We research in-depth and provide unbiased reviews and recommendations on the best products. We strive to give you the most accurate information. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
One person only has two hands to work with, and that can be a challenge for certain projects. There could be times where it’s unsafe to hold the workpiece with your hands, too. Overall, the solution for those scenarios is to use a bench vise.
The best bench vises are a staple in automotive work, metalworking, hobbyist shops, and woodworking. This is a metal clamp device that can bolt to the underside, top, or side of your workbench. It features a screw mechanism that turns to close/open the jaws on the workpiece and hold it firmly in place. That way, you can perform tasks like cutting accurate dovetail joints or crank on a bolt or nut.
A bench vise can also offer a solid surface for you to hammer on, so it’s a very useful staple in the workshop. If you want to boost your shop’s functionality, it’s crucial to find the best bench vise for the money. This list has five options, and they’re all great. Whether you need heavy-duty vises or one for small tasks, you want a smooth operation from your bench vice.
5 Best Bench Vises
- High-quality cast-iron build
- 360-degree swivel base
- Double lock down swivel base
- Serrated steel jaws
- Clamps pipes of 3/4 to 3 inches
- More features than some DIYers need
- Pricier than other models
If you do more metal fabrication and plumbing, you want a bench vise to help you get the job done, and the Wilton brand has you covered. This is a 30,000 PSI cast-iron vise with an 8-inch jaw opening and replaceable jaws. You also get a 4-inch throat depth with it.
Overall, this could be the best bench vise because it clamps pipes 3/4-inches in diameter up to 3 inches, which is more than other models.
With that, you get a 360-degree swivel base, and it locks into place to be more secure. The bench vise also includes rubber guards on the handle so that you don’t pinch your skin when loosening or tightening the device.
- Small anvil surface
- 120-degree swivel base with dual locks
- Cast iron construction
- A budget-friendly option for small workshops
- No 360-degree swivel base
- Not as big as other models (fewer project options)
My choice for most projects is a 4″ swivel model with quick-release jaws. It’s a good vise for long-term home use. It required an excellent solvent cleaning to remove smelly preservative grease and was a mess to handle until I did that.
Those who have a small workshop might not want to bolt a heavy and large bench vise to their workbenches. If that’s the case, you may want to think of the Tekton brand as the best bench vise because it has more capabilities without being a beast in the shop.
This is a 30,000-PSI bench vise made of cast iron. You’re sure to appreciate the 4 5/8-inch jaw opening and replaceable jaws, which is more than enough for most DIY fans.
The vise swivels 120 degrees and holds any position with its dual lock-downs. You can tighten them on both sides to secure the workpiece. There’s even a hidden jaw screw for more durability and protection.
Overall, this vise features a 2 5/8-inch anvil surface, but it’s slightly off-center. That’s the only downside because you must hammer as close as possible to the center to get the best results.
- Slide-up steel dog to hold workpieces
- Mounts to the bench with lag screws
- Durable cast iron with enamel finish
- Affordable for woodworking projects
- Doesn’t include lag screws
- Medium-duty functionality, so it doesn’t handle all shop tasks with ease
Woodworkers who want a quality and capable front vise may find that the Pony Jorgensen brand is the best bench vise. It’s a single-screw version with a cast-iron construction, 8-inch jaw opening, and 7-inch jaws. Therefore, you get enough clamping ability to handle hardwood stock with ease.
Overall, this quality bench vise mounts to the front of a woodworking bench with lag screws. There are additional holes on the jaws to secure sacrificial wood inserts. That way, the metal jaws aren’t marring your expensive hardwood materials. You even get a slide-up steel dog within the outer jaw, so you can clamp the workpiece against the bench dog for flattening and surface planing. There’s even an orange enamel finish on the bench vise for more durability.
- Pre-drilled mounting holes
- Self-aligning pipe jaws
- Full swivel base with head rotation
- Cast iron build
- Replaceable jaws provided
- Doesn’t include mounting bolts
Metalworkers require more capability from their bench vise, and this heavy-duty vise from forwarding sure delivers. It features a 360-degree swivel base with a 360-degree swivel head, so you can clamp the workpiece in place and move it to the right angle.
One side of its head features 5-inch jaws, and the other side features two V-jaws and integrated pipe jaws. Overall, this could be the best bench vise because there’s an anvil surface of 3.2×2.6 inches, offering an excellent space for setting pins and rivets. You’re sure to appreciate the cast iron body (60,000 PSI) because it’s strong, long-lasting, and durable.
