Homemade Shop Vise Packs a Hydraulic Punch

It’s a sad day when one of the simplest and generally most reliable tools in the shop – the bench vise – gives up the ghost. With just a pair of beefy castings and a heavy Acme screw, there’s very little to go wrong with a vise, but when it happens, why not take it as an opportunity to make your own? And, why not eschew the screw and go hydraulic instead?

That’s the path [Darek] plotted when his somewhat abused vise reached end-of-life with an apparently catastrophic casting failure. His replacement is completely fabricated from steel bar and channel stock, much of it cut on his nifty plasma cutter track. The vice has a fixed base and rear jaw, with a moving front jaw. Hiding inside is a 5-ton single-acting hydraulic cylinder. A single acting cylinder won’t open the vise on its own, so [Darek] came up with a clever return mechanism: a pair of gas springs from a car trunk.

With a pair of hardened steel jaws, some modifications to the power cylinder to allow foot operation, and a spiffy paint job, the vise was ready for service. Check out the build in the video below; we’re impressed with the power the vise has, and hands-free operation is an unexpected bonus.

Yes, most people buy vises, but from the small to the large, it’s nice to see them built from scratch too.

Thanks to [Baldpower] for the tip.

9 thoughts on “Homemade Shop Vise Packs a Hydraulic Punch

  1. It seems the hydraulics push the jaws open and pull the jaws shut rather than the expected push the jaws shut and pull the jaws open. I’m not sure as the plans are behind a firewall.

    But assuming that is the case …

    Wouldn’t the slightest amount of air in the system cause it to fail quite badly? I assume hydrophilic seals are far better at sealing oil than air.

    1. As far as I can see, the hydraulic cylinder is a double acting type, with only the pulling side attached to the pump.

      A gas spring is used to open the jaws and push back the hydraulic fluid into the reservoir of the pump.

  2. Is that blue powder-coat meant to mimic the color of Dykem Blue? ;)

    When I first glanced at the image, I thought I was seeing an early construction phase, owing to the copious coverage with layout fluid!

  3. “Eschew the screw” is the name of my bluegrass polka cover band.

    That’s a really clever build and a nice video explaining it. More DIY videos need crickets as things do take a lot longer than the videos suggest.

  4. The custom fab of the vise was good, but the work on the power cylinder was by far my favorite. Being able to look at the stock design and see the modifications that will turn it into a floor unit requires an experienced eye. Nice!

  5. The vise appears to be an immense improvement over the dodgy looking swivel vise, I particularly liked the numerous ways used to cut metal, we had, cutoff saw, plasma cutter, angle grinder and wear-it-away-with-a-linishing-machine.
    Overall a beautifully simple design.

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