Entwisle & Kenyon’s Instantaneous Grip Parallel Vice


The next two articles are about a couple of important quick-release vices that predate Parkinson’s design:

  • Entwisle & Kenyon’s (Accrington) Instantaneous Grip Parallel Vice
  • the Standard Instantaneous Grip invented by Smiths Marks & Co, Keighley and sold by Thomas Syers and co.

Both vices are described by Francis Young in Everyman His Own Mechanic. which was originally published in 1881 so we know both products available at least 3 or 4 years before Parkinson launched the revolutionary Perfect range of quick release vices.   Both vices get a plug from Mr Young, so let’s take a look at each in turn.

Entwisle & Kenyon’s Instantaneous Grip Parallel Vice

This vice was invented by Wilson Riley in 1877 who assigned ownership of the invention to Jonathan Barnes and Richard Keynon (of Entwisle and Kenyon ltd) .  I have not been able to find a copy of the GB patent, although there is a reference to the application (no. 4372) in the 1877 patent gazette:

He also filed for a US patent in 1880 (US227582). Once it was protected, Entwisle & Kenyon licensed the design to a US manufacture called Massey who marketed it as the ‘Lightening grip’.

engraving from the Charles Strelinger and Co. catalogue (1896)

Given the prominent branding, you could be forgiven for thinking it was all Massey’s own work, but here is a letter from E&K clarifying matters!

This letter was printed in English Mechanic and World of Science, Volume 45 (1887)

You can see how it works in the partial cross-section below – There is a toothed rack (E) and a toothed block (L) – when the handle is turned upwards the block is disengaged from the rack, and a half-turn downwards causes the cam (H) to engage the teeth in the block with those of the rack. The cam has a spiral shape which causes it to draw the movable jaw slightly forward so the work is gripped.


Here are the internals of the vice:


As you can see, the moveable part of the vice rides in a wide groove in the undercarriage which helps prevent the front jaw from racking – this is the feature that meant E&K could claim to have created a ‘parallel’ vice.


In addition to the cam/rack arrangement and unusual bulbous handle, the casting is sometimes stamped with [STEEL RACK] as in the example above. The Massey version is clearly marked “Massey No 17 LG”1)“LG” standing for lightening grip on the front face.

By 1905 Melhuish were selling a  E&K vice alongside vices by Parkinson and the US maker, Toles.

 Melhuish catalogue 1905

Melhuish also included these vices with their posh workbenches, by far the poshest being the “Excelsior”

The engraving of the benches in the 1925 Melhuish catalogue still show the E&K vice, but the note in the description explains that they are now using Parkinson vices. This suggest perhaps that the E&K is no longer available, a victim – as were most other ‘instantaneous grip’ designs of this time – to the success of Parkinson’s improved quick-release mechanism.

Rob from Louisiana has kindly shared some pictures of his vice. It is stamped with the US patent date but does not have any other identifying marks, so our best guess is this is an early model that pre-dates the later Massey branded castings. You can also see steel shims have been fitted under the toothed rack. It is possible that these were inserted by a previous owner, perhaps trying to adjust for wear in the mechanism or to improve the grip, or by the maker to compensate for or irregularities in the casting.


1 “LG” standing for lightening grip

10 thoughts on “Entwisle & Kenyon’s Instantaneous Grip Parallel Vice”

  1. Another relevant vise is the original Sheldon, USA, which has a lever with similar knob and curve in the handle. It also seems to have a very similar rack and floating (?) nut, also machined slides, not bars, but the cam seems to be at the front jaw. (I have only looked at some easily googled pix) – patented about 1890? As with Syers, Entwhistle and Parky, the early versions seem to have a very heavy build, with a long base, only later moving to bars and a shorter, lighter base.

    These seem more common than the scarce Entwhistle or Syers, but less so than the early Parky, which was arguably the long term ‘winner’ (albeit as Record)

    You’ll easily find pictures, but I don’t have permission to attach — a couple of the blogs showing these look very friendly and may allow you to link or copy.

