Choosing The Best Face Vice

by | Apr 12, 2018 | 73 comments

Recently I wrote a post about why you don’t need a tail vice on your workbench.
now we’re looking at the other end of the bench and going through my favourite options when it comes to choosing a face vice.

woodworking bench face vice

What Do We Want From A Workbench Vice?

A face vice should be strong, dependable and quick to use.
Fancy often means temperamental, so I’d say simple is the best route.
We want to throw work in, get the job done and rag it back out again without having to be too precious.

It needs to grip without having to cinch right down.
It can’t be tiny or delicate.

Available Workbench Face Vice Options

Traditionally face vices came in a few types, but you’d generally have a nice big screw, a hefty jaw and some means of keeping it all in line.

After making and using many styles I came to the conclusion that the simple, single screw style I have on my bench now can’t be beaten (it’s also the one I started with).
Though to appreciate this type of vice you really do need a nice large wooden screw.

I’m discussing two types of vice in the post.
There’s the route I’d take if using a wooden screw, and the alternative.

Building With A Wooden Screw

Building a vice from scratch is certainly daunting.
It sounds like you’d need a full engineering workshop, fancy metal parts and the know how to go with it.
But in reality it’s simple, or at least it is if you have one important ingredient. That lovely large wooden screw.

wooden vice screw for workbench

Our hand threaded wooden vice screws. We’re no longer making these for sale, but there are some alternatives out there.

We’re talking about a diameter of around 2 – 2 1/2″ (50 – 64mm)

These traditional screws are the key to a beautifully simple face vice.
The large diameter and thread provide reference, speed and smoothness all in one.

Building a vice with the screw is basic woodworking. You’ll need a jaw, a runner and a few wooden guides.

We go through the whole vice build step by step in our Workbench Vice build video, so if you’re interested in more details, you can find that here.

What’s So Special About The Wooden Screw?

There are two main reasons I would opt for a wooden screw.

Firstly, they are a genuine pleasure to use.
I know many people would agree with me here, once you’ve used a wooden screw, you always have a wooden screw.

They’re fast and I like to be touching wood.

Contrary to an engineer’s thoughts, these vices get better with age.

Many people would laugh at how rickety my vice looks after so many years of use. But it’s just flipping ace.
It’s better than anything else I’ve used because it’s so worn in. It feels like the vice has limbered up and is always ready to go. Like a lovely worn in engine.

Another reason to take the wooden screw route is you’re in control of the build.
Being able to dictate the layout of your face vice has its benefits.

I like to position the guide rail around the same height as the screw, so I can thow in long lengths of wood and balance them level across both these parts. For even longer lengths I can rest them and pivot on the guide while I grab a holdfast for the other end.

You wouldn’t want to do this in a metal vice, you’d get oil all over your stuff.

the best face vice for woodworking

Used, abused and just flipping ace! A single wooden screw built in to a face vice on my everyday bench.

Buying A Wooden Screw

Wooden screws are a challenge to make, which means they can be pricey and difficult to get hold of.
At the present time, we still haven’t fired back up with our own production, but there are a few options out there.

Lake Erie are one that come to mind. I believe these are turned on some pretty top end machines, so very accurate (where ours were hand threaded), but the diameter is very similar to what we produced and I understand they’re also quite well distributed.

I haven’t held or used one of these screws personally to offer anything further, but I hear they’re very good.

Can I Make My Own Wooden Screw?

We’re often queried on this, but I’m afraid the answer is going to be no.
It’s possible, but the tooling is drastically expensive once you get to threads of this diameter. And making the tooling is a sod.

Even then it takes a lot of time and effort to pull of.
Our first wooden screw took many attempts and much wasted timber.

Will we ever make them again?
I’m not sure.

The Alternative – The Metal Face Vice

If wooden wasn’t an option, then I’d turn to a cast metal vice for the front of my workbench.

If I had the luxury, I’d go for an old one, a big old Record would be ideal.

These things have been made for decades and offer a simple, robust solution.

