When it comes to bench vises, perhaps the biggest limitation is that they are decidedly not portable. In many cases, they weigh well in excess of 50 pounds and are permanently bolted to a work surface, such as a table or work bench. While permanently affixing a heavy industrial grade bench vise to the table offers added stability, this comes at the tradeoff of having to move your project to your vise.
However, there is an alternative type of vise that allows you to move your vise to your project. The right tool for the job in this case is the clamp-on vise. A clamp-on bench vise functions much like a traditional bench vise in that it has jaws that can be tightened on your work piece using a screw. Clamp-on vises differ from conventional bench vises in the way they mount to your work surface. Instead of mounting the vise using bolts through a flange, the body of a clamp-on vise has an integrated C-clamp. This allows a user to attach a vise to any work surface they desire, and remove the vise after they are finished.
Because of the way they attach to the work surface, clamp-on vises do have some limitations to be aware of. First, they can only clamp to work surfaces that are a few inches thick or thinner. If you have a 6″ thick granite surface plate, it is unlikely that you will be able to clamp to this (not that you would want to anyways, but you get the idea). The second limitation is that the clamp isn’t going to be as secure as a vise that is bolted. As such, clamp-on vises are typically most useful for light duty operations. That’s not to say that they can’t take some abuse and some torque, but the upper limit just isn’t as high as a traditional vise.
The Best Clamp-On Vise
When it comes to choosing the best clamp on vise, our top pick is the Wilton CBV-100 Super Junior 4″ Clamp-on Vise. Wilton has a longstanding reputation for building high quality vises, and the Super Junior is no exception! This vise is loaded with features. First, it is rather large for a clamp-on vise. The 4″ jaws and 2″ throat depth give this vise the necessary capacity to grip sizable work pieces, especially when compared to competitive vises. The jaws are replaceable which provides you with flexibility to swap in a bunch of different jaws made from different materials depending on your project (Wilton offers rubber, fiber, aluminum, and copper jaws that fit this vise off the shelf for pretty affordable prices, or you can make your own).
Perhaps the most interesting part of this vise is that it also has a swivel base that rotates 45 degrees from center in either direction. This is a rare feature for a clamp-on vise as it adds a layer of complexity that most manufacturers aren’t willing to pursue. The base has double locks to prevent it from rotating once you set the position to your liking.
The enclosed screw design keeps the screw well lubricated and free from contaminants and debris, which means that maintaining this vise is essentially effortless. You occasionally have to clean it and that’s about it. It should also be noted that the screw is very smooth and doesn’t seem to suffer from the grittiness that cheaper vises tend to encounter over time.
As far as value, you have to pay to play. This is one of the more expensive clamp-on vises on the market, and so if you’re looking for a cheap clamp-on vise you are barking up the wrong tree. That said, thanks to the features and quality of the tool, it is still a high value and worth the extra coin if you can spare it in our humble opinion. As far as where to buy, Amazon’s competitive pricing seems to be the most attractive so we suggest starting there. Overall, the Wilton CBV-100 Super Junior Clamp-on Vise is the best clamp-on vise on the market and we think it will treat you well for many years to come.