2017 July 1    ToolsMetal & Shop
Updated 3/2020

Introduction


There are so many vises on the market today that it can be confusing.

I thought of a way to sort them out, easily. 

Whether anyone else ever thought of this, I don't know, but this is the first page I know of to arrange them like this.  It ought to help you pick a strong, dependable vise. 

Now let's see how it works!




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In This Article

What Makes a Stout Vise?

A Useful Ratio

The Ultimate Buyer's Guide to Vises

Still Made In USA??

More About Cast vs. Ductile Iron

Stoutest For The Money

Conclusion






What Makes a Stout Vise?


You've probably seen vises that were too light for their jaw width.  It's like speaker wattage:  inflated numbers sell more products. 

A truly stout vise should have a lot of iron where it matters.  That's pretty much everywhere, but especially where the jaws connect to the rest of the vise.

Manufacturers have been reducing weight to reduce built-in costs.  It's cheaper to handle, warehouse, and ship a 30-pound vise than a 100-pound one.  But on a vise, that diminishes the usefulness of the product.  The cheapest vises can't even withstand their own clamping forces;  they just break. 

Many jobs demand a stout vise, even if you don't work on railroad cars.




A Useful Ratio


Simply divide the weight of a vise in pounds by its jaw width in inches

Higher results are better.

It's not a perfect indicator, but it correlates well for most vises made of cast iron or ductile iron.  For proper vises, the ratio should increase with jaw width.  When you look at the list (see below), you will notice this is generally true but not always.

Swivel bases and pipe jaws add some weight.  That gives a higher ratio.  So it's not a perfect indicator, but it's not bad, either.

When the ratio is low, it speaks of oversized jaws on a smaller vise body.  This can be OK for hobby uses that don't need big clamping force.  When the ratio is less than 5, though, it's basically a light-duty bench clamp.  It might have hollow castings where it should be solid.  Some of those thin castings might have air pockets in them.  They can't take much impact, if any.

If you want a serious vise, look for a ratio of at least 7

Next section, vises ranked according to that ratio.


Table of Contents



Ultimate Buyer's Guide To Vises



Here are the ratios for a whole list of different vises.  I've included a number of cheap imports here for comparison.

What about prices?  Ratios of less than 5 are mostly in the "Under $100" price range.  When you start to get around 7.5, you're probably looking at $250 to $300 vises.  Most of the over-7.5 vises are well over $300.  Two exceptions are the Yost 460 and Yost 480;  see my review of the 480

Ratios much above 12, and the vises tend to be $400 and up.  As the numbers go toward 20 and higher, you're into $1,000+ vises. 


Yost LV-4 Home Vise 4" (cast iron, China)..........2.6

HFS Heavy Duty Bench Vise 5" (cast iron, China)......3.2 

Goplus Mechanic Vise 6" (cast iron, China)......3.3

Tekton 54004 Swivel Bench Vise 4" (cast iron, China).......3.5

Bessey BV-HD40 Heavy Duty Bench Vise 4" (cast iron, China).......3.9

Irwin 226306 Heavy Duty Workshop Vise 6" (cast iron, China)...........5.1

Jorgensen 30808 Heavy Duty Swivel Base Bench Vise (cast iron, China)......5.6

Wilton 63301 / WS5 Shop Vise 5"  (cast iron, China).........6.0

Tekton 54006 Vise 6" (cast iron, China).......6.3

Wilton 676 Utility Vise 6.5" (cast iron, China)..........6.5   (it doesn't weigh 92 lbs;  more like 42.)

Yost 465 Apprentice Series Vise 6.5" (cast iron, China).......6.8

Wilton 63302 / WS6 Shop Vise 6"  (cast iron, China).........7.3

Yost 865-D2 Industrial Grade Reversible Vise 6.5"  (ductile iron, China)........7.5

Yost 855-D2 Industrial Grade Reversible Vise 5.5"  (ductile iron, China)........7.6

Yost 55C Tradesman Combination Pipe & Bench Vise 5.5" (ductile iron, Taiwan)...........8.3

Yost 880-D2 Industrial Grade Reversible Vise 8" (ductile iron, China).........8.6

Reed Tool 704 Mid-Line Vise 4"  (cast iron, China).......9.0 

Wilton 1745 Tradesman 4.5" (ductile iron, Taiwan?).........9.2

Yost 45C Tradesman 4.5" (ductile iron, Taiwan).........9.3

Reed Tool 705 Mid-Line Vise 5"  (cast iron, China).......9.4 

Wilton 1755 Tradesman 5.5" (ductile iron, Taiwan?).........9.4

Yost 640 Professional Grade Mechanics' Bench Vise 4"  (cast iron, China)......9.5

Wilton 21400 / 745 Mechanics Vise 5" (cast iron, China)..........10.0

Yost 480 Apprentice Series 8" (cast iron, China).......10

Reed Tool 706 Mid-Line Vise 6"  (cast iron, China).......10.2 

Yost 650-C Professional Grade Mechanics' Bench Vise 5"  (cast iron, China).......10.6

