Introduction: New Life for an Old Vice.

Picture of New Life for an Old Vice.

I love old tools and quite often they are the right price. With a little tweaking (well sometimes a lot...) an old tool can be brought back to life and be useful for another lifetime.

The quality is often superior even if they are a little slower or take up a little more room... One such tool I bought off an uncle of mine, he wanted to retire to the coast and if I wanted to buy his tools I had to buy the lot. An old Dawn vice (100mm or 4 inch) came with the bargain and I set it up outside my shed and used it as a welding vice for quite a few years.

Needless to say it ended up looking a little "daggy"

Step 1: Strip It Down.

Picture of Strip It Down.

The first step is to assess that the job is worth doing, in this case the vice was still working... a little creaky but it did still work. Make sure you have all the parts necessary to rebuild and then get into it.

Dismantle, clean and prepare the vice (or other tool that you're repairing). Anything goes at this stage, use wire brush, sandpaper, file... I did most of this with an angle grinder fitted with a wire brush. I will say at this point that I have many "vices" but one I have had for many years, is vices... so this is not my first. If you are working with a Chinese vice (or most any heavy cast tool made in China) you may find a coat of filler between the rough casting and the paint, it hides a multitude of sins and most times it is best left there.

If that is the case you're better using sandpaper to remove the paint and then fill any gouges or nicks with body filler before proceeding. In most cases the finish you end up with will equal the effort you put into the work. The Dawn however was good quality Australian cast iron with no filler. Happy about that.

Step 2: Final Preperation...

Picture of Final Preperation...

Clean all parts with solvent, (turps, thinners etc.) to remove any dust, grease or oil and take a good long look at your job. If you're happy with your base then proceed, if not, now is the time to improve the finish.

When you are happy, decide where you "don't" want paint and mask it off. The detail here makes all the difference to the finished product, if you need to get a knife and cut away some masking then do it. If you want a nice clean edge the masking tape can be cut off by carefully running a fine file across an edge to remove the masking tape very accurately.

Once you have finished with the masking give your job a base coat of paint, I used a self etching primer and gave it 3 coats. Follow the instructions on the can as to time between coats. I try really hard to do any spray paint job in the morning ... if you spray in the afternoon it just seems to turn out a dull finish, cooler air, drying time, not sure. Just sayin...

Step 3: Final Coat...

Picture of Final Coat...

This has got to be the easiest part of the whole project. You pick your favourite colour paint and spray away...

Two or three light coats should be enough, if the paint is too thick it will damage easier in use so enough to cover but not excessive. And if you have masked off well, it's a no brainer...

Step 4: Completion...

Picture of Completion...

When the final coat is dry and hard (I left this for a week and got back to it the next weekend.) remove the masking tape, clean up any parts that were missed earlier and re-assemble. I used a new split pin on the screw and new bolts on the jaws. A light oil on the moving parts won't go astray either.

Probably the most difficult part of the assembly was compressing the spring and holding it back far enough to insert the split pin. I wanted to avoid using any tool that might damage my nice new paint... and the spring is quite heavy.

Step 5: All Done...

Picture of All Done...

Once finished I put it with the rest of the collection, when I said it would last another lifetime I probably should have said two lifetimes because it will never wear out sitting there... maybe I'll need a welding vice soon.

Since restoring this vice I've found another two in need of a little (one needs a lot) TLC.

I hope you found something of interest here.


MichelleE50 (author)2016-08-20

LOVE THIS! Thank you so much. As a child I spent most of my time in my Grandads workshop. He passed away 18 years ago, my family have just decided to pull his workshop down before it fell down which has lead me to inherit some of his tools. I have been given 3 very old heavy vices which need a lot of attention. I am more than happy to spend as long as it takes restoring them as they were a big part of my grandads life. I can't wait to get stuck in after reading your steps. Hopefully I can make something of them and use them in my workshop. They open and close so that's a good start lol!