What To Look For

You’ll want a nice big one, and personally I’d opt for the quick release.

Quick release does takes away from the simplicity so may be a little more temperamental, but small metal threads are slow to open, and that mechanism will save you from messing with a lot of winding back and forth.

These cast vices are popular through many industries so whilst there’s a lot to choose from, they’re not all equal.
As a simple rule – they don’t make them like they used to.

Any of the big, old iron vices were very good. If you can source one in usable nick, then any brand should suit.
Record is notable here, but only if it’s old.

Today Record don’t make Record vices. They’re a new company now.

If you’re going new, then I can recommend looking at York.
I’ve used many of their vices (up until a few years ago), and only have good things to say about them.
I believe that York now have the original patterns for Record (don’t quote me on that), so that makes sense.

Cast Iron workbench vice for woodworking, workbench vice

Installation Tips For A Cast Vice

Installing a Record as a face vice requires that it’s both well secured and well located.

Securing it is fairly easy.

If you’ve got a good thick hardwood top then lag screws will hold it beautifully, just make sure they’re good A2 ones, not those cheap ones that snap when you tighten them.
You don’t need to worry about bolting right through as you’re not going to be hammering in to this thing.

On a thinner top though bolts are the way to go, and you’ll need to look at packing out underneath the vice so it sits where you need it to.

I like to install these vices so that you aren’t clamping between the metal jaws.
This means adding a wooden jaw at the front, and morticing in to the bench top to allow the back jaw of the vice to slip behind. The front of the workbench then becomes the back jaw.
This is a bit of a clat, but you can pack out underneath the vice so that the mortice doesn’t need to be stupidly deep.

I’d also recommend using some timber strips to sit between the bench top and the vice runners. These are to prevent the thing from dropping as it opens, and makes a huge difference in use.

Using Your Face Vice

Don’t over tighten.
A good vice won’t ever need replacing so long as you use it right.

So don’t be one of these that really nips the thing up to get grip.
Put some suede in the jaw as that way you only need light pressure and it really is the best thing you can do for any vice.

Dealing with vice rack.
Either of the face vices I’m recommending are frowned upon for racking, which can in turn lead to a lot of over tightening (or over thinking).

In hand tool work, a bit of vice rack is your friend and certainly isn’t the devil it’s made out to be.
I’ve written about vice rack more here if you’re worried, but a good bit of suede lining goes a long way.

Don’t Welly In Your Vice.
There is no reason to ever be pounding down on work that’s held in your face vice.

Morticing for example should not be done here, you have a bench top for that.

Any wellying in the vice will soon bugger it up, you’ll go through them like there’s no tomorrow.

Other Face Vice Options.

If I were picking with my heart then I’d likely go with a leg vice built with that same wooden screw. I just love these things, and they certainly make a great option.

But it’s the look and feel of a leg vice that I love, and when it comes to getting stuff done, my single screw face vice is king.

leg vices on woodworking benches

A couple of simple leg vices.

It’s not the bending or worrying about a pin that makes the difference to me. That is a consideration, but the real reason is due to that limbered up feeling of my worn in vice. It’s lovely and loose giving a vice which opens and close with the roll of a finger.
The tolerances on a leg vice would have to be tighter in order to work well, so it never quite feels as nice. Plus I prefer to work in the wider jaw.

Ultimately I’m saying select the components for your workbench with your head, and ignore the heart.
That’s coming from a man who’s dedicated much of his life to arsing about with workbenches.

Planning On Building A Workbench?

Try these articles for some extra guidance:

And for step by step videos on how to build your own traditional workbench, including the PDF plans, check out our English Workbench Online Series.


Related Posts

About Richard Maguire

About Richard Maguire

As a professional hand tool woodworker, Richard found hand tools to be the far more efficient solution for a one man workshop. Richard runs 'The English Woodworker' as an online resource and video education for those looking for a fuss free approach to building fine furniture by hand. Learn More About Richard & The English Woodworker.


