Vintage Vise Identification: Features & Price Guide (2023)

If you are a tool freak, you must have all those new tools worth $300. But what if I told you that the vintage ones cost 10x more? Cool, isn’t it? Well, the thing is that collectors love the crude finishes on old tools! And one tool that really attracts them is a vintage vise!

In layman’s terms, vises are like simple jaws to secure the object while welding. But back then, things were more intricate. Most vises had some extra features like screw backs and slides. So, those vintage features hike the cost like crazy! Let’s see how and by how much!

Key Takeaways

  • You’ll see some crude features, like screw backs, push-pull levers, toothed jaws, and void surfaces on an old vise.
  • There are four types of old vises – Bench, Woodworking, Leg, and Pipe. Of these, the pipe vises have circular holes for pipes and valves, while the rest have square holes for logs.
  • You can date a vintage vise with its patent numbers, brand names, and trademarks. So, don’t forget to check the numbers and marks on the sides and handles.
  • Try getting wood, cast iron, or ductile iron vises for an old, solid make.

How Do You Spot a Vintage Vise & Its Key Features?

Antique Vise with Screws and Push-pull levers

What do you think a vintage vise looks like? Of course, it won’t have sleek steel or aluminum slides and handles. But here, you can expect crude, beaten, or porous heavy-duty iron jaws. Also, you might see wood or leather jaw caps in some models!

But it’s not only about the material! Below are some more features that you can spot:

  • Regional and meshed patterns on the logos, base, spindles, and jaws
  • Hand-made marks like voids, lumps, and uneven thicknesses
  • Built-in anvils or work desks for hammering or shaping the metal
  • Hand-operated screw mechanism or push-pull levers
  • 4” – 8” toothed jaws with adjustable screws but limited movement
  • Aging signs – blunt edges, rust, and greenish patina

The History & Evolution of a Vintage Vise

Now, you might not know this, but the first vise is literally 3000 years old. Mind-boggling, right? And it was so crude, more like a stone paperweight holding the wood in place. So, of course, it was really heavy and often broke the wood! So, it was time for a revamp!

Things changed in the 1750s when local artisans added jaws and handles to the vise. But they still couldn’t move it properly. But, by the 1800s, they had sorted it all! Like, the vises now had sliding jaws and screw levers for easy use. But there was another problem!

You see, makers used liquid iron to make all these new parts. And this new material was not durable. In fact, it led to severe warping, bending, and rusting with time. So, makers moved towards cast – iron and alloyed steel during the Industrial Revolution.

The next few years saw the rise of many old vise brands. And surprisingly, each had unique designs like swivel bases, pipe jaws, and inserts. But these models don’t cost that much due to their thin, stainless steel walls and factory-made designs.

4 Types of Vintage Vises & Their Average Costs

Ready to identify your vintage vise? Let’s move to the first step and determine its type, key features, and base price:

1. Bench Vise

Old Bench Vise on a Table

Imagine a vise with long, attached anvils and squarish jaw inserts. Well, that’s what bench vises look like. And what makes them more precious are their steel jaw inserts and swivel bases. Typically, they cost $60 – 700, but branded ones might value even up to $2500.

2. Old Woodworking Vise

If your vintage vise has 5-6 inch long jaws and corner clamps, it’s a woodworking vise worth $30 – 800. Such vises are flexible, with a tilt base and screws for various angles. Plus, these also have metal or leather caps and picture-framing clamps for grip.

3. Leg Vise

Does your old vise have an extended leg with toothed or grooved threads? If yes, it might be a leg vise worth $60 – 500. You can further verify it by its heavy-duty jaws, tilt bases, and bolts.

4. Pipe Vise

Pipe vises are long cylindrical socket vises for holding pipes. These usually have a tripod mount, hard steel jaws, and extra chains and yokes for grip. Besides that, you’ll also see some oxidized or painted finishes and a price of $18 – 20 for one.

6 Factors to Identify & Appraise Your Vintage Vise

Now that you know your old vise’s type and base price, let’s move to the details. Here, we’ll study more about the dates and materials that make your vise precious.

1. Vintage Vise’s Date & Patent Numbers

A Vintage Vise from the Early 1800s

Well, one fool-proof way to know if your vise is vintage or not is to check its date and years! And to find this, simply rotate your vise and check the dates on its slides or jaws. If your vise is from the 1800s or 1900s, it’s vintage. But if it’s from the 2000s, it might be new!

But yes, you won’t get any dates on the old, handmade models. So, in that case, look for the patent numbers on their handles. And here are some for reference:

YearAgePatent NumberEstimated Valuation
1930s93 yearsUS 2,127,008 (Patent for Reed Manufacturing & Co)$400 – 800 (for branded Reed Vise.)
1907116 yearsUS898413A (Patent for Mechanical Vise)$40 – 120
1920s103 yearsUS1720464A (Patent for Screw-drive Vise)$100 – 300

Another way to date a model is to check its features. So, here’s a checklist for help:

Old Vises from the 1800s

You’ll spot these vises with their precise and tight grips, cast-iron jaws, and parallel sides. Also, you might see some handmade features like lead weights, swivel bases, and bolted joints. But these won’t have grip levers or clamps. So, you can price these from $50 – 500.

