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Adjustable Carving Devices

The big revolution in carving over the recent years has been 'adjustable holding devices' - we have yet to find a neat name for them! - versatile and adjustable means of holding your work as you carve it.

In this lesson I want to show you just how wonderful they are - a real investment in your carving - especially when combined with wooden plates and carvers' screws.

There are many differing versions on the market, small and large; cheap and expensive; some based on balls (as here); some lock at fixed points; some need bolting down (as here) and some clamp to the edge of the bench. You'll need to do some research and watch different types in action before buying the one that best suits you. 


| 03 February 2020 02:35

Ellenwood Arts sells a great, adjustable vise that works great for small to medium carvings. I've been using it for a few years and will be adding the top plate described here (though smaller) next. The cost of the vise is $135 US.

| 17 July 2017 04:15

oops, forgot to add that the vise I gt was called the crossover. Howard has many work holding vises on his site.

| 17 July 2017 04:13

there is one vise I bought. it's called the Jeff Howard's total vise
made in USA, and costs about 150.00 award gives you a vise worth 400 bucks for 150. he is a good man. check out his site. he needs to advertise, but he seems to be a couldn't care less fellow like me. so I am doing a bit for him. there are so many vises and vise makers who charge exorbitantly, and give you some convoluted metal that does not do the job. the SF vise....well, it's the brits who invented machine work, so that would be the only rolls royce that really works. as for Chris Pye; let me tell you. he is the only go to guy you need for carving and wood work. I have seen many charlatans who want to show you nothing for a large sum of money! but this fellow.....he is the only truth straight out of the horses mouth. just look at the ingenious ways and methods he shows us all. and there is not an iota of show or deceit. for a meagre 10 bucks a month, you can have close connections with the man himself. what more can one ask for? and to top that, he is a buddhist. personally, that's the only credential you need to be on top of everything and yet be simple and direct! ahoy there Chris.....I made it at last.

| 12 January 2016 09:46

For those in the USA and Canada, I have found that the Veritas Carver's Vice works well for small and moderate size cavings if used with a homemade wooden plate such as Chis suggests.

| 18 December 2015 19:31

For those in the USA and Canada, I have found that the Veritas Carver's Vice works well for small and moderate size cavings if used with a homemade wooden plate such as Chis suggests.

| 03 October 2014 17:51

Chris, great tips. I think I now have everything I need. thanks for the freebee!

| 03 October 2014 04:53

Luis - I freely give it to you, so it's not stealing! I marked where the bolt holes went in the wooden plate and bored through. I set a bolt through one of the holes and drew round the hexagonal head. I then recessed the head to a tight fit (I'm a woodcarver after all!) and a little below the surface. I filled with a woodglue/sawdust mix before adding the cork. So now I have the plate with cork to the 'front' and the screw threads of 3 (short) bolts sticking out the back. The bolts pass through the metal plate as I put the wooden one on. Nuts and washers on the other, under side of the metal plate. I've used this wooden plate for many years now with no problems bolt-wise at all. And - we ALL start as novices!

| 03 October 2014 01:20

Chris, It makes perfect sense. I just bought a hydraclamp and I thought I would steal your design:-) The cork layer for better grip is brilliant. I was wondering how you kept the carving from slipping and rotating when working with a mallet, the cork surface is the answer. Thank you. I would ask you more questions but I don't want to bore you, Ok I will ask anyway. The bolts on the metal plate don't seem to be through and through on the wood. Are they? Won't those strip over time? Do you use glue if so what type of glue? I was thinking of using a forstner bit to bore a hole large enough to install a recessed nut on the other side, then hide it behind a layer grippy surface like cork. I think by now you should be sensing that you are dealing with a novice, I'm really sorry about that:-)

| 02 October 2014 14:14

Luis - The wooden shape is an extension of the metal plate. I asked myself what I'd like to be able to do, then shaped the board to suit. It's 1in thick ash, sort of hourglass shaped, with a cork (tile) covering to help grip the carving. The larger part bolts to the metal plate, the smaller part of the hourglass extends away from the plate to allow the fly of the carvers screw to turn freely. There are 2 holes for the screw, one is smack in the middle of this smaller part and I mostly use it for holding work. Sometimes, however, I need to get right up to the edge of the carving where it's sitting against the wooden plate, so I switch to the hole right near the outside. The V shape notch let's me get even closer into the carving but is narrow enough not to let the screw slip out. Hope this makes sense!

| 29 September 2014 16:43

Chris, can you explain why you chose to shape for the wooden piece that's attached to the holding plate on you vice they way you did? It also looks like it was laminated with some other type of wood, looks like cork but not sure. At the very top of the wooden piece where the carver's screw passes through it has a cutout in the shape of a V. What is that for? I noticed it cuts right into the carver's screw hole.

