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Old 04-27-2010, 10:18 PM   #1
mjozefow
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Default Everything you need to know about bench vises...

This thread is going to try to combine the knowledge held within the GJ and beyond about these useful and wonderful tools. This is a joint effort between BanjoSavesTheDay and myself. If you have more info on history of a vise company or another that should be listed please PM it to me, you will receive credit. The goal is to keep ALL information on the first page.


How to restore a bench vise!


SOME REALLY NEAT VINTAGE ADS - Some really great info for finding DOM and original specs of your vintage vise.

FAQ:

Q: What are the different types of bench vises?

A: There are four main types of bench vises. These are the machinist's vise, the mechanic's vise, the post vise, and the woodworkers vise.

The machinist's vise is considered the "cream of the crop". They are stoutly made and are finely machined. The jaws should match up perfectly, and they will be made of very high grade (60,000psi or greater) cast* iron. Note: The surface behind the back jaw is NOT an anvil or hammering surface!



*Technically, machinist's vises are almost always made of ductile iron, not cast iron. And yes, before some wag says "well they're cast in a mold, so it's cast iron," the phrase cast iron usually implies grey or white cast irons, which are brittle due to significant graphite content existing in the iron in flakes. Ductile iron's graphite is in a nodular shape which inhibits cracking. It's an important distinction in vises, because high quality vises are made from nodular or spheroidal (ductile) iron, and cheaply made economy vises (often imported) are made of grey cast iron. - Thanks zrexxer

The mechanic's vise is a vise designed to function as more than a mere vise. They usually have an integrated anvil area, and are made of lower grade iron.


The post vise is a blacksmith's tool, and features a post going to the ground so that it may be hammered upon. My understanding is that these vises are made of forged wrought iron, not cast iron, allowing them to have ductility. It is therefore possible to "spring" the jaws without breaking them.



The woodworker's vise is an under-mount vise, usually with a retractable dog for clamping work upon the workbench. This is the last time one of these will be mentioned here.



Q:How can I tell if my vise is a cheap import? (note: I'm not talking about the GOOD vises that have been imported like Records)

A: Taken as a rule, this is the easiest way to tell:

1. The lead screw on an import will be too small for the jaw size.
2. An import will not name the country of origin
3. It was purchased at a home center in recent years
4. If the jaws "T" too much.
5. If it is a funky rotating design with one side being pipe jaws and the other being regular jaws.


________________________________________
Q: What are the basic parts of a vise?

A: The basic parts are shown here:


________________________________________
Q: Is a swivel base important?

A: Yes and no. A swivel base is an asset if you need to position long stock at odd angles, however, a fixed base vise will almost always be more solid.
_________________________________________
Q: I found a vise that has been welded. What is it worth?

A: Whatever scrap value is. I would never trust someone's repair unless you know it was done right. Which is very difficult.
_________________________________________
Q: Can a broken vise be fixed?

A: Yes, sort of. Cast iron is very difficult to weld properly. They are usually brazed or welded while red-hot. If you are looking to buy a vise that is broken to fix, pass.
_________________________________________
Q: How much is this old vise worth?

A: I will let you know when I come across a well used vise worth over $1/lb unless it is a very rare configuration. This is one man's opinion. If the vise needs work or has been sitting a long time $.60/lb is more reasonable. Neglect is often often better than wear, I value heavily worn vises under $.50/lb usually. When they are restored, then I feel the value roughly doubles if a good job is done, and the vise has been made better in both function and looks.

I should note however, that Wilton's seem to command a premium. I really don't know why. Autopts, who buys a lot of these says that $25 per inch of jaw width for a good used Wilton. I tend to agree that this is a fair price, especially if you plan to re-sell on eBay.

_________________________________________

Q: What happened to all of these companies?

A: They simply made a product that was too good. If you bought some of these old vises, you likely never needed another one. As industrial expansion in the USA started to slow, the demand for quality vises declined.

_________________________________________

Q: What should I look for in a vise?

