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Tuning up my Versatile Vice

New thread 'cos Jason Said :)

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Iain Downs02/05/2020 08:28:56
796 forum posts
726 photos

So I boasted of my new vice on the 'What did you do today' thread and Jason suggested I start a separate thread so as not to get swamped by the flood of advice..

Or something

Here's the vice on the millnew mill new vice 2.jpg

I've put the keys in and they fit most precisely into the T slot and the base of the vice, however the face of the vice is out by around 0.1mm across the width.

Henry has skimmed the base of his and I gather Jason has been waving his magic engineers wand at his as well, so there are clearly things that can be done.

The responses (and a good night's sleep) have suggested that I should clock the various other faces to make sure that I'm addressing the right problem in the right place.

Looking forward to answers and opinions.

After I get back from the Aldi battle...


AdrianR02/05/2020 09:07:49
542 forum posts
36 photos

I have just ordered one of those, I would be interested in any advise too.


John Haine02/05/2020 09:43:54
4270 forum posts
251 photos

Cancel the order?

Ron Laden02/05/2020 09:54:11
2253 forum posts
446 photos

That's interesting Iain I have the smaller 80mm versatile which I keep with the inner face of the fixed jaw clocked parallel to the table but I haven't checked other faces.

I mounted a DTI in the spindle and just checked the top face of the fixed jaw and end to end it ran out 0.06mm. I removed the jaw made sure it and its seat were clean and refitted it whilst pressing fully down. That improved it to 0.03mm then tried it a second time but couldn't improve on the 0.03.

Then I clocked across the two running faces of the base casting, this I thought more critical as its where the work piece and parallels etc sit. It clocked at 0.02mm edge to edge and I clocked it close to the fixed jaw, fully open and a mid position, all the same reading. 

I am quite happy with that for the work I do.


Edited By Ron Laden on 02/05/2020 09:56:44

Bazyle02/05/2020 10:03:40
6079 forum posts
221 photos

One of the first things to try is whether the key will first the other way round. Also have you checked the alignment of the table Tslot relative to the movement of the table with the gib well set.

Steviegtr02/05/2020 10:06:30
2269 forum posts
313 photos

It certainly looks a heavy piece of metal. I am slightly confused as when I fit my vice I nip it up on the t clamps & then tap it left or right until the back face is as near zero as possible. Then tighten. Or am I missing something.


JasonB02/05/2020 10:17:44
21618 forum posts
2492 photos
1 articles

Bazyel, keys are a very tight fit in the slots so won't matter if turned around and OP says tee slot is good for 0.01mm

not done it yet02/05/2020 10:27:24
6433 forum posts
20 photos

Opinion: That vise looks far too big for that mill in that orientation, to me, unless bolted down on the outside table slot.

Fact: My large vise just overhangs the rear of the table and preliminary setting up usually means simply touching the back of the vise, in full contact, against the column.

Opinion: You are not doing very well if squaring the vise is only to the nearest 0.1mm!

Choice: The swivel base is sort of OK - if you have plenty of head space which, for most of us, is at a premium. The intermediate ‘layer’ is bound to cause further levelling/alignment errors unless everything is absolutely spot on.

Suggestion: You start your measurements at the table surface.

Iain Downs02/05/2020 10:39:11
796 forum posts
726 photos

Thanks for all the input.

Stevie, there is a channel in the bottom of the vice which holds keys which slot into the t slots - a close fit. If all is working right, it just means that you pop the vice on the table in the slots, tighten up the t clamps and it's spot on.

not done it yet, I think it worth checking the surfaces from the table as well as the spindle, so thanks for that idea. I *think* that I can mill across the full opening of the jaws in this orientation, though I will double check that.

I'm off out to the shed right now - main purpose is to finish off my saw table (it turns out the die I ordered is 30mm and my holders are too small or too big, so I have to make a die holder first), but I will clock the various surfaces of the vice today and also try the vice in a different orientation.


JasonB02/05/2020 10:41:03
21618 forum posts
2492 photos
1 articles

Well I was going to save this for MEW when I did a "pimp my SX2.7" article but you can have it for free.

Firstly The reason for doing this work was that the slot in the 80mm vice is a nominal 14mm along with the supplied blocks but the SX2.7 has 12mm nominal tee slots

Secondly I generally prefer to clock my fixed jaw rather than use the keys but it made it simple of when staging photos for the beginners series to have the keys fitted.

