The best bench vise is one you’ll want to invest in as a permanent addition to your garage workbench. This best bench vise is a heavy, well-made steel tool that will (or should) last you a lifetime.
There might be some tools out there that you can get away with skimping on quality, but bench vises are not one of them.
And, all things considered, even the best bench vise isn’t that expensive. You can set yourself up with a proper, well-functioning one for well under $100.
In this article, we’ve picked out and hand-selected what we believe are the best bench vises currently on the market. The best bench vise is a quality, dependable tool that will last forever and is a great value for the money.
Table of contents
- Quick Look: Top Bench Vise
- Product Summaries: Our TOP Picks for the Best Bench Vise
- Different Types of Bench Vises
- Reviews of the Best Bench Vises
- Yost 400 Series – Best Value Bench Vise for the Money
- Yost 800-DI Series – Best Premium USA-Made Bench Vise
- 4” Wilton 11104 – Best Cheap Bench Vise
- What to Look for When Buying a Bench Vise
- Roundup Winner: Our #1 Pick for the Best Bench Vice
Quick Look: Top Bench Vise
Product Summaries: Our TOP Picks for the Best Bench Vise
The Yost 400 Series Vises get our nod for the best bench vise value for the money. These tools check off everything you want to see in a quality vise: lifetime durability, quality cast iron construction, a 360-degree swiveling base, and a smooth, well-built clamping mechanism.
Unfortunately they are made in China, so that might be a turn-off for some buyers. All in all though, they easily offer the best bench vise value in terms of the quality you get for the price.
If you’re able to spend a little more money and want to get a really well-made American vise on the other hand, the Yost 800-DI Series are a definite step up in quality.
These ductile iron (DI) vices represent the most modern generation of USA-made Yost tools, which have been around for well over 100 years (1907). The Yost 800 Vise basically represents the golden standard for American-made vices.
And finally, if you’re a budget DIY’er who’s always looking for the best bang for your buck, the 4” Wilton 11104 is a nice, entry-level value tool that easily gets our pick for the best bench vise at the lowest price.
It’s a proper cast iron vice that’s a true workhorse, and what it might lack in quality craftsmanship, it more than makes up for in simplicity and functionality at a super low price.
Different Types of Bench Vises
There are three main types of bench vises that you can find on the market: front, benchtop, and end vises. Each woodworking bench vise is a great option but the project that you will be working on will most likely determine which vise will work best for you.
Front vises mount to your workbench from the front. These vises are popular among woodworkers because the position you mount them in allows for planing, routing, or dovetailing. This can all be done without having a longboard jutting out into the middle of your walkway or workshop. The best front worker’s vise feature something called rapid action (this is also known as a quick-release). Rapid action allows you to quickly adjust the vise to the correct size before putting it in place with a quick turn of the handle.
Benchtop vises, also known as machinists’ vises, mount to your workbench from the top. There are some benchtop vise models clamp onto the surface of the workbench and then there are some that bolt directly through the table. A heavy duty bench vise that bolts directly through the table give you the strongest possible attachment.
Some vises are suited for specific tasks and materials but the benchtop vise is more of a “do-all” option. Benchtop vises have a lot of clamping pressure and strong jaws. They can also hold your project off of the workbenches surface which can be very helpful when wrenching or welding. These vises are great for metalworkers and mechanics but their use for woodworking is limited.
End vises, you probably guessed it, mount to the end of a workbench. The work and look similar to front vises, however, it’s important to note that their intended use differs slightly from front vises. Woodworkers opt for end vises if they have a lot of surface planing and flattening to do. You can lay a board across the top of a workbench, 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 board with an expensive hand plane.
Reviews of the Best Bench Vises
Yost 400 Series – Best Value Bench Vise for the Money
Our top pick Yost 400 Series vices come in 5 different sizes: the 400 (4.5”), 455 (5.5”), 460 (6”), 465 (6.5”), and 480 (8”).
For the absolute best value, we recommend going with the 5.5″ model 455.
These tools are easily some of the most popular DIY-grade bench vises, and in our opinion they’re a step up in quality over something like Grizzly’s entry level vise. It’s difficult to quantify exactly why we feel that way, but it all comes down to the quality of materials and craftsmanship. Yost vices just feel and perform better on all levels than anything else we’ve tried.
For heavier-duty jobs you’ll want to go with the 6”, 6.5” or even 8” vice. However, for most standard DIY purposes you’ll be fine with either the 5.5” or 4.5” model.
As far as construction, the main bodies on the 40 Series are made of cast iron. While the screws, handles, and diamond serrated jaws are made of stainless steel – exactly the materials you want to see in a quality vice.
