As much as I love my Rockwell Jawhorse, there are many times when I prefer the precision and rigidity of a bench vise. At last year’s STAFDA trade show I was initially lured into the Wilton booth with their unbreakable BASH (Bad Ass Sledge Hammers). After learning about these brutish sledges, my attention was drawn like a tractor-beam to a brawny line of sleek vises. I’m not one to lust after the rear end of vise, that would be totally creepy, but there I was, transfixed to the rear end of the Wilton vise lineup. Not only did they sport a unique design, but they are made a country you’d never expect for beefy metal tools. Wilton graciously sent us a Trademan 1745 vise to review, and I’ve had some time to put it through its paces. Since I already used up all my Vanilla Ice “Vise Vise Baby” humor on my State of the Vise Grip post, I’ll stick (mostly) to the facts and dive right into how the Wilton vise fared.
Out With The Old Bench Vise, In With the New
Farewell humble Colombian Vise # 63 ½. This trusty little vise has been bolted to my workbench for close to eight years now. It came with the house, which I was pretty ecstatic about at the time. In California, anytime you get anything “free” with a used home purchase (other than termites, earthquake damage or scenic wildfire views), it’s cause for enthusiastic celebration. The old Colombian was drafted into service for everything from light-duty metal fabrication to woodworking. It served me well, but was a little bent, loose and not quite as grippy as it used to be (several decades ago). The new Wilton stepped in with an impressive 4-1/2″ Jaw Width, 4″ Jaw Opening, and 3-1/4″ Throat Depth. You can see the Tradesman also dwarfed my old vise; a tiny vise this is not.
Installation on the Wilton 1745 is about as simple as it gets assuming you have a suitable workbench to bolt it too. You’ll need four hefty lag bolts or four hefty bolts and nuts depending on your work surface. If you’re not using lag bolts, I’d recommend some Loc-Tite or Nyloc nuts to resist vibration and keep things secure long-term. You’ll also need at least four washers (four for the top, possibly four for the bottom of your bench).
A Bench Vise Born in the USA
Replaceable Jaw InsertsRemember that Jaws villain from the Bond movies? Well, the Wilton 1745’s replaceable jaw inserts (seen above) made his toothy grin look like dainty headgear hardware on a 12 year old girl. At the top of the vise, two serrated (and reversible) jaw inserts dominate. If you reverse the jaws via the two allen bolts on each side, you’ll find a smooth surface on the back side. Below the main inserts, two wicked curved and griptastic pipe jaws are ready to bite down on just about any round stock you dare feed this beast. Wilton thoughtfully included a smaller curved recess for smaller diameter pipes or solid rod. Above the smaller grip area, larger curved recesses are ready to clamp down. Between the two jaw sizes, official spec’s are ½” – 2 ½” of pipe chomping capacity. All teeth in the universe eventually become a little less sharp, even Jaws’, so we like the fact that you can swap out all four jaw inserts should these become worn.
Baby Got Back
Unlike most vises that have a fixed center nut the Tradesman round channel vise nut is anchored at the rear. This rear anchored nut provides straight line pull and even pressure resulting in greater durability. The round channel design also allows for a completely enclosed spindle and nut assembly. This enclosure keeps debris out and lubrication in for a lifetime of smooth operation.
Wilton spec’s out the Tradesman 1745′s with 60,000 PSI, straight line pull, precision steel slide bars and what every mixed martial artists dreams of: unbreakable nuts. What does all that translate to, and how does the Tradesman 1745 compare to a conventional vise like my vintage Colombian? For one thing; serious gripping power. On my old vice, I’d practically have to jump on the tensioning bar to lock down a piece of metal securely. Most projects would find me retightening tension repeatedly. By contrast, the beefy bar on the Tradesman applies such firm, even pressure I was more worried about crushing whatever it was I was clamping. A little turning of the lever goes a long way. If you’re working with soft material, definitely avoid the rookie mistake of over-tightening.
As you can see in the shower of sparks below, my first test run for the Tradesman Vise was doing a little metal fabrication. I had four pieces of L-shaped hardware that I needed to cut and shape with a grinder. Amazingly, once I clamped each piece in place, I did not have to re-tighten the vise once. Other vises I have used always seem to have a bit of slack/play that ultimately makes for a loosey-goosey grip on work pieces. The Trademan 1745 had no discernable wiggle and powered down with unwaveringly smooth and even grip.
What Comes Around Go Around