A:

-USA or European made. Some made in Japan vises are good too.
-Look for a covered lead screw. This will ensure you are buying a stouter vise.
-Make sure the dynamic jaw does not wobble all over.
-When screwing in the dynamic jaw, the vise should not rack, and should be a one-fingered affair
-The shape of the jaws is a HUGE consideration. T-shaped jaws are not as strong as V shaped.
-Look for how much "meat" the jaws have to them. A good vise will have very stout looking and feeling jaws.
-Check the slide for hammer marks, particularly on rectangular slide vises. Bring the dynamic jaw all the way out. It should not resist at any point. Reeds tend to stick a bit at the back even if they have never been hammered. Hammering leads to mushrooming, which leads to sticking.

T-Shaped:


V-Shaped:


Photobucket
_________________________________________

Q: What do you mean by covered leadscrew?

A:

This is an exposed lead screw on an American Scale vise:


A rectangular slide vise (RIDGID):



An enclosed slide Wilton:



_________________________________________

Q: What are the different types of replaceable jaw inserts?

A: They are as follows (or sometimes a combination of several styles)

Wilton-Style Screw on inserts- These are easy to replace, and offer the user an easy way to change jaws styles. The right photo shows how I put UHMW jaws on mine.



T-style inserts- These are very strong, and the main advantage is that there are no exposed fasteners. This makes restoration easier on a vise that has been abandoned for a long time of used hard. The pins are not convenient by any means, but are much harder to foul up.


U-style inserts-
These usually screw in, and are found on Prentiss vises and others. They cover the entire jaw, but can be a pain to get off. This is a little Sawyer vise. Ignore the welds, it was really cheap.


Parker Inserts- Parker has a unique way of doing these. They are a shaped, pinned jaw made of hardened tool steel. They are very strong. The pins can be removed from below by hammering them out with a punch.

Last edited by mjozefow; 09-23-2010 at 06:13 PM.
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Old 04-27-2010, 10:19 PM   #2
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Default Re: Everything you need to know about bench vises...

Hot forged inserts- These inserts go into the jaws half way and then stop. There are no visible fasteners. They do not come off and and are thus not replaceable. Some smaller Reeds have these style.

IMG_3185

Mounting the vise:

Proper way to mount a bench vise:

mounting

You should mount it so that the static jaw overhangs the edge of the work bench. It doesn't have to be a lot; only enough so that you are free to clamp long pieces vertically without hitting the work bench. -Banjo

Vise Brands and history:



Athol: Athol vises were made in Athol, Massachusetts.

I just sent Starrett an email asking for information on the relationship between Athol and Starrett. I couldn't find any good answers through google.

However, here is all I know about Athol at the moment.

Athol vises always have the hot forged insert type jaws to the best of my knowledge. They actually share a lot in common with Reeds. I think that they are probably the only vise manufacturer that may have built a machinist vise slightly more heavy duty than Reed. For all intents and purposes, though, they are equally good.

I have looked at many different model numbers, and cannot find any kind of pattern. The last digit is not always the width of the jaws. If anyone can find an old catalog, that would be great.

Athols are no longer in production. - Banjo

American Scale: These vises are usually smaller, with an exposed leadscrew. They are lighter duty vises, and not suited for heavy use.

Buffalo: ?????


Charles Parker / Parker / Chas. Parker: Parkers are this author's (mjozefow) favorite vise. They are famous for the shape of the jaws on their machinist vises. The jaw shape allows for more complete access to the workpiece being clamped.



Some history on the company and Charles Parker himself:

"The Meriden Enterprise Center is a large manufacturing plant that is home to over 60 businesses, located in the center of Connecticut.

The plant was the former home of companies such as the Charles Parker company, known for the manufacture of the Springfield rifle and the development of one of the early repeating rifles in the mid- nineteenth century. Charles Parker was born in 1809 and rose from poverty to become one
of Connecticut’s leading industrialists. He also became the city of Meriden's first mayor. He started his manufacturing career inventing and producing coffee mills in a small shop in 1832.

