Hands-Free Bench Vise
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted – 11-30-2012
The Rockwell BenchJaws™ uses steel throughout its construction to insure durability and rigidity, both important to work-holding devices. You can mount the Rockwell BenchJaws™ to the (90-degree) corner of any reasonably standard workbench using the included heavy-duty steel bracket. That bracket also lets you position the Rockwell BenchJaws™ parallel to either of the bench sides quickly to maximize its versatility in our often-crowded shop environments.
Though the Rockwell BenchJaws™ weighs just 22-lbs it has a 0 to 16" standard clamping range and is capable of supporting a 220-lb load. Each vertical pump of the foot-activated lever moves the jaws 3/8” which offers a good balance between speed and accuracy when aligning the work pieces being clamped. When closed the Rockwell BenchJaws™ jaws can develop up to 2200-lbs of clamping force.
In the Shop
There is a bit of assembly to ready the Rockwell BenchJaws™ for use but that is no big deal. The instructions are graphic-based and do show the necessary steps for assembling and using the Rockwell BenchJaws™. The only caveats are remembering to put the nuts in the ends of the mounting bracket before screwing that down (don’t ask how I know this) and waiting until the Rockwell BenchJaws™ is actually on the secured mount before finishing the installation of the adjustable pedal leg segment. There are a number of possible holes that let you vary the length of the pedal leg to get the full throw of the stepping motion to end near the floor without contacting it. This is part of what makes the Rockwell BenchJaws™ compatible with all reasonably sized workbenches.
Installing the Rockwell BenchJaws™ securely is made easier thanks to the included bracket that spreads the pressures over a sizeable section of the bench surface. This bracket also eliminates small inconsistencies that could be in the bench surface itself. Once the mounting bracket is secured the Rockwell BenchJaws™ slips right on and is locked in place with a finger-tightened screw at the rear. Changing the Rockwell BenchJaws™ from one side to the other requires only removing the single locking screw, slipping the unit off the mount and then back on in the other position and re-installing the locking screw.
There is only one “control” on the Rockwell BenchJaws™ and that is the Lock/Unlock slider switch on the front. With this slider in the up position the moveable fence can slide forward or back freely and the pedal also goes up and down without stopping. Move the slider to the Locked position and the pedal and jaw lock in place at the end of the stroke, wherever that might be in the overall travel. To unlock the jaw you have to step on the pedal again, move the slider to the Unlocked position and release the pedal. The jaw is now free to slide manually where you need it.
When the pedal is depressed a set of “dogs” for lack of a better term rise up into a set of openings built into the bottom of the jaw. That applies the pedal pressure and moves the jaw forward or applies pressure to it. A very simple but very effective mechanism.
Though I have been messing with the Rockwell BenchJaws™ for a couple weeks in the shop, getting used to it took just minutes. The movement of the jaw is very predictable and the pedal motion is so easy that putting the pieces into the jaws as you want them is dead simple. The shape and contours formed into the jaw covers surface let them get a good grip on all sorts of shapes and sizes. The pressure you can generate with the Rockwell BenchJaws™ is more than enough to hold project pieces for any task I can think of.
Need more clamping capacity? Rockwell offers their RW9207 Extended Jaw that slips onto the Rockwell BenchJaws™ in place of the original jaw. However the RW9207 Extended Jaw is longer but has the double row of sockets over its full length to let you clamp pieces up to 24”-long. Slip the standard jaw off and the RW9207 Extended Jaw on and you are ready to work with the big pieces.
The RW9208 Multipurpose Jaw has a pivoting moveable jaw with a deep V-shaped depression at it center that makes gripping oddly shaped pieces much easier and more secure. Atop both of the Multipurpose jaws are blocks that let you surface clamp pieces for operations such as carving or sanding.
The RW9208 Multipurpose Jaws simply replace the original jaw covers that come off without the need for tools. Slip the RW9208 Multipurpose Jaw in place and secure them with the included finger knobs and you are ready to get to work. Going back to the original jaws is just as fast and easy.
The Extended Jaw and Multipurpose Jaws are shown in the video below.
The Rockwell BenchJaws™ is a handy work-holding device for the average shop that has plenty of clamping pressure that can be easily applied with both hands free. That can be a huge benefit in many one-person shops. The construction of the Rockwell BenchJaws™ is tough so with reasonable care in operating it I can’t see what would fail or wear out. That makes the street price for the Rockwell BenchJaws™ of around $110.00 (11-29-2012) a decent value for our tool dollars. The accessories the RW9208 Multipurpose Jaw sells for $40.00 and the RW9207 Extended Jaw $41.00.
If you find yourself looking for a better way to hold some work pieces or to eliminate some of the working-alone frustrations, check out the Rockwell BenchJaws™. I suspect that this tool will have lots of uses in many of our shops, plus make working in your shop a little easier and safer.
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