  1. Rico

    What’s your thoughts on the Scandinavian (I’m blaming the Scandis, it was probably some other bugger) shoulder vice? I’ve always liked the idea of the squishing approach to vicery that offers. It’s like a sideways apple press or something. Although the shoulder seems like it might get in the way, maybe. Have you put one to the sword before?

    • William Lial

      Hi, Rico.

      I’m also interested in the Scandinavian.

    • Richard Maguire

      Hi Rico, again if made with a wooden screw they are beautiful to use.
      They’re prone to damage from over tightening. I would never put one on a bench unless the user has trained with one, if you’re used to other forms of vice I’d say you’ll find these very limiting.
      I do love them though.

      • John

        Richard… your site
        I picked up on Ebay ….2 …10″ quick-release cast vices one a Record and one a Paramo …..both with rising dog things
        Both in abso perfect condition

  2. Matt McKinnon

    Couldn’t agree more about the wooden screw. Makes a great traditional face vise or leg vise. Of course, if you’re making an English Workbench out of pine (and you should: Richard’s series is fantastic; I often watch it for entertainment), the screw will cost more than the bench. Luckily I found one on eBay for about $120 (and only spent about $125 for all of the wood for the bench). Overall, well worth the money–the entire bench with screw is a fraction of the cost of an oak behemoth. And the dang thing is built like a WW1 tank (and kind of looks like one too),

    • Richard Maguire

      Blimey, you did really well there!
      I’ve never had a massive issue with a vice costing more than the bench, I kind of look at it like it’s the engine of a car, but that’s why I do only go with one vice, and make it a good one.

  3. Cas Sedgwick

    If you ever make them again, I’d love to buy one. Yours has an elegant line and style that Erie’s screw’s are lacking. I know that doesn’t make one work better than the other, but it makes a difference, to me at least.

    • Richard Maguire

      Thanks Cas we’d be certain to keep you posted.
      I agree about the importance of looks, and it is probably going to be the most handled tool in your workshop.

    • simon

      my thoughts exactly, the lake erie is no alternative when it comes to looks to put it mildly…

  4. Joe

    Hi Richard,

    Great post. Im slowly working my way through your workbench videos, but i never realised how much wooden vices cost!

    They really look the part, is there any way of picking one up for cheap?


    • Richard Maguire

      Sadly they’re really not cheap to make no matter how they’re made. Years ago I bought a full workbench for about £40 off eBay because it had a wooden screw, so you could try looking for actual benches.
      I’ll be doing some experimentation soon on alternatives that may be interesting – I’ve had some ideas.

  5. Derrick Russ

    With the face vise, is that other wooden beam a parallel guide similar to a leg vise? Does it have pins as well, or does it just keep the vise from spinning?

    • Richard Maguire

      Hi Derrick, it’s a guide not a pin, and there’s runners under the bench top that cradle it either side to prevent rack. I’ll try and get some pictures so I can do an article on it soon.

      • Bill Thompson

        Richard, I’ve just finished my own face vise incorporated into a new apron. I did not have the funds nor the access to a wooden screw, so I used an 1-1/4″ X 18″ steel vise screw. I took the liberty of copying your design with the screw offset on the right side and a guide rail on the left with a wedged through mortice and tenon. I am getting pretty fair amount of rack as I try and move the vise in and out. Have you had a chance to get some pictures of the back side of your apron with the guide rails? I would love to see how you solved this. Also, do you use any lubricant on the wood guide rail to ease the slide?

  6. Ian M. Stewart

    I’ve (luckily) got an old Parkinson’s Perfect Vice, which I heartily recommend. Even older than old Records. Quick release and _very_ heavy. I’m told that the main fault you are likely to find with these is a crack in the half nut of the quick release, but mine’s OK and to be honest, it would take a sledge hammer blow to crack it.

    • Richard Maguire

      Excellent, sounds bloody perfect!
      They are truly lovely vices, the cracks come from misuse, not use.

  7. Max Steenbock

    Another great bit of advice. Thanks for the all the suggestions Richard; your bench build is in my near future!

