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Vintage Tools


Tool Talk with Bill Rittner

  Bench Vise Rehab by Bill Rittner 1 of 2  


Repairing, rehabbing, and restoring old tools often require 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 below at an estate sale and bought it for a very reasonable sum. The eggbeater will be fodder for a future article.

This vise and eggbeater were found at an estate sale.

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 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.

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.

The vises main castings after painting.

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.

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Starrett Tools



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