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choosing bench vice

Heavy-Duty Bench Vice | 5 Essential Elements

Heavy Duty Swivel Vices. A question of Quality.

We live in an age of consumer aspiration.  Enthusiastic amateur photographers will dream of moving from a standard SLR camera to a top of the range digital Hasselblad costing thousands of pounds.  An amateur golfer will dream of acquiring a professional set of Taylor Made clubs although the price may well be way beyond his means.  But for the enthusiastic carpenter or craftsman, or home jewellery craftsman they can set their sights on a top of the range bench vice without breaking the bank.   Admittedly, a rotating vice such as a Swindens Heavy Duty Swivel bench Vice will cost far more than an Amazon brand it will still be within an amateur enthusiast’s budget.

a swindens bench vice
A Swindens Vice in elegant yellow and grey


Many of the reasons that military and marine engineers specify powerful heavy-duty vices are similar to the reasons they fall within the dreams of the enthusiastic amateur.  So let us look at the humble bench vice (or vise as the Americans call it), it is an essential piece of kit to securely hold any material that you are working on.

Vices come in various forms. There is the general vice bolted to a workbench bearing the scars of years of hammering, welding, and grinding but still capable of holding anything. The handle may be a little bent from having a pipe been fitted as an extension for additional power to tighten the vice. Generally, it is difficult to break a vice. They are made to withstand rough treatment but let us have a look at what makes a great vice? Or, more importantly, what validates the price of a truly top-quality vice.

Appearance of a quality heavy duty bench vice.

Perhaps there is a prize for the ‘World’s prettiest Vice’ but I am not sure it is a popular competition. Appearance does however play an influential role in assessing the quality of a vice. Attention to detail in terms of the quality of the casting, the absence of casting seams, and neatly rounded corners are all valid indicators of quality. The fine polished finish on the unpainted sections is another hint of quality. The bright yellow and grey colours of the range of the Swinden vices are a great example of great attention to quality.

Along with the quality of the casting is the type of iron that has been used. Cast iron at thirty thousand psi is the standard material utilized in many vices. To reach a superior quality status, ductile iron is the preferred material because it can absorb vibration better and has superior tensile strength.

Ductile iron is also known as SG Iron (Spheroidal Graphite) and owing to the graphite structure there is less chance of the cracks developing in the casting. Furthermore, the lower casting temperature required for SG iron allows for a casting that is smoother and better able to form complex shapes. SG iron has superior machining qualities and consequently can accept closer tolerances. The superior appearance of top-quality vices like the Swindens Heavy Duty Swivel bench Vice is a practical example of high-quality casting using high-grade material.

Vices that are made with SG Iron have the ability to withstand heavy-duty type usage where cheaper vices made with cast iron will succumb to cracking and fail.

The higher price for the quality vices using SG Iron/A2 steel is more than made up for in the longevity of the product. A top-quality vice will be a once-off purchase and will last the proverbial lifetime even in workshops that undertake heavy and robust work. You can find 60 years old Swindens listed on eBay for over 20-30% of a new one.

swindens bench vice is a true friend on the work bench
Swindens Vices last for years and are a ‘true friend’ on your workbench.

The standard run of the mill type bench vice is normally bolted to the bench for stability. This allows the workpiece to be clamped in one position and held there. That is fine for simple operations but for more complex tasks that require the workpiece to be moved into different positions a more sophisticated arrangement is called for. In a standard vice moving the workpiece would require it to be removed and repositioned in the vice jaws or for the operator to adopt a body position that will quickly result in fatigue and discomfort.

How flexible is your Vice?

The standard run of the mill type bench vice is normally bolted to the bench for stability. This allows the workpiece to be clamped in one position and held there. That is fine for simple operations but for more complex tasks that require the workpiece to be moved into different positions a more sophisticated arrangement is called for. In a standard vice moving the workpiece would require it to be removed and repositioned in the vice jaws or for the operator to adopt a body position that will quickly result in fatigue and discomfort.

The relationship between access and maintenance is a direct one. Difficult access results in maintenance standards being compromised. This is where a vice that is capable of rotating has significant advantages over the standard bench vice. A rotating vice allows the workpiece to be turned around without it being removed from the jaws. This saves both time and the inconvenience of having to remove and replace the workpiece in the jaws of the vice. (And really does reduce back pain!)

