As humans, we lack the four hands of our primate counterparts. With only two functional appendages, we have to improvise with tools while working. That’s where the bench vise comes in handy. A staple of most shops, the bench vise makes things easier and is a safety necessity. It lets you hold a workpiece firmly in place without fear of dropping it or slipping. Saunter into any automotive, woodworking, metalworking, or hobbyist shop, and you’ll encounter a bench vise laying around. It’s one of the most important ‘go-to’ tools, without a doubt.
If you’re wondering what a bench vice is, let us explain. It’s a metal clamping device that affixes to the side, top, or underside of any workbench. The screw mechanism on the device opens and closes with a twist. The jaws hold any workpiece firmly in place so that your hands are freed up to perform other tasks. In addition, you can also use the bench vise to hammer against.
Basically, the bench vise is a functional tool that you can use in a variety of ways to make whatever job you’re performing easier and safer.
View the Best Bench Vise, Below.
- TEKTON 54006 6-Inch Swivel Bench Vise
- Wilton Tools 550P Multi-Purpose Bench Vise
- Yost LV-4 Home Vise
- Olympia Tools Bench Vise 38-606
- WEN 454BV 4-Inch Heavy Duty Cast Iron Bench Vise
- Yost Vises 750-DI Multi-Jaw Rotating Bench
- Bessey BVHW45 Homeowners Bench Vise
- Yost Tools Vises 445 Heavy-Duty Utility Vise
- Wilton 11106 Wilton Bench Vise
- Capri Tools 10515 Ultimate Grip Forged Steel Bench
1. TEKTON 54006 6-Inch Swivel Bench Vise
Our Leading Choice for Versatility and StrengthRead Customer Reviews →
The TEKTON 6-inch Swivel Bench Vise locks quickly and threads tight for a firm and sturdy holding, enabling you to work faster and with greater self-assurance. This piece is fashioned from 30,000 PSI cast iron and offers maximum durability coupled with dependability. The serrated steel jaws are non-slip. You can use this bench vise to form and shape metal pieces. The vise rotates 120-degrees on its swivel base.
What We Liked About It: We have picked this as one of the best bench vise choices because it boasts a nice jaw opening and jaw width. It's heavy-duty and fashioned from cast iron.Check Price on Amazon ➞
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2. Wilton Tools 550P Multi-Purpose Bench Vise
A 360 Degree Workhorse Vise for Any ProjectRead Customer Reviews →
This Wilton heavy-duty bench vise comes in indexed 30-degree increments clearly printed for rapid setup. Its strong grip is ensured with completely replaceable steel jaws that boast a serrated pattern to guarantee gripping power. The head rotates 360 degrees to let you grip just about anything with ease in any position you need.
What We Liked About It: Features dual lockdowns for optimum strength.Check Price on Amazon ➞
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3. Yost LV-4 Home Vise
Great Everyday Vice for Home ShopRead Customer Reviews →
Fashioned from cast iron, this bench vise has a swivel base, metal jaws, and a spindle threaded assembly with a lockdown. The jaws can hold small pieces and pipes down to 0.6"D to 1.85"D.
What We Liked About It: The pipe jaws can easily grip down to .6" to 1.85" in diameter.Check Price on Amazon ➞
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4. Olympia Tools Bench Vise 38-606
Large 6 Inch Heavy Duty Vise for Home or ShopRead Customer Reviews →
An iron bench vise, the Olympia has a heavy reinforced 4 lug base for optimum strength. The anvil and anvil horn are polished to make shaping an easy, worry-free process. The vise has permanent pipe jaws and replaceable hardened jaws. The spindle and hand are machined for extra strength.
What We Liked About It: The 270-degree swivel base gives you the versatility you need to tackle any job with optimum degree rotation. The smooth anvil surface is another perk that we don't want to overlook.Check Price on Amazon ➞
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5. WEN 454BV 4-Inch Heavy Duty Cast Iron Bench Vise
Workhorse Vise with 2,440 Pounds of Clamping ForceRead Customer Reviews →
This vise boasts crosscut non-slip jaws that open to an impressive 5 1/8 inches. It's also fashioned from powder-coated 36,000 PSI iron for extra strength. This vise offers 2,440 pounds of clamping force. The swivel base also pivots 130 degrees
What We Liked About It: This beefy vise for the money has a full two-year warranty and is fashioned to last from powder-coated iron.Check Price on Amazon ➞
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6. Yost Vises 750-DI Multi-Jaw Rotating Bench
One of the Toughest Bench VisesRead Customer Reviews →
Yost lv has a clamping force of 13,400 pounds of force and a torque rating of 31 ft-Lb. As one of the best bench vise choices, this one is three times stronger than an iron vise. This is because it's formed from heavy-duty 65,000 PSI ductile iron castings. Without a doubt, it is built to last
What We Liked About It: This is a tough heavy-duty vise that works well on any workbench. It's not made for light jobs. The head rotation with 12 locking points is a nice feature - it gives you the leverage and versatility you need to tackle wood, iron, and steel projects in any home workshop.Check Price on Amazon ➞
VIEW ON HOME DEPOT ➞
7. Bessey BVHW45 Homeowners Bench Vise
Return to the Basics: Good Home Shop ViseRead Customer Reviews →
The Bessey is a return to basics. Although not a heavy-duty vise, please keep in mind that this workshop bench vise is ideal for light duties. It has a 270-degree swivel base with a single lockdown and four mounting holes you can utilize to keep it in place. It also has a one-inch pipe capacity.
