Antikythera Fragment #1 – Ancient Tool Technology – Making A Small Parts Vise

G’day Chris here and welcome back to Clickspring. One of the surprising things about the Antikythera
Mechanism is that such a mechanical wonder could have
even been created with the tool technology of the day. I briefly touched on one aspect of that tool
technology, workholding, in Episode 2. And I’d like to talk a bit more about that
in this video as I make a version of the device that I described. It’s basically what we would today call a
“stitching pony”. Two arms carry a simple set of jaws at the
top, and the whole structure could be either fixed
to a base to sit on, or as I intend to use it, pushed firmly against
the bench. A shallow wedge acts as a spacer for the 2
jaws, and a basic bronze casting can be slid up
and down the taper to apply or remove the clamping pressure. Much like the modern equivalent, an ancient version might have had the jaws
covered in leather to both protect the work, and also improve
the grip on the workpiece. Now of course, I’m using modern tools to make
it. But its easy to imagine how this could have
been constructed with the known tools of the day. The materials are common enough, and for the
most part I’m using interference fits and a wedge to
hold everything together. So there’s no modern fastener tech required. I must admit though, its very pleasant to
be able to use modern power tools to get the job done faster. OK, so as I go about making the sand mold
for the bronze casting, I’d like to go through the approach that I’m
going to take with the construction of some of the tools
indicated in the wreckage of the mechanism. The first thing to mention, is that in the
case of workholding for example, its entirely possible that e much more complex
device was used. Grape presses were known to have existed at
the time, using a similar principle to the modern machine
screw. So its not a huge leap to imagine a simple
wooden screw vise existing in the same period. But as tempting as it is to imagine the Ancient
Greeks using tech closer to our own to solve the same problems, I think its worthwhile establishing that this
need not necessarily have been the case. The Antikythera Mechanism is an elegant and
strikingly efficient design, and much the same could be said of the broader
Classical Greek culture. I think that its reasonable to assume that
the Ancient Greeks would have approached their tool design in
a similar way. They may not have used a version of a Stitching
Pony for example, but I do think that they would have been strongly
inclined towards using something elegantly simple. And here’s why: Firstly, the worker was almost certainly the
tool builder. So it seems logical to me that the tool design
would have been straight forward. Making the tool quick and cheap to build from
locally sourced materials. Secondly, each tool was a solution to a specific
problem. So I’d expect the tools to be practical and
functional, with no unnecessary embellishments. Just a simple design that gets the job done. And thirdly, the worker was almost certainly
the tool repairer. So the tool would need to be easy to repair
when it inevitable breaks or wears out. So I would expect no unnecessarily compex
tech, and as few moving parts as possible. As I speculate on the tool technology going
forward, this will be the approach I take with the
tool design. If something simple could have done the job, then I’m going to assume that that was the
route taken. I’m going to take a similar approach when
sourcing the raw materials for the tools. I’ve made these copper ingots in an open faced
sand mold from some scrap copper. And the tin is also scrap, left over from
making the tin lapping discs in a previous video. The casting looks to be OK, and now needs
the sprue and riser cut off, and be given a general clean up. I used a file to knock off the sharp edges, and I’ve left the other surfaces with a bit
of a rough “as cast” look to give the tool a bit more of an authentic
presence. OK, so next up is the main body of the tool, and for materials I’ve decided to use oak. Its a nice springy wood, and also very pleasant
to work. The jaw arms will experience a significant
force when they’re wedged apart. To oppose that force, I used a simple twine tightly bound around the perimeter of the
two pieces of wood. The twine also serves the purpose of keeping
the casting in its operating position, just below the start of the taper. A shallow timber wedge was slotted between
the two jaw arms, and then hammered home. I used candle wax as a simple lubricant for
the dowels, tapped them into place, and then sanded them
flush. Now there were quite a few traditional adhesives
available for use in the ancient world. Although I imagine that a good choice to hold
the leather in place would have been something simple like pine
pitch, a thick tarry substance. I don’t have a lot of pine trees in my part
of the world, but what I do have is shellac resin, which
behaves in a similar way. Much like pine pitch it solidifies glass hard
at room temperature. But under a low flame it melts and becomes
an excellent glue. In fact watch and clockmakers have been using
shellac in this way for centuries, to hold parts onto the face of the so called
“wax chuck” in the lathe. With the main body of the tool complete, I cut it to a convenient operating length
and then pinned the base with a single dowel. Now I’m not so sure that a finish was necessarily
a high priority for an ancient working hard to make a living
on the tools. But I figure if it was, then a natural linseed
oil would probably be one of the options available. OK, so that’s the tool compete, and I have
to say that it has a nice convenient feel. Its easy to position and move about, and its
also easily operated with normal hand strength. Its got an excellent grip on the part, and
in that regard at least, its clearly working. But of course the only way to really decide
if its a useful tool is to use it to make something genuine, like
a wheel from the mechanism. Initially I had expected to have to permanently
fix the vise to the bench somehow. But I quickly realised that it just wasn’t
necessary. A small amount of knee or foot pressure is
enough to keep it in place. In fact in a lot of ways keeping the vise
free makes it more versatile. It can be flipped and turned to reposition
the work, even faster than my modern vise. And its certainly at least as rigid. This is a very satisfying tool to use. It has a nice flex, and it feels great under
the hands. It also satisfies what I would consider to
be the two critical requirements of such a tool: Continuous access to the perimeter of the
work, and fast, easy repositioning. So to me at least, its an entirely plausible
option. Now to be clear, I’m not saying that this
is definitely how the Ancient Greeks approached the problem of workholding. These are just my personal thoughts based
on what’s required for this specific machine. But I do think that this sort of approach
is worth pursuing. And I think it will shake out some really
interesting ideas and conversations as I build more of the tools. And who knows, it may even lead to a few surprises. Thanks for watching, I’ll see you later. Now before you go, and while I’m still talking
about workholding. In the very first Patron Series project, I
made this terrific little hand vise. I think its an indispensible tool for any
home shop. So if you’d like to maybe build one for yourself, and at the same time help me make more videos, then consider becoming a Clickspring Patron. As a Patron, you get immediate access to the
5 videos from this Hand Vise build series. Free plans for the project, And you also get access to the first few episodes
of the Byzantine Sundial Calendar build, with more episodes to follow as its completed. The added bonus of course is that one lucky
Patron will get to keep that sundial calendar at the conclusion of the build. Visit to find out more. Thanks again for watching, I’ll catch you
on the next video.

