Introduction: Heavy Duty Vise Tripod

About: Hi, I'm Sam and I like to make things - check out some of my projects below. I worked for this site from 2014 - 2023 and have nothing but love for the Instructables community. Keep making great stuff!

I appreciate a good vise.

And I like being able to drag a vise around my shop to use it wherever I may need it.

A few years ago I put my old reliable English-made Record vise on a height-adjustable portable stand, and it's been so nice that I'll never go back to a table-mounted vise setup.

I recently got another vise -- a heavier forged-style vise with larger jaws. So naturally I needed to make a new tripod.

This instructable covers how I made this stout little tripod for my new vise.

Thanks for checking this out!

Step 1: Gather Materials

I'm a scrap materials hoarder. Any metal I can get for free or cheap I'll snatch up and hold onto.

For this project I consulted my scrap storage rack and pulled out the following items:

A piece of metal pipe with 1/4" thick wall, some 3/8" thick old metal plate, and some solid metal bars.

One of these bars was an old San Angelo digging bar which was a great find for a few dollars at a ReStore where I live. This heavy forged bar had "vise tripod legs" written all over it . . figuratively.

There are any number of ways and materials you could use to build a vise tripod or stand, and you obviously won't have the exact same materials to work with that I did. But hopefully there are plenty of ideas and tips you can take away from this for one of your future projects.

Step 2: Start Cutting

I started by cutting up the bars into manageable pieces using an angle grinder and cutoff disc.

A piece of the 3/8" thick plate was cut using a small portable bandsaw (this) to fit the base of the vise.

Step 3: Layout Leg Pieces

I drew out what looked like a reasonable leg design on my table and used this to lay out cut lines for the metal bars.

There was no actual dimensional measuring involved at this point. This is all just eyeballing what makes sense.

The pipe piece is about 22" inches long and my vise is about 8 1/2" tall. The positioning of the legs to the pipe later will help determine the overall height.

To determine the desired goal-height for the vise I held an angle grinder at what felt like a comfortable position and height grinding or cutting something, and then took that measurement (for me, just over 32 inches from the ground).

Step 4: Cut Leg Pieces

I made some of these cuts with a band saw and some with an angle iron and cut off disc.

Both methods worked fine but were time consuming especially for the forged, hardened San Angelo bar. That thing was heavy and HARD.

Step 5: Close Is Good Enough!

This is the secret to this whole project. It doesn't need to be perfect. Slight differences in angles, little gaps here and there aren't going to matter.

Just get it reasonably close - it's not a rocket ship (even though it kind of looks like one), or even a bicycle.

Step 6: Weld Legs

Each set of leg pieces were welded together. I'm using a wire-feed mig machine with argon/co2 shielding gas.

Step 7: Mark Pipe for Legs

If you've ever made a model rocket this part should look familiar.

A piece of paper was wrapped around the pipe to mark and measure the circumference and then divided by three.

For ease in explaining we'll say the circumference was 300mm. Marks and lines were placed on the paper at the 0mm/300mm location, and at 100mm and 200mm location.

The paper is wrapped back around the pipe and corresponding marks were made onto the pipe itself at the top and bottom of the paper. The paper is removed and a line is drawn down the pipe between each pair of marks.

This creates three equidistant guidelines to help place the legs on the pipe.

Step 8: Prep Metal for Welding

I used a cordless right angle die grinder with a sanding disc to remove rust and take the weld areas down to bare metal. I highly recommend this tool! Milwaukee is the only brand that makes a non-air-driven battery die grinder like this currently, as far as I know. It's a wonderful tool.

Be sure to wear your PPE.

Step 9: Weld on the Legs

This is where the placement of the legs against the pipe matter. I opted to put the legs about 3 inches up from the bottom of the pipe.

This gives me a couple of inches at the top to add a beefy mounting plate section and will get me close to my desired end height.

The legs were first tacked in place then full beads were welded around each joint.

Step 10: Mounting Plate

My vise has a swiveling base which I was initially tempted to just omit completely because I never plan to use it.

However that would mean I'd have to store it somewhere because someday I may want it, or if I ever decide to sell this vise I would certainly want to include it. So for that reason I figured I'd just leave it in place.

The top plate was cut to fit the base of the vise and bolt holes were marked and drilled.

Step 11: Additional Sub Plate

I wanted an extra-solid mounting place for the vise so I added two additional plates under the main top plate. The first of these was cut, prepped and welded to the pipe.

Step 12: And Another

A second plate was prepared and welded to the first. This is really just some extra weight and also a little extra height.

It's also more practice laying down beads. I'm just a doofus learning as I go, so the more practice the better.

Step 13: Add Final Top Plate

The top actual vise mounting plate was welded in place now and weld beads were run along all joints between the various plates.

Step 14: Add Feet/sliders

I bought three good-sized thick washers to use as feet/sliders for the tripod. I soaked these in vinegar overnight to remove the zinc coating to make them safe to weld. I also quickly ground away the dull gray finish so there was bright shiny metal to weld.

Washers have a side with sharper edges and a side with rounded edges, presumably due to the way they're punched out when they're made.

I put the faces with rounded edge downward so they'll slide around my garage floor easier.

These were welded in place at the bottom of each leg.

Step 15: Paint (and Reluctantly Grind) and Paint Again

Before painting I used my right angle die grinder to quickly remove any weld spatter all around the tripod.

I had a can of yellow spray paint on hand so this is what color I went with. Also blue and yellow just look good together.

I really REALLY don't like grinding welds . . .

For one: I figure if I don't like the way they look I should get better - so ugly welds on finished projects act as encouragement to keep practicing and stop making ugly, bad welds.

And two: it's time-consuming and messy, and once you start going down that road, you're chasing perfect instead of just accepting when your work is good enough.

BUT that said . . . a few of these welds were just gross looking once there was this yellow paint on them, highlighting their bubble-gum-looking globbiness.

So I relented and used a die grinder with carbide bit to knock them down a little.

And then I repainted those areas.

Step 16: Lock the Swivel Base

I'm not a fan of these little hand tightening swivel lock-downs, and since I don't plan to ever use the swiveling aspect of this vise, I put replaced these with actual bolts with some thread locker to semi permanently clamp down the swivel base.

The original hand-tighten bolts were tucked under the base for storage, just in case someday I want them.

Step 17: Mount the Vise

The vise was bolted to the tripod base and admired for a moment.

The vise weighs 50lbs and the tripod weighs 60lbs. I was initially planning to fill the pipe with concrete for added weight but once it was all done I felt the weight was more than sufficient as it was.

Now I get to use it to make something else. Onward!