Thanks again


fosterb123 (author)2016-03-28

Thanks for the tutorial! I'm about to restore two older vices that have been sitting around for far too long. Ones an old craftsman and the other a Dunlop. I'm excited to get these bad boys back into service!

digitaus (author)fosterb1232016-03-28

Hey fosterb123, Glad to hear it will help, I also have another 2 to fix up as well but finding the time is the problem.
Hope we see some photo's of yours on here and that may spur me on.
Good luck and again thanks for looking and the comment.

WilliamW102 (author)2016-03-07

A great outcome of that earlier picture of the vice. I've got a large Dawn that's in about the same condition, so I've got a job ahead of me as well.

CaptAmazing (author)2015-12-15

My apologies, but it should be "vise" not "vice" in this case. two different things. ?

digitaus (author)CaptAmazing2015-12-15

Hey CaptAmazing, There are a few words in the English language that America spells and says differently than the rest of us... Vice is one of them, here in Australia it is with a "c"... always. Thanks for looking though. :)

buck2217 (author)2015-06-24

I have one of these to do (note to self--get on with it lazy!)

bradyje (author)2014-10-04

Thanks for the instructions! I'm so excited to start restoring my vice.

bradyje (author)2014-10-04

Thanks for the instructions! I'm so excited to start restoring my vice.

elic (author)2014-09-28


I cleaned rust from old tools using Koka Kola. I put the rusty tools in a bucket, full with Koka Kola and 30 minutes after, I rubbed the rust with cloth.

digitaus (author)elic2014-09-28

Hi elic, with your soft drink it is the sugar in it that works on rust, the sugar is very acidic. I have in the past had very good results with molasses, mixed with water it ferments in about a week and then for about 2 weeks after that it removes rust very quickly. Very good for small or delicate parts as you only need to rinse with water and then very quickly oil or paint... smells a little though :) thanks for the comment.

malc in Spain (author)2014-09-21

Refurbishment is a pleasure to observe.Well done.

KROKKENOSTER (author)2014-09-20

I had some of those Chinese junk vises and they broke on the first hard work done with them! I then purchased a Record (Made in USA) it is a bit smaller but it stands in the wind and rain now 35 years and negligible rust on it. It still works without a hitch! If I had the choice NO Chinese junk please especially their cassette recorders!! EVERYONE had to be replaced up to ten times before I had one that work reasonable!! I mean the following brands Aiwa Sony Telefunken Supersonic Elba Akai Teac and other of the brands we grew up with and had respect for

Eh Lie Us! (author)2014-09-19

The worst vice is advice.

Dr. dB (author)2014-09-16

Absolutely gorgeous job!

Of course, you're probably already aware of this, but others might not be, so I thought it might bear (possibly-pedantic) repeating:

One does have to be somewhat careful to distinguish "good, old, useable" tools from "valuable, antique, collectable" ones. Had this been an actual antique, that amazingly-beautiful restoration job might've slashed-away somewhere between half and three-quarters of its "collectors' value". Collectors loves them some rust, b'golly!

Fortunately, this was a fully-useable, "grande-dame" of a de-"vice" (chuckle), a veritable MOUNTAIN of metal, and looking now, perhaps even a bit better than when she first left the factory, how many orbits ago?

On another note, I'd be amazed if you could find an "old" Chinese vise that's actually worth the sandpaper - you'd probably be better off re-smelting any such object and pouring a new one! (...unless it's REALLY "old", as in , "...before the so-called 'communist revolution'...", but then it might be an "actual antique"...)

You mentioned a possible "...coat of filler between the rough casting and the paint...". My machinist friends here in the States tell me that much of the content of the "...rough casting..." itself is ALSO filler these days! Most of this Chinese alleged "steel" either EATS machine tool bits at three-to-five-times the "normal" rate for REAL steel, or it has voids which belch abrasive dust when breached, 'cause they apparently dump the sweepings from their grinding-room floors right back into the blast furnaces, then start pouring ingots and castings before it's had a chance to slag-off. </rant>

On another, 'nother note, I have several workshop "vices", myself. Among them are: a bottle of single-malt under the table-saw, a box of Cuban cigars in the top left drawer of the toolbox and a naked lady in the woodpile! (I wish...!!!)