By 1860, he owned several large factories and employed hundreds of people, in and around Meriden. Parker products included hardware and house wares, flatware, clocks, lamps, piano stools and benches, vises, coffee mills, industrial machinery, and, after 1862, guns. Guns, however, never
amounted to more than 10 percent of Parker’s business. Charles Parker died in 1901 and his descendants carried on his businesses until 1957. The Great Depression of the 1930s took its toll on the Parker enterprise and it never fully recovered. Parker products have now become “collector’s items,” especially the Parker shotguns. The Charles Parker Company sold its gun facility and the rights to the Parker gun
to Remington Arms Company in 1934, and Remington continued the Parker shotgun line until World War II.
The attraction by collectors to the Parker shotgun comes because of the gun’s inherent quality and beauty.
The Parker gun is an American classic".

Columbian: Columbian Vises, like Reeds are good stout, simple vises that usually don't have a lot of flash. They were made in Cleveland Ohio. Columbian vises are still available today, but only the higher-priced ones are still made in America. The Chinese made units do not stand the abuse, not have the mass of their older, stronger cousins. A "Columbian" in a big box store today is not a desirable vise for heavy work.

Columbian vises (the older good ones) are distinguishable by a few key features.

First, the jaws are T-shaped and held on with pins. This allows the clamping surface of the jaws to be free of bolt holes. If you see one with this style, chances are good that its a Columbian. Newer Columbians stopped doing this, so you are safe if the vise has them.

Second, for some reason, the handle knob and handle are plated with something that keeps them looking nice long after the rest of the vise gets rusty. Look for the handle and knob to be a nice smooth silver color.

Third, the model numbers are easy to deal with. The last digit always gives the width of the jaws. It is usually often stamped on the side by hand, but not always. 200 series have pipe jaws, 500 series are machinist vises without swivel base, 600 series are also non-swivel machinist vises, according to my catalog. I do, however, have a 608 that I am positive never came with a swivel base, so Columbian probably switched the numbers around some.

You still can't go wrong buying either a 500 or 600 with T-shaped jaws, though. They are both always machinist vises. So, for example, a 504 is a machinist vise with 4" wide jaws. -Credit: BanjoSavesTheDay


Desmond - Simplex: In my experience, these have been a good medium duty vise. They are made in Urbana Ohio. Desmond-Simplex is considered a more minor player in the vise industry.



Hollands:

Littlestown:


From their website:

" Chartered May 24, 1916
Luther D. and Emory H. Snyder started the Littlestown Hardware and Foundry Company, Inc. as a gray iron foundry with sixteen employees— producing, machining, painting, & plating iron castings. For World War I, castings for bearings and shafts for the war effort were made. Later, hardware items, such as bench vises, flanges, hammers, bookends, fire place tools and doorstops complemented the wide variety of commercial castings produced. Today, with 70 employees, over 95% of our business is producing commercial aluminum castings.

1939
First Aluminum Casting Production.

World War II
Most of the production was for the war effort:
1,200,000 Hand Grenades
3,000,000 Rifle Grenades
3,000,000 Bomb Plugs
Thousands of Anti-Personnel Mines 1947
Major Aluminum Casting Production Expansion.

1950
Addition of Littco Awning Hardware & Aluminum Hardware lines.

1970
Through the present: Continuous Modernization of Aluminum Casting Facilities.

1990
Iron Casting Production Ends.

1999
Company name shortened to Littlestown Foundry, Inc."

Monarch: Monarch vises were made for the Monarch company by Prentiss. You will usually, if not always see the PVCo mark on them. They carry a beautiful embossed lion's head. See Prentiss.



Morgan: The Morgan Company was founded in 1929, and moved to Aurora around 1947. We purchased the Morgan Company and moved it to Milwaukee in February 1970. Each Morgan vise will have one of these city names on it, telling us about how old the vise could be.