100 thoughts on “Antikythera Fragment #1 – Ancient Tool Technology – Making A Small Parts Vise

  1. Striving for authenticity is great but wouldn't wearing a toga and sandals when you work add just that little bit more?

  2. Excellent!!! What kind of sand do you use for casting. Could I use river or sea fine sand instead??

  3. Another great video, guy.
    I just have one issues. I have to imagine that accidentally knocking the iron ring-even a tiny bit- would result in loosing the grip on your work.

    Given the ring's position right under your work area, it seems to me that you'd have to knock it sometimes when bringing your hand up and down from there.

    Has that happened?

  4. I think it's incredible how the ancient civilisations created such simple but effective tools.

    It's a great idea that you show us what the Greeks had in their workshops!

  5. I just found your channel and watched the video on building the vise and perhaps this idea has come from others as there are over 500 comments which I don't have time to read all of them so apology if this is redundant. Such a vise could easily be held and tightened by making a square hole in a bench and a place near the floor for the end, nothing critical just pull up stick in your work piece and push down into the hole. One dimension of the hole would remain constant while the other might have a sliding block to account for different splays in the vise, or just a loose hole to fit multiple thickness projects. In this way the object would be easier to work on and hand tools located closely and in keeping with the "could they have done it this way" theme it certainly looks easily possible. Just a thought… the first video I have seen

  6. You sir, have mastered a beautiful craft and are proof that no one should ever send their kids to college but let them learn a decent trade.

  7. I say this all the time but you never cease to amaze me. I just thought of what I think is a good analogy, you are to metal working what Norm Abrams is to woodworking. I mean that as a high praise compliment. You and Norm are huge icons in the home built industry. Well, home built if you own a lathe, drill press, planer, casting bench, forge, smeltery.. you get the point. I categorize you up there with Neil Degrass Tyson, Carl Sagan, Norm Abrams and My high school English Literature teacher and so on. super talented people who inspire me, fascinate me, and really teach me something very interesting that I otherwise never would have been exposed to.

