Need to Hold Something? Build a Custom Vise

The only thing better than making a cool project is making a cool project that helps make more projects! Case in point, [Greg Stephens] and [Alex] wanted to colorize steel bearings for use in a Newton’s Cradle desk toy. After trying out a torch and not liking it, [Greg] and [Alex] decided to build custom aluminum vise to hold the sphere while it sits in the magnetic induction forge.

Their vise–they call it the Maker’s Vise0–isn’t just a one-off project to help make the cradle. [Alex] and [Greg] aspire to create a tool useable for a wide variety of projects. They wanted it to be oil-less and it had to be customizable. Ideally it would also have an acceptable grip strength, be easy to use, and look good on the bench.

[Greg] and [Alex] have set up a Hackaday.io project, and their logs show a lot of progress with two finished iterations of the vise and a variety of 3D-printed and cast parts to go with. Recently they brought in a 2,000-lb. load test and tested it on their vise collection, including the two prototypes. Version one rated at 500 lbs. reasonable clamping pressure–meaning they didn’t exert themselves to max out the pressure. Version two sits at 800 lbs., still nothing like a desk vise but far stronger than a Panavise, for instance.

Their magnetic induction forge project was also a success, with the team able to quickly change the color of a steel ball. Check out a video after the break…

14 thoughts on “Need to Hold Something? Build a Custom Vise

    1. Have you used a Toolmaker vise before? They have very limited range of movement. If you want to move the jaw back and forth.. you have to remove the center pin.. slide the jaw… align the holes.. re-insert the pin.

      You will find that our vise is more of a general purpose vise than a Toolmaker vise. Much easier to use for everyday activity. And, we want to make custom jaws mainstream!

      1. I’ve used a fairly large number of vises, including the specific unit I linked. This is not a “remove the pin…” version as you mentioned. The bottom has a row of half circle shaped pockets, exactly as your design has. It’s a bit shadowed, but you can see it in the third and fourth picture on the product page.

        Just so I’m clear here:
        I’m not bagging on you – I love when people design and build stuff.
        I’m not bagging on your design – it solved a problem for you with tools and materials you found acceptable.

        I have a bit of a problem when the write up (you? your group members? the author of this article?) make it seem that this was the only or even the best solution for a specific problem. There’s a written justification for this project that doesn’t make sense. For example, the line “wanted it to be oil-less and it had to be customizable” doesn’t pass my B.S. detector. the $40 (US) unit I linked is perfectly happy operating without oil. (I had one application where we autoclaved the vise before use) and the “customizable” aspect is easily handled by drilling a couple holes in the jaws to support the exact same printed jaw pads created for this project. This is not a valid justification for this project, but more than that – IT DOESN’T NEED TO BE JUSTIFIED. There is nothing wrong with “I built this because I wanted to”.

        By all means – to you and everyone else that reads this – keep building things, keep creating, keep solving problems. It is a good thing and we all grow because of it. To anybody that writes about such things – please stop giving us B.S. justifications. It diminishes all of us to write it and read it.

        1. The Shars toolmakers vise we’ve got has full holes and you’ve got to remove and replace the pin, but it came with a sine plate… I wish I’d got the one you show because it’s lower cost and easier to use. I am curious why you had to autoclave a toolmakers vise and how it managed not to rust afterwards! As for justifications.. well, I’m not trying to give B.S. justifications. We’re not trying to be the be all and end all of vises. We think we can turn this into something useful for a lot of people. The strength per weight of the aluminum is good. So shipping costs are small and it’ll be easy to handle. The support structure can be (mostly) extruded, and we’re close to a big extruder… extrusion has very low tooling costs compared to a casting. We’re not there yet with ease of use or clamp load.. if we can’t get to something we’re happy with on the prototype we won’t try to bring it to market. For what it’s worth we’ve also got a jackscrew version (delrin slide bearings and nut) which does achieve decent clamp load but aside from the cleanliness there’s no advantage over a regular drillpress vise.

          1. Long story and some of it I’m still under non-disclosure… Suffice it to say it was going into a vacuum chamber during some complex coating processes and contamination was a really bad thing. :-) Rust was a non-issue, it wasn’t used more than once.

            FYI, very similar vises are available in stainless steel – most often used in wire EDM machining. Be aware the pricing is about 10x that of a similar steel vise..

