[4]

Bench vise advice / suggestions

[3]
[10] Like what you see?
Click here to donate to this forum and upgrade your account!

Aaron_W

H-M Supporter - Gold Member
H-M Supporter - Gold Member ($25)
Joined
Nov 14, 2016
Messages
306
Likes
341
#1
I'm looking for a bench vise, I have several small hobby vises but I'm finding I can really use something more in the 4-6" size.
I've been looking for a combo type that has regular flat vise jaws and the ability to clamp round stock (pipe clamp).

Even a cheap vise will be around a while, so I don't want to go the ultra cheapo route. Unfortunately that is what most stores (not just HF) keep in stock.

My budget is $100-150 so most of the USA made vises are way out of my range, looked at Yost and Wilton and they start at $500+ for their US made vises.

I have been watching Craigslist hoping to find someone getting rid of a nice old vise, but so far the same cheap crap I can buy new or "vintage" rust blocks priced like caviar. Looking at Ebay as well, but shipping really biases me towards Craigslist. Saw a nice old Craftsman on Ebay for $60, but shipping was almost $90.

I've been to all the hardware stores in town, Ace has Irwin and Craftsman. The Irwin's look ok, but don't include a pipe clamp, they were out of the Craftsman so I couldn't actually look at it. It does appear to include a pipe clamp. Tractor Supply carries Larin, never heard of the brand, and I was able to look at a 4" and not impressed, had a cheap feel to it. The 6" might be better since it is 4x the price, but didn't want to rip the box open to check and assuming similar quality.


Home Depot has a Bessey 5" multi-purpose vise. It is a German company (although probably made in China) and seems fairly well made. It has an odd head that flips, one side has traditional flat jaws, the other side is set up to hold round stock vertically or horizontally.
Home Depot has them in stock for $83, and I've got a $50 HD gift certificate I got as an award from work which would put my cost down in the Harbor Freight vise price range. I've never heard of the company, and not used this particular style of vise but the price would be right and it looks halfway decent. Woodcraft also stocks this brand and they seem to carry decent quality stuff.

Bessey 5" multi-purpose


I wish I could "liberate" the vice from work, it is a nice 6" or 8"iron vise and has probably been there since the 1930s when the CCCs built the station. But that would be wrong... stupid morals. I'd probably throw my back out trying to lift it anyway.


I'm going to keep watching Craigslist until the bench to mount it on is done, but leaning towards the Bessey I mentioned above unless I find something better or get terrible feedback about it.
 

mikey

Active User
H-M Supporter - Gold Member ($25)
Joined
Dec 20, 2012
Messages
4,241
Likes
4,585
#2
I would go for an old vise like a Parker or Columbian or old Yost or Starrett or a Wilton if you find a cheap one. I have a Reed, Parker, Wilton x 2 and Craftsman. Of these, the Parker is the best by far and the Craftsman is the worst by far. I also have on like the Bessey and it sees no use here.

Best bet is CL - be patient.

To hold round stuff, I use V-blocks or soft jaws with V's in them in the standard jaws; doesn't chew up the stock that way.
 

ACHiPo

H-M Supporter - Gold Member
H-M Supporter - Gold Member ($25)
Joined
Feb 2, 2017
Messages
606
Likes
502
#3

mikey

Active User
H-M Supporter - Gold Member ($25)
Joined
Dec 20, 2012
Messages
4,241
Likes
4,585
#4
This guy isn’t too far from you and has been on CL for a while, so you might be able to bargain:
Charles Parker Vise
Unusual jaw configuration on that first one. Almost looks like a Rock Island vise. The second one you linked to is an early Parker bench mount without the swiveling base; those jaws are typical of a Parker vise.
 

jwmay

Registered
Registered
Joined
Dec 3, 2017
Messages
141
Likes
142
#6
Great bench vises can still be bought for a dollar a pound or less. Keep your eyes peeled. I’ve never found a great deal on a bench vise on the Internet. The EBay prices are for showpieces and people who think they’re selling showpieces. I sold the largest bench vise EBay has ever seen two years ago for 200 dollars. One bidder...in the whole US of A. Anyhow the point is to keep looking. Very good vises can be had for very good prices. You have to get out and find them though. Good luck!
 