What We Liked About It: This vise is great value for the money and can get the job done. It's multi-purpose enough that you can use it for a variety of home shop purposes.Check Price on Amazon ➞
VIEW ON HOME DEPOT ➞
8. Yost Tools Vises 445 Heavy-Duty Utility Vise
A Quality Bench Vise With Iron ConstructionRead Customer Reviews →
This Yost is one of the best vise choices. It has a clamping force of 150 pounds and a torque rating of 73 Ft-Lb. It also features a high strength bar with 30,000 psi iron vise components. Yost vises are always great quality for any workbench.
What We Liked About It: We liked the lockdowns. They adjust so you can work the jaws in all directions for optimal placement.Check Price on Amazon ➞
VIEW ON HOME DEPOT ➞
9. Wilton 11106 Wilton Bench Vise
A Quality Bench Vise With Lifetime WarrantyRead Customer Reviews →
The Wilton 11106 has a gray cast iron body with 30,000 PSI. It has a 120-degree swivel with a double lockdown swivel base. The grooved steel jaw inserts have an extra-large anvil work surface. This vise comes with a lifetime warranty.
What We Liked About It: This is one of the best light-duty bench vise choices with a lifetime warranty.Check Price on Amazon ➞
10. Capri Tools 10515 Ultimate Grip Forged Steel Bench
A Tough Vise With 360 Degree RotationRead Customer Reviews →
With 54,000 PSI yield strength, this bench vise has 90,000 psi tensile strength. The guide rails are fully adjustable, so you can hone in precision and create smoothness. It's fashioned from forged steel and has a corrosion-resistant black oxide handle. The guide rails are fully adjustable so that you can perform a very precise job. This vise has 5,500 lbs of clamping force.
What We Liked About It: The guide rails are a nice feature because they are fully adjustable. They render very nice precision to make any job smoother.Check Price on Amazon ➞
VIEW ON HOME DEPOT ➞
Best Bench Vise Buyer’s Guide
Exploring the Different Types of Bench Vises
If you’ve decided that you want to buy a bench vise, then you’ll need to learn about the tool before making the purchase. In this buyer’s guide, we’ll explore everything you need to make an informed choice.
We’ll help you examine the different types of bench vises you can buy. There are three main types: front, end, and benchtop. Each style has its pros and cons. The best one for you will depend a lot on the type of project you’ll be undertaking.
As you might have figured out from the name, the benchtop vise is made to mount firmly on a workbench. It’s also often referred to as a machinist vise. Depending on the model, you either clamp it to the workbench surface or bolt it into the table to create an even firmer attachment.
The benchtop vise is designed as a jack of all trades. It will do it all with ease. The vise features strong jaws that can effortlessly exert a great deal of clamping pressure. The vise will hold a workpiece off the table’s surface, which is helpful if you plan on welding. This type of vise is ideal for mechanics and metalworkers but is not great for woodworkers.
While some vises are suited to different tasks and materials, the benchtop vise is more of a “do-all” device. They have strong jaws and exert a lot of clamping pressure. Though great for mechanics and metalworkers, their use for woodworking is somewhat limited.
Front vises are designed to mount on the front portion of the workbench. They are great for woodworkers because the particular position lets you perform wood-related tasks such as dovetailing, routing, or planning. You don’t need a long piece of wood to work with these types of vises. Many of the best front vices have rapid-fire action, such as a quick release, so you can rapidly adjust the vise size without struggling to turn the handle.
The end vise has been designed to affix to the end of a workbench. It works similarly to the front vise. Woodworkers often favor end vises to plane or flatten pieces of wood. You can also lay a board directly on top of the bench, flip the vise using the metal peg and tighten the vise to hold the board firmly in place. Not everyone favors the end vise because it’s impractical – the material sticks out from the workbench.