    • Richard Maguire

      Thanks Max!

  8. Julian

    Recently established a leg vice onto a very country work bench. Never have one before – Joy… bliss even a touch of the sublime! Big metal square cut screw from ancient tractor, and the kind attention from my village Blackie gave me the kit for 10 bucks. Smooth as silk; complete removal simple ; removable verticle stops each side of the leg and rest pegs for long stuff. Little pressure require for a great hold. Can recommend. Now thinking through possible bench stops stops, and another visit to Paco’s forge for a hold fast or two. Thank you for the nudge.

    • Richard Maguire

      A good vice, a planing spike and a holdfast. It’s all a bench needs.
      That old tractor screw sounds a beast!

  9. Rick

    Your post is timely for me. Spring is coming (eventually) and I will be able to get into my garage again. I have a small nicholson bench in my bedroom that I use for winter projects. It has a leg vise that I built with a simple metal screw.

    I really like having a leg vise and decided that I should finally add vise the the summer bench. I bought another screw, but have been waiting for warmer weather to build a vise. I would really like a leg vise on the summer bench. Unfortunately, the summer bench is legless! Yes, I know it sounds crazy. In order to have a bench in the garage I had to hang it on the wall and collapse it when not in use. I have contemplated building a leg with attached leg vise. I am sure it would work, but when I collapse the bench, I would have to move the leg every time. That presents its own set of problems. I may just go with a face vise build to save space. On the other hand, I could just keep on without a vise.

    • Julian

      I can see it’s a bit of a dilemma that you’ve got there Rick; whether to stay hung up
      in the garage ‘legless’ without any vices. However, if your going to be legless for much of the year, this I would gently suggest this is bordering on a vice. I have always found freash air is the answer and an outside winter bench with a tarp may be a possible answer.

      • Rick

        Well, as long as I am planing, I would stay warm. The blowing snow might be a problem!

        • Richard Maguire

          Hi Rick,
          I know, the weather’s a sod at the minute.
          I’d make an all in one leg and vice. I can see a face vice making the swing down top too heavy, so the support of the leg could be needed.

          • Rick

            I need get on with the vise. I am still thinking face versus leg. Face with stow-able leg might be easier to store than leg with leg vise. Now that warm weather is here and the wife wants me to haul a dump truck load of dirt around to the garden beds, I can think on it some more in the meantime!

            The weather is easing up here in Maine, but summer doesn’t begin until July. Just in time for Lie Nielson open house at the factory, 40 miles down the road.

  10. Robert S.

    Good article and insights. Though it has done nothing to dissuade me from considering a Benchcrafted leg vise. Those seem to appeal to both my head and my heart.

    • Richard Maguire

      Go for it… you only buy a vice once!

  11. Fr. Mark

    I hope to build a new workbench soon, but I’m still not sold on the vise for work flow. I improvised a situation where I could plane the edge of a board with the previous bench: something like a hook to hold it upright and so it won’t run away from the plane, and something to hold the tail end of it up. With a bench with a front apron, pre-drilled peg holes and/or hold fasts and hook could do the job for less $, and be about as fast, I think. I have a lot to learn about woodworking and there’s often a lot wisdom in traditional designs, so maybe I should bow to the wisdom of the ages and install a face or leg vise with a 2.5″ wood screw, but 150-250 US$ buys a lot of other things, like wood to work with!

    • Richard Maguire

      You’re absolutely right, a face vice is still in the category of luxury, you can do everything without one.
      You’ll find your skills can improve far quicker as well.
      I’d say, go for the hook and see how long you can last.

  12. Kermit

    I’m soon to replace my Scandinavian bench with an eye to your bench, Richard. I have a bloody stout old American Craftsman quick-release that came my way about 50 years ago, but there it is, it’s iron. My thought is to build with a leg vise—used one in my grandfather’s shop as a wee sprat. I’m weighing a proper wood screw or trying a wedged leg vise. Can’t dither on the decision overlong, given my age.

