Sunday 23 June 2013

Antique Woodworking Vice

I have always been intrigued by the single arm vices I'd seen on old work benches, I'd always assumed they had a very course thread which allowed them to move a long way with the minimum of turn. Of course I am wrong.
This J Buck advert came from a 1914 magazine, almost 100 years ago.

It wasn't until I spotted one in The Tool Shop in Bosham (an Aladdins cave) that I realised just what a good vice it was. According to the very knowledgeable owner (on all tool matters) this was the earliest form of quick release vice dating from late Victorian times.

To operate the lever is turned to vertical and the jaw slides easily in and out. Once the item to be clamped has been closed down, a third of a turn downwards clamps it tight by virtue of a cam mechanism. It has no thread but works very well and it's big advantage is that it is completely one handed. Apparently Barnsley Workshops have two of these with extended jaws which they use for carving due to their easy operation. This one has a 9" jaw and a 12" opening which was about the largest size made. It weighs about 35 kg (75 lbs). I'll have to give some thought to how and where I use this vice.


 Here's a shot from underneath, the only name I can see is Steel Rack, it has most of the original blue paint and no rust, it should clean up really nicely.

Here are some shots of the Macassar Ebony knives, I wasn't going to make any yet but a customer from Finland wanted one.

The colour is quite subtle, almost regal. I really like them.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Here is some info on your Entwisle and Kenyon instantaneous grip vice on my flicker page. I researched the vice while trying to locate a short rack for the vice in my Melhuish excelsior gentleman's carving workbench/ tool cabinet.

    1. Hi Mark, very interesting and such a simple idea lost it the mists of time. I really like those old Melhuish work benches, is yours the one with the fold down lid and two side cupboards? I'd love to see some pictures for the blog. All the best, David.

    2. I have a similar vice, missing the rack cam that operates the vice, so it's little more than a 100 year old pile of scrap. If you dis-assemble yours, could you post images of it so that I can see what I need to make...

    3. Thanks to Mark (above) I've just found an image of the missing part Now to find a chunk of steel and start filing - oh, first I've got to find the vice - it's in the shed somewhere....

    4. Hello again Robert, after a looong story - I ended up making my own rack for my shorter model vice with basic hand tools, grinder, files etc.. - On my same flickr page I detailed the exact measurements of every dimension you could possibly need to make yourself a rack. I made something just about usable but not perfect by any standards, the larger vice with the original rack is perfection. It is so beautiful to use with the loveliest action of any vice I've ever come to know, what a dear old thing. If you need any further measurements etc please don't hesitate to contact me, delighted to be of any help. Regards, Mark

  3. I know its a good while since this was current but I have aquired a steelrack vice for forty quid,it is brilliant, I have found the makers name on the toothed component that rides on the cam, it has most of its original paint. It is now my only vice, no racking , a slide it position a flick of the handle bingo work held,

  4. Super-Duper site! I am Loving it!! Will come back again, Im taking your feed also, Thanks. best woodworking vise

  5. I have a beutiful example with pictures on craigslist. Here is the link.

  6. Me again -just re-found this blog - many thanks to Mark for the images on Flickr - still haven't found my vice, but when I do, I now know what the cam follower looks like... Looks like my comment now follows my new email address

  7. there's one on ebay right now - go for it as I already have mine

  8. I do have two steel rack vices all though one of them is damaged. I will be posting it on ebay fairly soon.