A Bench Vise Thread...
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  1. #1
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    A Bench Vise Thread...

    There have been a lot of questions over the past few months related to vises. There are several people on here who know a lot about them, and since we all (well, most of us) work with them, I think it might be helpful to have an in-depth thread about the different old American / European bench vises that are so much in demand these days.

    There are some threads similar to this on Practical Machinist, but I'm thinking there might be some knowledge on this site that's not on the PM site.

    I was thinking photo documentation by clear side and top views, maybe with interesting measurements (jaw width, opening width, depth from slide to top of jaw) and known weaknesses or strengths of certain designs. Manufacturer history would be interesting to me, too.

    If there's any interest, I'll start out by posting some pics and info on my 5" Athol and 4" Reed.
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  2. #2
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    What? You whanna show your 5" Athol and 4" Reed? Are you sick? Just kidding. Is the Athol from the same place they make STARRET? Also, WTF makes a WILTON so fracking xpensive. Please dont say that there good because at $4,000 that cant possibly be that good. Maybee $400 just maybee

  3. #3
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    Here's my basic info tidbit for the day - When somebody says they have a 4" vise, the average person thinks it opens up to 4". But the 4" measurement is the width of the jaws. I have a junky import vise on one of my workbenches. It's easy to see why it was $70 and not $700. It was advertised as a 6" vise, and indeed does have 6" wide jaws, but only opens about 4".

    And here's a bit of shipping info that I hope will help somebody: If you're going to ship a vise, bolt it down solidly to a block of wood and THEN put it in the box. Those mounting ears are easy for careless handlers to break off when they drop your heavy vise. My Athol arrived with a broken ear. UPS wouldn't fix it because they said it wasn't packed properly. The seller wouldn't fix it because he said it wasn't handled properly. So save yourself a headache - get the seller to bolt your vise down before shipping.

    The Athol is the blue vise in these pics, it's a model 625X. The jaws are 5" wide and it opens to 8" with the nut and screw still fully engaged. There is 4-3/8" working room from the top of the jaw to the top of the slide. This Athol only has 3 ears for bolting down, and they're arranged at 90, 180, and 270 degrees, like 3 sides of a square. I have only heard of Athols having cast-in jaw inserts which makes replacing the inserts a big pain, but this one has screw-removable inserts. I don't think they were added later, because this vise hasn't seen enough use in its life to need new inserts.

    The remarkable thing to me about this vise is the size of the support tongue projecting out under the slide. It's massive compared with most other vises I've seen, including the Reed below.

    Starrett either merged with or bought out Athol, as the previous poster mentioned.

    The other vise is a Reed 204R. The jaws are 4" wide and it opens to about 5-1/2" with the nut and screw fully engaged. There is 2-7/8" working room from the top of the jaw to the top of the slide. Reeds of this size are are pretty common. I paid $75 for this one but as you can see it needs a new ball on one end of the handle. Reeds also have an excellent reputation. I believe this one is a later model, as the nose on the screw is kind of blunted, as opposed to a full circle. If you look closely you can also see that it has copper jaw covers on it which were used for protecting your workpiece from being marked by the jaw serrations. I have seen an old Reed catalog from the 1930's and these were available from Reed for a dollar or two. My guess is that the serrations on the jaws underneath are as good as new.

    While the vise itself is obviously lighter-duty than the Athol, notice the size and bolt pattern of the swivel base. It's nearly the same diameter as the Athol's and has a well thought-out 4-bolt pattern. Very hefty.
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    Last edited by tbone550; 05-14-2012 at 10:28 PM.
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  4. #4
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    I will add one more post to this tonight - can't believe I forgot to mention the most basic thing of all.

    A VISE is something you use to clamp something down.

    A VICE is a personal failing of some sort.


    We all have both of those to one degree or another (Stick-Man likely has more vices than vises), but this thread is about VISES, not VICES.
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    OK Tbone I'll play.

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    This is an Athol 324 1/2, its about 75lbs, 12 inch high, and Athol was bought by Starett in 1904 so I am guessing its 100 years old or better, I stripped, painted, and went through it, so not original.

    Oh its a 4 1/2 inch, and opens about 7 1/2 inches
    Last edited by fredschrom; 05-14-2012 at 10:44 PM. Reason: added

  6. #6
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    I just bought a Wilton off a local scrapper last weekend for $10. Needs a good cleaning and painting, I will try to get some pics of it tomorrow in its "before" condition. 4" wide jaws, I didn't measure how wide it opens. Fully enclosed lead screw, moves smooth.

  7. #7
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    And here is number 2.

    Its a Chas Parker 974, 4 inch jaws, 7 inch opening, 10 1/2 " high. Weight is about 75-80 lbs ( ish I didn't weigh it ). No pipe jaws like the Athol above. Unique Parker only swivel wrench.

    This is my go to vice, use it almost every day, and like this a lot.

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    I guess this is about a 1930's model.

    If anybody has a picture of a parker 978 post it thats a 200 lb + beastly. or a 436 its a huge vise also.

    This might help on IDing the Parkers:

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  8. #8
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    Well I said I was done for the day, but I remembered I have pictures of one or two more vises, and tomorrow I'm going to be busy enough I won't make it back to this thread to add them in.

    Here's the only vise we had on the farm for many years, and it's still the main one they're using today. Some of my earliest memories are my uncle working on and around this vise. It has no manufacturer's name. The jaws are probably 6" wide and it opens at least 12" if not more. A lot of the farm's older tools came from the shipyard sales around Norfolk and Newport News VA, so it quite possibly came from the shipbuilding industry. If someone could identify this vise I'd be grateful.
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  9. #9
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    TBone I see you have a round base vise stand in the background, groovy. Good perspective for your pics but way to tidy.

