A Columbian vise is an antique machine that you can use to bend metal. It consists of two parts: a movable jaw and a fixed jaw attached to handles on either side.
The movable jaw has screw threads to tighten or loosen it. To make this type of vise work, you will need some sort of clamping device as well (such as pipe clamps) to hold your item securely against the jaws so that they don’t move while being bent.
To date a Columbian vise, we will examine the markings on the jaws, among other features. Do you have an old one sitting around? Let’s take a look at how to properly date this object.
- How to Date a Columbian Vise – Full Guideline
- Determine The Age of a Columbian Vise by Examining The Engravings On Its Surface
- Examine Other Features to Determine the Date of Manufactures
- Date an Object-Based On When It Was Last Used
- Compare Your Columbian Vise Against Similar Pieces
- Date Objects Using Their Physical Condition
- Consult With Experts
- Use An Online Database
How to Date a Columbian Vise – Full Guideline
Estimated cost: $100-$150
Time needed: 45 minutes
Tools and Materials needed:
- 1.A screwdriver (preferably flathead, but Philips head might work as well)
- 2. A leather glove (optional)
- 3. A needle-nose pliers
- 4.A magnifying glass (preferably pocket-sized)
- 5. A ruler (preferably metal)
- 6. A reading lamp or other bright light source (preferably with a magnifying glass built-in)
Determine The Age of a Columbian Vise by Examining The Engravings On Its Surface
For example, let’s take a look at the Columbian Vise you have. You should look for two distinct markings on it: an “E W CO” and a circled capital letter “P”.
The E W CO stands for the Eagle-Wood Company. This was an American manufacturer of tools that began in 1867.
If you see this marking, you can date your device from approximately 1870 to 1993, as long as no other engravings were added afterward.
After 1993, another toolmaker bought the company named Jacobs Manufacturing and ceased making tools under their name.
If your device does not have this first mark (the E W), but it does have the circled letter P, it was probably made by the Plomb Tool Company. They are an American company that started in 1915 as the Pacific Tool Company.
Under this name, they began manufacturing pliers and other tools, but now their primary product line is crimping tools.
Since no Columbian vises dating before 1915 have been found with a circled letter P on them, you can estimate your device to be from anywhere between 1915 and 1993 based on this marking alone.
If either of these marks appears on your Columbian vise, then you can determine its age using the chart below:
- “P” and no “E W CO” = 1915-1993
- Both “P” & “E W CO” = 1870 to 1993
- “P” and “E W CO” = 1870-1993
- No “P” or “E W CO” = 1870 to 1993
Remember, these are approximate dates. Some Columbian vises were manufactured before this period, while others may have been made after 1993.
Examine Other Features to Determine the Date of Manufactures
You can also examine other features of a Columbian vise. See if there are any markings and stamps engraved on the handle.
There are two stamped letters ‘J N T’ common marks found on Plomb vises that date between 1963-1973.
What does this marking mean? It was used to identify an inspector named John Neff Thompson who worked for Plomb Tool during this period.
Also, your device has an engraved “E C2C” mark, which stands for the Eagle Company of America (or more specifically, Columbia Iron Works).
This company was responsible for making various high-quality tools in 1881 when they decided to modify the Columbian vise. Their mark was added to Plomb vises that were shipped out between 1974 and 1983.
Another feature present on your device is three straight lines with dashes in between them.
This is not a marking, but the result of rust on your vise! To remove this rust, you can use steel wool and then polish it with an oil-soaked rag.
The dashes seen here may have been used as a date code by Plomb Tool; however, there is no official documentation or proof of this claim so we will never know for sure why they are here.
You could try rubbing off some rust from another tool and see if these marks match up with anything in the ‘date code’ section of this article.
Lastly, you have another stamp that reads “IMPERIAL-CELSIAN” This was the company that bought Plomb Tool when it began having financial problems and eventually liquidated in 1991.
Date an Object-Based On When It Was Last Used
If an item is older than 10 years and has not been used, then it is likely over 100 years old!
Some items like woodworking tools can be dated by examining the materials used to make it – you might find that wooden or steel handles were used, which add to its historical value.
The same principle could also apply to more modern objects; if an object has not been used for a long time, then it is worth more than one that has seen regular use.
This rule works best when trying to date large machinery and tools like those found in factories (cranes, forklifts, etc.).
In fact, many of these Columbian vises are still in use today and sold at hardware stores around the world. Modern Plomb Tool Company brand vises have changed significantly from their original design.
For example, we know that the Plomb logo today was added to the handle in 1992; however, it has not been confirmed when precisely this change occurred.
Compare Your Columbian Vise Against Similar Pieces
You can compare your Columbian Vise in museums or collections to see what they estimate the age to be. The History Colorado Center in Denver has a Columbian Crescent Vise in its collection.
They state that it was made from 1910 to 1940, but we know that many of Plomb’s products were still being sold until 1993 so this estimation could be wrong.
The Milwaukee Historical Museum also has extensive historic tools and machinery used for construction, manufacturing, etc.
A Columbian crescent wrench like yours is located in their museum; however, no exact date is given on the label except “1893-1907.”
But again, we don’t know when exactly Plomb started adding their brand logo to their vises or if they ever stopped doing so. For example:
This Crescent Vise from the Milwaukee Historical Museum has a logo dated the early 1900s and was made into the 1970s or 1980s.
Date Objects Using Their Physical Condition
Looking at corrosion, wear marks, and scratches can let you know how old something is. For example, teardrop-shaped wear marks on the top of your device indicate that it was used for woodwork and was mounted to a wooden surface; this indicates that it could be older than 100 years old!
It might also be possible to estimate a Columbian Vise’s age based on the wear marks found on it. However, there is no official documentation of what type of marks might indicate how old your vise is.
It’s also worth noting that many different types of wrenches were used for woodworking, so you could try to verify its date by checking with antique shops in your region or finding similar tools online.
Consult With Experts
Someone who specializes in dating antiques for more information about how to accurately date a Columbian vise.
They could tell you, for example, when the Plomb brand was first used or if there is a way to verify an age based on corrosion marks and rust. Alternatively, they might be able to recommend a book that provides this info in detail.
It’s worth noting that many people have been trying to find ways of dating old industrial items and tools using the same principles.
Many articles have been written about this subject, and some of them discuss retro-reflective paint, which is used to identify manufacturing dates.
However, if you examine your Columbian vise closely with a flashlight or under UV lights (blacklight), you might find small white circles that contain the letter “D,” and backward “S.”
These are used by Plomb to prove that the paint used on their vises is original. The problem with this method is that it doesn’t provide any information about when the object was made, so determining an exact date can be difficult.
Use An Online Database
To date antique items based on their physical characteristics, you can use the online database at Arts and Humanities Data Service to search by material type, shape, use, etc.
Is Columbian Vise still in business?
No. The company that produces the Columbian Vise was sold in the late 1990s. It is now owned by Gardner Denver and is a part of their plumbing division, but they no longer produce any Columbian Vises.
Why dating a Columbian Vise is essential?
Because many people have inherited these from their parents, grandparents, or other relatives, and no one knows precisely how old they are.
Dating a Columbian vise is crucial because it’s both useful for assessing the age and to understand how the technology has changed over time.
To summarize, it is possible to determine the age of a Columbian vise by examining its physical characteristics.
There are, however, many variables that could make this challenging because the markings can be faded or erased, and corrosion can obscure other features on the device.
The easiest way to date vintage tools like your Columbian crescent wrench is to consult with experts, but you can also use a database that was created specifically for this purpose.