All Morgan vises were and still are painted blue. Its very close to what is called Federal Safety Blue. - DSXmachine

06wt's Mogan:


Prentiss: Prentiss vise was started by a guy named Mason Prentiss in 1880. He filed his first patent in 1868 for a vise with a swiveling rear jaw. This allowed tapered pieces to be held in the jaws more easily. This design was eventually used by several other companies, such as Charles Parker Vise Co. and Reed. In 1895 the company's building was consumed by a fire, and ~$10,000 in damages were done. They recovered, but the historical trail runs dry here. They went out of business in the 1940's. I can't seem to find anything from 1900-1940. Prentiss vises were made in New York.

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Old 04-27-2010, 10:20 PM   #3
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Default Re: Everything you need to know about bench vises...

Record:

A very high quality vise made in the UK. They feature a quick release lead screw in order to make positioning the work easier and faster.

GeorgiaHybrid's Record vise (vice).



Reed: Reed vises are extremely stout in general. They are made in Erie, PA. They are basic, solid workhorse vises. The older units have a very strong method of attaching the swivel (if so equipped) which makes the swivel Reeds nearly as strong as the fixed-base models.


Reeds are distiguishable by a few different features.

First, in many years, the handle knob is very short and stubby as opposed to the more common ball or cylindrical shape. If it has this style, it is definitely a Reed.

Second, the jaws are usually secured using the hot forged insert method. No one really knows how they were able to do this. A common theory is that the jaws were left in the mold when the vise was cast, but this cannot be true because Reed vise jaws are uncommonly hard and this kind of process would take the temper out of the jaws. The best theory that I've heard is that the hot iron was allowed to cool to a certain temperature and then the jaws were stamped in.

Third, they are VERY HEAVY. Reed vises are definitely my favorite. I believe that along with Athol, they were the very pinnacle of American vise craftsmanship. They were overbuilt in every way and can take a lot of abuse.

Fourth, if it has a swivel base, it almost always has two t-handles.

Fifth, the model numbers are very easy to deal with. The majority of Reeds are either 100 or 200 sereies. 100's have no swivel base and 200's do have a swivel base. There are [a few] exceptions. 400 series have the swiveling rear jaw like alot of Prentisses. The last digit is always the width of the jaws. So, a 206 is a swiveling machinist vise with 6" jaws.

Reeds are still made exclusively in the USA. -credit BanjoSavesTheDay

RIDGID:

Older Ridgid vises were made in Elyra Ohio. They feature rectangular slides, and a fairly square jaw profile. They are very high quality vises.





In more resent years, the company has introduced an all-steel vise of laminated construction. Overall, reviews are very favorable, and many like the sleeker styling offered. These drop forged Ridgid vises are made in Gevelsberg/Germany since 1910.
(formerly made by "Peddinghaus" , since 1996 by Ridgid) - Monte

Rock Island: Made in Rock Island Illinois. Kole?

Sawyer Tool Co. : Made in Oswego N.Y., these vises appear to be very good quality. Need more info.

Snap-On - Snap-on vises are re-branded Wilton's.

Starrett:

Taskmaster: As far as I know, these are a Wilton look-alike. Reviews are generally favorable.

Wilton:

These vises are famous for the fully enclosed spindles found on the higher end models. Wilton's are considered one of the better vises. The enclosed spindle design allows for lubrication to be more permanent, and protects the lead screw from damage. However, this design usually means the vise jaws will not pen as far as a rectangular slide vise for a given jaw width. They are made in Schiller Park Illinois.

Photobucket


Wilton's seem to command a premium on the used market. While they are very good, I do not think they are THE best vises made. I think the quality is matched by many of the older USA vises such as Reed and Parker. Keep in mind, many vises that say Wilton are now made in China, and do not perform very well.

If the vise does not say MADE IN USA on the castings, it is likely made in China.

Yost: Yost, along with Wilton is one of the few American vise makers left that still manufactures in the USA. They offer an assortment of USA vises. Yosts were made in Meadville , PA however, they are made in Holland Michigan today. the higher end Yosts still are. Beware of imports carrying the Yost name.

rwhite692's vintage Yost after a beautiful restoration. Not all Yost vises are shaped this way.

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Old 04-27-2010, 10:20 PM   #4
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Default Re: Everything you need to know about bench vises...

