Joplin Brothers Vice and Tool History

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Joplin Brothers was an Australian company that manufactured jacks, vices, tyre pumps, pipe bending tools (dubbed ‘Plumber’s Mates’), and heavy duty jacks over the course of its existence. These products were typically designed and manufactured for a variety of customers, most notably the Department of Main Roads.

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Knowing their history not only deepens your knowledge about bench vises, you will also know how the top best bench vises came about!

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Joplin Brothers 1920s

According to Mardi Joplin, her father, Fearon, and his brother Max were forced to drop out of school in 1923 owing to their father’s serious financial problems. They took up apprenticeships in Sydney and returned to Eastwood by steam train in the evenings after attending lectures at the Technical College. They would then work in their backyard shed to launch their company, and once it proved financially viable, they were able to pursue it full-time.

The Daily Telegraph announced on 24 August 1927 that Fearon H. Joplin had passed the Stage III test for his Electrical Fitter trade certification the previous July. The phases seem to have continued all the way up to X. (10).

The following year, on 3 February 1928, the same newspaper announced that Maxwell G. Joplin had completed his Stage II Fitting and Machining exams.

Joplin Brothers 1930s

Joplin Brothers Ltd. was incorporated in New South Wales on the 27th August 1930 with a capital investment of £2000, as published in the Daily Commercial News and Shipping List on September 10th of that year. F. H. Joplin (Fearon Henry), Linda M. Joplin, M. G. Joplin (Maxwell George), G. C. Joplin, L.F. Watt, T.A. Barry, and R. V. Bridekirk were listed as subscribers (Robert, I believe). The firm was characterized as a “automobile enterprise in all of its manifestations.” In 1912, The Hobart Daily Post identified a T.A. Barry as “Alderman T.A. Barry, Grand secretary, Grand Lodge of NSW” – perhaps an investor.

Fearon filed a patent application (2128/31, which was granted the following year) on the 5th February 1931 with the purpose of improving the design of tiny electric motors, such as those used in sewing machines. The patent is available.

On the 28th December 1932, The Construction and Real Estate Journal reported that Joplin Bros. Ltd. had been granted permission to expand their workshop at 18 Wentworth Road, Eastwood.

Bridekirk was engaged in the establishment of Tec. Art (A’asia) Ltd. in 1934, implying that he was more of an investor than a collaborator with Joplin.

On 24 February 1936, the Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate stated that Messrs Joplin Bros, of Wentworth-street, Eastwood, had determined that a community complaint concerning noise from Joplin’s business lacked validity. Their hours of operation were listed as 7.45 a.m. to 5 p.m., with Saturday work reserved for “emergency situations.”

The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate stated on 14 October 1937 that Joplin Brothers Pty. Ltd. was to construct two industrial buildings on Victoria Road, Rydalmere, valued at £1800. Joplin Brothers were described as a producer of vices, hand grinders, and vehicle lifting jacks with an established plant in Eastwood’s Wentworth-street.

Another mention to Joplin Bros Pty. Ltd. of Eastwood, NSW occurs in 1938 – on October 7, 1938, the Sydney Morning Herald published an advertisement for the Joplin Air-Stream Tyre Pump:

The Commonwealth of Australia Gazette stated on September 21st 1939 that Joplin had delivered lifting jacks to the Director of Artillery for £810 (about $71,000AUD in 2020).

On 4 October of that year, Joplin Brothers Pty. Ltd. filed a patent application (3403/39) for an improvement to automobile and truck lifting jacks. Their concept was to enhance the conventional roadside vehicle lifting jack by engaging it on the wheel rim above the axle cap. The patent is available.

Joplin Brothers 1940s

Mardi informs that the Joplin plant in Rydalmere was active during WWII.

On 8 November 1944, “Construction” reported that Joplin Bros., Ltd., of Euston and South Streets, Rydalmere, had won the contract to provide tools to the NSW Main Roads Department. £250/6/3 was the value of the tender. The Argus reported on the 28th June of that year that R.V.Bridekirk (as secretary) had been appointed as a director of Tecnico Ltd., of Sydney, which I believe further establishes his non-involvement in the day-to-day operations of Joplin.

In 1945, Fearon married. Max lived his whole life as a bachelor.

On March 20, 1947, The Daily Telegraph published a “Town Talk” in which their choice of spelling for “vice” was criticized. At this time, it seems as if they were a well-known producer of vices…

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 14 January 1948 that L.F. Watt had been named a director of Tecnico as well.

