A common bench vise adage is that one should buy the biggest and heaviest duty vise they could afford. Generally, a 4-1/2″ or 5″ bench vise offers a great balance between size and capacity. However, even these mid-sized vises can be too large for smaller workbenches or workspaces.
I have known about Yost’s RIA-4 compact vise for sometime, and recently asked them to send one over for testing.
I recently purchased a Wilton clamp-on bench vise for personal use, and while it’s useful, it’s a little crude in terms of fit. There is at least one jaw bur that needs to be filed down, and I have to grind away part of the base to fix the clunky swivel base. I’ll make do with the Wilton vise, but was looking for something I could recommend more enthusiastically.
Not everyone has a full-size workbench that they can plunk down a 50-100 pounds vise onto. There are also a lot of users that might have one large primary vise and the need for smaller vises next to certain equipment or workstations.
Yost makes a small clamp-on vise, which I reviewed about two years ago, and the next smallest vise they offer is the RIA-4.
- 4″ jaw width
- 2-1/4″ jaw opening
- 2″ throat depth
- 30,000 PSI gray iron casting
- 5/16″ mounting holes
- Hardened steel jaws with Rockwell C hardness of RC 52-58
- Weighs 15 pounds
What interested me about the RIA-4 design, aside from its compact size, is that it has a sealed screw mechanism, so that you don’t have to worry about anything gunking up. The sealed design reduces the level of maintenance needed to keep the vise in tip-top shape.
The compact vise also has a swivel base and an anvil area that can also be used for metal flattening or smoothing operations, or other tasks where you might need a small smooth metal surface or backing plate.
I decided not to mount the vise to my workbench, but have attached it to a small wooden board that can be clamped down to the bench or any table when and where needed. This is the perfect vise that you can do that with.
It weighs about 15 pounds, and when closed it can fit comfortably inside a 6″ x 6″ x 10″ box.
Despite its small size, the Yost RIA-4 compact vise feels quite strong and sturdy. I am also pleased to report that there are no obvious flaws or defects. The jaws have nicely machined grooved and line up perfectly, the screw turns smoothly, and the vise swivels well on its full 360° base.
I think that this is a perfect vise for casual DIYers, hobbysists, and even more demanding users who might be looking for a compact vise that’s neither puny nor made of plastic. I had the feeling that this would be the case, and am glad that my hopes turned out to be valid.
If I had to find something to complain about, I would point out that the swivel base locking clamps don’t lock in perfectly parallel to the vise. That is, when the swivel base is locked down, one of the locking levers will stick out about 90° from the vise. I cannot think of a reason why this is bad – it just changes the streamlined look of the vise a little bit.
Yost continues to impress me. That they were able to achieve such a fine fit and finish on a vise that retails for under $100 is quite a feat. This vise is one of the few that Yost doesn’t make in the USA. If you want a USA-made vise, you should look at some of their larger, heavier, and pricier vises.
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Thank you to Yost for providing the review sample unconditionally. Review samples are typically given away, donated, or retained for editorial and comparison purposes.
My 45 year old Starrett-Athol vise continues to do fine for me – but I had heard good things about Yost and Wilton – both back then . If the Yost manufacturing tolerances are still as good as I heard back then – then they produce a fine vise. When I bought the Starrett – one of the marks of a top notch vise was that the jaws closed smoothly and absolutely parallel to one another- able to hold onto the thinnest item across the 4-1/2 or 5 inch jaw.
The design looks great, and the sealed screw mechanism is definitely a unique and desireable feature. I also like the compact anvil area – good enough for a spot to bang on stuff or to rest stuff on that’s being clamped, but small enough not to get in the way.
$88 is pretty steep for a 4-in vise, though. You can get a China-made orange 4-in. “Pony” Vise at Sears for $26. It lacks the smooth design and sealed screw, but going by reviews, is tough enough to handle plenty of abuse.
If you are really looking to save money, via eBay there is often several listings of vintage American made vises often under $100. I’ve seen American made Wilton, Colombian and other brands sometimes be sold for about $30 at times as well.
Sure most aren’t in brand new factory sealed condition, but more often than not these vices weren’t cheaply made and were built to last.
That is route I’ve gone with all my vises save for my Panavise as that is still made in USA and not that expensive.
Hey Stuart, you’ve reviewed several compact vises over the years. Do you have them all in your possession? If so, could you put up a side-by-side photo so we could see how they physically compare to one another? In particular, I’m curious to see how this Yost compares physically to the clamp-on Wilton and the clamp-on Yost vises that you reviewed a while back.
They’re all in different places, so a comparison would be tough to do. My Craftsman vise is in storage, Wilton clamp-on vise was tossed into the bottom of a box and is waiting a “get the vise into working order” session with a Dremel and metal file. The smaller clamp-on vise should be around here somewhere.
If I can get all the vises in the same room I’ll take a comparison pic, but it might be some time.
A perfect vise for me is one with interchangable jaws = plastic, plastic with teeth, harden steel, harden steel with teeth, harden steel with opposite 45* teeth, hard rubber, rubber with x-cross ripples…etc.
This one has a heavy duty body with weak teeth…based from my uses of vises IMO. For example, if i try to bent the tip of a flat head screw driver to make it in to a miny pry bar, I can envision the plastic/rubber not allowing me to do that.
I’m pretty sure this vise has replaceable jaws, but I can’t find steel replacements on Amazon. Perhaps Stuart can look into it?
The jaws are hardened steel, not plastic. They’re not going to be easily deformed.
@Hangfire, Yost sells a couple of different types of jaw caps – aluminum, magnetic aluminum, aluminum with rubber, and prism aluminum, but replacement jaws might have to be ordered as a replacement part. They say that the jaws are replaceable, and so spare parts should be available. The vise might fit 3rd party jaws, but I don’t have an easy way of checking.
Thanks. I thought they where rubber jaw.
Replacable jaw caps…magnetic alluminum jaw replecements…wow, they are relly serious and mean business with their vises.