The W C Toles Vice


As we learned earlier, the original Parkinson quick release vice used cast iron sliders. It turns out that Steel Nut & J. Hampton ltd (aka Woden) filed a patent in 1906 that aimed to resolve potential issues with the cast sliders first used by Parkinson (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, an idea that was quickly adopted by Record in the UK, and subsequently by all the other major makers of woodworking vices.

Credit for the steel rod idea seems to belong to the Toles brothers of Chicago, as seen in this advert from a 1896 catalogue:

According to the ad, Toles introduced their plain screw vice around 1888. A few years later they filled a patent for their “rapid action” – or as we would say today “quick release” – vice, as seen in their 1894 patent US528190.

Anatomy of the Toles quick-release vise

The advantage of this particular 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. You turn the handle counter-clockwise to engage the QR and clockwise to grip.

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.

There is a second later patent (1896) that shows a slightly modified design of the half nut.

If you look closely at the pictures of the dismantled vice below 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 vice 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. Once the jaws have been pushed close to the work-piece 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.

The same quick release mechanism was used in Morgan ‘rapid action’ vices. The company was bought by Milwaukee Tools who still make a quick release woodworkers vice which although visually similar does not use the same mechanism. I did read they can still supply the nuts to fit the older vices though, which is pretty cool.

the top quality components of the Toles vice

4 thoughts on “The W C Toles Vice”

  1. I just picked up a W C Toles vise that only has the 1894 patent not both the 1894 & 1898, so I assume this to be an early model. Any idea of value? I could not find any like mine doing a Google search.

    • hi Carl, that is a fair guess on it being made before 1898 dates since there are examples with both the dates on them. I am afraid I no idea on value – I have never even seen one in the UK. Presumably there are more of them in the US!

  2. Thanks for the interesting articles. I have a rather similar vice made by The Desmond Stephan MFG CO, Urbana, Ohio, USA. Are you aware of this maker, and are there likely to be many of their vices many in the UK? It is a quite well used tool, and is missing one of the bolts that retains the lower half cylinder of the nut assembly – a thread I’m having difficulty identifying, unfortunately. Using a M8 bolt and nut (which is a little smaller than the original bolt’s diameter) allows it to function. A quick search shows the company still exists, dealing in abrasive wheel dressing tools.


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