Refinishing New Vise Hardware

I reached the point in my workbench build where I started spinning my wheels.  I have the benchtop made and I have now finished my workbench base.  It seems that the next logical step would be to join them together.  However, the benchtop is currently sitting on saw horses and is upside down.  I decided that it would be much easier to install the vises now, while the benchtop is turned upside, rather than later while laying on my back on the shop floor.

I have written about this before, but I’m going to install four vises on this bench.  I am sort of ambidextrous and while primarily left-handed, there are some functions and tools that really are meant to be used or done right-handed.  One side of my bench will be set up as a left-handed bench and the other as a right.  This means that one end of the bench will have opposing face vises and the other will have side by side tail vises.  If all goes well, I might be able to use the two tail vises as a split twin screw vise for casework.  I still have to plan this out a little more.

About a year ago, I bought my vises after researching all of the available options.  I really like the Benchrafted stuff, but I’m simply not prepared or able to pay that much for my bench hardware.   I decided that I liked the face vise style as it could be used in both the face vise and tail vise position.  I also really like the fact that it bolts onto the underside of the bench and I don’t have to be married to it.  If I later decide the I don’t like these vises, I can simply unbolt them and the bench will not be scared.

Several companies make a cabinet makers face vise, some have a quick release while others don’t.  I saw that the Grizzly vises were considerably cheaper than many off the other options and so I read some reviews.  The main complaint that I read was that the parts were not very well machined after casting and parts needed flattening.  Newer reviews suggested that perhaps the issues had been resolved and the production process improved.

I looked at the display model of the vise in the Grizzly showroom in Bellingham, WA when I next got a chance to stop by.  I was impressed by the machining of the main screw and guide rods.  The iron parts looked a little rough, but I thought I could work with them.  They are very solid and heavy.  The vises were back-ordered, but I placed and order for four of them and they arrived a few months later.  At only $50 each, I think that they are a pretty good deal.

The vises that I purchased are the Grizzly H7788 Cabinet Maker’ Vise.

The vise as it comes packaged from Grizzly.

The vise as it comes packaged from Grizzly.

I should add a slight disclaimer here:  This post is very pic heavy!  In order to prevent this turning in to a small book, I will just leave many of the picture captions to explain what I did.

I am also making my first attempt at adding video to a blog post.  I tried uploading it to my WordPress site, but when I insert the video into this post it only shows up as a link. I have added the videos to YouTube and was able to insert them in this post as I had hoped.

So… to begin, I opened up the packaging.

As it was, straight from the box.

As it was, straight from the box.

I unwound the main-screw to remove the base plate.

I unwound the main-screw to remove the base plate.

I removed the nuts that hold the guide rods to the face plate, and then removed the rods.

I removed the nuts that hold the guide rods to the face plate, and then removed the rods.

A slotted spring pin (sometimes called a roll pin) holds the handle T to the main screw.

A slotted spring pin (sometimes called a roll pin) holds the handle T to the main screw.

I didn't have a punch this size, so I filed some of the thread off a bolt and used it instead.

I didn’t have a punch this size, so I filed some of the thread off a bolt and used it instead.

I removed the slotted spring pin and then the T handle.

I removed the slotted spring pin and then the T handle.

Here's the vise completely disassembled.

Here’s the vise completely disassembled.

With the vise taken apart, I wanted to test the base plate and the face plate for flatness.  I put them on my granite reference surface and checked to see it they would rock back and forth or not.  They did, and quite badly too!  This is why I decided to try my hand at a video clip.  It would have been very hard to take a picture of this and the video shows it perfectly.

Here are the parts on my granite reference surface:

 

Based upon this I decided to flatten the base plate of the vise.  Its not a smoothing plane and I’m not looking for a dead flat bottom, but I don’t want it rocking this badly.  I just want to flatten some of the high spots.  Cast iron isn’t exactly known for its ability to bend so I was concerned about breaking the base plate when I tighten the mounting lag bolts.

To reveal the high spots, I rubbed the base plate on some sandpaper glued to my reference surface.

I glued some sandpaper to my granite reference slab and started to flatten the vise base plate.

I glued some sandpaper to my granite reference slab and started to flatten the vise base plate.

This immediately reveals the high spots.

This immediately reveals the high spots.

To continue flattening the base plate, I used my combination sander.

To continue flattening the base plate, I used my combination sander.

I sanded only until I had made contact at all four corners.

I sanded only until I had made contact at all four corners.

That’s it.  There’s no need to go further than this, as all four corners now have a contact point.

Next, I needed to flatten the face plate.

On the face plate, the high spot was in the center.

On the face plate, the high spot was in the center.

Once, I got to this point I started thinking a little more.  Originally I planned to flatten the back of these two pieces and then hit them with a little spray paint to prevent rust. That was all I had planned on doing, but as I looked at the pieces I decided to go all in.

