Restoration of a Craftsman Vise Model 506-51800-3




Introduction: Restoration of a Craftsman Vise Model 506-51800-3

I've attached a reference diagram from the Sears parts website that I wish I would have had before I started. It's a little grainy, so I modified it so you can actually see the parts names and numbers. If you aren't sure you can do this sort of project, please know I had never even taken a vise apart before. All steps were very straightforward minus the removal and replacement of the collar, but it can be done without specialty tools.

Step 1: Disassembly

Before you begin, get an empty box handy for parts storage.

Start by loosening and removing the lock nut handle (#11 - aka the little handle on the side of the vise). This handle can be seen in the first picture.

Next, completely separate the front and back jaws by loosening the main vise screw/handle until the two jaws are disconnected.

Then, remove the four face screws holding on the two jaw face plates. I would suggest cleaning out the slots on the screws with wire brush and/or WD-40 or your preferred solvent, so that the screwdriver has good contact with the screws. Also, if the screws are really tight (they will be), use a screwdriver with a wrench assist as pictured.

Next, remove the center bolt that holds the swivel plate onto the back jaw. Holding the back jaw upside down, it is the big bolt in the middle of the swivel plate.

Now you can remove the vise nut. It is the thing that the center bolt was screwed into (inside back jaw). To remove the vise nut, push it toward the back opening of the back jaw. You might have to knock it loose with a wooden dowel.

Now the tricky step: removing the collar. The collar is the little metal ring that holds the screw handle onto the front jaw (you can see it at the top of the picture showing the screw handle resting in the front jaw housing). I finally got it off by prying the slot in the collar wider, so that it would allow the screw/handle to to slide out of the front jaw housing. I used a couple flathead screwdrivers to pry it off, but it took a lot of experimenting.

Your vise is now disassembled.

Step 2: Degrease and Remove Paint

Before you start this step, have some old rags handy. You will need them.

After using some spray solvent and wiping off all the old grease and dirt I could reach, I took a wire brush and went to work. I did the back jaw completely by hand, which I would not recommend unless you enjoy that sort of thing. I don't. So I switched to an angle grinder with a wire brush. Make sure and wear eye protection and I would also recommend a work apron and gloves. Let the grinder do the work. Don't push really hard, because you don't need to.

I touched up the small areas the hand grinder could not reach with a Dremel tool and small wire brush. Don't use a grinding stone bit. It will dig into the metal. Having access to another small vise is really helpful with the small pieces.

Clean down to the bare metal.

Step 3: Mask Surfaces and Paint

Before painting, thoroughly wipe off the parts with acetone or rubbing alcohol. Wear protective gloves.

Using painters tape, mask off the areas where the jaw faces mount, the little flat anvil section on the back jaw, and the thread on the center and locknut bolts. I used foam hearing protection plugs to protect the threads inside the vice nut and areas where the center bolt passes through.

After researching which colors best matched "Craftsman Red", I picked Rust-Oleum Regal Red (one 12 oz. spray paint can was enough). Follow the directions on the can, but when in doubt, multiple light coats is best.

When the paint is completely dry. Remove the tape.

I left the screw/handle and lock nut handle unpainted.

Step 4: Lubricate Key Components and Reassemble

After researching the best thing to use for a lubricant, I decided to use Frog Lube Paste. Most people will probably prefer white lithium grease, which, of course, is fine. I lightly coated any vise surface that rubs against any other vise surface. The screw handle threads, top of the swivel base, and front jaw sleeve (the part that inserts into the back jaw) got a a slightly heavier coating.

Assembly is essentially disassembly in reverse, with one exception: the collar. Putting it back on and securing it was even more fun than taking it off. Tightening the collar on the screw shaft takes some experimentation. I ended up moving it into place and used a plastic wedge between the inside of the sleeve and the collar to hold it in place. Using a flat blade screwdriver, I pried/pushed it around the screw shaft until it couldn't slide off its slotted indentation. Easier said than done, but it is possible.

