A vise makes a workbench more than a flat surface for working on projects. Install a vise on one end and another on an edge, and you'll cover nearly all your workholding needs. Design your workbench to accommodate the specific vises you purchase, or alter an existing bench to mount one or more. We've built a lot of workbenches over the decades with a lot of vises, and we recommend these six.
Veritas quick-release front vise (no. 05G3401) and quick-release sliding tail vise(no. 05G3001)
Front vise maximum travel: 12-1/4";
Tail vise maximum travel: 7-3/4"
If we're building our dream workbench today, we'd anchor it with these two vises (photos, above). Yes, they require a sizable investment, but they work so smoothly and solidly and install so easily—Lee Valley's detailed instructions ensure a job well done—that you'll quickly forget the purchase pain. The quick-release on each lets you open or close the outer jaw rapidly, a huge benefit when you're changing workpieces often.
WoodRiver large end vise, no. 144807
Maximum travel: 9"
With this hardware you can make an excellent—and value-priced—tail vise that operates smoothly and holds well. It lacks a quick-release, so you'll have to turn the screw fully for each task. (Handle not included.)
Lee Valley large front vise, no. 70G0802
Maximum travel: 13" (minus the thickness of the wood jaws)
We like this value-priced vise kit so much that we've used it on several workbenches over the years. It mounts easily, and you can build the jaws to suit your bench and work style. Buy the optional handle (no. 05G1203) or make your own.
Veritas twin-screw vise
16-7⁄8" width, no. 05G1221
24" width, no. 05G1222
Maximum travel: 12" (minus the thicknessof the wood jaws)
Twin-screw vises feature two screws that can be positioned up to 24" apart, with jaws that you build to suit your workbench width and your type of work. A chain (chain cover removed for clarity) connects the screws to ensure the jaws travel parallel to each other without racking. If you need to clamp a workpiece without parallel surfaces, disengage the chain and operate each included handle independently.
Woodcraft 7" quick-release vise,no. 162794
Maximum travel: 7-3/4" (minus thethickness of the wood jaws)
If you need only a small vise, get this one. It's easy to install, and once you build jaws, it works well at gripping workpieces securely. The pop-up bench dog lets you trap workpieces between it and another bench dog you install in the bench surface.