The Best Bench Vises of 2022

Short on extra hands? Don’t fret. Get a grip on your to-do list with these top bench vises.

By Tom Scalisi | Updated Mar 23, 2022 10:31 AM

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The Best Bench Vise Option

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You only have two hands—and that can often be a challenge with certain projects. Indeed, there may also be times when using your hands to hold a workpiece simply isn’t safe. The solution to these scenarios might just be a bench vise.

A staple in metalworking, automotive work, woodworking, and hobbyist shops, a bench vise is a metal clamping device that bolts to the top, side, or underside of a workbench. It has a screw mechanism that turns to open and close the jaws on a workpiece to hold it firmly in place, allowing DIYers to perform tasks like cranking on a nut or a bolt, or cutting perfectly accurate dovetail joints. A bench vise may also provide a solid surface to hammer against, making it an even more useful workshop staple.

DIYers who are ready to increase their shop’s functionality should read on to learn about the different styles and features of the best bench vises—and to see why the following models are excellent options.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Forward 8-Inch Bench Vise Ductile Iron
  2. RUNNER-UP: Wilton 11106 Wilton Bench Vise
  3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: TEKTON 4-Inch Swivel Bench Vise 54004
  4. UPGRADE PICK: Wilton WS8 Shop Vise (63304)
  5. BEST FOR WOODWORKING: Pony Jorgensen 27091 Medium Duty Woodworker’s Vise
  6. BEST FOR METALWORKING: Forward DT08125A 5-Inch Heavy Duty Bench Vise
  7. BEST WITH QUICK-RELEASE: Wilton 78A, Pivot Jaw Woodworkers Vise (63144)
The Best Bench Vise Option

Photo: depositphotos.com

Types of Bench Vises

There are three main types of bench vises: benchtop, front, and end vises. Each style has its merits, though the project at hand will most likely determine which will work best for a particular task.

Benchtop Vises

As the name suggests, benchtop vises (also known as machinists’ vises) mount to the top of a workbench. While some models clamp onto the workbench surface, most bolt directly through the table for the strongest possible attachment.

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. They also hold the workpiece off the table’s surface—very helpful for welding or wrenching. Though great for mechanics and metalworkers, their use for woodworking is somewhat limited since they can easily damage the wood.

Front Vises

Front vises mount to the front of a workbench. They’re popular among woodworkers because their position allows for planing, routing, or dovetailing without having a long board jutting out into the middle of the workshop. Some of the best front vises feature rapid action, also known as a quick-release, which allows for quickly adjusting the vise to size on a workpiece before snugging it in place with a quick turn of the handle.

End Vises

End vises, which mount to the end of a workbench, look and work very similarly to front vises, though their intended use differs slightly. Woodworkers may opt for an end vise if they do a lot of surface planing and flattening—tasks that require complete stability from a workpiece.

Users can lay a board across the top of a bench, flip up the “dog” (a small metal peg that sits inside the jaw), place an additional dog in a hole in the work surface, and then tighten the vise to hold the board in place. Both dogs should sit below the board’s surface to limit the chances of striking the dog with an expensive hand plane.

There aren’t a lot of other uses for an end vise, since most materials will stick out into the workshop if clamped into one.

What to Consider When Buying a Bench Vise

Not only does each style of bench vise have specific applications, aspects such as jaw width, quick-release, and swivel also make a huge difference in how well a vise will function in a shop. Becoming familiar with the following features will help when choosing the best bench vise.

Material

The most common material used for bench vises is cast iron. It’s incredibly tough and dense, allowing users to apply a great deal of clamping pressure—important for mechanical tasks like removing stubborn hardware or pressing bushings into automotive parts. Cast-iron vises are also suitable to use as an anvil hammering surface.

Steel vises are also popular, since they’re strong and even more durable than cast iron. They can deform a bit under extreme pressure, however, and so they tend to be less expensive. Woodworking vises don’t require a ton of pressure to secure boards and workpieces in place, so steel is more than adequate for a front vise or an end vise.

Manufacturers of vises typically use psi (pounds per square inch) as the measurement for the strength of their bench vises. Cast-iron bench vises can have a tensile strength of over 60,000 psi, making them incredibly strong. Ratings of 30,000 psi or more are sufficient for most workshop projects.

It’s also important to note that most of the best bench vises have replaceable jaws. This is a good feature, because the jaws’ grippy surfaces can wear down over time, affecting their ability to grab hold of a workpiece. Replacing the jaws can extend the lifespan of a vise.

