Brothers Ron and Mike Iacobelli have been working on a better solution for vise clamping for nearly 15 years — they call it the Gyrojaw. Along the way, they’ve experienced their share of challenges.
In a nutshell, Gyrojaw is a pyramid-shaped fixture that fits against a jaw of a metal vise. A carriage bolt is embedded into one end, and its curved head allows the Gyrojaw to be pivoted to many angles and then clamped tightly against a workpiece.
The idea came to Ron in the mid-90s while he was working as a machinist for Michigan’s automotive die and modelmaking industry.
A lifelong woodworker, Ron knew that, “When you’re woodworking, you need to clamp things like pediments, spindles or tapered spindles and legs that don’t have parallel faces.”
His first crack at a design consisted of a wooden block with a ball bearing fitted into one end. Early on, Ron joined forces with his brother Mike, a tool designer with a CAD background, for help with details like creating a cost-effective injection mold. Mike experimented with various ribbing solutions to make Gyrojaw sufficiently strong but still lightweight. He also needed to determine the optimal size for Gyrojaw. The Iacobellis took their design to a local mold-maker to build the final tooling, and he in turn found them an injection molder to mass produce the product.
Making a functional, affordable vise accessory took years of development, but it was only the tip of the iceberg. In order to help contain costs, Ron and Mike began to seek a manufacturing partner. An automotive company required a 3,000-order minimum to cover tooling costs before they would commit to a long-term contract — that didn’t pan out. The Iacobellis have also pursued several vise makers for partnership, but those efforts haven’t proven successful either. So, Ron and Mike are covering their own manufacturing costs, along with two investor friends.
Between the tooling and manufacturing expenses, the legal fees involved with patenting and their marketing efforts, Ron and Mike have shouldered around $50,000 of costs to bring to market the Gyrojaw (priced at $14.95 in 2010; gyrojaw.com). This number could have been much higher, Ron believes, were it not for their tool and die experience.
“We’re both retired, and it’s hard to replace that cash with expenditures we continue to make,” Ron says.
So, why stick with it? Logically, both men hope to see a return on their investment up to this point, but sheer determination plays into it, too. Ron and Mike are convinced that a Gyrojaw should be sitting next to every shop vise. As Ron said, “We’re just looking for that door of opportunity we haven’t quite opened yet.”