I’ll preface this by saying that I’m no metal worker, but here’s my impression of the Grizzly vises.  The castings are decent, but nothing is done to them to clean them up.  It looks to me as though they get pulled from the casting sand, have the holes drilled in them, and then get hit with some spray paint.  I would have liked to see the parts that are supposed to be flat, pay a visit to the surface grinder.  This after all is functional.  All of the edges and seams in the casting would have benefited from some time at a belt grinder to smooth away the casting marks and make it look a little nicer.  But… time is money, and these vises were relatively cheap.  Also the paint was kind of thin, and was already chipped in a few places right from the box.

I determined that I could do some “grinding” using my combination sander.  I can smooth and true all of the edges and then repaint everything.

I also cleaned up the edges that were never sanded after casting.

I also cleaned up the edges that were never sanded after casting.

You can see how uneven the factory edge was.

You can see how uneven the factory edge was.

With the backs of the base plate and face plate relatively flat, I shot a second video clip.   The base plate is pretty good.  The face plate is still a little high in the center, but much better than it was.  Here’s the video:

So…. If I’m cleaning up and repainting these parts of the vise, I might as well do the others.  The “T” handles were quite rough, I’d say that no filing or grinding was done to them after casting.

The "T" handle casting was pretty rough also.

The “T” handle casting was pretty rough also.

Starting to cleanup the edges.

Starting to cleanup the edges.

I continued to clean up the edges and rims of the T handle.

I continued to clean up the edges and rims of the T handle.

I used a file clean and smooth the edges that I couldn't access on the sanding belt.

I used a file clean and smooth the edges that I couldn’t access on the sanding belt.

One complaint that I had read about these vises was that the inside of the T handles was rough and uneven and that this chews up the wooden handle or causes it to bind.  A half-round file fixed that.

I used the same half-round file to smooth the rough inside of the T handle.

I used the same half-round file to smooth the rough inside of the T handle.

You can see the shiny spots inside the handle that show where the file removed the high spots in the casting.

You can see the shiny spots inside the handle that show where the file removed the high spots in the casting.

As I had gone this far, why not a little further?  The face plates of the vises all have “CHINA” cast into them.  I’m not opposed to things that are made in China, after all this vise could never be bought for $50 if it were made in the USA, but I certainly don’t feel the need to advertise for them.  No, what really irritated me about this casting is that the word is upside down.  Every time I look and my bench, I going to see this and it will bug me.  Off it goes!

Dremel to the rescue!

Since I am re-shaping and thoroughly sanding all the parts, I might as well take a little extra time to remove "CHINA" from the casting.

Since I am re-shaping and thoroughly sanding all the parts, I might as well take a little extra time to remove “CHINA” from the casting.

A Dremel tool with a grinding bit starts to remove the letters.

A Dremel tool with a grinding bit starts to remove the letters.

I feathered the edge so that it won't look odd after re-painting.

I feathered the edge so that it won’t look odd after re-painting.

These are the guide blocks that add some support to the guide rods.

These are the guide blocks that add some support to the guide rods.

I smoothed the edges and lightly flattened each face.

I smoothed the edges and lightly flattened each face.

Here are all the painted parts for one vise after flattening, grinding, sanding, and filing.

All the parts after sanding.

All the parts after sanding.

I prepped for paint.

I cleaned all of the parts with paper towels and denatured alcohol.

I cleaned all of the parts with paper towels and denatured alcohol.

With the painted parts set aside I took a look at the steel parts.

These are the other parts of the vise that I haven't addressed yet.

These are the other parts of the vise that I haven’t addressed yet.

I found some rust on the part of the main screw that the T handle attaches to.  I cleaned this off with the wire wheel on my buffer.  I rubbed down the guide rods with some 400 grit wet/dry paper and oil.  The rest of the main screw has a light coating of grease and I left it alone.

I found some rust on this brand new main screw.

I found some rust on this brand new main screw.

10 seconds with the soft wire wheel on my bench grinder, and the main screw is cleaned up.

10 seconds with the soft wire wheel on my bench grinder, and the main screw is cleaned up.

Next up, painting.

All my vise parts ready for paint.

All my vise parts ready for paint.

I started with the T handles.

I put the T handle on some scrap wood to allow me to paint it all in one shot.

I put the T handle on some scrap wood to allow me to paint it all in one shot.

In the past, I have used quite a lot of the Rustoleum Hammered paint.  It hides imperfections very well and looks great when done.  I have found that their Deep Green color fairly closely matches the green that Grizzly puts on all their tools.  I checked and found that I only had ½ a can left, so off to Home Depot I went.  Guess what… they no longer stock it in store. I can order it, but only by the case.

Rustoleum Hammered Paint in the Deep Green color.

Rustoleum Hammered Paint in the Deep Green color.

The sales associate recommended this paint:

Rustoleum Painter's Touch 2X Ultra Cover in Hunter Green.

