the Record 52 1/2 vice

category: ,

Record quick-release vices have long been a favourite amongst woodworkers around the world and for a while during the early 20th century Record were making a version that has arguably never been bettered in either design nor quality1)incidentally, the Record woodworker’s vices were available 3 jaw widths: 7”, 9” and 10 1/2″.    For reasons best known to themselves, C J Hampton named these with model numbers 52, 52 1/2 and 53 respectively.   The 52 1/2 (9”) model is convenient size for lots of wood working jobs and was the most popular option

Version I – a Parkinson copy (1910)

C & J Hampton registered the ‘record’ trademark in 1909 and trade listings from this time show that they own a foundry and are manufacturing vices and other tools.   By this time Parkinson’s patent on his quick release vice would have expired so there was nothing  to prevent C&J Hampton from simply making a copy, and this is what they did.

The Tools and Trades History Society have made an early C&J Hampton catalogue (June 1910) available to members, and the model 23 vice gets a full page spread:

In this catalogue the ‘Record’ trademark is only used for their vices and was presumably registered, at least initially, for this purpose.  Although the catalogue also advertises wrenches, spanners, cramps and tube cutters, holdfasts and a few drills; the vices were clearly an important part of their range and they named their telegraphic address accordingly: VICES, SHEFFIELD 2)telegraphic addresses were memorable short-codes used to identify the recipients of a telegram.   Some telegram addresses became so well known that organisations adopted them as their proper name e.g Interpol.

We know from the Steel Nut & Joseph Hampton ltd (aka Woden) catalogue from a few years later that this company was also selling a copy of the Parkinson pattern quick release vice:

Image
Woden catalogue 1918

Tony Hampton, a distant relative of the founders of these two companies who had worked for the Woden business, told Scott Landis3)c.f The Workbench Book p144 that when Charles and Joseph junior left Woden to set up C & J Hampton in Sheffield (1898) they took the Woden tool line with them and began making vices patterned after Woden’s.

It is unlikely that Woden had started producing a Parkinson’s pattern vice by 1898 as Parkinson’s patent was still in force until 1904. More likely is that Woden and C & J Hampton independently chose to make copies after the patent expired4)of course it is conceivable that there was an earlier Woden-specific pattern that pre-dated the Parkinson pattern – and that C & J Hampton copied this version – but if so the details of it are lost in the mists of time.

Version II – Steel Rods (1918)

Back to top

C&J Hampton, released a new version of the vice in 1918 and retained the ‘Record’ trademark, presumably with a view to distinguish them from Parkinson’s well known ‘Perfect’ brand.

The new version improved on the previous model by the use of steel rods rather than the cast steel slides used in the Parkinson pattern. The cast iron sliders were comparatively fragile and the polished steel rods afforded a smoother mechanism – a much better design and all the major GB manufacturers had switched to it (including Parkinson) by the 1930s.

Record take credit for introducing this improvement (see catalog entry below) but can’t claim to have had the original idea since, as we saw previously, WC Toles, a US maker, was using steel rods in his vices over 20 years earlier:

Image
Record pocket-edition catalogue no 16 (1950)

The likely launch date for the new model was 1918, which is the date of the Registered Design that is cast into the front jaw of these vices.

Two face castings were used, the design that omits ‘MADE IN ENGLAND’ is relatively uncommon and is presumably the earlier version.

version II a

Since there were no original inventions to patent, a registered design would have been the best C&J Hampton’s could have done to get some protection for the new model.  The registered design reference is 664709

I contacted the National Archive to get a copy of the design registration records to see if it offered any clues (search and copying fee of £9.10 – no need to thank me!)

Image

As you can see the date it was filed was July 1918 and an extension was noted in July 1923.

the 1907 Patent and Design Act granted you 5 years copyright under a design patent with the option to extend for two more 5 year periods.

But, as noted below, it seems that C&J Hampton continued to stamp the RD number on the vices they made well into the 1930s.

