Upated: January 2014

© 2014 - Thomas C. Dugas


Hensley & Gibbs Handles -- A note on separating handles from moulds


This article is a work in progress and may be altered or changed in the future. 


For years I have hesitated to buy Hensley & Gibbs mould blocks that did not come with handles.  As noted in many of their catalogs, Hensley & Gibbs would sell mould blocks when the buyer already owned a set of matching handles. For example, if a buyer wanted another two cavity mould for a different caliber to complement the two cavity block that he already owned, he could save a little money by purchasing just the blocks, and switch the handles between the blocks.  You could even purchase the blocks without the sprue plate.  I’ve seen this primarily on 8 and 10 cavity blocks.  I would never take the trouble, or the risk of switching out sprue plates, but some buyers apparently felt confident about doing this.


Thus, the problem that exists today with blocks that are sold without handles.  Often, blocks and handles will be separated when sold, in order to maximize profit for the seller.  I generally did not see a problem with this practice until just this year.  After finally collecting all my Hensley & Gibbs catalogs and publishing them on the website, I noticed that in one late issue catalog Wayne Gibbs offered a new style two cavity mould.  As stated in the advertisement, these two cavity handles would interchange with any other two cavity blocks of the same late design as theseThe new style two cavity handles are much thicker in cross section that the old style handles.  New style handles will not fit the old style blocks.  You can try and use old style handles with new style blocks, but they may well be slop in the way they fit.  I think Wayne was attempting to standardize the two cavity handles on the new design in order to maximize use of the blocks and handles.  But the new style handles are much thicker in cross section than the older style two cavity handles.  The new style thicker handles fit both 2 cavity and 4 cavity moulds and appear to be interchangeable (Two cavity handles (thick) will fit four cavity moulds (thick) and vice versa.)


Unlike 2 cavity handles, the evolution of 6, 8, & 10 cavity handles does not appear to change over the years. There is an exception, which I will cover later.  As a general statement, the thin (.250”) 4 cavity handles from any time period appear to interchange with any 4 cavity block.   There are two styles of 4 cavity handles over the entire production, thin handles (.250”) and thick (.308”).  I had not noticed a difference between 4 cavity handles until I examined all of my 4 cavity moulds and discovered additional sets of thin and thick handles.  These “Thick and Thin” handles are covered in a separate article, here (Click link).


6, 8, and 10 cavity handles have the .250” slots exclusively.  What does change on the 6, 8, & 10 cavity handles is the hinge pin style.  The earliest design of the hinge pin is a hand made sealed capture pin (or rivet pin).  I have no idea what George Hensley called it, but it was clearly fabricated in his shop.  What is significant about these early style handles is that the mould *cannot* open all the way like later production moulds, this style of hinge pin only allows the mould to open to approximately 45 degrees. The final design was a standard “shoulder bolt & nut” that appears on all mid and late production 6, 8, & 10 cavity mould handles. This style of handle will allow the mould to open almost 180 degrees.  Here are photos of the old style hinge pin:


And here is Wayne Gibbs email regarding the evolution of the hinge pin from early style to late style:


Email from Wayne Gibbs:


Tom--this may be a little difficult to verbalize text wise, but here goes:


The portions of the handle that go into the slots in the blocks need to be on the same plane, since that is where the slots need to be located. The idea of this early style handle was to use 5/16" thick by probably 1/2" wide flat steel stock. The problem comes when you want to join the two for a hinging action. Round bar stock was used and parted in a lathe to appropriate thickness, then these were welded to the handle tangs so their center line was on the same center line as the tangs.


This left the round hinge-pieces half-way above and below the tangs, as you can see in your photos.  A threadless "rivet" type bolt and a "washer" was turned, and after a lot of grinding and smoothing was done on the welds the washer was attached and the bolt was riveted over, then driven back to adjust the play in the hinge action. One of the drawbacks of this way of building the handles was the blocks could not be fully opened, which I did not like. My dad said that after he personally fabricated some by this method, he figured there had to be a less labor intensive way, so they started using a standard bolt and nut, with 1/2" National Fine threads. Also, George detested welding, and we really weren't set up for welding, as we were actually in an enlarged garage which eventually wound up being in the middle of a residential neighborhood in the middle of San Diego. When George and his family first moved there, he hunted rabbits in the sage brush around his house. Progress! 


After this, the new style individual handles were machined from 5/16" hot rolled steel. They were slit to 5/8" width up to the hinge pivot area, then holes were drilled to weaken the hinge circle area, this part was then broken off (using my arm, a monkey wrench and a large vise did the trick)-- 12 individual handles were mounted on a home-made spindle, and the metal shaper was used to plane the circle. The parts were then ground and polished, then heated red hot in a forge, then off-set bent in a jig (again, my arms and that big Prentiss vise. Great for your shoulder muscles, but I'm sure it weakened my mind) Then they had to be bent (heated red-hot again, then hit with a sledge hammer to acquire proper spacing to fit into the block slots. Then polish out the imperfections, then heat red hot for the third time to give a nice blue for uniform appearance, tap and ream the mating handles, and we were ready for final fitting.


Notice the cross hole near the end of the projecting end of the rivet. You may already know this, [I didn’t by the way, T.D.] but this was for the purpose of hanging the mold from the ceiling via a chain to support the front end of the mold over the casting bench while in use. We continued to use this cross-hole in the new bolts for a bunch of years, until I noticed (I became the official repair dude by default, I guess).   Anyway, I realized that absolutely no mold sent in for repair had signs of any use of this cross-hole, so we discontinued its use, and absolutely no one noticed, so apparently no one missed it at all!     


I am going to state this as my personal opinion and observation:


A buyer should make every attempt to purchase mould blocks with handles to avoid any fitting issues between blocks and handles. 


I have decided to avoid purchasing Hensley & Gibbs blocks that do not come with handles.  I have had to modify a few 6, 8, and 10 cavity handles to get them to fit corresponding sized blocks, but I dislike doing this because of the risk of irreversible damage to the handles.


Because of the website, many sellers contact me for information regarding Hensley & Gibbs moulds, and in each case I advise them to not separate the handles from the blocks.  I hope buyers encourage this behavior also.


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