Using a Bench Vise to Easily Straighten and Strip Wire




Introduction: Using a Bench Vise to Easily Straighten and Strip Wire

About: Was it you or I who stumbled first? It does not matter, the one of us who soonest finds the strength to rise must help the other. - Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

Effortlessly straighten a project's wire using your shop vise with no hammer, pliers, drills or muscles needed. Depending on how your workshop bench vise (vice) is mounted- a swivel base is very handy-, using it's exposed beam end as a drawbar will greatly aid you in working out kinks in reasonable lengths of utility or electrical wire. This method will efficiently do profile variations as well as round shapes

Step 1: Improve the Vise

My bench vise has an external exposed beam, and I can use this to my advantage with a simple modification by drilling and tapping 1/4- 20 (M6 x 1) holes near the tail. These allow various fixtures to be mounted, or items to be clamped onto it.

Step 2: Adjust End Block Clamp to Suit

Close up the vise jaws first to fully extend the beam. Don't forget to allow some wire loss due to clamping needs using this method, so if you want specific lengths, cut to an overlong size. A simple lag screw driven into wood scrap will suffice as an end block anchor point; clamp to the benchtop as necessary. Form a hook on both wire ends, insert, and tighten down both clamp screws.

Step 3: Begin the Draw

Open the vise jaws, moving the beam away from the end block and watch the wire as it straightens

Step 4: Do the "Twang" Thing

As tension increases, pluck the wire. It will react just like any stringed instrument will, increasing in pitch. I suspect at a certain tone it may be indicative of a desired conclusion, but I wanted to push the envelope of this idea so I really cranked it up. Note the employment of a professional hand model called er, "Betty", to aid in the illustration of this Instructable

Step 5: Let's Strip!

Now it becomes very easy to strip the insulation from electrical wire if needed. Slip a utility knife blade under the insulation at an angle, and simply draw it down the length. The top is thus freed, and the bottom peels right off.

Step 6: Checking the Results

The wire I used was #12 A.W.G. Romex electrical, with a diameter of 0.0808" (2.052mm). The ending dimension was .080"(2.032mm), yielding a diametric reduction of less than .001" (.0254mm).

Step 7: Possible Uses

  • Jewelry; Perhaps Also Use With Drawplates For Custom Profiles
  • Bullet Making
  • Lead Caming Preparation
  • Antenna Fabrication
  • Model Building, Both Ship And Airplane
  • Wireform Artwork

Step 8: Parting Thoughts

Not having to purchase additional tooling to accomplish a new task is it's own reward in itself, so I hope this fills a need for someone out there looking for an easy and inexpensive wire preparation method. If your vise (vice) is the enclosed type, perhaps drilling and tapping the outer moveable jaw's upper section can achieve the same result



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36 Discussions

Another use for the final product, (we forget the high price of copper) recycle the wire to copper for cash. it's pretty near pure, and sells for good cash. I have a lot of spare wire around the house not needed for projects, and I intend to use your idea to bring home some cash. Check with several metal dealers for pricing some are underpaying for this near precious metal. In some states you may need a license from the state or local authority to work with recycling metal, since a great deal of copper ends up stolen... Much of it is impossible to trace.

Many vises and anvils have a hole drilled in them for the purpose of punching holes in the material being worked (e.g. sheet metal, leather, etc.). Drilling and tapping into hardened metal is an accomplishment. I do not believe that any warranties would be voided with a small hole tapped or otherwise. Many anvils and anvil portions of vises have a square hole deliberately put in them for metal working, called a hardy hole, for inserting a tool for fixed use of said tool. And the round hole would be a pritchel hole for hole punching.

I think your idea would be capital for two reasons, it adds to the usefulness for punching holes and for clamping down a wire. I have only seen a ruined vise one time in my sixty year life, and it was terribly abused by a lot more then one drilled and tapped hole. If drilled slowly and deliberately with or without cooling oil, no temper would be lost. I'd consider a hardy hole too, drill a round 5/8th hole and file it square til the cows come home, it would be a very useful addition. Tempered steel would (and should) be a slow process.