My best guess is that Record did renew for the third and final term granting them design rights until July 1933, but that they had enough old stock of the ‘RD’ casting to carry production a little while after it expired.

The best we can say is that any of the vices with an RD stamp were made between July 1918 to 1933 or thereabouts.

Presumably production of the new vice started soon as the design patent was filed with the GB patent office, but the earliest evidence of the vice being for sale that I could find is this 1923 catalogue:

Image
Buck & Hickman 1923

Version III – screw and nut cover (1927)

Back to top

Eventually Record came up with a couple of improvements that they considered worth patenting.

The first idea is actually rather good, but the second, described below, is a bit of a duffer (it does at least help with constructing a timeline for the vices).

A weakness of Parkinson’s quick-release design – perhaps the only serious issue – is that the screw is exposed when the vice is opened and sawdust and shavings falling on the screw can be carried onto the half-nut. If enough debris builds up in the half-nut it can start to ride up the screw thread causing the mechanism to slip and potentially damaging the threads in the process.

In August 1927 Record took out a patent (GB292381) for a “Screw and Nut Cover” – this is a metal cover that extends the length of the screw, preventing sawdust and shavings dropping on the thread. An excellent idea – they gave vices that included the cover an ‘A’ post-fix, which is stamped on the face. The As were about 10% more expensive than the standard model.

Image
Drawing from the Patent

These vices were sold along side the original version and designated e.g ’52 1/2 A’ where ‘A’ indicates the screw and nut cover version.

around this time they also moved the spring that held the half nut against the screw to the front face. In the older vices is a captive spring between the half-nut housing and the underside of the half nut – this keeps the half-nut pushed against the screw until the lever is turned and the spring compressed:

In the new design the flat bar is inserted into a castellated nut on the inside of the front jaw and it is held under tension by a large watch spring.   The spring causes the  bar to push the half nut against the screw until the quick release lever is activated. 

Version IV – sawdust excluder plate (1932)

Back to top

in November 1932 Record applied for a new patent, this time for a “sawduster excluder plate” that covers the housing for the half-nut.    This change was introduced at the same time as  a modification to the housing for the half-nut and they put a blue and yellow sticker on the plates to explain the changes:

The RECORD VICE has TWO IMPORTANT FEATURES
1. SAWDUST EXCLUDER PLATE TO PREVENT CLOGGING OF MOVING PARTS
2. NUT EASILY REMOVED FOR CLEANING
KEEP WORKING PARTS LUBRICATED

Image
some of the plates were engraved with the patent number (just about visible in the example above).

You may wonder how a part of the vice that is fixed to the underside of your bench could be the cause of sawdust falling in and clogging the working parts – the answer is in the patent:

The nut housing is usually provided with external flanges, lugs or the like by means of which the vice is secured to the under surface of a bench, the bench itself closing the housing. There is, however, often a passage from the bench surface to the housing between the back of the plate like portion of the fixed jaw and the bench mortise in which it is let and this passage, especially in the case of faulty or careless work in erecting the vice on the bench

GB409804 (1923)

I leave it to the reader to decide how much of a problem was caused by all this careless vice fitting that was going on in the 1920s, but suffice to say Record go on to acknowledge (in the same patent) that the problem was already solved by their ‘screw and nut cover’ (see previous section) which they invented several years earlier.

The second improvement is more useful: In the 1920s design the half nut is hidden behind the casting of the rear carriage and is inaccessible once the vice is fixed to the bench.

The new design (below) has a separate metal housing that is attached to the rear carriage with two bolts and this means the the half nut can be removed for cleaning even after the vice has been fixed to the bench.

updated mechanism: removable housing for the half nut

It is odd that Record did not include this feature in their patent application, since it is a genuine improvement.  A possible explanation is that Woden had already described a detachable screw housing in their 1906 patent GB25134), although they do not make any particular claims for it.

