2017 May 5    ToolsMetal & Shop

Introduction


Are all vises basically the same?

Brand-new, Made in USA bench vises might at first seem very expensive, and is there any reason to get one?

Let's find out.





A Quick Note

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In This Article

Some Specs

The Unboxing

Ductile Iron

The Anvil

Basic Tests

Why It Makes Sense

Conclusion




Some Specs



Clamping Force:  7,000 lbs.
Clamping Force to Bend Handle:  8,500 lbs.
Enclosed Lead Screw?  YES
Handle Torque, Max. By Hand:  160 ft-lb
Handle Torque to Bend:  200 ft-lb
Jaw Width:  4 inches
Jaws Open To:  7 inches
Made In:  USA
Made Of:  Ductile Iron
Mounting Hole Size:  33/64" (for 1/2" bolts)
Pipe Jaws?  No
Price:  Retails for $482;  often available at a substantial discount here.
Swivel Base?  No
Throat Depth:  4 inches
Weight:  48 pounds


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Table of Contents




The Unboxing


This vise was packed in a heavy-walled cardboard box that said "DO NOT DROP".  The packaging arrived in good shape. 

There was no template for drilling the holes, but this is an industrial-grade vise.  Most people who use this vise are not going to need a template.  With a reasonable level of skill and care (and lifting strength...), you should be able to trace out the bolt-holes onto your workbench.

Immediately I could see that the casting quality is very good, compared to the cheaper ones that I'm used to.


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Ductile Iron


At sixty-thousand psi, ductile iron has twice the theoretical tensile strength of grey cast iron.  And also, a lot of cheap cast iron doesn't even make it to 30,000 psi.  So really, this vise is probably more than double the tensile strength of a typical vise.

There's also the fact that ductile iron is not brittle like cast iron.  Generally, ductile iron can handle some impact loading without shattering.

This is quite a massive vise;  it weighs nearly 50 pounds.  The castings are much thicker and stronger than you'll find on a cheap import.  This 4" vise is heavier than most cheap 8" vises!!  Just an example here, this one weighs about 42 pounds.  Another place, I think I saw an 8" vise that was only 39 pounds.

And look at the 104 next to a 4" import...




Unlike the low-priced imports, this vise doesn't have any obvious failure points that I can see.  Yes, the lugs or anything else could break if you really wailed on it, but that would happen with any casting.  Your nice new 104 should survive a lot of uses that would crack or break a cheap vise.

Some people use their bench vise for iffy-but-not-quite-dumb things, such as crimping copper lugs onto heavy cables.  You're not really supposed to use a vise as a crimper or a press, but something like that would be unlikely to break this vise.  It would, however, break a cheap one sooner or later.  ("Best practices" here...  If you have to crimp or press stuff, don't use a vise at all... use one of these.)


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The Anvil


Machinist vises do not usually have anvils, but the Yost 104 includes one.  It's a flat, machined surface designed for occasional hammering.  I'm guessing they put this on here because so many people hammered on the backs of machinist vises anyway.  And when they wren't doing that, they were hammering on the back end of the slide.  We just sort of expect there to be an anvil on the back of every vise... and this one has it.

Ductile iron has better impact strength than regular cast.  That said, I still wouldn't slam on this anvil with a four-pounder.  Actually, no anvil was designed to be hammered on directly;  a heated piece of steel is supposed to absorb much of the hammer impact. 

I wouldn't try to forge wrought-iron fence rails on this, but a lot of useful metal work can be done with an eight-ounce hammer.  On this one, you'd probably be OK with heavier weights than that;  just not multi-pound ones.  (If you're setting out to do much forging, get an anvil.)


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Basic Tests


From what I've seen so far, the 104 clamps better and more securely than a lightweight vise.  No, you know what?  That's a rather bland understatement.  This vise can CLAMP.  We're talking about the difference between a few hundred pounds of clamping force... and 3.5 tons of clamping force. 

The lead screw, which supplies the actual clamping force, is massive.  (It's 7/8" diameter!)  Just look at it, compared to the cheap 4" vise:




Like most quality American-made vises, the handle was designed to bend before something else gives way.  That's a feature the cheap ones either don't offer, or it's difficult to be sure. 

On this vise, "clamping force to bend handle" is rated at 8,500 lbs.  That's even more than the Yost FSV-7 or 865-DI

The jaws have almost no wobble whatsoever.  The slide is machined;  everything is really solid. 

This vise can clamp stuff in usable ways that a cheap vise could never do.  Just an example here.  Let's say you have a 2x6 that's three or four feet long.  (Or more.)  It's possible to clamp one end in the vise, flat side up, and saw near the far end.  If you do it right, this vise can hold such a board.  It can probably hold angle iron of comparable size, if your bench can handle it without flipping over.

It's very possible to clamp sections of pipe in this vise to saw them, also.  However, if you're going to do that much, consider a combination vise like this one, which has pipe jaws. 

I haven't yet tried to crimp copper terminal lugs in this vise, but 3 1/2 tons of clamping force?  With the right type of crimper in the vise, 3 1/2 tons ought to be more than enough for cable lugs.  In other words, if this vise can't do it, there aren't a whole lot of other ones that can.




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Why It Makes Sense


It's been said that a good camera stays out of your way so you can take pictures better;  this is the rationale for a Canon 5D Mark III or IV. 

This is true for tools, also. 

Cheap tools, like cheap cameras, add their own layer of "issues" to whatever you're working on.  Actually, tools do this more than cameras.  The annoyances compound one another, until pretty soon you're not getting anything done. 

Even the better among the cheap imports, for example this one, aren't even in the same league as this vise. 

Massive clamping power = less likely to need a cheater bar.  That means the vise will last longer.

You need a good vise if you work with metal, machinery, engines, or just all-around workshop tasks.  The bench vise is your core shop tool. 

Some complain about the price of new USA vises.  I'd rather buy one, brand-new USA vise than five used ones that don't support American manufacturing.  There are a lot of things where I'm OK with imported, but the bench vise is sort of iconic of the American workshop and American industry. 

Besides, quality vintage vises have gotten more expensive.  A lot of people are asking silly money for stuff that's got problems.  Bent handles, major repairs, huge amounts of side-to-side play, etc, etc.  And really, the vise I'm reviewing here is not that much money.  It's absolutely worth it.


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Table of Contents



Conclusion


You might not realize just how good this vise is, until you buy your own and it's right there in front of you.  Then, compare it next to a cheap import.  Wow!  Even the bolt holes on the 104 were thoughtfully made 1/64" oversize, so that they easily accommodate 1/2" bolts. 

Vintage USA vises have also gotten more expensive;  they're not as attractive an option as they once were.  A new, USA-made vise makes more sense now.

If you think you'll only ever buy one vise, I'd say the 104 is a highly worthy choice.   Either that, or something even bigger and with pipe jaws, such as a Yost 133C.  Both of these are fixed-base rather than swivel, which I think is better if you want ultimate strength.  However, if you prefer the versatility of a swivel-base, consider the Yost 204.  Aside from the swivel, the specs are virtually identical to the 104.

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