Cutter's Vise


The Frogpond - a prologue

I once read "an old Spanish Legend" about a little man who packed his little bag, closed the door to his little house and started down the path.

"Where are you going?" they asked.

"I am going to Connemara," he replied.

"You mean, you're going to Connemara - God willing, donít you?" they asked.

"I mean I am going to Connemara," he answered.

So God noticed this and decided to teach the little man a lesson. He turned him into a frog & put him in a frog pond where He left him for 7 years. Then He restored him to himself and let him go home.

The little man immediately packed his little bag, closed the door to his little house & started down the path.

Where are you going?" they asked.

"I am going to Connemara," he replied.

"You mean you're going to Connemara - God willing, donít you?" they asked.

"I mean," he said, "I am going to Connemara or back to the frog pond."


Many of you who will read this are already very familiar with the continuing struggle I have had with that old rusted Wilton #6 that became known as Cutter's Vise, but some of you were not with us back then and as time goes by, I suspect more newcomers will matriculate from other forums and wind up taking a look at these pages, so a little background is in order here.

Sometime in January 2004 I was working a few miles out in the country doing some plumbing and appliance repairs on a redi-built type home on a horse farm. The lady asked me to take a look at her well house & shed with an eye towards patching or replacing the siding. I didn't take on that job but I did find a big hunk of rusty iron buried in the weeds. I had some difficulty unearthing the danged thing as it was also partially sunk into the dirt & there was some huffing & puffing involved before I got a good look at what it was. That first day, I just dragged it over by the shed & left it - not without some misgivings. Now I don't know about you, but old beat-up tools often speak to me and sometimes that voice can persist for quite a while, usually until I relent and go back after the danged thing. And after all, hundred pound Wilton vises don't just fall out of the sky on an ordinary day around these parts; this was the first time I had ever tripped over one.

But as it happened, I was back out to the farm a couple of more times before the owner ran out of things for me to do. Later, she moved away & put the property up for sale. At some point I finally wrangled the old vise out of her & that was problematic. She didn't know squat about vises & really wasn't even sure what I meant when I asked her about it, but the fact that I was interested in it seemed to make her think it was valuable. She asked me repeatedly, "Well, what's it worth?" I told her that unless I could get the jaw unstuck it would probably bring about 2 cents a pound. I finally walked her out to the shed to inspect it & she said, "Oh good grief! Just take it if you want it."  So one day I took a little trailer out there & hauled it home; you would have had to see the mess of parts & tools that were in the back of my old Blazer to understand why I didn't want to dump another 100 pound chunk on top of it all. But I parked the trailer beside my house & the old vise sat right there for several days before I even looked at it again.

Now again, this is for those of you who were not around SFT in the beginning nor with us at our old hangout, but this tale was originally posted on another discussion board.  Much to my surprise, it developed into a "cause" with something of a life of its own and it definitely had it's following of faithful readers. The thread continued for a little over 3 months before the ship hit the sand & by the end of May it had amassed over 400 replies or comments and well over 12,000 hits. It still exists as a "closed" forum but several of the final posts were "edited" & destroyed by the moderator for containing comments not favorable to his site but it now sits with 14,700 plus page views & 393 "replies". I will not get into the nature & causes of the shipwreck that aborted the thread & my participation in it.

It was an amazing and enjoyable experience for me because of the participation it attracted. It was just plain old fun to get up everyday & either add pictures to the thread or just to read the comments that had been posted that morning. Men I had never heard of showed up to add their suggestions to the almost daily contributions of the regulars, there were lively discussions of the art & science of rust removal, of various methods of applying force to seized machine parts, of EDM machining, of using dry ice and rosebuds at the same time and on & on.

So here is the never ending story of Cutter's Vise as best we were able to resurrect it and I have some explanations about why it is posted here rather than as a thread on the regular forums of ShopFloorTalk. Primarily, there is the problem of manual reproduction of individual posts; I simply am not willing to sit down and re-post nearly 400 "replies" one at a time to our site; it would take a looooong time. This is much, much easier. Then there is the consideration of storage; I have space for it that is easily accessible & ShopFloorTalk is expanding plenty fast as it is. I saw no real reason to further burden the server.  Posting the story on my server gives us some back up security.  Finally, it is my Vise, my thread, my pictures, my "mission" and it very well may become my Frogpond.  I think it belongs on my website.

For those of you who participated, your words are reproduced un-edited and in full to the best of our ability with the exception of 2 replies very near the end.  One was a spelling error so egregious that the sentence made no sense in its original form; one word was corrected. The other was on Page 19 where Franz referred directly to the other site by name; I decided that was not a good idea. In return Franz, all of your advertisements for Dr. Franz's Magic Formulae are included, free of charge. And finally, there were a few comments made by our erstwhile young moderator; they contributed nothing meaningful to the thread and have been omitted, partly out of consideration for him.

This is also for you who accompanied me on this little mission: you will no doubt notice that your avatars that you were using and the original dates of your posts have been omitted out of consideration for the kind and generous MadamX who has worked so hard these past few days to bring this saga back to life for all of us. My avatar is there along with the date of my posts as reference points. I apologize if this seems like I'm getting preferential treatment. Truth is, I am.   But again the dates were problematic; having one occasionally seems to maintain the sense of time well enough. Remember, this is no longer a thread which you can post replies to. Your comments and helpful suggestions should be posted to the "Cutter's Vise" thread on ShopFloorTalk.

Thank you all so much for having made this one of the more memorable experiences of my internet existence. I hope you all can enjoy the "resurrection" as much as we all did the original.

Click the "Next" button to continue on to Page One of Cutter's Vise.


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