A Bench vice Buyers Guide

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Bench Vice Buyers Guide

Whether you’re welding in a workshop, sawing in your shed or gluing in your garage, having a bench vice will undoubtedly make the task in hand easier and quicker. A bench vice is a relatively inexpensive, multi-purpose workshop tool, which is a must-have piece of kit for any professional or amateur DIY enthusiast. 

A bench vice is often referred to as a tradesman’s “second pair of hands” due to the support and assistance it offers in a range of DIY scenarios, including sawing, sanding, chopping, drilling and finishing. A bench vice is fixed securely to a solid, flat surface (usually a workbench) by a clamp or bolts, and is designed to hold a workpiece firmly, keeping it stable and in a fixed position, with minimal movement and vibration. A bench vice can also be used to stabilise multiple parts of a workpiece to ensure an even finish, for example when planing wood or glueing plastics. 

The beauty of a bench vice really is its simplicity – basic, heavy-duty engineering at its best. However, shopping for a bench vice is slightly more, shall we say, demanding!! Size, materials, jaw options, PSI, swivels, different names… How can shopping for such a simple mechanism be this much hard work? The key is to KEEP IT SIMPLE and in this Bench vice Buyers Guide, we’ve done just that.

Best Pick Bench Vice

Only got five minutes 

Safely secure workpieces with a durable and dependable bench vice. Whether you’re an established professional or simply a DIY enthusiast, a good bench vice is a must-have piece of kit for your workshop. The best bench vices will be easy to install and steady and secure to use, without marking either your workbench or your workpiece.

The humble bench vice is known by several different names: metalworking vice, engineer’s vice, machinist’s vice, mechanic’s vice and workshop vice. Add this to the fact that some UK retailers insist on using the American English spelling of ‘vise’ and you’re faced with a DIY minefield! Just bear in mind, all the names listed here fall into the ‘bench vice’ category – they’re fundamentally the same as they can all be fixed to a flat surface! 

Bench vice strength and longevity 

The best bench vices will be made of cast iron, of which there are two types: 

  • Grey iron
  • Ductile iron

The ‘grey’ in grey iron refers to the presence of graphite in the form of ‘flakes’. Grey iron is the most common form of cast iron as it’s highly resistant – not susceptible to rust and heat damage. A disadvantage of grey iron is that it’s not as tough as ductile iron. It doesn’t take impact well, and in extreme cases can fracture – not ideal if you intend on carrying out a lot of heavy-duty hammer work. 

Ductile iron, like grey iron, also contains graphite, but the particles are rounded. This difference in particle shape results in ductile iron being considerably stronger than grey iron, and consequently is resistant to cracking. 

Size

The size of your vice and the capacity of the jaws will dictate the size of the workpieces you’re able to work with. Jaw width tends to be between 2” and 8”, with 6” jaws being the most common for domestic use. Jaw opening can range from around 4” to 12” depending on the individual model and the slide length. A bench vice will hold workpieces which measure greater than the width of the jaws, but working too far from the area of grip subsequently causes flexing, which in turn affects stability. 

Bench vice jaws

The jaws are the part of the bench vice that holds a workpiece secure once tightened and are arguably the most important component. The best bench vices will have sturdy jaws, which, unless you’re going for a budget model, should be interchangeable or at least reversible, with an impressive degree of grip, but which have a protective rubber ‘coating’ to avoid any marks or indentations to the workpiece. 

The jaws of a bench vice are parallel to each other – one jaw is stationary and the other jaw moves, to allow you to place a workpiece between the two jaws, and one is then moved in to tighten.  To what degree you want your bench vice jaws to ‘open’ is something you need to be clear on before you buy, as this will determine the size of workpieces compatible with the bench vice you’ve chosen. 

If you intend on using your bench vice regularly, and for heavy-duty tasks, then definitely consider a bench vice fitted with replaceable jaws: with excessive use and general wear-and-tear, bench vice jaws can wear down surprisingly quickly. 

Jaw types

Jaw typeAdvantageDisadvantage
SerratedImpressive gripCan mark ‘softer’ workpieces
NylonLess likely to mark the workpiece than serratedSusceptible to wear and tear
Pipe V-shaped indent to grip around tubes or piping Not suited to flat workpieces e.g. planks or frames


It’s worth noting than jaw covers – wood, plastic or nylon – are also available. They fit snugly over a bench vice’s existing jaws and offer different gripping applications. This is the best option if you plan on using your vice for a range of materials of various shapes. 

If you plan on using your bench vice with workpieces which are particularly vulnerable to damage, try magnetic soft jaws. Once the magnetic jaws are positioned in the bench vice, they hold their position using magnetic force – a good idea if you only plan on using your bench vice for light finishing work.