| 10 February 2014 00:38

Direct link to Hydroclamp by Spencer Franklin and costs (about $1,000US).

| 29 April 2012 13:01

Thank you, that sounds like a great idea, and one that I will definitely try. Another idea I saw while scouring the internet for ideas, was to use a bag filled with sand to support the carving, then secure the carving in place with a band clamp (over the carving, the sand bag and the bench). I haven't tried this so don't know if it works. I expect, as you say, it'll depend on the size and shape of the carving.

| 29 April 2012 09:03

Elizabeth - Not daft at all! Finding the best way to hold your work, safely and so you can 'get at it', is a continuous concern for carvers, especially if they take on a wide variety of type and size of projects. In the end you'll develop or acquire an array of options, which you'll adapt to the carving in hand. The carver's screw is, for me, one of the most versatile, especially when coupled with an adjustable positioner but - and this is important - the screw is only be suitable for certain work. Other work, such as your small carvings, may well need something different. One of the simplest and possibly oldest ways of holding work is to leave waste wood by which you hold the carving and which you eventually cut off. You might, say, add length to the base of your in-the-round carving and hold the waste wood in a vice.You can carve right round and into this waste wood and eventually free the figure without a base if you choose. Have fun!

| 28 April 2012 09:17

Does anyone have any recommendations for holding smallish in-the-round carvings where a screw wouldn't be appropriate? Do you have to use a screw with these adjustable holding devices? I'm a complete novice btw, so sorry if this is a daft question.

| 18 January 2012 22:03

Chris, thank you for the suggestions regarding holding our carvings. I have had a Jerry-Rig for a few years but have not known how to use it because I don't have a workbench. I need to be able to work in the family room which is finished and lived in. I saw your vise configuration and attached it to the underside of a rough "2x4" chair. Instead of having a heavy ballast, I am that ballast and when the chair needs to be moved, I simply pick it up. It works so well! Sometimes I just move the carving around into different positions to see how versatile it is. I am carving a moose and I have been able to access every angle.

| 25 December 2011 21:58

I have a Jerry-rig which I do like,but the range is a little limited. I just got the Eli Ball Vice, haven't really used it yet, but it looks very promising, and the price was right. Now I have to get some of those carver's screws and make one of those boards Chris uses, that looks really helpful.

| 06 December 2011 02:42

Try "Ball Vise" too

| 06 December 2011 02:40

I did a little online research and the key word for an internet search is "work positioner". You can find all kinds of different brands out there that will suit your needs and budget. Also on ebay I found "wilton powrarm". The 301 looks pretty good. The're made in chicago and some are really old.(which is cool)

| 16 November 2011 15:50

Bill - The one I use is the WDS SF-1400M Hydraclamp. It's the biggest they make and IS expensive. I would say I've had mine for over 20 years now and it's proved one of the best carving investments I ever made.

| 14 November 2011 23:51

Chris. This is a great video and I'd like to purchase such a clamp. I went to the Hydraclamp source (listed above) and found a perplexing array of clamps. It would be helpful if you could identify from the Spenser-Franklin site which one of the clamps that most closely approximates the one which you so ably demonstrated in this video. Thanks, Bill Solberg.

| 28 October 2011 11:52

Anyone in the USA should check out the Eli Vise. It is a ball system and very well built with great range of motion. It is very sturdy and made of 1/2" thick metal with 2" balls to fit it. What's also very good is the price of it.
Google Eli vise and you'll find it.
I like the hydra system also but it is out of my price range unless I was making big money for my carving.
I have NO affiliation with Eli company, just a very happy customer.

| 22 October 2011 13:40

Hi Mike - the device I feature is made by Spencer Franklin, who call it a ' Hydraclamp' - it clamps by oil pressure. SF do make smaller, non-hydraulic clamps too but none is actually designed for woodcarvers. The Hydraclamp must be the most expensive such holding device for carvers on the market. However, I've had mine for over 20 years now and it's proved one of the best carving investments I've ever made. I don't know of suppliers as such but here's a link to start your search:

| 22 October 2011 13:19

Hi Chris, very interesting vise and design. I will get that vise soon And what the name of this vice manufacturing? Thank you. Mike G

| 27 January 2010 12:18

Another happy customer ... Eli vice is tops and won't empty your wallet! It is a monster-strong vice.... not monster big.... but so strong and well built! I drove down to the seller's place and got my own. It comes with two balls, large and medium or small if you like .... I've tried several... this is the tops.

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