Everyone needs a good vise. By good vise I mean a heavy American made one and not a piece of junk from your local home improvement store. For the price of one of those “things” and a little work you can have an excellent vise that’ll outlive you. In fact it probably already has. I currently have three vises but this is the first one I found and restored. Prentiss was a company based out of New York that produced vises from before 1900 up until the 1940s. It’s hard to find much info on the company.
Back in May of 2010 I found a Prentiss Bulldog 525 on Craigslist and was able to pick it up for $50 . It weighs in at 63 pounds has 4.5″ wide jaws, and opens to 6″. It was pretty ugly but that was fixed. The person I bought it from said he bought it surplus from Pensacola Naval Air Station when he worked there. If so that’s neat history but if not it doesn’t bother me. The only problem I found so far is a crack on the back of the slide. It’s just a hairline one and is in a low stress area so I wasn’t concerned. Here’s what it looked like when I picked it up. Pretty ain’t it?
It turned out that I could not completely remove the dynamic jaw (jaw that moves) and slide from the vise’s body. I painted the end of the slide in machinist’s blue and filed a little where it was catching. This was repeated multiple times but finally I succeeded in getting it apart. The retaining nut (circular thing with the spikes sticking out) for the screw was also fun to remove. In the end I was able to get it apart and ready to be cleaned up.
To start cleaning it up I first used a wire wheel but then though that the paint might have lead in it. Turns out it did have lead in it according to one of those tests you buy at the store. Luckily, there is another effective way to remove rust and paint called electrolysis. I’ll probably detail this in a future post. I left it in the tank over night and all day. When I pulled it out the paint had bubbled up and peeled off easily with a scraper. There were still a few spots on there but they cleaned up easily.
Here’s a picture of the body after it was removed from the electrolysis tub.
Here’s the slide immediately after being placed in the electrolysis tub.
Once the vise was rust and paint free it was time to prime it in preparation of being painted. The slide and any surface that slid was masked off.
After letting the primer dry for a couple of days I finally got the paint on it. I used Rustoleum Hammered Black. I highlighted the writing on it so it’d show up better and because it looks pretty cool. I also relubed it with synthetic wheel bearing grease though I now use anti-seize. Both seem to work well.
It’s a definite improvement if I do say so myself! It’s been very useful to have around to immobilize objects. For a little work and money I have a great vise that’ll last me for years to come. If you’re interested in doing something similar, go for it! You’ll be glad you did.