The best bench vise will be a well-machined tool. Most vises also have a rotating base that will allow you to swivel the jaws for gripping items from more than one horizontal direction. Having an anvil table built into the vise is also a convenient benefit, and all of the top rated vises will have one. Keep in mind that most vises are not designed for fine detail, and do not provide a method of accurately adjusting the grip tightness. Some models may include rubber jaw coverings to reduce slippage, but this is not a common feature.
The Wilton 11104 will serve you well as one of the best bench vises for the money. If most of your vise-related needs are situations where you need a third hand for gripping, you’ll love the easy movement and tight grip available from the 11104. The jaws open to a maximum of 4 inches, so keep this in mind before you purchase. Wilton uses a standard vise construction, with a solid piece of steel for the outer jaw. This makes the vise more stable and greatly reduces the potential for bending or breaking. Unless you need wider jaws or something built for heavy duty gripping, this unit is probably all you will need. Even though Wilton is an American tool company, their bench vise products are actually built in China so keep that in mind if you require a product made in the USA.
The adjusting handle is one of the most common complaints, and may have a tendency to bend under excess force. Another small issue that comes up occasionally is that the vise, being made overseas, is designed to accept metric sized mounting bolts, and standard SAE versions will be too large or small. This is not a major problem, but mounting it with the appropriate size bolts will give you more stability. For added protection in shipping, the Wilton 11104 is completely coated in moisture-resistant grease prior to shipping, so be prepared to give it a thorough cleaning before you mount it. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, I strongly suggest you consider the Grizzly model below which is actually a better product but knocked down a spot due to its premium price.
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The Grizzly G7062 is an excellent medium-duty bench vise. If not for its cost, it would be the #1 bench vise on this list. The G7062 has two unique features: The shaft design provides smooth adjustments and a tighter shaft fit, and it can be swiveled vertically as well as horizontally. This gives you a virtually unlimited variation on the grip direction. It also has rubber-coated jaws for gripping material that might be scratched or gouged using a standard solid-metal jaw. The main complaint with a Grizzly 7062 is that the vertical swivel is dependent on the jaw to lock it in place. Holding your material in place while you tighten the jaws can be annoying until you get the hang of it. The Grizzly tool company was founded and still manufactures their tools in the United States.
The Wilton 14500 is built for heavier use than it’s smaller cousin, the 11104. In standard configuration, the jaws will give you up to 6 inches of opening, but one of the nice features of the 14500 is that the jaw can be reversed, giving you more than 9 inches of grip when you need it. It also provides two anvil platforms, which can be useful if you use the vise in reversed configuration frequently but still need the anvil surface to be available. As with its little brother above, the most serious complaint with the 14500 is that it is not a true American-made tool, but is manufactured in China but to Wilton’s American specifications. The result is that it fits together a little loosely, and the single-shaft twist adjuster is not as durable as a heavy duty vise would be expected to have. But, if you need a heavy duty vise with a large opening, this one will serve your needs.