Scratch Built Magnetic Vise Stays Where You Need It

For those who might not have run into one before, a magnetic vise is used when you want to quickly anchor something to a metal surface at an arbitrary position. They’re often used to hold the workpiece down when machining, and can be a real time saver if a lot of repositioning is involved.

[Workshop From Scratch] recently wanted to put together one of these handy pieces of gear, and as we’ve come to expect from his channel, the finished product is an absolute beast. Starting with little more than scraps of metal, the video after the break takes the viewer on a fascinating journey that ends with some demonstrations of the vise in action.

Conceptually, this build is relatively simple. Start with a vise, put a hollow base on it, and fit it with powerful electromagnets that will anchor it down once you flip the switch. Technically you could just build a magnetic base and bolt a commercially available vise onto it, but that’s not how [Workshop From Scratch] does things.

Every element of the build is done by hand, from the pattern cut into the jaws to the t-handle nut driver that gets adapted into a very slick crank. Of particular interest is how much effort is put into grinding down the surface of the electromagnets so they are perfectly flush with the base of the vise. Incidentally, these beefy electromagnets were salvaged from automotive air conditioning compressors, so you might want to add that to your junkyard shopping list.

Eagle-eyed readers might recognize the surface [Workshop From Scratch] uses the vise on as the custom drill press table he built a few months ago. These videos are not only reminders of what you can accomplish when you’ve mastered the use of a few common tools, but just how much design and thought goes into the hardware many of us take for granted.

17 thoughts on “Scratch Built Magnetic Vise Stays Where You Need It

  1. Cool build, but building an electromagent is not exactly rocket science. Neat recycling an auto AC compressor but also not really necessary. It is a pretty easy part to DIY.

    1. It also falls into a category of devices many beginning or novice hobbyists might assume is out of their reach. Anything that promotes more people working with magnets is a win in my book.

  2. As an improvement have some permanent magnets to anchor it, and the electromagnets to neutralise the permanent ones.
    Then you have a push button switch to move the vice when needed (note: viCe). Then you can (a) use a battery power, and (b) use lower-current-rated electromagnets because they are only on for a short time.

    1. that would be safer when a power outage occurs too.
      just imagine a bigger drilling process into a big (long) work piece and suddenly no power. I assume the magnets would disengage immediately while the drill takes a moment to come to a full stop -> the work piece would most likely be flung around.

  3. That’s a ton of work to make what is a non-precision vise (*). I wouldn’t rush to replicate this for a CNC machine, but for what his use-cases appear to be (manual metalworking) it seems to very effective, and I guess that all that really matters. As an aside, that is a nice looking drill-press table.

    I can’t help but feel that it’s a little self-indulgent though – A magnetic chuck from ebay would have allowed any iron or steel vise to be used, and would have likely been cost-competitive once you take parts and labor into account. Need a tiny part with high precision? Toolmaker’s vise. General purpose precision? 6″ or 8″ Kurt or similar. Multiple vises? Sure. All would be usable with a magchuck. Also, most magnetic chucks are permanent magnet and don’t require a power supply.

    (*) Why do I think that? A hollow plate vise will flex under load. The heat from the welds will have warped the plates out of flat. The fixed jaw was set with a carpentry square. The moveable jaw isn’t a hold-down design (at the end you can see the square tube lift as he tightens the vise). There’s a reason why surface grinders and dial indicators feature in precision vise manufacturing.

    1. sometimes you need precision but not That Much precision. and in this current climate, Labor Invested is more accessible than Parts. I do agree with the ‘ought to be Hold Down design’, but it’s a project suitable for getting new Makers interested. and it’s a “tool you can upgrade”, being that you know how it goes together

    1. Theres a decent one that attaches the AC Compressor to to the aux drive belt – when AC is on, it pulls a pulley into place which connects it but when AC is off it’s not attached/providing any excess load

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