A Hydraulic Bench Vise, Made On The Bench

When we sit down to a build video and see that it’s from [Workshop From Scratch], we know it’ll be a good one, full of plenty of gratuitous metal-wrangling with the promise of an ingenious and useful take on a workshop essential at the end. The home made hydraulic bench vise is the latest from that particular workshop, so settle down with the video below the break for a treat.

Unlike the lead screw we’d expect from a more conventional vise, this one uses a hydraulic pull cylinder and its associated compressor which is powered by compressed air. A substantial vise frame is constructed around the cylinder from thick steel plate, with some careful welding and grinding to ensure a smooth finish.  The result is substantial clamping force with a very smooth and quick action, which doesn’t overhang the edge of the bench in the way a more traditional one does. The hydraulic tube is tucked away through a hole in the bench, and the foot-operated pump lies out of sight on the floor.

Looking at this vise with blacksmith-trained eyes, it raises the question of how it might perform were something in it to be hammered. Overhanging vises are vulnerable to splitting when hammered, so there’s the possibility that this one with its flat mounting might fare a little better. Either way it would be an asset to any workshop.

When it comes to vises, [Workshop From Scratch] is where we saw that magnetic vise earlier last year.

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Hydraulic Lifting Workbench To Save Your Back

Working on heavy mechanical machines at awkward heights can be a real back breaker. [Workshop From Scratch] knows this all to well, so he built himself a very clean hydraulic lifting workbench to use around the workshop.

As we’ve come to expect from this aptly named channel, everything on the device has been built from scratch. Though he did use an off-the-shelf manually operated hydraulic piston. The lifting mechanism consists of a parallel bar linkage which allows the benchtop to stay parallel through its entire range of motion. The hand lever of the hydraulic piston was converted to a foot pedal for comfort, and the base has some sturdy trolley wheels to move it around the workshop. Raising the table is admittedly quite slow due to the manual pumping required, but it gets the job done eventually.

Making your own tools and equipment provides a lot of satisfaction, especially if you end up using it a lot. [Workshop From Scratch] builds some excellent tools, like this magnetic drill press, magnetic vice and a workshop crane. We hope to see many more.

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Under Pressure: How Aluminum Extrusions Are Made

At any given time I’m likely to have multiple projects in-flight, by which of course I mean in various stages of neglect. My current big project is one where I finally feel like I have a chance to use some materials with real hacker street cred, like T-slot extruded aluminum profiles. We’ve all seen the stuff, the “Industrial Erector Set” as 80/20 likes to call their version of it. And we’ve all seen the cool projects made with it, from CNC machines to trade show displays, and in these pandemic times, even occasionally as sneeze guards in retail shops.

Aluminum T-slot profiles are wonderful to work with — strong, lightweight, easily connected with a wide range of fasteners, and infinitely configurable and reconfigurable as needs change. It’s not cheap by any means, but when you factor in the fabrication time saved, it may well be a net benefit to spec the stuff for a project. Still, with the projected hit to my wallet, I’ve been looking for more affordable alternatives.

My exploration led me into the bewilderingly rich world of aluminum extrusions. Even excluding mundane items like beer and soda cans, you’re probably surrounded by extruded aluminum products right now. Everything from computer heatsinks to window frames to the parts that make up screen doors are made from extruded aluminum. So how exactly is this ubiquitous stuff made?

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Syringes Put The Squeeze On This Mini Drill Press

If you’re making your own PCBs for through-hole projects at home, getting the board etched is only half the battle; you’ve still got to drill all those little holes. It’s a tedious process, and if you’ve got a lot of them, doing them freehand with a drill just isn’t going to cut it. Which is why [Ruchir Chauhan] built this tiny 3D printed drill press.

This design is actually interesting for a number of reasons. The fact that it’s primarily 3D printed is a big one, though of course it’s not the first time we’ve seen that. We also like the minimal part count and low-cost, which is sure to appeal to those looking to produce PCBs on a budget. But the most impressive feature has to the hydraulic system [Ruchir] has come up with to actually do the drilling.

Rather than pulling an arm to lower the bit towards the work piece, a system utilizing four syringes, some water, and a bit of tubing is used to pull the tool down. This might seem extravagant, but if you’ve got a lot of holes to drill, this design is really going to save your arms. This method should also give you more consistent and accurate results, as you won’t be putting any torque on the structure as you would with a manually operated press.

