I Can Finally Call It A “BENCH”!

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So, does anyone notice anything……different in this picture?  It’s subtle, I know. That is, if the word subtle can be used in a sentence under a picture of this epically overbuilt workbench.

Today, the Fed Ex driver delivered a 45 pound box to my very doorstep. “Oh my”, I exclaimed. “Whatever in the world could THIS be”?

Much to my delight, enclosed in the battered and broken box, was a vintage Craftsman/Columbian 10 inch, quick release vise.

OH JOY OF JOYS!

OH DREAM OF DREAMS!

As many of you already know, one of the bits of minutia that I have been fretting over was what vise(s) to put on this workbench of mine, to finish it off and make it truly usable.
I had been considering the classic, “old school” front and end vises that you would normally see on a Scandinavian/Continental bench, but I had mounted these on my first bench and found them to be “rack-master-5000’s”. That is to say, they would rack and bind in their mountings and cause much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Then the focus turned to the Record line of all steel vises made in Sheffield, England. These are wonderful, pass on to your great, great grandchildren vises. Since anything that resembles the old Record company and/or their fine metalwork has been long gone for nearly ten years now, it is pretty much EBAY or dumb luck as far as getting your hands on one of these. Even if a suitable example can be found, the cost would lead one to think that they are forged from solid gold ingots….wholly unsatisfactory.

There are high quality clones from out friends in the far east as well as from the former Czech Republic. Reasonably priced, and more than adequate for the job.

Then I finally caved in and, in a state of desperation, began scouring Ebay for something old, something heavy, something made from steel that was mined from these here United States.

While going through my normal “find something promising, google it, learn all I can about it” fits, I found a brand that seemed to be in fairly good supply. Columbian Vise Co.

Columbian vises are regarded as the American version of the Record vises. They are hugely overbuilt, made from very high quality MURRICAN (American) steel, and have been around since the late 30’s to about the late 70’s. Examples of their 10 inch vise were selling quickly on “The Bay” The game changing reason I became interested in this option, was the fact that these vises were manufactured in my home town of Cleveland, Ohio.

As I did my due diligence dance, I discovered that Columbian also rebranded their flagship vise for Sears Roebuck. Virtually identical to Columbian’s top of the line woodworking vise in every way….except for peoples interest in one on Ebay. Surely there had to be some reason these were not being snapped up by vintage tool enthusiasts…right? There had to be some sort of catastrophic defect in them to drive people away from buying them.

Researching further, I asked this question on several woodworking forums. It is in the pages of these forums that I normally can find answers and confirmation of those answers, just by using the search function. This time though, I needed to be specific, so I posted my question and got next to no responses. Except for one guy who used to work for Sears. He told me that, yes these were indeed nearly identical to the Columbian flagship vise, and that the only differences were in the casting of the Craftsman brand name in the face, and a little extra metal added to the chop faces. Otherwise, exactly the same.

I confirmed this with another fellow on a separate forum who has one of each. No real difference in the vises. All parts are totally interchangeable.

After finding this out, I was bent on obtaining either a Columbian or Craftsman 10 inch, quick release vise, and I was not going to pay anything remotely close to retail for it….

In just a few short hours, and one or two aborted attempts to negotiate the securement of several sub-par vises, I stumbled on a vintage (c.1964) Craftsman/Columbian. The seller stated they really didnt know much about it other than it had been in storage a very long time. I circumvented the normal bidding process and contacted the seller directly with an embarrassingly low offer…..i’m talking really, really low.

The response left me dumbfounded. The said that my offer would be fine since they had had the thing listed for some time with no bites. They needed the boat anchor gone.

So this is all well and good since the condition appeared in the pictures to be better than any of the other examples I had seen.

Here is where it gets interesting……

When I opened the box this morning, there was inside, ….. another box! THE original box. Not only that, but upon inspection of the vise, I discovered that the darned thing had NEVER BEEN MOUNTED. It was brand new, in the box, with the original paperwork.

Hows that for thrifty?

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There she is folks….a BRAND NEW COLUMBIAN/CRAFTSMAN 10 inch, quick release woodworkers bench vise, mounted in it’s new habitat, ready to finally be used as intended.

EDIT:
Below is a picture I added for reference. It is a picture of the Columbian version of my new vise but in RESTORED CONDITION.

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Anyhow, now I can finally say I built a functioning WORKBENCH!

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10 thoughts on “I Can Finally Call It A “BENCH”!

  1. Randall

    Congrats. I passed on a very old Colombian with a quick release like a record that I really wish I bought. The price seemed steep $300cdn but I should’ve just pulled the trigger as I think it would’ve lasted a lifetime

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    1. madcapwoodwright Post author

      The thing is a monster. Something like 45 lbs(?) The only part that ever goes south on them….like every 60 years or so, is the bronze main nut. Designed to be the only failing part on purpose. Crazy nice vise. I would stack it up against the old Records.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. Christine McBride

    Though what I know about woodworking is what I’ve learned from you and that’s all, I can easily, easily relate to the joy of a find – and an affordable one at that! Congratulations!

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  3. Vince Gregoric

    Hi John! I’m glad you got the vise of your dreams! After reading about your vise adventure I went down our basement to check out the vise on the bench from I inherited from my dad. It’s not a Craftsman or a Columbian, but it says “Richards -Wilcox” made in Aurora, Illinois. It’s not the Holy Grail of vises, but it does the job! Congratulations on your new vise!

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  4. Vince

    I will treat it with undying respect from now on! Your appreciation for craftsmanship reminds me of the way my Uncle Vince would go on and on talking about anything from the beauty of my VW engine to a Swing Away can opener! Thanks John!

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  5. B. E. Jones

    Thanks so much for posting this story. It helped me navigate the tricky world of vise acquisition as I have just completed my first workbench. I tried to score a few Record vises on ebay but always got outbid. Well, last week, there it was: a brand new, unused Craftsman 10 inch quick release monster — for $125. I patiently waited and bid on the last day. No other bidders….score! Now I am impatiently waiting for it to arrive so i can mount it to the bench and begin woodworking in a serious way. Without your post I would have never known the value of the old Craftsman. BTW, I believe mine is 70’s vintage

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    Reply
    1. madcapwoodwright Post author

      WONDERFUL!!!!
      I’m glad something I wrote had some value. I am a HUGE proponent of using “vintage” equipment wherever possible. The quality of tooling from bygone era seems to be much, much better than the disposable equipment found on today’s market.
      Enjoy your new find. It’s sure to last for many, many years, especially if it was cast in the Columbian foundry in Cleveland Ohio. Good find, good find.

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      Reply

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