F

f350ca

Guest - Please Register!
Guest - Please Register!
#7
I HAD one of the vices that rotate. It was a Princess Auto one, similar to Harbour Freight. If it has an independent lock as the Bessey does it might be alright. The one linked in Amazon locks when you tighten the jaws. A bugger to grab something long, the jaws try to rotate with the part as your tightening or rotate as your working unless the jaws are cinched down. I find a fixed jaw vice more convenient.

Greg
 

jcp

H-M Supporter - Gold Member
H-M Supporter - Gold Member ($25)
Joined
Nov 29, 2017
Messages
92
Likes
66
#8
Nothing wrong with a Bessey.
 
Last edited:
R

Robert LaLonde

Guest - Please Register!
Guest - Please Register!
#9
I have a Harbor Freight swivel vise. Square jaws on top, and round jaws on the bottom. I've beat on it pretty hard. I didn't buy it as my first choice. Its just all the money I had at the time and I needed a vise that size right now. I've had it nearly 15 years now and its seen some hard abuse. The thing is that in my opinion the Quality and QC at HF have both gone steadily down hill since the change in management. Harbor Freight tools were always subject to failure when abused just a little bit. Now they are subject to failure under normal use as well. More and more I find myself buying from other sources and only going to Harbor Freight for things I need right now.

Anyway, this is the vise I have from Harbor Freight. https://www.harborfreight.com/5-inch-multi-purpose-vise-67415.html It looks to be made of cast iron, but it must be a decent grade of cast. Sometimes the swivel is a bit of a pain, but more often its just the answer I need to get just the angle I need to work on something. I do use it with my vise brake sometimes too. If it becomes to much to deal with I have a Columbia Vise on the end of my other work bench that could survive anything short of directed destructive force. I used the Columbia at my friend John Apple's house many times over the years before he gave it to me (along with the steel bench it was bolted to). Before he had it the vise was his dad's (Lewis Apple). Its probably well over 50 years old. We half jokingly call the Columbia vises heavy duty benchtop screw presses. I have used mine as a press many time. I have made wood drop in blocks for both vises, but I also have a Zyliss all aluminum body vise in my machine room that I often use (way beyond its design specs) for holding steel parts I do not want to mar, but that will slip on the wood blocks I use in the other vises.

When I worked at Tool & Supply Co we used to have customers at both ends of the spectrum. Those that would be glad to plunk several hundred (recall one I sold that was 800) for a forged steel vise and those that refused to pay more than the a half a days wages for any vise.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
R

Robert LaLonde

Guest - Please Register!
Guest - Please Register!
#10
I HAD one of the vices that rotate. It was a Princess Auto one, similar to Harbour Freight. If it has an independent lock as the Bessey does it might be alright. The one linked in Amazon locks when you tighten the jaws. A bugger to grab something long, the jaws try to rotate with the part as your tightening or rotate as your working unless the jaws are cinched down. I find a fixed jaw vice more convenient.

Greg

You know I have had that problem, but usually I spin the vise to rest the part on the bench or on a block on the bench while I clamp it up. Maybe I should add a spin lock to my someday projects list.
 

wawoodman

himself, himself
H-M Supporter - Gold Member ($25)
Joined
Mar 19, 2011
Messages
931
Likes
708
#11
Patience, grasshopper.

Buy a cheapo now, and keep your eyes open for the real thing. Nothing wrong with Bessey, but there’s a Wilton Bullet out there somewhere, with your name on it!
 

jcp

H-M Supporter - Gold Member
H-M Supporter - Gold Member ($25)
Joined
Nov 29, 2017
Messages
92
Likes
66
#12
Patience, grasshopper.

there’s a Wilton Bullet out there somewhere, with your name on it!
Had one of these at the shop I worked at. It was mounted to a steel table used for disassembly of equipment. Owner said he bought it in the '70"s I think. Stopped by there the other day for some material and the vise is STILL there. They are tough puppies.
 

Aaron_W

H-M Supporter - Gold Member
H-M Supporter - Gold Member ($25)
Joined
Nov 14, 2016
Messages
306
Likes
341
#13
I'd love to find an older vice in my price range, and if I found the right one I might stretch that a bit. Logging and agriculture goes back to the 1860s around here so I know they are out there it is just finding one. There are also a lot of people around here that just collect old tools because they are cool so I'll have to stay on my toes.

I've been somewhat spoiled with having quality vintage vises to work with. I worked for the US Forest Service and National Park Service and most of my stations dated back to the 1930s, with vises that were probably of similar age. I do appreciate the difference between a new vise and one that has been around.