- 60,000 PSI rating
- Swivels a full 360 degrees
- Hardened steel jaws
- Grooved pipe jaws for a better grip
- Large jaw opening
- Doesn’t include mounting bolts
If you need a heavy-duty vise for a reasonable price, the Yost Tools version can’t be beaten. It’s made of cast iron and has a 3-inch throat depth with a jaw opening of 6 inches. Plus, it swivels a full 360 degrees in both directions and has an anvil surface over the base.
Heavy-duty bench vises like this are great because the jaws are replaceable, and you get pipe jaws and clamps that hold pipes up to 2 inches in diameter. For more durability, the jaw screw of the bench vise is covered with the square bar to prevent hammers and wrenches from damaging its threads. Overall, this could be the best bench vise for you.
Types of Bench Vises
There are three primary types of bench vises: end, front, and benchtop varieties. Each one has its own merits, though a heavy-duty one is often considered the top choice because it has enough tensile strength to handle everything. When buying a bench vise, it’s important to know which types there are and if they can tackle heavy-duty tasks.
Bench vise models are sometimes called machinists’ vises, and they mount to the top of a workbench. Though some models clamp to the surface of the workbench, many others bolt directly through its table for a stronger attachment.
Some vises are suitable for different materials and tasks, but the benchtop vise is a “do-all” option. It has strong jaws to exert plenty of clamping pressure. The best-selling bench vises hold the workpiece away from the table’s surface, which is helpful for wrenching and welding. While ideal for metalworkers and mechanics, they are limited to woodworking tasks.
Front bench vises mount to the front a workbench. They’re ideal for woodworkers because their position lets you handle routing, dovetailing, and planing tasks without having a huge board jutting into the workshop. Some of the best versions have rapid action or quick-release functionality. That way, you can adjust your vise quickly to the size of the workpiece before putting it in place with the turn of a handle.
End bench vises mount to the end of the workbench and work/look similarly to front vises. However, their intended use is a bit different. Woodworkers may choose them if they do more flattening and surface planing because that requires full stability from the workpiece.
It’s possible to put a board across the top of your bench, flip the dog up (the metal peg inside the jaw), put an additional dog in the work surfaces’ hole, and tighten the vise to hold it all in place. Both of the bench dog pegs should sit under the board surface to reduce the risk of striking the board with your hand plane.
However, there aren’t many other uses for the end vise because most materials stick out too far if clamped to one.
Each bench vise style has specific applications, but other aspects (quick-release, swiveling base, and jaw width) also make a big difference in how well it functions in the shop. Overall, the top bench vises are the ones that do what you need them to do. Things like a fused steel handle, cast-iron body, and built-in pipe jaws are extra features.
When determining the best bench vise for your shop, these are the things to consider:
Cast-iron bench vises are the most common option. They are incredibly dense and tough, so you can apply more clamping pressure. This is important for certain mechanical tasks, such as pressing bushings into your automotive parts and removing stubborn hardware. Overall, the best bench vises are cast iron because they’re suitable to use as the anvil hammering surface.
Steel vises are popular, as well, because they’re strong and might even be more durable than their cast iron counterparts. They might deform with extreme pressure, though, so they’re less expensive. Overall, woodworking vises don’t need a ton of pressure for you to secure the workpieces and boards in place. Therefore, steel is adequate as an end or front bench vise.
Most manufacturers use the pounds per square inch measurement to determine the strength of the vise. Cast iron vises offer a tensile strength of well over 60,000 PSI, but a rating of 30,000 or more is sufficient for most of your workshop projects.
With that, replaceable jaws are a good thing to have because the grippy surface of the jaw might wear down with time and affects its ability to hold the workpiece. When you replace the jaws, you extend the lifespan of your budget vise.
The jaw width refers to the clamp surface’s length. A small vise may have a smaller width, so they’re ideal for repairs and light-duty projects. However, a large bench vise may have a 10-inch jaw width, which offers more surface area to clamp large and heavy-duty projects into place. Generally, though, a functional width is anywhere from 5 to 8 inches.
Typically, woodworking vises have wider jaws to promote a bigger clamping surface. These wide areas mean that you don’t put too much pressure in one spot, which might mar or crush the wood surface.
