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I Forge Iron

Historical post/leg vice question


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In my quest to add some explanatory text to some of the items in the blacksmithing area of the museum I volunteer for, I was about to type something up on vices and decided it'd be wiser to ask the "experts".  So, to that end I have a few questions to make sure I choose the text wisely. (has to end up short...although books could be written on vices).

1)  I see the term Post vice and Leg vice used interchangeably these days and even in some older references.  In a historical sense, which one would be "proper"?

2)  Our current example is 7.5" across the jaws.  Most on the farm were more like 4.5 or 5".  What is the largest standard post/leg vice that was sold commercially and commonly enough to warrant a mention?  Any idea what size one would have usually seen as standard (if one could call it that) in a commercial smithy?

3) I had assumed that standard for these vices was forged construction so they could take the hard blows of smithing.  Was anyone selling enough cheap cast versions to warrant a mention so that visitors who might be shopping for one themselves might need to take heed?  Obviously there are a TON of cast bench vices out there, often in wild styles (we also have that example--interchangeable "variety pack" jaws)--speaking specifically of post/leg vices in this case.

I know my own answers to these questions but I'd be a fool not to take advantage of you folks who know a LOT more than the snippets I have picked up.

Thanks for any comments you might want to make--or any ideas of what I should include in a "one page" sign.  98% of people never read this stuff but I have noticed enough people who do that I'd like to get it right and useful.


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In which country, in what part of that country  at which time? (I see your location information; but I once spent a summer posting from my Ohio State University account while I was actually in Germany...)

I can look up what the Sears Roebuck catalog used for them in the 1887 and 1909 editions which might be a decent "using term" for America during those periods.

Old catalogs of blacksmithing equipment is what I'd look for to find max/min sizes available

"Practical Blacksmithing", Richardson published  1889-1891 as a collection of blacksmithing journal articles would also be a good source for terminology here as well.

I'll check Moxon as well for the earlier terminology, (published 1703)

For 18th Century French; I'd check Diderot's Encyclopedia

Frank Turley can probably handle the Spanish terms used here on the border---but I'd bet tornillo is part of them...

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To clarify...this is an agricultural history museum focusing on the area's (northwest USA) wheat farming and cattle ranching which typically means from about 1850-about 1950's for our stuff.

The "blacksmiths shop" we have is a gathering of some equipment from the town's main shop. it's heyday from about 1900 to 1950 when it grew toward being more of a fabrication shop to meet the times.  

Early vice history doesn't really apply.  This is more about smithing roughly C. 1900-1920 era.



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I started forging in the early 1960's, and my mentors all said, "leg vise."

I think 8" jaws were considered max by most manufacturers.

I'm fairly certain that some of the boxes and screws were cast in the U.S., thinking of Columbian and Iron City. They probably did not use gray cast iron, but rather something like semi-steel. I doubt that the jaws and bodies were ever cast. 

Good info is on anvilfire.com by clicking in the drop down menu 'FAQS' getting the alphabet and tuning in V for vises.

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Sears Roebuck Catalog 1897: "Wrought iron Blacksmiths' Vises, solid boxes, cast steel jaws"

Sears Roebuck Catalog 1908: "Our 60 pound solid box wrought blacksmith's vise with tempered steel jaws." (from the "Masterworkman $60.94 Blacksmiths' Outfit" including a 125# american made wrought anvil with steel face,  Blower and Tuyer---weight 90#, drill & drill bits, screwplate, bolt clippers, tire measuring wheel,  17 assorted tools including an assortment of hammers and 3 pairs of tongs and an apron...)

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