  2. This past week one of my old friends gave me a decrepit oak work bench with what I have learned is one of the early Entwisle quick release vises. It was frozen with accumulated small trash but other than surface rust it is in excellent shape. There is no raised lettering on any parts…I did manage to free it up over this afternoon and found three places where it had been stamped: on the large stationary jaw’s top surface there is a date “MAY 1880” near the bottom center lower edge and center left in larger numbers is a “5” and a “3” separated by space enough that there may have been other numbers but which are no longer visible, at least to me. I’ve taken several photos which I would be happy to forward to you if you wish. I live in southern Louisiana across the River from New Orleans and don’t know how the vise came to be here. What my friend told me about the vise is that he first knew the thing in the early 50’s [friend is 81 years old] when it was in an old family acquaintances work shop. The acquaintance’s widow gave my friend the work bench after her husband passed but it had belonged to her family for many years…so I’m sure that the vise has been in New Orleans for most of if not all of the 20th century. I’m planning to put the vise back in working order and to use it myself for a few years [I’m 74 yrs old so a “few” years is about correct].
    Anyway, any information that you can give me would be much appreciated and I will be happy to keep you apprised of the progress I make.
    Warm regards….Rob Whitehurst

    • Many thanks for getting in touch Rob, I would love to see the pictures.

      The date you have found is the date of the US patent was taken out, so this was probably made under licence by Massey in the US. Having said that, the only photos of this version I can find show the manufacturer name clearly stamped on the front. If yours is not clearly branded Massey then perhaps it is an early version.

      In any case it is certainly well over 100 years old and quite probably closer to 140!

      PS I wonder if the partly legible numbers are the remnants of the US patent number (US 227582)?

  3. Nick, thank you for such a quick reply. I’m not sure how to upload images to this comment box but can send them to an email address. The MAY 1880 stamp is fairly legible but the other two numbers a “5” and a “3” are the only ones I can make out in what may be a sequence or not. I’d love to see the patent drawings. Cast into or stamped into the underside of the long toothed rack are the letters “W V”, I have clear photos of that. I also found that the rack had been shimmed up by four pieces of galvanized sheet metal, cut with a hand shear I would say but there doesn’t seem to be any wearing down of the rack. There is not any other lettering that might be a “brand”, no “Massey” etc. Might it have been that patterns sent to the US were not yet modified ??
    Anyway let me know how I can forward images and I will do so.

  4. Well, a closer look at your blog shows that there are in fact patent drawings and text for the various vises…thank you. I need to get up to North Carolina where I have a second home and shop that I can get into and get some photos of a Parkinson Perfect vise. I picked it up at a small roadside second hand shop west of Bluff, New Zealand back in the mid 1980s when working out of Bluff skippering a tug serving an oil drilling rig south of Stewart Island. I haven’t looked at it in a while but recall that there was a repair to some of the workings, done by brazing, a repair which didn’t affect it’s function. The vise appealed to me at the time because of its singular appearance and the fact that I didn’t have a bench vise. Soon after returning to the US I managed to purchase a lot of 17 work benches with vises from an old trade school which was being dismantled so never put the vise to a bench.

  5. Hello Nick,

    Thanks for the excellent collection of information about the Massy’s No 17. My father gave me one last year and I just got around to sand blasting and painting it. Looks gorgeous now about to mount it but would like to resolve the one imperfection. The locking drift, that rides on the cam occasionally falls out of the track. It appears there is a tab that broke off the end of the drift that I assume was there to prevent falling out of the track. It is possible there was no tab and this is large casting debris. It’s hard to tell. I was hoping your of someone on this thread might have closeup pictures of a complete drift that I could compare against? Either way, thanks again for the knowledge, I’m leaving with more than I arrived.

  6. Nick, I mentioned that I had found a Parkinson’s vise in New Zealand and brought it back to the States with me. I do have it with me now in New Orleans and wanted to send you photos as you requested…but have lost the email address and am not sure how to post you images any more.

    Regards, Rob

  7. Great post about this vise. I purchased a work bench several years ago from a model airplane shop with a rusted Massey very similar to Rob’s vise posted here. The handle of mine is cast on one side “Massey • E&K” and the other side “Pat • May 80” – no other markings that I’m aware of. Happy to send you photos if you’d like to include them in your post.


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