    • Richard Maguire

      Hi Kermit, if you’re iron vice is in good nick and it’s big, I’d go for that.
      Let us know what you opt for.

  13. Dave

    How would you install the metal face vise to your bench? Would you inset the face or just bolt it to the front with minimal cutout for the runners and bolted to the bench top? Or some other way?

    • Richard Maguire

      Hi Dave,
      I’d always inset it so it’s flush to the front.
      If it was an English bench, then I’d put the back jaw behind the apron and then just have holes drilled for the shafts.
      I’ve got a video that I’m planning to do on the benefits of a flush vice, but that’s definitely the route I’d take.

      • Kermit

        I think I have that image sorted, but it’s always good to see how you get up to things. Do that video. In all the spare time you have. 😉

      • Michael Ballinger

        That’s interesting my vice is proud of the apron which I like because I can hold the workpiece easily with one hand while adjusting the vice. I plan on building a new bench so before I do there’s a couple things I want to try out on the old one. 1 drill dog holes and see how I get on with 2 holdfasts. And now 2 I’ll screw some timber to the apron either side of the vice to make the back jaw flush with the bench to see which way I prefer. Looking forward to your article on the same Richard.

        • Richard Maguire

          The thing with flush mounted is, should you ever need it not to be flush mounted it’s very easy to screw a block on. However, something I do always say is if you’ve got a method that you’re set in and works well, then certainly don’t change because I’ve mentioned it.

          • Michael Ballinger

            True true, but in my case it’s really easy to try out what you’re suggesting because I’m not keeping the bench and a couple screws into the existing apron will be reversible 🙂

            Then when I build a new bench I’ll know definitively what I want. It’s the same logic as your prototyping of the chair.

      • James Wisdom

        Hi Richard,

        Do you a timeline for when this video may come out?

        I ask because I am looking to build the English Bench after watching the series several times, and have a nice old record quick release that I’ve had lying around and would love to see your approach on this setup thoroughly explained before I attempt it.

  14. Alex West

    I sent an email saying that I’m building a modified version of your English Workbench with a leg vice (teh components came from Lake Erie and their after sales service was fabulous – the first one didn’t work due to the humidity changing the nut dimensions relative to the leg so without even a murmur, they replaced the nut with one specially made to account for increased tolerance and the humidity difference – I’m in Scotland.

    When you say teh tolerances on a leg vice have to be tighter to make it work properly, which elements are you specifically talking about? The Parallel Guide? the screw/nut relationship? I’ve still got time to change things so I’d appreciate your advice

    • Richard Maguire

      Hi Alex,
      That supports everything I’ve heard about Lake Erie – a very good service (I must get my hands on one).
      You’re going to get away with a lot more slack with a wooden screw because it can take the weight of the jaw. It’s important if you’re using a parallel guide system to make the jaw as light as possible, ignore all the photos you see of these great big massive vice jaws, they’re not practical unless supported.
      Your parallel guide wants to be loose side to side in the leg, but I’ve always found it’s best to have minimal up and down play until it’s worn in, as if it twists when it opens, and there’s too much play in that direction then it locks like a holdfast and gives this weird jarring sound.
      I always like nuts and garters on the looser side, so it’s just that parallel guide, and remember – light as possible on the jaw.

  15. Mike Kolodner

    I built a bench last year and, after seeing a video that the Unplugged Woodworker posted on making his Nicholson type face vice I knew what I wanted, Unfortunately, the Lake Erie wooden vice kit had become so popular that getting one was going to be a problem….and they were expensive! After a bit more research I found Len Hovarter’s web site. Len is an engineer who developed a quick release vice mechanism that uses an internal cam to lock the vice solidly in a quarter turn, but allows the vice shaft (which is smooth) to freely move in and out of its collar with just a quarter turn back. When I asked him if his VX20 vice kit would work in a single screw Nicholson vice type design, he worked with me and custom modified one of his vice kits to work horizontally, rather than the usual vertical orientation. Voila! Now I have a wide “single screw” vice like Richard’s, but no expensive screw- and the steel shaft is greaseless, so it won’t much up my work and I can, like Richard, rest material across the shaft and wood guide bar or place long panels between the two. I’d be happy to share info or post pictures if that is ok with Richard.