I'll be patient until I have a pressing need, and hope something nice turns up locally.



How big of an issue is rust? I've seen a few that were pretty rusty, to the point I wasn't sure they would work based on the photos. I've noticed the ones priced around $100 didn't last long so maybe not as much of an issue as I thought?


I just ran across this one, it is an hour away, I like the price and I think would meet my needs. I've never really used the swivel on a bench vise much so not having one wouldn't bug me. Looks like American Scale went out of business in the 1960s so it is at least 50 years old.

4.5" American Scale No 54


I would go for an old vise like a Parker or Columbian or old Yost or Starrett or a Wilton if you find a cheap one. I have a Reed, Parker, Wilton x 2 and Craftsman. Of these, the Parker is the best by far and the Craftsman is the worst by far. I also have on like the Bessey and it sees no use here.

Best bet is CL - be patient.

To hold round stuff, I use V-blocks or soft jaws with V's in them in the standard jaws; doesn't chew up the stock that way.
I didn't think about v blocks, that could work. I usually used a piece of busted fire hose in the pipe clap to protect the work.


This guy isn’t too far from you and has been on CL for a while, so you might be able to bargain:
Charles Parker Vise

Here are a couple more options:
https://sfbay.craigslist.org/nby/tls/d/vintage-parker-no-103-vise-35/6477364786.html
https://sacramento.craigslist.org/tls/d/vise/6476486611.html
Odd that the guy in Napa didn't show up for me. I usually look at most of California north of San Francisco and East to I-5. I'm starting to see a few pop up in Santa Rosa which is only an hour. Usually it seems like the best ones are Sacramento or Redding which isn't out of the question, but is quite a haul, pretty much a full day of driving round trip.



Patience, grasshopper.

Buy a cheapo now, and keep your eyes open for the real thing. Nothing wrong with Bessey, but there’s a Wilton Bullet out there somewhere, with your name on it!
That was kind of my thought. A vise is something of a commitment, as even a cheap vise will last a while. I'd prefer to buy once, so I don't end up with a cheap vise taking up space down the road. What I would really like to avoid is buying a moderately priced vise ($200+) because I think an older vise would be better but after spending that much money I'd feel bad replacing it.
 
Last edited:

mikey

Active User
H-M Supporter - Gold Member ($25)
Joined
Dec 20, 2012
Messages
4,241
Likes
4,585
#14
How big of an issue is rust? I've seen a few that were pretty rusty, to the point I wasn't sure they would work based on the photos. I've noticed the ones priced around $100 didn't last long so maybe not as much of an issue as I thought?
I don't let a little thing like rust stop me if the vise itself is sound. This is what my Parker vise looked like when I picked it up for $50.00 from a CL seller:

IMG_3892.jpg

After an electrolytic bath and a bit of paint, I had this:

CRW_4317.jpg

Best vise I've used. I have two Wilton bullet vises and this Parker is the one I prefer to use. These old Parkers were made from really good cast steel and then machined where it counts. You can clamp a dollar bill anywhere across the jaws and it holds the same at any point. Yet, it only takes 1/8th turn on the handle to solidly lock a work piece tight enough to work on, and it releases just as quickly.

The jaws are what is called a T-type - very heavy metal behind the jaws so they can take a load. The lead screw is fully protected so no swarf can get to it. The handle has a spring inside the head to keep it from dropping down and pinching your hand - really appreciate this feature.

Smooth, precise and a joy to use.

So rust? Nah, I don't worry about rust.
 
Last edited:

mikey

Active User
H-M Supporter - Gold Member ($25)
Joined
Dec 20, 2012
Messages
4,241
Likes
4,585
#15
Not sure where Ukiah is but there is a pretty nice Parker 954a in Sacramento: https://sacramento.craigslist.org/tls/d/chas-parker-954-machinists/6453723050.html

Should be a 4" vise. Hard to tell but the jaws look like they close tight. This is a bench mount, no swivel. In the first pic, there is a pink line on the lower beam - probably paint but make sure its not a crack if you go see it. Looks like a pretty nice vise for $115.00. I would go see it if its not too far from you.
 