Rustoleum Painter’s Touch 2X Ultra Cover in Hunter Green.

I like the color, it is a little darker than the deep green.  I decided to give it a try

I put on a coat that was heavy enough to cover well, but not so heavy that it drips or runs.

I put on a coat that was heavy enough to cover well, but not so heavy that it drips or runs.

I set the T handles aside to dry.

I set the T handles aside to dry.

I painted the other parts in my handy spray booth. Ok, I mean in my driveway, on top of my trash can.

I painted the other parts in my handy spray booth. Ok, I mean in my driveway, on top of my trash can.

Since this piece lays flat to dry, I can put on a little heavier coat. I wanted it thick enough that the paint surface would flatten out and hide some of the casting marks.

Since this piece lays flat to dry, I can put on a little heavier coat. I wanted it thick enough that the paint surface would flatten out and hide some of the casting marks.

I set them aside to dry.

I set them aside to dry.

A couple of hours later, I added a second coat in situ.

A couple of hours later, I added a second coat in situ.

OK, here I go further off the deep end.  What looks great with hunter green?  Gold, of course.

I bought some Testors Model Master gold paint from the local hobby shop.

I bought some Testors Model Master gold paint from the local hobby shop.

I painted the edges of the T handles gold.

I painted the edges of the T handles gold.

I thought that the gold might scratch easily, so I figured it would be a good idea to clear coat the T handles.  I used the exact same paint as the green, only in clear.

Rustoleum's clear top coat.

Rustoleum’s clear top coat.

To protect the gold model paint, I thought that it would be a good idea to clear coat the T handles.

To protect the gold model paint, I thought that it would be a good idea to clear coat the T handles.

This looks terrible.

The next day, I sprayed the handle with the clear coat and this happened.

The next day, I sprayed the handle with the clear coat and this happened.

I don’t know what caused this reaction.  It was the same brand of paint.  This has to be fixed.

I don't get it. It is the exact same brand of paint.

I don’t get it. It is the exact same brand of paint.

I sanded all of the wrinkles down with some 400 grit paper.

I sanded all of the wrinkles down with some 400 grit paper.

After sanding and re-spraying with the clear coat.

After sanding and re-spraying with the clear coat.

I sanded and re-sprayed the clear coat, but I’m still not happy with the gold.  It just doesn’t look the same with the clear coat on top.  I might bush on another coat of gold later, at least if that scratches you wont see green underneath.  We’ll see.

All the re-painted parts ready for installation.

All the re-painted parts ready for installation.

I’m much happier with this hardware now.  It’s not perfect, and it is far from benchcrafted quality, but the parts all look much more refined than when they came straight out of the box.  As much time and effort as I have put into making this workbench, I think that the extra time spent on refinishing these vises was worth it.

I also geeked out and polished the washers and nuts on my bench grinder/buffer since they will be visible on the face plate.  But I didn’t photograph that… too much shame!

Next, I need to make the chops for each vise.  I’ll start with a template and figure out the drill spacing.

 

– Jonathan White

About Jonathan

I am a woodworker and hand tool restorer / collector. I buy too many tools and don't build enough - I need help!
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6 Responses to Refinishing New Vise Hardware

  1. I may be thinking of this wrong, but the flattening exercise shouldn’t change the square of the guide rods and screw to the two plates? What about the screw holes in the guide bushing plates?

    • Jonathan says:

      Hi Ralph,

      The same thought had occurred to me. However, as I was only taking off a very little bit of metal, and only the high spots at that, I don’t think that it is going to be an issue. I don’t want to say that all these parts are crudely cast, they’re better than that, but they are not precision parts either. There is a certain amount of play in the parts that go together. For example, the guide rods are a few thousandths smaller than the holes for them in the base plate. I think I’ll be fine.

      Hopefully I don’t end up eating those words.

      All the best,

      Jonathan

  2. Sylvain says:

    Most of the metal has been taken away on the nut side which is not important.
    What is important for the vise’s working is to have the two rods parallel (quality of the rod’s shoulders). If they are not perpendicular to the iron plate (because the holes would be oblique to the plate, hoping they are parallel), you’ll have to compensate for this in the chops planing.

    If it was working before dismantling it should work after (unless not all the combinations work together).
    Sylvain

    • Jonathan says:

      Hello Sylvain,

      You raise some good points. I will drill the holes in the chop at the drill press. This will ensure that they stay parallel. The rods will be inserted into the 3″ thick chop and then the face plate will bolted on afterwards. I’m drilling the holes to be a tight fit, 20mm. I want a tight fit with very little play to help reduce the top to bottom racking of the vise. Thanks for your input, I appreciate it.

      All the best,

      Jonathan

  3. Pingback: Making the Vise Chops - Part 1 | The Bench Blog

  4. Pingback: Installing the Vises on my Ambidextrous Grizz-ubo Bench | The Bench Blog

I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments, or questions.