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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Here are all the painted parts for one vise after flattening, grinding, sanding, and filing.
I prepped for paint.
With the painted parts set aside I took a look at the steel parts.
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.
Next up, painting.
I started with the T handles.
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.
The sales associate recommended this paint:
I like the color, it is a little darker than the deep green. I decided to give it a try
OK, here I go further off the deep end. What looks great with hunter green? Gold, of course.
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.
This looks terrible.
I don’t know what caused this reaction. It was the same brand of paint. This has to be fixed.
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.
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