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Mystery vise from OK (or QK) Combination Tool Company, Kansas City, MO

Jeff Lastofka

Oct 21, 2021
Vista, CA
This vise is at my local farming equipment museum and it has a removable top on one half and the other half has a geared mechanism to rotate a shaft with a hole and set screw to probably hold a tool or something. No one has a clue about this vise and we're thinking there's a part or parts missing. I'm guessing it might be for running a die or tap attachment and guiding it semi-precisely toward a part held in the missing piece(s). Photos attached. I've done extensive Googling on this with company name, location, guesses of functions, etc.


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What you show is a farmer's vise. It was built by a number of manufacturers on fairly similar designs. The vise was intended to be a multi-purpose piece of equipment. The obvious is that is was a bench vise, and had a serrated vee jaw for holding pipe or round bar stock, as well as having a small anvil. The topmost shaft runs partway thru the vise jaw. This shaft was used to drive drills. The missing part may well have had a shank turned to fit into the 'hole in the shaft with the setscrew'. This 'hole with a setscrew' is a female shaft coupling. A shank with a flat milled on it fitted into that female shaft coupling. The flat was on the shank so the setscrew could clamp the shank against turning in the coupling. The 'chuck' was likely a female bore of 1/2" diameter, with another setscrew. This was to take the type drill shanks most commonly used by blacksmiths and similar crafts. These drills have a 1/2" turned shank, also with a flat milled on it. Some manufacturers would broach the hole for the drill shanks in form of a partial circle with the flat (like the capital letter "D"). This gave positive driving of the drill bits with no chance of anything slipping.

The vise could be used as a kind of drill press, relying on the vise screw to provide feed/pressure on the drill to push it into the work. There was probably some kind of vise pad the fitted on the slide of the vise to provide a flat surface square to the centerline of the drill bits/drive shank. I'd say you are missing two (2) parts:
-the drive shank (could be made rather easily by anyone able to do basic lathe operations and having a little imagination to 'reverse engineer' this part).
-the drilling pad or similar (also needing a bit of imagination to reverse engineer this part). The drilling pad was likely made of cast iron with minimal machine work.
It could be reverse engineered and build out of steel using a combination of welded fabrication and machine work. Some work with a die grinder to blend the welds
and running an air needle scaler over the whole replacement part will make it look like a casting.

Champion Blower and Forge offered these vises as did a number of other firms. As I wrote in another post on this 'board, I saw one of these vises at a consignment auction of engines, machinery, tools, tractors, construction equipment, and whatnot- several acres of stuff. The farmer's vise at that auction was rusted solid, beat up and badly worn. As I wrote, in my opinion, it was good for a door stop or anchor for a rowboat. Some crazy people bid that hunk of rusted iron up to about 400 bucks.
The word is anything related to blacksmithing goes for bigger bucks these days. The vise you show is in fairly good condition. Duplicating the shank/drill holder (I hesitate to call it a 'chuck' as this was more of a coupling of fixed diameter) and chucking a turned shank drill would illustrate the uses for this vise in your museum.

There is a website called something like "Iron Artifacts" dedicated to the histories of US hand tool makers. Possibly, that site will have some information on the makers of your vise. I am inclined to think the maker's name was "O K" rather than "Q K". The appearance of a "Q" may be due to a little crumbling of molding sand around the letter when the mold was made to cast the vise body. "O" became a "Q" when a little molding sand at the edge of the "O" crumbled and was blown out of the mold before the mold was closed (sand molds are made in a top or "cope" and a bottom section of "drag"). Molders used to use what looked like fireplace bellows to blow stray bits of molding sand or debris out of the sand molds before closing them for pouring.
What you show is a farmer's vise.
Thank you for the excellent reply. It matches a lot of what I was thinking and fills in some more. I just now found a similar Stewart Handy Worker design that seems to have been fairly common and I'll attach a photo. I agree about easily making a replacement pad and adapting a drill to the drive in the vise we have just for the purpose of demonstrating the idea. That will be sufficient for our use. It doesn't have to be an exact replica. Something close that shows the idea, and is within the realm of typical modifications a machinist or handyman could have done back then is OK for us. I didn't know the needle scaler casting appearance trick. Thanks for that idea, too.


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