Related; Wood Lathe Review.
Things to Consider When Buying the Best Bench Vise
Have you decided to add a bench vise to your workshop? Well, there are a few things to consider when buying the best bench vise. Remember, each style of bench vise is designed for specific applications. You’ll have to factor in jaw width, swivel ability, and quick release when making your choice. Take the time to research the various vise features so you can effectively choose the best bench vise to meet your unique needs.
Material of the Bench Vise
Typically, the majority of bench vises that you’ll encounter are made from cast iron. The reasoning behind this material choice is that it’s exceptionally strong and durable. The tough, dense material holds items in place so you can remove bushings or hardware from automotive parts. Also, cast-iron vises work great as an anvil hammering surface.
You’ll also notice that hardened steel vises are a major player because they are strong and more durable than cast iron. In addition, they are usually cheaper than cast iron. When picking a woodworking vise, remember that the vise you choose does not need a great deal of pressure to hold workpieces or boards in place. In fact, excessive pressure can damage the wood and set back the entire process. If you’re buying a bench vise to work with wood, remember that steel bench vises are a great and affordable choice. If you are buying a front or end vise, then hardened steel is a better choice.
Understanding Cast Iron Types
Yes, you can buy steel vises, but the best ones are made from cast iron. This is because they offer longevity and maximum durability.
When looking at cast iron vises, you’ll find two types:
- Grey iron
- Ductile iron
The term ‘grey’ refers to the presence of graphite in the iron. The graphite appears as flakes. Grey iron is the most frequently encountered form of iron and is the toughest. It resists heat and rust.
However, grey iron is not without problems. It’s not as tough or durable as ductile iron. It will not withstand an onslaught of high force and impact. In fact, it might even fracture if you put it under too much pressure and abuse. If you plan on doing a lot of heavy-duty hammering in your metal shop, you should forego grey iron and pick a ductile iron anvil.
Ductile iron also contains a degree of graphite, but the particles are very rounded. The dramatic difference in the particle shape makes ductile iron much stronger and more robust than grey iron. It can take heavy and prolonged hammering without ever sustaining any cracks or lesions. Without a doubt, ductile iron is the strongest and best for a bench vise in a metal shop where it will sustain heavy hammer action frequently.
Understanding PSI and Strength
Manufacturers rely on PSI (pounds per square inch) to denote strength. A cast-iron vise can easily offer a tensile strength of 60,000 PSI, but a steel vise with a PSI rating of 30,000 is still an acceptable choice for the majority of home and hobby workshops.
Many bench vises have replaceable jaws, which is a great feature because the gripping surface of any vise jaw can wear down in time and after extended use. Once the grooves wear off, the vise’s clamping strength is seriously compromised because it can no longer hold the piece steadfast. However, if you can replace the vise’s jaws, you can actually extend its lifespan and your ability to continue using the vise for your workshop needs.
You’ll want to explore jaw types and how the jaws open. Vises have three types of jaws: serrated, nylon, and pipe. They can open in a wide array of widths such as 3 inches, 5 inches, 6 inches. Your preferred inch jaw opening will depend on your project.
- Serrated: Boasts an exceptionally strong grip but can cause damage and imperfections on the surface of softer materials.
- Nylon: Rarely marks the material’s surface but does not hold up well or last for a long time.
- Pipe: Has a v indention that holds a pipe in place. You can also find them in rotating pipe jaws. This type of jaw does not work well with flat pieces and can easily mark soft surfaces.
You can buy jaw covers made from plastic, nylon, or wood to cover the jaws of the vise. They fit in a snug fashion over the existing jaws and give you a variety of gripping choices. Those are great if you plan on working with a variety of materials, and you don’t want to risk marking the surface of the items by using the wrong jaw type.
You can also use magnetic soft jaws if you’re using a bench vise. Magnetic jaws are ideal for light finish work and other softer applications. They help protect the material you’re working with so it doesn’t sustain any damage.
Width of Vise Jaw Opening
Jaw width is used to explain the vise’s clamping surface ability. A small vise will have a tiny jaw width of 3 inches or less. You can often use a small vise for light-duty projects and home repairs i.e using a soldering iron. Larger vises have jaw widths that can easily reach up to 10. Usually, the greater surface space, the better clamping. With more space, the vise has the ability to hold things in place with a steady grip. Overall, a jaw opening of 5 to 8 inches will usually suffice for most applications.
Woodworking Jaw Opening
The jaw openings on woodworking bench vises are usually larger to create a greater clamping surface space. The wider the surface area, the less likely the pressure will crush or damage the wood’s surface. The greater surface area spreads out the clamping pressure to reduce the likelihood of damage. This lets you work with softwoods and exotic woods that you don’t want to accidentally mar the surface of.
