The end of the sewing machine venture was followed by a period of adversity and strict economy, but a turning point came when a local mill furnisher approached Joseph Parkinson asking whether he could supply him with temple rings. The furnisher assured Joseph Parkinson that he would take as many rings as he could manufacture.
Temple rings were outside his experience but on seeing one, a brass ring about seven-eighths of an inch in diameter with about 30 steel pins projecting from the periphery, he at once replied that he could make these and set to work tooling up at his Chester Street Works.
Several small machines were adapted for drilling the small holes on the ring in which the pins were inserted, and before long Joseph Parkinson was producing more rings than the original customer could take. He found a market for his surplus production with the textile manufacturers in the West Riding and Lancashire, and the firm started to manufacture temple rings of all types and sizes. His inventive genious led him to design the Self-cleaning temple ring and his original temple was regarded as one of the best available at that time.
Joseph Parkinson opened agencies for his temple business in France, Belgium, Germany and Russia. Orders were also received from large British owned mills in Poland and he spent much of his time visiting the textile districts of Germany and Northern France. Thus so early in his career Joseph Parkinson became known abroad.
At an International Exhibition held at the Crystal Palace, London, a Bronze Medal, the highest award in the section, was awarded to the firm for their exhibit of temples. As a reminder of the importance of those small brass rings he chose the word 'Temples' as his telegraphic address, and it still remained so for many years.
By 1880, all debts paid, Joseph Parkinson was ready to expand. Many of the machines designed for the sewing machine business were still useful and he adapted them for making a variety of textile parts. He also produced a number of rather unusual items which must have been short lived, such as the Humane Feeder or Portable Manger for horses, and an all-metal mill for grinding whole wheat in the home.
Amongst other needs which he found he could supply were milling machines and lathes, One type of treadle lathe, the Handy with an extensive range of chucks was intended for the amateur. There was, in the 1880s, a burst of 'do it yourself' enthusiasm for the elaborate turning of ivory and hardwoods including ebony. The framework of this first Handy lathe showed unmistakeable descent from the sewing machine and, as this was one of the most popular of his products, his idea to fit a small vice to the lathe tables led to yet more expansion.
Parkinson Handy Treadle Lathe
As no suitable vices were then available Joseph Parkinson designed and built a small vice specifically for the purpose. The vice was then fitted to the small Handy lathes and duly named the Handy vice.
A large Sheffield firm of edge tool makers approached Joseph Parkinson asking for a quotation for 12 dozen Handy vices, which he was delighted to supply. His joy was short lived for on a visit to the firm one day, with the intention of securing further business, Joseph Parkinson was surprised by the sight of a wagon load of vices arriving at the works. The firm had copied his original design and another firm were making the vices for them. Joseph Parkinson expressed his indignation in no uncertain manner and left saying that he would design and patent a far better vice which they would be unable to copy.
That very night he designed a quick action vice, using a buttress form of thread as suggested by his young son Ernest instead of the then conventional square thread. The design was a success. Joseph Parkinson called his new vice the Perfect Vise. The choice of this alternative American spelling must have been made quite deliberately. As 'vise' there is no possibility of any double meaning, whereas 'vice' to the Victorians was a very meaningful word. This spelling was been retained throughout the firms existence.
The Parkinson Perfect Vise - For Live Men
Many years later, improved and manufactured in a wide variety of types and sizes for both metal- and wood-workers, its makers stated:
'It has won its way and achieved worldwide popularity by merit, and this is its best supporter and clinches the claims made for it'.
Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee year, 1887, was the occasion for a number of Exhibitions, and Joseph Parkinson took advantage of this to show his vises and small lathes at several, including the large International Exhibition held in Adelaide, Australia. By 1888 his business was thriving and the firm now became firmly established as vise manufacturers.
Parkinson Stand at the 1889 Paris Trade Exhibition.