Joplin Brothers 1950s

Nothing yet…

Joplin Brothers 1960s

Mardi informs me that Fearon believed the cast iron vices were insufficiently robust and sought an alternative. The brothers were successful in developing a vice that could be pressed out of a sheet of 14 gauge steel “steel – creating not only the vices themselves, but also the equipment used to manufacture them. They were patented and introduced into the marketplace in the late 1960s. In any case, after the nation adopted the metric system, it seems to have created some difficulty for Joplin Bros, since 14 “Steel became unavailable, necessitating the retooling of machines to accommodate the new metric measurements. Additionally, this information may aid in determining the age of certain Joplin-fabricated vices…

Australian patent number 16,046/62 was filed on 2nd April 1962 with preliminary specifications and on 22nd March 1963 with full specifications. Max was identified as the inventor, and the patent was granted on July 1, 1965.

On 19 May 1966, the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette announced that Joplin Brothers Pty. Ltd. had won a $400 tender to provide hydraulic jacks to the government. (NH255/2/12)

Joplin Brothers 1970s

Siddons acquired the assets of Joplin Bros Pty. Ltd. in 1973. (and, incidentally, Dawn). Fearon was reportedly opposed to selling it, but Max desired a change, and Fearon died in 1975.

Fred Williams, who began his career at Joplin Bros as an apprentice and stayed for almost 40 years, became control of the jack side of the company. At the moment, I do not have any more information about it.

According to the Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales, on 25 March 1974, the company chose to be wound up voluntarily. The same gazette stated on September 13th that the final meeting for the liquidation of the business was conducted on September 9th of that year.

According to the ASIC record, the business Joplin Brothers Pty. Ltd. was deregistered on September 2, 1977.

There is a business named Joplin Jacks Pty Ltd. that was registered in 1987 (formerly AYMPAT PTY LTD) – I have no clue whether it is related to the prior company. It seems to be connected to Graham Rubber. In 2017, Joplin Jacks seems to have been de-registered. Additionally, a Joplin Jacks (NSW) PTY LTD (Camela Pty Ltd) was established in 1982 and ceased operations in 1992. I’m unable to locate any information on that one.

A Siddons brochure (R4/74, which indicates 1974 to me) promotes Sidchrome, Dawn, and Joplin goods with the following pitch:

Sidchrome, Dawn, and Joplin are Siddons Pty. Ltd. divisions having production facilities in Heidelberg West, Clifton Hill, and North Coburg, Victoria, as well as Rydalmere, New South Wales.

For over 30 years, the Joplin factory has manufactured bench vices, and while steel vices of various brands have been available, they have been prohibitively expensive for the majority of users. However, the Sidchrome (Joplin) all-steel vice has solved this problem and made a steel vice affordable to everyone. All Joplin items, including engineers’ and plumbers’ tools, are made of the finest quality materials and are designed to fulfill the requirements of today’s industrial customers.

Quality control standards include rigorous inspection of production processes and sample examination at all stages. Siddons Research Laboratories, located next to the Heidelberg West facility, conduct strength, hardness, and finish testing on samples. This laboratory is located in an air-conditioned facility and is equipped to conduct testing and chemical analysis under optimum scientific circumstances.

The all-steel vice mentioned is a fabrication.

Joplin Brothers 1980s

Graeme brought me a scan of a Paul’s 1980 catalogue, which shows an identical Sidchrome vice design to that featured in the 1968 Blackwoods brochure:

Additionally, the 1984 Dunlop-IBC catalogue lists many comparable vices:

Mardi Joplin – the aforementioned daughter of Fearon Joplin – contacted me and shared some fascinating information with me. She stated that the company manufactured 10 ton, 500 ton, and possibly 1,000 ton jacks, and she recalls Fearon telling her that he was asked to build a jack to lift massive cement slabs that had fallen during the construction of the Gladesville Bridge in Sydney, and only had a few inches clearance, necessitating the use of a jack.

She also stated that R.V. Bridekirk was unfamiliar to her and was not engaged in the company’s operations, making it more probable that he was an investor or something similar. Additionally, she recalls the following:

Fearon served as General Manager, while Max served as Production Manager. After the workers returned home for the day, Fearon worked at the factory, repairing equipment and developing new ones.

Anthony (Fearon’s son) would work there on weekends.

Barry and Garth, two of Fearon’s other sons, would sometimes work there.

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