Made In The USA: Vyper Chair

Like everything else in the modern United States, hand and shop tools have been split into an upper class and a lower class. The upper class is the Made In USA stuff like Snap-On and SK; the lower class is Harbor Freight and the various Chinese tool brands you find in Lowe’s and AutoZone. We used to have a middle class, the USA-made Craftsman tools that kept the Sears brand alive a solid decade past its sell-by date, but as of late Craftsman has mostly decamped to the Chinese side of things. (They’re trying to come back, now that Trump The Great Satan has leveled the playing field with China a little bit, and I hope they succeed in this.)

Over the past thirty-five years I’ve made it a habit to buy the best tools I could afford, even when I didn’t have any money. That’s why I had (and still have!) Park spoke wrenches that cost eight bucks a pop when I was making two dollars an hour after taxes, and it’s why I have SK ratcheting box wrenches nowadays. One thing I never had was any kind of rolling shop stool, even though it would have improved my quality of life quite a bit over the past decade as my back has increasingly complained about leaning over to change wheels on cars and adjust derailleurs on bikes. This was partly due to the fact that I didn’t expect any $30 Harbor Freight stool to hold up for any length of time, but it was really a matter of snobbishness. How could I feel good about rolling a crooked Chinese stool back and forth between my Herman Miller benches and tables? Better to just pull out a Miller wire base table out and sit on it.

Doing that sucks, by the way.

So now I have something new: the USA-made, painstakingly-machined, no-expense-spared Vyper Chair, complete with custom embroidery. And it’s already proving to be indispensable, admittedly for a quite depressing reason.

Every piece of the Vyper Chair is industrial grade, top-tier, machined parts, locally sourced right here in Wisconsin.
The arms are machined with industrial grade steel and powder coated to keep from chipping and loss of color from use.
Holding everything together is the center hub & center screw, both machined out of aluminum.
Last but not least, our industrial 4″ casters allow you to glide like butter and roll over everything on the ground. No more getting stuck on shrapnel and wires. Made in the USA also.

The base Vyper is $475, with steel caster arms. I went bucks-up a bit and bought the aluminum one. Doing that gets you a lot more Grade 8 bolts and some truly nice machined pieces. As with the best bicycles and hand-fabbed race cars, it’s transparently obvious how each piece was made. Most of it appears to be CNC-milled. There’s no slop in the assembly; my son and I put it together without checking for level and it turned out to sit absolutely perfectly just by tightening all the bolts. Everything’s a hole, not a slot, with the exception of the flange that attaches the circular steel footrest to the caster flanges.

The casters appear well-nigh indestructible. The threaded rod that both supports and adjusts the stool is true enough that there’s no visible flutter in the stool as you spin it up and down, nor is there any binding in the threads.

It took the Vyper Chair folks under a week to do custom embroidery on the seat, featuring my usual Kraken graphic in baronial green. Having in a past life had a small amount to do with technical stitching layout, I’m very impressed by the way they did it; the stitching on the arms curves, for example. This sort of thing takes extra time to do and very few people will appreciate it.

As fate would have it, I have plenty of time to appreciate this shop stool at the moment because I’m using it to roll around my house while I wait for my recently-bolted-together right leg to reach weight-bearing status. Some of my readers will no doubt lampoon this thing as being in the same category as Richard Anderson suits or Edward Green shoes, which is to say a fun way to spend twenty times the price of a normal item to get something of equal utility, but I also think that my Vyper Chair will be rolling long after three or four of its cheaper competitors would have given up the ghost. I think it looks great next to my bikes, all of which cost multiples of this thing anyway. If you have a garage that could use a little beautification, maybe you should give Vyper Chair a look.

24 Replies to “Made In The USA: Vyper Chair”

  1. NoID

    Holy fasteners, Batman! That thing is a Design-for-Assembly nightmare, though I do appreciate the resulting aesthetic. Seems to me the center tube and the legs could be a single casting, and the castor design could be optimized as well.

    I presume it comes to you in pieces and you assemble it yourself. How was that process? I’m impressed at your note that there are few slots, which is a testament to the GD&T they must hold on something with so many bolted joints.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      A crippled old man (me) and a non-crippled kid with a pair of wrenches (my 11-year-old son) got it done in about 20 minutes.