However, for holding work in place while I apply forces to it with tools, being in the U.S., I have to use a "vise"... (I think there's a law, or somethin' - not quite sure 'bout that, though...). </silly homonymic humor>

digitaus (author)2014-09-15

I would advise you not to take your own advice...

See what I did there?

Here, "Vise" rhymes with "Rise" and "Vice" rhymes with "Rice"

In Australia, "Vise" is only in our dictionary as an alternative "US"
spelling to "Vice",

we are not obliged to use it... and in typing this "vise" has a
squiggly little red line beneath it,

there it is again--- wonder what that means?

I Googled

"Workshop Vise" and it found - About 711,000 results (0.22 seconds).

I also Googled

"Workshop Vice" and it found - About 102,000,000 results (0.27

I'm not saying you're wrong... however, neither am I.

Please people, let us understand our differences and hear no more
about it...

sarawelder (author)digitaus2014-09-15

I am so glad you clarified this... I kept thinking I was mad calling a vise a vice.. I am a brit by birth but live in the usa. After all we say "he held it in a grip like vice"... don't we? nice ible tho... I have one waiting in my garage

ToddC2 (author)2014-09-14

Nice job! Can you share with us the type/brand paint you used--in particular the etching primer? I haven't had much luck with Krylon or other types Walmart-like stores carry. Rustoleum is somewhat better, but both seem pretty fragile and prone to flaking or scratched by minor abrasion. I think a lot of "factory-painted" tools are actually powder coated which, as I understand it, is quite superior to paint.

I have a number of tools that belonged to my father or my grandfathers--a machinist type and a wood-working type. If my daughters (no sons) wish to avoid the need for a vise, I'll have to pass these on to someone in the family likely to pass it on him- or herself.

digitaus (author)ToddC22014-09-15

I used an Australian brand named Wattyl, they put out a range of enamel
and epoxy enamels. I don't understand some of the terms being used here
(tractor paint) as they are U.S. unique I would imagine. But in saying
that I think you could over spend on the finish as a vice that is being
used as a vice will inherently have some damage done to it's finish...
it's a given. As Wroger-Woger says oil would be good and in some
environments would happen naturally. Powder coat is a great finish but
used more for a cosmetic finish and is not really hard wearing. Most
older tools I think had a baked enamel finish which is hard wearing but
still doesn't last forever...

docron75 (author)ToddC22014-09-14

the need for a vise -- thanks for using the correct spelling.

bricabracwizard (author)docron752014-09-14

The british spelling is vice.

jauncourt (author)ToddC22014-09-14

I would use tractor paint, but that's just a guess.

martinbolton (author)2014-09-15

Very interesting. I have two woodworkers vices which I would like to restore in the same way. I will send a link when I get around to it!

digitaus (author)martinbolton2014-09-15

They would need to be red, I've seen a couple of green ones and a newer brand here in Australia which are blue but older ones need to be red. But please do send me a link.

onemoroni1 (author)2014-09-14

Nice project to repurpose good old stuff. I like cleaning up old stuff to have another life.

ajmckay (author)2014-09-14

Another great initial surface prep idea is oven cleaner. A can costs only a few dollars (and there should be enough to get a few spots in your oven also).

Put everything in a plastic bag, spray it on heavy, and then close up the bag and let it sit for a day or so. If you can hold a scrap of wood in the vise to keep the bag off the metal that helps too. I found this removes rust, grease, and old paint quite well. Just remember to check the bag very carefully after your done for any small parts like jaw screws or pins.

Bosun Rick (author)2014-09-14

To all of you 'restorers' out there; I've learned that muratic acid in a 50/50 solution with water is a very effective rust removal tool. I've also recently read that CLR (Calcium/Lime/Rust) Cleaner in the same solution with warm water gives the same effect, with less toxicity (haven't tried that one yet). You want to watch your parts the first few times as either solution, as they can do damage if parts are left soaking very long. (Start with 2 minutes & work from there)

Also, ATF & Acetone 50/50 mix makes a pretty good penetrating oil. Hope this helps someone.

Switch and Lever (author)2014-09-11

Very very cool!

