Nuts and Bolts: Get A Grip

Soft Aluminum Bench Vice Jaws

Pretty much the most useful single tool in a bike shop, home or pro, is a
bench vise. However most bench vices come with knurled steel jaws which
can easily damage a typical aluminum bike part that you may want to

Traditionally, smooth jaw covers would be made up out of sheet
metal. But these move around and can fall off when used. Some vices
come with reversible steel jaws that are smooth on one side. But these
are still steel and can damage aluminum bike parts.

What is needed for bicycle work is a set of smooth, soft aluminum jaws.
There are some commercial suppliers of these, but they use magnets or
some other device to hold the jaws in place.

I made up mine from aluminum stock to fit my vice exactly and securely.Just use the
existing jaws as a pattern and cut two pieces of 1/8 inch thick
aluminum to fit. Drill and countersink the holes and bolt them up over
the existing jaws. Use screws 1/8 inch longer than the originals. Save
the original screws. Photo’s below.

Now you can clamp that aluminum bike part, such as a caliper brake, and
not worry about damaging it with knurled steel vice jaws. You’ll want
to use this set-up even for clamping steel parts such as freewheel
extractors, no need to damage them either. I have even clamped threaded
steel parts, such as axles, with no damage. If you have a project that
requires the extra grip of the original knurled steel, just remove the
aluminum jaws and reinstall the original screws.

About the Author:  When I was about ten years old and had just
received my first full-sized bicycle, my father presented me with an
off-set 1/2 – 9/16 box wrench so I could adjust the saddle. It was all
uphill from there. Since that single-speed, balloon-tyred Columbia
passed from my hands, I have wrenched my way through three-speed hub
Schwinns and English Racers, bike-boom tenspeeds, primative mountain
bikes, and the modern stuff. I have purchased tools, modified tools,
and made them from scratch. My raw materials are sheets of aluminum and
wire coat hangers. Workarounds are my specialty.