[Ruchir] doesn’t offer much in the way of instructions on the project’s Hackaday.io page, but once you print out all of the provided STLs and get your syringes ready to go, the rest should be fairly self explanatory. Personally we might have added a smooth steel rod in there to make sure the movement is nice and straight, but we can see the appeal of doing it with a printed part to keep things cheap.

Looking for more ideas? If you’re after something a bit larger we might suggest this one made from PVC pipes, and this 3D printed desktop press would look good on anyone’s bench. Just don’t blame us if your arms get tired.

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Hydraulic Bench Vise A Masterpiece Of Scrap Metal And Angle Grinding

For most of us, a vise is the sort of thing you clamp onto the edge of a workbench and crank down by hand. It might even be made of plastic, depending on the kind of work you find yourself doing with it. But it’s safe to say that [WorkshopFromScratch] won’t be soldering any PCBs in the jaws of this nearly 100 lb hydraulic vise that he built from, well… scratch.

In the video after the break, he takes an array of scrap metal including what appears to be a chunk of racking from the Home Depot and a rusted plate that looks like it could be peeled off the hull of a sunken ship, and turns it into a monsterous vise with five tons of clamping force. Outside of a handful of bolts, a couple of gas struts, and the hydraulic bottle jack that that provides the muscle, everything is hand-cut and welded together. No fancy machining here; if you’ve got an angle grinder, a welder, and of course the aforementioned stock of scrap metal, you’ve got the makings of your own mega vise.

The piece of racking is cut down the center to form the base of the vise, but most everything else is formed from individual shapes cut out of the plate and welded together. Considering the piecemeal construction methods, the final result looks very professional. The trick is to grind all the surfaces, including the welds, down until everything looks consistent. Then follow that with a coat of primer and then your finish color.

While the whole build is very impressive, our favorite part has to be the hand-cut cross hatching on the jaws. With the workpiece in one hand and angle grinder in the other, he cuts the pattern out with an accuracy that almost looks mechanical. If we didn’t know better, we might think [WorkshopFromScratch] was some kind of metalworking android from the future.

Being able to work with metal is a fantastic skill to have, and we’re always impressed to see what folks can produce with a welder and some scrapyard finds. Especially when they build tools and equipment that can be put to practical use.

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Off Road Vehicle Has Six Wheels And Fluid Power

What has six wheels and runs on water? Azaris — a new off-road vehicle prototype from Ferox. Azaris has a rocker suspension modeled after the one on the Mars rover. The problem is, linking four drive wheels on a rocker suspension would be a nightmare. The usual solution? Motors directly in the wheels. But Ferrox has a different approach.

The vehicle has a conventional BMW motorcycle engine but instead of driving a wheel, it drives a pump. The pump moves fluid to the wheels where something similar to a water wheel around the diameter of the wheel causes rotation. The fluid is mostly water and the pressure is lower than a conventional hydraulic system. Auto Times has a video of some stills of the prototype and you can see it below. We haven’t actually seen it in motion, unfortunately.

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Retrotechtacular: The Iron Giants That Built The Jet Age

In the closing months of World War II, the Axis and the Allies were throwing everything they had at each other. The tide was turning to the Allies’ favor, but the Germans were showing a surprising resilience, at least in terms of replacing downed fighter and bomber aircraft. When the Allies examined the wreckage of these planes, they discovered the disturbing truth: the planes contained large pieces forged from single billets of metal, which suggested a manufacturing capability none of the Allies possessed and which allowed the Germans to quickly and cheaply make better and faster planes.

When the war was over, the Allies went looking for the tools the Germans had used to make their planes, and found massive closed-die forging presses that could squeeze parts out of aluminum and magnesium alloys in a single step. The Soviets carted off a 30,000 ton machine, while the Americans went home with a shipload of smaller presses and the knowledge that the Russians had an edge over them. Thus began the Heavy Press Program, an ultimately successful attempt by the US military to close a huge gap in strategic manufacturing capabilities that [Machine Thinking] details in the excellent video below.

One doesn’t instantly equate monstrous machines such as the Mesta 50,000-ton press, over nine stories tall with half of it buried underground and attached directly to bedrock, with airplane manufacture. But without it and similar machines that came from the program, planes from the B-52 to the Boeing 747 would have been impossible to build. And this isn’t dead technology by any means; sold to Alcoa in 1982 after having been operated by them for decades, the “Fifty” recently got a $100 makeover after cracks appeared in some castings, and the press and its retro-brethren are still squeezing out parts for fighters as recent as the F-35.

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