Wilton 28807 / 1765 Tradesman 6.5"  (ductile iron, Taiwan?).........10.9

Yost 460 Apprentice Series 6" (cast iron, China)........11

Yost 680 Mechanics' Bench Vise 8" (cast iron, China)........11.25

Yost 65C Tradesman Industrial Grade 6.5" (ductile iron, Taiwan)...........11.5

Yost 104 Machinist Vise 4"  (ductile iron, Taiwan, stationary base)...........12  

Yost 105 Machinist Vise 5"  (ductile iron, Taiwan, stationary base)...........13  

Yost 80C Tradesman 8" (ductile iron, Taiwan)...........13.1

Wilton 28837 Machinist Vise 5  (ductile iron, USA, stationary base)............17.6

Yost 133C Combination Pipe & Bench Vise 5"  (ductile iron, Taiwan, stationary base)..........17.8  

Yost 106 Machinist Vise 6"  (ductile iron, Taiwan, stationary base)...........18.3  

Wilton C2 Combination Pipe & Bench Vise 5" (ductile iron, USA)  (Discontinued model).................20

Yost 108 Machinist Vise 8" (ductile iron, USA, stationary base)  (Discontinued model)...........20.6  

Yost 134C Combination Pipe & Bench Vise 6" (ductile iron, Taiwan, stationary base)..........24.7  

Yost 34C Combination Pipe & Bench Vise 6"  (ductile iron, USA)..........27.5  

Wilton 800N Machinist Vise 8" (ductile iron, USA, stationary base)  (Discontinued model).................27.5

Wilton 28833 Machinist 6" Round Channel Vise with Swivel Base (ductile iron, USA).................32.3

Wilton 28828 Combo Pipe & Bench Vise 6"  (ductile iron, USA).................32.6


Any vise with a ratio above 7 is pretty substantial.  The 7.5 to 12 range seems to have the best balance of stoutness vs. affordability.  Read my review of the Yost 104 here, but note that as of summer 2018, Yost is offshoring production of these vises.  They are made in Taiwan now.

Anything ductile iron with ratio more than 11 should be among the strongest, most heavy-duty vises you can get.  In this range you'll find the top-end, US-made Wiltons, as well as the top-end Yosts (which are now being made in Taiwan).  These are the best vises these companies have to offer. . 

         

The list above includes what I think are the best choices out there, especially if you pick ones with ratio above 7.5.  If you use any of these links to buy your vise, it helps me keep this website on-line.  That's the only support I get for this website;  these manufacturers give me nothing.  They just about run the other way when they see an independent review site.  But that means I can review things as they really are, which is great for you!


Table of Contents



Which Ones Are Made In USA?


If you want US-made, as of 2020 it's pretty much going to be Wilton or nothing.  Only their Machinist and Combo Pipe & Bench models are still made in USA.  Check out the 4" round channel Machinist vise or the 5" round channel Machinist vise.  You'll notice that the prices are getting up there.  (The 28832 swivel base 5" is over $1,100 new.) 

They're not cheap, but consider this:  the 28837 has a ratio of 17.6  So the price is about right for what you get, especially since it's made in USA. 

If I were building a 2,000-lb welding table or something, it would have to have a US-made Wilton. 


Table of Contents



More About Cast vs. Ductile Iron


I did not adjust the ratios for cast iron.  It has only half the tensile strength of ductile iron.  It also probably has less than half the impact strength.  So, any number next to "cast iron" should probably be divided by two.

The really massive cast iron vises, like the Yost 480 (full review here), are still unlikely to break, unless you wail on them with a mini sledge or something. 

Ductile iron wins, though.  A Yost 865-D2 is probably quite a bit stronger than a Wilton 14600.  So Wilton introduced some ductile-iron vises in the mid-price range, too.  The 4600 is similar to the 865-D2, weight to size ratio is similar;  it should be comparable in strength, although the pipe jaws on the 4600 are cast-in, not replaceable. 

Wilton's upper-line vises, like the Tradesman and the C-series, are also made of ductile iron.  I don't know how strong the bullet-vise design really is, compared to the traditional square channel design.  I've read that it's not as strong, but I really doubt you're ever going to break one of THESE.

By the way... thanks to cost-cutting, you might start seeing "ductile iron" vises where the base is actually gray cast iron.  I'd probably avoid these.


Table of Contents



Stoutest For The Money


You might not need to spend $500-plus.  How about a stationary base, 4" jaws, ductile iron, weight nearly 50 pounds.  And it offers 7,000 pounds of clamping forceRead the review here.  Just know that the newer ones are not going to be made in USA.


Table of Contents


Conclusion

We looked at a good way to choose a strong, stout bench vise.  It's really simple.

Divide weight in pounds by jaw width in inches. 

From there, we looked at the best of the current offerings.

If you're going to the length of bolting something down to your bench, you might as well get a vise that you'll never have to replace.  Pick something from the list with a ratio of 7.5 or better, preferably made of ductile iron, and you should have a winner.

Now you know a great way to choose the most important shop tool.

    

If this article helped you or you found it entertaining, please help me out by using any of these links to purchase your stuff.  Your support is the only way this website can stay on-line.  Thank you!!

Thanks for reading!






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