The Center of Your Shop

A good vise is expensive, but worth it.

Skip Walters

The center of your shop, The Center of Your Shop
The center of your shop, The Center of Your Shop

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The center of any gun shop is the vise mounted on an extremely sturdy and level workbench. A good vise is expensive, but worth it. My primary vise is a Colombian sheet metal vise with deep, removable jaw faces which open to about 8 inches. The jaw tops and sides mate exactly to one another and hold workpieces precisely. This is an inherent quality of sheet metal vises as they are used to firmly hold the metal for bending. The squareness of the mating jaws lends itself quite nicely to gunsmithing metal parts as well as gunstocks.

Most people don’t spend over $700 on a new vise of this quality, but a more economical vise can be reworked to increase its value to the gunsmith. It is best to search yard sales and flea markets for a used vise to refurbish.

When looking for a used vise, removable jaw faces are a necessity. Next, make sure the jaws tighten to the same position each time. A vise whose jaws tighten to a different spot each time is not worth the effort to rebuild. See if the moveable jaw wobbles as it is tightened from its fully extended position. If so, the main screw is bent. Look to see if someone has hammered on the vise jaws. If so, pass on the vise. An anvil is for hammering upon, a good vise is not. Don’t worry about rust. Rust can be removed. Basically, a vise is a strong parallel clamp. You are seeking a strong, bench mountable, parallel clamp to hold your work pieces firmly and precisely so you can work to at least three decimal places with hand tools and stones.

When you think about what you are trying to achieve, a good vise is the center of the gun shop. Think about it…. You can do this!