Firstly a check of the supplied blocks shows them to measure just under 14mm and they are a firm fit into the premachined slots in the bottom of the vice not falling out when you turn it over.

vice clock (1).jpg

Slot in the table a nat's over 12mm measured in several places.

vice clock (3).jpg

Also clocked the edge of the tee slot and good for 0.01mm over 250mm which is far wider than the spacing of the blocks.

First thing I did was clamp a piece of bar to the table,in this case some 3/4" square and clock that as true as possible over it's length The vice is then held upside down and clamped onto this bar.

vice clock (4).jpg

Mark the two keys so that they can always go back in the same way as you may want to remove them to angle the vice or use it length ways, etc. I went for simple 2 and 1 punch marks.

vice clock (5).jpg

Pack under the blocks so they sit a bit higher up than their final position, I used a couple of thin washers then screw them into place.

vice clock (6).jpg

Set your chosen milling cutter height so it is just clear of the bottom of the vice

vice clock (7).jpg

Then machine the blocks to size taking a bit off each side, I went for 0.05mm under slot avarage so that I could also use on the other mills and the bit of wiggle room would allow for any fine clocking should I need it for high accuracy jobs.

Ian, you would only need to skim one side which I suggest if the fixed jaw side

vice clock (8).jpg

Job done. I have actually been using this vice on all three mills particularly the CNC and locating it simply by pushing it back against the rear edge of the middle slot as I tighten up the fixings and not had any issues (no other work done to the vice either)

0.01mm over the length of the jaws, good enough for most work and clockable when you feel the need for anything better.

Edited By JasonB on 02/05/2020 10:47:30

Mike Poole02/05/2020 11:10:36
3095 forum posts
72 photos

I would expect there to be a tolerance if just relying on the keys, it would be remarkable if every time you position the vice it comes up perfect. For much work it is pretty close but if a job is critical then you are going to clock the vice to check so you may as well give it a few taps to get it as good as required and leave the keys out. Having established the accuracy and repeatability of the keys then the benefit is to be found in not clocking up every time the vice is replaced, they also help to stop the vice moving with a very heavy cut. Unless you have faith in the keys and don’t check every time then you may as well leave them out and clock up every time.


Ron Laden02/05/2020 12:54:39
2253 forum posts
446 photos

The keys with my 80mm versatile vice were way too big for the SX2P as it only has 8mm T slots so I had to take 3mm off each side of the 14mm keys. I also took a few thou extra off them which has left me a little room for adjustment.

This gives me a close position if I push the vice back towards the column which is fine as I always clock the vice and dont rely on the key position when I fit it back to the table.

Edited By Ron Laden on 02/05/2020 12:57:11

JasonB02/05/2020 13:05:34
21618 forum posts
2492 photos
1 articles

As Ron says also check your jaw positions, as these vices are made to have the jaws fitted in several orientations they need to be fitted with care, so clean well and tap then down as you tighten the screws..

The 80mm one that I have here has about 0.005mm ( 2 tenths of a thou) along the top of the fixed jaw which matches the 0.005mm measured across the bottom of the full opening in both X and Y approx a 70mm square.

Also make sure your gibs are well adjusted and any axis not being used while measuring are locked, quite likely you could get some table droop with that big boy mounted on one end, if Bridgeports suffer from this I'm sure these bench top ones will too.

Howard Lewis02/05/2020 18:39:07
5533 forum posts
13 photos

As an aid to aligning my 4" vice, (Not easy to fit keys for alignment ) I made up a gadget that looks like a set of goalposts.

The bottom end of the pillars are turned to a snug fit in the tee slots, and are drilled for long bolts to engage tee nuts in the slots. Fixed across the pillars, at a distance which allows it to be clamped in the vice jaws, is the cross bar.

Once clamped to the pillars, a light cut is taken along each side of the crossbar.

In this way, when the vice is clamped, it is to a face which is that of the machine table past the cutter.

Fitting and aligning the vice takes less than five minutes, and avoids the frustration of clamping, repeated tapping and clocking to get a Zero reading at both ends of the fixed jaw.


Enough!02/05/2020 18:52:20
1719 forum posts
1 photos

Mine is simple: a block that is tightened in the vice jaws with a tang that projects through the gap in the base and into a table slot. I then load the whole shebang against one side of the slot while I tighten the mounting screws.

