Features October 2019 Issue

A Handy Cockpit Vise Is Ready in a Pinch

Most times when I need a third hand, I can secure whatever Iím working on by jamming it in the groove between dock boards, or against a piling and placing a knee on it, or some combination. Work surfaces can incorporate cleats or holes for this purpose, but sometimes more specific clamping measures are required.

Clamp-on vises. Unless you have a very sturdy table to clamp this to, with an edge you donít mind scarring, the larger sizes arenít practical. We carried a small clamp-on vise on two boats for 20 years, and I canít remember a single job where it was critically useful. A machinists vise must be through bolted to be of much use.

Drill Press Vise. Although more limited in terms of what they can hold, they have the major advantage of being useful without being bolted to anything. For drilling or filing small parts they can often be used without being secured at all. The disadvantages are that they are shallow, not as good for bending rods and strips, and less versatile when holding odd shapes.

The portable vice fits neatly into a cockpit locker seat. T-nuts on the underside make it easy to remove and re-orient to suite the project.

C-Clamps and vise Grips. The clamps can keep plywood work surfaces in place and prevent larger projects from moving. vise grips are surprisingly versatile as a minimal vise, even better when a helper is available.

Portable Benches

An elevated work surface that avoids being bent over all day is be a blessing on larger projects. Add a clamping function and they can be darn handy for working on rudders, cabinetry, and larger parts.

Lazerette Topper

On my last two boats I built benches that fit across an open hatch, secured by the lip. It canít scratch anything because itís not sitting on anything, and an errant drill will penetrate nothing but air.

Measure the inside and outside dimensions of the lip when open. You fit ĺ-inch cleats (simple wood strips, not horned cleats) to the underside of 3/8-inch plywood board to prevent the board from sliding. These can bear on either the inside or outside of the lip, depending on the available space.

Toggles can be added to prevent lifting, but I never bothered with anything more complicated than a seated partner or my foot (a drill press vise applies minimal leverage to the bench). Tightly fitted, even that is unnecessary. The wood can be left unfinished to provide better grip, or painted to make for easier clean-up and reduce warping if stored in a damp place.

The drill-press vise attaches using 3/8-inch bolts and T-nuts installed on the underside. A backing plate must be added where nuts are located, since the T-nut barrel is about 1.5 times the bolt diameter and may be thicker than the wood.† Multiple holes and slots in the vise, and multiple T-nuts allow multiple vise positions and the use of several different vises.

Altogether it is a 20 minute project.† Where does it store? Dangling by a string inside the same locker where it sits, ready for use when I need it.

Drew Frye is technical editor for Practical Sailor and author of Rigging Modern Anchors . He also blogs at his website www.blogspot.sail-delmarva.com.

Comments (3)

One's robust fender board can be readily modified with T-nuts, as above, to fit tightly across one's open companionway hatch and to accept a portable vice/vise as suggested. One can also secure some woodworkers' 'hold downs' by the same T-nut means. The hardware should be stowed in a sealed polybag protected against saltspray and rust by a suitable anti-rust spray/thin layer of oil.... just like the rest of one's tools.

Posted by: oldbilbo | September 28, 2019 1:50 PM    Report this comment

One's hardwood fender board can be adapted easily to fit across the open companionway hatch, 'secured by the lip' as above. The portable vice/vise should be stored in a heavy-duty sealable polybag to keep out the salt spray, coated in anti-rust spray/oil.

Posted by: oldbilbo | September 28, 2019 1:43 PM    Report this comment

Nice tip, but "vise" not "vice."

Posted by: jtwspoon | September 28, 2019 11:19 AM    Report this comment

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