This is our Post Vice at the Makerspace. It is a specialized type of vice used by blacksmiths. Designed to handle the abuse of clamping something very hot and heavy and allowing to to beat on it with a hammer. These are not really mass produced anymore, so when you outfit a forge you typically end up buying a used vice. Since these were so well built they basically last forever. Ours is somewhere around 100 to 150 years old.
Most of the dents you see were there when I bought the vice 4 years ago. However, the slices running near the top, left face are new damage, and go considerably deeper than the surrounding dents. I was concerned about the concentration of stress at those points and the potential for cracking the jaws. It was time for refurbishment and repair.
In this photo, 2 recent dents that were caused by someone missing with a heavy hammer. And you can see where the jaws of the vice have cracked away. The vice is constructed using some kind of iron, but due to the age, we’re not exactly sure what. The jaws style of construction indicates that they were forged, not cast. This is a good thing, it suggests they could be either steel (exact carbon content would be unknown) or wrought iron. It means it should be possible to weld new steel onto them! This is what we’re going to try to do.
We don’t know exactly what alloying elements are mixed into the iron, so it could weld smooth, or it could blow bubbles and burn up under the torch! No way to tell until you try, which is nerve wracking when the object in question is an antique. There are things you can do to tilt the odds in your favor…When welding, cleanliness is next to godliness. Much time was spent with a file and dremal to grind out every dent and crack, to clean and shiny metal.
This is a shot after I finished welding up the slices. This is about the best result we could hope for. The welds are strong and clean, with only a few spots of porosity towards the face of the jaws. The way to fix the jaws is to deliberately weld on excess material and then grind them smooth again. They will be good as new.
After I finished welding almost all the spots, this is a shot of me filling in the missing corner of the front jaw. In this photo you can see that this is not the first time this vice has been repaired. Someone welded a new plate to the face of the back jaw, but the welds around the edges were quite corroded, so I ground them out to be filled in.
The front jaw is finished and ground, now all the welding is done on the back jaw.
And here are both jaws clean and ground.
Such straight and sharp corners! Just waiting to get a new set of “beauty marks” in the service of our forge!