Restoring a 1940s ‘Paramo’ Vice

This video project has been the first of what I hope will be many videos that involves working and creating inside my new workshop. On my blog in the past I have discussed my ongoing efforts to turn my grandfathers old shed into ‘the workshop’ and the main focal point of every good work space is, in my opinion anyway, a proper bench vice.

This vice has sat alongside dozens of other beautiful old tools in my seanairs shed for decades. It’s a Paramo No. 5 ‘Hi-Duty’ Vice, and are probably still recognisable to a good number of people who have an old one still sitting in their garage or workshop. To quote the ‘progress is fine‘ blog, written by another Paramo No. 5 owner, the paramo vice came about during WW2:

“According to The Workbench Book Paramo vices were first produced during WW2. Just after the Record vise factory was bombed in 1940, it dawned on everyone that vises- vital for war production- were in danger of going into short supply. The UK government authorized the foundry of F. Parramore & Sons Ltd. to produce Record vises. The company was more known for casting sewer pipes. I’m sure the Record people were overjoyed.

These vises and other ‘Paramo’ tools are still relatively common in many UK workshops and garages. This vice, the no.5, is one of the largest I believe they made and is incredibly sturdy. My original plan had just been to give it a clean and oil, but after I soaked it in vinegar and polished it I started to notice the original blue paint coming through. This vice was never meant (and never will be) for a museum- it’s first and foremost to be used in the workshop- but I thought it would be nice to at least bring it back to come of its former glory. 24 hours of soaking in vinegar removed the worst of the grime and rust and plenty of sanding, filing and a bit of barkeepers friend had it clean enough to paint within a couple of days. I could have gone much further as some restorers do, but without a sandblaster I probably couldn’t have got it much cleaner. Plus, the moment I started using it again it was just going to get dirty, so why not leave it with a bit of character? After all, I don’t want to wash away every mark my grandfather made! After cleaning I ordered some nice blue Hammerite and got to work polishing and painting both the parts.

In the end, I used two coats of paint and then a very old white gloss and a rusty nail I had laying around for the lettering. Again, it’s not perfect but it’s not really meant to be, it’s just to give the workshop a bit of colour and to put my own mark on my new (old) vice.

I was very pleased with the outcome, and it’s been a good way to learn more above restoring bits and pieces on something that is pretty tough to ‘mess up’. I have a good number of other things, such as oil cans, vintage tools and knives that I’d like to more thoroughly restore in the future, and the experience of fixing this has certainly encouraged me. It was great fun to edit to, and the knowledge that it’ll be a useful tool in my workshop makes it all the better.

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