Old, But New…

I am a fan of old tools. I wouldn’t call it an obsession, but I prefer the quality of tools made here in the U.S.A. back when we still made things. I’ve currently got a 1951 Delta Unisaw, a 1968 Delta Heavy-Duty lathe and a Crescent 8-inch jointer that I believe is from the 1940s. I’m always looking to add more, but I admit, I am a bottom feeder. I troll Craigslist and occasionally eBay looking for the unique and unwanted. I think I paid $250 for the jointer and $325 for the lathe. Bargains.

Anyway, I have been on a quest for an Emmert Patternmaker’s vise for a long time. My buddy Pete has one and it is perhaps the coolest vise ever made. Fully restored ones can fetch a lot of money, but I wanted one that I could use. Luckily, I was in no hurry (which was a good thing because this has been a 10+ year search.)


The holy grail of vises. Used by patternmakers to shape wood patterns for creating molds. It rotates 360 degrees. It has a tilting jaw for holding work that isn’t square. It also tilts up from the front of the bench for more comfortable working positions. You can learn everything you need to know about the Emmert vise here

So, I’m looking on eBay and come across an Emmert. Normally, I don’t pay that much attention to eBay for these things because the shipping will kill you. It is all cast iron and weighs close to 100 pounds. Plus, the potential for breakage in shipping is high, so generally, it’s not worth it. But this vise caught my eye. It was right in my backyard. San Pedro. California. That is about 10 minutes from here.

So I bid.

And lose the auction.

Fortunately, I had traded some messages with the seller about the vise and he mentioned that he has another one that he is going to be listing soon. (Side note: Did I mention that I have been looking for one of these for a decade? And this dude has a pair of them?) I tell him to please let me know when and that I am interested.

A couple of weeks later, sure enough, he messages me that he’s listed another Emmert vise. I check out the photos and it looks even better than the one I lost out on. Plus it’s complete. Many Emmerts are missing the tilt bracket that is mounted to the underside of the bench. I message him that I’ll pay his starting price right now, today and pick it up same day.


The almost-always-missing tilt bracket. Countless numbers of these are attached to workbench tops with a vise no longer present.

He says great, cancels the auction and I am the proud owner of a new restoration project. The seller is a retired patternmaker who is still working in a slowly dying industry. Soon to  be completely replaced by CAD and rapid prototyping. He had three of these vises as well as a shop full of vintage woodworking tools. I ended up spending an hour or more just chatting with him, learning about his journey and checking out his workshop. In a way, he kind of reminded me of my dad.

I introduced him to the Old Wood Working Machines website, where he will fit right in. I hope he makes it over there.

I’ll post more updates as I get into this awesomeness!

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