Tool Test: 14 Bench Vises
A head-to-head look at the tool everyone needs
Synopsis: Woodworker and associate editor Matt Kenney firmly believes that a good bench vise is as important as any tool in the shop. So, with the help of a shopful of college students, he set out to test 14 of them. Whether you choose a cast-iron vise or vise hardware, you want your front vise to hold work securely, open and close easily, clamp squarely to stock, and resist racking. Kenney found that important features also include a quick-release device and the capacity to add benchdogs. Included are directions on installing cast-iron vises and vise hardware.
From Fine Woodworking #205
My woodworking improved dramatically after I installed a vise on my bench. With a vise to hold my work, I could mark and cut accurate dovetails, plane square edges, and rout profiles without the board sliding all over.
That’s why I’m convinced that a bench vise is as important as any tool in the shop. Whether you use power tools, hand tools, or both, a good bench vise will help you work more accurately, efficiently, and safely.
A bench vise is meant to hold your work securely. A good vise not only does that well, but also opens and closes easily, has jaws that clamp squarely to the stock and hold it tight, and is versatile enough to handle a variety of woodworking tasks. A bad vise doesn’t hold boards tight, or has a nut that pops off the threads when you tighten the jaws.
Narrowing the field: It wouldn’t be practical to test every vise available, so I focused on front vises, because they are the first serious vise woodworkers buy and can be the only type they’ll need. Front vises are not difficult to install and they can be used as end vises. All have a screw…