Hydraulic Bench Vise A Masterpiece Of Scrap Metal And Angle Grinding

For most of us, a vise is the sort of thing you clamp onto the edge of a workbench and crank down by hand. It might even be made of plastic, depending on the kind of work you find yourself doing with it. But it’s safe to say that [WorkshopFromScratch] won’t be soldering any PCBs in the jaws of this nearly 100 lb hydraulic vise that he built from, well… scratch.

In the video after the break, he takes an array of scrap metal including what appears to be a chunk of racking from the Home Depot and a rusted plate that looks like it could be peeled off the hull of a sunken ship, and turns it into a monsterous vise with five tons of clamping force. Outside of a handful of bolts, a couple of gas struts, and the hydraulic bottle jack that that provides the muscle, everything is hand-cut and welded together. No fancy machining here; if you’ve got an angle grinder, a welder, and of course the aforementioned stock of scrap metal, you’ve got the makings of your own mega vise.

The piece of racking is cut down the center to form the base of the vise, but most everything else is formed from individual shapes cut out of the plate and welded together. Considering the piecemeal construction methods, the final result looks very professional. The trick is to grind all the surfaces, including the welds, down until everything looks consistent. Then follow that with a coat of primer and then your finish color.

While the whole build is very impressive, our favorite part has to be the hand-cut cross hatching on the jaws. With the workpiece in one hand and angle grinder in the other, he cuts the pattern out with an accuracy that almost looks mechanical. If we didn’t know better, we might think [WorkshopFromScratch] was some kind of metalworking android from the future.

Being able to work with metal is a fantastic skill to have, and we’re always impressed to see what folks can produce with a welder and some scrapyard finds. Especially when they build tools and equipment that can be put to practical use.

38 thoughts on “Hydraulic Bench Vise A Masterpiece Of Scrap Metal And Angle Grinding

    1. you dont wear gloves while using a grinder. not ever(well I dont). that said one handed use isnt the best idea, but again I’ve done it plenty, if your grinding it isnt an issue, if your cutting (such that the disk could get snatched) then you are a fool if you use one hand.

    2. Good Lord, man. If people were afraid of getting hurt by building stuff, then they would never leave their homes NOR get stuff done. I think you need to rethink you post before you post next time.

  1. …and here we have the common Safety Nanny, who has never used an angle grinder but armed with their trusty clipboard are confident in their ability to spot danger. Soon you will hear their mating call “Ohh, that looks dangerous, why you could hurt yourself!”

    First, no gloves around the spinny things. I’d let you think about it, but knowing your species is one of little brain I’ll point out that when the glove touches the wheel, it’ll pull your whole hand in rather than just knocking a bit of skin off your finger.

    Secondly, the wheel direction is such that if it catches on the part (very unlikely here) the grinder will be pulled away from his body.

    Yeah, the part could be held in a vise (or clamped) but y’know, he doesn’t have one yet. I’d do that for mere convenience,

    It’s only light cuts so the answer to the breathless “what can go wrong?????” is “not much.”

    1. At first, I had similar thoughts. But then I remembered, that I use gloves quite rarely myself. Only for welding. In addition to the possible danger of getting caught, they also reduce dexterity and agility. Of course I prefer to clamp a workpiece down, if possible. but that’s not always the case.

    2. One tends to be a little less cavalier after having inspected the frayed end of an extensor tendon poking through an angle grinder induced macerated gash on the dorsum of a hand, with the end of the tendon bearing a remarkable similarity to a lightly caramelised, small floret of cauliflower.

      1. I’ve had an angle grinder bind up in a loose t shirt and pull me into it.
        It stalled but by got that t shirt was tight.
        Try getting to the on off switch in a hurry with that monster desperate to chop into your stomach.

        1. A good grinder will cut out automatically when I detects it’s caught something – I’m fairly sure mine engaged a few weeks back when it caught a dust sheet, it should have ripped through the old fabric easily, but it came to a very quick stop – not pyrotechnic-table-saw-brake fast, but fast enough to not be spinning when it hits you if it’s grabbed your T-shirt. Still Wouldn’t rely on it though.

          What I would rely on is my ability to find the on-off switch instantaneously: the paddle is right under my finger. If you don’t hold it down, the grinder stops. Let go, it stops. If your grinder has a locking on switch, that produces a lot of additional safety issues.

          Aside from shattered discs, grinders keeping running after they’re dropped seem to be the biggest cause of injury.

          As for gloves, there’s a lot of disagreement about grinders. Leather Gloves protect you from sparks and debris, and shouldn’t be too loose to get caught easily – plus your hands shouldn’t be anywhere near the disc, the should be on the body holding the paddle, and on the side grip.

          A bench-grinder or table-saw is very different – no gloves. I tend to wear gloves for 2-handed hand-held tools – angle-grinder and sometimes a skillsaw, hedge trimmer, etc but definitely not for bench tools.

          1. Should add – removing the guard or using an inappropriate guard seems to be the other bug cause of injury. I’ve put QR bolts on my guards so it’s super-quick to adjust them to the right position.

          2. It’s a tradeoff with the momentary/paddle switches I think. I’ve had projects that involved hours of grinding, and I hate the unlatch-able paddle switches. Your hand will wear out squeezing the handle for that long, and how much safer are things when you’re holding onto an angle grinder with very tired arms and hands?

            Of course if you drop it it’ll keep running till someone grabs the power cord at the plug. But that’s why I wear a leather apron and full face shield when running the big hand grinders.

