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17th or18 century wrought iron vice


Berl Mendenhall
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I haven't posted any pictures of antique tools in a while. Here is a wrought iron vice. A real thing of beauty. It belongs to Jim Bode Tools, he is an antique tool dealer. I have no connection to him, I'm on his e-mail list so I get updates on tools.  This vice is covered with decorations.  The blacksmith took great pride in his work. None of the decorations make the vice work better, but it sure adds to the beauty.

Fun to wonder if Strad had something similar on his bench.  Anyway something nice to look at. 

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This is a blacksmiths' leg vise.  It clamps to a bench and the leg rests on the floor to absorb the force of hammer blows.  I've seen a lot of these and I've had a few.  Once I saw one with two screws linked by a chain to keep the jaw faces parallel.  I doubt that Strad had one.

http://www.anvilfire.com/FAQs/blacksmith-vise.php

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Yes, a blacksmith's leg vise, also known as a post vise. I also had one once upon a time. They all have a handmade character, even though many are manufactured. I don't know why this one is believed to be from the 17th or 18th century. It could easily be from the late 19th, or even the early 20th century.

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14 hours ago, Brad Dorsey said:

This is a blacksmiths' leg vise.  It clamps to a bench and the leg rests on the floor to absorb the force of hammer blows.  I've seen a lot of these and I've had a few.  Once I saw one with two screws linked by a chain to keep the jaw faces parallel.  I doubt that Strad had one.

http://www.anvilfire.com/FAQs/blacksmith-vise.php

Brad thank you for the link. I've been reading up on these and other vices. I believe these vices were used much more for holding than hammering. It just seems to me these early leg vices were wrought iron and later the manufactured ones are cast iron. It does take much of a hammer blow to crack or break these types of iron.  These were used for holding while filing and lite hammering of gun works  and other small parts made by blacksmiths, gunsmiths and other tradesmen. 

 

 

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11 hours ago, MarkBouquet clearsky said:

Yes, a blacksmith's leg vise, also known as a post vise. I also had one once upon a time. They all have a handmade character, even though many are manufactured. I don't know why this one is believed to be from the 17th or 18th century. It could easily be from the late 19th, or even the early 20th century.

I've had this vice for 25 years. Picked it up at a tool dealer. It is a manufactured vice. Cast iron. You can see the casting marks. The bolting bracket has made in the USA casting. The overall shape and parts look similar but that's where the similarities end. The old one was made by a blacksmith craftsman, mine was made by pouring melted iron into a mold.  I believe, and I'm not positive about this, that these were the only type of metal vices made in the 17th and 18th century. I've never seen a really old vice that looks different.  These leg vices would be easy for a blacksmith to make. The leg was just part of the way it was made and not for absorbing blows. Also they are usually 39 inches tall. Perfect for filing parts like locks and hinges for violin cases, or gun barrels, and gun locks just to name a few. I believe these vices were in most if not all craft shops. Let's not forget Strad lived next door to a blacksmith. A man Strad loaned money too.  

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I believe Burl that the body of your vice was forged , only the clamp plate is cast , look at the pic of the hole and see the remains of a split where the parent stock was not forged compliantly round,also there don,t seem to be casting lines on the body, this is a relatively easy shape to forge and a rather fragile shape to cast. And remember that early Bessemer iron was referred to as a cast steel , being at one point poured from a crucible into ingots that were then forged . As opposed to cast iron that once poured is not malleable and brittle, due to high carbon and large grain.  one big difference though in the decorated one is the appearance of grain lines, an indication of bloom iron  the original wrought as opposed to a besssimer process origin steel . Very likely Strad could have had some sort of similar but hard tellin not knowin. 

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Nice vises!  Here's some info on the type: http://www.anvilfire.com/FAQs/blacksmith-vise.php

No clue on when they first appeared, but given the absence of vises in Roman shops (they used wedging against workbenches to hold things), probably during the European Middle Ages, along with screws, and wooden bench vises.  :)

 

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5 hours ago, Berl Mendenhall said:

...The leg was just part of the way it was made and not for absorbing blows...I believe these vices were in most if not all craft shops....

Berl,  You're wrong.  The purpose of the leg is to transmit the force of the blows to the floor rather than subjecting the work bench to the force of the blows.  And this type of vise was designed specifically for blacksmiths.  It was not intended to be a general craftsman's vise.

2 hours ago, Berl Mendenhall said:

...I wish someone would prove me right or wrong, that these were the only kind of iron vices produced until the 19th century... 

I can't prove it, but I'm quite certain that many other types and sizes of vises were produced before the 19th Century.  No one except a blacksmith, or some other craftsman who needed to hold work that would be subject to heavy blows, would have any need or use for a vise like this.  Iron used to be much more expensive, relatively, than it is now.  The extra cost of the leg, when it wasn't needed would be a waste.  It would also take up space and make the vise harder to transport and harder to mount.  Do you think that jewelers used vises like this before the 19th Century to file rings?

And James M. Jones is correct that the only part of your vise that is cast is the mounting plate.

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I just love old tools especially tools made by artist craftsmen/women with an eye for a little bling bling. Nothing wrong with adding a heart, or a flower, or a vain and leaf. Many early blacksmiths were real artist. There are a more and more tool makers all over the world who have returned to making high quality hand tools. Mostly hand planes I think. These tools are amazing both in design and function .

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35 minutes ago, Brad Dorsey said:

..........The purpose of the leg is to transmit the force of the blows to the floor rather than subjecting the work bench to the force of the blows.  And this type of vise was designed specifically for blacksmiths.  It was not intended to be a general craftsman's vise.

I can't prove it, but I'm quite certain that many other types and sizes of vises were produced before the 19th Century.  No one except a blacksmith, or some other craftsman who needed to hold work that would be subject to heavy blows, would have any need or use for a vise like this.  Iron used to be much more expensive, relatively, than it is now.............

Prior to the widespread use of post/leg vises, and where they were unavailable, pieces were held to the anvil for careful hammer working, or operations which require both hands on the tools (decorative chiseling, for example, and you don't need a helper) using holdfasts,

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These are easily made in the forge, and still are.  Similar holdfasts may be placed in workbench holes for woodworking, and predate vises and clamps.

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From the Renaissance forwards, most people who can get them have used vises in preference to holdfasts, but they haven't disappeared. :)

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5 minutes ago, Violadamore said:

Prior to the widespread use of post/leg vises, and where they were unavailable, pieces were held to the anvil for careful working, or operations which require both hands on the tools (and you don't have a helper) using holdfasts,

 

These are easily made in the forge, and still are.  Similar holdfasts may be placed in workbench holes for woodworking.

 

From the Renaissance forwards, most people who can get them have used vises in preference to holdfasts, but they haven't disappeared. :)

Nice vice!  I like old tools like that.  

For some things I prefer the holdfast.  It's so quick and easy to use.  

 

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  • 7 months later...

Jim Bress, my Emmert also came missing the "stop bar bracket," that you're calling a tilt adjustment mechanism. I got that part from Patrick Leach here.  http://www.supertool.com/newtools.htm (I seem to recall that he called it a "drag.") He has also manufactured new tilt plate jaws, one of which your vice originally had. You can see that on his website.

He doesn't, and never did have the stop bar brackets listed on his website, but he had them (newly manufactured), and I'd bet that he still does. Good luck.

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