  8. I reckon a vise that's a variation of this would be easier to make and have more holding power:

  9. How did you do that panning shot @ 3:17? When are we going to get to see behind the scenes? I love your videos, and would love to know how you do it.

  10. Discovered your channel today and I just wanted to say listening to your nice voice with this high production value is simply lovely.

  11. I made something similar but from old mini vice, originally meant to be hammered into tree stump. The ability to have a good grip but still the whole thing being mobile is a huge benefit when working with small objects. I need to think about the "handle" more but it is one of my most favorite tools. Excellent helping hand for soldering and i filed a groove on to it to hold solid wires without mushing them, good for spring making too..

  12. Im just watching a pour of the brass ring and thinking: wouldnt two pieces of wood and leather strap do the job?

  13. I'm completely blown away by your skill, expertise, acumen and attention to details. Can I have a few more thumbs up to click?

  14. Actually… this is a great way to make a stitching clam! I'm a leatherworker and this is both simple but also beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

  15. Have you tryed paiting your forms with a model paint i find it gives beter finishes in the raw castings

  16. Фигня какая-то с сомнительным применением. Тиски всё же удобнее и надёжнее, и компактнее.

  17. Did the saying " the patience of a saint" originate from this ancient technology ? Truly absorbing to watch, a great video to watch.

  18. i think they cast em all rough then filed downwith stone wheels….vitruvius describes some horrible foundries for lead that made the worker get a 'grey pallour'…clearly slaves….btw…damn fine workmanship there lad….im only going by your south coast nsw accent but one pine tree is plenty for your needs….shellac is too brittle….rosen is too….but angaphora gum is very good….and yes….oiling the wood is as important as cleaning tools at days end..(sign of professionalism.)

  19. Fascinating. Incredible work and I also like the way you think about how tools were made and used in ancient times. Can't get enough of this stuff!

  20. HiWhile the use of oak was certainly possible I think that beech would have been preferred for a use like this.
    Besides it better mechanical properties for the task it would also have been less useful for shipbuilding or outside use. Due to the lack in tannins it would rot faster making its use be more for indoor use. 
    From historical information we know that Greeks often used and planted beech so they were likely aware of the properties.

  21. I'm sure others have mentioned it by now, but this "Ancient Tool Technology" is strikingly similar to a stitching pony or stitching clam leather workers and saddle makers use to hold leather pieces for stitching. What's old is new again, eh? Nice work. Love your videos.

  22. For a firmer hold – drill a rectangular hole in your workbench, put it inside with the bronze ring on top, put the item in the jaws, coming out on the edges, and hit it with a hammer on top, until fully gripped. When finished – hit the bottom end to release.

  23. I like your videos, you do a professional job! You are not afraid of your own voice, you know how to use the music so it's not annoying or too loud but just right so it can be heard in the background where it belongs. You how to use the high speed function of your camera SPARINGLY so we can enjoy the sight and sound of the operation, you are trying to share with your viewers. Great job, thank you!

  24. i really want one! but i would make the bronspart a hole in a work table so u push it down to tighten it.

  25. Another fabulous presentation which I have loved. Just dropped in to say that – Shellac is the adhesive of choice for Woodwind technicians to adhere the pads into the key-cups of instruments such as saxophones – to offer you an example.

  26. I'd bevel the jaws to give your knuckles more clearance. I'd also suggest hide glue, as someone else did, and thanks for posting 🙂

  27. If the ancient artisan marketed (sold) his tools to other artisans, he may have used linseed oil to raise the price a little.

  28. I have watched many of your videos and all are great. The style and quality of presentation make them almost meditative.

  29. Hi, what was the grey stuff used to clean the fillings? Looks like a rubber that collect the dust and fillings? Thanks for all the videos.

  30. You should make a video on how the ancient greeks could have scraped off rock hardened noodles from their aluminium pots after not doing the dishes when they were supposed to. I bet someone would find that very useful…

  31. Que calidad de video profesor, me gustan sus videos con subtitulos en español, espero y siga subiendo mas, ademas de hacer unos trabajos incredibles de matal-mecanica.

  32. Great video! But if you're going for occam's razor, why cast the clamp piece in bronze? wouldn't forged iron be much easier, and cost effective? Iron was much more common than bronze, and easier to source. As a blacksmith I see no difficulties in forging a similar design in iron.