    • Richard Maguire

      Thanks Mike, definatly send pictures, I’d love to see it.
      I’ve always been intrigued by the Hovater vices, but never seen one or tried one.
      If they’re reliable, and effective then I think they really are the first development that we’ve seen in vices in a long time.
      Can you apply gradual pressure with them or are they on or off?

    • Nick

      The Hovater vices look excellent – one of the intriguing parts is how they couple the two mechanisms together on their twin screw vices so you can tighten the it with either handle. I suppose this means you never need to change the your position of your hands when you are tightening it up?.

      You might be interested to know that the type of clamping mechanism where you push the movable jaw up close and then cinch-up the work with a small turn of the handle (which used to be known ‘rapid action’) has been around a very long time – Entwisle and Kenyon (Keighley, Yorks) invented theirs in 1877.

    • Donnie

      Hey Mike. I’d love to see photos of this as well.

  16. Joe G

    I recently built a twin screw moron vice that I place on top of my workbench to get some elevation for cutting dovetails and I made the screws with a 1 1/2” dowels and a screw kit I bought on line and it works great! Is Richard saying a single 11/2” dowel is not strong enough

    • Richard Maguire

      Hi Joe, 1 1/2″ is plenty strong enough for the vice you’re using.
      A bigger thread comes when it comes to your large main vice, where’s it’s going to be smoother, more supportive and quicker to use.

  17. William Lial

    Hi, Richard.

    Great text! I share the same interest of Rico (who commented previously) by the Scandinavian vices. I like that shoulder and vice’s mouth is completely free for the grip of large wooden boards. Of course, there is the cross-grain question on the shoulder that needs attention.

    You as a workbench builder, what about this vice?

    About the wooden screw, I would love to have one, but they are very expensive, unfortunately.

    • Richard Maguire

      Hi William,
      Yep they are pricey, and we tried our hardest to make them cost effective when we made them, but it’s a lot of work!
      I actually think we sold them at a loss.
      Like I said to Rico, I think I’d only go for a Scandinavian vice if that’s what you learnt on, if you’re coming from a standard vice then you’re probably going to get frustrated with the limitations.
      They’re also about as complicated as vice making gets, to build it strong.
      If you build one you’d want to incorporate some kind of metal rodding in the bench top itself, if not they are doomed to failure!

      • William Lial

        Hi, Richard.

        Thanks for the feedback! I believe you, you have more experience of it than I do.

        Anyway, I really liked that vice you put on the English workbench. I’m thinking of saving some money, for a few months – the days are difficult here in Brazil today – to buy a wooden screw. This one in your vice of the photo above looks strong and, why not say, beautiful.

  18. Norbert Pauli

    lovely article about vices that is. Since a couple of month I am experimenting with the 62mm wooden screw,turned and threaded in my own shop. Presently it is used in a face vice just as shown in Richard’s well used bench. Yesterday I got me some more beech, which seems quite adequat for the screw itself, and I also use it for the yaw. This time the experiment will be a leg vice. Strength of the wooden thread seems to be less of a problem than anticipated beforhand. Even locally harvested mapel did make a strong screw.

    • Richard Maguire

      Hi Norbert,
      It really is incredible just how strong a wooden thread can be, particularly when you think of its grain orientation. In my testing I failed to break one, with the normal handle anyway.
      I also deliberately chipped half the thread off one to see the effect, and it still worked great.

  19. Andi

    Hello Richard,

    I´m building your bench the last days. Now I´m at the point to install an iron cast vice. You wrote, that you would mortice the back metal jaw in the apron. Should I go deeper with the metall jaw to put a wood jaw in front of the back jaw to come flush with the apron ? So I would have a wooden hardwood back jaw morticed in my pine apron ?

