Photo sent in by a reader;  they said it was OK to post it.  Do you have a vise like this?  Let's find out about these.

  2018 August 12    Metal & Shop, Tools 

Introduction


A reader asked me about a rusty old vise they acquired.  Apparently it was used by a repair shop, then for some reason they got rid of it.  The vise sat outside for months, or perhaps longer than that.

Who made this vise?  Is it worth fixing up?   (By the way, please read the Disclaimer.)

Let's find out.






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In This Article



1. Safety First

2. Gearing Up

3. About These Vises

4. Any Good?

5. Modern Rotating Vises


Conclusion





1. Safety First


Vises, like hydraulic presses, prybars, wrenches, and other tools, can be under tremendous forces even when you're not moving anything.  Read the Disclaimer, and be careful working with shop tools. 

Wear gloves and eye protection when you're clamping anything that could fly off and be a hazard if it gives way.  Don't try to use the vise as a press.  Don't crank too heavily on a vise that's been welded or has obvious damage;  use it for light-duty clamping.



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2. Gearing Up


For de-rusting, some people use vinegar.  Another possibility is Evapo-Rust.  From what I've seen, Evapo-rust seems to dissolve less actual metal than vinegar does.  It also leaves chrome plating more intact when there's some of it starting to flake.  In fact this stuff works incredibly well.

Instead of de-rusting first, some people use a material such as kerosene to try unsticking rusty mechanisms and bolts.  This is not usually necessary with a vise, but sometimes it really is.  Other alternatives include PB Blaster, Marvel Mystery Oil, brake fluid, automatic transmission fluid, etc.  Wear protective gloves when handling any of these.

Another alternative is to use a torch to cause heat expansion.  This can be an effective way to loosen stuck metal.  In fact it often works for some of the rustiest, most seized-up iron.  Make sure that any kerosene (etc) is all off it before you apply the heat!!


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About These Vises


These are made in China.  Some may have been produced in Taiwan.  This design never directly appeared in a US-made vise, to my knowledge.  However, a vise from Cole Tool Manufacturing Co. may have provided the basic idea.  That's just my theory, but it's the most similar design I've ever seen. 

The Cole vise goes back to the 1940's or perhaps earlier.  That basic form was probably inspired by the blacksmith post vise, which is 17th Century at least and may be an ancient form.  (They had a lot more advanced stuff in ancient times than we know, I reckon.)

The Cole vise is probably useful, but it's more of a curiosity than anything.  That's because it can't withstand the hammering that many owners seemed to think it would (because it looks like a post vise but isn't).  The Chinese rotating vises may not be super-durable, either, but they became very popular and were made in great quantity.  They still are.

The Chinese rotating vises go back to the 1970's, at least.

On the reader's vise there is a mark that looks like a stylized "W";  not sure what company that is.  Many of these vises had a steel or aluminum plate that was riveted on;  this plate would have had more information, sometimes in both Chinese and English.  It could have had the manufacturer's name, or it could have been the name of a trade company or tool company that was having them made.


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Are They Any Good?


Because of QC issues, some rotating vises break from light use.  Others seem to last for many years.  Some of these vises weigh fifty or sixty pounds.  If they don't have any voids and weren't cooled too fast, they shouldn't break from normal use.  Just realize that even on the heavier rotating vises, the jaws may be hollow.

They're the only design that rotates the way it does.  That's useful.  So, they're worth having if you need that feature.

One big advantage is if you have to work on longer sections of material.  If you clamp these horizontally in a vise, long sections create a lot of torque due to gravity.  So they become a lot tougher to grip.   But if you rotate the vise jaws 90 degrees, now the workpiece is vertical;  that eliminates the gravity-induced torque component that would cause the workpiece to slip. 

That means then, you're only clamping against the weight vector:  much easier to do.  So it's kind of a brilliant design, actually.


Get a Rotating Vise

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Modern Rotating Vises


Like the vintage ones, the current models are not all of the same quality.  Some are a lot better-made than others.

From what I can see, a couple of the better-made ones are the Capri Tools 10518 (5" jaw width) or the 10519 (6" jaw width).  The swivel base doesn't have corrugations or teeth to keep it from slipping, but then again most of the other brands don't.  Keep grease or oil off the swivel base friction surfaces.  Perhaps even roughen them up with really coarse sandpaper every now and then.

Another possibility is the Yost 750-DI.  The swivel base has gear teeth to keep it from slipping.  This could make it the best choice.

I haven't tried any of those yet, but it looks to me like they're better castings and have better overall quality than the competitors, including the Irwin and Wilton.  According to the listing details, the Irwin is 33 lbs, so there's going to be some hollow cast iron there.  (For some people, 33 pounds might be as much weight as they want to deal with, though.)  I think the Wilton weighs 35 to 40 pounds.  The Capri Tools 5" vise is 55 pounds, and the Yost 750-DI is 63 pounds.  So, those two may not be hollow, and if they are, at least they're not thin and hollow as some of the cheaper ones are. 


Get a Rotating Vise

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Conclusion


The rotating vise design may not be the strongest one ever made, but they're pretty good as long as you're not doing big hammering on stuff.  Since you can rotate and swivel them in almost any combination, they can make efficient use of space.

They also allow you to work on lengths of material vertically, which virtually eliminates the torque that works against the vise's ability to hold the workpiece.  For that reason alone, a vise like this could be worth getting.

The vintage ones of this style can be worth fixing up, especially if you can make or get a new set of pipe jaws. 


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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