Friday, May 19, 2017

New Top Jaws for the Black & Decker Workmate 79-001 Type 2 (WM625)

The new top jaws!

So who's the guy in the Lotus Elan next to the Workmate? That is Ron Hickman, the designer of both the Lotus and the Workmate! You can read more about the history of the workmate here if you are curious.

The Black & Decker Workmate is a portable workbench/vice that has been sold in the millions around the world. If you are interested in these and do a bit of research, you find out the early ones are considered by many to be the best, as they have a pair of cast aluminum H frames that could be folded under the top to allow the workmate to be stored flat. Later models went to steel parts that were somewhat less sturdy, and certainly less cosmetically appealing.

In the USA, one of the more desirable models is the "79-001 Type 2". This model seems to be nearly the same as the WM625 version sold in the UK. (I've been told that the UK WM625 had an additional hole in each top jaw piece and that some of them lacked the "batten" on the bottom of each jaw that doubled the depth of the clamping surfaces.)

The "Bay Area Galoots" have done a type study of the various versions available in the USA.

And here is an early review from Popular Mechanics (Aug 1975):

Here is a picture of the one I purchased recently:

A common thing is to make a plywood top with a 2x4 screwed to the bottom. The 2x4 can be clamped in the Workmate jaws to be particularly sturdy. 

The top isn't in horrible condition for being 40 years old, but I'm considering making a new one.

So I took some time and sketched out the dimensions of the top. I thought these might save others some time, so here they are. Both halves of the top are the same.

Dimensions of the top and hole placements:

Detail of the edge bevels:

I would have loved to make these myself, but I don't have the tools nor the proper skills to do it well. I could just cut some boards, but that would lack things like the nice pipe groove in the jaws and the perfectly placed and sized holes. Having those holes in perfect alignment can really help when using the vice pegs. I looked around and found a Nick from Merlin Joinery in the UK who makes beautiful new jaws for the UK versions and I asked him if he could make me some for the "79-001 Type 2" from these drawings. He agreed! You can reach Nick on ebay here:
Nick can make the jaws with different thickness of plywood, so be sure to discuss what you want with him. The wood he uses appears to have many ply and seems a very high grade. Also, he doesn't bevel the edges nor the lip of the holes (I actually prefer the sharper edge). He left the mounting screw holes undrilled, in case of any variation between mounting.Those were easy to predrill, I used a 7/64" bit with the depth taped on it and was very careful to not drill through the plywood. It's close, use care! He also lightly stained the top for appearances.
Here are some pics of the new and old jaws side by side. Aside from the different thickness and sharper edges, they seem intentionally identical. Construction quality is excellent.

And here are some of the jaws assembled on the workmate.

My thanks to Nick at Merlin Joinery, the new jaws look great! I'm sure I'll scuff them up soon, but I expect they will be more durable than the originals.


  1. I don't have a web site and I don't do business with "Don't Be Evil Inc.," so this is a one-shot deal, but one is all I need. I have two different US-made Workmate 200s, with the glued-together sawdust jaws, and if I am going to continue using them (which I good and well intend to do) I am going to have to replace them. I have not yet exhausted all of the possibilities for NOS (auto resto for New Old Stock), but if I have to make them myself this article will be helpful, even though the \actual dimensions are likely different.

  2. If you're looking for more info about vintage Workmates, visit my unofficial web site devoted to vintage Black & Decker Workmates:
    It includes a Type study for the original Model 79-001, a type-identification flowchart, downloadable documents, a blog and more.