From time to time I’ll put an ad up on Craigslist titled something like “WTB U.S. made vises” or similar, and it’s worked out pretty well. I get a lot of notes and calls about vises I’m not interested in, but I try to be polite when I let them know that, and usually offer advice about how to list it/price it if they’re interested. On the other hand, I’ve gotten a number of great vises out of the ad, and this is one of them.
The gentleman who called was very friendly and said this vise had been in his garage for years, and it was in his father’s garage for years before that. He really didn’t know anything about it, and didn’t have any attachment to it, so we picked a time for me to visit and take a look. He lived in a beautiful development in Plymouth, Michigan, which is a nice town to start with. He had a beautiful house on a nice lot, and had a shiny convertible Mustang GT in the garage along with two other nice cars in the driveway. Clearly, this wasn’t the normal sort of neighborhood where I find vises! In person the vise was just as rusty as in the pictures, and almost all of the paint was flaking off, but otherwise it was in shockingly good condition. We agreed on a price with the condition that I promised to make it pretty again, and send him a picture when it was done.
Before I go further about this vise, I should probably cover one thing in case anybody reading this is considering buying a used Parker. With Parkers, it’s all about the jaws. Jaws for many brands long out of production are still available from a number of sources, and you could even get them made at a machine shop if you really were in a bind, but Parkers are different. Parker jaws were made out of fairly soft steel, and required hand-fitting to each vise on an individual basis. Since they were made out of soft steel, they wore out pretty quickly, so a lot of Parkers have jaws worn smooth which isn’t usually very useful for real work. There is only one good solution, and it’s generally cost-prohibitive. You can send the vise to Kevin at wiltonviseparts.net and he can fabricate a set for you that will fit perfectly, and last a lifetime, but it’s going to cost a lot in shipping (could easily be $200 or more) and then you still have to pay for the jaws. In short, don’t buy a Parker with worn out, damaged, or missing jaws unless you really know what you’re getting into.
Let’s get back to this old 975. I totally disassembled the entire vise and used a product called Evapo-Rust to soak the parts. Evapo-Rust is pretty amazing stuff! You soak the part in it, and when it comes out, it’s absolutely rust free. You have to vary the length of time with the amount of corrosion, but usually overnight is long enough. I fill up a 5-gallon bucket, and dunk several parts at a time. The nice thing is that Evapo-Rust is non-toxic and biodegradable so you can get it on your skin, it doesn’t smell terrible, and if some goes down the drain when you’re rinsing parts, it doesn’t hurt anything.
As I got the parts out of the Evapo-Rust I would touch up any areas where there was some paint left (Evapo-Rust doesn’t really work on paint) then painted them with self-etching primer so they wouldn’t start rusting before I got it all ready for paint. While I was doing all of that, I got all the bright metal parts wire-wheeled and then polished on a buffing wheel. I spent a lot of time working on the jaws with varying grades of flap wheels and a grinder followed by a de-burring wheel to them them nice and shiny. The jaws aren’t mirrors, but it wouldn’t take much more work to get them there.
After a lot of time and effort I had the whole thing painted and reassembled. I chose a hammered bright red color and did the lettering/numbers in an ivory color because I thought it had more of a vintage look than a bright white would. What you can’t really tell from the pictures is just how big and heavy this vise is. The jaws are 5″ wide and it weighs in right at 104 pounds according to the scale.
This sure was a rust bucket when I got it, and I spent a lot of time getting it cleaned up, but I think the results are absolutely stunning! The nice thing is I sent a picture of the completed project to the former owner and he was very happy with how it turned out.