I like tools! There I said it. Is it a problem? Not in my eyes. There are a lot of worse things out in the world to be addicted to. Tools are harmless. Tools are what the world was built with. Tools are shiny and fun to look at. Types of tools are endless. Without tools we would all be living in Play Doh houses and driving Plasticine cars running on cotton candy. So what’s the point of all this tool talk? It my way of easing into my admittance of my obsession with Vise-Grips.

These things rock. The man, William Petersen, who came up with the concept is a genius and should have a country named after him. I would like to live in that country perhaps in the county of 11SP. Why 11SP? Because the 11 inch swivel pad clamping Vise-Grip is the work horse of the group. When I die I want my coffin clamped shut will 11SPs so that when I am dug up 10000 years from now by a group of cyber archaeologists they will find my bones beneath a pile of Grips and my skull coated with a layer tool rust.

For now I will settle for singing some praise to the Irwin Vise-Grip line. I typically build on my own. I prefer working on my own since it allows me to stay focused. I find that when I am working with others everyone wants to put their 2 cents in on how the task should be accomplished. Now as good as others ideas are I still prefer to do things my way. What’s my points? I only have 2 hands. I wish I had more but I don’t. I have tried to get in touch with Steve Austin’s physicians to get some work done but apparently 6 million dollars doesn’t buy what it used to. So until I can get a few of these Grips surgically attached to my limbs I’ll have to settle for manual usage. Being a lone builder the Vise-Grip has bailed me out time and time and time and time again.


Now I like the 11SP swivel pad set because it seems to be the most universal. I looked up the 11SP specs on the Irwin site and they state the clamping capacity is 3 3/8”. Excuse me? Has the guy that engineered this one actually tried using this in the real world or is the extent of his practical experience limited to his CAD 3D simulator? Okay…so it’s spec’d out at just under 3.5 inch clamp capacity but trust me the 11SP can handle a lot more then that. They seem to just “fit” everything. Now it would be a lie to say that all I own are 11SPs. I do have a few 4SPs and 6SPs in the family. Some with swivel pads and some without. I also have the typical curved jaw, straight jaw, and needle noise grips along with some specialty sheet metal units. I’m sucker when it comes to finding these things on sale.

So let me continue to rant with Gord’s top eleven (that’s right, 11) reasons why Vise-Grips are better then C-Clamps.

  1. They do not require 2 hands to clamp them.
  2. The swivel pad units do not twist when you are clamping things that aren’t quite square with one another.
  3. You do not have to budget half an hour to adjust them from minimum to maximum capacity.
  4. The swivel pads won’t fall off when they get clamped a little side ways.
  5. The Vise-Grip back bone won’t snap in half when you as a little too much from it.
  6. They do not have a bazillion threads exposed to the working elements which causes them to seize up.
  7. You can drive over them and they don’t care.
  8. The adjuster screw is never in the way (there is a reason C-Clamps need sliding pins on their handles).
  9. They have a trigger
  10. They’re guaranteed to conduct electricity
  11. When you squeeze them they clamp and don’t wiggle and creep all over the work until they are tight.

I could go on however the Irwin Tool Company doesn’t need me to help out with any endorsements. If you’ve used Vise-Grips you know what I am talking about. If you have used them and DON’T know what I am talking about then you are using them wrong. If you have never used them then buy them! If you don’t like them then send them to me, I could use a few more. (BTW…don’t buy knock offs, get the real deal) 

  1. Karl Gabel says:

    Right on – I have a couple of these and really like them for holding things steady during welding. I will be adding to my collection over time. I have gotten rid of the the knock-offs; they really stink!

    • gordsgarage says:

      Hi Karl, holding work while welding is were these things shine. I have so many clamps locked onto some of my projects that it looks like some space aged robotic cyborg (I’m not sure that description makes any sense). I agree with you, the knock offs are junk.


  2. David says:

    Seeing all those clamps lined up like that is a real thing of beauty.

  3. Keven Coates says:

    My uncle worked as a foreman in the Peterson Vise Grip manufacturing plant in DeWitt Nebraska for probably 30+ years. I’ve been through that factory many times, delivering papers as a boy with my cousin to the workers (it is a small town, and at the time, we could deliver papers to them as they sat down for work inside the factory!). I remember the jaw stamping machines, big hammer presses, hammering out the jaw shapes from 1/4″ steel strips. They’d punch out 2 at a time, and the floor shook with every hit. I saw the forging machines shape the steel into the jaw shape, the lines of chrome plating, the handle bending machines, and everything!

    The factory was filled with very capable workers, and hummed a long for decades, cranking out every Vise Grip in the 20th century. The link below says they had a second factory in Wisconsin, but I’ve never seen a vise grip with any state other than Nebraska on it (now they don’t say anything).

    My father was in heaven with all this. We could get “seconds” of every product for about 50% off, and they looked perfect! He bought enough of these to set me up with the true Nebraska version of the vise grips for life (hopefully). I’ve passed down some of them to my kids as well.

    Unfortunately that plant has been shut down for a while now (2008?), as Peterson (the family business) sold out and Irwin moved manufacturing to China. Such a sad state. I hope they can keep the quality under control. When they left, nearly the entire city of DeWitt was left without work. I’m not necessarily against outsourcing where it makes sense, but it sure was a sad day.


    • gordsgarage says:

      That is an awesome story Keven! I am facinated that you had an uncle that played such a dominant role in the Peterson company. The article you linked me to was a great read. It confirms what I thought was the case. I have numerous Vise-Grips that have stamped “Made in the USA” on them. Recently I bought a bunch more and they had no origin on them them. Immediately I thought that they have been out sourced. I guess it is true, Vise-Grips are now China built. The quality still seems to hold up to the originals, the only thing I notice is the metal finish is slightly different. Anyway…it’s too bad that the closure of the Nebraska factory left half the town unemployeed.
      Thanks for the story.

      • Keven Coates says:

        If you look closely at the ones that say “Made in the USA” on one side of them all (or most?) of them will say “DeWitt, NE”, which means they were made in the DeWitt, Nebraska plant, most likely under my uncle’s supervision (he retired a few years before they closed the plant).

      • gordsgarage says:

        Hey Keven, I checked my inventory of Vise-Grips and a bunch of the older ones have been stamped “DeWitt, NE”, check out this pic https://gordsgarage.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/vise-grip-2.jpg. I find it interesting that the China built Vise-Grips have “The Original” stamped on them. Check it out here https://gordsgarage.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/vise-grip-1.jpg It’s true that they are producing the patented original Peterson grips but from a consumers point of view I would not consider the new Grips the “Original” Hi cyber five to your Uncle for a job well done.

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