  33. I would have rounded the edges where the twine was wrapped to prevent the corners from cutting into the cord. Otherwise impressive work far beyond my skills.

  34. I absolutely love your videos but the Australian accent, coupled with the way you enunciate words when you are speaking passionately makes me want to hurt myself.
    So it is a g'day from me. In fact, consider a softly spoken Female from anywhere but Australia and I will be back. And I reckon you will have a million subs. Content is amazing

  35. I'm amazed I hadn't discovered this channel sooner! Wonderful video, right up my street. I'll be subscribing and following this series for sure!

  36. Chris, yet another one of your great tools I would like to make. Just to be clear, are you using it standing or sitting as this affects the length of the whole tool? I am guessing standing?

  37. Hey Chris, would you mind sharing your recipe for casting sand? Also, excellent channel. I found you through AvE and This Old Tony and have not regretted a second of subscribing. Thank you!

  38. Amazing! It is pretty incredible that just the other day I was discussing with a friend how on earth could the ancients have made the gears on the antikythera mechanism and then I find your video. I am very impressed. Thanks for sharing!

  39. Awesome videos! I have been a big fan since I first saw your stuff, and have since begun purchasing my own machining tools. I was thinking about the marking dye question, and even thought it is probably a stretch of the imagination, I was thinking that the maker of the device could have used a diluted solution of animal blood as a sort of marking dye. It would have been easily washed away and also made a good color contrast for marking the layout for metal sheet… Just a thought… Anyways great videos!

  40. I applaud the author for this suggestion, but I question the unspoken assumptions made about work style. I find it unlikely that ancient 'watchmakers' worked while standing up at a workbench, any more so than do Japanese carpenters, or jewelers or smiths. Smiths have always worked while sitting down at a work desk, in front of a window, and not by not standing up beside a European work bench designed for carpenters, not smiths. So if a pony like this one was actually used, it was probably laid horizontally on the desktop. However, in that case, it may have been just as easy to use stops and wedges to clamp small pieces firmly. For a knowledgeable and experienced user, stops and wedges afford more flexibility of use than even a modern vice, and are just as quick to use.

  41. man to be honest, i hadn't even heard of clickspring until two days ago on a wikipedia article about the antikythera mechanism. after watching these videos i can't believe BUT that this guy must be a humble man. a genius no doubt but humble. all this trouble he's taking on himself to show what the ancient greeks did and laying it out there for the world to see in these beautiful videos, without too much thought on what he gets in RETURN, except maybe some viewer's joy and satisfaction. the world the way it is now, people like that won't get fame, because their work has a low return value. the economics of convenience runs the world, it's all get rich and famous quick schemes, and its the instagram models that are the social media user's new gods. but i bow to you brother, you are a gem of a man. shabaash.

  42. A perfect vid. Great story behind the vise/clamp, great storytelling with amazing word choice, perfect image, and nothing excessive overall. The artist ideally combines modern power tools with authentic ones, beautifully conveying his message.

    Thanks for sharing. Please, keep on making things and videos on how you make those things, particularly different instruments. I find a somewhat special joy in watching someone make something I personally can barely get my hands on; there're only select few channels to allow that joy, so thanks again.

    Best regards,
    Rafael Daulet

  43. Everything in your videos just exudes skill, professionalism and pride in your work. It really is a pleasure to watch them.

  44. Looks like a convenient tool. What's the likelihood of you using this for projects outside of the Antikythera Mechanism?

  45. Dude, where are you at? I loved seeing that you posted a new episode when my days where down. I know it's not your responsibility to "entertain" others but what you provided was learning, inspirational. hell calming after a hard days work. Where'd ya go bud?

  46. I have seen talc used on files to help keep soft metal from clogging up the cutting grooves. This is crucial for cleaning small files that cannot be cleaned with a steel brush due to their fine groves.

  47. If he started each video with "G'day", I'd swear this was Peter bloody Russell Clarke! If I could just cut a straight line with a tenon saw, I'd be over the moon :).

  48. Hi
    As a jeweler i am searching for a device to help me twist silver/gold in different ways without leaving markings on the material I work with and looking at this…i am wondering if it would be possible to modify it for a better grip,to get the strength of a metal vise

  49. You just know that somewhere at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea they are going to pull up an ancient Greek milling machine and lathe don't you?

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