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Equipment is too expensive not to maintain properly.

1) What is the proper way to clean the grunge from a post (leg) vise or a machinist vise?

2) Then what is the proper lubrication and why is that particular lubrication (grease vs oil for instance) used?

3) How often should it be lubricated?

4) How often should it be torn down and fully cleaned?

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I've used Mineral Spirits (Paint Thinner) to clean the screw threads. It seems to break up the grungy stuff pretty well particularly when brushed into the thread corners. After it dries, I lube the threads with "Never Seize" and re-assemble.

I have to confess that I don't tear the things down often enough to come up with a schedule. I think the last time I re-lubed my demo vise was when somebody else who was using it complained that it was too stiff.

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Getting an old vise that's totally grunged up in the screwbox and screw I like to soak them in kerosene for a week or so and then brush them down to *clean*.

Of it has a lot of rust at the joint taking apart and cleaning the inside cheeks and lubing those helps too.

One place many people forget to lube is the base of the handle where it bears against the thrust washer or the face of the vise.

What you use and how often may depend on where you live and your use of it.

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I also will drop some oil at the bottom joint, seems to help. The 2 demo vises on SWABA's trailer have thrust bearings made to fit where the washer is between the handle and front jaw. This is absolutely the BEST set up I have ever seen. You can jump up and down on the handle to tighten up on a part and when done only takes a few pounds of effort to loosen it off. Amazing.

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Thomas, what kind of thrust bearings do you use? I had heard of this and got some from McMaster-Carr. It worked great - for a while. Then the bearings pretty much disintegrated. not being a machinist, I don't know what to look for.

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Marc, all wide front end farm tractors have a tough thrust bearing on the bottom of the front spindles, check out your auto supply for one from a small tractor, the uprights for the spindles are about the same size as a vise screw.

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Upon getting a new...um...used vise, I break it down and get rid of the excess gunk and grime (usually going no further than what a putty knife will scrape off as some of that old greasy coating is a great rust deterent). I'll scrub the screwbox and the screw with a brass brush and some solvent, brake/carb cleaner, diesel fuel or whatever else is handy. I wipe it down and let the cleaner evaporate completely. I used to use moly-ep on the screw when I reassembled, but lately I've been using white lithium grease in a spray can. Every time I spray the screw some of the old dirty grease runs off and is replaced by the newer fresh grease.

-Aaron @ the SCF

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I clean everything in the shop in either diesel, kerosene or citrus cleaner - I like kerosene the best but will use anything in a pinch. I use Lubriplate to lube most everything that is a low-speed bearing because I bought a gallon can at a garage sale and it's probably enough to last the rest of my life. I also save used motor oil and strain it through a filter element to remove the large particles then recycle the oil into shop tools.

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I use molybdenum disulphide grease (the stuff that smells bad, like suphur) for the screw and the spherical washers. Moly grease is good under extreme pressure.

The best thing you can do for your leg vise is build a heavy sheet metal guard for the screw. Most leg vises have the screw exposed right under the opening of the jaws- not a very good design.

An inverted U-shape piece that lays over the screw and extends into the hole in the front jaw. A small 1/4 x 3/16 inch tab in the front end of the guard rides in the screw thread and keeps it in place.

The guard keeps the grit from getting into the grease and into the threads of the screw. It also protects the screw from having something driven into the top of the screw by mistake like when you are upsetting a piece of steel that is nicely centered over the screw.

I used 14-gauge steel and bent it hot over a piece of pipe the same diameter as the screw. Make the sides that drop down long enough to keep the guard upright. Make a template out of a Cornflakes box and trim to fit. Check the size of the hole in the front jaw to make sure there is enough clearance throughout the travel of the jaw to accommodate the thickness of the guard.

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The first leg vise I purchased (and still use regularly) had the very end of the threaded box knocked off. About 90% of the thread was left but the last inch or so was gone. I welded a pipe cap on this open end after drilling and tapping the end for a grease fitting. I can now pump grease from the end and it pushes forward to lube the entire thread and push any dirt out the front of the box.

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Actually there was one brand that didn't have a end on the screwbox, some of the Columbians IIRC.

It's a great idea and I might steal it for drilling and tapping a zerk on my vises with solid end caps.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thanks for all the answers. I am somewhat surprised that no one mentioned graphite as a lube. It is a dry lube, and therefore not attract dirt and junk like oils and greases. Any comments on graphite as a lube?

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One thing you DON"T want to use for screw lube is graphite powder. This makes things like drawer guides and other metal to metal surfaces glide like snot on a door handle. It has the same affect on a screw. I made this mistake on a heavy 18" Wilton sliding C-clamp. I had to used a "cheater" bar to clamp what I was clamping. (Not because of the graphite. Because I really needed a bigger clamp;)) When I went to let go of the bar, it slip off the clamp and the screw unscrewed; Very quickly!! If I had not dropped the bar (1 1/4" x 24" Pipe) and it would have stayed on the handle, It would have swung around and hit me up side the head. It took another 20 minutes to clean the screw off with solvent.

Just a time saver and a safety tip for Y'all :)

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  • 1 month later...

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