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Wondering how old your Dawn offset cast bench vise or vice is? Here's what I can find on the history of the Australian made offset vices, specifically looking at the cast type and not the fabricated type.
There aren't any drawings of Dawn vices in the 1926 McPhersons catalogue I have here and I can't find any contemporary catalogues from anyone else.
A 1930 Intercolonial Boring Company catalogue shows an offset vice, though it does not specifically say that it's Dawn. It does, however, say that it is "...absolutely exclusive in design and construction" which - along with the drawing and the statement elsewhere in the media that Dawn was the only vice manufacturer in the 30s in the Southern Hemisphere - makes me think that it's a Dawn.
I have a McPhersons 1937 catalogue here which shows offset vices that have the patent number on them:
Models I have found so far with the patent stamped:
|Model||Max opening||Weight||1937 price|
|No. 3½||4 ¼"||34lb||49/6|
|No. 4||5 ½"||54lb||59/-|
|No. 5||6 ½"||85lb||78/6|
|No. 6||7 ½"||114lb||101/-|
The model numbers correspond to the jaw widths. McPhersons also advertised in 1937 that the entire range was also available in crucible cast steel.
The McPhersons April 1949 catalogue ran the same picture as the 1937 one with the same specs, although it made no mention of cast steel vices.
In 1942 the patent owner (Daniel Latham) applied to the High Court for a 3 year extension of his patent, stating amongst other things that he had made very little from licensing it. The extension was granted and I cannot find further mention of the patent in contemporary newspapers, leaving me to suspect that it expired in 1945. If that is the case, I would suspect that once the patent expired there was no longer a need to have the patent number cast into the vice bodies - so perhaps in some instances when the molds were updated they may have omitted the patent text to simplify the casting. What's the point of all of this? Some offset vices do not have the patent number on them:
With the above assumption, I'd suggest that any offset vices without the patent number were produced after the patent expired - so post-WWII (unlikely we will ever be able to find out a specific year) and prior to 1972. Perhaps only the cast steel vices lacked the patent - if that variant was introduced after the patent expired then there would have been no need to include it in the casting. Does anyone have any photos of a cast semi-steel offset vice without the patent?
The McPhersons 1951 catalogue ran the same picture as the 1937 one with the same specs, although it made no mention of cast steel vices.
The 1966 McPhersons catalogue ran the same picture as the 1937 one with the same specs, but this time they ran an additional ad for the cast steel offset vice:
Curiously, the drawing shows a 3 ½" size with "steel" on the front but that size is not listed in their chart of available sizes. If anyone has an earlier catalogue showing cast steel offset vices please let me know - in lieu of that I think it's reasonable to date cast steel offset vices marked as No. X as being made between ~1966 (first shown in catalogue) and ~1972 (introduction of the OS designator).
The 1969 GNR Dawn catalogue lists the same sizes and specs, using the same drawing. It gives the weight of the (four only, apparently) steel variants as 57lb, 63lb, 74lb and 103lb.
Where does that leave us with dating Dawn offset vices which use the No. X designator with the 1927 patent cast in them? Somewhere between ~1930 and prior to 1972, and for any without the patent my best guess is sometime after 1945 to 1972 - IF they exist in cast semi-steel.
The McPhersons drawing from a 1970s catalogue is the same again for both the semi-steel and steel offset vices, and the sizes listed are the same. The cast steel vices apparently had "solid electric castings [which] give positive grip without springing".
A 1972 GNR Dawn catalogue shows a different drawing for the first time - the start of the OS designator:
|Model||Jaw width||Code||Max opening||Weight|
|3 ½ OS||90mm||9042||3 ¾"/95.3mm||32lb/14.4kg|
|4 OS||100mm||9043||4 ½"/114.3mm||58lb/26.1kg|
|4 ½ OS||115mm||9044||5"127mm||73lb/32.9kg|
|5 OS||125mm||9045||5 ¾"/146.1mm||87lb/39.2kg|
The OS designator had a much shorter run - ~1972 to ~1982. Note that the weights and specs provided are different to those shown in the 1937 catalogue - they dont seem to be the same casting rebranded, it seems to be a different casting (did this occur with the OS designator or did it happen inbetween? Need more catalogues checked).
Cast steel offset vices appear in the same catalogue, again using the OS designators, and were available in 4/4.5/5/6" variants.
A 1982 Dawn catalogue shows the offset vices now designated by their metric measurements:
The cast steel offset line at the time, consisting of four models:
An April 5, 1993 catalogue shows the 115mm cast semi-steel offset vice was going to be deleted from the lineup once stock was exhausted. This is also the first catalogue I have seen cast SG vices in, which replaced the cast steel - so this puts an end date on cast steel as 1993 at the absolute latest (probably earlier, need to find more catalogues) and at this point the earliest point I have proof of a cast SG vice being made is 1993.
So, if you have a 115mm cast semi-steel offset vice you'd be looking at it dating to sometime in the late 70s to ~1993.
A 2014 Dawn brochure shows that the 75mm vice has been dropped from the standard cast semi-steel line. The SG lineup is now just three models strong, too, and the 100mm has been dropped from the Semi-steel:
The SG lineup:
A Dawn 2017 catalogue shows the same as the 2014.
If you have any other catalogues/catalogue scans/information that will help fill out this page, please drop me a line via the contact page.
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