each bench vise as being the exact same as the next.
As those who have used many different units can
tell you; however, this is not always the case.
Getting the best bench vise for your needs can mean
the difference between a smooth project and
a frustration-filled weekend.
Bench Vise Buying Guide
What is a Bench Vise?
Although I simply cannot praise the above three bench vises enough, you may get the itch to break away from the above list and do some shopping for yourself. If this is the case, you can greatly increase your odds of walking away victorious through keeping some of the below considerations in mind. Try answering some of these questions before finalizing your purchase on the model you have your sights set on.
What width do you need?
If you’ve bought bench vises before, you likely needn’t be reminded how important this question is. If this is your first time; however, I can’t stress enough just how much of a role the width of your vise’s jaws will play in the successfulness of your future projects. As such, it’s imperative that you take a look at any given product’s specifications in this regard. Also, if you’re buying a bench vise for a specific project, keep in mind the measurements of the largest piece of material you plan on using in your bench vise. Otherwise, you may find yourself having to return the item you bought. Remember, you can always go too small but you can very rarely go too big. When in doubt, it is most likely in your best interest to opt for a model with a larger width.
How much swivel do you need?
It can be easy to want to buy the bench vise with the largest swivel you can find, thinking that a larger swivel is always better. While this is true in many ways, it’s not when you consider the price. If it didn’t cost anything extra to incorporate a full 360-degree swivel into a bench vise, nobody would make models with anything less. As such, if you know a 180-degree swivel is all you’ll ever need, it just makes no sense to go with another model purely for its 360-degree swivel. On the other hand, if you’re unsure of which projects you may find yourself undertaking in the future, a larger swivel might be better, as ending up with a useless product is anything but frugal. Keep in mind what types of projects you plan on tackling with your new bench vise.
Will you be carrying your bench vise around?
Bench vises can vary greatly from unit to unit in terms of how much they weigh. If you know you’ll be transporting your unit around, it can never hurt to get a five-pound vise over a twenty-pound vise. On the other hand, if you know you won’t be carrying it around, staying open to heavier units may net you with a larger jaw width as well as a few other added features. While portable units are great when used under the right circumstances, you may find they carry with them a lesser degree of capabilities when used solely in one particular place.
Types of Bench Vises
Bench vises may have a variety of different features and can be categorized in many different ways. However, for simplicity’s sake, it helps to place bench vises into three main categories. Do you know which type you need?
- Woodworking Bench Vise – The woodworking bench vise is one of the more lightweight options at your disposal. Typically, these are mounted underneath the outer reach of your workbench. While these vises may not be suitable for all situations, they prove to be the most convenient when used for the right types of projects.
- Machinist’s Bench Vise – Similar to the woodworking bench vise, the machinist bench vise distinguishes itself in its weight and size. Typically, such a vise can be planted firmly on top of a surface without fear of toppling over. You’re more likely to come across this form of vise, being that it tends to be the most widely used and could be considered the “standard” bench vise in today’s age. The machinist’s bench vise could also be considered as being halfway between the woodworking vise and the mechanic’s vise.
- Mechanic’s Bench Vise – The mechanic’s bench vise looks nearly identical to the machinist’s bench vise. The main difference is that this particular type of vise comes with a flat surface jutting out the side which is meant for the hammering of metals. Despite this, it still functions well as a table vise, though may be somewhat bulkier. These are typically seen as being of the highest quality. While they weren’t advertised as such, the above three products we covered fit into this category.
Common Bench Vise Features
Each of the above three types of bench vise will be more suitable to one person than the other depending on the jobs your vise will be used for. However, there are a few features which everyone should want to see in a vise, no matter which jobs the vise in question may be expected to tackle.
- Replaceable Jaws – Some features may serve no other purpose than to mark up a product’s price, especially if you feel they will go largely unused. Replaceable jaws; however, can only prove to save money in the end. The worst possible case scenario is you never need to replace the jaws, in which case this feature would still not have inhibited your vise’s capabilities.
- Teethed Jaws – Now, there are a few bench vises which don’t have teeth but still prove to be great units (such as the Yost Vises model we covered above). However, if all other factors are consistent between two vises, you’re always better off choosing the unit whose jaws have teeth. This offers a higher degree of grip that can do wonders.
- A High PSI – The PSI is a unit of measurement which is, in this particular context, meant to represent how hard a bench vise can clamp down on any given material. You’ll notice that not every product has its PSI listed. However, if it comes down to choosing between two models and you know that one has a higher PSI, that model may be your best bet.
Of course, outside of the above three features, whether or not any given product’s characteristics are any good to begin with will all come down to just what you’ll be using your bench vise for. However, by keeping all of the above considerations in mind, getting the proper bench vise for you will be a breeze.