At this stage you will note that the ‘excluder plate’ is rendered even more redundant, since it is no longer necessary to get at the nut from the top.

Although there was nothing to prevent Record from producing the modified vices after the patent was filed at the end of 1932 the first mention I can find for these changes are in the 1935 catalogue5)c.f 1935 pocket Record No 14 catalogue p95.

There is a clear picture of the new housing in a catalogue from 1950, although bizarrely they have left the “sawdust excluder plate” off the drawing despite having an arrow pointing to where it should be:

Image
Record pocket catalogue no 16 (1950)

My thought about the ‘sawdust excluder plate’ patent was that it was a rather lame attempt by Record to extend IP protection for their vice given that their Registered Design was due to expire a few months later in 1933.

As mentioned above the Registered Design taken out by Record for their vice in 1918 ought to have expired no later than 1933, but the RD number continued to be shown on the vices literature after that point.  Of course this would be explained if Record simply never got round to updating their catalogue etchings, but many surviving vices have both the RD number and the saw dust excluder plate  which can be dated to 1932.  Since it is unlikely all the vices with both the RD number and the ‘sawdust extractor plate’ were made between November 1932 and some point in 1933, this suggests that Record continued to use the face casting with the RD number beyond this date.

Thus the best we can say is that the ‘saw dust extractor’ model was introduced after 1932 and that early versions were available with both a Registered Design number stamped on the face and the transitional face design (shown above) where the space for the RD number is blank.

Version V – transitional design (mid 1930s)

Back to top

At some point after the design patent expired (1933) C & J Hampton – who I’ll just refer to as “Record” from now on, since they eventually decided to trade under this name for all their products – removed the design number from the front jaw casting:

Image
transitional face design – the RD number is removed but the surrounding box is retained (~1933)

Version V – new face design (~1940)

Back to top

The final, and arguably most refined version before a complete revamp in the 60s had a newly designed face and a very high quality finish:

Image
this my one!

unfortunately it is not possible to date it very precisely.  Given the transitional model is comparatively rare my guess is that at some point in the late 1930s Record launched this more attractive face design.  The earliest catalogue I can find showing this casting is the Record no 16 pocket catalogue (1950).

By the 1940s Record had perfected their vice design and, having ran out of ideas to improve it, filed no more patent applications for us to refer to. Unreliable as they may be, I think the only clues we can get at this distance of time will be from old adverts and catalogues but these are sadly few and far between for Record tools.

you can never have too many classic 52 1/2 vices!

Version VII – the final Record 52 1/2 (1963)

Back to top

   the very last model created before the Record brand was sold to Irvin was launched in the 1960s.  The changes made included:

  • a new design for the front face casting
  • a new square boss (previously oval)
  • the part holding the sliding bars parallel at the far end of the vice is now made of sheet metal (previously cast iron)
  • the removable steel ‘sawdust excluder plate’ in the rear carriage that covered the half-nut is gone and instead the casting is solid in this area
  • the cast webs that braced the rear jaw and the horizontal face of the carriage are gone
  • the two rear bolt holes in the carriage are now slotted
  • the screw and nut cover is provided as standard with most of the QR vices in the range
  • Finally, they introduced a new model that included a dog in the front jaw.

On the cosmetic side, Record adopted a lighter blue colour and a new ‘record’ logo/sticker around this time and also came up with new codes to identify the various models:

  • P= plain screw (i.e no quick release mechanism)
  • C= combined vice and cramp for attaching/removing the vice
  • E= Quick Release
  • D= adjustable dog with QR (available as plainscrew too (‘DP’ although I think the castings were only marked D)
  • no-postfix = lightweight plainscrew, ‘amateur ‘ and junior range
Image
The new range was first announced in their 1963 catalogue

As you can see the new range is deemed by Record to be an improvement on the previous version – I leave it to the reader to decide how many of these changes really do improve the design!