Mounts in seconds, is plenty good enough for anything I do - and I don't have to clock.

Vic02/05/2020 19:02:30
2953 forum posts
8 photos

I bought a Soba vice for my VMC and had heard of folks milling a slot to aid location. I really didn’t fancy doing this though for two reasons. A, it may weaken the base of the vice and B, what if I mucked it up and milled the slot badly. In the end I milled a piece of steel to be a tight fit for the Tee slots in the table, tapped it into place then clamped the vice upside down to it. Unlike some vices the clamping points on the vice are holes, not slots so I carefully clocked them and to my surprise found they were spot on with the jaws. As the slots in my mill and the holes in the vice are of slightly different diameters I turned a pair of stepped collars that are a tight fit in the vice and snug on the mill. When mounting the vice on the mill it’s never more than about half a thou out, if that. I know that if I’m in a hurry after replacing the vice I can use it as is but often clock it anyway.

Steviegtr03/05/2020 00:11:04
2269 forum posts
313 photos

Surely if you really wanted to mount the vice bang on every time. Maybe due to working quickly. Would it not be best to put 2 or 3 pins in the bed , perfectly. Then drill matching holes in the vice base. Not deep enough to weaken it, but to locate perfect every time. Job done


Hopper03/05/2020 02:27:44
5505 forum posts
137 photos

Interesting comparison between Chinese and USA machine vices below. Same guy has a follow up video as well.

Both videos show a few things worth measuring up and correcting if need be when setting up one of these cheap vices.

Edited By Hopper on 03/05/2020 02:29:16

Ron Laden03/05/2020 06:00:36
2253 forum posts
446 photos

Out of interest I adjusted the fixed jaw of the vice and added a couple of measurements that the guy took in the video, I used the imperial DTI.

Fixed jaw tapped down whilst fixing the screws, top face run out edge to edge 0.0002

Run out across the two running faces of the base 0.0006

Run out along the length of the base (160mm) 0.0002

Movement of fixed jaw when clamping a steel block - no movement well maybe 0.0001 but hardly readable.

Movement of sliding jaw when clamping 0.0002 downwards - yes

So bearing in mind that this is a £60 vice (Currently £64) from ARC, I think that is an impressive set of figures​​​ and there is nothing I want to improve on.



Edited By Ron Laden on 03/05/2020 06:02:14

Edited By Ron Laden on 03/05/2020 06:04:36

Iain Downs03/05/2020 18:00:24
796 forum posts
726 photos

HI, all, sorry I didn't get back to you yesterday like I promised, but something always gets in the way. Particular thanks to Jason for giving up his income from MEW in order to help on this forum!

Firstly, not done it yet thought the vice was too big. It is a beast but ...

You can mill across the whole span of the vice from full in

mill vice in.jpg

To fully out

mill vice out.jpg

So I'm happy that I've not gone mad from that perspective. True with the jaws in their alternative positions you can get to the rearmost, but are way short of the frontmost. Still it looks like I could hold an 8 inch wide piece and cover the entire surface.

On the accuracy: I started to clock various edges of the vice with the intent of a full report. But when I clocked the back face and found that it was absolutely in in line, I stopped and considered.

I took the fixed jaw face off and found grit behind it. I clocked the front of the block that supports the jaw (which was milled rather than ground so a bit on the rough side) and basically that was true as well. There might have been 0.01mm variation, but it was hard to tell.

I cleaned up the fixed jaw and measured it with a micrometer with the following readings

top left - 14.312

bottom left - 14.321

top right - 14.302

bottom right - 14.295

so 0.015mm variation at most (No I've not tried the a matrix of points to see if there are other variances, thought that might be interesting. It also seems (to a naive novice) more inaccuracy than I would have expected from a ground item.

The floating jaw was similar (and also grubby behind)

I put the fixed jaw back on and clocked again. This was better. A variance of 0.04 or so (a bit under 2 though for the metric deniers!). Having said that, I couldn't work out where some of that came from.

Sadly, the need to make dinner called and I left it there.

I've not yet checked the Z trueness, but I'm encouraged./I will play around with the fixed jaw when I have some time again and see if I can get it even better.

The fixed jaw, though does seem very close to vertical. within the range of my finger indicator anyway.


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