Evolution of the Record 52 1/2 quick release vice


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24 Aug 2015
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many of us own or have used one of the venerable quick release vices manufactured by Record and others, but I wonder how many people are familiar with the history? I certainly wasn't so I did some digging, and it appears we have a lot to thank a chap called Joseph Parkinson for. Dare I say it, it seems JP did for vices what Leonard Bailey did for bench planes, by coming up with a design that has become a defacto standard that has dominated the market for well over a century.

David Fell's father worked at the company founded by J P and has created a web site that provides some great background on the business (J Parkinson and Son, Shipley, Yorks) and about the man himself, who was clearly an impressive chap:

The company survived into the 2nd half of the 20th century, and according to a booklet produced to celebrate the centenary of its founding (and summarized in the site above), JP invented his quick release vice in 1884, having come a cropper in his dealings with another company who had copied the the design of his 'handy' line of vices and began manufacturing the same in competition. Having had his fingers burned once he registered patents for the new invention in multiple countries during the next year or so. Here is the US patent (1886):

https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=pate ... 361445.pdf

...and a picture of the key working bits, taken from the Canadian patent (this patent shows the joiners vice, omitted from the drawings in the US application)


c.f Fig 6 for the joiners vice - there is a spring loaded flat bar (k) which engages with a grove in the base of a half nut (N). The bar is attached to a lever (L) next to the vice handle and when squeezed the lever causes the flat bar to pivot downwards, taking the nut with it and disengaging it from the screw. In this position the vice moves freely back and forwards.

Unfortunately the text of the Canadian patent is hand written and not very well scanned which makes it almost illegible, so we have to go just on the drawing for details, and this seems to show (fig 6) the spring that holds the bar/nut in the engaged position for the joiners vice is directly under the half nut, rather than next to the trigger (which is the familiar arrangement today).

Certainly Parkinson eventually implemented the flat spring used in more recent vises, but I suspect, but do not know for sure, that his original implementation was per the patent. Both approaches were implemented by Record, and here is an early example from them where the flat spring on the face of the vise is missing, but another spring is just visible under the nut shown below:



Parky with flat spring:


Can anyone share any more information on these details?

Although not mentioned in the patent above, it is possible JP was also the first to use a buttress thread for the screw. These threads apply a strong force in one direction, at the expense of the effectiveness of the reverse direction (not a problem when the vice can be opened without the screw using the 'instantaneous grip'). C.f toothpaste screw tops for an example of this type of thread:


The new range of vices was called the 'patent perfect' range, and in the terminology of the day it was an 'instantaneous grip vice' - the earliest reference to the term we have settled on in recent times ( 'quick release') was about 15 years later, in a patent filed by an American. Quite probably the choice of terms reveals some deep underlying differences in our cultural identities at the time!

They were clearly very successful (and well built), since the frequently turn up for sale on ebay in working condition today. An early model is shown below (note that the vice runs on parallel cast 'sliders' rather than the round steel guides in more recent vices from Record at al (on which more in a later post). Note also unconventional (for the uk) spelling of 'vise' - no doubt to contrast with the competition (of which more in the next post).

It would also be good to hear more about the 'handy' vices that were available in the 10 years before this new design was released - was there a vice aimed at woodworkers?

Before the Joseph Parkinson design could take over the world of joinery vices, he had to overcome the competition of which there are two notable examples - The 'syers' standard instantaneous grip vice and the 'Riley' instantaneous grip vice. Find out more in the next post - gripping stuff!
Excellent stuff Nick - keep it coming!

(And I had never noticed about the toothpaste tubes - but you are quite right.)
I found a few references to Parkys in books aimed at headmasters and teachers - perhaps their adoption in classrooms helps explain why there are so many around (mind you they had a decent production run, there is some evidence to suggest the distinctive design with the unadorned front jaw with the writing circling the handle continued until the 1920s - more on that later)

Here are some yoofs enjoying their Parky vices at a school in Ireland (1907) where 10 were installed


https://books.google.com/books?id=EP5HA ... ip&f=false
Great bit of research. Love the look of the "Parky with the flat spring", doubt it works any better than Record though.
quite possibly it is worse than the Record, since the vice moves on two cast 'arms' rather than the polished steel rods used in the Record, and the movement is pressumably subject to more friction as a result. Hopefully someone who owns both will be along shortly to tell us for sure!
On the Parky side of things I have a most wonderful miniature Gunmetal? Parkinson's engineers vice, although not named as such.
Originally supplied in a cardboard box with a picture of Mr Parkinson and company details.
These I believe were given to Ironmongars etc.
I do not have the box, so if ever you see one let me know please :wink:
Great thread by the way =D>
nabs":1abr6fh0 said:
quite possibly it is worse than the Record, since the vice moves on two cast 'arms' rather than the polished steel rods used in the Record, and the movement is pressumably subject to more friction as a result. Hopefully someone who owns both will be along shortly to tell us for sure!

Hi I don't own both but have a parkinson, not the perfect I was having trouble with it jumping threads if I tried to clamp anything from the centre to the right hand side. I stripped it down and gave it all a good clean including scraping the threads on both the half nut and screw to no avail.