Secondly vice is a crime of moral turpitude (prostitution & gambling where prohibited, etc.). A vise is a device clamped (usually to a work bench or a work vehicle, in order to hold a working item for stability and working with it. Your even handed response to the prior ALL CAPS question was well worded. I don't think I would have been so nice.

Bench vise (vice) construction is a simple, mature technology, very little about it is unknown. They tend to be constructed with a robustness that endures unanticipated usage, yet remain serviceable for a lifetime. The most common hard/ abusive use seen is the application of handle extensions to up the compressive force, usually when pressing in or out a bearing, and this would be the main concern of a knowledgeable tradesman. Thank you for your comment.

I don't know if it would work but how about running a blow torch over the length of wire if it proves troublesome? As some have said, they can't get all the kinks out so doing this might just soften the wire (anneal it) to help it straighten up. Obviously I'm only talking about a gentle pass over with the torch while the wire is under tension.

4 replies

Annealing the wire with a torch would definitely help make a difference as the ductility would be eased, but the process also calls for quenching it with water. That adds a whole extra preparatory procedure that in all likelihood isn't needed under normal circumstances using the simple method presented. The issue of removing all kinks is also compounded by the fact that expecting this or any other method to work with stranded wire is doomed to failure at the outset, because stranded wire is made to be inherently flexible, hence it resists straightening and rigidity by design. Thank you for your supportive thoughts on this method.

BeachsideHank, I'd not even considered stranded wire :) So I do agree that this would be more problematic. How about simply walking along the heated up wire with a jug and pour cold water over it as you go. It wouldn't be much of an added step. I agree that you'd need to provide something to catch that water though. Just some thoughts to add to your really excellent 'ible' :) Thank you. Ooh, another thought.... Now, please bear in mind that this is really off the top of my head as I sit here.. I wonder if running a round bar under and then over the wire under tension might ease more of the kinks out? It may not do anything but it may ease those stubborn kinks out.

Your interest in thinking about how to improve the process
is inspiring Kevanf1, and so pondering it may also be beneficial to introduce a
low voltage high current controlled source to each wire end so as to heat it up
flamelessly, thus softening it. That would be a whole 'nother Instructable, so I
leave it to someone else who may explore that possibility. Keep thinking those good thoughts my friend,
and it might just be you.

I like that thinking :) it could well work... Ok, I really do need to clean up my workshop now. It's in a little bit of a mess due to having the most of a car interior in there... So many ideas, so many Instructables to try :)

Take care BeachsideHank, I truly look forward to further ibles from you.

I have some 3, 5 and 6mm copper wire that I salvaged from an arc welder. I was going to scrap the wire but realised that I would rather use it in our mixed metal jewellery. I was toying with the idea of using a sash clamp in a similar way to what you've done... I may try both. I also tried the recently constructed 4 ton press with some success, maybe back to the drawing board with all current info and see what comes out the other end.

Thank you for some ideas, great instructable.

1 reply

For short sections of wire you can roll it on a table with a piece of wood, as if you were rolling a piece of clay.

Just tried this with bare 4/0 and a chain come-a-long. Didn't really keep straight after letting off the strain.

2 replies

4/0 wire sounds like service entrance, stranded, at .460" (11.68mm) diameter. That's gonna be very difficult to straighten with any means. Dunno if copper or aluminum construction would make much of a difference either, but your input is appreciated and thanks for the comment.

I have been working (and even emigrated to Romania) where I have seen the easy way in practize to traighten concrete iron from considerable length.
Fiix the end on a strong pole, (e.g. a tree at the roadside ) fix the other side on the trailer hook from your car and move on.....

Another possibly easier way to get the same effect is to simply clamp one end of the wire in the vice, then attach the other end in the chuck of a drill, tighten the chuck, and slowly let 'er rip.

The wire will twist but if its single strand it wont be noticeable. Sounds crazy, but it's an old trick that works.

1 reply

Brilliant! did it with heavy gauge copper wire and perfect result. My vice didn't have much length on it's exposed beam end, so I just eased the end plate screws of the moving jaw and clamped my wire behind it — this gave at least twice the pulling range. Only issue ... the right angle bend caused wire to fracture a bit early so added a bit of dowel to round the angle.

1 reply