The jaw opening is the distance between the jaws when your bench vise is opened fully. This is crucial because it determines the width of an item you can clamp in the vise. Typical jaw openings match the width, so a 6-inch jaw width should have the same jaw opening. However, that’s not always the case.
Woodworking vises (end and front) have larger openings to clamp wide boards into place. It’s quite common to find a woodworking vise with a 10-inch jaw opening or bigger.
Throat depth in woodworking and bench vises refers to the distance at the top of its jaw to the top of the main screw mechanism to tighten the bench vise. In a sense, it quantifies how deep you can clamp your workpiece down in the vise.
Overall, throat depth is crucial, especially when welding wider pieces of steel or edge planing wide boards. A larger throat depth is easier to clamp those wide materials in the center. That way, you get more stability, and it holds its strength so that you can apply more weight or leverage. Typically, a large vise has a deeper throat depth.
The swivel ability is the most important feature to look for in a bench vise. For example, a swiveling base lets you get the jaws out of the way to get better angles on your anvil surface. That makes a huge difference when you are bending or striking something into shape.
Swiveling also lets you clamp your piece in place and spin it to adjust the angle of the vise. That way, you don’t have to hunch over to see the workpiece. It’s more convenient and ergonomically correct so that you don’t strain at awkward angles to see what to do.
A bench vise mounts directly to the benchtop surface. Typically, they are held in place with four bolts to sandwich the base against the benchtop. Most people like to mount the vise directly over the table leg. This creates the solid surface you need to hammer over because the unsupported center of the benchtop might be too bouncy or absorb most of the striking power.
Front and end vises mount in different ways. Typically, they screw to the edge of the workbench with lag bolts or long wood screws. They may also mount underneath using shorter screws. However, it’s crucial that you don’t penetrate your work surface, or there is a risk of chipping your plane edge while you flatten a board.
Typically, the bench vise has a flat surface on top and directly in the center. This functions as an anvil, and you can use that area to hammer rivets and pins, as well as shape and flatten metal stock.
Though it’s not a blacksmith’s anvil, the surface creates a solid place for you to strike against. It’s helpful when you’re knocking drift pins lose or flattening bent lawnmower blades. The anvil surface doesn’t absorb the blow, so it directs the force into your workpiece. For that reason, a large anvil work surface must be directly over the base to be as sturdy as possible.
Though the anvil doesn’t affect the clamping force, it’s still important to use an incorporated anvil. Woodworking vises don’t have this feature, so they may need a benchtop vise on a shop surface to straighten reclaimed hardware and antique nails.
It can really be time-consuming to screw a vise in and out based on the workpiece’s width. Sometimes, it can take 30 turns to open the jaws of the bench vise enough for wider pieces. Instead of wasting time and twisting the vise in/out of position, you may want to think about buying a model with rapid-action or quick-release capabilities. This feature lets you slide the vise in place fast and only requires a quick handle twist to snug down the workpiece, which is a huge time-saver!
Quick-release functions are often found in woodworking vises where you edge plane your 3/4-inch board and then flip it on the side to flatten the 9.5-inch face. Quickly pulling and pushing the jaws can improve workflow and productivity extensively.
How Does the Bench Vise Work?
Bench vises typically mount to a workbench from below, the front, or the top. They use screw functionality to close/open the jaws to clamp the workpiece into place.
How Does a Person Install a Bench Vise?
You can install a bench vise over the legs of the workbench to distribute the force into the ground instead of the benchtop absorbing it. Typically, right-handed people prefer front-mount vises to the left of the workbench, with the end vises at the right end.
How Do You Maintain Your Bench Vise?
A bench vise is very durable, but it’s best to rub it down with WD-40 periodically to keep it in good shape. Spray the jaw screw threads, too. As the jaws become worn, make sure you replace them.
Metalworkers, woodworkers, hobbyists, and those who prefer to tinker with their own automobiles need a sturdy vise for the shop workbench. Overall, the Wilton brand has the best bench vise because it clamps down on the materials and holds them in place with its sturdy build. Plus, the swivel base goes 360 degrees!
You can also go with the Tekton bench vise if you need less bulk and swivel. Overall, the best bench vises are the ones that meet all of your needs and don’t cost more than you can afford! They tend to withstand more clamping pressure and are durable enough to last for years with proper care.