How-to Maintain Your Tools: Vises
How-to Maintain Your Tools: Vises
January 6, 2022
If you’re someone who likes to work with your hands, you probably have developed an appreciation for tools that let you go hands-free. Vises are a common resource around workshops and home garages that hold things in place when needed and provide convenient and essential solutions for the task at hand. These kinds of tools may not be called to action every single day, but you’ll want them in good working condition when the time comes to summon the squeeze. Read below for tips on how to care for and maintain your vise so it’s ready to go in an instant and prepared to last for the tool’s lifespan.
Know your Vises
Do your vises have a hold on you? It’s time to get to know them by name. Although much variability exists in application, two categories divide vises used primarily for metal and those for wood. Regarding metalworking vises, the classic benchtop vise is usually the first that comes to mind – also known as a mechanic’s vise, machinist’s vise, engineer’s vise, or just a “bench vise.” They range in dimension from the size of a fist to that of a furnace, often with an anvil-like metalworking plate on one side and jaw plates that squeeze together on the other. Historically, bench vises had radial arms that levered into place but most metal (and wood) working vises today have a “buttress thread” or tightening screw that withstands heavy pressure in one direction but unscrews easily in the other.
Woodworking vises have a similar purpose of fixing objects in place but are often made of different materials and mounted flush to a working surface of a bench. Common styles are front (or face) and end vises, affixed to the respective parts of a bench, as well as “wagon” vises that are end vises spanning the depth of the bench (often with multiple buttress threads). Sidenote: for those interested in bulking up their workbench, here’s a video on how to make an inexpensive DIY wagon vise.
When it comes to caring for your vise, “a general rule of thumb is that the better you maintain them the longer they will last” (according to Bench-Vise.com). The domain’s article on vise maintenance continues to list three key practices to help your vise last for a lifetime:
- Keep your vise dry
- Keep your vise lubricated
- Use your vise as intended
Depending on the vise, environment, and frequency of use these practices can vary significantly from person to person and shop to shop. A machinist or mechanic might clean and oil a vise multiple times a day, while a vise in a home garage may barely see any use in a month and only require a light oiling every so often. In both cases, you’ll want to ensure several points of the vise receive attention during the lubrication and oiling phase.
A standard bench vise has six main components you’ll want to attend to while conducting vise maintenance:
- Fixed Jaw
- Moveable Jaw
- Jaw Faces
- Buttress Thread
When cleaning and oiling your vise, you may wish to consider using a degreaser such as WD-40 Specialist® Degreaser before applying lubrication. Once the heavy lifting is done on the cleaning phase, the choice is yours for whether to apply a dry or wet lubrication and protective coating. Be sure to work the lube into the buttress threads on both sides of the moveable jaw and to oil the areas behind the jaw faces. If the jaw face is made of wood, you may wish to remove it first. Don’t forget to apply a protective oil coating to the handle and the body of the vise and keep them free from rust.
ProTip: Keep the threads of your vise spinning smoothly with WD-40 Specialist® Dry Lube with PTFE. This superior performance formula provides long-lasting corrosion protection and lubrication that does not attract dirt, dust, or oil.