Jaw Width

Jaw width refers to the length of the vise’s clamping surface. Small vises can have jaw widths as small as 3 inches, a distance suitable for light-duty projects and repairs. Large vises can have jaw widths as wide as 10 inches, which provides a lot of surface area for clamping large, heavy-duty projects in place. A generally functional jaw width is between 5 and 8 inches.

Woodworking vises tend to have very wide jaws to promote as much clamping surface as possible. These wide surfaces help avoid placing too much pressure on a small area, which could crush or mar the wood’s surface.

Jaw Opening

Jaw opening—the distance between the jaws when the vise is fully opened—is an important consideration, since it determines how wide an item a user can clamp in a vise. Commonly, most jaw openings match jaw widths, so a 6-inch vise will have a 6-inch jaw opening and jaw width, though this isn’t always the case.

Woodworking vises like front- and end-mounted vises will have larger jaw openings for clamping wide boards in place. It’s not uncommon to find a woodworking vise with a jaw opening of more than 10 inches.

Throat Depth

Throat depth in both bench vises and woodworking vises refers to the distance from the top of the jaw to the top of the screw mechanism that tightens the vise. Essentially, it quantifies how deeply a user can clamp a workpiece down inside of a vise.

Throat depth is important, particularly when edge planing wide boards or welding wide pieces of steel. The larger the throat depth, the easier it is to clamp these wide materials toward their centers, providing more stability and holding strength while allowing users to apply more leverage or weight. Generally speaking, the larger the vice, the deeper the throat depth.

Swivel Rotation

The ability to swivel is possibly the most important feature of a good benchtop vise. For instance, swiveling the jaws out of the way might allow a DIYer to get a better angle on the anvil surface, which can make a big difference when trying to strike or bend something to shape.

Swiveling also allows users to clamp a piece in place, and then spin it to adjust the vise’s angle instead of hunching over to see the back of the workpiece. It’s much more convenient and allows for better ergonomics over the user straining to see what they’re doing.

Mount Type

Benchtop vises mount directly to a benchtop surface. They usually mount with four bolts that sandwich the vise’s base against the benchtop. It’s a good idea to mount a benchtop vise directly over a table leg. The leg will create a solid surface to hammer over, while the unsupported center of a bench may be overly bouncy and absorb a lot of striking power.

Woodworking vises like front and end models mount in a few different ways. Commonly, they screw into the edge of a workbench with long wood screws or lag bolts. They can also mount from underneath with shorter screws—just be sure not to penetrate the work surface, or there is the risk of chipping a plane’s edge while flattening a board.

Anvil

Most benchtop vises have a flat surface on top, directly in the center, to function as an anvil. DIYers can use this surface to hammer pins and rivets, as well as flatten or shape metal stock.

While not technically a blacksmith’s anvil, this surface does create a solid place to strike against. It can be helpful when trying to knock a drift pin loose or flatten a bent lawn-mower blade. The anvil surface won’t absorb the blow, which means it will direct the force into the workpiece. For this reason, the anvil surface is usually directly over the base, which makes it as sturdy as possible.

Woodworking vises don’t come with anvil surfaces, so woodworkers might want to install a benchtop vise on a shop surface for straightening antique nails and reclaimed hardware.

Quick Release

Screwing a vise in and out for workpieces that vary in width can be a sap on workflow. It might take 30 turns to open a vise’s jaws enough for a wide piece. Rather than waste time twisting the vise jaws in and out of position, consider a model with a quick-release or rapid-action capability. These features allow users to quickly slide the vise into place, requiring only a twist of the handle to snug the workpiece—a real time-saver.

Quick-release functions are typical in woodworking vises where users may go from edge planing a ¾-inch-wide board to flipping it on its side and flattening it across its 9½-inch face. The ability to quickly pull and push the jaws into place can improve workflow considerably.

Our Top Picks

With an idea of which style of vise will work best for the bench and in almost any shop, it’s time to start shopping. The following bench vises—from woodworking vises with quick-release functions to heavy-duty cast-iron models—made the list by taking the above factors into consideration.

Best Overall

The Best Bench Vise Option: Forward 8-Inch Bench Vise Ductile Iron
Photo: amazon.com

DIYers looking for an all-purpose, general-use vise should check out this model from Forward. This benchtop-style vise features replaceable jaws that measure 8 inches wide, with a jaw opening to match. It’s made from 60,000-psi cast iron, and it also features a 3½-inch throat depth, allowing users to clamp some heavy-duty workpieces in place. The tightening screw is under a metal channel to ensure that this vise continues working properly even after rough use.