The 1900s Vises

The 1900s vises are precise but composite. On one hand, they have easy-to-operate manual anvils and acme screws. But, on the other hand, they have superior quick-release and toothed jaws. So, they have a better grip and usually cost $40 – 250.

The 1950s Vises

If your vise has sleek steel bodies, toothed jaws, and swivel bases, it’s a 1950s vise. These vises are custom-made and have round or squarish sockets for better grip. Besides, these models have hardened steel blades, caps, and plastic inserts that reduce costs to $4 – 200.

Avoid getting vises with stamped ‘EXP’ letters as those might be expired or non-functional models.

2. Vintage Vise Materials

Different Types of Vintage Vise Materials

Most of the earliest vises had oak, ash, hickory, or maple wood jaws. But with time, makers started using metals too! So, liquid, cast, and alloyed iron became common. But this isn’t all!

Today, we have many more vise materials like brass, bronze, and steel. So let’s see their top features, costs, and what brands use them:

Old Vise MaterialsTop FeaturesTop BrandsAverage Cost
Wood – Oak, Ash, Hickory, Maple & WalnutHeavy-duty jaws, Grooved finishes, and high-capacity driversRichard Wilcox, Wilton, Columbian$15 – 900
Cast Iron or Liquid IronBlackish, oxidized finishes, toothed jaws, and insertsWilton, Craftsman, Charles Parker$40 – 600
Alloyed or Ductile IronMedium-size drivers, thin inserts, and bolted jointsGlobe Vise & Truck, Fewells & Son$9 – 200
Brass, Bronze, CopperYellowish surfaces, Shiny Polish, low-friction screws, and iron nutsVilton, J.H Williams$30 – 450
Hardened or Alloyed SteelHeat-treated jaws and inserts, grayish finishes, and brushed finishesCraftsman, E. C Stearns$20 – 170
Stainless Steel, Aluminum, or ZincShiny finishes, sleek and thin sections, and welded handlesSimmons, Columbian$4 – 120

Look for old vises with wax, shellac, paint, or oil finishes for the best returns.

3. Antique Vise Colors

Different Types of Old Vise Colors and Finishes

Vintage vises use three colors: bare metal, oxidized, and painted. Of these, the bare metal ones are the most precious, costing up to $1000.

The oxidized white or black ones are new, costing $10 – 600. But the painted or galvanized red, blue, and green vises cost less, at $4 – 400.

4. Vintage Vise Brands

Vintage Vise Brands valuing up to $3000

If you love high-quality, polished vises, the branded ones might be perfect! And to check if a vise, just see if you get any logo or trademark on its slides or handles. If yes, check the initials and confirm them from our list below:

Antique Vise BrandsKey FeaturesEstimated Price (for pieces with NO Restoration)
WiltonHeavy-duty bench vises, swivel base, jaw inserts, and powder-coated finish$100 – 3000
Charles ParkerCast iron bodies, red walls, swivel base, and attached anvils$500 – 2500
ColumbianCast iron slides, red or blue painted walls, and replaceable jaw inserts$30 – 650
CraftsmanLiquid Iron Casings, Swivel bases, and Serrated or Pipe jaws$50 – 700
Reed Vise CompanyGrooved or Toothed Jaws, Replaceable Jaw inserts, and Attached, Rectangular Anvils$100 – 900

Try to get old vises with stamped ®, SM, and ™ marks for the best value.

5. Old Vise Weight

Get a weighing scale and check your vise’s weight with the slides. If it’s 100 – 120 pounds, your vise must be solid and antique. But if it’s less than 30 – 50 pounds, it’s a hollow, stainless steel one. And such vises don’t cost more than $300 – 400.

Check if your vise has 2 – 5 inch throats, 4 – 10 inch jaws, and slides for an old make.

6. Antique Vise Condition

Slight wear and tear or aging marks are okay! But, if your vise’s chipped or broken, it might not be that precious. Well, faded or defective vises lose up to 40% of their value. So, re-polish and lubricate your vises to save them from rust and breakage.

What Oils Do You Use on an Old Vise?

You can use any coconut, linseed, or olive oil to lubricate an old vise. Other than that, even dry or WD-40 lubes are a wise pick.

What Bolts to Use for an Old Vise?

Use regular 5/16 X 18 bolts to restore the slides of your old vise. But if the screw holes are rusty or deformed, it’s better to weld them.

How Do You Clean a Vintage Vise?

Soak your old vise in denatured alcohol and brush it thoroughly to remove the rust. Then, just rinse it with a non-abrasive cleaner or vinegar and water, and dry it before storage.

You might already love old tools and equipment. But trust me! Vises are the most expensive of all and might even cost up to $3000. That’s because they are old and difficult to get today! But, if you already own a vise, value it with our guide, and resell it to get rich!

What other antique tools would you like us to identify? Antique pliers? Antique wrenches? Antique screw-drivers? Well, just hit that subscribe button and join us now!

Judith Miller
Judith Miller

Judith is an antique expert with nearly 20 years of experience in the field of antique identification and valuation. She has reviewed over 30 thousand vintage items and has worked with numerous antique shops. She enjoys seeing new places, attending antique shows and events, and sharing her knowledge with people! Know more about me

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