Activities like drilling, sawing, gluing, and sanding are nothing new to a DIY individual/professional, even with the least amount of experience in metal/woodworking; hence the need for holding the object (workpiece) stationary to allow for smooth and uninterrupted operation.
A vise is always a welcoming tool for any wood shop or metal shop, and for the DIY enthusiasts, hobbyists, and pros that don’t want an exception to the rule of accuracy and precision on whatever they work on. But the question here is how will you identify the best bench vise that'll be good enough to support your individual needs?
Well, we've reviewed a number of bench vises on the current market and personally tested them to prepare this list. We are confident that this review and buyer's guide will help you find your right match so you don't have to go through such a painstaking process for the same purpose. Read on and see which one to bring in to your metal shop or woodshop!
Why Follow Our Lead
Our Drillly team includes carpenters, timber framers, wood makers, and others from all walks of life. We have been using these tools ever since our childhood when our parents and grandparents introduced them to us. We know very well how bench vises work, what makes them better, and what one can expect to do with them. We also know the differences between tradesman, combination, machinist, mechanics, utility vises, or vise jaws. This review is solely based on our expertise that you can put your trust in.
Also, we give unbiased reviews because we are not affiliated with any of the product manufacturers that we review. Our sole intention is to prepare a solid guideline for the DIY enthusiasts like you to make the most of these woodworking tools. Unfortunately, you will find many reviewers online that promote low-class products just for some monetary gain. We always stand against this policy and you will realize this when you will go through our content.
So, you can follow our guideline without any doubt when you are in search of a reliable bench vise and other woodworking and metalworking tools. Besides, our blog section contains many tips and tricks on how to use such devices that you might find interesting and beneficial.
How Did We Pick These Products?
To prepare this review, our selected team conducted about 24 hours of online research with the intention to identify the most popular choices in the current market. They found 28 such products and then we decided to check every single model ourselves. We also involved a volunteer team in our effort so we could get better feedback.
Over the next 3 months, we were busy testing these models keeping in mind the essential features that ensured the desired outcome. By the time we were done with our testing, we were pretty clear about which model was better from which perspective. Based on this, we shortlisted the top 10 models from 28 options.
But we didn't stop there. We also contacted other carpenters and expert woodworkers both online and offline to get their valuable opinions on our finalized bench vises. As we had expected, they were also very positive about them that ensured us that we can now present them to you here.
It's important to inform you that none of these choices were perfect from every angle, but these were the most reliable products we had found after such an in-depth testing procedure. So we are confident that each of these products is a champion in its class. And the ones that stand out among these perform fairly well in all the categories that include the good value, premium brands, versatility, heavy-duty operations, as well as light-duty functions.
Our Top 10 Best Bench Vise
Here comes our final list of the most exclusive bench vise choices that you might find in today's market.
Other Notable Brands & Tested Models
Let’s take this space to mention other reputable brands and their popular bench vise models that need your attention if you want to delve further into the market.
Irwin Record (known for No. 3, No. 6, No. 25), Yoke, Total Tools, Posi Lock (known for Hydraulic models), Dawn, PAUL (known for their 200mm and Sellers models), Wood River, DeWalt (known for DXCMWSV6), Nicholson, Westward (known for 3FDJ8 Offset vise), Smith, Wen (known for WB2322), Astro Pneumatic Tool, Sjoberg, Rockler, Northern Tool, Ridgid (known for 40185, 40080, 40210), Craftsman (known for 506), Tractor Supply, Palmgren, Jorgensen (known for 41012), Kobalt, Starrett, Capri Tools, Powerfix, TANJIN (known for their Aluminum and Jewellers models), Stanley, Reed Manufacturing, Columbian, Heuer, Littco and Snap On.
Other good models that we also tested:
Understanding the Bench Vise & Its Types
A vise is a mechanical apparatus that holds a segment of the workpiece tightly in place. It’s used mostly in metal works and woodworking. It functions like extra strong and sturdy hands holding a workpiece. These devices also possess two clamps to help set the workpiece firmly in place. Many of these devices are attached to a bench, hence the term bench vise came into being.
These devices came into existence in many workshops before 1750. Clamping was done using a hammer and wedge. However, securely holding the workpiece was hard since the tool could only move radially. In 1750, the introduction to a moveable horizontal jaw of the vise revolutionized the device. Then, anyone who needed to hold a workpiece manipulated the movable half of the vise horizontal adjustment. The preferred construction material was die-cast iron. However, with the numerous pores left after the metal settles, the vise didn’t have much tensile to withstand high compression. In 1830, the invention of manufacturing techniques using robust forged steel changed all these. The steel bench vise transformed the functions of a fastener with sturdy and compact materials that have enabled vise to manipulate increasingly tougher and heavier elements. This design and construction are considered the linchpin of the modern-day bench vise.
There are several types of vice for a workbench. A front vise enables you to clamp a workpiece at the edge of a workbench using two popping jaws on either side of the fastener. It also grips large parts utilizing the functions of a deadman as well as gripping elements on top of the workbench via a bench dog. These prevent the twisting of the workpiece when you use only one clamp to hold your work plane.