ACHiPo

H-M Supporter - Gold Member
H-M Supporter - Gold Member ($25)
Joined
Feb 2, 2017
Messages
606
Likes
502

Ulma Doctor

Infinitely Curious
H-M Supporter - Gold Member ($25)
Joined
Feb 2, 2013
Messages
0
Likes
24
#17
a bench vise is an indispensable tool.
take your time and find a good one if you can.
i made the mistake of buying a 6" HF rotating head piece of junk.
it failed on the first test of strength at an inopportune time.
luckily my neighbor gave me his old bench vise. it has been bolted to my bench for almost 10 years.
the vise is about to be replaced with a very nice 4" Wilton swivel vise, graciously given to me by fellow member and friend @bfd

your vise is waiting, you just haven't found it yet :grin:
 

markba633csi

H-M Supporter - Gold Member
H-M Supporter - Gold Member ($25)
Joined
Apr 30, 2015
Messages
2,822
Likes
1,467
#18
I started looking too and the first thing I noticed is that the HF ones are of poorer quality than just about everything out there. Best bang for buck was
Yost 455 and 465. Chinese yes, but good value.
Home Depot has a Wen 4" drill press vise for 12$, I ordered one, I'll let you know when it gets here.
Mark S.
 

eeler1

Dang, buggered that up too!!
H-M Platinum Supporter ($50)
Joined
Mar 7, 2014
Messages
429
Likes
190
#19
Ukiah? Gotta be a vise in every garage whose owner is over 60 years old. Start checking at estate sales. Might find other stuff while you’re looking, too.
 

Aaron_W

H-M Supporter - Gold Member
H-M Supporter - Gold Member ($25)
Joined
Nov 14, 2016
Messages
306
Likes
341
#20
Oh yeah, going to events around here I know we have a lot of tool collectors, chainsaws, hit or miss engines, logging tools. Several large running steam engines.

Good and bad though, good because the stuff is out there, bad because there are collectors that jump on the good stuff as soon as it becomes available. Somewhere there is probably a vise collection just waiting for me to find it.


If the guy gets back to me I'm going to go have a look at that American Scale vise in Santa Rosa I linked to above. Maybe kind of dumb, but I like the look of it. Well used but looks intact, and cared for but not restored. It has character. If I find something better down the road, I can probably resell it and get most of my money back.

I found a site with info on bench vises and looked it up. It has a jaw width of 4.5", opens to 9" and weighs 66lbs. There are companies that sell replacement jaws for it if I need them.

I found a little about the company. They don't seem to have the reputation of Parker or Wilton, but it sounds like the company made quality tools.
 
Last edited:

ACHiPo

H-M Supporter - Gold Member
H-M Supporter - Gold Member ($25)
Joined
Feb 2, 2017
Messages
606
Likes
502
#21
The American Scale vise looks like it has good potential. Hope you got it, as I just checked and the ad was taken down.
 

Aaron_W

H-M Supporter - Gold Member
H-M Supporter - Gold Member ($25)
Joined
Nov 14, 2016
Messages
306
Likes
341
#22
The American Scale vise looks like it has good potential. Hope you got it, as I just checked and the ad was taken down.
Nope, never replied to me. It had been up a couple days but was updated last night, so I was hoping.

Oh well, my wife and I have to go to Fairfield this week so maybe I can fit in some of the Sacramento area vises.
 

Aaron_W

H-M Supporter - Gold Member
H-M Supporter - Gold Member ($25)
Joined
Nov 14, 2016
Messages
306
Likes
341
#23
Just to follow up, for the time being I found myself a little 3 1/2" Rock Island 422 for $38 shipped.
I was looking for something larger to have room to grow into, but this will do the job for now. Should be a good little vise and at the price of a Harbor Freight special.

What I found with ebay is the shipping is reasonable on most vises no larger than 4" because they can use flat rate shipping boxes. Shipping explodes when you get to the 4" and larger, and many simply won't ship the large vises, and local pickup halfway across the country isn't an option.

Looks like an honest little guy and should clean up nice. I thought the square nut on the swivel lock was odd, but I found others and it appears to be original. I couldn't find anything on this particular model, but it seems Rock Island had a good reputation.


Rock Island 422.jpg
 

KBeitz

H-M Supporter - Gold Member
H-M Supporter - Gold Member ($25)
Joined
Apr 17, 2018
Messages
347
Likes
178
#24
When Scranton Lace closed up I bought 150 Parker vises... Only got 3 left.
 
[6]
[5] [7]
Top