  2. Laney

    Pretty certain a stool such as this would make a great addition to my newly built studio once I get to move in. Heck I might even upgrade to the Elevated Steel Max. My back might just thank me for thinking of it for once.

    • Disinterested-Observer

      I think Jack would agree that the real point of the Made In The USA is that true free trade can only exist between peers, as in countries with similar environmental and worker protection laws. Ergo, Mexico and China are out, most of western Europe is ok. Of course, ceteris paribus it is always better to employ your neighbor.

  3. Newbie Jeff

    Just want to note how spot-on Jack was relating tool brands with social class. I grew up lower middle class, my brand was always Craftsman. I admired Snap-on, but the prices were eye-watering… especially when I was in high school. I’ve slowly built up a decent set of Craftsman tools, which culminated with buying a Pro-series rolling box when the local Sears closed and liquidated. Like me, they’re not the best, but also like me, they’re durable and get the job done.

    • Compaq Deskpro

      A couple years ago I picked up a 4 pack of Craftsmen USA made screwdrivers from the local very neglected K-Mart shortly before they closed for good. Not sure if they were still being made at the time, or if I found new old stock. Most of my tools are from Autozone, the individual replacements socket are better quality than the ones in the pack, I think that is intentional.

  4. Harry

    As a Clyde who has had many a castor from shop stools and creepers buckle under me as I rolled, sometimes to the delight of customers, I fully appreciate this product.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Ah, so you can understand why I am unwilling to roll publicly around on a 7/8″ pneumatic pot metal post!

  5. Compaq Deskpro

    Why not pick up an old office chair from a thrift store, lower it all the way, and take the back off? Before I buy something good, I’ll get the cheap Chinese version first to see if the concept actually works for me.

    • Dirty Dingus McGee

      I thought the same thing and tried it. The problem was that the office chair is not able to go as low as the stool so you end up bent over for many tasks resulting in lower back issues again.It’s ok for some, but not many, projects.

  6. S2K Chris

    I feel like I’m doing okay in life, but I’m not doing “$500+ on a rolly thing for my garage” okay.

    I have this $30 Harbor Freight one which has lasted me 10+ years and I’m on the wrong side of the listed weight limit.

    I appreciate the buy American sentiment, and the idea to have nice things that last, but at some point not everything I own can be The Best Thing Available.

  7. George Denzinger

    It looks like quite the stool. I did a quick run-through of their product line, as I would be interested in either a drum throne or a studio stool built like these. But, it looks like their products are strictly intended for workshop use.

    My lower back also hates me and after this weekend wrenching on the van, it’s become clear to me I need “something” to work with close to the floor. But considering my tools live in my un-climate controlled garage, I’d hate to spend that kind of money and essentially neglect it until it died. FWIW, my tool collection started 40 years ago out of high school with several Craftsman sets given to me as Christmas or Birthday presents. Still have all of them, still use them, including the electric drill and handheld jigsaw. I doubt the new ones purchased today will be around and useful in 2060

  8. Ryan

    One of my biggest goals of moving into the new house was “starting fresh” with regards to tools. Finding affordable USA-made tools and garage equipment has been difficult, to say the least.

    The areas that I find particularly deficient are sockets, power tools, and tool boxes. Leaving out the tool truck brands, your options in these areas are either far behind their imported competition in quality/features or completely nonexistent.

    Through careful eBay searches and pouring over the “Tool Truck Equivalents” thread on Garage Journal, I’ve started to acquire things like Snap-On ratchets and ratcheting screwdrivers (the best, bar none), Williams screwdrivers, Trusty-Cook hammers, Knipex pliers, etc. This level of research is certainly not for everyone and has inadvertently become a sort of hobby of mine unto itself.

    The recent popularity of “Instagram” Taiwanese psuedo-Premium brands such as Boxo, Sonic, or Tekton (who makes some effort at domestic sourcing) prove that there is a market for something above disposable tools and below ones that require one to re-mortgage their house.