    I dont know what manufacture my vise is but WILTON cant do this

    Jaws are 5 inch throat is 4 inch holds,pipe and has an anvil

    The last two pics are my home made steady rest welded with 7018. Its kinda like a vice
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  10. #10
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    " I have only heard of Athols having cast-in jaw inserts which makes replacing the inserts a big pain"

    Tbone if you look close at the Athol on the back of my truck you can see the the screws to remove the the pipe jaw inserts. I sharpened mine a bit but they need a new set ( Yost wanted like $133 + for a set and I suspect Wiltons not cheaper ). The jaws on the vise I think are not removeable.

    If you want to see hard to replace jaws look at the parker 4 screws removed no problem, then look close at the jaws I think they were cut on a shaper back in the day

  11. #11
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    And here are some pics of a disassembled Reed 704R. When new it had 7" wide jaws, a swivel base, and a swiveling rear jaw. I wish I had taken pics of this vise assembled and with a tape measure. I bought it sight unseen for $300, but found enough problems with it that I couldn't use it and had to return it. I took it apart to see what was wrong with it and found the nut was broken out of the base. The swivel jaw tapered pin was seized, the swivel base was missing, the jaw inserts were broken, and the underjaw support tongue was broken completely out of it. A sad end to a horse of a vise. It opened 14" and weighed about 175 pounds.
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    Fred, yes, your Athol's main jaws are like all the others I've seen. I've been told they are hardened steel inserts that were cast into the main body and the sliding jaw, but I don't know how true that is. My Reed vise has the same type of nonremovable hardened inserts. I think some people have machined them down for replaceable inserts when the originals wore out. I looked at your Athol twice before I noticed it had pipe jaws - otherwise it looks like a slightly smaller brother to mine.

    Insane, the round base vise stand in the background houses my junky Chinese version of your rotating head vise. It's one of those $99.99 hardware store deals that I bought before I knew what was what. Complete with a long metric 14mm bolt for a lead screw - what a piece of junk. I actually didn't notice that it was in the picture, or I would've taken the picture from the other direction!
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  13. #13
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    Tbone,

    Here is another bench vise a bit different, a wood bench vice

    But its still a bench vice, its a Paramo, who I think bought Record at one point. Anyway it has 9" jaws, 4" deep, and opens 16 inches plus. The nice feature on this is the quick release lever seen on the front. Didn't weigh it but its 50 lbs plus I am sure.

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    Funny I never really noticed before but I guess I have about 10 vices of different flavors and types around here, you got me looking and I got to doing a quick head count.

  14. #14
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    A couple of last pics of the Chas Parker showing the jaws. Fortunately mine are in good shape but if I was going to replace them I think a big horizontal mill with a special cutter is how it would have to happen ( in leau of a shaper ) .

    There is also a pic of the support tongue, not quite as beefy as the Athols, but close.

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  15. #15
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    Quote Originally Posted by fredschrom View Post

    If anybody has a picture of a parker 978 post it thats a 200 lb + beastly. or a 436 its a huge vise also.

    This might help on IDing the Parkers:[/ATTACH]
    436 Parker. 16" tall 24" long. Verrrry heavy.
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    I bought 10 in the last three months from the auctions. A couple British vices, couple alltrades, 1 Wilton. all of them 6" jaw+ and i didnt pay more than $35 for any of them.

    IF any of them last more than 3 months i will have gotten my moneys worth for sure and i will be in vices for a long time.
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    My old pedestal vise.....not in use at the moment but, a nice bit of kit.
    Wouldn't have a clue who the maker was.....Bought it about 12 years ago at the local show ground markets for $100.

    Plus, I have the same thing Insaneride has....Chicom, $150, gets the job done.....weighs a ton.
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    Last edited by Mick120; 05-16-2012 at 12:14 AM.
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    Quote Originally Posted by tbone550 View Post
    ... so it quite possibly came from the shipbuilding industry. If someone could identify this vise I'd be grateful.
    That's no vise, that's a battleship

  19. #19
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    Here is a modern Record 6" offset engineers vice.

    I know its not old, but a lot of people from that side of the pond dont seem to have seen them before.
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    That is a very interesting " offset " vise, it would come in very handy , do you lose and working strength with it?

  21. #21
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    Damnit Larry, I hate those offset bastards.....
    Got one here but the thing has spread and isn't square, real handy but a PITA if the jaws aren't straight....
    The previous owners fault obviously.....
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    Quote Originally Posted by Swamp rat View Post
    That is a very interesting " offset " vise, it would come in very handy , do you lose and working strength with it?
    It does a little. i sometimes find it anoying, but not very often. I'll get a conventional vice one day and have both.



    Quote Originally Posted by Mick120 View Post
    Damnit Larry, I hate those offset bastards.....
    Got one here but the thing has spread and isn't square, real handy but a PITA if the jaws aren't straight....
    The previous owners fault obviously.....
    I hate those previous abusive owners.

  23. #23
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    I just cannot see the value in an expensive new vise. Why do they have to cost many hundreds of dollars for what is essentially a bit of very basic machined rough cast iron ? I bought an ancient American made vise for $15.00 on e-bay, must be at least 70 years old, but it is cast steel and unbreakable. Works perfectly, the jaws are straight and square, it operates smoothly, it is a beautiful vise, yet nobody else bid for it.
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  24. #24
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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    " 436 Parker. 16" tall 24" long. Verrrry heavy. "

    Close to 200 lbs is my guess, very nice. I need one of those my next vice is going to be a 200 pounder, and I like parker vices.

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    Re: A Bench Vise Thread...

    "Oh Mr. Wilton!"

    3.5", 4", 6.5"
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