Improvised Magnetic Vise Cheeks

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Blog entry by DonGriffith posted 06-29-2013 07:24 PM 2402 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch

While my basement shop continues to grow (much to the chagrin of my wife, who thinks this whole “woodworking thing” is just a phase I’m going through), it is still a pretty tight space. I’m thus always on the look-out for devices that lend themselves to portability and, preferably, affordability.

In that vein, I recently picked up a small 6” portable “carpenter’s vise” at Harbor Freight. Now, I know many of you more seasoned woodworkers may thumb your nose at ol’ HF, but for cheapos like me, a pilgrimage at least monthly to the Central Machinery Mecca is a necessity.

In any event, this little vise isn’t bad for under 20 bucks, but just like lumber, measurements ain’t always what they seem: the jaw-opening of this “6-inch” vise is more like 5 ¼,” and once mounted on a bench, your effective jaw width before it gets wobbly is really closer to 4 ½”. I was worried that if I added thicker wood cheeks to the jaws, I would easily lose another good inch, leaving little useful room for the vise. I was afraid that thinner stock, though, might split if I tried screwing it in, especially since the screws would have to be countersunk. I also wanted to leave open the possibility of using the vise without the cheeks, which was yet another reason to avoid more permanent fixes.

I happened to have some rare earth magnets sticking around (I love magnet puns), and decided to see if embedding one or two on the back of the wood might help them stay attached to the vise. Lo and behold, it worked. Here I’ve used some scrap aspen pieces, cut a small hole in the back and glued in the magnets.

I used only one per piece and they hold very well but are easily removed. The wood doesn’t slide around at all with the pressure on the work piece and I can take them off as I please. I didn’t even bother to trim these. They’re askew in the photo, but the line up pretty well once I move them a bit.

It’s a great solution when working on smaller pieces where a larger vise isn’t very practical. I’m sure I’m not the first to figure this out, but since everything is new to me, I’ll take the credit for it anyway.

-- Cut first and ask questions later.

2 comments so far

View olddutchman1's profile


69 posts in 3181 days

#1 posted 06-29-2013 08:04 PM

I think that is a good idea! I believe that as long as man has breath, He, She will have new ideas for magnets. I have been a hobbyist woodworker, and I haven’t thought of it Come to think of it, I am old enough to forget if I have heard of it, or not! HA! That is really a good tip. Thank you! Harbor freight isn’t near here, so I have to mail order everything that a big box store doesn’t have, an Harbor Freight has some good tools. The list has been growing as time goes by. I don’t need more things in My basement shop, but if I need some good ideas, I know where to come!

-- Saved! and so gratefull.Consider Who Created it All

View robscastle's profile


7193 posts in 2973 days

#2 posted 06-29-2013 10:05 PM

With the development of the rare earth magnets just about every tool or can I have is held in place by magnets in my garage.

I used to work in a section for the destruction of HDDs and enjoyed mutilating them purely for the ability to recover the massive rare earth magnets that were inside so I could use them at home.

They were so strong that I used one to hold open my security screen door.

Theses days they are fairly common it all sorts of gear, so you don’t always have to buy them, its just a matter of knowing where to look for them.

-- Regards Rob

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