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I Forge Iron

which vise would you use in a workbench


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Hello, getting ready to build a workbench that I can use for my pexto stake plate, post vise, and wood working vises, So I can also use this bench to do wood working things when needed. making it out of 4"x6" oak beam and rough cut 1.5"x 7.5" boards. I mostly have hand tools to do the job. 


Trying to find he right height. I have the smaller post vise from bottom tip to mount hardware is about 29" and for my largest and prettiest one is 32" I also have a intermediate sized vise but its jaws aren't as precise.

I think I want to mount the larger one I think overall the bench will weight a few hundred pounds, and its at least a 90lb vise, so should provide ample leverage, especially that the mount fits so nice on the table top. I am going to mount that in the corner at 45% from the sides. 

I then have a regular easy mount wood workers vise my uncle in law gave me some time ago so that will go on the opposite far end. 

then you see 2 screw vise clams from a mass produced workbench. It was damaged and is rickity and will be come some kind of work station. I want to mount them on the opposite side I mount the face plate and post vise together to clam one long piece. Even ideas come of taking 2 small bike gears and chain and welding the gears to the turn handles. build small sheet metal cage for it. would be a fun project. 


Questions: how beneficial would it be to run some threaded rods through my table top to really tighten it down. 

Do I need copper face plates for my longer vises if I were to clamp plate or sheet metal in it? 

how far can I mount the smaller vises from each other? max length of that vise? (overall bench will be just over 4 ft. )

what are optimal heights for wood working benches, and pexto stake plates ( I figure even if some anvils make the height uncomfortable i can build a little raiser platform to stand on. but still be at more comfortable heights for other work as option )

any good methods to get the smooth rods out of the wood part of the 2 cheapo screw vises? 


thank you for any tips and considerations!

vise collection.jpg

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A woodworking bench & a metal working bench are two separate things. The height of both depends on how you work. 

Do you use hand tools (i.e. hand plane), or machine/electric? You need a metal surface for welding/spark creating, and you won't want to accidentally dull a woodworking saw on a metal surface nor have a 5000° torch flame run across oak grains.

You can always adapt your bench to the project you're on at the time... My woodworking bench is 33" tall. My metal bench is 36" tall. 


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Optimal height for a wood working bench is probably around your wrist height.  Hold a plane and see where it's motion is free and easy without bending over.  

Optimal height for a stake plate is one where the tops of commonly used stakes will be at wrist height  like an anvil to allow work with hammers

These are mutually conflicting heights!  You really need separate workbenches!

Do you need to cover the post vise jaws: Yes No or Maybe depending on what you will be doing.  Highly polished armour making or repair Yes; basic use with hot steel No---unless they have been dressed with absurdly aggressive faces---I have 1 that way sharp pyramids across the entire surface. (which actually works well for doing rough wood working where the surface of the workpiece will be dressed later!) Covers generally don't need to be copper, Al and steel (easily made from angle iron) work too.

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I would like to for sure. I do have a metal wall mounted metal work table. I had my medium vise on it at my old shop. But the problem is for the time I will have 2 shops one, small farm shed" and select power tools to be brought out of garage. So that is where I will be doing any welding, until I can expand and/ or get power.  So I do want to use my heavy vise for forging.  If the consensus is that a mobile stand would be better for it then I am open to suggestions. I could then mount the smaller vise on the table for various non hot forging work. But its going to be really stout. and the brackets fit this bench so nicely. it may be a while before I make a metal table that could handle it. 

I think I am ok with making it a shorter bench than normally for wood working, I can work Japanese style. I just happen to have the vises on hand and might find them useful. I am 5' 11" and had about 33" from ground to knuckle with shoes on. To mount the smaller vise though I would have to bend the leg, I could even do this so that the end notches into the leg of the bench.


here is the layout I am envisioning. including details on small vise. The anvil will most likely be secured with dogs and clamps. 

also I am considering doing a light burnt finish on all but the top to help preserve, but realize this may not be good idea, but aesthetically would make this breath taking. since i would have champhered the legs like a post vise.  the small one doesn't have that tooling.


other options, is make it a full height bench without the stake plate and put that on something small with no extras. I have some 2"x7" pine I could use for that. 

bench layout.jpg

small vise head.jpg

small vise tail.jpg

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You're talking not 2, not 3 but at least 4 different uses for vises and throwing in a stake plate for icing on the cake.

If you're talking about mounting leg vises for hot work you'll want the top of the jaws on your STRIKING anvil about wrist height with your arms hanging relaxed at your side. The vise you'll be using for hot filing, twisting, incising, etc. will need to be about elbow height. This height makes it MUCH easier and natural to keep file, saw, etc. strokes level and even while putting work for fine chasing and incising say wizard heads closer to eye level.

Elbow height is a better height for ANY hand work that involves repeated strokes, planing, filing, sawing, etc. Someone posted a guide here, printed in an old book that laid out how to mount vises and it's a LOT more involved than just height. Where on the table, an independent stand or a wagon tongue or truck, the whys and hows. 

What I remember most clearly is the elbow height on a CORNER of the bench or table. On a corner so you can bend or hold long stock without hitting the table. 

You my friend want to get as many uses out of a confined space as possible but it's going to take a LOT more than one table. Were it me I'd put the leg vises on an outside wall near the door, or make portable stands and mount the leg vises at two heights for the purpose.

Bench vises should go inside on the benches or stands necessary to the correct working height.

Frosty The Lucky.

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your right, maybe the stake plate does not belong! (the main inspiration behind this build too!)  I may just bolt up some of this awesome pine I have and make a short small movable block for it. then have my work bench to do other finish stuff on.

unfortunately my heavy vise is also the tallest and jaws rest at elbow level making it a possible candidate for the bench. Yet the smaller vise is just above wrist height yet is not heavy enough for forge work. (or is it>? beat it til it bends, beat it til its back again>?) I may just have to improvise with stepped risers to stand on. 

