Perhaps the most common tool in many workshops is one we overlook entirely: the vise. More specifically, we are referring to the bench vise; that trusted mechanical device used to keep a workpiece from slipping and to allow us to perform tasks while keeping both hands free.
While it may not get much attention, it gets a lot of use—and when upgrading your work equipment, you’ll be sure to want to get the best bench vise you can.
Bench Vise FAQ
Let’s start by answering some common questions about bench vises.
A bench vise comprises several parts. The pieces that hold the workpiece are called the jaws of the vise. A set of jaws will be parallel to each other, with one stationary or fixed in place and the other movable by means of a screw mechanism.
This moves one jaw in toward the other to allow the jaws to fasten tightly on a workpiece to prevent it from slipping while being worked on. Bench vise jaws can be made of metal, wood, or even hard plastic, depending on the type of work being done.
2. What Are Bench Vises Used For?
A bench vise is used to fasten a workpiece to allow it to be hammered, drilled, sanded or otherwise worked on while the individual doing the work has both hands free. Bench vises can also be used to hold two or more workpieces that are being glued or otherwise fastened together, though most commonly clamps are used for this purpose.
3. How Do You Determine the Size of a Bench Vise?
Bench vises can be measured in different ways. Jaw-length refers to the length of each individual jaw from one end to the other, and this measurement provides you with the size of the maximum contact amount your vise can place on a workpiece.
Generally, the larger the jaw-length, the more stable a workpiece will be when being worked on. The throat depth of a vise is measured from the top of the jaws to the top of the screw that’s used to move the non-stationary jaw in and out. It is this throat depth that determines the maximum width of a workpiece that can be placed in the bench vise for work.
4. What Kind of Threading Is Used in a Bench Vise?
You may have heard that bench vises use a special kind of threading to keep the jaws from slipping. This type of threading is called a buttress thread, and it allows the vise to be held tightly in one direction while allowing it to be unscrewed with much less force in the opposite direction.
5. What Material Are Bench Vises Made Of?
The answer to that question generally depends on the type of work being done. The best bench vise is generally made from hardened steel, sometimes with plastic protective guards over steel jaws so as to not mar or damage the work piece.
Bench vises can also be made entirely from wood, most commonly when used for woodworking. Some specialty vises are even made from mostly plastic parts when a great deal of force is not required to keep a workpiece from moving or slipping while being worked on.
The Best Bench Vise for You: How We Reviewed
We looked at the following products to give you an idea of the range and quality available in order for you to decide which might be the best bench vise for you. We reviewed based on features, pros and cons, price, and durability.
Overall Price Range
Bench vises in general can run anywhere from around the average price on the lower end all the way up to right around the premium rate on the higher end. Although you can easily spend several hundred dollars on a vise, the best bench vise for the job may not be the most expensive.
What We Reviewed
- Cast iron construction (30,000 PSI tensile strength) with replaceable serrated steel jaws holds work with a sure, nonslip grip
- 120-degree swivel base with dual lock-down nuts positions workpiece where you need it
- Three mounting holes anchor vise securely to workbench
- Polished steel anvil offers a smooth, consistent work surface for shaping metal pieces
- Acme-threaded screw glides smoothly without binding
This four-inch swivel bench vise is perhaps the best bench vise on the market for small to medium jobs. It’s made of excellent quality tooled steel, has exceptionally smooth action, and will hold a workpiece securely in place.
Pros & Cons
This vise, though the smallest on our list, is made from highly durable case-hardened steel and is sure to last.
