Mark here from the Springfield show. I was wondering if you had any specific bench vices that you like, but are affordable. I was thinking somewhere under $75 US dollars, and is of good quality.
I am not sure if such an animal exists. Here is what happened. Back in the early days of the internet, around 1987 for most people, imported vises started to be manufactured in Asia.Woodcraft and Rockler, two key players in imports, started offering quick release vises alongside key players like Record, UK and Jorgensen, USA. The domestic vises were then undercut with vises that looked the same or similar but at less than half the price. They touted that these vises had the same features and of course they did appear to be so. Most woodworkers didn’t realize that a good Jorgensen or Record (Not the Record Irwin type produced now in Asia) vise would last a craftsman in full time use about 75-to 100 years. The new knockoffs began taking ground even though they started to have worn out parts in a matter of months for people like me. Now I am still using vises made in the early 1930’s that are as good now as they were when first made in that they have no replacement parts and operate smoothly and effectively. Needless to say, people working with wood at weekends, the prime buying market, did not realize that they were buying inferior goods because the knockoffs were lasting way beyond the warranty dates by years. A vise used on average half a day a week is working only one twelfth the time I might be using my vise, so no wear evidence will show for twelve years. In the schools I starting in the 1990’s to date, when we could no longer buy the Record vises of Sheffield UK quality due to takeovers of Record Marples. We ended up with imports and paid as mush for replacing parts as we did for the vises themselves.
In the latter parts of the last century, takeovers took place whereby American Tool bought out the UK Record Marples company of Sheffield fame. That was the beginning of the end really. Praxair bought out American Tool and then Irwin came on the scene disguised from the parent company Newell Rubbermaid of Rubbermaid plastics fame. Now obviously credibility ends there. Record stopped producing their vises for a season of a few years and imports from Asia increased to take over. An Indian company bought the tooling and the US giants touted the vises produced as being of equal quality because, after all, the tooling was the same as the Indian company. Fact was the quality of materials and standards of workmanship dropped drastically yet again. Irwin with the Record name now come back on the scene to present an Asian vise under it’s Irwin Record disguise and lo and behold prices stay the same but these Chinese vises are now equal to the knockoff quality they were ousted by back in the late 90’s and we, numbed and dumbed down think we are buying the kind of quality Record was once well known for.
You see, what’s happening is that with each generation we lose a little bit of history and no one in two generations will know anything of what took place when we were deceived into buying cheap goods. THe past generations will not know what we expected of something such as a simply vise. These industry giants generally express zero loyalty to domestic production.
So, in answer to your question, I think that you will need to consider buying secondhand as an option first. Not so easy in the US and often difficult in the UK. I did a quick search under woodworking vise/vice and found several promising ones for under you price. Other vises at twice your limit are possible from a variety of suppliers, some domestic US and some (mostly) imports.
I think cheap needs to be revisited by all of us and ask the question, is it false economy? Are we able to have tools and equipment tested out thoroughly any more and is what we are buying of the same quality. Remember my blog on the Two Cherries saw put out by the famed German makers six months back? It might be worth reading again. Same with the Nicholson file situation I blogged on yesterday.