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 Post subject: Buy a Quality Bench Vise
PostPosted: May 6, 2018, 7:42 pm 
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Joined: October 24, 2008, 2:13 pm
Posts: 3869
Location: Carlsbad, California, USA
I didn't understand the value of a good vise, or know how to identify one, when I started my build. Your vise will be used over and over and over again. If you have a cheap one (as I still do), you will be constantly paying for that "bargain" in terms of time spent making up for it's shortcomings.

Truth be told, I didn't have the budget to buy a good vise when I started. And, you shouldn't delay your project significantly if you don't funds for a quality vise either. However, if you do have the option, get a quality vise. You'll thank yourself many times later on.

Here are the problems you can expect with a cheap one like my Harbor Freight example.

1) Poor casting quality with basic machining of important surfaces not acceptable:
File comment: Note the horrible mismatch of the basic casting of the movable jaw (foreground) with respect to the fixed jaw. I have detached the replaceable jaws to make this more apparent.
Vise #1.JPG
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2) Unacceptably soft vise materials:
In the photo above, you'll see the built-in anvil as you look back towards the yellow towel dispenser. The basic castings on this vise are a soft cast iron. When you hammer on a piece lying on the anvil, it very often causes an indentation. It's surface is not hardened in any manner.

3) Most of the parts are out of square and uneven with each other. That's a big issue in practice.
In the photo below you can see where I needed to shim the removable jaws to get them even close to level (and square) with the removable jaw on the opposite side. It's still not right now, just better than when purchased. There are several shims on both sides of the vise jaws. The removable jaws themselves are poorly machined, and not flat and square themselves.
File comment: Shimmed removable jaws. There are limits to what you can correct if the basic machining of the base is poor.
Vise #2.JPG
Vise #2.JPG [ 96.05 KiB | Viewed 1031 times ]

Here is a specific example of the problems that causes, where I'm using a vise accessory, a small bending brake, meant for a vise. My out of level, out of square jaws causes me to shim the accessory to get the two halves to line up correctly. They are not as "solid" as they should be because of that.
File comment: Bending brake for a vise.
DSC04264.JPG [ 143.82 KiB | Viewed 1031 times ]

File comment: Shimmed because the vise jaws are out of level and out of square.
DSC04266.JPG [ 137.7 KiB | Viewed 1031 times ]

In the photo above, also notice the poor quality and definition of the pipe jaws cast as a basic part of the two halves (movable and fixed). They are not really usable, and certainly not very secure when holding round objects.

4) Poor machining and fit-up means sloppy operations:
In this photo you can see the bottom surface of the slide (the movable part of the vise) has a barely acceptable ground finish to it. It should be very flat and uniform without a lot of divots and grinding/machining marks on the machined surfaces. Operation of the lead screw (the big screw that moves the vise jaw) should be smooth and uniform. There will be a little free play in the slide as you try to move it in and out by hand, but not much. If there's a lot of play, it's a poorly machined lead screw and that's not good.
File comment: Poor surface grinding/machining on the slide. Notice the many divots on the top right side and many nicks in the poorly machined surface.
Vise #3.JPG
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That slide should itself ride on a flat, smooth surface. In the photo below, you can see the slide runs on an unmachined, bumpy, cast iron surface. That makes it hard to operate, but more importantly, allows the slide to move around easily when you're clamping work into the vise jaws. This makes uniform clamping hard to achieve. In addition, when the vise jaws are not square, the slide will be forced to move to compensate under high clamping forces.
File comment: Uneven surface for slide to move on and poor casting quality.
Vise #4.JPG
Vise #4.JPG [ 158.12 KiB | Viewed 1031 times ]

With a lot of fiddling and shimming, I have the vise in decent operating shape, but not what it really should be. Had I purchased a quality vise, the above problems would not have occurred. Here's what it looks like now:
File comment: Much fiddled with vise is OK, but not as good as it should be.
Vise #5.JPG
Vise #5.JPG [ 138.53 KiB | Viewed 1031 times ]

You now see some of the problems with cheap vise, and consequently things to check for when you buy yours, whether it is new or used. One of the easiest tests to perform is to take a piece of paper and inch or two wider than the vise jaws and slowly clamp down on it. It should be uniformly held across the vise jaws and one side or the other (or the middle) should not be loose when the other side is held tightly. Likewise as you loosen the jaws, the paper should not tear as you pull upward on it because one side is free and the other is held tightly.

