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#556034 09/29/19 10:06 AM
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If you could only have one bench vise for general gunsmithing, what would it be?

I'm more interested in features of the vise than I am in brand, but if you have a favorite maker and model, that's fine too.

As a side discussion, if you think there is a better option than the bench machinist's vise for working on guns, please chime in.


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4" Wilton Bullet vise.


http://www.bertramandco.com/

ACGG Professional metalsmith, firearms import services.
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Thanks Steve. Just to prime the pump a little more...

Is a swivel base necessary?
Is a carriage makers vise (tall jaws, e.g. Reed 224 or 424) or some other specialty vise better than a standard jaw vise?
Is 4" the optimal vise width?
Are replaceable jaws a must?
Machinist vise vs mechanic vise? (i.e. is the anvil on a mechanic vise essential?)
Anyone prefer a blacksmith's leg vise?

And just in case that doesn't generate enough discussion:

Wilton vs Reed vs Parker... Go!


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I think this is a good area to be a bit patient and check out flea markets and garage sales for something older and heavy that wasn't used as an anvil or has a bent handle like it was forced beyond what it was intended. If it's better quality, I like a quick release feature, but true and smooth is more important.

Maybe, jaw face options and why just one vise are thoughts to toss around.

craigd #556042 09/29/19 12:38 PM
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I'm trolling eBay, Facebook marketplace, etc currently.

As for just one vise... I have a wooden screw leg vise on my woodworking bench and a quick release face vise on my general/gunsmithing work bench. I also have a small tail vise on another little bench where I have grinders and a lathe.


But I'm considering replacing my Craftsman bench vise with the primary use as a gunsmithing vise.

Thus, I'm wondering what everyone thinks it's the quintessential gunsmithing vise.


Jim
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Every good gunsmith's shop I've seen has used Wiltons. I like them because of the lower profile than other types.

Having said that, I inherited a 4" Yost from the 1960's that has the swivel jaw feature. A bit beat up but brass and lead jaws are still available. Works well for me. Used Wiltons ain't cheap or easy to find or cheap to ship. There's a realy beat up one now on Ebay for $325, at least he's shipping free...

Last edited by Recoil Rob; 09/29/19 12:55 PM.

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Yes the Wiltons are painfully expensive but you only buy them once. I do like the swivel feature on mine. I have a 2&1/2" bullet vise as well but use it for small stuff over by my Fordham tool. I need a big very firm vise and the 4" size fits the bill in my shop.


http://www.bertramandco.com/

ACGG Professional metalsmith, firearms import services.
SKB #556124 09/30/19 11:42 AM
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Around here a lot of gunsmiths use a "Versa Vice" or a more modern Brownell version. They may also have another, more robust, vise of various make for "rough" work.
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Here is what I settled on for my main vise: Charles Parker 674 1/2 Coachmakers or Woodworkers vise. It's a 77# chunk of iron. Should arrive early next week.



I missed a Wilton bullet on Facebook, and all the ones I could find on eBay were either beyond my budget or looked pretty beat up. I'm certain I would have been happy with a Wilton and I'm going to keep my eye out for a good deal on one.

I'm going to answer my own original question by listing the features I like in the Parker:

Stout.
Deep throat and large,non-textured jaw faces.
High angle jaws for easier approach to the work.
Swivel base.
Covered screw.
Elegant design. (On this, I actually prefer the Reed 424 design, which is more refined to my eye).
And, as an added bonus, made by a maker of fine double guns.


I might add a versa vise type vise at some point in the future, but I was really looking for a vise to be the anchor of the bench... And this should fit the bill. I think it will also work well for knife making, hand tool restoration, etc.


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I think I bought this Wilton, brand, spanking, new, in about 1990:



I had finally sickened of going to auctions, and seeing cracked, stripped, bent handles, and every other form of abused vise at auctions, and them being bid to stupid levels of cost. My vise set me back $390, at that time, replacement is well north of 1K, now, and I have a good friend who regularly pleads with me to sell it to him.

The base is 1/4” wall, seamless, drawn over mandrel, 4140 hydraulic tubing, that was polished internally and externally, for some sort of large, two stage ram. I welded flanges on each end, drilled and tapped for the vise base, with a 1” hole drilled and tapped to put a pipe plug into the top. This allowed me to fill the base with spent lead shot and oil, making the entire mount “dead blow”. It is bolted to the concrete floor with multiple anchors.

The mount is far enough away from the bench that I didn’t use the swivel feature. I can walk all the way around it. GET THE VISE OFF THE BENCH! No bench is sturdy enough. The newer Wilton’s have a key way in the bottom of the tube, to hold the vise to .005 lateral movement when you are drawing it down. That is important. The older Wilton’s don’t have that, another reason to avoid auctions, and buy new.

If you don’t have a decent vise, you have nothing. It is a foundation tool in any shop, and mine gets utilized for far more than just gunsmithing projects. I’d be lost, without it.

Best,
Ted

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