Record merged with Ridgeway in the early 1970s and the new business continued to make versions of the 52 1/2, indeed the current owners of the Record brand (Irvin) still make a copy, although it is a pale imitation of the versions made in earlier decades.

you can see a summary of the timeline for this type of quick release vice here

Copies by Other Makers

Back to top

The GB Patents and Designs Act 1907 granted Record a monopoly on their registered design for up to 15 years, so in theory from the end of 1933 other manufacturers would be free to copy the design.  Since the design was so good it is not surprising that copies soon followed.

For instance, the Buck and Hickman 1935 catalogue introduces their own-brand (Toga) version of the vice and mentions that Parkinson have also made the same design available.

Image
an early copy (Buck and Hickman 1935 catalogue):

Parkinson’s catalogue of 1940 (which is a reprint of their 1937 catalogue but with updated prices) shows they have dropped their old casts iron slider design and now only make the ‘Record’ version. They also licensed the “Screw and Nut Cover” from Record:

Image

Countless companies have made copies of the design over the years. Some of the high quality versions are by Parkinson, Toga (Bucks and Hickman), Rededa, Paramo, Marples, Woden. The modern copies (Irvin Annant, York, Dawn etc), although functional, are made to a comparably low standard to keep the price down.

update October 2020

Back to top

This detailed (and amusing) comparison of 52 1/2 vices from different eras is well worth a watch. The author concludes – quite rightly in my view – that the 1940s vices are the best of the lot, although in all fairness I should note his conclusions suggest I haven’t given the 1960s version the credit it deserves.

APPENDIX: How it works

Back to top

A brilliantly simple design. Note this illustrates the slightly modified version of Parkinson’s original mechanism (introduced by Record in 1932 see Version IV above) – the spring in the original design was directly under the half nut.

References

1 incidentally, the Record woodworker’s vices were available 3 jaw widths: 7”, 9” and 10 1/2″.    For reasons best known to themselves, C J Hampton named these with model numbers 52, 52 1/2 and 53 respectively.   The 52 1/2 (9”) model is convenient size for lots of wood working jobs and was the most popular option
2 telegraphic addresses were memorable short-codes used to identify the recipients of a telegram.   Some telegram addresses became so well known that organisations adopted them as their proper name e.g Interpol
3 c.f The Workbench Book p144
4 of course it is conceivable that there was an earlier Woden-specific pattern that pre-dated the Parkinson pattern – and that C & J Hampton copied this version – but if so the details of it are lost in the mists of time
5 c.f 1935 pocket Record No 14 catalogue p95

23 thoughts on “the Record 52 1/2 vice”

  1. Great post. I came across this while searching for details about this model after finding one in an old junk shop. I had to replace the broken watch spring on mine, and was really surprised at how easy it was to find a replacement. Now restored, it is a great addition to my shop. I love how these old tools never seem to die.

    Reply
  2. Thank you very much for these excellent well researched articles regarding the development of the RECORD Quick Release Woodworkers’ Vices.

    I’d been wondering when the slide bars were introduced, making the RECORD Vices the most popular choice, until it was eventually copied by the other manufacturers in the 1930s.

    Over the years I’ve probably collected every type of RECORD No. 53, starting with what I now know as the earliest one produced in the early 1920s, thanks to your research. it has significant differences to the later variants.

    I have a copy of a RECORD WOODWORKERS VICE No. 52A educational chart issued in 1951 that might be of interest, and will send you the PDF File later.

    Reply
  3. Thanks for the article, I seem to have a Record 52 version v or vi.

    Do you know what the thread size is for the cheek attachments. there are 2 threaded holes in the sliding jaw and the 2 threaded holes in the body.

    I am assuming they should be some sort of countersunk bsw csk bolt but not sure which.