Well, what does a quality vise look like? There are lots of them out there, but here's one example of a high-quality vise:
File comment: High-quality vise. Notice how the slide is machined both top and bottom, and that there are set screws you can use to ensure solid operation of the slide in its bore.
Vise #6.JPG
Vise #6.JPG [ 44.84 KiB | Viewed 1031 times ]

When you go to purchase a vise (new or used) take some paper, a small straight edge, and a good quality combination or machinists square with you. You're going to want to check everything, especially the jaws. Don't be afraid to take it apart either. It's easy to do, and you'll not be able to see how well it's designed and built unless you do so.


Damn! That front slip angle is way too large and the Ackerman is just a muddle.

Build Log: viewtopic.php?f=35&t=5886

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PostPosted: May 7, 2018, 12:39 am 
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Joined: March 19, 2011, 10:22 am
Posts: 1360
Location: Holden, Alberta, Canada
Just for the record, I have a 5" Record bench vice. Not too expensive but bullet proof.
Funny thing about a vice, iffin you have more than 1 you have 2 vise
That's all I got


'If man built it, man can fix it'
"No one ever told me I couldn't do it."
"If you can't build it safe, don't build it."

Perry's Locost Super Che7enette Build
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PostPosted: May 7, 2018, 10:59 am 
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Joined: April 12, 2012, 11:56 am
Posts: 661
Location: Pemberton, BC
Yo, da vise guy. I hava da two vices, dem girls and dem cars, but nuthin bullet proof. I justa duck, when dem bullets flyin. :rofl:


My build log:
My build video:
https://vimeo.com/143524140 password "matovid"

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PostPosted: May 7, 2018, 1:47 pm 
Mid-Engined Maniac

Joined: April 23, 2006, 8:26 pm
Posts: 5945
Location: SoCal
horchoha wrote:
Just for the record, I have a 5" Record bench vice. Not too expensive but bullet proof.

Same here, spent a lot of time looking at poorly-made vices and found the Record at Home Depot, of all places.

Midlana book: Build this mid-engine Locost!, http://www.midlana.com/
Kimini book: Designing mid-engine cars using FWD drivetrains, http://www.kimini.com/book_info/

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PostPosted: May 7, 2018, 3:12 pm 
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Joined: May 27, 2006, 9:46 pm
Posts: 1936
Location: BC, Canada. eh?
I found my large vise at a garage sale. It's an old-timer, probably built in the 1940's-1950's, and although it's only a 5" model, it weighs 100 lbs. It has rotating jaws (they're on a cylindrical vs. square moving shank) & a swiveling base, so it can be rotated in any direction, horizontally and vertically. It has sharp, properly aligned pipe jaws below, and a very solid anvil surface on top.

I have yet to find another one, at any price, nearly as good.

Since I have two shops (one old & grungy, and one new that I built to do my car build in), and I was feeling lazy, I bought a new 5" vise for the new shop. Wow...what a mistake. It had all the problems yours had, plus there was a huge amount of play in the square shank, so the jaws had an extremely casual relationship with each other. I gave that one away to my son-in-law (as it was better than his complete lack of a vise), got out my wheelbarrow, and moved my old vise to the new shop.

I've never looked back.

So, the moral of the story is...they don't make 'em like they used to. Keep your eyes peeled at used tool stores, garage & yard sales, etc. You may find an old diamond amongst the trash, like I did.

Scratch building, at continental-drift speed, a custom McSoreley-design framed, dual-Weber 45DCOE carburated, Zetec-engined, ridiculously fast money pit.


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