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Thread: Morgan Vises

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    N.W. Ohio

    Morgan Vises

    I'm getting ready to start building my first real workbench and started to acquire some parts. I'm planning on building something in the style of an Ian Kirby bench from the Scott Landis book. Anyway, I was on the big auction site the other day and came across a Morgan 10A vise. It looks pretty beefy and USA made, so I took a chance on it. It's probably not a steal at $50, but I'm hoping it will turn out well. Hopefully it will clean up nicely after some scrubbing, electrolysis, and repainting.

    Does anyone know anything about these vises? I can't seem to find much information on the web.

    Last edited by Robert Strebler; 03-01-2009 at 12:58 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Longview WA

    Searching the web is a strange art...

    Typing > Morgan vise company chicago < in Google rendered 11,700 hits.

    As is often the case with Google searches, they can turn up a whole lot of nothing.

    One of the hits leads back to here:

    Not a lot, but it seems the company may no longer be in business or they still do things the old way and do not have a web presence.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Sebastopol, California

    My impression is...

    that back when casting iron was more common*, there were dozens of companies making things like vises, many of them more or less interchangeable in design. You can find almost this exact design with I don't know how many different company names on it. A few companies would wander into innovation territory, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, but a lot of them were just cranking out what had worked for years.

    This one looks nice and heavy. To check on its usefulness, I suggest two tests:

    1. Crank the handle in and out. If the operation is smooth over its length, that's a good sign. I can't tell from the photo whether it's a quick-release vise. If it is, cranking backward will cause the nut to release, and you can pull the vise out as far as you need, then crank "in" for a turn or two, and the nut will re-engage. Either way - quick release or not - if operation is sticky, you can use sandpaper, steel wool, wire brush, and wire wheel in a drill to clean up the threads. Lube them and try again.

    2. Now, try to close the vise all the way. The very top of the jaws should engage fairly evenly across their width, but before the bottom of the jaws do. Then, as you tighten, the jaws should come parallel. This design (which Record of England used to tout as if they'd invented it, not that they're alone in that habit**) ensures that the inevitable play in the parts will not result in the vise clamping stock at its very edge.

    If it doesn't, and you decide to use the vise anyway, the solution is to plane one of the wooden faces you'll add to the vise slanted, to compensate.

    *If you read the shop literature of the early 20th century, you'll find casual references to making up a little pattern and having the local foundry cast it for you. As late as the 1960's, my dad made a pattern for the cast iron grates that topped the drain trench at his garage door, and had a local foundry cast them. If I needed any casting done now, I'd have to drive back to my parents' town, an hour away; and even that foundry is under attack by neighbors who find it stenchy.

    **I grew up in a car family, and I have long since lost track of the innovations that were touted by the major car manufacturers as their idea, when some smaller maker had pioneered the idea years or even decades before. To reach back for one example, in the 1970's, Ford was crowing about its double-sided pickup bed, built, it said, to ensure that dents on the inside wouldn't telegraph to the outside. Studebaker did it in 1949, and arguably more elegantly. But I digress.

  4. here ya go:

    Still in business. It's a good vise. I have one. expensive - they used to be more popular. The big problem is like many split nut vises the split nut will wear out. They have parts and replacements.

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