned to the stationary jaw.
Handle or Tommy Bar. It is for turning to open and close the jaws for locking or unlocking the workpiece in place. Most vises have thick nuts to avoid slipping the screw’s outer end.Handle. It opens and closes the jaws. Most metal vise handles look like a long and thin metal rod attached to the outer end of the screw. It also has thick nuts to avoid slip outs.
Mounting Bracket. It is the main body or frame attached to the surface of a workbench.Base. It is the lower part of the vise the provides complete support to the tool once attached to a workbench. This part has various kinds, which include fixed, swivel, clamp, and vacuum bases.
Dog. It is additional that prevents movement by providing obstruction. It is an adjustable piece of metal to eliminate any vibrations that may cause unnecessary actions on the workpiece.Anvil. It is an additional feature fitted onto the fixed body of the vise. Anvil allows light hammering, shaping, or straightening out a bent nail.
Toe-in. It’s also an additional feature for avoiding racks caused by uneven clamping pressure. 

All About the Jaw Pads

Jaw pads refer to the soft-paced jaws that slips onto the surface of the vice jaws. Other names for jaw pads include soft inserts, fiber grips or cheeks. Regardless of their names, their primary role is to protect the workpiece from any damage. Prolonged clamping may cause denting or marring; that’s why jaw pads serve as a protecting delicate or plated surfaces. 

Some vises have no built-in jaw pads, but you can make something. Whether you own a metal vise or wood vise, you can use other materials that can act as a pad and prevent any damage to your workpiece when clamped. For example, you can use rubber, plastic, or scrap of wood that can produce a firm grip on your workpiece.

What are the Other Types of Vises?

Most vises attach use the surface of a workbench to get connected and provide firm support on various workpieces during different operations like drilling, sawing, sanding, and planning. As a part of having a better understanding of Wood and Metal Vises, here is a list of other kinds of clamps, and their uses.

Pipe ViseIt is a type of vise for plumbing and holding a tube securely in place for cutting or threading. Additionally, it is also suitable for assembling components for pipelines.
Vacuum ViseIt is a portable vise that can mount on almost any flat surface. Vacuum vise is versatile with its twisted base lever that can swivel up to 360 degrees and can lock at any preferred angle.
Clamp-On ViseIt is for clamping extra-thick workpieces, which includes strong jaws that can accommodate general purpose. Clamp-On Vise is efficient in holding either wood or metal.
Combined ViseThis kind of vise is for clamping irregular-shaped objects, which includes a revolving design that enhances the exercises of both pipe and bench jaws.
Handheld ViseIt is for holding small-sized workpieces because of its portability and modest size.
Angle ViseIt features a tilting mechanism to clamp the material at any specific angle. This feature is suitable for making angled holes through the workpiece.
Cross ViseThe jaws of this vise are at different positions so that the base mounts securely on the workbench. This feature helps in adding versatility in clamping, which may also involve several drilling of holes.
Off-Center ViseThis kind of vise has a swivel feature that extends up to 360 degrees upon locking the workpiece. Off-Center Vise supports both horizontal and vertical movements with a slide for better accuracy.
Rotary ViseIt can rotate around the same axis of the hook’s shank. This feature ties down the material and turns the hook to provide improved accuracy concerning the position of the workpiece. 
Sine ViseThese vises use gauge blocks to support a highly accurate angle on a workpiece. Sine came from the belief that every user is to calculate the sine of a perspective for the vise. It is a screwless fastener mounted on two cylinders.
Saw ViseIt is perfect for saw sharpening activity. The weight is relatively light, but it is tough to hold the saw blade in place. It also has built-in clamps for temporarily fastening to a workbench. 
Diemakers’ ViseThis vise usually came from high-quality steel to make it more efficient. Diemakers’ Vise clamps easily on any workpiece regardless of the material.
Pin ViseIt holds small tools like drill bits, reamers, small files, and other related sizes of equipment most probably for sanding or cutting purposes. 

How to Maintain Your Vise Properly?

Both metal and wood vises require proper maintenance to take care of its quality. It also ensures the longevity of use and effectivity in most cases. Maintaining your clamp will also help you save money spent from repurchasing due to broken vise. So, here are some standard ways to sustain it. 

  1. Regular Cleaning. Keep it a habit to clean your vise regularly not only when it looks dull and ugly. You have to maintain the tip-top condition of your fastener. Wipe all threaded and moving parts with a cloth after each use as much as possible. It will prevent any grit, dirt, and debris from building up.
  2. Oil the Joints. Lubricate all the joints threaded parts, and sliding section as often as required. It maintains a smooth operation, especially on the jaws while preventing rust build-up. Open the jaws widely and apply layers of grease to the slide. Then, move them in and out a few times to distribute the lubricant.
  3. Rust Removal. Rust affects the results and performance of your vise. It is like a disease that can slowly kill your tool if not medicated right away. The easiest and fastest method of removing rust is to use a rust remover chemical. You’ll apply it to the affected area and leave it overnight. Then, scrub the rusted area using a steel wool brush until the rust gets loose. Wash off the chemical with water, and dry your vise properly.
  4. Keep the Vise Dry. Make sure to keep your vise completely dry in every part. It prevents rusting and other relevant issues that may occur to your clamp. Use a dry cloth to rub off the water after cleaning to maintain a top-quality condition. 
  5. Repaint Your Vise. Some users take this procedure for granted. However, you have to see the importance of repainting your vise from the moment you see chip off areas. You can do it by hand or by spray, but use rust-resistant protective paint.
  6. Replace the Parts. The jaws of a metal vise are replaceable for one main reason – it’s because of higher exposure to heavy-duty workloads causing wear over time. Other than that, the screw may also get damaged and need replacement. Don’t worry because replacement parts are available to purchase in the market and they are all easy to install.
  7. Storage. Some jaws attached to the workbench are more prone to sawdust and other dirt. So aside from cleaning, it is essential to provide a cover like a cloth, especially on its body. Bring the jaws slightly together, and put the handle in a vertical position when your vise is not in use. Keep it dry and avoid rusting.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What Is Throat Depth on a Vise?

Throat Depth on a vise refers to the vertical distance from the top side of the jaw going down to the top of the central screw and guide rods. Technically, it is the depth capacity of a vise to hold a workpiece vertically. 3 to 4 inches throat depth is the ideal range.

How Is Vise Size Determined?

More often, the size of a vise depends on the throat depth. It’s the indication for the maximum height that it can hold a workpiece vertically.

What Are Vice Jaw Plates?

Jaw plates are usually from rubber or leather pads for holding workpieces and eliminate any clamping marks. They are also excellent in avoiding any damage to soft metal, polished or painted surfaces.

Which One Should You Pick?

Choosing between a Wood Vise and Metal Vise depends on the material that you want to work. Regardless of their type, you have to make sure of their durability, flexibility, and ease in installing. Vises made from cast steel offer more compliance, while cast iron provides high strength. Overall, both metal and wood are for supporting a material for sawing, sanding, planing, drilling, and other relevant activities that requires an extra hand.

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