2017 June 7    Metal & Shop, Tools 

Introduction


Recently I picked up a Taiwan-made bench vise.  It was kind of a wreck.

A vise that's been welded has no collector value.  An imported vise that's been welded... is basically a piece of scrap.  That is, unless you just want a "yard vise". 

This article shows how I fixed up the vise, including some cast iron welding with 7018.






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In This Article

The Vise, As Found

The Reverse Stop Bolt

Preparing to Weld

The Jaw Weld

Preparing the Anvil

The Anvil Weld

Finishing

Conclusion




The Vise, As Found


It was ugly and full of shop grime.  Through the dirt and oxidation, a label on the side said "MADE IN TAIWAN".  A picture doesn't even communicate how much grime and grease the vise had on it.  There were metal filings from three or four different kinds of metals in, on, and under the vise.  It looked as though it hadn't been cleaned since 1979.

This cheap imported vise was probably made of gray cast iron.  Yet somehow, it endured many years of heavy use. 

The handle was all dented up.  Someone didn't even bother with a cheater bar;  they just hammered it instead.  



One of the vise jaws was hanging on by a single loose screw.  The ugly tack-welds on the other end had failed. 

As I disassembled the vise to clean it and fix it up, I realized it was photogenic in its own way.  Here's a picture of it that I took with slide film:



Fujichrome Velvia slide film (35mm)




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The Reverse Stop Bolt


Just as I saw here, the vise jaw wouldn't open when the handle was turned.  What do you know, the rear stop was gone. 



It was threaded, though, as you can see.  A 3/8" NC bolt fit perfectly. 


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Preparing To Weld


That vise jaw couldn't be reattached normally;  the hole was full of crud.  I guess that's why the guy welded it.

But now the shoddy-looking tack welds were broken, so guess what?  Time to weld 'em again!

This was mild steel to cast iron.  I decided on 7018 with a pre-heat and post heat.  Nickel 55 would be a lot better for this (get them here), but 7018 is what I had.

The heating was about as lazy as possible.  I just preheated the welding area with a torch.  That means uneven heat, uneven expansion, and possibly cracked welds.  But if you heat the workpiece, peen the welds, and post-heat... well, it might be OK.

Get ready with a bucket of dry sand for the slow-cool stage.  My sand had taken on a lot of moisture.  I had to use up a lot of propane drying it out.  But that also pre-heated it, which is good.

With these types of welds, you have to be ready with all the tools.  In other words, don't have your tools ten feet away and scattered in the dirt.  Otherwise it will cool too fast and the welds may crack.


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Jaw Weld


For the jaws I used a Forney Easy Weld 100ST with 1/16" 7018.  The amperage was about 60.  The 1/16" electrodes were a bit too thin for this purpose.  So I switched to 3/32" 7018 at 90 amps.  This was about right.

The workpiece is really hot, and you're in a hurry so that it doesn't cool down.  As I learned, this is probably not when you'll make your best-looking welds. 


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Preparing the Anvil


The first weld was on the dynamic jaw, which meant that I could weld the anvil on a different day. 

So, I got a scrap of mild steel, about 1/2" thick.  I figured this would be the new anvil.  Why not use 4130 or something?  Well, tool steels are difficult to weld unless you anneal them first.  And then you'd have to re-heat-treat them to get any benefit out of them. 

Besides, there was a time when anvils were all made of wrought iron.  They didn't even face them with steel.  Men hammered out entire civilizations on wrought-iron anvils.  So I'm cool with a mild steel anvil on here. 

Also, a mild-steel anvil will probably work harden as you use it.  I don't think wrought iron does that.


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Anvil Weld


Again, lazy preheat with nothing but a propane torch.  I used pieces of firebrick to try keeping the heat in.

To do the welds, I used 3/32" 7018 at 90 amps.  First I did tack welds at the corners, then went ahead and just did long welds. 


Far from perfect, but they'll do.

The weld along the back:  this is where the anvil meets the curved back of the static jaw.  I knew this one was going to be difficult.  Probably I didn't post-heat that one enough.  It's the only weld that cracked, as far as I can see.  The other ones held up well.

If it breaks, I'll just re-weld it.  Or possibly braze it on.




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Finishing


A flap disc on your angle grinder can pretty up the metal.  I used a well-worn 60-grit for this.  A worn 120 grit would have been better.  Worn flap discs make a nice shiny finish.  (It's not bad when they're brand new, either, but it looks even better when they've got some miles on them.)

Another alternative, which I like even better, is the "Very Fine" surface conditioning discs.  I think these equate to 320 grit.  This link should take you to the best ones I've found.  I didn't even know about these for a long time;  an absolute must-have if you work iron and steel. 



If this is going to be a yard vise, that nice metal surface is going to rust up quickly.  You could probably delay it for a while with Fluid Film, but I didn't try that on here.  Sanded steel actually rusts very quickly, unless you seal it with clear lacquer.  It will probably rust anyway.  But eventually it will get that old rust finish that's fairly stable, and then it's good.



Fujichrome Velvia slide film (35mm)





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Conclusion





Fujichrome Velvia slide film (35mm)


There you go, 1979 Taiwan Vise Upgrade.  This was definitely not a restoration, and some of you guys are going to cringe that I welded yet another vise.  I know, but this project was about function over form. 

And actually, I think the form looks kind of cool, too.

So far, the welds have been holding great, so I reckon it's Mission Accomplished. 


I hope you enjoyed this article.  If it helped you in any way, please help me out by using any of these links to purchase your gear.  It's the only way I can keep this website online and bringing you helpful articles like this one.   Thanks!!



    




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