- Extreme-Duty Casting Clamp force: 13,400 lbs. and Torque rating: 316 Ft-Lb
- Made from heavy duty 65, 000 PSI Ductile Iron castings, 3x stronger than cast iron vises
- Jaw Width: 5" (12.7CM) x Jaw Opening: 5" (12.7CM) x Throat Depth: 4" (10.2CM) x Pipe Capacity: 0.125”D x 3.5"D (0.32CM x 8.9CM)
- Vise head rotates 360° with respect to the vertical, locking at every 30° or (12) twelve different locking positions and equipped with a large 3.5" x 2.7" (8.9CM X 6.9CM) anvil work surface;
- 360-degree interlocking (geared) swivel base with (2) lock downs adjusts the direction of the jaws for proper placement.No-pinch main screw handle
This is the best bench vise on the list when it comes to multi-jaw design. The vise comes complete with a set of top jaws, inset pipe jaws, and finally a lower pair of V-jaws to allow for heavy-duty clamping of workpieces.
Pros & Cons
Though the body is made from ductile iron, the base plate is thinner than that of other models reviewed here and may not stand up to heavy-duty lateral movement.
- Captured safety jaw prevents slide from falling out during heavy-duty use
- Swivel base maneuvers into position quickly and easily
- Anvil and pipe jaws incorporated for a sturdy grip
- Aggressive steel jaws maintain a secure hold on clamped materials
- Weighs 30.6 lbs. to provide a reliable base
This heavy-duty vise has a throat depth of 3 and 3/8″, with a maximum jaw opening distance of 5 and 1/2″, and an overall length of 14″. It features smooth action and even pressure when clamped on a workpiece.
Pros & Cons
Unlike some of the other vises on our list, this vise is made of cast iron, which may not be as strong as some other models featured here.
- DURABILITY: Have castings with a 30,000 PSI gray cast iron body built for rugged use and extended life.
- SECURE HOLD: Capable of mounting to the bench with 4 mounting posts providing more stability and secure hold
- 360 DEGREE SWIVEL: Base can swivel 360 degrees with double lockdown for quick and easy positioning
- LIFETIME WARRANTY: Product is built to last. Wilton warrants every product they sell against manufacturers’ defects.
- PERFORMANCE: Has built-in pipe jaws handle various pipe sizes and rubber pinch safety guards
Made with a heavy-duty ductile iron body, this vise attaches to the bench with four mounting posts for maximum stability and secure hold.
Pros & Cons
Though the main body is made of ductile iron, the base is made of less durable cast iron, which may impact the longevity of this vise if used for heavier-duty work.
- Body and sliding jaw are from high quality grey cast iron and this material has excellent shock absorbing qualities
- Slide rods and main screw from steel with a single start thread
- Fitted with an adjustable front stop (dog) which gives an additional clamping facility when used in conjunction with a bench stop, this also provides a normal vise and a tail vise in one tool
- Quick release trigger to open and close the vise quickly without using the main screw
- For added safety, the tommy bar will bend before the vice becomes over-stressed
This is the best bench vise for woodworking on our list. It features a quick-release lever which rapidly disengages the main jaw screw for rapid opening and closing of the vise.
Pros & Cons
Though the body is made of cast iron, which may be less durable than some of the models reviewed here, the slide rails are solid steel. As this is a woodworking vise, this should be more than adequate.
- Contains 6" wide jaws, 5.7" jaw opening, and 4.2" throat depth
- Made of heavy-duty ductile iron (60,000 psi) and boasts 6,600 lbs. of clamping force
- Head rotates 360 degrees and can be locked in w/pull-pin at 12 points, each within 30 degrees
- Base rotates 360 degrees and makes it easy to place and lock jaws where needed
- Includes a 10 year warranty
Made from heavy-duty ductile iron, this may be the best bench vise for heavy-duty work on our list. It is capable of providing 9,000 pounds of clamping force, with a base that can be rotated a full 360-degrees.
Pros & Cons
As one would expect from what may arguably be the best bench vise on our list, this one may also be the most durable and is constructed from high-quality components.
Ultimately, the best bench vise for you depends on the kind of work you intend to do. If you’re woodworking, then the best bench vise would be the Eclipse Quick Release. If you’re only doing light or medium work, the Tekton four-inch vise may be enough for you. But our choice for best bench vise is the Capri Tools 10519.