        1. No gloves were being used. It’s just a good example of the fairly complicated nature of the injuries that can arise from minor lapses with angle grinders, not to mention the months of subsequent extension splint use followed by tendon lengthening exercises to address the shortening of the surgically repaired tendon.

    3. Still, speaking from experience, it takes some grip strength and determination to do the grinder-in-one-hand-work-in-the-other thing. Even if the potential for serious injury is limited the potential for still-fairly-painful bruises and abrasions is quite real. Less so with a grinding disc than with a wire brush (grinding disk is not likely to hook around the workpiece and smack you with it the way a wire brush can).

    4. There’s a HUGE chasm between reasonable safety precautions and being a Safety Nanny.

      I have a giant scar across the the whole heel of my left hand from not holding the grinder with both hands, and not clamping the work down. 1″ to the left I would have cut my wrist and been dead on the floor before somebody found me. And I didn’t even save any time. I ruined the part through my laziness too.

      Grinders are fast. When things go wrong, your reflexes kick in before you have time to think. Grinders kill people. Don’t be one of them. I highly recommend not learning the hard way.

  2. i wouldn’t use a grinder without leather gloves. it is better to chew up the glove than to chew up your finger. gloves have saved my fingers lots of times when using grinders and i have two that i use every day. just a touch of a grinder wheel will give you a nasty scrape. chew up the glove instead of your fingers no matter what the others say

  3. Love that build. Wishing here I had a steady hand with an angle grinder.
    On some of those welds, I definitely would have cut some bevel before welding though – 5 tons of force is a lot for a fillet weld in plate

  4. I think, after pondering the issue for several moments, that he indeed should have used gloves. At least while painting the parts. I mean think about it, what if he had gotten a phone call in the midst of all that painting. Who wants orange paint on a cell phone

  5. I was using an angle grinder yesterday to sharpen lawn mower blades, it was much faster than using the bench grinder!
    (I will probably be sharpening the blades more often now.)

  6. Safety standards are situational among intelligent humans. When I observe the grinding photo, I do not see a problem with safety and hand placement. The work piece is supported at an angle and the ‘grinder hand’ is supported against the bench top. A clever setup for making consistent cuts – safely.

    1. Hand protection is very low on my list when using an angle-grinder. Maybe just to prevent burns when I pick up small cut-off pieces from the floor. Top of the list is eye-protection. I already wear prescription glasses, but that is not sufficient at all.

      Thin cutting disk may shatter at any time, and I can guaranty that the travel time from grinder to eye is less than the time it takes to close your eyes. Even thick grinding disks or sand-paper disks can shoot pieces of the disk in many directions, even when the guard is not removed. The worst are bits of metal as they are hot and will burn into your eyeball and get stuck there for days. You then need to find someone else to drive you to a doctor, who will grind away part of your eyeball until the metal stick out far enough to get hold of with tweezers. It will really ruin your day for a couple of days in a row.

      Seriously, get plenty of eye protection and regularly get new ones when the plastic gets scuffed.

      1. I now wear safety glasses and a face shield on top.
        You will still get the occassional spark between the face shield and the glasses and I have at least once had one hit me behind the glasses.

        The biggest problem I have now is with fogging. Especially when wearing a mount/nose mask for the air bornes.
        Air flow is the next upgrade. – at which point you wonder if something akin to a gas mask / darth vader helmet is the best next step.
        Mouth, nose, ears, eyes, doubled up – all need protection and it needs to be quick to put on/off.

  7. I have wanted something like this for years. My problem is I kept going back and forth between using a regular vice ans retrofitting a pancake cylinder in for the last quarter inch of closure or just doing with he did. I like the air springs for retraction. I thought it was a nice build.

    That big piece of steel plate was a great find.

    Question, do most jacks work OK sideways like that? I could have sworn that I tried one sideways and it did not work as I expected. One project from a few years back was to retrofit an antique cider press to use a hydraulic jack, but in such a way that it did not change the press and could be removed with no ill effect on the press. The hydraulic jack is nice in that you can put a lot of pressure on the mash but no torsion on the frame. Anyway, I seem to recall seeing if one of them would work on it’s side and it not working. You may have lucked out with your jack.

    As far as safety and safety nazi’s go, this is one where I side with the builder 100%, they are his hands. It is up to him as an adult to define his own personal safety protocols.

    1. It depends on where the suction point for the pump is. All jacks should work horizontally when the pump/handle is on the bottom side. How far you could rotate the pump/handle to the side (as done here) depends on how the jack is constructed.

      1. Most small hydraulic jacks have a small rubber fill plug on the side of the cylinder (for adding more hydraulic fluid).
        That plug needs to up on the top if using the jack horizontally.

  8. It just amazes me how many whiners there are on the internet. I don’t think most of them have ever used a grinder before or built anything out of metal. I bet they wear kevlar underwear in case a meteor hits them. As to the vise, I like the design because the jack puts most of the closing force up high on the jaws where you need the force, unlike a lot of bench vises where the force, moment arm, is in the center or down low at the acme screw. I’ve seen too many broken bench vises. This design is closer to a machinists vise where the line of clamping force goes through the jaw, not the slide. I get large pieces of thick steel scrap at a steel yard that has a big plasma torch CNC table. I buy center cutouts and scraps I find in their scrap dumpster.

  9. The big problem is that the vice will not last long if you use it for welding and grinding. The piston will deteriorate very quickly.

    It should have a wheel on so that you can wind the centre of the piston up and minimise the exposed area of piston then add a shield to protect it.

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