This bench vise secures to a benchtop with three bolts, and the swiveling base allows users to reposition metal pipes and bars, wood boards, and other items for easy and convenient access. And, swiveling will give the user access to the large anvil surface that is mounted directly over the swivel for maximum flexibility. This vise does not feature a quick-release mechanism, but it does feature pipe clamps for holding round items in place.

Product Specs

  • Type: Benchtop
  • Size: 8 inches
  • Material: Cast iron

Pros

  • Large replaceable jaws
  • Heavy-duty iron construction
  • Swiveling base for access to workpiece or anvil surface

Cons

  • No quick-release feature

Get the Forward 8-inch bench vise on Amazon.

Runner-Up

The Best Bench Vise Option: Wilton 11106 Wilton Bench Vise
Photo: amazon.com

For a medium-duty, no-frills bench vise, the Wilton 11106 bench vise is worth checking into. This high-strength, 30,000-psi steel vise has 6-inch-wide serrated replaceable jaws and a jaw opening of up to 6 inches, which should cover most DIY and home workshop needs.

There’s a double-lock swivel base with roughly 160 degrees of rotation for getting a better angle on a workpiece. The vise also has a large, flat anvil work surface for hammering away at the to-do list. Wilton covers the jaw-screw with a square sleeve to keep it working as smoothly as possible while deterring damage. It lacks pipe clamps, however, so it is more difficult to secure round stock like pipes and metal tubing than some other models.

Product Specs

  • Type: Benchtop
  • Size: 6 inches
  • Material: Steel

Pros

  • 30,000-psi strength from a steel vise
  • Double-lock swivel base for stability
  • Features replaceable serrated jaws

Cons

  • No pipe clamps

Get the Wilton 11106 bench vise on Amazon.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Bench Vise Option: TEKTON 4-Inch Swivel Bench Vise 54004
Photo: amazon.com

For those already suffering through a relatively small workshop, bolting a huge, heavy bench vise to a workbench may not be the right move. Instead, consider this value-priced vise from TEKTON, which offers a little extra capability without being a behemoth.

The 30,000-psi cast-iron benchtop vise has 4-inch-wide replaceable jaws and a 4⅝-inch jaw opening, which is more than enough for most DIYers. The vise swivels up to 120 degrees but holds its position with dual lockdowns, which tighten on both sides of the vise to secure it in place. It has a hidden jaw-screw for added protection and durability. The TEKTON also has a 2⅝-inch square anvil surface, though it is slightly off-center of the base, so try hammering as close to the center of the vise as possible for the best results.

Product Specs

  • Type: Benchtop
  • Size: 4 inches
  • Material: Cast iron

Pros

  • Affordable price tag
  • Compact design ideal for smaller workshops
  • Double-lock swivel for stability

Cons

  • Anvil surface is slightly off-center of the base

Get the Tekton swivel bench vise on Amazon or at The Home Depot.

Upgrade Pick

The Best Bench Vise Option: Wilton WS8 Shop Vise (63304)
Photo: amazon.com

DIYers who do a lot of plumbing or metal fabrication and need a top-notch bench vise to get the job done should consider the Wilton WS8 8-inch shop vise. This 30,000-psi cast-iron vise features 8-inch replaceable jaws, a jaw opening of up to 8 inches wide, and a throat depth of 4 inches. It can also clamp pipes as small as ¾-inch in diameter and up to 3 inches—greater than ¼-inch larger than other models—to provide more capability than most bench vises.

A 360-degree swivel base locks securely in place, while rubber guards on the T-handle help avoid pinching skin while tightening or loosening the vise. The WS8 also features a flat anvil surface centered over the base.

Product Specs

  • Type: Benchtop
  • Size: 8 inches
  • Material: Cast iron

Pros

  • Heavy-duty design
  • Can handle larger round stock than competition
  • Double-lock swivel for stability
  • Rubber handle guards protect the user’s hands against accidents

Cons

  • Expensive, but worth the price

Get the Wilton WS8 shop vise on Amazon or at The Home Depot.

Best for Woodworking

The Best Bench Vise Option: Pony 27091 Medium Duty Woodworker's Vise
Photo: amazon.com

A woodworker in the market for a capable and quality front vise should look into Pony Jorgensen’s 27091 Woodworker’s Vise. This single-screw vise features cast-iron construction, 7-inch jaws, and an 8-inch jaw opening capacity, providing enough clamping ability for some serious hardwood stock.

This vise mounts to the front of a woodworking bench with lag screws (sold separately). It has two additional holes on each jaw for securing sacrificial wood jaw inserts (blocks of wood that clamp against the workpiece to prevent the metal jaws from marring expensive hardwoods). There’s also a slide-up steel dog in the outer jaw, allowing users to clamp workpieces against a bench dog for surface planing and flattening. Plus, the orange enamel finish is baked on for extra durability.

