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Vises may not be very high-tech but a good quality version, like these from Bessey will last a lifetime and make your work safer as well as more accurate.
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Bessey Metalworking Vises

Accuracy and safety cast in iron

Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz

Posted – 10-19-2010

The properties of the metals we work with make a good vise a necessity. Whether it is holding metal for drilling, filing, grinding or cutting we count on a vise to secure the pieces we are working on. Those might seem like simple capabilities but I have seen some bargain vises that were not up to the task. With the surprisingly low price of good vises like the Bessey offerings in this review, getting a good one is not a budget-breaker!

There are lots of specialty vise designs available but for our purposes here the focus will be on common bench vises and a drill press vise. These are nearly universal in metalworking and work well in virtually any metalworking shop. In fact, shops with one or more of the many specialty vises will usually have a couple of the more common designs as well.

One point I should make about these Bessey vises is that they are currently only available at Lowe’s Home Improvement Centers. The good news is that Lowe’s has a huge physical store presence across the country. Plus Lowe’s also has a full-on website that puts them in your back yard 24/7. Check the link at the end of this review.

The Bessey Drill Press Vise (left) is designed specifically for the environment of a drill press. The flat design along with wide "ways" that guide the jaw and a simple Acme-threaded spindle (left) make it easy to use.
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Drill Press Vise

What sets the Bessey Drill Press Vise from the bench models is that it is not meant for impact type work. This simple vise is designed to hold material while it is worked on a drill press. Despite the simple job description, this little vise can save you from horrendous injuries. If the piece being drilled grabs the bit it can easily be jerked out of your grip and instantly turn your drill press into a crude but frighteningly efficient meat processor. The overall physical size and low profile of the drill press vise make it effective on a drill press table. It is big enough to be capable but not so big as to be in the way.

The Bessey Drill Press Vise has 4”-wide jaws, a throat depth of 1” and a maximum capacity of 4-1/8”. The Acme threaded spindle and cranking handle can generate a surprising 112-lbs of force which is more than enough for any drilling job I can think of. The moveable jaw slides on a precision ground surface to makes its movement smooth and predictable.

The Bessey Drill Press Vise has a flat bottom but the slots along the sides let you clamp or bolt it to the drill press table. Because of the ever-increasing power of today’s drill presses it is nearly always way smarter to bolt the drill press vise to the table.

With a street price of just $19.99 the Bessey Drill Press Vise should be on the must-have list of anyone that works with a drill press regardless of the material. This little vise can make your drill press a more accurate as well as a safer machine.

The 4-1/2" Bench Vise (left) is a nice size for the home metal or workshop. The jaws and anvil features (right) as well as the pivot base make this type of vise versatile yet very tough.
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Bench Vises

Bench vise are the tanks of the vise family. Built for heavy-duty use bench vises are made from buckets of cast iron with heavily backed up jaws and often sport an anvil built into the body behind the jaws. The Bessey Bench Vises have powerful Acme-threaded spindles with large handles that allow generating lots of clamping force to hold the parts being worked on tightly.

The removable jaw pieces feature grip-enhancing grooves but the overpowering clamping force is usually what immobilizes the workpiece for grinding, drilling or just plain beating it into the shape we desire. The massive cast iron body surrounding the jaws provides a safe haven for heating and bending of metal. The edges of the jaws on my vises have served as a form for bending metal more times than I can remember.

4-1/2” Bench Vise

The 4-1/2” Bench Vise is a common size for the home workshop or in smaller workstations within a larger shop. The tough 4-1/2” wide jaws have removable, hardened jaw plates that are grooved to give them more “bite” when gripping the work piece. The jaws can open a maximum of 3-3/8” and have a throat depth of 1-3/4”. Though the 4-1/2” Bench Vise might look a little small compared to it big brothers it can deliver up to 170-lbs of clamping force! Behind the jaws is a 3-1/4”-wide by 3”-deep anvil surface.

The body of the 4-1/2” Bench Vise is mounted on a swivel that allows the operator to turn the entire vise up to 270-degrees. Being able to pivot the whole vise can make it much easier to work on odd-shaped pieces. The ability to reposition the work piece can also be a safety factor when doing grinding or drilling operations. A simple handle operated bolt at the base locks or unlocks the swivel feature.

The 6" Workshop Vise (left) can hold it's 4-1/2" little brother in its jaws easily. The range of your jobs that this vise can handle is bigger than that! The 360-degree swivel base, tough jaw plates and a large anvil (right) make the 6" Workbench Vise a favorite in many types of shop environments.
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With a street price of just $29.99 the 4-1/2” Bench Vise is a real deal when the always too small budget is a consideration. The good news is that despite the hyper reasonable price, the Bessey 4-1/2” Bench Vise brings a full range of features and durability to your shop. Not a bad deal at all!

6” Workshop Vise

The 6” Bessey Workshop Vise is a great balance between pure size and the space requirements of some medium to smaller sized shops. This vise has a massive cast iron body that makes up much of its 42-lb overall weight. That mass also allowed Bessey to add a 4-1/4”-wide by 3-3/4”-deep anvil surface behind the jaws.

This vise has 6”-wide jaws, a throat depth of 3” and a maximum opening of 6”. The large steel handle lets the operator generate up to a massive 6700-LBS of clamping force! The hardened steel jaws have a diagonal groove pattern that helps them get a more secure grip the work piece.

The body of the 6” Bessey Workshop Vise is mounted on a full 360-degree swivel base. Dual locking handles, one on either side of the vise secure or release the body for turning. Being able to pivot the entire vise as needed can be a huge help when working on odd shaped projects. This capability can also make it much easier (and safer) to use other tools such as grinders and drills more effectively.

Video Tour

Surprisingly, the 6”-Workshop Vise has a street price of just $79.98! If you are anything like me, balancing the purchase price against the amount of use my workshop vise gets makes the purchase price the best tool deal in my shop! With the purchase prices of these Bessey Workshop Vises being so low, you can meet your needs without straining even moderate budgets.

As with any tool, you have to be the judge on what size best fits your needs and the available space. You also have to consider the surface you have (or may have to make) for mounting the vise. The heavy usage of a vise means that has to be secured very well to remain effective and safe.

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