The shed itself is about 10x14

I need to add some roof, tighten some joints and take out the floor and put down gravel for now. 

@thomaspowers, just checking it out now, thanks for the link trail!


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That'd make a nice little shop but I don't know about working both wood and hot iron in that small a space. I'd be awful tempted to extend the roof on this side maybe 4' close it in and maybe put a door between the sides. Make this side the hot shop, with a little tweaking you could mount the leg vises at any level you  like and you'd only need one bench vise for fine metal work, heck that one could be in the other room. 

The stake plate can go on wheels and stow under the bench. It's not like it has to take heavy work, a couple wedges under the wheels would keep it stopped enough. What are you going to do on the stakes? I've seen silversmith setups where the smith sat on the stake plate.

Frosty The Lucky.


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those are fine suggestions. I do want to extend the roof some, if even to have an open canopy I can go from there. I may build the new stake plate block a little longer now to make sure I can straddle it!

I don't really plan to do a lot of wood working as a focus of my shop but I could see myself buying small slabs, tailoring them and making a bench or something. I do like mixed media. I  have lots of creative interest so need to be adaptable for multiple capabilities. Eventually you know I want to build a larger dedicated shop with concrete floors. It has been a child hood obsession to build armor. But what I want to do is make fixtures, and handles and functional things that I can then demo for and sell at a ren faire. 


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I've been in the SCA since fall of 1978,  I think you will find armourarchive.org usefull if you want to make armour.

Do you have Price's "Techniques of Medieval Armour Reproduction, the 14th century"  AKA ToMAR in the craft.

If not GET IT! Sell plasma to buy it; shoot sell your own plasma to buy it.  (ILL it at the local public library to check it out first!)

"Civil War Blacksmithing" by David Einhorn is another source of items to sell for re-enactors; though different centuries (with some overlap).

I'd put in a pole barn "carport" off the side and put sliding barn doors around it and build the floor up (run a 2x6 around the poles, put down plastic and fill with gravel, and have a securable work area and use the original as a "clean shop, tool shed"  Wood stove probably a good idea for your climate,,,

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yeah I've had that book for a few years now. It is most excellent. most of the armor I design may be historically inspired but is generally considered fantasy, I just consider it an artistic expression of the medium and function. For me I don't see a lot of interest in trying to copy and reproduce historical armor except as a for fun experience to see how I would. 

I do want some exposed "outside" area. will see what I could do for doors and stuff. the list of things I want to do is immense. and lots of it requires the planning and forsight to do it right. I haven't been on the smithing websites much in the past few years because I haven't had shop space. 

Also have a pot belly stove to install for winter. Michigan winters from my limited experience can get cold like anywhere, its not really that it is the coldest or the snowiest, just that its very grey and dreary, the sun hardly shines, and it last a long time.  The summers though, pure paradise. 

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The thing about historical armour is that it *works*.  Much of the fantasy armour I have seen would be more dangerous to the wearer than going without armour. I prefer fantasy armour when they modify stuff that works than do stuff that clearly doesn't!

And then there is Renaissance Fantasy armour like was done by the Negroli's (and some has been replicated by Ugo---a name to look into for modern fantasy armour!)  As you are in the USA you can ILL "Heroic Armor of the Italian Renaissance: Filippo Negroli and his Contemporaries"  And see just how fantastical they got!  (and realize that all the 3D repousse work was done in medium carbon steel NOT dead mild stuff!)

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historically inspired* just not of a particular style, functionality is why I want to make it. but who knows what I might make should someone with money asks me to make!

I love those armors. I think I actually saw some of his work at a limited and special display at the smithonian. They had another ward and there were some of the most fantastic pieces I ever saw, inclusing one that had the repoused hair into the helm. many other kingly armors and portraits on display. But I forget who lent them the collection and what it was! some

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I agree with most that was said. :)

The only thing I want to add is that post vice belongs on a post and parallel vice belongs on the bench or a stand.

To do hot work on a post vice, particularly if you want to make scrolls on a jig, you need to walk around the vice unobstructed. No little shelves, trays, hammer holders of any description. Just a post and ample room around it. At least that is how I learned to work.

Still learning by the way :D

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Yes, I have a gate or to on the to do list and I will be mounting a postvise in the the middle of the drive so I can work full length sticks of steel around it. (Luckily the driveway is just desert soil so no problem sinking a hole in it---unless we hit a boulder. Digging out for my first section of the shop had everything from deep soft sand to a boulder that we had to use a backhoe to remove and that was just in a 20'x30' area! I'm in the Rio Grande river valley in both my locations...)

However for a lot of "small stuff" a workbench mounted postvise will do fine.  (example Knifemaking, bottle openers, leaves, most historic cooking tools, etc) In my shops most workbenches have 2 postvises mounted to them: a large and a small one on different corners as they have different use cases. I also have a large heavy duty one mounted to a telephone pole that holds up the roof and is sunk 5' into the ground and concreted to boot.  It's for sledge work and unfortunately it does drive the metal building wall and roof to let the world know when I'm using it...

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2 hours ago, IronDogSmile said:

yeah I do want a free standing vise. I have 4 various sized post vise to use.... just working on which one to use for this bench.

What size vise, it's a bit of a how long is a piece of string kinda question.  it totally depends from the task at hand. I had to replace the bearing on a 1/4" shank roundover bit for a trimmer and it was a bit funny to see it inside a 6" vise.

I am the one that thinks big is good, bigger is better, but I am aware that that is not necessarily true, only that it pleases me. Still looking for a 8" post vise :)

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