Vintage Bench Vise Restoration




About: I'm a carpenter here in Australia. Outside of work all I do is draw or make stuff in my little shed. Creativity is the key, get out there and make something :)

Several years ago I inherited 2 old bench vises from my grandfather. These vises had been stored in an ice box up until now in an effort to prevent any further deterioration. The one I'll restore here is a Dawn 4" bench vise that was fully seized.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Dismantling of the Vise

With the vise being totally seized, the split pin holding the spring had to be cut thus releasing tension on the drive screw. The cause of the seize was simply a build up of grease and grime on the screw and in the screw housing which had hardened over time.

I initially tried WD40 to remedy the seize which made it give a little but not enough to get the screw turning. I ultimately soaked the entire vise in a bucket of degreaser for 24 hours, after which simply lifting the vise out of the bucket by its handle actually turned the screw.

With the pin removed and the screw now turning I reversed the screw completely out of its housing and soaked this in degreaser for another 24 hours. Each component got the same treatment, the vise body, the screw housing, the moving jaw and the jaw inserts.

Step 2: Sanding and Test Reassembly

After degreasing everything the clean up started in earnest. Each part was knocked back with a wire brush in a 5" grinder. All the little nooks and crannies were sanded back by hand and luckily there were no major areas of fill in the vise casting itself.

Step 3: Repainting and Finishing

All parts looking great, time for new paint job.

I used 'Rustoleum 2x' to repaint for 2 reasons

1.) It inhibits rust

2.) It requires no primer.

The fact that it requires no primer appealed to me as thick paint jobs tend to chip easily and being a bench vise this was going to be prone to being banged around.

After 2 thin coats I think it came up nicely.

Thanks for reading


Tools Contest

Participated in the
Tools Contest



    • Indoor Lighting Contest

      Indoor Lighting Contest
    • Metal Contest

      Metal Contest
    • Make It Fly Challenge

      Make It Fly Challenge

    12 Discussions


    3 years ago

    you realize you put the spring on the incorrect side of the dynamic slide, right? lead screw is now out further so you have less travel, and more leverage on it in a terrible way.


    3 years ago

    I also restore Dawn Vices, they're the best Australian made vice in my opinion. You can notice they don't have an anvil on then as they're not meant to be hammered on. I like how you taped off the ways prior to painting as many don't and they get a sticky vice.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Did it come with 'soft jaws'? I was going to restore mine, but it functions and has a much harder to remove finish on it. The jaws holes were stripped from a previous owner. I wanted to make aluminum & plastic 3D printed Jaws, but ended up just welding the grip plates to the vice. Eventually, I wanted to do a tutorial on making soft jaws, but my 'to do' list grows daily....

    1 reply
    Big Red aka Gavbmalek

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    No I don't have soft jaws bmalek. I have 6 old vises but none have soft jaws, I'm a woodworker primarily and have made a few sets of timber jaws(in different hardnesses) which mount over the top of the existing jaws. I did have to re-tap the holes in mine to clean them up, the screws are still original but they were really stuck in the holes and took alot of soaking and friendly persuasion to remove them without damaging them. I believe we have the same to do list, ha ha ha


    4 years ago on Introduction

    This looks amazing! I love the look of the finished vise. This is a great first instructable. If I was you, I would make the finished product the cover image. It'll bring a lot more people to click on your instructable. It might even get featured.

    2 replies

    Thankyou tomatoskins, I have taken your advice and made the finished product the cover image(albeit after 15 minutes of trying to work out how to do so :) ) I've always done these things, it's only the influence of my kids which led me to here. They wanted me to show people some of the things I do in my spare time.

    Well I'm glad that you're here! And it looks like it got featured as well. Such a wonderful project I can't wait to see more!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Very nicely done! I restored an old vise a few years ago, and it's the pride of my shop. You just can't go wrong with putting a little love into solid old tools!

    2 replies

    Thankyou seamster, I agree whole heartedly. I'm pretty new to this web side of things but I'll certainly share more projects in the future.

    I hope you do! This is a great place to share what you do, get inspired, and inspire others. I think people will love to see more of your projects on here!

    Thanks BeachsideHank, I just love vintage tools. I do have a fair 'beginners' collection. Everything I restore, is restored to be used.