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I Forge Iron

How old do you think these are?


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Both definitely vary new. I would guess 1910 to 1940. And I seriously doubt that any Iron or steel tool has ever been cut out with a fro. The lumpy transitions in the legs are from rushed work under a large power hammer. At the time these were made steel has dramatically dropped in price and labor wages had shot up. Because of this tools became much less decorated as decoration took to much time. The legs were probably worked by hand under a steam hammer and the jaws were forged in a closed die. They will be very strong and should last years and years as long as they are kept oiled on the screw.

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I use them all the time. the first one a buddy gave me, it had a cracked down leg below the pivot. i took it to work and nickle welded it and then hammered the red hot weld with a facing hammer that pitted the weld. I can't find it anymore it blended in so good.
the second one was found about 20 years ago in a loader bucket while cleaning an old horse barn. they gave it to me for fixing machines for them.

the one I need to find is like my grand pa's. he had it for years. my uncle left it with the house when it went.

not sure on what kind it is. it may be a Parker. this pic is from the early `50s the table saw was hand made. I have his disc sander that he made out of a washing machine motor.

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Realizing that nobody know 10% of anything, they both look like Columbians. The upper one is probably older, first quarter of 20th century, because of the closed ended box and the method of mount attachment. I think the lower one has a later method of attachment with the U-bolt, and I believe the open ended box is later than the closed ended ones. I suspect this more recent vise is perhaps 1930's creeping toward WW II. I've seen some WW II vintage Columbians with the U-bolt, but with a V shaped spring, a poorer design that the mildly curved leaf spring of old.

A few of the early Columbians had chamfered legs and chamfered pivot beam, similar to many of the British imported vises. See the attachment showing my Columbian, but with my home made mount and spring. I sometimes wonder whether the chamfered legs had to do with careful forged lengthening of the legs to a specific dimension, so that the jaws met properly.

I'm guessing that the bodies of the Columbians were made with a combination of drop forged and hand forged techniques. The triangular mount plates and boxes look to be cast, but of what? Perhaps semi-steel.* It seems to me that the vises are functionally good, but they kept getting "cheesier" over time in terms of production speed and aesthetics. The lug or ear projecting from the jaw was, we think, designed to "keep filings out of the works." They were fairly wide and flattened on the early British and American vises. On the Columbians, they kept getting smaller until they appeared to be an afterthought, a vestige. The meaning was lost. The question arises, "Why is there the lug on the fixed leg jaw where there is no movement?" My only answer would be that the old blacksmith artisans were consicious of balance and aesthetics.The pleasing bell shaped, lathe turned screw boxes became smaller and finally open ended on the Columbian.

*Semi-steel is not used much nowadays. It was made by adding one third to one fifth by weight of steel or wrought iron to the cast iron, usually in a cupola. It got rid of some of the graphite flakes that were present in gray cast iron. Ductile iron might have been a good choice for the screw boxes, although it was not much used commercially in the first half of the 20th century, having been just "discovered." Ductile iron replaced the graphite flakes with graphite nodules or spheres thus affording the iron greater strength.

"Materials Handbook" by Brady, 1944.
"Materials Handbook" by Brady & Clauser, 1977.
"Iron and Steel (a Pocket Encyclopedia)" by Tiemann,1933.


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