Wooden Hand Vise




About: Professional work in various electrical and mechanical fields, obscure sense of humour and typically willing to help... Currently under contract designing environmental monitoring equipment.

This is a 2 piece wooden device that can tightly grip small objects that are up to 3/8 inches thick.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

You will need a small piece of 2X3 or 2X4 that is about 6 inches long.
In addition you will need a pine slat 1.5 X .25  two pieces cut about 10 inches long and another about 4 inches long.

You will need some wood glue, a drill and 7/8 inch wood bit and counter bore ( a 1 inch wood bit will also work).
Some sort of cutting and sanding implements. I used a stationary belt/drum sander from Rigid

Step 2: Prepare the Holder

The holder is made from 3 pieces of laminated pine slat.

Begin by cutting and shaping the longer pieces on the sander. This is fairly quick with an 80 grit belt. The should resemble a fork without the tines when complete. The narrow end should be no narrower than 7/8 inches.

Cut the short piece so that it is roughly the same width as the narrow end of the shaped pieces.

Glue and clamp the short piece of slat at the base of the narrow end.

Step 3: Make the Base

If you have a Counter bore than skip the 1 inch drill section.

Secure the 2X3 in a vise so that one end is facing

Use a 1 inch drill bit and drill about 1 to 1.5 inches deep.

Use a 7/8 inch bit as drill all the way through the 2X3. Keep the hole as centered as possible.

Use the counter bore to enlarge one end so that is flares to about 1 inch. (Skip this is you used a 1 inch bit.

Cut and shape the 2X3 inch a rough hand piece. You can leave the larger end flared to the 2X3 dimensions if you need a flat hilt near the work area or you can take it down to a cone shape as I did.

Leave the drilled hole a little rough as this will aid in gripping later.

Step 4: Shape the Holder

When the glue had dried, remove the clamp and begin shaping the holder on a belt sander.

Shape the base first so that is is a round dowel shape all the way to the flared portion. This should fit a little snug but not too much so into the 7/8 inch hole in the base. Sand the dowel end smooth and place slight bevel on the lower rim.

Put a slight bevel on the outer edges of the flared portion if the holder so that it creates a wedging action on the rim of the 1 inch drilled section.

Wedge the holder into the base as far as it will go and lightly sand the top part of the holder as it is gripped together.  this will create a uniform clamping section on the jaws. Lightly finish the edges of the jaws with a 45 degree bevel.

Step 5: Enjoy

The jaws are operated by pushing down on the top and released by gently tapping the dowel that extends from the bottom of the base.

The friction from the rough drilled hole is enough to clamp the work piece firmly yet the wooden jaws will usually leave no marks on the piece.

A laser etched part would be a great way to start carving...



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    18 Discussions


    1 year ago

    The PDF associated with this Instructable returns a 0 byte file.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I have some tweezers that I would use for small parts, and likely won't be building one of these for myself. I think it is an awesome instructable and quite clever how it is presented.

    Not having any capability to bore through a 2" by 4" made me think of what I might substitute and hence the original question about PVC pipe.

    So, please don't think me ungrateful - I am merely curious. I'd like to learn more from those of you that understand this better than I.

    If the inserted sections were tapered, does the holder need a taper inside the bored hole? I am envisioning wedges in the center and the interior bore straight and un-tapered.

    Could someone construct a straight holder with multiple boards used for the four sides and tapered (wedges) inserts into the center? I totally understand that this would lack the ergonomics of the one built in the instructable, but I am trying to see if the physics would still work as I envision it.

    Thanks in advance IronSmiter for your help!

    hmm... I'll have to think about that for a bit. in the mean time, if your capabilities are really that low right now, consider the image I have attached.

    The first one I MADE for myself, I whittled with a pocket knife, and used a couple wraps of twine in the middle.

    it is one of the simplest hand-vises you can have... but is still pretty versatile.

    OK, on further thought... if you wanted to make both the handle AND the clamping parts out of pvc, you're PROBABLY better of not.

    I say that, not to discourage you from trying. But, calling on my experience, even if you get the wedging/clamping action to work with pvc, the strength of the jaws will be severely limited. It might make for a good candle holder, but for holding stuff, probably not. PVC pipe is just too flexible.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    That would work even better if you used opposing wedges. Just a pair of opposing wedges between two fixed parts makes an OK clamp.

    No. You're right. Plastic on plastic would be more like a slip 'bearing' than a wedge clamp. What I was thinking was that the handle - which would be hollowed out- might be made from the PVC pipe and the wedge inside of it out of wood. Further, it already comes round and I wouldn't have to fight to make it ergonomic.

    Your description of the whittled version is very clever.

    Thanks again for your suggestions. And warning.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    For those without that large counterbore laying around...


    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    A tapered reamer is a countersink. A counterbore does what it's name sounds like, it bores a hole. Sometimes called a step drill. Their primary functions are to flush two different kinds of screws to surfaces.

    Just figured I'd share :)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I wonder how strong is the vise ???
    I wonder about the strength of the tube. Any force applied to it may well break it by splitting th wood. Wouldn't t be better to have a metal tubing ?…


    7 years ago on Step 5

    Simple, easy to make and useful. I now have made 2, of different sizes. I find it holds small wooden pieces more firmly than my hands, with less damage than vice-grips and keeps my fingers away from sanding belts, saws and other sparp, metal tools. If you want, the outer slieve can be replaced with a piece of ABS pipe. The magic is in the center part, and while I prefer the feel of wood, if you've got suitable sized pipe, it's an alternative that is strong and nearly unbreakable. Thanks,

    Possibly, I have not tried this but I do know that you need a little friction between the 2 pieces for the clamping to be reliable.

    Let me know if it works.

    as well? no.

    Part of what makes it work as a vise, is the tapered engagement area.

    Now, before I get my head bit off... you CAN make it work.
    If you use a heat gun and warm up the end of the PVC.
    Then, form the end taper into the now-soft pvc pipe.
    It won't grip as well as a good tight wood to wood fit, but it SHOULD work.

    There is no rubber strap. Just friction holds it together. The green piece is a small section of jeweler's wax for carving. I put it there as an example.

    Ahh, I understand now. When I first saw this I thought there was an adjustable rubber belt that held the item in place, similar to an oil filter wrench/puller.

    Still great!