Usefulness of a Shoulder Vise

but is it worth it? January 9, 2007

Please give me some reasons why a shoulder vise is worth having. I'm having trouble finding clear plans for a shoulder vise.

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor M:
I'm presuming that you're asking this because you're (re)fabricating a new workbench. Have you consulted The Workbench Book, by Scott Landis? This excellent book includes not only an exploration into the varying kinds of benches, but it also gives you exploded views good enough to build from.

Years ago, I made a simpler version of the Frank Klausz Euro-style cabinetmaker's bench (I ditched the tool trough) as per the plans from the book, and it had a shoulder vice. When I eventually upgraded away from that old bench in favor of a new one that did not have the shoulder vice, I actually missed it.

It's great if you're using a lot of hand tools. If you're using a hand plane, the shoulder on that shoulder vice gives you a very positive stop for the stock and the screw vice holds the wood quite securely. If you don't do a lot of hand planing or scraping, then you should be able to get away with a traditional woodworker's vice positioned towards the end of the bench.

Interestingly, it also was a great place to drill down into the board. The shoulder design with the screw overhang gave me a very good support on the back/sides of a piece with a generous open space that allowed me to drill through-holes without jeopardizing the benchtop.

From contributor D:
I love my tool tray and my shoulder vise. I apprenticed with a fellow who had no formal workbench and when I finished with him, I built my bench essentially straight from "The Workbench Book." I don't know how my mentor ever made any money making furniture without a real bench, but I won't give up mine. I did modify the bench somewhat. I added 1 foot to the overall length of the bench and substituted a veritas twin screw end vise for a tail vise. I also went with round dog holes instead of square. I placed a row of holes 6 inches in from each edge, but I would place them closer now, after several years of use. The shoulder vise is very useful. I clamp all sorts of things in it and I don't think I would trade it out for a face vise. Just keep the thing screwed in when not in use.

From contributor A:
I built a Klausz style bench with tool tray, tail vise, and a standard face vise. Love/hate relationship with the tool tray. I do a lot of hand tool work and really like the tail vise and soon made modifications to install a shoulder vise. It only takes me a couple of minutes to switch between face and shoulder. Use the shoulder vise 99% of the time.

Shoulder vise advantages:
1) Not as much pressure required, due to force being centered and larger surface area. Useful for delicate items.
2) Great for holding tapered shapes.
3) Great for working on the end of a vertical board.

It's not so good at holding narrow boards horizontally. (Use the tail vise for this).