|Review by Mark Colan||posted 09-17-2013 03:50 AM||8553 views||1 time favorited||10 comments|
I was looking for a good vise for my new bench (see also: my blog on building the bench). I was tempted to buy a used Record vise, but they command higher prices for some in fair condition. Eclipse, a UK company, has imitated the Record style for their Chinese-made vises, and came up with an affordable vise with reasonable quality.
Here is what Woodcraft says about the Eclipse 10 Bench Vise :
This 10” Eclipse vise features a quick-action lever which disengages the vise screw and permits instant adjustment to any point along the vise’s capacity. This unique design characteristic ensures a smooth, efficient operation that will make this vise one of the most versatile and frequently used tools in your workshop.
Eclipse vises feature heavy cast iron jaws and solid steel slide rods for a lifetime of rugged use, and the vise jaws are toed in to assure positive clamping, even under the heaviest of clamping pressure. The large jaw opening allows for outfitting the cast jaws with wider, heavier wooden jaws for the increased clamping pressure necessary to firmly secure heavy workpieces.
Designed with the woodworker in mind, the built-in dog may be used in combination with a bench dog to offer alternate uses. This vise is easily mounted to virtually any style of workbench and can be used in a configuration of your choosing.
- Jaw width: 10”
- Max opening: 14-7/8”
- Quick release mechanism
The vise is available as 7”, 9”, and 10 1/2”. The price difference is not that great between them, so I just went for the largest one. The vise is big, possibly bigger than I’ll ever need. Maybe the next size down would be enough. But it fits my bench, and it’s better to have a vise too big than too small, I guess.
Installation was straightforward and did not take much labor time.
Out of the box, the vise comes coated with a lot of grease that must be removed, lest it become clogged up with dust. This is easy to do with a rag and kerosene. Thanks to this grease, there was no rust at all and the paint job was good.
It requires stout mounting screws and a wood spacer that you make yourself to thickness required by your bench, for example by laminating plywood. I measured the amount the vise went over the bench top, added a half an inch, then cut some plywood of various thicknesses to make up this thickness. The plywood pieces were measured to be the same as the mounting screw area of the vise, but over-sized so they could be trimmed to exact size after the glue tried.
My inside jaw is the bench apron, whose underside was hollowed out to accommodate the depth of the inner jaw. The outside jaw is a full-thickness (about 1.5”) piece of the same material, to allow me to drill dog holes if I decide to do that in the future, and for plenty of rigidity. The picture shown below is the vise mounted to the bench, with the apron concealing the inner jaw, but so far without the outside jaw wood.
The vise is said to be 10 inches. In fact, it is nearly 10.5” wide at the jaws. That half inch could make a difference in some applications, because you won’t be trimming it a vise to fit!
Once mounted, I found the main screw does not turn with fingertip strength. This was also true before I removed the grease. I would have like it to be more free spinning, but this is not a big deal, especially when you consider that this is a quick release vise. It isn’t a matter of sawdust, since I have not used it much yet. Possibly some oil on the screw, or some WD40, will free it up a bit. Or maybe it will break in with use.
The quick release mechanism works reliably. One squeeze, and the outer jaw can be pulled in and out freely. I think I prefer this to the kind where you turn the handle a bit to disengage.
One of the “safety” features is “Tommy bar will bend before the vise can become overstressed”. I’m having a hard time imagining what the problem would be with overstressing it, especially when you consider that a bent tommy bar, which is irreplaceable in this design, ruins the vise anyway. I think this “feature” is simply a way of pretending a weak point in the design is actually an asset. I would have preferred an unbendable Tommy bar, but hey, I have not bent it yet, and nothing is truly unbendable.
I think this vise is likely to last much longer than me. I’m happy with it, but I would have been happier if the main screw turned more easily. I shopped around, both used and new, and I think it’s a good value for the price.
-- Mark, hack amateur woodworker, Medford (greater Boston) MA