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What Is a Pattern Maker's Vise?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2016
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A pattern maker's vise is a specially designed clamping mechanism often mounted to workbenches for use by woodworkers and hobbyists. The name of the pattern maker's vise comes from the original users of the clamp; pattern makers are woodworkers who carve intricate designs onto wood, and they require a stable working space that will not allow the wood to move while they are fashioning the piece. The jaws of the vise are usually made of hardened steel, though they are lined with wood to prevent damage to a piece being clamped.

One of the biggest advantages of the pattern maker's vise is its ability to rotate and pivot. The rotation allows a person to orient the vise in several ways to accommodate wood pieces of various sizes and shapes. Sometimes the jaws themselves will have different features depending on how the clamp is oriented; rotated 90 degrees from center, the clamp may be able to accommodate round pieces with a cut out on the jaws; rotating in the other direction may allow a woodworker to effectively clamp an exceptionally tall piece of wood for carving.

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The pivoting feature of the pattern maker's vise allows the jaws to pivot outward; this is useful when clamping tapered or oddly shaped pieces of wood. Depending on the specific model, the pattern maker's vise may also be able to clamp pieces of wood at an angle in relation to the bench top, providing a more convenient work surface for the woodworker. The versatility of the vise has made it a favorite among woodworkers throughout the years, and newer models only improve on the technology to enhance the convenience.

The vise itself is affixed to a solid and stable workbench, and it should be mounted in such a way that the top of the jaws line up with the top of the bench. Originally, the pattern maker's vise was designed specifically for pattern makers, but CNC machines, or computer numeric control machines, have largely replaced pattern makers. Other woodworkers have found convenience, ease of use, and functionality from the vise, so it lives on as a common staple in most woodworking shops. The jaws of the vise are controlled using a hand lever attached to a screw mechanism; rotating this hand lever adjusts the jaws of the vise inward or outward, which means the vise is useful for most clamping needs, not just pattern making.

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