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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Father's Only Vise: 1962

Father's Only Vise: 1962

Be honest now; how many of you wouldn't be thrilled to get a new vise for Christmas? Father seems pleased with this ultra-modern, high-tech aluminum model, undoubtedly looking forward to replacing the old-fashioned steel one on his workbench in the basement. Unfortunately, the screw soon developed a slight bend (I may have had something to do with that) and it never again worked quite as smoothly. Mounted on the same workbench was a hand-cranked grinding wheel that I liked to spin up to as many joist-shaking rpms as possible, thereby provoking immediate maternal castigation from the top of the stairs. At which point I stopped, until the next time I did it. Among the items here on the shelves are a selection of handyman books my mother kept buying and which Father kept ignoring for the most part; generally, he relied on his own ingenuity. A timely discovery: on the middle shelf, lying sideways, is a copy of Uncle Frank's book, as mentioned last week; I think my sister has it. I count nine items now in my custody, including my picture. Oh, and help yourself to a piece of See's candy. Kodachrome II slide by me. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Re: Handy with Tools

Yes Dave, he sure could. My copy is the Eighth Printing, 1957. Same cover art.

You shouldn't have!

The look on his face is like when my dad and I gave Mom a new blender or something similar for Christmas. Eventually we figured out it was not all about her household duties but that we should have been more attentive to things that gave her pleasure, like books and records.

A window into the past.

Thanks for sharing that photo. If I had one like that I would hardly be able to take my gaze from it. In fact, when I visit my mom, I carefully go through my dad's desk drawers, his workbench in the garage, looking at his assembled life. This photo must do the same for you.

It's a Stanley 5702!

The same model I have got on my workbench (not replacing the old-fashioned steel one) on my workbench in the basement.

To the right you may see the tiny vise my brother made in 1960 as part of a "metal engineering practicum" during his first year on Technical University Delft. In 1963 I made a cutting device as a result of the same practicum, during my first year.

Kids painting

I loved painting stuff, from about age 6 when I was turned loose on the new redwood fence at our Russian River vacation house in East Guernewood in 1952. That's our 1948 Hudson on the other side, and my father behind me. I remember working on the walls in the living room a few years before the vise photo was taken. At that point, Father was using latex for the walls and semi-gloss enamel for the woodwork. Mist Green, I believe, probably from Montgomery Ward.

My Dad's Only Vise

for a long time was an iron monster that we salvaged from his uncle's farm. It had some sort of big spike that looked like it was meant to be driven into a stump, but being a child of the Great Depression, he figured a way to rig it up to his bench. He finally got a proper bench vise from my grandfather, who was a tool and die maker. Don't remember my dad ever consulting a handyman book, either - he generally sized up the job and went after it with a collection of antique manual hand tools (I don't remember us even having an electric drill). As the eldest son, I was always holding the other end of the board, and witnessed many frustrating hours of working with those ancient implements. It certainly made an impression on me - as soon as I became a homeowner, I went straight to the Sears Store in Paducah, KY and loaded up on Craftsman power tools, which are still in use 33 years later (I guess that makes THEM antiques!).

I'm sure it's been said before

Another image for a Norman Rockwell's wannabe painter. I think Mr. Rockwell would have pushed the box of See's back more, so it doesn't look slammed in there via PhotoShop, and maybe more creative license in showing the See's logo on the box, albiet upside down so we know it is the lid. Move the bellow set. Remove the porcelain figurine. Maybe rearrange the books, or maybe not. Make the red ribbon more prominent, perhaps streaming across father's knee pointing toward the gift. Ah well, every Tterrace photo gets this workover from me! They are iconic and a world that has disappeared. Lovely. Thank you, Tterrace.

Re: Wall Art

By age 8, I had graduated to LATEX flat and glossy ... maybe I was closer to 10 ... and Mom helped with the ladder stuff ... but it was certainly cerulean!

