I found an old Record Vice 52 1/2 in a second hand store on Route 62 somewhere between Oudtshoorn and the middle of nowhere. I managed to buy it for next to nothing. It was hidden behind a pile of rusty old tools, and I think the shop owner didn’t realize how valuable it was. The mechanism was jammed solid, and it had some surface rust and pitting, but was in really good condition otherwise. I had been looking for a vice for some time, and had not found anything that met my needs. This was perfect.
After a couple of squirts of Q20 into the mechanism and a quick whack with a rubber mallet, I managed to get the screw turning. And then disaster. There is a spring that presses the half nut onto the worm drive. Trying to get that moving, I managed to snap the spring. A quick internet search, and I was able to find that parts for these are readily available. Problem solved and I could carry on.
I stripped it down and started cleaning the parts removing the hardened grease and decades of saw dust and rust. After a bottle of Wynns Clean Green, loads of Q20 and a wire brush and under the watchful supervision of my cat Munki-kat, I had the pieces cleaned, shiny and ready for a coat of paint. I decided to go with a black hammered enamel finish, rather than the original Record blue. As a bit of fun, I painted the quick release green.
I managed to source a replacement spring from the UK for 25 GBP. But the shipping to South Africa was 120 GBP! That was almost 10 times what I paid for the vice and almost half the price of a new one. A quick call to a friend in the UK, and he bought it for me and had it shipped free to his place. We were meeting in Germany on our next business trip in month and agreed to the exchange over a beer. After my return, I fitted the spring and the vice made fully functional.
I found this very comprehensive blog post about the vice at the Small Workshop. From this post I am guessing mine is a model VI. It’s not really possible to date it beyond the model number. Being a little bit sentimental I would prefer to think of mine as being one of the first of those models, and significantly older than me.
The next issue was figuring out how and where to mount it. I found this piece of laminated pine construction lumber sitting among a pile of wood I inherited from my good friend and neighbor who had recently passed away. He was an excellent woodworker having trained as a shipwright in his youth. He made many of his own tools, and had a love for all things old-timey, especially hand-tools. I thought that if he were alive, he would have loved to see this being put to such a good use.
I cleaned it up with belt sander before I cut it to size with a circular saw. A quick run through the jointer-planer gave me dead straight boards. I joined two boards together to make the top using biscuits and PVA wood glue. Once it was dry, I cut it to final size on the table saw and rounded the edges with a round-over bit using my table router. The sides were joined to the top with biscuits and wood glue, and because I was worried a little about the stability, I added some pocket holes for extra measure.
I mounted this to my workbench and bolted the vice under it. My workbench stands a little under 90 cm high, and the final height of the bench a little over 110 cm. I am just short of 6′ tall, so the small work top makes an excellent platform for marking and assembling small parts without my back taking strain. The vice sits at a perfect height for planing wood as I can get my shoulder behind the plane.
Having this simple tool has made a huge difference in the workshop, and I love the little worktop with tool storage underneath. Munki-Kat too has given it a stamp of approval with a rating of Purrrr-fect.