Then I noticed there was quite a bit of play with the front jaw moving up and down where the cast has been worn on the runners over the years it looks to be different as the frame goes to the back of it making it very heavy.
I'd be very interested to see some pics of your vice, if you have any...

it turns out that Steel Nut & J. Hampton ltd (Woden) filed a patent in 1906 that aimed to resolve potential issues with the cast sliders (they suggested adding rollers to reduce wear and friction). I doubt it ever got made, though, since US manufactures had already come up with the better idea of using steel rods as guides for the moving part of the vice and this eventually got adopted in the UK also.
https://worldwide.espacenet.com/publica ... 5134A&KC=A

Credit for the steel rod idea seems to belong to the Toley brothers (?) of Chicago. See this patent of 1894 for a quick release mechanism:

https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=pate ... 528190.pdf

also this advert in a 1896 catalogue suggests Toley was making them for a few years before that (perhaps without this quick release device mentioned above):


Chas A Strelinger catalog
https://books.google.com/books?id=bgbiA ... se&f=false
a quick detour into US made vices. Having mentioned the Toles QR vise I thought I take a look at how it worked.

The advantage of this quick-release mechanism is that it allows you to rapidly adjust the position of the jaws and then grip the work-piece without changing the position of your hand on the handle. Counter-clockwise to engage the QR and clockwise to grip.

it is not entirely clear to me how the QR works - there is a slot running down the length of the screw where the screw thread is cut away (this slot is slightly wider than the thread in the half nut) and when the nut engages with the slot the jaws are free to move.

It is clearly more sophisticated than simply relying on the operator to align the nut and the slot, but I couldn't really follow how it works - it seems the nut can move move forward and backwards, up and down + laterally in its housing and that it somehow moves in a downward spiral to engage the thread when the screw turns forward and then moves in an upward spiral away from the thread when in reverse. But what would stop the nut dropping into the slot when turning the vice to forward?

I selflessly watched these two long and talkative videos showing a chap dismantling and reassembling one but I am none the wiser. Warning viewer discretion required - some unconventional tool fiddling techniques are used in this film!

I also discovered the same mechanism was used in Morgan 'rapid action' vices. The company was bought by Milwaukee Tools and they still do a QR woodworkers vice, although I do not think it is the same mechanism. I did read they can still supply the nuts to fit the older vices though, which is pretty cool.



When I was young and foolish (50-ish years ago!) bought a Parkinson Perfect Vise from an auction in Morecambe. Didn't check it closely before bidding, then having parted with the princely sum of 25 shillings
got it home and discovered it was the cast slide type and one of the slides was fractured where it joined the front jaw. So there's at least one downside to the "cast in one" style, which with hindsight seems a pretty silly design.
The break was actually completely clean, so clamped it all together, drilled through the front face and into the slide, tapped the hole in the slide and secured the whole shebang with an HT bolt. Served me well for a while, then learned to weld. Chamfered the break, heated it all on a primus and did a remarkably good weld! But finally saw sense and bought a Record 52.
yes it makes you wonder how many were lost due to breakages - in comparison it is hard to imagine breaking any part of the Record unless you were really making an effort!
there is a second patent (1896) for the Toles vice and it shows a slightly modified design of the half nut (that matches the picture of the dismantled vice above) and this patent has a clearer explanation that made me look again at the photo of the parts laid out. If you look closely you will see a small nib on the top of the green collar that receives the handle and a matching projection on the face of the vice above the central hole where the screw is inserted.

These nibs mean the vise will not work as a conventional screw vice, instead the handle is brought up until the nibs engage (at this point the part of the screw with threads removed is aligned with the nut) to move the vice in or out. When the jaws are close to the work-pieces the handle is rotated the other way to cinch up the jaws tightly.

The oddly shaped half nut is designed to move in a way that makes it easier for the threads to realign after they have been disengaged in 'rapid action' mode.

Not quite as clever as I thought, but no doubt a big improvement on a conventional continuous screw vise... (not as good as Parky's idea, mind you!).

This patent also explains the bench stop that is integrated into the jaw (the dog is missing from the dismantled version above), which will make a reappearance on later day Records, as we shall see.

IIRC Melhuish made (or certainly sold) an early version of that "half turn to disengage" design.

What a cracking good thread - you've done a fair bit of research to put all this together, Nick!

Just as a very minor footnote, the Parkinson company did not disappear completely. They developed a very fine reputation for building solid, dependable industrial milling machines branded 'Parkson', and in the 1990s were absorbed into a amalgamation of several Yorkshire machine tool builders still trading today as Broadbent Stanley - http://broadbentstanley.co.uk/our-history

I don't know when the last vice was made, though.
bugbear":1i53r1it said:
I was thinking of 772, top of the page, not 774 (bottom of page).

Although I hadn't seen that particular catalogue!


I am pretty sure that 774 is in fact a rebadged Toles, apart from the use of their marketing phrase of 'rapid action' there are lots of visual similarities, not least the nuts used to attach the steel rods.

I glanced at the one in 772 and assumed it was a Entwistle and Keynon, but there is a bit in the 1891 appendix of 'Every Man his own Mechanic' that suggests it is a different vice. The hunt continues!

https://archive.org/stream/everymanhiso ... 3/mode/2up

Thanks for the extra info on Parkys Cheshire.
following the slightly disappointing denouement to my Toles investigation, I thought I'd mention one other US vice I came across while researching. It is made by Richards Wilcox, Illinois, and is interesting because it has an elegant gravity fed quick release and is clearly an extremely well made vice. If you ever see one of these you should snap it up without question!

Rather than try and explain how it works you can see for yourself in video below where someone in the US does an excellent job of demonstrating the mechanism it uses:

question what is the advantage of using a brass half nut vs cast steel?

Back to Blighty made vices in the next post!

Hi I just recently deleted some pics from phone that I tried to post here for advice when trying to sort the jumping threads problem but failed to post them from iphone.I will take some pics at the weekend and try again to post them.