An end vise is another type that usually sits on the right-hand edge of a workbench and uses one central screw set to the corners of the bench top. It has a flexible jaw featuring multiple bench dog holes at the top aligned to the front row of dog holes on the workbench. Try using Roubo workbench for better results. Folding workbenches might cause a problem if not fitted properly.
The front and the end are similar since they both have a screw and two rods. These features allow you to set your work either horizontally if you want to plan a board, or upright when you want to place dovetails along a workpiece edge. But the front type offers more versatility in terms of gripping.
Broadly, two types of bench vises exist - the woodworking and the engineering types. The former is designed for wood pieces. Hence, it’s specially designed to clamp the timber workpiece using jaws that are encased with wood. This trait prevents clamp marks from showing off on the workpieces.
The engineering type is mainly designed for metal works. It’s heavy enough to support the massive steel workpieces firmly. Further, it features a flat metal jaw designed to grip metal objects.
What to Do with a Bench Vise?
The bench or tabletop vises are versatile tools. They perform many functions, such as undertaking cutting, drilling, sanding or gluing.
A vise helps you to cut through or along the edges of work materials fast and precisely. Since the clamps secure the workpiece firmly, there is no worry about wobbling or uneven cuts. Besides, it frees both your hands, so you work more quickly. Different uses of vices are stated below.
- Drilling a narrow hole through a thick board needs greater precision. Both the piece and the device have to be stable to produce a perfect drill. With such a tool and a table, you can drill to your specific measurements.
- Sanding is usually slow and boring. Besides, it produces much dust that hinders your proper assessment of the surface. This is why you need a bench vise to enhance the stability of the worktop. A firm surface allows you to apply more pressure finishing your work much faster and smoother.
- Gluing may be very messy if you smear incorrectly. And when the surface is uneven, it could spread to all unwanted locations. A quality product eliminates all these risks and allows you to apply glue at precisely when you intend. Further, it facilitates a faster and better drying of the adhesive.
How Does a Bench Vise Work?
A bench vise features clamps on both or one side adjustable with a screw to set a project in position. They have toggles to place the workpiece upright or horizontally, depending on which side you plan to work on.
These can utilize the edge or center of a workbench. Besides, they are flexible to specific positions. These features make work easier since they enable you to hold a piece at the required height, location, and grip. Further, they allow you to use both hands freely.
As such, vices help you to ensure better drilling operation, cut precisely, and sand more evenly. They vary in sizes and capacities; therefore, you can capture a small precision or electronic tool snugly in position during repairs or construction.
How to Install This Device?
Since holding parts is all a bench vise does, even if it's a vintage model, it needs to be installed/mounted securely. Before you undertake the task, I would like you to get familiar with the machine thoroughly. You can fix them using any of the two methods.
Use a suitable attachment to clamp the vise to a worktop. These clamps have a top-to-bottom extension that can be affixed to the edge of the work surface easily and quickly.
The most stable installing method is to fit the tool on top of a worktop. You secure it with the bolt-in mounting so that it’s permanently fixed at the location.
There are a few unique techniques to fasten. You can use the vise supported on stands of optional base plates. These add-ons offer more accuracy when you are working on detailed jobs that need greater attention. Try to maintain a good position as it’s critical. Remember that the higher the vise; the better the production.
The latter method offers the necessary safety against working with heavy and sharp parts. The earlier way is convenient for light and small parts. You also enjoy shifts in positions as you work with a clamped devise.
But we recommend that bolt-in mounting method to improve the vise elevation to the surface while at the same time avoid accidents.
Bench Vise - Buying Guide
Aside from our general testing procedure, below are the determining factors that we used in order to find the best bench vises:
These are the components that grip the wood or metal object during such manipulation. There are metal or wooden jaws. In case they are metallic but are designed mostly for woodwork, these jaws usually have a wooden bracing to help you avoid marring the workpiece. The wood facing of a jaw is called a cheek. Most movable jaws have flexible dogs that brace the work against the stationary bench dog located flush to the work surface. You should consider the jaw size and style when looking for a good vise. I found flat jaws to be more versatile than others.
2. Swivel base
Most bench vises have rotating bases. These features allow for the planning of circular or angular cuts of the project materials. The bottom, therefore, is spiraled on a rotational gear that swivels horizontally or diagonally to deliver more complex patterns. Further, swiveling allows for easy access to the concave areas of the work.
There are two mounting mechanisms on this tool. The bolt-on type features three or four bolts securing the bench top to the worktop. Bolting allows the device to withstand higher pressure and heavy load. The clamp mounting system, on the other hand, is easier to set up. It is usually preferred when you desire to work temporarily at a location before removing the vise to another spot. Clamps work well where the workload is low. However, this mounting method doesn't provide the required security.
Sometimes, you need to hammer and straighten your project material. Hitting the worktop directly could damage the bracket clamps as well as the surface. Therefore, an anvil is necessary. An anvil is a flat metal top layered on top of the vise to withstand the impact of the hammer hits.