Care and feeding:

Lubrication requirements:

Your vise should be re-lubricated on a fairly regular basis. The frequency will depend on how often it is used. For normal, but frequent use, re-lube annually. If your vise has an exposed lead screw, wipe it off and re-lube monthly. They collect a lot of grit.

The lead screw is the only thing that really NEEDS to be lubricated. I like to put a coat of paste wax on the slides though. It keeps them rust fee, and adds a bit of slipperiness to the slide.



Lubrication suggestions:

Fully clean both the lead screw and drive nut to ensure there are no abrasive particles. Brake cleaner works well.

Thoroughly slather the lead screw with grease, or, if you want it to be REALLY silky smooth, use Permatex Anti-seize lubricant. It has graphite and such in it which prevents metal to metal wear. There really is a huge difference in feel. The RLL of vises I suppose.

On open lead screw vises, I use heavy oil, as grease just collects dirt like a magnet. Some may not view this as Kosher. Let me know if this is not advisable.

-If your vise has a swivel base, take it apart and lube the swivel bushing on occasion. obviously this only applies if it has a swivel bushing. The surface of the vise base and swivel base can benefit from a bit of wax as well.




Things not to do to your vise:

-Don't hammer on the handle, no matter how tempting it is. Don't put a big ol' cheater on it either. This greatly increases backlash and slop in the vise. And it can break it.

-Be careful when bending material from a vertical position. Realize that the laws of physics are placing HUGE demands on the vise when you do this.

-A vise is not a press. You can press-fit things within reason, but it is a mechanical screw clamp, not a hydraulic ram.

-Never use your vise as a spreader. Vises are very strong in the direction they are meant to be used in. They are not that strong backwards.

-When the vise was manufactured, the handle was made a certain length for a reason. The engineers did calculations, and came up with a handle length that would allow the vise to be used within a certain factor of design. Keep that in mind.

-If you break a quality made in USA vise, it is likely your own fault. Unless it was fractured or something already, you should look into your practices. Cheap foreign vises are quite easy to break.

- DO NOT HAMMER ON A MACHINIST VISE! THERE IS NO ANVIL AREA. AND YOU WILL RUIN THE SLIDE, OR CHIP THE BACK.

Other:

-Clean off the slide of your vise after every time you use abrasives around it. Just a quick wipe down with an oily rag helps.

- Wiping the entire vise down with paste wax or an oily rag will keep all of the scuffs from getting rusty. If your vise was left bare cast iron, this is a must
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Lots of Vise Info

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Last edited by mjozefow; 04-30-2010 at 09:11 AM.
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Old 04-27-2010, 11:51 PM   #5
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Default Re: Everything you need to know about bench vises...

VIDEO!

Parts of a rectangular slide vise

Wilton Vise parts

BUYING A USED BENCH VISE

Please let me know how to improve these videos. I plan to remake them with better light to start with.

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Old 04-28-2010, 01:20 AM   #6
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Default Re: Everything you need to know about bench vises...

Great work!
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Old 04-28-2010, 11:13 AM   #7
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Default Re: Everything you need to know about bench vises...

LUBRICATION

Does anything except the lead screw need to be lubed or oiled?
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Old 04-28-2010, 12:55 PM   #8
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Default Re: Everything you need to know about bench vises...

5/2/10

Update:

Rock Island: they look funny but appear to be well made.
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Always looking for obnoxiously large bench vises. If you have any information as to the where-abouts of one, please contact me. : )

The Mighty Reed 109!
Check out the ultimate use of duct tape!
Parker 474 Vise Restoration
Reed 4C Vise Restoration
Athol 114X Vise Restoration

Behemoth Vise Restoration (incomplete)
Everything you need to know about bench vises

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Old 04-28-2010, 01:09 PM   #9
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Default Re: Everything you need to know about bench vises...

Very good idea for a thread!

I would add "mill vise" as one of the main types of vise. A high quality vise that pulls the workpiece down as it applies tremendous clamping pressure.

