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  • Writer's pictureChuck Hess just another sponge in the sea of knowledge

Oliver #1 Pattern Makers' Vise Restro & Installation

Updated: Oct 15, 2023

Oliver #1 Pattern Makers' Vise, pre 1926, Original Finish!
Oliver #1 Pattern Makers' Vise, pre 1926, Original Finish!

Hey All, this is a full size Oliver vise with 18" wide x 7" tall jaws and a set of little metal working jaws on the bottom side. These are so cool and can be rotated 360 degrees to use the vise at any angle. Also tilts vertically up to 90 degrees! We got this vise with a whole van load of Oliver parts from a dear friend of ours, Tom Reiley, in New Jersey. Here is a shot of that haul, this vise is in the lower left corner of photo.

Tom Reiley's Oliver collection in the back of van!
Tom Reiley's Oliver collection in the back of van!

Here's some arrival shots:

So this vise is amazing condition for over 100 years old. No damage or breaks only small apology is original handle is cracked! So the original finish appears to be black paint or japanning, not sure which. I decided to leave it original and just clean and shellac, no paint. Here's what that looks like, disassembly first;

Next is cleaning and shellac, easy pezy;

All that happened in our old shop, now we are ready to get this installed and ready to use it in our new Texas shop! This is going on a small bench that we made for this vise. The top is Ash and is 1 3/4" thick. We will start by getting the front and back jaw separated. Do this by unscrewing the handle all the way until they come apart. The next step is to get the hinge off of the "spin" casting. The hinge pins need to be removed for that.

You will notice in the bottom photo I left the pin sticking out, when I put this together last, so I could get ahold of it. These also came out easy because they had been out recently. If you are doing a rusty restoration those are so often frozen and really hard to get out. You have to be careful not to crack your hinge, which is pretty thin. I do that process by drilling and tapping the pin and installing a cap head screw so I can get the first one out. After that you can get the second out with a long punch. I talk about that a little more in my other vise posts. These hinge pins had an interesting thing; they were dimpeled with a punch by some old timer to tighten them up in the hinge. I thought that was cool. If you are mortising the hinge in, like I am going to do, they can't loosen outwards because the bench top will hold them in.

After getting the hinge loose I use that to do the mortise layout.

I am letting this into the top so that the back jaw will be just proud of the front edge of the bench. I like this because it keeps the vise from protruding out so far and helps reduce snagging cords & hoses and hip banging. Be advised that if you make it tight like this, you will have to raise the vise vertically 90 degrees before you can spin the jaws. A tight fit also keeps debris from collecting around the vise. I like it tight, your mileage may vary. I use #14 x 1 1/4" flatheads to attach hinge to bench. On some hinges the countersink is only big enough for a #12. Since this top is only 1 3/4" thick there won't be a lot of work on the bottom side, just a little. You need to make clearance on the bottom for the "spin" casting. On this one I used what we call the "Donut of Death" because there was just a little stock removal. It's fast!

After that is done It is time to get the bench into position and screw the top down to it. Screw down the hinge and get the "spin casting" in there. Next put the back jaw in and get the under top mount bracket and bar worked out. This mortise was so tight I had to round over the top edge of the mortise just a little for some tilting clearance.

Almost done, now the front jaw. It's nice to have help but it can be done alone.

This vise has the original handle with an iron hoop on one end, held with a wedge. I think that is really cool and I had not seen that before.

Thanks for looking and remember to enjoy your projects!

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