5. Quick Release
A screw is required to attach a clamp to the work material. Once the job is complete; you need to unfasten the latch. A quick-release mechanism allows for an instant release of the spindle instead of manual twisting of the vise all the way after completing the job. But not all models have this feature.
6. Griping Power
Gripping power refers to how securely the clamps hold a project piece. It is essential for high precision carving and cutting of the workpiece. The larger the clamp mouth; the better the grip. A clamp mouth refers to the throat of the clamp from the top to the base that also influences the width and breadth of a piece it can securely grab. Others have grated/non-slip clamp tethered markings to secure the project materials against wobbling and sliding, even under intense pressure.
7. Price-to-Quality Ratio
When selecting your preferred device, you need to assess the price to quality ratio. A higher ration denotes a better task handling from the bench vise.
Typically, a more expensive product may come with quality material or additional features. However, this is not usually the case at all times. If your job is not particularly detailed, you may overlook some advanced features. Work environments that involve high humidity may invite the uses of outdoor bench vises with powder coating that helps prevent rusting. It’s not that old vises are that bad. If properly maintained they are as good as the new ones. You can check the craigslist or Black Friday discounts for getting quality models at a cheaper price.
You understand how risky it could be working with machine tools. Bench vises are no different. You could suffer a severe injury and even loss a limb if you throw caution out of the window. You, therefore, must exercise extreme care every time you are using this machine or any other product for that matter. Adhering to such precautions help you enjoy a long working relationship with your fastener.
- Use the right components: Don’t use any part of the vises for a different task. For example, don’t use a pipe grab to lock a metallic sheet. Further, don’t hammer a piece while clamped on a jaw. Use an anvil harness instead. This measure helps improve the stability and efficiency of the tool.
- Use the right equipment for the job: There are many brands and each has its essential functions. Use the right vise for the right job. This saves time and improves efficiency.
- Wear ideal clothing: Safety outfit is important. You need to protect your ears, eyes, hands and even body against drops, freckles, and blasts. We urge you to use the correct size of goggles, gloves, earmuffs and industrial shoes. You should also wear tight-fitting and comfortable cloth while working with bench vises.
The stability of the vise for the workbench is everything. Therefore, set it firmly in place on top of a sturdy worktop that is supported by a firm foundation. Besides, test if for firmness before you start using it. In case it’s loose at the base, you risk minor inconveniences such as vibrations to significant accidents such as ripping the device out of the harness.
Care & Maintenance
Unless you are not looking for an antique vise to keep in your collection, you need to take great care of your device. When you do that, you naturally derive greater value and joy when using this handy tool. You should develop a maintenance schedule to keep the device at a tip-top condition. Below are some of the factors you can keep in mind while caring for your beloved workhorse.
- Always clean the machine prior to use: During work, the workplace becomes messy with the bits and scraps from the machining. Some of these particles and residues could get stuck in the delicate segments of the machine, leading to damage as a result. Hence, wipe the tool and workplace to prevent such incidents.
- Inspection: Make a periodic inspection of the table vise as you deem suitable. In case you want to perform an extended and intricate job, it’s wise that you check each element of the tool to ensure that it's correctly aligned and adequately fastened.
- Lubricate your bench vise: Cleaning and oiling your bench vise goes hand in hand. After wiping your machine, you also need to lubricate certain parts. Ensure that the moveable elements are well oiled and greased. Also, test the entire system for stability by refastening all screws and bolts of your old vise again.
- Protect against weather conditions: When your machine is not in use, cover it to prevent the buildup of dust and dirt. If you have a portable model, you can remove it from the worktop and store it in a closed box. These measures help prolong their lifespan while preventing the tools from rusting in case of high humidity.
Although products from reputed brands like Craftsman, Harbor Freight, Gressel, Record, Babco, Menards, Benchcrafted Tail Vise, Ridgid, Pony, Larin, Woodword Fab, Bessey, Veritas or Olympia didn't make it to our shortlist, this does not mean they are of the lowest quality. Since we could afford only 10 choices here, this is the reason those vises ended up being off this review prepared by the Drillly team.
Also, from the report, you must have noticed that there are certain crucial factors that determine your selection of the best bench vise.
Vises come in many shapes and sizes. All these distinctions facilitate a wide range of functions while they also perform particular tasks, ranging from light duties to heavy professional craftsmanship.
A perfect bench vise has swivels. This function offers additional efficiency and delivers quality at a price that you can afford. So, apart from the price, check for jaw widths, jaw throat, mounting bolts as well as the construction materials. These components determine how well such a device will work.
Die-cast and stainless steel are favorable construction materials. They improve the lifespan of the vises. Regarding aesthetics, we discovered that circular body molds are smoother to work with although angular shapes provide more significant strengths. So, check for a blend with these shapes and have warranties.
To conclude, our experts suggest that you will derive better value for money if you start with small devices and grow as your aptitude and workload increases.