Instructables
Picture of Magnetic Soft Jaws for a Vise
This is a set of soft jaws I made for my vise. They are made from 1 x 2 inch furring strips. 

A few weeks ago I was watching the Woodsmith Shop TV show on PBS. They showed a set of homemade soft jaws for a vise held in place by magnets. That set used very powerful button magnets set into the wooden jaws on the back side. Fitting the button magnets seemed like something requiring more time and precision than I wanted to devote to the project. 

Step 1: Tools and materials

Picture of Tools and materials
Tools
  • Saw
  • Tin snips
  • Grinder
  • Drill
  • Vise
  • Screwdriver
Materials
  • Ceramic block magnets from Harbor Freight (one dollar)
  • 1 x 2 furring strip
  • Old sheet metal
  • Screws

Step 2: Paper pattern

Cut two pieces of furring strip the length of the jaws. Place one into the vise as you want it to be when finished. Place the magnets on the vise where they will not slide around easily. See the photo. Take a piece of scrap paper and crease it to fit between the furring strip and the top of the magnet. These magnets are quite strong.

Step 3: Cut two pieces of sheet metal

Picture of Cut two pieces of sheet metal
When we replaced our old water heater I saved the sheet metal skin to use for future projects. The pieces I cut are about two inches long and a bit wider. 

Step 4: Bend to fit

Picture of Bend to fit
IMG_0340.jpg
I used a grinder to smooth the edges on the sheet metal pieces. I used the vise to bend the sheet metal and tweaked the bends until the fit was pretty good. See the second photo. Some adjustments in the bends were easier if I turned them over and pounded with a hammer.

Step 5: Drill and attach

Picture of Drill and attach
I made certain the sheet metal fit both the magnet and the furring strip. I marked the placement of the mounting holes and drilled the sheet metal. Then I drilled smaller holes in the furring strips and attached the metal with screws. I repeated the process for the other soft jaw.
 
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lucidpsycho16 days ago
Where was this when I needed it... thank you for the idea! will definitely try.
Phil B (author)  lucidpsycho15 days ago
Thank you for the comment. I wish the magnets were lower in profile. Once in a while the rising sheet metal gets in the way of something I am trying to do, like use a hand plane on a small piece of wood. I also wish I had had the idea earlier.

I cut an advertising magnet for the Friendship Centre in half and added some plastic sheet and foam. I just made free vise jaws!

Phil B (author)  MetalworkingMaster12323 days ago
There is something called the Friendshhip Center near where I live. Where do you live and what is the Friendship Centre you have in mind?

Oh, and by the way, the magnets are just used as sheet metal.

Oh, and by the way, the magnets are just used as sheet metal.

Fikjast Scott8 months ago

great thinking, I am going to make one. my vise covers are always falling on the ground. I like the magnets. Also, I am going to take this idea and make some soft jaws with oversize rubber erasers

Phil B (author)  Fikjast Scott8 months ago
Thank you. They continue to work well for me. I wish the magnets had a lower profile so the top of the soft jaws was higher than the bends in the metal for the magnets. I hope you will do an Instructable of your eraser jaws.
Nice one Phil, I use this method sometimes but I have rear earth magnets on my wood
It is good to hear from you. Thank you.
that is a really good idea i always try to hold the wood in the vise with one hand as i tighten it, when i need soft jaws
Phil B (author)  future engineer1 year ago
I have done the same thing for too long and did not enjoy it. Thank you for looking.
louis.m1 year ago
I am sorry to write this, but. . .