The throat depth of a bench vise and woodworking vise explains the distance from the top of the jaw opening to the top of the screw that tightens the vise. It shows you how deep a vice can clamp a workpiece.
You’ll want to consider throat depth when plaining wide boards or welding together pieces of steel. If the throat depth is large, then you’ll have an easier time clamping wide materials and holding them in place securely. The closer to the material’s center you can clamp, the better the stability and holding strength – you can use even more leverage and weight. Usually, large vises have a good throat depth.
Greater Swivel Rotation
One of the most important factors to consider when buying the best bench vise is its ability to swivel. The vise must have swivel jaws so you can hold items perfectly to the anvil’s surface. How the material is held has a huge impact on how well you can strike or shape it.
Swiveling also lets you clamp a piece in place and then spin it as you adjust the vise’s angle. You won’t have to hang your body over the workpiece but can simply reposition as needed. This will make your task easier. A swiveling base can significantly reduce your body’s strain and ease your workload if you spend long hours in the shop.
Vise Bench Mount
A benchtop vise is designed to mount directly on your benchtop surface. It uses four bolts that work by sandwiching the vise from the bottom to the top of the bench. A good mounting location is directly over the table leg. The table leg helps reinforce the vise surface if you plan to hammer. Remember, when picking a bench mount location, positioning the vise in the middle of the bench can cause bounce which will absorb each strike and reduce force and power.
If you have purchased a front or end model, then you have several mounting options. You can screw the bench vise onto the end of the workbench using lag bolts or long screws, or you can mount it underneath using short screws.
The anvil is the flat surface on the vise, found directly in the center. The flat area is designed to serve as an anvil. You can use it to hammer rivets and pins, or flatten and shape metal pieces. It’s not exactly a blacksmith’s anvil, but it functions similarly and is a great boon to any workshop. Keep in mind that if you have purchased a woodworking vise then it won’t have an anvil surface. You might also want to invest in a benchtop vise to act as an anvil when you need one.
Quick Release Feature
Time is important when you’re working on a project in the workshop. You don’t want to waste your precious minutes turning the vise hundreds of times to open the jaw. An anvil with a wide jaw width takes time to open up fully. You’ll quickly get tired of twisting the vise. However, quick-release or rapid action capabilities are nice features that can and will save time. You can quickly slide the vise into its required place, and then with a quick twist of the handle, the workpiece is ready. Talk about a time saver!
Normally, you’ll encounter the quick release function in woodworking vises, but you can find them in machine shop vises too. You’ll be able to quickly and effortlessly pull and push the jaws into place. This will increase your workflow substantially. The trick is to maximize your time, and this handy feature is a true time-saver.
Weight of the Bench Vise
When looking at the best bench vise, remember that cast-iron models are very heavy. You’ll want to consider the weight when making your purchase. Can your workbench hold the weight, or will it buckle under the added burden of the vise? Sometimes a medium-duty vise is your best choice for a multitude of functions.
When working with bench vises, you should always follow safety protocols.
- Always wear a face shield, safety glasses, or goggles when working with bench vises.
- Make sure the vice has been securely fitted to the work table or bench and that long pieces of work material will not interfere with your project.
- Always make sure the workbench can hold the weight of the vise’s iron or steel construction.
- Inspect the clamping surface to make sure that the vise is providing full clamping. You don’t want the workpiece to slip or fly out of the vise while you’re hammering it.
- Follow the compatible material size for the vise you’re using. If it says it will hold 5 inches, 6 inches, or 4 inches, then be sure to follow the recommendations so that the piece won’t slip or come loose.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) in a Buyer’s Guide
What is a bench vise?
A bench vise is a mechanical tool you can use to secure an object while you’re working on it. It basically acts as another pair of hands. Every vise features two parallel jaws that clamp together to hold a workpiece in place.
What does the PSI rating mean on a bench vise?
If you’re shopping for a bench vise, you’ve probably noticed that they feature a psi rating. The psi stands for pounds per square inch. It’s the pressure used during the casting of the vise; it’s also a direct reflection of the iron used to make the vise. A psi of 30,000 is an acceptable ratio for a gray cast iron bench vise, and a psi of 60,000 is acceptable for a ductile cast iron model.
When picking the best bench vise for your workshop, you’ll want to take into consideration all the pointers offered in our buyer’s guide. Read up on the specs, pros, and cons of each of the bench vise models featured to determine which one best fits your unique needs. Always factor in the type of material you’ll be using the vise with. This will help you decide if you need steel or iron construction, determine the jaw opening size, and more.