2017 July 1 Tools, Metal & Shop
There are a lot of vises on the market, aren't there? There are so many that it's confusing.
Well, I thought of a way to sort them out. I might not be the first one to think of it, but this is probably the first page that's ever applied it like this. And it seems to be a fairly good indicator. Maybe not perfect, but it ought to help you pick a strong, dependable vise.
Now let's see how it works!
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In This ArticleWhat Makes a Stout Vise?
A Useful Ratio
The Ultimate Buyer's Guide to Vises
More About Cast vs. Ductile Iron
Stoutest For The Money
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. As I said, 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, the vise is definitely not "heavy duty". It's really a light-duty bench clamp. It might have hollow castings where it should be solid. And some of those thin castings might have air pockets in them, too. They can't take much impact, if any.
If you want a serious vise, look for a ratio of at least 7. Yes, these generally cost more, but they'll give much better clamping force and durability.
OK, now let's go to the....
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? Almost everything less than 5 is 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 Heavy-Duty Workshop Vise 6" (cast iron, China)...........5.1
Jorgensen 30808 Heavy Duty Swivel Base Bench Vise 8" (cast iron, China)......5.6
Tekton 54006 Swivel Bench 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 14600 Mechanic's Vise 6.5" (cast iron, China).........7.5 (lower-quality overall than the Yost 865-DI)
Yost 865-DI All-Purpose Vise 6.5" (ductile iron, USA)........7.5
Yost 855-D2 Reversible Vise 5.5" (ductile iron, China)........7.6
Yost 55C Tradesman Industrial Grade 5.5" (ductile iron, USA)...........8.3
Yost 880-DI All-Purpose Vise 8" (ductile iron, USA).........8.6
Reed Tool 704 Mid-Line Vise 4" (cast iron, China).......9.0
Wilton 1745 Tradesman 4.5" (ductile iron, USA).........9.2
Yost 45C Tradesman 4.5" (ductile iron, USA).........9.3
Wilton 1755 Tradesman 5.5" (ductile iron, USA).........9.4
Yost 480 Apprentice Series 8" (cast iron, China).......10
Reed Tool 706 Mid-Line Vise 6" (cast iron, China).......10.2
Yost 660 Mechanics' Bench Vise 6" (cast iron, China).......10.7
Wilton 1765 Tradesman 6.5" (ductile iron, USA).........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, USA)...........11.5
Yost 104 Machinist Vise 4" (ductile iron, USA, stationary base)...........12
Yost 105 Machinist Vise 5" (ductile iron, USA, stationary base)...........13
Yost 80C Tradesman Industrial Grade 8" (ductile iron, USA)...........13.1
Yost 133C Combination Pipe & Bench Vise 5" (ductile iron, USA, stationary base)..........17.8
Yost 106 Machinist Vise 6" (ductile iron, USA, stationary base)...........18.3
Reed 3CA Combination Pipe & Bench Vise 5" (ductile iron, USA).............19
Wilton C-2 Combination Pipe & Bench Vise 5" (ductile iron, USA).................20
Yost 108 Machinist Vise 8" (ductile iron, USA, stationary base)...........20.6
Wilton 600N Machinist Vise 6" (ductile iron, USA, stationary base).................23.8
Yost 134C Combination Pipe & Bench Vise 6" (ductile iron, USA, 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).................27.5
Wilton C-3 Combination Pipe & Bench Vise 6" (ductile iron, USA).................34
Any vise with a ratio above 7 is pretty substantial. The best balance of stoutness vs. affordability seems to be in the 7.5 to 12 range. Read my review of the Yost 104 here, but note that as of summer 2018, Yost is offshoring production of these vises.
Anything ductile iron with a ratio of more than about 11 will be among the strongest vises you can get. In this range you'll find the top-end, US-made Wiltons, Reeds, and [formerly US-made] Yosts. These are the best there are.
I don't see Reed doing a whole lot of marketing for their USA vises. They are, or were, one of the best old-line brands; I hope they can bring it back instead of becoming "just another import". The 3CA is still being made as far as I know; if they marketed and sold more of these types of vise, maybe they could bring the unit price down and capture more market share. I would think so, anyway.
If you want USA-made, as of 2018 it's pretty much going to be Wilton or nothing. If some other manufacturer wants to correct that info, I'd love to hear from you. However, limited runs of 8" vises don't really count. If you know of any company that makes 3.5" to 6.5" vises in the USA, and plans to keep doing so indefinitely, then let me know and I'll update this page.
The list above already has most of the best choices out there, starting at a ratio of about 7.5. And if you use those 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!
More About Cast vs. Ductile Iron
I didn't 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.
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-DI is probably quite a bit stronger than a Wilton 14600. But 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 machinist and combi pipe vises, though. I've read that it's not as strong, but I really doubt you're going to break a Wilton 600N
Stoutest For The Money
You might not need to spend $300-plus. How about a stationary base, 4" jaws, ductile iron, weight nearly 50 pounds. And it offers 7,000 pounds of clamping force. Read the review here, but know that the newer ones are not going to be made in USA.
ConclusionThough I may not be the first person on earth to think of it, I realized there's a simple way to choose a vise. That's the ratio we've looked at in this article.
Divide weight in pounds by jaw width in inches.
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.
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