Prentiss Vise Restoration

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.

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21 Responses to Prentiss Vise Restoration

  1. Nathan says:

    America: We have great vices!

  2. Rob Lewis says:

    Great job on the restoration! I know what you mean about the “home improvement store” vises. I broke one doing universal joints on my truck. Fortunately I had my friends Prentiss Bull Dog 515 vise in my garage (storing it for him). I bolted it to the bench and finished the job with no problems. Recently I picked up a Prentiss No. 57 vise. If your not familiar with it, It’s has 7″ jaws, 13 1/2″ high, 31″ long and weighs about 210 lbs! I’m going to restore it soon and put it to work. I’ll keep you posted. Rob.

  3. Jim Eggen says:

    So how did you disassemble it, including removal of the “nut” (incidentally, the nut appears not to be threaded).
    I have an old Prentiss 52. I can’t figure out how to take it apart for cleaning and overhaul.

    • davidjbod says:

      Here’s how mine comes apart: The swivel base is removed by two bolts in the bottom. The moving jaw can be unscrewed to separate it from the body of the vise. The screw is held in by a tabbed collar. I pried a tab out of a hole in the screw with a 90 degree pick to remove the collar which allows the screw to be removed. The threaded nut in the body is held in by a pin that inserts through the bottom. Once it has been removed the threaded nut can be removed. Two Allen head screws hold each jaw pad on. The pads can be stuck on and my have to be pried off. That’s how mine can be broken down.

  4. Steve Laymon says:

    hi any chance of finding a vise screw for a Prentiss 524 I have one I have been using for years the screw has broken twice and I tig welded it but now it has broken for the 3rd time. I would love to find a replacement. Any help would be appreciated thanks very much Steve in Florida

    • davidjbod says:

      That’s going to be a tough one. You’ll probably have to luck out and find a broken vise to get the screw from or have the screw remade from scratch. I’d think it could be welded up successfully but clearly there’s some issues. Where is the break?

  5. Steve Laymon says:

    Hi and thanks for the reply. The break is about 4 threads in from the solid of the shaft. It has been welded a couple of times and lasts until you really lean on it then it will break, I have it apart and prepped for another weld now but would really like to get a replacement if I could. The rest of the vise is in great condition. thanks Steve in Florida

  6. Steve Laymon says:

    OK thanks, I will post them later today thanks Steve

    • Steve Laymon says:

      Having trouble with pictures. My screw looks identical to the one in the restoration pictrures above. Mine has the swiverl base but the vise itself looks the same. thanks Steve in Florida

  7. charliemoose says:

    Really like your resto I think it came out real nice Their is a guy on craigslist that has a 513 for 80.00 bucks is this on bigger than yours thinking about picking it up you cant have 2 many vises

  8. Bill says:

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  9. charliemoose says:

    A friend has a #58 Prentiss it is about 300 lbs I have been trying to get that off of him He has not used in20 years I would love to restor that thing and build A Monster base I have a #69 Prentiss that I am in the middle of restoring and I have 3 Chas Parkers a79x weight 160 lbs a 249x 80 lbs a 954 42 lbs and some others as you can see I have a Vise problem lol

  10. John costanzo says:

    It a great piece, I just bought a bull dog # 92 at a swap meet for 35$ I would like to restore and use it but it is missing to female receiver for the drive screw. Do you know if the part is available ? If not I will try to fabricate something or just use it as a decorative piece. Any suggestions or comments would be appreciated thank you

    • davidjbod says:

      You might find luck out and find a used replacement piece on eBay. I wouldn’t count on it though. If you want to get the vise working again, you’ll have to fab something up.

  11. David Pietro says:

    real nice job.i have done several am currently working on a Prentiss 7″ that weighs well over 225lbs. and opens about 18 inches people need to do one of these to appreciate the work involved

    • charliemoose says:

      I know what you mean I am in the middle of restoring a Prentiss #22 weight 165lbs every time I have to move part of this thing I say not again My buddy has a #58 about 300lbs I think it has a 8inch jaw I have been trying for 20 years to get it off of him I want it bad before I get to old to mess with it

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