created 28/09/19 - last updated 04/01/22
Hand-held work-holding tools
While our fingers are often the most
versatile workholding devices, many parts are
too small or fingers cannot exert sufficient force to steady
parts. Therefore, various types of hand-held vices are
available. Pin-vices are primarily
meant to hold round parts, but if slotted cross-wise can
also be used to hold flat parts. Pin-vices typically have a
capacity somewhere between 0 and 5 mm
diameter. Hand-vices are made in many different sizes. Jaws can be
as small as 10 mm wide and up to 40 mm wide. The jaws are either
smooth or serrated. There are two principal mechanisms: either
the two jaws are hinged at some point or they move in guides and
then are parallel to each other, which is preferable to protect
Originally, pin-vices were tool-holders for pins, needles,
broaches, reamers, taps, and drills. They are used in a wide
variety of scientific and technical contexts for this purpose.
In the following a number of pin-vices and hand-held vices from
my workshop are presented.
Archimedes drill for watchmakers.
2 - Slender modern pin-vice with hollow fluted brass
3 - Slender antique pin-vice with hollow fluted brass
4 - Shop-made pin-vice with walnut body and head made
from an insert drill-chuck; these drill-chucks are unfit for
their intended purpose as they usually do not run true.
5 - Eclipse toolmaker's pin-vice with knurled steel
body; these come in different sizes.
6 - French-style pin-vice; these are closed with the
sliding ring and have usually brass inserts in the two jaws
that can be adapted to special needs;
7 - Dito, here the jaws are replaced in hard-wood for
8 - Antique laboratory pin-vice with fluted wooden
9 - Modern pin-vice with fluted wooden handle; these
come in different sizes and capacities.
10 - Antique toolmaker's pin-vice for very delicate work in
Toolmaker's hand-held vice that is closed with a sliding
2 - Hand-vice with parallel serrated jaws moved by a
3 - Antique american style hand-vice; the jaws are
closed by screwing in the conical body; the handle and body
have been replaced.
4 - Hand-held collet-holder; this uses horological
lathe collets; the advantage is that work can be transferred
between the holder and the lathe when it has the nominal
5 - Castrovejo surgical non-locking needle-holder;
they come in various sizes, this has medium tips for
6 - Antique surgical locking needle-holder; these come
in a wide variety of sizes and shapes.
A selection of
Castrovejo eye-surgery tools:
1 - fine-pointed non-locking needle-holder with straight
2 - fine-pointed locking needle-holder with smooth tips
3 - fine-pointed blade-breaker - this are used to break off
pieces from razor-blades to be used a very sharp scalpels
4 - very fine-pointed tweezers - they are stiffer and less
springy than the typical watchmakers or biological tweezers
5 - medium-pointed non-locking needle-holder with curved
I had been looking
for this kind of watchmakers bench-vice for a long time, but
they are very expensive, both new and second-hand. Got a
good deal on this and it came with the mounting plate.
Notable suppliers are Bergeon and Leinen. This plate
normally is set into the workbench to allow the vice to be
easily removed. However, I wanted to be able to move it
around the bench for a variety of light filing and holding
duties. The jaws are smooth, 40 mm wide and hardened, of
course. These precision vices are very well constructed with
a covered spindle, so that that chips cannot get onto the
I happen to have a cast-iron stand for such a vice for a
long time, but converted it to a swivveling base for models.
Until I'll find another suitable cast-iron base, I knocked
up a wooden base for the vice from rests.
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