Thank you Switch and Lever It's good to know there are others who appreciate the old gear...

pcurrell (author)digitaus2014-09-14

I picked up a Dawn 150 for $80 recently.. in a bit better condition than yours.. have stripped it down but havent painted it yet.. great job and thanks for the instructable

BrianT1 (author)2014-09-12

It will help people find your ible if you change the word to its proper American form - "vise", not "vice".

AntMan232 (author)BrianT12014-09-12

Having it in "Proper American form" probably won't make that much difference, the world doesn't just revolve around America you know ;) . Some parts of the world speak correct English!

BeachsideHank (author)AntMan2322014-09-12

Rebuttal handled like a gentleman, well done.

I enjoy seeing machine and tool restorations, especially
when executed in a craftsman- like manner; one my own recent restoration

smoker54 (author)BeachsideHank2014-09-14

WOW! What a great, great job! That R.A.S. looks amazing. I am totally impressed. I wish I was half as patent as you to have done such a nice restoring job, a true labor of love in my opinion. Your Father-in-law would have been really proud to have seen that peice!!!

digitaus (author)BeachsideHank2014-09-13

That's a job well done Hank, beautiful old radial arm saw... I have a newer DeWALT 7740 that I bought new about 35 years ago... couldn't do without it.

Anyone else that's reading, the above link is well worth the look.

BrockGrimes (author)2014-09-14

Try Electrolytic Rust Removal. Also I'd recommend either farm implement paint, appliance epoxy, or engine block paint. Those are tough and won't be damaged by grease,oil,etc

bmiller91 (author)2014-09-14

Don't have any old vices. Constantly picking up new ones though ...

Olga (author)2014-09-14

Very interesting !!! I am French, so what is a TLC ? Your work has been thoroughly well done and having a colection will surely not wear them out !!

Thank you for the "lesson"...

b.steadman (author)Olga2014-09-14

TLC = Tender Loving Care

Nice write up. Thanks

The Arbiter (author)Olga2014-09-14

TLC is an abbreviation for "Tender Loving Care" :)

NitroRustlerDriver (author)2014-09-14

I'm currently restoring a small metal lathe and have used citric acid to remove rust from all the cast pieces. It works amazingly well, doesn't hurt paint, and gets into every nook and cranny. I learned about it from another instructable. You might give it a shot.

billbillt (author)2014-09-14

got my vote..

billbillt (author)2014-09-14

great!!... glad to see people re-use old tools... most old ones are much better than new ones...

jvisser2 (author)2014-09-14

Thank you very much for this! My father was a lifetime Master Technician mechanic and when he past away, he left me all his tools and vice etc. Although I am not a mechanic, I wanted to keep a bunch of things that really meant a lot to me as far as memories working with my dad and things I knew he used a lot everyday. When I look at his old shop vice compared to the ones I see sold these days there is just no comparison in quality and so although his is old and rusted a bit...I wanted to redo it and give it a new life so that maybe I would pass it down to my future son or whatever. Thank you for this walk through on how to do this refurbishing so the task is not so scary now for me! Going to pick up self etching primer and a can of paint and give it a go.

Again... thanks for taking the time to post this! Much appreciated!

buddysjr (author)2014-09-14

How a person cares for their tools is how they look at life and caring for what you have usually means you appreciate the quality of life you have. Sadly too many think of this as a disposable world, I am glad to see quality of tools, life is important to you, as it is to many of us. May you, and your tools live long and prosper.

taur561 (author)2014-09-14

very nice job . I love the older tools . They just never seem to break unlike the "made in China " we ger here in Africa.

3366carlos (author)2014-09-13

nise collection!

LynxSys (author)3366carlos2014-09-13

Ha! I see what you did there.

digitaus (author)3366carlos2014-09-13

Thanks, I actually have another two for repair, one has a curved beam which causes the jaws to be out of alignment and the other has a broken screw. Both doable, just finding the time.

seamster (author)2014-09-12

Nicely done!

I love that last shot. I've got the same situation, but with old sewing machines.

About This Instructable




Bio: I Work as a handyman, little bit of everything keeps life interesting. I have in the past been a technical rep for an aluminium extrusion ... More »
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