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Old 04-28-2010, 01:09 PM   #10
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Default Re: Everything you need to know about bench vises...

Morgan vise...http://www.milwmal.com/v_swiv.htm

You have to email 'em for a price list, they ain't cheap.

What is with this "static and dynamic" nonsense? All my life I thought vise jaws were "moving and fixed".
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Old 04-28-2010, 01:21 PM   #11
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Default Re: Everything you need to know about bench vises...

Quote:
Same difference!
I know, I was bored and decided to give you a little shit!
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Old 04-28-2010, 01:30 PM   #12
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Default Re: Everything you need to know about bench vises...

Would you rather me keep editing the post I have close to the top or just add new ones and delete them?
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Always looking for obnoxiously large bench vises. If you have any information as to the where-abouts of one, please contact me. : )

The Mighty Reed 109!
Check out the ultimate use of duct tape!
Parker 474 Vise Restoration
Reed 4C Vise Restoration
Athol 114X Vise Restoration

Behemoth Vise Restoration (incomplete)
Everything you need to know about bench vises
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Old 04-28-2010, 01:40 PM   #13
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Default Re: Everything you need to know about bench vises...

Quote:
Originally Posted by BanjoSavesTheDay View Post
Would you rather me keep editing the post I have close to the top or just add new ones and delete them?
Edit away. If this thread has info spread throughout many pages, it would kind of defeat the purpose.

I'd like to keep it comments only at the bottom.
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I do not prize the word "cheap." It is not a badge of honor...it is a symbol of despair. Cheap prices make for cheap goods; cheap goods make for cheap men; and cheap men make for a cheap country. ~ William McKinley

Lots of Vise Info

Vise restoration Tips

The Vises of GJ! (dial-up death)
A_Pmech makes replacement jaws, ask him!

My Website:
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Old 04-28-2010, 01:56 PM   #14
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Default Re: Everything you need to know about bench vises...

Quote:
Originally Posted by mjozefow View Post
The machinist's vise is considered the "cream of the crop". They are stoutly made and are finely machined. The jaws should match up perfectly, and they will be made of very high grade (60,000psi or greater) cast iron.
Technically, machinist's vises are almost always made of ductile iron, not cast iron. And yes, before some wag says "well they're cast in a mold, so it's cast iron," the phrase cast iron usually implies grey or white cast irons, which are brittle due to significant graphite content existing in the iron in flakes. Ductile iron's graphite is in a nodular shape which inhibits cracking. It's an important distinction in vises, because high quality vises are made from nodular or spheroidal (ductile) iron, and cheaply made economy vises (often imported) are made of grey cast iron.
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Old 04-28-2010, 03:44 PM   #15
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Default Re: Everything you need to know about bench vises...

Great information! Curious about the Wilton vices made in china you mentioned. Are they copy's or re-brands for Wilton? How can one tell if its made in china?
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Old 04-28-2010, 04:29 PM   #16
mooman
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Default Re: Everything you need to know about bench vises...

My Wilton says China on the bottom of the swivel.
It was free though, so I'm gonna use it till it breaks.
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Old 04-28-2010, 05:54 PM   #17
Monte
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Default Re: Everything you need to know about bench vises...

PS: the drop forged Ridgid vises are made in Gevelsberg/Germany since 1910.
(formerly made by "Peddinghaus" , since 1996 by Ridgid)

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Old 04-29-2010, 09:55 AM   #18
mjozefow
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Default Re: Everything you need to know about bench vises...

Wait! Where did the Rock island go????
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Old 04-29-2010, 11:10 AM   #19
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Default Re: Everything you need to know about bench vises...

Great job. Very informative. We should do this more often instead of bickering over COO. Anybody would like to do something like this for other tools?
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Old 04-29-2010, 11:46 AM   #20
Lookin4'67Galaxieconv
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Default Re: Everything you need to know about bench vises...

Quote:
Originally Posted by mooman View Post
My Wilton says China on the bottom of the swivel.
It was free though, so I'm gonna use it till it breaks.
Which should be about...............NOW!
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