Things we liked
- Best value and quality bench vise
- Cast iron and stainless steel construction
- 360-degree swiveling base
- Integrated pipe-specific jaws built in below the main serrated jaw
- Several sizes available
Things we didn’t like
Yost 800-DI Series – Best Premium USA-Made Bench Vise
Like we said earlier, if you’re able/willing to spend a little more money on a better quality vice, the 800-DI Series are some of the best available.
Unfortunately unlike the 400 Series, the 800’s only are available in two different sizes: the 865-DI (6.5”) and the 880-DI (8”).
In terms of the gap in price between the two different models, the difference essentially comes down to materials; the 800-DI vices are made of 65,000 PSI ductile iron (hence the ‘DI’), while the 400’s are made of standard cast iron.
Cast iron can be brittle and has almost zero flex potential. Ductile iron – which has nodular graphite components – is much more flexible and can withstand higher loads and torque without breaking.
Lastly, another big difference with the 800 Series is that the main jaw is reversible – you can flip it around on the shaft to give yourself an extra 3-4” of opening (i.e. it expands from 7” to 11” on the 6.5” vise).
Things we liked
Made in USA
Lifetime Warranty (unlike the 400 Series)
360-degree swiveling base
Integrated pipe jaw in addition to main serrated jaws
Reversible main jaw for wider openings
Things we didn’t like
Only available in two sizes (a cheaper 4” or 5” model would be nice)
4” Wilton 11104 – Best Cheap Bench Vise
The Wilton 11104 certainly won’t win any awards for looks or craftsmanship. Yet, what it might lack in aesthetics it makes up for in functionality. You won’t find a better-performing or better heavy duty vise for the price.
Coincidentally, this particular vise actually has more 5-star consumer reviews than both the 400 and 800 Series Yost vices.
The bottom line is people buy this tool because it’s cheap, reliable, proven to work. This bench vise has all the basic features you want/need to see in a bench vise, such as a swiveling base and serrated jaws.
The only downside is that this particular model from Wilton is only available in the one size (4”), but that will be plenty big enough for what most DIY’ers will want to use it for.
Things we liked
Replaceable/upgradeable serrated jaws
360-degree swiveling base
Things we didn’t like
Made in Taiwan
Only available in 4”
What to Look for When Buying a Bench Vise
Truth be told, there’s not much to consider when shopping for the best bench vise. Bench vises are supposed to do a few things and if they can do those few things well, they get a passing grade.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen way too many low-quality vises that are incapable of doing the few simple things they ought to do (even some of the more expensive ones).
Too Much Play
A dead giveaway for a low quality vise is if there is any play in the main screw when you tighten it down. You shouldn’t feel any movement/play at all in the handle or the shaft. Even when you’re tightening fractions of an inch at a time, it should feel rock solid every step of the way.
Naturally, this is something that you can’t really tell unless you’re able to get your hands on the vice before buying. But, you can take our word for it that our recommendations/top picks above are solid when it comes to clamping ability.
(Granted, the cheap Wilton vice is far from perfect, but you can expect a few inconsistencies on such an inexpensive tool).
Locking / Swivel Base
Another thing that you’ll want to make sure of is that whatever bench vise you get, make sure it has a swivel base that locks in place. A swivel base will be absolutely crucial when you (inevitably) find yourself having to work at odd, awkward angles.
Also, another sign of a low-quality vise is when you run into the swivel base wanting to turn on the swivel as you’re trying to tighten the upper jaws (the swivel base should only move/swivel when you loosen the swivel base clamp).
Again, this is something that you can’t really determine without getting your hands on and testing the unit out, but all three swivel bench vise of our top picks passed the test with ease.
You definitely want to make sure that the main jaws are serrated (have grooves in them), and that the vice has pipe-specific jaws, in addition to the main jaw.
The serrated jaws help tremendously with the tool’s ability to grab hold of and lock onto objects of any material, and the pipe jaws are important because, well, it’s inevitable that you’ll need to clamp a pipe at some point or another in your lifetime.
No Aluminum Alloy Please
And lastly, whatever you do, don’t buy an aluminum alloy vise. Just don’t. They may be a heck of a lot lighter, but vices are made to be as strong as possible – if they’re not made of steel and iron, they’re not a vice.
(Here’s a nice article that goes into a little more detail with the specific parts and engineering of a couple different kinds of vices).
Roundup Winner: Our #1 Pick for the Best Bench Vice
All in all, if we’re making one overall recommendation for the best bench vise you can get your hands on for the money, it’s got to be the Yost Vice 400 Series (specifically, the 5.5″ Yost 455).
This specific tool will be a large enough vice for most any DIY’er, and the quality, construction, and durability is second-to-none in terms of bench vices in this particular class and price range.
The bottom line is, bench vises are simple tools. Remember, the best bench vise should be a tool that you buy once, and only once.
Click here to check out a few other unique type of clamping devices!