Some better-quality vices allow for the rotation of the workpiece through one hundred and eighty degrees, but superior vices extend the manoeuvrability to three hundred and sixty degrees. Top-quality vices go further than this and allow for rotation both in the horizontal and vertical plane. This allows for the workpiece to be perfectly positioned to allow precise access.

The versatility created by the swivel properties of top-quality bench vices provides significant advantages both to professional and serious DIY individuals. The ability to accurately position the workpiece provides substantial savings in time and relegates the need to readjust the workpiece. Professional workshops have reported that the installation of a top-quality vice with swivel adjustments has resulted in time savings of around fifteen per cent. (From 17% -when Servicing at Jaguar Land Rover to 45% -fettling at South Lincs Foundry is now 45% faster) This more than compensates for the higher purchase price compared to cheaper vices.

Robust Vices with Gentle Jaws.

a bench vice in a workshop setting
A Swindens Vice in a typical engineering situation.

The Swindens Heavy Duty Vice offers the great feature of having two sets of jaws. (Both Flat and Pipe either in Hardened Steel or Softer Plastic). The advantage that this product feature has over standard vices is that items that require delicate jaws such as working with chrome workpieces can easily and safely be held in one set of jaws while the other jaws are available for more robust items. There is no need to remove jaw inserts and to replace them to avoid damaging delicate workpieces.

On the Swindens Heavy Duty bench vice, the changing of jaws is simply a matter of swivelling the head of the vice through one hundred and eighty degrees. A simple and quick solution that saves considerable time and finicky messing about with replacement inserts.

Top-quality heavy-duty bench vices like the Swindens are equipped with additional jaws that can easily deal with pipes. This is especially useful in processors that require the work to be rotated in a controlled fashion. Using this facility makes welding cutting and grinding of pipes so much easier and safer.

The versatility of this bench vice means that almost all types of materials can be safely and efficiently held either in the standard jaws or the pipe jaws and then effortlessly manoeuvred into the most applicable position.

Versatile Bench Vice applications

Traditionally heavy-duty vices are bolted to workbenches inside workshops but there are many applications that require a heavy-duty vice outside of the workshop. Swindens has become almost standard equipment on many military vehicles. The versatility and strength of the vice have proved themselves in various fields and conditions.

The robust construction and the fact that the mechanisms are protected from the environment allows the vice to be used in almost all conditions. This means that there is no danger of foreign matter finding its way into the mechanism and causing jamming or sticking.

Some bench vices bring a whole new meaning to the definition of play. Part of the reason for cheaper vices to suffer from ‘the rather wobbly bits’ is the result of the quality of the iron used in the castings and the resultant tolerances required. Accurate and precise machining costs money and this is reflected in the higher price of better-quality vices but then the longevity of the vice is also going to depend on the tolerances obtained in manufacture. Close and accurate tolerances result in mechanisms that are smooth and definite which creates confidence in utilizing the vice.

With the addition of the Heavy-Duty Swivel base, the bench vice can be located in marine engine rooms where space is always at a premium. In confined spaces, the versatility of the swivel facility is very welcome. For most DIY enthusiasts’ space is always in short supply so to be able to orientate lengthy or large workpieces in a more efficient way will be a significant advantage in the vast majority of workshops.

Weighing it all up.

The range of vices is wide and there is a place for almost all types and price tags. What dictates the value of a bench vice is the design and quality of the construction of the product. A useful guide to validate the price of the vice is to read the comments from customers that have the vice in a workshop and as part of their equipment.

bench vice in military
Helping the Military.

The Swindens on a  Heavy Duty Swivel Vice has found wide and popular support in an eclectic range of industries. Military applications have seen the vice has been fitted to a variety of military vehicles. It has also featured prominently in the hydraulic and precision engineering sectors where it has received wide acclaim. For the discerning DIY enthusiast who is serious about raising his or her quality of workshop tools, the Swinden heavy duty Swivel Vice offers the opportunity to reach the highest levels of quality workmanship. Swindens welcome enquiries about delivery and delivery costs 

Engineers the world over have interesting stories to relate about the Swindens bench vice whether they are working in the military or in a gunsmith’s workshop.  Many of Swindens customers are marine engineers and energy engineers or busy farmers with machinery to maintain. Although Swinden’s patent was granted in 1928 product development continues. This great bench vice has a lifetime manufacturers warranty and a world-class replacement service.

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