New Life for a Columbian Woodworking Vise #2: Will it turn?

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by hhhopks posted 02-23-2012 04:22 AM 19518 reads 1 time favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Columbian Woodworking Vise Find Part 2 of New Life for a Columbian Woodworking Vise series Part 3: Disassembly, Rust Removal & Cleaning »

So far so good, there are no surprises. No cracks or breaks. As you recall from my previous blog post the vise will not turn. There is no sense of restoring the vise if you can get to move. So this blog is about getting the screw to turn.
I searched for woodworking Columbian vise information. There don’t seem to be much. What I have found so far are mostly pictures and mounting information, but not the details that I am after. Hopefully I am correct in my selection of words in describing the particular parts of the vise. Evidently, there isn’t as much focus on woodworking vises verses planes, chisels, and other hand tools. Any links or assistance will be appreciated.

As founded, vise in the fully opened position.

I got the vise positioned (upside down), as viewed from the underside of the workbench. The operation of the vise is pretty simple. Right? You turn the handle and the screw turns. In this vise there is a handle hub in the front. The front jaw moves in and out along with the screw. The back jaw and assembly part is supposed to be anchor to the bench so it is stationary.

You can clearly see that there is a hub cover of some sort toward the back. It has two big screws which I removed to see what’s in it. Maybe something in there is keeping the screw from moving. After removal of this cover, it is not apparent what keeps the screw from moving. Now, it is more obvious to me how this quick release works. There is a spring loaded shoe about 1/3 round x 3 inches long with threads to engage the screw. When the groove portion of the screw is at that position, there is no contact. The screw will slide right over shoe. The hub that was removed has no threads on the inside. Anyway, I attempted to turn the screw but it will not move.

Old mechanical part not moving; I dealt with this problem before. A former associate who is a tool & die machinist have suggested WD40 (penetrating oil/lubricant) is the best starting point. After spraying the screws along the mating area, I simply took a break.

After about 15 minutes, I returned and tried to move the screw. It won’t move! A little discouraged, I decided to use a dowel to give it a little more leverage. I was turning it by hand. I placed a dowel through the handle hub. Yes, I could feel the screw gives. I proceed to rock the handle back & forth a few more times. I stop and give it another good Wd40 spray. Let it sit for few more minutes. I resume the rocking motion. The screw travels more and more after each rocking cycle.

Will it slide? The groove of the screw has to face up (relative to the actual workbench mounting position). Keep in mind that I have never used a quick release vise before. Yes, I could feel it move. Surprisingly, I could move it quite easily. The vise will slide back & forth. I went back in turning the screw. Oops, is it stuck again? After few minute of messing with the screw, is when I learned, that a quick release vise only turns 315 deg. I did notice that the front face of the vise has stops to limit the handle travel. It never sank in until now. Anyway 315 deg turn it is. I proceed with turning the screw back & forth for each of the screw section to check movement. I spray WD40 as I go. When the front jaw is fully extended, the opening between jaws is 10-1/4 inches. There appears to be nothing wrong with this vise.  Well OK, it is missing a handle.

The vise in the fully closed position.

I do have concerns taking the vice apart. They are:

  1. The screw has a pin (cotta pin?) at the end to keep the end plate from coming off. OK, it’s no big deal. It has rust. It probably easier to just replace it.
  2. The front wise has a nut to hold each guide rod in place. So that should come out easily.
  3. This is the part which concerns me the most. The pin at the handle hub. This must be removed for the screw to come off the vise. Once this is removed, the pin will need to be replaced. I am unfamiliar with where to get a replacement pin. I believe you use a ball pein hammer to shape the new pin. Right? I could definitely use some expert advice on this. I just not much of a metal guy. If I remove this, I will have to replace it will a new one. Where can you find a replacement?