    Is it overkill to to that ? If not, which thickness for the hardwood jaws should I take ? The front wood jaw I would go with 1 1/2 inch 🙂

    Thanks for your vids and your blog 🙂 and for your advise in these question.

    andi from germany

    • Richard Maguire

      Hi Andi,
      I would stick the back of the jaw behind the apron, and then you’ll be able to drill your holes straight through the apron for the shafts and screw – that may mean you’ll have to dismantle the vice.
      I would use the softwood apron as the jaw, which would last you a very long time, and should it ever chip up you could always recess a new rear jaw in.

      • Andi

        Thank you very much. My pain of never ending thoughts stops here 🤗 when it‘s ready i‘ll send you some pics. andi

        • Richard Maguire

          Great, I look forward to seeing them!

  20. Russ

    I did build your English bench, and as I was just starting out used a Veritas tail vice screw (er, because it was more than a foot long, and cost twenty quid). I did look at Record type vices, but they were going for quite strong money and talked myself out of coughing up for a wooden screw as frankly I didn’t know if I could make a vice that worked. I did manage to line up the top of the screw with the top of the guide and have just used wax polish to lube it – I haven’t buggered anything up with it so far.

    It is bloody brilliant. I’m sure it does not have the finesse of a wooden screw, or the speed, but for me in my shed it works a treat. So far I haven’t found anything it wouldn’t clamp – including stuff straight from the tree I made into mallets. (The posts about how to use it were also worth their weight …)

    And you know what the best thing about it is? I actually made it! Thanks to you both for showing me how.

    • Richard Maguire

      Thanks Russ, that really is lovely to hear. There really is nothing wrong with steel screws for this vice, I just don’t like the slow speed, but let’s be honest, like you say, for twenty quid…
      You must have done a terrific job with the vice build, steel screws are normally much harder to get a smooth running vice.

      • Russ

        Thanks but I think it is mainly down to the design – straight forward but brutally effective. The man-size guide bar is definitely the boss of the screw 🙂 I had to slightly adjust the guide strips in the summer but it hasn’t needed touching since.

        And I’ve actually got round to making a shooting board that works, so I’m back on with the spoon rack – I’ll let you know how I get on. (Although where the bloody shelf for it has gone in the meantime is beyond me – I think it may have accidentally ended up as kindling.)

  21. John

    I came to the conclusion that I will have to build a new bench one of these days. The one I have was built by a machinist turned wood worker and there are too many points where he carried machinist habits along. The original bench has some brilliant design features. There was a wood screwed face vice and twin wood screwed wagnon vices (tail vices) with very thoughtfully laidout throw for the wagons. The dogs on the wagons are round stemmed and will rotate to catch a panel of any shape. The “buts…” however. The screws are the same diameter as a metal vice (ca. 1.5 in or 38 mm). One day I cranked it down and the shaft just snapped.

    • Richard Maguire

      Blimey, that’s a pain.
      A big negative to wooden screws is they need to be big, this doesn’t just make them expensive, but can make them an awkward sod to fit if you’re wanting an intricate vice, particularly a tail vice.
      2″ is about the minimum diameter I’d go.
      I know exactly what you mean, an over engineered bench can be a bit much.

  22. Patrick

    Hi Richard,
    You wrote: …””I’d also recommend using some timber strips to sit between the bench top and the vice runners. These are to prevent the thing from dropping as it opens…”

    I’m having trouble visualizing. Are these parallel to the vise runners or perpendicular? A pic might help if possible.


    • Richard Maguire

      Hi Patrick, either way should work.
      The situation that you’re looking to solve is that drop when you open. The more the vice opens the more the weight at the front will pull it down, and that has an effect on how well it runs. Also when you clamp with it wide open, say you had a drawer in it, it compounds all of the racking problems.
      A packer between the runner and the bench top means that it can’t drop because the runners have no space to lift.
      This is certainly not an essential, but is something that I always did on benches that I sold.

      • Patrick

        Got it. Thanks!