    Thanks in advance

    Jamie

    Reply
    • Hi Jamie,

      I *think* the threaded holes in the rear jaws of old record vices are 1/4” BSW, although the modern ones seem to be 5/16th – you’ll have to check. Unless you are using very thin linings for the jaws you’ll be fine just using coach screws though – I used 70mm M10 coach screws for the undercarriage and M6s for the jaws.

      Nick

      Reply
  4. Good morning – I have just inherited a 52 1/2 vice from my grandfather. I have noticed the spring has broken. Does anyone know where I could find a replacement? Also, is this necessary for vice to open as currently jaws wont open when handle turned. Thank you. Shaun

    Reply
    • Hi Shaun,
      Irvin still make these vices and sell spare parts including the spring – e.g Knighton Tools – if you are in the uk

      The spring is needed to make the vice work since it keeps the nut held against the screw. Difficult to be sure without a photo but I suspect this is why your vice is not opening (the other possibility is it has been dismantled and not put together properly – the only way to find out is to take it apart. Feel free to ask if you get stuck!

      Reply
  5. Hi. I just found your very informative article. I have built a workbench and managed to get hold of a Record 52 1/2 and a 52 E, both needing some TLC.
    I stripped and rebuilt the 52 E with little trouble except that now the QR only operates when closing (it had been seized when I got it) – any obvious clues for fixing this – I wondered spring too loose or too tight?

    The 52 1/2 looks fine apart from the rust and a coat of grey/beige paint over the Record blue. Based on your article I think it is a later original model; ie. screw protection plate, oval boss, removable half screw and no registered number on the face.

    Reply
    • You could check to see if the flat bar is twisted – I suppose that a twist towards either end might explain why it does not fully disengage the half nut when the jaw is closed.

      Reply
  6. Hi Nick, I appear to be using a version II here, and more reverentially after reading all the above!

    When I clamp something (smaller than 7.5″) in the right hand side of the vise, the QR mechanism releases, unless I prevent the lever from riding up, albeit gently. Clamping things into the LH side of the vise is fine. I see that doing either twists the vise so I’m careful and will try to load the vise evenly unless I can’t.

    Can you suggest what may be happening with this QR? There’s no twist in the QR bar and being a V. II I’m reluctant to remove it from its mount to access the mechanism, unless I really must.

    Reply
    • difficult to say without looking Edmund, all vices will rack to some extent – including the Record – possibly the threads in the half nut are worn (or more likely they are simply filled with sawdust/oil etc) so that they do not get sufficient purchase on the screw and the two parts separate as the vice twists.

      I wouldn’t be concerned about taking it apart to have a look and to give it a good clean – they are very robust and the construction is quite simple. Good luck!

      Reply
  7. Hi Nick,

    Just stumbled across your website and wondered if you have any spares for the record 52 1/2 vice? I’m after the quick release spring and hex nut, mine has worn and is causing it to slip when opening the vice…..it’s driving me mad as i can’t really use it as it should be used… Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Matthew

    Reply
    • Hi Matthew, assuming you are in the UK, Knighton tools still do replacement springs + casttleated nuts

      .. alternatively broken vices do occasionally come up for very little money and you might be able to salvage parts from one of them.

      worth also checking that the half nut and screw are clean, as this can also cause the mechanism to slip.

      Reply
  8. Hello everyone,hope you are all well, just come across your brilliant website, my wife seems to have joined the vice squad as she has taken GREAT delight to have bought me 9 vices all different ones large+ small QR.as well, you can’t beat the used vices, for cutting up kindling inside+ out!lots of good information,re spare parts + where to get them,also cleaning+looking after them many thanks joe,South lakes.