Once the vise is assembled, work all moving parts to ensure proper function. Wipe off any excess lubricant.

Step 5: Secure on Workbench

I secured the vise to our workbench using three 7/16" bolts that were 3 1/2" long, using washers at all contact points. Before you drill any holes, make sure that the vise swivels as desired without running into problems.

Completely unnecessary step: I elevated the vise just a bit by mounting it on an old scrap piece of walnut that I cut and routered to match the swivel base. It allowed me to use an old weird-shaped piece of wood that wasn't doing anything else, plus I like how it looks.

Enjoy your new vise.



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    42 Discussions

    First off, excellent work! I have this exact vise. I was planning on restoring mine (inherited from my late father-in-law) and that's exactly how I envisioned it to look.

    Here's the problem, the other day I got the word "vise" confused with "press." A very dumb idea that I'm still kicking myself for. I bent the screw on it. I can still use it, but once you get the jaws within about 2" of being closed, the screw starts to bind. After greasing it, I can now close them with a little extra effort, but, I don't want to damage it any further.

    I've checked Sears parts direct, but they don't supply parts for these models anymore. I found a similar model number on but it references a 6.5" vise.

    Any idea if screw and handle assemblies from other vises will fit this?

    4 replies

    Justin - thanks for the nice comment. After I put the vise back together, I found the following webpage that might be of help to you:

    It states that the screw handle is in stock, and that "This Bench Vise Screw and Handle part #87005-21 is guaranteed to fit your CRAFTSMAN BENCH VISE #5065188"

    Good luck!

    Thanks a million! You have no idea how much that means to me. I thought I destroyed a good vise and a sentimental antique!

    Thank you again!

    Just ordered my new screw and handle. I'm so excited to finally restore this useful piece!

    Excellent Justin! Glad you were able to find the part. I'm sure your restoration will be exceptionally well done. Please let me know if I can help.


    2 years ago

    I have found that it helps when you mount a vise to have the back jaw over the surface you mount it on. That way you can put long pieces down below the surface the vise is mounted on too. It is only an issue some times. I had to remount the vise in this article though to allow me to hold longer items in it

    Here's a really novel vise mount

    Like you, I cleaned up, and painted that vise. It was in pretty tough shape when I got it

    2 replies

    Really like your tripod mount. Very solid!

    Thanks. I use the tripod vise a lot. I made it the perfect height to hold items I use an angle grinder on. My bench mounted vise is too tall to hold anything to grind. Unless I stand on a step stool. But grinding on top of a step stool is awkward.


    2 years ago

    Good job! Excellent photos and text. Thanks!

    1 reply

    Very nice of you to say. Thank you.


    2 years ago

    Nice work. I'd put that on my bench for sure. You may also be able to heat and bend your screw handle if it can be removed, I'd use a bolt temporarily as a handle, to tighten it into my newly restored vise and straighten her out :)

    1 reply

    Thanks for the great suggestion! The handle doesn't come out, but I like your idea on straightening it out. The vise was my wife's father's vise, so she has a lot of sentimental attachment to the character it earned in his workplace. We discussed trying to bend it back in shape, but all its nicks and bends remind her of him. Now that it looks better, works great and still has a little of him left in it, she is happy and we finally have a vise!

    Your finished vise looks great but you did way too much work. Might I suggest after disassembling sand blast all of the parts. You can pay a small fee at any machine shop to either have them or you use their sand blasting machine. Then after blowing all of the parts clean with compressed air use a powder coat paint. This will bond the paint on much stronger. When anything gets spilled on it the paint should stay.

    But I'm not taking away all of the hard work you put in. It looks great!

    1 reply

    Great suggestion. I considered sand blasting after a couple hours with a wire brush in my hand. It definitely would get in all the hard to reach places far better and faster. Powder coating would be really nice. I have no good reason, but this vise restoration turned into an experiment/challenge to see if I could do everything by hand using only stuff I have in my limited tool set. It was fun, but next time I'm sand blasting for sure!