  23. Davidos

    I built your bench at 34″ for prep work with a spike ..brilliant .i built and installed a face vice with a metal screw . And I hate it .it takes a week to open and close it and has a lot of rack..on my orginal bench I have a quick release face vice (fine at 38 “” .. I looked at wooden screw option but price and the fact that I have a perfectly good vice in operation . I do regret it I kind of new lager diameter wood screw would be the job .

  24. Nuno

    Some time ago I was thinking about the dificulty of finding a good wood screw for good money and started to think in alternatives.
    I thought using the wood screw from a stool. I have one for decades, since I was in school. You know, those three leg stools that we can raise the seat.
    It’s cheap, big, strong, and easy to find a used one.
    I ended up buying a metal Irwin with quick release, but the idea is still in my mind.
    Do you see any problem with those kinds of screws? Is the thread good enough for a vise?

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge with the world.
    Nuno from Portugal

    • Richard Maguire

      Hi Nuno,
      That sounds like a very clever idea and would definitely warrant some experimentation.

  25. Bryan Lovquist

    Hi Richard

    I have enjoyed reading your blogs on various aspects of wood working and especially those on building a workbench. I am currently building a workbench and have moved from considering a leg vise to thinking that the Nicholson style vise would best suit my needs..

    I was wondering, what are the main considerations when deciding on the distance between the screw and the guide and the distance between the top of the screw/guide and the top of the chop.

    What are these dimensions on your vise?


  26. Keyvan


    Why can’t we buy those beautiful Richard Maguire vices anymore ?

  27. Ian Scales

    Love your down-to-earth approach to workbenches, Richard, as an antidote to the dominant American gadget and fad-driven approaches. I’d shout you a pint but I’m downunder.

    Anyhow, in your comments about iron face vices, you say:
    “I’d also recommend using some timber strips to sit between the bench top and the vice runners. These are to prevent the thing from dropping as it opens, and makes a huge difference in use.”

    I have an old Record 52 vice on my bench in front of me here, but just can’t visualise this. Can you explain a bit more what you mean?

  28. Alejandro García Iglesias

    Hi Richard, thank you very much for the information. I’m interested in building a workbench soon, and I’m gathering all the information, tools, and materials.
    I wanted to ask you: where I live (Argentina) I’ve found a few old wooden screws for sale, but they don’t have the nut where they would go in (I believe they extracted those from old benches and they sell them for decoration). Are there any worthy without the nut or is the nut feasible to make?
    Thank you very much in advance and looking forward to watching the workbench series soon.

  29. Aaron

    Hi Richard,

    How do you edge plane a really wide board using one of these traditional, one screw face vices? It seems like the plane would be up over your head if your rested the board’s opposite edge on the vice’s screw and the parallel guide.

  30. James

    Thinking of buying h the r bench plans and have sourced a decent record 51 1/2 e. I am a complete beginner. Do the plans/videos show how to effectively attach this to the bench or will I have to make it up a bit?!

    • Helen

      Hi James, thanks for your interest! The video focuses on building the wooden face vice from scratch so you may have a little bit of thought needed to alter this to suit your Record. If you do have any questions through feel free to send them through via email and we’ll give you a hand.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Updates:

Related Posts:

Simple Work Holding For Ploughing Grooves [Without a Tail Vice]

Sometimes the biggest challenge of a project can just be getting the wood to stay put while we try to work on it. I suppose it's why it's so easy for us to get lost in the hunt for a perfect workbench design. And drawn in towards all kinds of vice bling and fancy work...

Gluing Up A Workbench Leg [VIDEO] Right then, I finally got round to starting some of these question and answers. This is a bit of an odd ball, but it's something that’s asked a lot. I also see this issue happening a lot… sadly. The problem is delamination. An issue where...

Slightly Over The Top… Top

I was having a good old rummage through the timber store the other day and found an old off cut from a workbench top. It's from one that I made when I was building them for a living. I used to keep these off cuts and put them to the test. Sun exposure, damp, all that...