    Hopefully SBD can get their act together and resurrect Craftsman to it’s former glory. With this new Texas factory and their other domestic facilities (producing things like DeWalt and Waterloo), there is no question that they have the ability to produce quality items if they so desire.

  9. Guns and Coffee

    I could not help but notice the different needs presented by the “genre” of shop activities. I’ve a work shop that is mostly a home improvement hub, wood shop, and “man cave.” I looked at the subject stool, thinking damn, that is completely bad ass and best described as industrial art. I also thought “damn, that thing is really short.” I went on to read the complaints of other mechanics about the back problems associated with working close to the ground and laughed about the back “pain” I experience by the end of a day spent standing around. That being said, Shop Stool and Shop Stool, while spelled the same, do not necessarily mean the same thing, and I cringe to think what a “tall version” of such badassery would cost.

  10. Tomko

    I found this attractive, as it’s my kind of thing.

    Jack – did the assembly instructions include any torque specifications for the bolts? I looked online but couldn’t find any. And truthfully, Grade 8 bolts without torque specs would tell me all I need to know about this company.

    As well, I was curious about the foam inside the seat. It sounds crazy, but there are countless types and weights of upholstery foam. If this truly is the ne plus ultra of shop chairs, then they should disclose what kind of foam is inside it. Again, searched online but found nothing.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      That’s the thing: there aren’t really any instructions that come with it. I think they expect that you know what to do with it. After long years of building bikes and cars I have a sense for what about 30 lb-ft is so that’s what I did, it’s within spec for the three sizes of bolt.

      I don’t know about the foam. It’s relatively soft.

    • jc

      I think any competent mechanic knows how much to torque these bolts for a stool, by mechanic’s feel. It’s not a cylinder head, you know.

      A while back I did a test of my own mechanic’s feel and found something like plus minus 30% torque variation by feel. My average was pretty much dead on the “typical” spec for the bolt type and size. That’s plenty good enough for non-critical fasteners (the beefy fasteners on this stool could hold 10 times or more the design loading). It’s also exactly in line with what the NASA Fastener Design Manual reports for torque accuracy of experienced personnel using feel.

      The large number of grade 8 fasteners in this product are used for aesthetic reasons, not for functional reasons. The five arms could easily be 16 gauge steel stampings, each one attached to the center piece with a couple 1/4-20 screws, and it would work just as well, and it would still have way way more factor of safety than it needs – but it wouldn’t look nearly as cool. This is part of the “Billet machined” (which ought to be “bar stock”) aesthetic – machining a voltage regulator bracket out of 6061 bar stock doesn’t make it work an iota better than stamping it out of mild steel and zinc plating it; but it looks cooler.

  11. Guy Gooselaw

    After high-school in ’86 I had a 6-month stint working in the automotive department at our local Sears. I needed tools for the job, so I bought a decent starter set of Craftstman tools using the employee discount. I still have the 3-drawer toolbox and several of the tools 30+ years later. What I have left has held up well. The best part was the lifetime warranty. If you broke a Craftsman tool, you could bring it in and exchange it – absolutely no questions asked – for a replacement. I remember that they kept boxes behind the counter at the checkout counters in the tool department and the salesmen (because that’s what they were called back then) just tossed the broken tools into them. No idea where they went from there.

    All of the mechanics, including myself took advantage of the warranty. You weren’t supposed to use regular sockets on impact impact drivers, but we all did. I probably cracked one or two per week and just brought it out to the sales floor and replaced it under warranty.

    Sure, Craftsman tools weren’t as sleek and polished as Snap-On, Matco, and the “Pro” brands sold out of trucks, but they were solid, affordable, accessible tools for the everyman (and woman). I hope they come back strong.

  12. LynnG

    For those that did not look it up:
    Richard Anderson suits were priced on their web site at $1,800 to $2,500 at the current exchange rate with the British Pound,
    Edward Green men’s shoes were priced at $1,695 for slip on leather shoes.
    I guess this answers the if you are going to own and need a suit own a good one….a really good one..

    The Viper Stool was a bargain at approximately $600….

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      That’s the ready-to-wear stuff; bespoke is closer to $7k per suit, which is even worse, and half of the reason I’m glad I can’t fly back to the UK!


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