Best Budget Bench Vice

Stanley 183068 MaxSteel Heavy-Duty Bench Vice 150mm 6-inch
  • The maxsteel heavy-duty bench vice is made from cast iron for strength and durability
  • Roll-formed screw threads ensure smooth operation and durability
  • Chrome-plated hardware resists corrosion
  • Base bolts directly to work bench for stability
  • Base swivels and locks for versatility

Stationary or swivel

A standard stationary bench vice is great for fixing workpieces in position however if you’re also after flexibility, then a swivel bench vice is what you’re looking for. A swivel base is an incredibly handy feature, which allows you to swivel the workpiece, usually between 180 ̊ to 360 ̊, offering increased flexibility, whilst the workpiece is still fixed in the vice. A swivel base saves time as it eliminates the need for clamping/unclamping the workpiece in order to change its position, and also reduces the risk of damage to the workpiece from repeated tightening.

Securing your bench vice

A bench vice needs to be secure and stable in order for it to be fit for purpose. 

There are two types of mounting interface (the part of the bench vice which fixes to the workbench/work surface) to choose from when deciding on the best bench vice for you and your workshop: 

  • Bolt-on mounting interface 
  • Clamp mounting interface 

A bolt-on mounting interface secures the bench vice to your workbench with typically four bolts; the best bolt-on bench vices will come with the holes predrilled, which saves you a job! A bolt-on bench vice is the better choice if you plan on working with heavy-duty workpieces and/or jobs where you’re going to be putting a lot of pressure of the vice as it’s more stable than the clamp type alternative. It is permanently fixed in respect of once the bolts are screwed into place, the bench vice has its home, whereas a clamped bench-vice can be unscrewed and moved around easily.    

Bench vices which are secured to a work surface using a clamp are easier and quicker to install than a bolt type bench vice: they simply require screwing into place to tighten the clamp and they’re ready to use. However, a disadvantage of this is that clamped bench-vices aren’t as secure as bolt-ons and as a result, are better suited to lighter projects.

Desirable features 

Though a bench vice is an uncomplicated device – a workshop tool of simple means – there are a few features that make using it even easier!

Feature Description 
Quick-release functionA bench vice with a quick-release function enables you to remove the workpiece from the bench vice jaws almost instantaneously, instead of having to turn the spindle manually, which is both time-consuming and laborious; it’s a finger-operated lever attached below the front jaw, which releases the screw thread. The best bench vice models will come with a quick-release function as it’s useful both in quickening the process and minimising the effort required. It’s a fairly common feature on mid to top range bench vices.  
Rotating headsA clever feature, which although uncommon, is available on some bench vice models is rotating heads, which carry two sets of jaws. This allows fast access to the second set of jaws, saving you time and hassle should you need to change whilst the bench vice is in use. 
Anvil area The anvil area on a bench vice is a durable, high-impact flat surface, usually made from solid steel. If you intend on doing a lot of hammer work with metal, then an anvil area is a must-have feature as it absorbs the impact of heavy strikes rather than the workbench or vice unit itself.

Best of the Rest

Meister 5136000 Precision Mechanics Vice 60 mm
  • Finely lacquered
  • Work surfaces polished
  • Spindle chrome-plated
  • rotating
  • Compact
Forward DT08125A 5-Inch Bench Vise 360 Degree Swivel Base Heavy Duty with Anvil (5")
  • Jaw width:125mm(5"), Opening: 125mm(5"), Throat Depth: 67mm(2.6")
  • Durable and Sturdy: Stationary Body made from high strength gray iron; Floating Body made from ductile iron
  • Multifunctional: Mounting vise on the workbench, then you could do the work of grinding, cutting, and etc. Tapping work can also be done on the anvil of bench vise
  • Great for clamping and fixing workpiece: Higher clamping force; Longer opening; Bigger anvil; Deeper throat depth; Wider jaw; Round workpiece clamping; Microgroove tooth space for better grip; 360 degree swivel base providing unlimited clamping space
  • Perfect Dual-Purpose Vises: This 5" vise is suitable for both industrial and DIY home use. The front jaw can be rotated by 360 degree, more convenient for clamping works
Yost Tools 750-DI Bench Vise
  • Jaw Width-5 inch
  • Jaw Opening-5 inch
  • Throat Depth-4 inch
  • Min Pipe Capacity-.125 inch
  • Max Pipe Capacity-3.5 inch

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a bench vice cost?

You can pick up a budget bench for under £30 but keep in mind that a tool that ‘s destined for a life of punishment needs to be well cast and made to last – metal fatigue and cracking can occur in poorly cast models. For a mid-range, decent-quality 4”-6” bench vice you’ll be looking at spending between £40 and £80. For professional use, top of the range bench vices cost anywhere between £120 to £200.

What does the PSI rating mean on a bench vice?

You might see a psi rating on a vice (pounds per square inch). It’s the pressure used when casting, and is an indication of the type of iron which has been used. Typically, 30,000 PSI is what you’d expect for a grey cast iron bench vice and 60,000 PSI for a ductile cast iron model.

Last update on 2020-04-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

About Mike Jones 155 Articles
I started doing DIY around the house and it soon developed into a hobby. I look for tools and products that are genuinely useful and get the job done. I enjoy writing product reviews, researching my buyers guides and putting tools through their paces. In my downtime, I like to run and I am a bit of a Netflix documentary geek.

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