        2. “wanted it to be oil-less and it had to be customizable” — The writer of this article included that.. because that is what I listed as the key features of the vise. It wasn’t intended to be an advertisement as much as our personal project goals.

          ..further, I listed those aspects because we feel we have a unique approach to solve those problems. I didn’t mean at all that there are no other ways to make an oil-less vise.. or to customize your current vise.

          Let me explain how we are unique:
          oil-less aspect — We have zero metal-on-metal grinding. So, even though there are other vises that work without oil.. I suspect our design might slide smoother and last longer. But, you are correct that I’m not really entitled to make that claim until after we’ve done thorough testing.

          Customizable — Well, yeah!! You can customize anything by drilling some holes into it. And, it’s fun doing that too.. We’re all about the DIY solutions.. We plan to make it really easy though to pick out some jaw designs from our library.. print them out. then snap/slide the jaws onto our vise. (we just aren’t that far into development yet).

          Anyway,.. this is great feedback! Thank you DkE. I had no idea my project description was going to come off as misleading to our audience. I will rewrite it to show our actual intentions. (with a quickness)

  1. Silly “maker”, this is a vise: https://www.kurtworkholding.com/manual-vise-p-1203.html

    Scroll down to check the clamping force — 1600 pounds at 10 ft*lb, or about 4 tons if you crank on it. But it does need grease (not oil!), so I guess your aluminum-and-plastic wonder is better.

    I’m half-joking, of course; not every vise is or ought to be a milling vise, and it’s good to see people experimenting and coming up with something that works for them. If this was just some guy’s project, I’d have little or nothing negative to say about it. But once you start talking about selling them (on kickstarter or otherwise), well, then it’s fair game for criticism, so here it comes…

    As a machinist who “makes” things in a real machine shop, I can’t imagine what I would ever use something like that for. It’s too weak (among other deficiencies) for a proper bench vice, and while we commonly use toolmaker’s vises with a mechanically similar function (e.g. the one DkE linked) in several sizes for grinding, layout, and inspection, this has neither the precision for any of those tasks, nor the ability to be used on a magnetic chuck for grinding. The only place I could see using it would be on a drill press — I think you’d be okay there, at least for light work, but a real drill press vise (cam-action type, like http://www.shars.com/4-quick-grip-drill-press-vise ) is dirt cheap, easier to use, and more rigid, so why would you?

    1. You likely wouldn’t ever use this. But there’s a lot of people without access to a shop, or even a decent garage unfortunately. We’re not trying to be the be all and end all of vises. This was actually motivated by an old project… which involved some close hand filing to prototype small sheetmetal parts. The best I had for that was a little Palmgren drillpress vise.. it’s important to support the material close to the cut and nice flat, square, parallel jaws are good for that.

      The Kurt is $500 and over 30 pounds. They are awesome and I hope whoever came up with the Anglock mechanism got rich from it. It’s not only strong, it’s inherently socked down to the slide to maintain jaw parallelism. The other cool thing about Kurt is it seems they make replacement wear parts very reasonable to get hold of.

      I realize we’re trying to wedge this in the market between “hobby vises” and “real vises” and that’s a weird, possibly bad place to be. We do think there are some advantages to the aluminum (light shipping and handling weight / per strength, and cleanliness.) We’ve got to improve the clamp load and ease of use a bit. If we can’t we won’t bring it to market.

  2. *cringeshake*
    “finger in there.”

    I am reminded of the youtube guy who coats hand with carbon fiber looking water-coating sticker.. With top comment being he should stick another part of anatomy onto/into said subject matter.

    Well this ain’t as bad as fellow who was demoing home made conductive gel (with steel wool?) and a odd hair on it.

    ‘Why comment in such odd format?’ Okay. Color-Annealing A Stainless Steel Ball Bearing. Only more questions, no one wants answered.

    1. The only thing better than making a cool project is making a cool project that helps make more projects! Case in point, [Greg Stephens] and [Alex] wanted to colorize steel bearings for use in a Newton’s Cradle desk toy.

      That’s the lead of this article, BTW…

      1. If they talked about Magnetic Particle Inspection it would have made a better explanation then “Very elaborate and well done setup; to color change a small object.”. Heck, the Rube Goldberg HaD article builds are okay at times. But vid and plot was kill.

  3. Point of order:

    “…to colorize steel bearings…”

    Colorize is a trademarked process owned by Turner Classic Movies (I think) that takes Black and white film and colors it.

    These fine folks wanted to color steel ball bearings.

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