Steve Winn didn’t like how long it took him to change the jaws out on his machine vise.
Fifteen minutes seemed like a big chunk of time for a simple switch, but there wasn’t a model that worked any quicker. So, Winn got to sketching out potential designs, and after a few months he came up with his own prototype.
“It always annoyed me the way it worked, so I started thinking about what am I going to do to change this and improve it,” he said.
And one Saturday morning, when no one else was around, he came into his shop and made a working model.
He claims that his Speed Lock precision 6-inch vise with quick change jaws can be interchanged in 30 seconds. Jaws that would normally take a quarter of an hour to change out can now be loosened up and quickly switched out with a standard hex key.
Winn said he created the machine about three years ago by modifying a machine vise that has been a standard in the industry since it was patented in the 1950s or 60s. He has since produced 25 of them and has a patent pending, which protects himself and his product.
Though he was pleased with the outcome of his functioning idea, Winn thought it was too simple to seek patent for. But organizing paychecks one day, he had a change of heart. He noticed a patent on the self-sealing envelopes and decided to find a patent attorney.
The attorney searched for similar patents and presented Winn with about 25; then, he asked his client to write a full explanation of how his product differs from each of those.
No one had come up with the same idea, which has an added keyhole on top for interchangeability.
Now, it’s time for Winn to market his idea. He already uses the Speed Lock at his company, Winn Manufacturing, Inc., a custom and production machining business.
“To get to the point of having 25 of those sitting on my floor done, it feels real good,” he said. “I haven’t shown it or had anyone use it that didn’t say, ‘That’s a good idea.’ Everyone who’s in manufacturing wants a product of their own.”
He is able to retrofit standard vise jaws and modify them. At this point, he is undecided on whether he will manufacture his invention or have someone else do it. He’s going to feel out the local machine shop market within a 60 or 70-mile radius.
The patent will take about two years to go through, but until then Winn will work on marketing and selling his product.