A Twelve Dollar Knife Makers Vise

It may not be pretty, but it works!

Knife Makers Vise

Two weekends ago, I was lucky enough to attend the American Bladesmith Society’s Heartland Bladesmithing Symposium at Steve Culver’s shop. It was incredible. I learned more than I thought you could learn in two days.

Looking around at all the tools he had, I saw a really cool knife makers vise. It let you clamp a knife in it and rotate the blade to work on all sides while still holding it securely.

I checked online and a store bought vise is around $100.00. I am saving for a propane forge and can’t afford a finished vise so I made this one.

You can put one of these together in a couple of hours if you have access to a small welder. Here are the parts I used:

Parts for the twelve dollar knife vise

The main body (gray pipe) is the top tube of an old swing-set I found in my garage and is 2″ in diameter. The gray pipe in this picture does not become part of my finished vise. It is just to show what the yellow pipe looked like before I started.

I cut a piece of this pipe  6″ long and drilled a 3/8 hole in the side.  For the hole, I came in about 1 1/2″ from the end. Next, I welded a nut over the hole. You can see this on the yellow painted pipe.

For a tightening handle on the inner vise (yellow pipe), I cut a ‘U’ bolt in half. That gives me the L shaped threaded rod that has a little yellow paint on it. That is what you use to tighten the inner wooden jaws that hold your knife.That might be cheating but it made a really comfortable handle for less than a dollar!

Next, I made the outer vise jaws. These allow you to spin the inner vise and clamp it tight where you need it. I made this from a heavy 2″ fence gate clamp that I got at a farm and feed store. At seven dollars, that was the most expensive piece of the entire vise.

To make the outer vise open and close easily, I bought an extension nut and welded a scrap of 3/8″ mild steel rod on it for a handle:

I also added a spring from the hardware store to make that outer clamp jaw want to open easily. I couldn’t find a spring that was exactly the width that I needed, so I cut a longer one down a bit for this.

Lastly, I made some wooden jaws to go inside directly against the knife itself.

Jaws for twelve dollar knife makers vise

Any 1″ x 2″ hardwood scraps should do for the jaws. I used Barge Cement and put leather pads on this set. I believe that I will make several sets of jaws for different work. I will make one pair with a long lower jaw to support the blades while I am filing them.

That’s It.

There really isn’t much too it. You clamp the bottom bit of the silver chain link fence gate hinge into your regular vise and you can hold a knife in any orientation.

While this isn’t nearly as elegant as the one I saw in Steve’s shop, it holds a blade tight while I am working hard on it.

Happy Making,


9 Responses to “A Twelve Dollar Knife Makers Vise”

  1. Hogan Baker Says:

    Wonderful tutorial! Thank you. I am a little confused though, does the tightening handle directly contact the wooden insert jaws? Wouldn’t that split/break the wood in a very short time?

  2. I have screwed a small piece of sheet metal to the outside of the wooden jaws to prevent that. Any scrap should do. You will need screws short enough that they do not go through your wooden vise jaws.
    Does that make sense?

  3. Hogan Baker Says:

    Yes it certainly does.


  4. i really like youe knife makeing tool the price to buy some of these are just nutts THANKS

  5. If some one wants expert view regarding running a blog then i advise him/her to visit this webpage, Keep up the nice

  6. Moby Duck Says:

    I am about 6 years too late with my comment but I love your design. Looks pretty enough for me. The important thing here is that you actually made a vice quickly and didn’t sit around for months, designing/planning/gathering materials etc., like many of us do and never actually get to build the vice.
    Instead of making different sets of wooden jaws, perhaps they could just be made longer. Push both all the way in for normal use and pull the lower one out further when needed to use as a support.

    • Thanks, you know, I still use it every week – it has held up. Also – I have made new jaws since then much like you describe – I will try to put up a post and show them this week.

  7. Thomas Crawford Says:


What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: