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What Is a Pin Vise?

By J.E. Holloway
Updated May 16, 2024
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A pin vise, also called a pin vice, is a small type of hand drill used in hobbies such as model building and jewelry making. The pin vise features an adjustable chuck which holds drill bits, wire or pins. This chuck is the reason for the word "vise" in the name.

A pin vise consists of four main sections: a chuck; a screw-on head which covers the chuck except for the tip; a barrel, usually no more than four or five inches long; and a rotating knob at the base. The barrel and head are often knurled for better grip. To fit a bit into the pin vise, a user partly unscrews the head, loosening the chuck. The user then inserts a drill bit and screws the head back into place, tightening the chuck. The chuck will now hold the bit firmly in place.

Model builders make extensive use of These vises in creating multi-part models. When assembling resin or metal models, it is sometimes necessary to reinforce the join between two pieces. The model maker does this by using a pin vise to drill a hole in one of the parts of the model, then gluing a short length of wire into it. The modeller then drills a corresponding hole in the second part of the model and slides the protruding wire into it, strengthening the join between the two segments. This vise is useful in two ways during this process, both in drilling the hole and as a convenient holder for the wire.

In addition to model builders, jewelry makers also make use of pin vises. In jewelry making, the pin vise is used to twist wire. The jewelry maker inserts one end of the wire into the vise and tightens the chuck until the vise grips the wire tightly. The jeweller then grasps the other end of the wire in a pair of pliers and begins to tighten the vise more and more. The wire will begin to twist as the chuck turns it.

The increasing affordability of rotary tools and electric hand drills in the late 1990s and early 20th century led some model builders to abandon the pin vise as a drill. Despite the competition, pin vises have a number of advantages over electric drills. They are extremely compact and can be tucked into a pocket when not in use. They are also inexpensive and capable of very precise work, which can be difficult with electric drills.

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