CMS-Japanese Motorcycle Supply Parts

How to date Dawn offset engineer's bench vices? Just how old are they?


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Dawn Offset Vice Age

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.

1920s

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.

1930s

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:

Here are some examples of early Dawn vices.

Models I have found so far with the patent stamped:

Model Max opening Weight 1937 price
No. 3 3¼" 25lb 42/6
No. 3½ 4 ¼" 34lb 49/6
No. 4 5 ½" 54lb 59/-
No. 4½ 6" 63lb 62/-
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.

1940s

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:

Here is a photo of a Number 5 Dawn offset cast steel vice without the patent number cast into the body.

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?

1950s

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.

1960s

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:

Model Max opening
4"
4 ½"
5"
6" 7"

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.

1970s

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 OS 75mm 9041 3¼"/82.6mm 24½lb/11.0kg
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
6 OS 150mm 9046 7"/177.8mm 120lb/54.0kg

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.

1980s

A 1982 Dawn catalogue shows the offset vices now designated by their metric measurements:

Model Code Max opening Weight
75 120395 85mm 11.0kg
100 120416 115mm 26.1kg
115 120424 125mm 32.9kg
125 120432 145mm 39.2kg
150 120440 175mm 54kg

The cast steel offset line at the time, consisting of four models:

Model Code Max opening Weight
100 120539 115mm 22.2kg
115 210547 125mm 29.5kg
125 120555 145mm 32.5kg
150 120563 175mm 43.9kg

1990s to 2000s

I have no brochures or catalogues for this time period.

2010s

A 2014 Dawn brochure shows that the 75mm vice has been dropped from the standard cast semi-steel line and that the cast steel line has been replaced by a spheroidal graphite (SG) cast unit (probably well before 2014). The SG lineup is now just three models strong, too. The 100mm has been dropped from the Semi-steel:

Model Code Max opening Weight
100 60178 115mm 26.6kg
125 60180 145mm 39.4kg
150 60181 175mm 55.5kg

The SG lineup:

Model Code Max opening Weight
100 60195 115mm 26.6kg
125 60196 145mm 39.4kg
150 60197 175mm 55.5kg

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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