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Today we are doing a review of a used Dawn 5SP 125mm cast engineer's vice - a decades old, Australian made hunk of metal! You can find them amongst the Dawn vices on eBay AU. Here it is as we found it:
The other side:
It's a very solid vice - weighing in at approx. 24kg. The "SP" part in the name shows that it's a Standard Pattern (as opposed to light or heavy, or offset etc.). The nut is well protected and is replaceable:
As far as the colour goes... from what I can tell of Dawn vices pre-metrication the semi-steel and plate steel fabricated vices were painted red, and the cast steel vices were painted blue. This one has red paint underneath the blue in places. One colour adjustment later - it's not Dawn red but it's closer than the blue:
The jaws are 125mm in width, or 5"
Max opening with full contact of threads in the nut is 165mm:
The screw is Acme threaded, which is what you want for smoothness and strength.
The screw is also well hidden inside the vice - it's unlikely that swarf or chips will fall onto it in regular use. Still worth keeping an eye on it and cleaning it from time to time to make sure.
After a clean, degrease and an application of fresh lubrication the vice moves smoothly and evenly with minimal slop. Considering that Dawn's vices appear to have converted to metric some time in the 1970s - a 1978 catalogue shows this - this vice is at least 41 years old at the time of writing but other than the weathering and repainting it doesn't show in use after a clean.
So how does buying a 4-decade old vice compare to buying new? Used these vices seem to go for anywhere between $20 and $125 AUD, with seller opinion seeming to matter more than the actual condition of the vice. Assuming that you're comparing a non-damaged Dawn 5SP with a modern 125mm vice from Bunnings... you can get an Irwin Record 125mm non-swivel-base vice for $195 on any day of the week, which is likely to be a quality unit made in I suspect China. A used (not abused) Dawn ought to be cheaper and every bit as good... with the added benefit of being made in Australia!
I have been happily using used Dawn vices for years and have yet to break one. Having said that, I do own a hydraulic press and so I only ever used the vices for holding things, not ever as a makeshift press.
A quality unit, and well worth considering if you are in need of a vice and don't mind buying used. Search for one near you one eBay AU!
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