Bench Vise Rehab

This vise and eggbeater were found at an estate sale.

This vise and eggbeater were found at an estate sale.

 

Repairing, rehabbing, and restoring old tools often requires a bench vise. The one I have been using until now has been adequate, but I have been looking for a bigger, heavier tool. Several weeks ago I found the vise pictured above at an estate sale and bought it for a very reasonable sum. The eggbeater will be fodder for a future article.

The first step in any rehab or restoration is disassembly. The vise was completely disassembled and all parts were degreased and de-rusted. You can use your favorite methods for this process. I like Evapo Rust for small parts like screws brackets, and clamps. For larger parts I prefer electrolysis, but the major castings for this vise were very big and very heavy so I opted for sandblasting.

The main vise castings after sandblasting.

The main vise castings after sandblasting.

The pic above shows the vises main castings after sandblasting in my media blast cabinet. Now the flaws came to light. The replaceable jaw on the moveable jaw base had been broken and welded and welded into the casting. This made restoration far more work than the vise was worth as a collectible. So it was decided a rehab was in order. This would take the vise from “boat anchor” to useable tool.

The vises main castings after painting.

The vises main castings after painting.

 

After sandblasting the welds on the moveable jaw were ground smooth with an angle grinder. The jaw on the fixed jaw mount was also ground with the angle grinder to clean it up. The castings were then masked and spray painted a light gray. This color was chosen because that is what I had enough of.

After the paint set up I put the castings together to see how the jaws came together. As expected they were not a close fit as they should be. The jaws should come together tightly with no gaps anywhere along their length and top to bottom. Normally I would file the jaw fit, but because of the welding these jaws were a terrible fit. It would require removal of about 1/16″ of steel. This could be done with the angle grinder and various files, but I had a better way.

Milling the vise jaws to match.

Milling the vise jaws to match.

I had a Bridgeport mill available so that was the method of choice to machine the vises jaws to match. The pic above shows the setup used. To get the jaws to close tightly from side to side and top to bottom required the removal of 0.070″. That is a lot of steel to remove. When done the vise jaws closed tightly as they should. I chose to leave the jaws smooth. The serrations usually found on vise jaws are often found on your workpieces after being held tightly in the jaws. Smooth jaws work best for my work.

Turning the parts for a new swivel lock handle.

Turning the parts for a new swivel lock handle.

The replacement swivel lock handle.

The replacement swivel lock handle.

As can be seen in the as found photo at the beginning of this post the handle for the swivel lock was missing. There are numerous ways to solve this problem. You could use a piece of threaded rod with a nut on each end. You could die thread the ends of a steel rod available from a local hardware store and use nuts on each end. You could just use a plain piece of steel rod and try not to lose it. Since I own a vintage benchtop engine lathe I chose to closely replicate the original.

The ends of a 5″ long steel rod were turned to 1/4″ diameter. Then a pair of thick washers with a 1/4″ diameter hole and an outside diameter about 1/8″ bigger than the rod and about 1/32″ narrower than the length of the 1/4″ diameters on the ends of the rod were made. As can be seen in the upper pic above. These washers were put on the rod and the 1/32″ of rod sticking past the washer was peened over to hold the washers tightly to the rod. As seen in the bottom pic above.

The rehabbed vise mounted to my bench.

The rehabbed vise mounted to my bench.

 

With the swivel handle finished it was time to mount the vise to my bench. The photo above shows the rehabbed Parker solidly mounted and ready for work. All that remains is to fabricate a set of soft, non-marring jaws for use on more delicate work.

As always thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a comment.

 

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About R & B ENTERPRISES

Professional furniture maker and restorer. Dealer and collector of vintage and antique woodworking tools.
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13 Responses to Bench Vise Rehab

  1. Bob Jones says:

    Excellent work. I found an old one in my dad’s shop and was really sad that the extending rail was broken. That’s probably why he had it. I’ll keep looking.

  2. snekkerbua says:

    Great Blog! Restoring old tool are underestimated, I do that too 🙂

  3. e says:

    What type of paint is that and what color? Very nice work!

  4. Veeps says:

    Great restoration on that vise. I restore vises too and Parkers are by far the best vises. What method was used to peen the ends of the swivel handle?

  5. Deanna Young says:

    I have one of these type bench vice’s that belonged to my grandpa that passed away in 1979. Do you know of anyone or a group that would be interested in it?

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