Repairing a Slippery Vise Mechanism

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Two years ago I wrote about the ordeal of finding replacement parts for the popular Jorgensen fast acting vices manufactured in the United States (but now discontinued). Unfortunately, after many years of smooth operation, the vise’s steel trapezoidal screw will eventually erode the threaded bronze insert and lose its grip on it. Until a few years ago, when Jorgensen was still making vises in the United States, we could have ordered a new bronze insert. But after the company changed ownership and moved vise production overseas, it became impossible to get these parts.

The cast iron barrel and its bronze insert are the heart of the Jorgensen quick release vise.

Jorgensen’s vice fits into different stages of wear.

One of our readers, Lee Tuftee, had exactly the same problem with his father’s old grip. The solution he found is fast, easy and inexpensive. He wrote to me and shared his solution, which is essentially shimming the insert to push the worn threads closer to the screw. Here are Lee’s explanations and pictures:

“After trying numerous ideas, I reworked the problem and came up with a fairly easy, permanent and rather simple solution.

I realized that only part of the thread was worn and if I could move the threads inward to engage the threaded rod more, the vise should work.

Then, I cut a piece of sheet metal, approximately 14 gauge +/-, to fit the insert under the bronze piece. So I filed the bronze insert to allow it to sit at the same level as before. I also ground the threads to allow the trapezoidal threads of the screw to engage more. This was done with a Dremel wheel that fitted the threads almost perfectly (it was a gray colored wheel, a fairly common Dremel tip from my experience). There was a lot of material left after removing a small amount of insert. “

The thickness is just a piece of sheet metal (unknown gauge, 14 or 16?) That I had. I transferred the dimensions from the outside of the insert, adjusted it to fit a file and let the insert form it upon reassembly.

“Once reassembled, the vise worked perfectly and was able to withstand a human force tightening without any problems. I also advised my father to take AT LEAST 1/2 turn, if not more, to activate the quick release mechanism. I figured from the way the mechanism seems to work, a 1/2 turn would completely disengage the wires and save wear. It usually only went 1/4 turn and sometimes the wires could be heard screeching.

This saved a bit of a bite from the landfill and has been working well for over 5 years. I don’t know if the inserts are available again, but you may not need them for a long time.

I just wanted to pass it on to you in hopes of helping another carpenter make the good tools work. “

An important aspect of the insert restoration process is addressing worn threads. Lee grinded the eroded areas (marked green) using a Dremel wheel. The erosion of the insert threads occurs mainly on the left and right edges of the threads, so it is helpful to reform these areas by grinding away the bent bronze and deepening the threads. Lee said that: “… the radius of the insert actually seemed smaller than that of the screw, to the point where it was never fully positioned in the center of the threads when I pulled it out and placed it on the screw. Originally, my father’s insert was worn on the edges and had no signs of wear anywhere other than the extreme edges of the bronze insert. I feel this step will make a substantial difference in thread duration without being a difficult change. “

Lee wrote: “The actual bronze insert is positioned directly above the shim. After working out the quick release mechanics, I advised my dad to give him at least 1/2 turn to release pressure from his usual 1/4 turn. This allows the conveyor to drop the wires from the 12 o’clock position to the 6 o’clock position and not drag the insert wires along the screw. “

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