Wall Art

That wall texture that has been mentioned was in all the rooms (except the kitchen and bath) of my home in Gering, Nebraska, a farming community. (I was a townie.) As a small child (born in 1960) I used to stare at the walls and see all kinds of creatures, shapes, faces in the plaster -- some scary sometimes. When I was about 8 years old, I painted the plaster in the whole room a super intense cerulean blue with bright white glossy woodwork.

[With what -- finger paint and a ladder? - Dave]

Red Ribbon

Well ... I really love the underexposed version of this one. I mean just LOOK how that red ribbon gleams out from that dark seat .... and plays with the other reddish things in the picture! Wow!


For at least three decades we received for Christmas a box of Mrs. See's candy from my Aunt Caroline in Los Angeles. I always had dibs on the two delicious rectangular pieces of mocha with the little rod-like decorettes on them. I can still taste them to this day! When I lived in Dallas and visited Town East Mall, I always got my mocha fix at the See's store.

Vise photo info

Kodachrome II was ASA 25 (plain Kodachrome at the time was 10). This is bounce flash. I calculated the exposure using the Flash Exposure Dial in my Kodak Master Photoguide, then applied a bounce-flash factor from a table I found somewhere. I didn't exactly nail it, though; below is close to what the original looks like, about 1-2 stops underexposed. Plus I was apparently not using a daylight flashbulb, thus the yellow balance. It took a lot of fiddling with the original scanning and then with Photoshop to bring it up. I'm not totally happy with the results, which wound up flattening things; I miss the subtle modeling in my father's face, for example. So yeah, you could call it doctored, but hey.

Paul A: I don't remember if the vise had those features. The stippling on the walls was common to the living room, dining room and bedroom downstairs. Presumably done c.1923 when our house, originally built as a church in 1906, was converted to a dwelling.

Did you use a flash?

There's nice even lighting with no harshness that I can see.My Question remains, did you use a flash or was it natural lighting?

Oooh, Picture Frame Vise!

I remember how readily available picture frame molding was in the '50, '60, '70 era. Did this vise have holes to align the mitered corners? By the way, I have the same plaster texture in my living room.

The color is fantastic in this photo. Did you doctor the scan?

Thanks for sharing tterrace, this is the period of my childhood and the clothing and eyeglass fashion brings back many happy Christmas memories.

Nail on the head

You certainly nailed the exposure on that Kodachrome ll. If I remember correctly it was 64 ASA. And to calibrate a bounce flash must have meant the use of a meter - a flash meter? And a test shot to calibrate the meter. All the while your long suffering dad had to remain deeply focused on that vise for the photo.

Father's books

Excellent, Dave. Us being Westerners, next to it on the shelf is a Sunset Outdoor Building Book and a very early, spiral-bound Sunset Garden Flower Book. Haven't been able to find images of those specific editions online, but I think I've seen both copies at my sister's place. There's also a complete multi-volume handyman encyclopedia - the ones with the white at the top of the bindings. On the top shelf, our Heritage Press collection, my first introduction to Dickens, Lewis Carroll and Mark Twain. The red collection on the middle shelf is the Smithsonian Series of the 1940s. Not seen, on another shelf: a complete set of The Book of Knowledge c.1910. By the way, this is from my first-ever roll of Kodachrome.

Re: Handy with tools.

That's the edition! The one with the woman in the background, shrieking, "My table! Somebody stop him!"


Oooh, that looks like a two-pound box. See's candy seems to be the number-one Christmas gift around my office, because it shows up on everyone's desk this time of year. I've already informed my coworkers that I will happily take any of their unwanted chocolates. I consider it a duty of my job.

Handy with tools.

Could your dad can bore a hole (with his eyes closed) and smoke a pipe at the same time? And who doesn't have one of these lying around. Here's my copy. Fifth printing, 1957. (Update: turns out I have two of these.)

Doomed to failure

I bent my father's 6-inch steel vise on his workbench in 1960, an aluminum vise would only be for show in our house.

The candy's a bit stale

I'm more interested in coveting that leather chair.

We had a copy of that Handy Man's Book. I have no idea if Dad ever consulted it before embarking on a household repair project, but I'm pretty sure you couldn't find any of the fine and hair-raising swears that subsequently filled the house in the index.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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