    Reply
  9. Hello All,
    Just researching Record vices to try and identify the one I have in my garage and came across this website.
    I have a Record 53 (Made in England) but it does not have the quick-release mechanism. I cannot find any reference to such a vice in my searches. Every 53 I come across has the QR mechanism.
    I thought at first it may have been modified but it doesn’t appear to have any missing parts and it bears no modification scars.
    Can anyone help me to identify it (I know it’s a 53 but which version?) and date it please? It was my father-in-law’s vice and I’m sure it must go back to at least the 60s.
    Many thanks,
    Paolo

    Reply
    • Hi Paolo, Record made “plain screw” version of their vices (similar to the quick-release versions but using an ordinary square screw). Depending on how old it is, yours would have been referred to as a ’53P’ in the catalogues.

      Reply
  10. Hello vice enthusiasts,
    I have just bought a workbench fitted with a Record 9″ vice model 52 1/2P pattern number RD 664709. It is not quick release and has a square thread. The seller said it came from a school or college.
    I have gleaned from websites that the RD prefix was only used between 1918 and 1933 and assume that the P is for plain i.e. not quick release.
    Will it have been made by C & J Hampton of Sheffield?
    Is there any other information available?

    Reply
  11. Really great post, thanks for the information.

    I have just refurbished a 53E, 60s model. I’ve got a couple of things to add.

    You mentioned that the vertical ribs on the rear casting of the 1960s model have gone to ease fitting onto the workbench (no vertical slots required any more). The rear vice face has changed from an integral casting to a steel plate, which is now welded to the rear vice “foot casting”. Whether this was done for strength, cost, complexity, I don’t know. You can see the joint between this rear face plate and the rear casting (foot) in both your photo above and the catalogue. It’s a beefy plate, so not worried about the strength.

    The quick release bar (1″ wide by 1/8″ thick) is slightly twisted in mine. I think this is fairly common. It could be metal creep over time (the bar is under constant torsion from the clock spring). I found the dreaded “slip and clunk” when winding the vice out, particularly at wide openings. I think that the bar has absorbed most of the torque at this point through twist. Going to the next slot on the castellated nut eliminated the clunk (at the expense of a slightly stronger release effort). I noticed one of your posters above asking about this.

    The pin securing the washers on the main threaded rod at the rear: this is deliberately bent. I’ve read a lot of people straightening it out. The bend retains it in the hole. Also note that one of the original washers is brass, bearing against the rear sheet metal guide (1960s model only).

    There is an easy and safe way to tension the clock spring:.

    1. Close the QR lever, this takes the pressue off the nut.
    1a. Remove the sheet metal holder (2 bolts) which holds the split nut in place, carefully let the QR bar relax freely by slowly releasing the QR lever.
    2. Unscrew the retaining screw, and pull the quick release bar out beyond the end of the castellated nut.
    3. Locate the clock spring foot against the casting lobe (it is not under tension at this point).
    4. Rotate the bar to the desired location on the castellated nut, and push home, tighten the screw.
    5. The spring can be tensioned by closing the QR lever, allowing the bar to be located in the sheet metal nut housing, and the slot in the split nut (this can be fiddly, keep the nut stem vertical, and by jiggling the parts it all goes together).
    6. Keep tension on the QR lever, then run the two bolts in finger tight. Release the QR lever and tighten up.

    Couple of other points. Even very fine surface rust on the bars/guide holes makes it a bit rough running. Clean with fine emery paper and light oil makes it work better.

    Also-it’s a big heavy vice. There is (always) going to be some play between the guide rods and holes. When the vice is open, the front inevitably droops because of the play. Lifting it up slightly when shoving it back means it runs more freely.

    Reply
    • thanks AA, although it does not really bother me, you can reduce the ‘droop’ by affixing a couple of small blocks of wood between the underside of the bench and the end cap on the rods.

      Reply
  12. Hi all. I have found the above comments useful, I have just acquired a Record 52 1/2 E vise with a 9″ wide jaw unfortunately the rear
    fixed jaw has been welded in the past and although I am capable of re doing the weld I would prefer to buy a replacement jaw, does anyone know where this item can be purchased and how do I determine the exact part I need. I believe this model was introduced around 1963.

    Reply

Leave a comment