Product Specs

  • Type: Front-mount vise
  • Size: 7 inches
  • Material: Cast iron

Pros

  • Cast-iron construction
  • Allows the user to easily attach sacrificial boards
  • Slide-up steel dog in outer jaw
  • Durable baked-on enamel finish

Cons

  • Does not come with attachment hardware

Get the Pony Jorgensen woodworker’s vise on Amazon.

Best for Metalworking

Best Bench Vise Option - Forward DT08125A 5-Inch Heavy Duty Bench Vise
Photo: amazon.com

Metalworkers need a little extra capability from a bench vise, and this heavy-duty 5-inch model from Forward delivers. It features a 360-degree swiveling base and a 360-degree swiveling head, allowing users to clamp a workpiece in place and then position it at the proper angle. Also, the base features a double-lockdown design to keep that workpiece in place.

One side of the head has 5-inch replaceable jaws and the other side has two replaceable V-jaws, as well as self-aligning pipe jaws. The anvil surface is 3.2 inches long by 2.6 inches wide, providing an excellent surface for setting rivets or pins on. The body is made from 60,000-psi durable ductile cast iron, making the Forward a durable, strong, and long-lasting vise. It doesn’t feature a quick release, which is really the only area in which it’s lacking.

Product Specs

  • Type: Benchtop
  • Size: 5 inches
  • Material: Cast iron

Pros

  • Base and head swivel for optimal workpiece positioning
  • 5-inch replaceable jaws
  • Double-lockdown swivel base
  • 60,000-psi cast-iron construction

Cons

  • No quick-release nut

Get the Forward 5-inch bench vise on Amazon.

Best with Quick-Release

The Best Bench Vise Option: Wilton 78A, Pivot Jaw Woodworkers Vise (63144)
Photo: amazon.com

The Wilton 78A Pivot Jaw Woodworkers Vise will be right at home in the shops of the most discerning woodworkers. This cast-iron vise has 7-inch-wide jaws, a throat depth of 4 inches, and a maximum capacity of 10 inches, providing plenty of clamping ability for most woodworking applications.

The outer jaw pivots 10 degrees left and right to apply even pressure against uneven surfaces, but it can make clamping the occasional round stock a bit frustrating. The outer jaw also acts like a dog, lifting up 9/16-inch above the vise’s top, allowing for planing and flattening boards. The quick-release “fast-action” nut lets the user quickly set the vise in place before snugging it down completely with an easy turn of the handle.

Product Specs

  • Type: Front-mount vise
  • Size: 7 inches
  • Material: Cast iron

Pros

  • Quick release for better workflow
  • Front jaw lifts for planing and flattening
  • Quick-release nut for fast clamping

Cons

  • Pivot jaw can make clamping round stock or pipes tricky

Get the Wilton 63144 woodworker’s vise on Amazon.

Our Verdict

When it comes to do-all, general-purpose clamping, the Forward 8-Inch bench vise is certainly worth adding to almost any shop. However, for heavy-duty jobs, the Wilton WS8 Shop Vise features tough construction and a burly design for an upgrade bench vise worth splurging on.

How We Chose the Best Bench Vises

Bench vises are important tools, and putting together a list of the best options is no small task. After all, these handy tools can hold back a lot of torque, so it’s important that they’re safe and live up to their hype.

First, we drew upon personal experience with woodworking, automotive repair, welding, and plumbing to determine which features we find most important in a bench vise. Then, we selected models from the brands we trust the most in the category. After that, we performed extensive research into each model so we knew which ones to toss out and which ones to award with a spot on our list.

FAQs

Keep reading for answers to commonly asked questions about these useful workshop apparatuses.

Q. How does a bench vise work?

Bench vises mount to a workbench, either on top, on the front, or below. They make use of a screw-function to open and close a set of jaws that clamp a workpiece in place.

Q. How do you install a bench vise?

Install a benchtop vise over the top of a workbench’s legs to distribute force directly into the ground instead of absorbing it. Right-handed woodworkers typically like their front-mount vises on the left side of their workbench and their end vices on the right end, while lefties prefer the opposite.

Q. How do you maintain a bench vice?

Cast iron is very durable, but rubbing it down with a water-displacing product like WD-40 will help keep a vise in great shape; spray the threads on the jaw-screw as well. When a vice’s jaws become worn—they’ll be noticeably smoother than when new—contact the manufacturer for a set of replacements.