In selecting a front vice for my work bench, I am intrigued by the pattern
maker's vice such as the Tucker vice sold by Lee Valley at
http://tinyurl.com/4hvrd . My local dealer has Taiwanese clone of this style
that sells for $190. It appears to be quite well made and works smoothly.
I'd appreciate any comments from someone who owns or has used a similar
I bought the Taiwanese model from a Woodcraft dealer. It is a bit crude, but
quite well made. They told me Lie Nielsen bought a bunch for their use.
I also considered the Tucker, but at $700, I am pretty confident it is not 3
plus times better than the Taiwanese vise, which is an Emmert knockoff. It's
heavy, and seems to do everything the Tucker does, except it does not have the
smaller carving jaws on the bottom (I don't carve), and it does not ahve the
chain, which lets you open the vise with a foot pedal. I assume the fit and
finish is better with the Tucker as well, but for $700, well......
I've not used that one, but I do use a friend's bench with
Axminster's Emmett pattern
To quote past posts of mine:
An Emmett pattern patternmaker's vice is handy, and quite affordable
for the modern Taiwanese repros. A great second vice, they're not so
good as an only vice. They're always on the skew, so they're less
rapid to clamp up square things, which is after all what you do most
of the time. They're also difficult to mount rigidly on some types of
You may also notice that tilting the vice jaw needs two Allens on the
Lee Valley, and a simple handle on the Axminster. Although the
Axminster is much easier here, for most uses I'd prefer the Lee
Valley. The trouble is that most things we clamp are square (unless
you really are a pattern maker) and it's all too easy for the jaw to
swivel under its own weight. In fact, I find the Axminster to be a
damned nuisance to use. I like it, and I'd like one as a second vice,
but I wouldn't want to have a workshop where this was the only or main
So, as I posted - I'd go with the biggest English non-tilting cast
iron face vice I could find, with narrow-set guide bars for best
access, a quick-release nut and hard maple faces at least 1/2" bigger
than the cast iron.
I will generally agree with Andy. I have an Emmert turtle back with the add
in tilt plate. Nice vice, but .....
What I like about the Tucker is the quick release of the jaws. If I need to
go from holding a single board on edge to 12" open, its a lot of turns.
Quick release is nice. Also the jaws in the Emmert are wide, that's good and
bad. If I stand a board vertical in the right side of the jaws, I have to
put a spacer block on the left side to compensate for the flex.
My solution to many (not all) of the problems a pattern makers
vise can solve is this:
If you need to hold non-rectangular items, you can use
a jaw insert, similar to the emmert design.
Well, last year, in a moment when enthusiasm overcame wisdom
I picked up a real Emmert turtleback off Ebay. It was actually a
pretty good deal, as, including shipping, it was about $465...and it
does cost a bit to ship 100+ lbs of iron and steel halfway across
I had to do some work on it, and spent another $50 on parts
but, still have a decent deal, I think.
Now...how do I like it? I like it A LOT! It was called
the "Iron Hand" when it was produced, because of its strength and
flexibility. I have already used its ability to hold heavy objects
at odd angles several times. While it would have been possible
to do the work without the vise, it made it a LOT easier. For
example, I am working on carving a "story stick" for a friend.
Before I had the Emmert, it was kind of a pain to hold this thing.
It is about 7' long, and, roughly octagonal. I was clamping a 2x4
in my regular vise and using "F" clamps and such to stabilize it.
Now...I just swing the vise up, and clamp the pole in it. when
I finish an area, it is trivial to readjust it.
Also, I built a Biesemeyer fence for my table saw this
Spring. Having the Emmert made that go a LOT easier both from
the flexibility aspect and the strength. That vise is ONE solid
Now...as for the $200 clones available. I have laid
hands on them, and, frankly, was just on the verge of getting
one of them when this opportunity came up. They are fairly
well made, and, quite strong. They are slightly smaller than
the Tucker and Emmert vises (either patterned after the #2
Emmert, or made from patterns taken directly from the vise...
without accounting for shrinkage). I would say that
while they are expensive, they seem to be pretty good
values for the money.
Having said all this, I should also note that I
got by quite well for 30 years or so without the patternmaker's
vise. Actually, at first, all I had was a small machinist's
vise bolted to one end of the bench. It was only about ten
or 15 years ago that I picked up a "real" woodworker's vise
(from Grizzly Industrial, actually...) and was way impressed
by how much easier it made so many tasks. If you are
serious about woodworking (or metalworking, for that matter)
the patternmaker's vise is a great addition. If you only
get into the shop once or twice a year to make a box...
probably not worth it, except as a cool toy.
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