Now this vise is supposed to be a tool. Unlike a plane or chisel where we spent a lot time to admire it, the vise doesn’t have to have bunch of shiny surface and subject to close inspection. However, it is mechanical equipment that has moving parts. I can’t deform the components where it will affect the functionality.
There are already bunch of different methods mentioned here in LJ on rust removal. For the most part, they all work. Perhaps some methods are better than others. The method that I am familiar with is electrolysis. However, I am interested in the lease amount of work, cost effective and to leave the vise in an acceptable condition. .

I am debating how far I should go in cleaning this vise. Overall rust is not as bad as I thought. I don’t think there is any serious pitting. It actually looks pretty decent after the WD40 soaking. Maybe some more WD40 and gentle brushing with a wire brush and scotch brite will do a job. I’ll have to think it over. What would you recommend?

-- I'll be a woodworker when I grow up. HHHOPKS

9 comments so far

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1288 posts in 4949 days

#1 posted 02-23-2012 04:46 AM

Find someone who has a 5 gallon bucket of Evap-o-rust. Soak it over night and it will come out like new. should free up everything.

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View ksSlim's profile


1304 posts in 4102 days

#2 posted 02-23-2012 05:10 AM

Disassemble, remove rust from guide rods and threads of screw. Wipe down with your favorite “anti-rust” compound. Reassemble and mount to bench. Don’t forget to put new hardwood pads between the cast jaws.

-- Sawdust and shavings are therapeutic

View DIYaholic's profile


19921 posts in 3887 days

#3 posted 02-23-2012 06:04 AM

You mention; 3.This is the part which concerns me the most. The pin at the handle hub.

I can’t tell from the photos but here is a link to spring pins, roll pins& split pins.

I hope this helps. I have a few vises to rehab myself, I wish you luck!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View tsangell's profile


216 posts in 3905 days

#4 posted 02-23-2012 03:05 PM won’t let you down.

View hhhopks's profile


663 posts in 3589 days

#5 posted 02-23-2012 11:47 PM

Here the pin at the handle hub that I am talking about. It is at the middle of the photo. The pin goes through the Hub and come out the other end.

The pin must be removed to take the vise apart. You could grind if off but how do you replace it?

-- I'll be a woodworker when I grow up. HHHOPKS

View dhazelton's profile


2839 posts in 3509 days

#6 posted 08-18-2012 07:09 PM

Old thread I know, but I have a ??. I just picked one of these up and the hub where the handle is was cast with a large nub on it and there is a nub also cast on the jaw. Effectively I can only turn the handle 180 degrees before these meet. They are obviously original to the vise. How do I turn the handle continuously around?

View hhhopks's profile


663 posts in 3589 days

#7 posted 08-19-2012 02:27 PM

Is there a groove on the the threaded shaft?
It appears that you have a qucik release vise.
If you look at the 5th photo from top. The one with the WD40, you can see the groove.
If you go to blog series that followed, you will see better photos of it.
My vise can only turn about 270 deg. It is part of the design. When the screw is all the way counter clockwise, you are in the quickrelease position. I belive that sometime you may have to shim your work piece for the vise to hold properly (I have not installed my vise yet).

-- I'll be a woodworker when I grow up. HHHOPKS

View dhazelton's profile


2839 posts in 3509 days

#8 posted 08-19-2012 09:59 PM

Thanks. Mine does have the groove in the threads and when positioned correctly it works like it’s supposed to. But if you never knew that you will go batty trying to figure it out. It was a $20 estate sale find so I’m happy.

Oh, and the handle on mine and all the pics Google shows me is just a length of pipe with threaded caps on each end.

View BullHammer's profile


20 posts in 2288 days

#9 posted 08-06-2016 04:00 AM

Disassemble, remove rust from guide rods and threads of screw. Wipe down with your favorite “anti-rust” compound. Reassemble and mount to bench. Don t forget to put new hardwood pads between the cast jaws.

- ksSlim

-ksSlim…what “anti-rust” compound would you recommend? I just bought this same vise ($10) and it was completely rusted. I soaked it in vinegar and wiped it clean. Now i need to know what to do with the bare metal. I’ve read cold blue, boiled linseed, paste wax, paint or a combination of them. Any thoughts?


Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics