Updated: June 8, 2015
Machinist Vise Reviews:Looking for a new machinist vise? Perhaps your old one of 20 years has seen better days. We recently went shopping for a machinist vise and realized that there aren't many online articles that help in that search. This is our attempt at a buying guide with some basic pointers on brands, prices, and features you will want. The first thing is that any quality machinist vise is going to cost you quite a bit of money. Sure, we have all seen those made in China vises sold in home improvement stores, but at $50 you know the quality is lacking and it won't last long. The top rated machinist bench vises from Wilton, Yost, and Columbian start at roughly $400 and go upwards of $3000. A machinist vise is designed so that you can work with metals or other materials and be able to have a secure place to hold them while your hands are free to bend, cut, drill, shape, or hammer to your hearts content. The vise will attach to the top of a benchtop or workbench - should be securely bolted to the surface. I have even seen some of these attached to the back of worktrucks so that they can be used out in the field. Where should you buy a machinist vise? Which brands rate the highest? We answer all those questions below.
Choosing a Machinist Vise - The basic features on a machinist vise are things like jaw width and jaw opening sizes. The jaw width typically ranges from 4 to 8 inches and the jaw opening can go up to 12 inches on the larger models. Materials - Cast iron is common, but we suggest going with forged steel whenever possible for added strength and durability. You will sometimes see the machinist vise referred to as an engineer's vise - they are considered one and the same. Look for one with a flat surface behind the jaw - this space is supposed to function as an anvil - you can pound or shape metal here. Those with pipe jaws below the flattened jaws are also versatile. Several of the top selling machinist vises come with mounting templates so that mounting it to a benchtop is easy. Just line up the mounting holes on the template with those on the vise. Weight - For novices out there, I think the weight of a machinist vise is what surprised them the most. They often go from 50 to 90 pounds, solid as an anvil and able to provide a sturdy work environment. Some models offer features like parallel jaw alignment systems and replaceable main jaws. The replaceable inserts allow you to repair broken jaws and not have to buy an entirely new vise. Stationary vs Swivel Base - We prefer the swivel base machinist vise models, but reviews for the stationary ones are just as positive. The clamping applications like shaping, cutting, drilling, bending, or pounding are just easier when you can swivel the base (360 degrees) to your liking. Also, some of the machinist bench vises allow you to change the angle rotation of the object giving you even options. Machinist Vise Reviews - The best source are forums like Garagejournal.com but we found excellent consumer feedback on Northerntool.com and Amazon.com. Even Bob Vila has a good article on vises HERE. We did read online that some cheaper brands made in China are able to use the Wilton name so be careful when buying a $400 Wilton for $50. It's probably not the real deal. You can browse the best selling machinist vises online here.