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Restored my great-great-grandfather's vise


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Hi all,

I made a post maybe a month or two ago asking for help on restoring a leg vise from my great-great-grandfather's workshop. Which I restored after it being used as garden decoration by my parents for about 20 years.

Following advice from forum members I thought it was nice to show the results.

I forged a new spring from a salvaged leaf spring. I also welded new threads on the mounting plate and had to cut out the pivot bolt, and obviously replace that bolt as well. Now it's all greased up, and nearly ready to use! I just need to make a new stand for it since my improvised one isn't safe. Prone to falling over.

Here some pictures.

The condition before I restored it. The screwbox was completely filled with dirt and gunk, and I had to use rebar for leverage to get enough force to be able to remove the screw. The pivot bolt was completely rusted shut, and I broke of the threads of the backing plate while trying to remove the bolts.

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After restoring, and now on a makeshift stand I cobbled together from some wood I had lying around, it's back in its old glory.

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My father's a carpenter (and so was his father and his father's father and so on) so I plan on visiting him again soon to make a stand worthy of this piece of family history.

Thanks for reading! And I hope you found my post and this vise's transformation interesting!

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These vises were made for pounding on---the reason it's a leg vise and not a machinist's vise.  The metal used in them tends to be rather soft and having a small pivot makes the forces exerted on it and by it larger than with a larger pivot.  Not an issue for light work; but it is derating the vise for heavier work.

I had a postvise once where it had been positively abused with heavy striking on it and the original pivot bold had been damaged and had damaged the mounting holes and the jaws were now offset vertically.  I ended up drilling out  the pivot hole in the cheeks  larger and then heat shrinking and riveting a plug in the hole on the moving jaw and drilling it to fit the new larger pivot bolt and getting rid of the offset.  It's been in use in a student shop for a decade now with no issues.  (I collect large bolts at the scrapyard to have a supply for replacements for old vises.  Luckily most of them are just, pull the worn bolt and insert a new bolt of the same size.)

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Thanks for the advice Thomas! If I remember correctly the bolts in it are now 14 or 16 mm threads, while the original bolts had 20 mm threads. 

I'm planning on using the vice for upsetting tong jaws for box jaw tongs and other upsetting operations, and drifting hammer, top tool, and axe eyes. You think this will be too rough on the smaller bolts?

Job

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I can put 20 mm threads on a 1 meter thick bolt.  It's the diameter of the bolt that is important.  For work with heavier hammers---drifting I would go to a larger diameter bolt; which will need a larger hole which is usually the issue as large drill bits and the ability to safely use them is often the limiting factor.  I have a 2 hp  drill press that will take taper bits for instance.

I've had several OLD postvises that didn't have threaded bolts at all---they had a slot in the "bolt" for a tapered wedge. Most of these were worn and so replaced with a "modern" threaded bolt.

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Thomas, I wasn't clear in my posts sorry, I meant that the threaded ends of the bolts were 14-16 mm thick for the new one and (corrected, I looked it up) 18 mm thick for the old one. So the difference is maybe 2 to 4 mm in thickness max. I'll take them out and see if I can remove the old bolts and fit in a thicker bolt before using, if not, I have some 18 mm round lying around so the wedged "bolt" idea might be interesting too. Again, thanks for the tip! I was kind of worried about downsizing but hearing it from more experienced smiths makes me feel like it will be a real issue later on.

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If you plan for the "worst" you can do; then anything else won't be a problem.  It's usable as it stands; I'm just used to having strikers with short handled sledges working H-13 drifts which could be a bit on the rough side.

Have you thought of stamping the history on the cheek plates?  Original owners name; restored JobTiel1 2020 ?

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I have to remove it from the stand anyway to make a new one, so I might as well loosen the bolt and the screw and see if I can make a thicker bolt fit in. 

And that's a great idea! I think I will do that! I have found some small marking which i think is the catalog number, as in "vise number 8). So I have no idea who made it. But putting in my great great grandfather a name and my own seems like a great idea!

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The restoration looks good and like others have said a larger bolt would be prudent. Have you tried a small cold chisel to remove the broken part of the old bolt out of the hole? I think you could straighten the handle cold on the anvil. Bent handles are a pet peeve of mine.:)

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Anachronist, as soon as I start working in it I'll send update this thread with a picture of what's inside the hole.

Iron dragon, yes, I was thinking the same now, the reason this bolt is in it now is because I took the vise to my brother's work, he works on a shipyard. There we took out the rusted bolt. Before we left we took the largest fitting bolt we could find. Since then I haven't tried to remove the left over bolt, as the stand isn't usable yet. But I'll try remove it now!

And yes, the I wanted to straighten the handle too, but my brother convinced me it was part of the vise's character, but I think I'll straighten it out anyway.

As always, thanks for the replies and tips!

Oh and English isn't my native language so I always think I come off as a bit rude while talking online. I hope this is not the case!

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Jobtiel,

Looks like it is ready to go back to work. Nice job.

I don't see anything in your posts that I would consider rude. It seems like most people on this site are pretty easy going, and understand that we all don't have degrees in English from Oxford or Cambridge. I flat out guarantee that your English is better than my (fill in the blank for language).

Be good!

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Yes, I tried heating the bolt initially before we decided to drill a new hole through it but that didn't work. I'm going to try to get up the whole area around the pivot hole and try to hammer the stuck piece out with a drift next.

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Preferentially heating the bolt just wedges it in tighter.  Heating the surround and perhaps preferentially cooling the bolt is what you want.  Do you have a close fitting drift the size of the drilled hole that you could chill and stick in the bolt hole just before trying to punch it out?  (Have to remove it when punching...)

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Make two cuts with a saw blade and knock out the space between the cuts. Then make an additional cut and knock out another chunk.  The remainder should be easy to remove.

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Warming the surrounding iron and cooling it with water a couple times is a good way to break a rust weld. 

You can buy metal blades for coping saws to section the old bolt out. 

Straighten the handle, THAT is the true character of old blacksmith tools, they were made to be repaired and modified. Of course if a person wanted a vise handle that didn't bend so easily a length the right dia. coil spring aught to do the trick. 

Nice job on your family vise, well done.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Question about the bolt.

My vice was my great grandfathers that was built some time in the late 1800's, yours being your great great grandfather's most likely would make it somewhat older. It being that old wouldn't that bolt be an ASE bolt and not metric? The reason i ask is that it could be a 3/4" which is slightly different size than 18mm. 

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That style of vise is a German or Dutch pattern with the cheeks of the vise acting primarily as support vs the bolt.  The bolt is an important part of the vise for sure.. But, unlike the english or American post vise which really relies on the bolt to keep the cheeks from spreading since it is the side of the cheeks used as a wedge of sorts to keep the jaws aligned, the bolt is really one of the most important items. 

The German/dutch style uses little ears on the sides of the jaw leg that ride on the cheek plates at the top..  This being the case makes the vises inherently stronger by design. 

I would recommend fixing it with a proper bolt before heavy use as the system of bolt, and cheeks is to even pressure over all 3 surface areas.  Forge a bolt and cut the threads..  It's a great project and it will keep the vise looking correct..  

If you don't think you can muster this, you can send it to me to fix and while I am working out the bugs for a few years, it will be eventually returned to you in fantastic shape. 

Really nice vise.. Congrats.. 

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