The entire vice might get magnetic after a while, and all kinds of metal scraps will get stuck on and in it, and to the magnets !
Phil B (author)  louis.m1 year ago
Most of the vise is made from cast iron. I do not believe it can be magnetized, but the jaws could become magnetized. If it is ever a problem, I can remove their screws and degauss them.
teotsin1 year ago
Thank you for the great idea!
Heres my quick and a little sloppy version (no magnets)...
IMG_1027.JPG
Phil B (author)  teotsin1 year ago
Your version looks like it will get the job done nicely. You could make an Instrucsble about it. Thank you for sharing.
Very nice idea. I usually put a rag in the jaws when I need to protect what I have in the vise. This is really great.
Phil B (author)  RobTurrentine1 year ago
Thank you for your comment. A rag is a good quick solution, if it meets all of your needs.
danzo3211 year ago
Did I miss something? What attaches the bent metal to the magnets?
Phil B (author)  danzo3211 year ago
The magnetic attraction holds the sheet metal to the magnets. You may glue them, if you wish. I chose not to attach them with glue, etc. because it is a simpler way and I am free to borrow the magnets later for some other temporary use.
L22JL6UV94, harbor freight rare earth magnets, 10 mags for 2.99, can't get much cheaper than that
Phil B (author)  bob Cosenza1 year ago
I saw those at Harbor Freight, but opted for these bigger rectangular magnets. I am glad the button magnets work for you.
Great idea, I did mine with some old oak flooring board cut offs and used the rare earth magnets counter bored and super glue into place, a very fast time frame, the oak is also thinner with none of the metal up on top, great idea thank you
DAYJAY1 year ago
Good one. Well done.
(I too miss Pop Sci mag DIY projects...)
Phil B (author)  DAYJAY1 year ago
The old magazines are all available on-line. I did an Instructable about how to find and navigate them with links. I also included links to some projects I would have liked to have built, but never did. Here is the link to that Instructable.
wdsims631 year ago
I love this idea Phil. Nice work. Did I miss where you said what you used to attach the magnets to the sheet metal? I assumed you glued them together and didn't just trust the magnet to hold onto the sheet metal.
I was thinking yesterday that my vise could use some soft jaws. Harbor Freight to the rescue! (Which is where my vise came from to begin with...)
Phil B (author)  wdsims631 year ago
You certainly may glue the magnets to the sheet metal. I chose not to glue or otherwise fasten the magnets to the sheet metal. These are strong magnets and they do not move around easily. And, the way I planned these jaws means that the magnets only need to keep the jaws against the faces of the vise until I can tighten the vise on whatever I want to hold. Leaving the magnets loose also allows me to use them for some other temporary impromptu project before returning them to my vise jaws.
Fair enough. Thanks for the reply.

I have some cheap disc magnets that came out of a shower curtain, so I may try my soft jaws with those. It is even tempting to try and sink them in the back like you mentioned they did on the Woodsmith.

As you said, you don't really need the magnets once you tighten down on the piece.
Phil B (author)  wdsims631 year ago
And, if you look closely at the jaws I made, part of the sheet metal rests on top of the factory jaws to support the weight of the soft jaws and keep them from slipping. The magnets need only keep the soft jaws against the factory jaws until the vise is tightened. I did adopt the Tim Taylor philosophy of "Wuh! More Power!" just to be safe.
BrownsFan1 year ago
Great idea. I am going to make some for my vise, but I am going to use magnets I salvaged from old hard drives! Most also have predrilled mounting holes which will make easy to attach to soft jaws.
Phil B (author)  BrownsFan1 year ago
Magnets from an old hard drive will be excellent. One of my projects has a couple of bolts I need to keep nearby and not lose. I attached a hard drive magnet to the project and let it hold the bolts. The husband of my wife's cousin was visiting. With a great amount of control I placed one of those bolts on the hard drive magnet. I was being very careful to conceal how powerful those magnets are. Then I handed him my pliers and told him to pull the bolt from the magnet. It was one of those priceless moments. If the magnets are too strong for easy removal, you could put a couple of layers of tape over the faces of the magnets to weaken the connection just a little.
Phil B (author) 1 year ago
Profpat,

If you have a router and a table for it, set a fence on it. Put in a V bit. Let the top edge of each jaw ride against the fence to insure uniformity. You could also lay the blade on a table saw over at a 45 degree angle and use a fence. You will need to reverse each piece end for end and run them a 2nd time to finish the V. Beyond these methods, you would need to mark carefully and use a chisel by hand to make grooves.
profpat1 year ago
this is what i need for my bench, vise, i also need a v-block type to hold cylindrical objects..
Phil B (author)  profpat1 year ago
If one jaw has a "V" groove, the task is easy. If both jaws have a "V" groove, care must be taken to make certain they align. Someone spoke of making more than one set of jaws, each for a different use and purpose. Thank you for looking and commenting.
profpat Phil B1 year ago
whats the best way to make a v grove?
Plognark1 year ago
This is one of those brilliantly simple things that I really should have thought of on my own :D
Phil B (author)  Plognark1 year ago
I was admittedly building on someone else's idea. Thanks.
NTT1 year ago
Wouldn't it be simpler to just recess the back of each block -- where they make contact with the front of the jaws, and glue the magnets in the recesses?
Phil B (author)  NTT1 year ago
I mentioned in the text of the Instructable that is what the folks at Woodsmith did. I did not want to do that because I did not see any button magnets strong enough when I was at Harbor Freight, and the drilling would need to be fairly precise so the magnets are not crushed in use, but still close enough to the surface to grab the steel jaws. You can do that, but I had reasons why I did not want to do that.
Another good idea, Phil, thanks...I read it yesterday and decided right then to make a pair. I did what the NTT suggested, and just drilled out recesses for four magnets...then epoxied them in place.
vice1.jpgvice2.jpg
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