Milwaukee Vice!

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… Continue reading