Introduction: Magnetic Soft Jaws for a Vise

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first to…

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

  • Saw
  • Tin snips
  • Grinder
  • Drill
  • Vise
  • Screwdriver
  • 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

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

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

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.

Step 6: When Not in Use

My metal workbench has an upper tier where I can stick magnetic things for easy storage and retrieval. I rounded the sharp square corners with a grinder. When I want to store the soft jaws, I peel the jaws and their magnets from the vise and stick them onto the upper frame of my workbench. 

Step 7: Finished

My soft jaws will do what I need. They will stay in place very well when in use. They are easy and quick to remove, as well as to put in place. And, the cash outlay was only one dollar.