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How big can I go with a machine vice?

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choochoo_baloo26/05/2020 00:59:29
250 forum posts
54 photos

I've been eye-ing up the Arc Versatile SG Iron Milling Vice and want to ask some questions please:

  1. If moneys no object, is bigger always better. Obviously capacity and more importantly rigidity due to the mass of cast iron?
  2. I see most vices are aligned with jaws parallel to T slots. Why is that? Surely if jaws are perpendicular, vice would sit neatly on the rectangular table?
  3. Is there a rule of thumb for vice overhang in the usual alignment?
    e.g is 1/3 overhang permissible (my table is 9 inches wide, so would it support a 12 inch long vice)?
Mark Rand26/05/2020 02:21:41
887 forum posts
5 photos

1. Bigger is always better bearing in mind size of mill table and any height issues.

2. Mounting with the jaws parallel to the T slots is often simpler unless the spacing of the T slots matches the vice mounting holes/slots closely (can get around this with an intermediate fixture plate with holes to match both table and vice)

3. Only real problem with overhanging the table is that anything sticking out of the back of the table will reduce the usable Y axis movement, The area of interest is that between the jaws and that which the cutter can reach.

It can be useful to be able to mount the vice at an angle to the table! I've got one mounted at 45° at the moment for a part that needs that angle in its geometry. If you don't have a riser block for your mill, you might find that, while useful to set angles, a swivel base uses more height than you want.

JasonB26/05/2020 07:01:42
18081 forum posts
1988 photos
1 articles

1. Bigger can seriously obstruct the Y axis handwheel if mounted conventionally and also has a lot of weight hanging off the table at the front. If you are in the habit of having the vice at one end then again a lot of weight when using the other end of the table, worse on smaller machines with less space between dovetails. Also you start to loose head room as a wider vice is also taller

2. As most work is held along the length of the vice jaws having them inline with X allows you more movement if the work is longer and it is the main axis that has a power feed. Plus it's a pain to turn the handle. The versatile can be clamped length ways if needed as it has that lip around the edge, would need to see how the SG iron wone could be held.

3. See 1

ARC 80mm and 100mm vices on 140mm deep SX2.7 table. 100mm has to be bolted to the front tee slot otherwise you can't get the spindle over the rear jaw which increases overhang



John Haine26/05/2020 07:26:01
3075 forum posts
162 photos

Think about drilling - the vice eats daylight below the quill and so does the drill chuck. Taller is not necessarily better.

I removed the swivel base from my vice almost as soon as I got it, and it has never been used.

Jason's point about the handwheel is dead on. Also the bolt positions relative to the tee slot. You could easily end up not being able to use much of the increased capacity of a bigger vice because it has to be clamped to the front slot.

There are all kinds of ways to hold work on a mill of which a machine vice is only one. Angle plates and toolmaker's clamps are very useful, so is a 4-jaw chuck sometimes. You may be able to clamp larger items direct to the table that wouldn't fit in a vice.

I have a 100mm vice but also a small one fettled from a set of "precision ground" castings from Chronos and one of the little Myford ones, they all have their uses.

And if you clamp the vice down parallel to the X axis then the handle will foul the table!

Edited By John Haine on 26/05/2020 07:27:08

Nicholas Farr26/05/2020 08:11:21
2257 forum posts
1099 photos

Hi choochoo_baloo, yes you need to consider JasonB's advice, however there is no rule to say you can't use a vice long ways on your table, but you won't get the vices' full versatility that way. So unless you have particular jobs to do that warrant a very big vice, your cost should be considered, as it may be sitting on the shelf for far longer than it is used. This vice in the photo below takes up all of my Chester Champion table, there would be to much overhang weight to use it in the conventual way and I did have to true up and fit the angle bracket to hold the front end. However, this was a freebee as it was made redundant from my last day job. It does however allow me to hold a piece of material up to 150 x 90mm, but the 150mm will be at the extreme Y limits.

cimg2238 (1024x768).jpg

It was however, man enough to hold this 3" bronze cube without fear of it being pulled out while milling, but this has been it's only use thus far. This was almost four years ago.

cimg2244 (1024x768).jpg

Regards Nick.

Edited By Nicholas Farr on 26/05/2020 08:13:29

Ron Laden26/05/2020 08:34:08
1916 forum posts
365 photos

You wouldn't think 20mm a huge jump up from a 80mm to a 100mm but looking at Jason's comparison the 100 is a hell of a lump compared to the 80, glad I went with 80mm.

JA26/05/2020 08:42:24
907 forum posts
50 photos

Bigger is always better??

Bigger is always heavier. OK if you are never going to take the vice off the table.

Don't kid yourself that you can use a big vice for small work. Using a small vice for small work is much easier. Frequently I put a job in a small vice prior to putting it on the milling machine.


Edited By JA on 26/05/2020 08:43:01

Nick Clarke 326/05/2020 08:48:11
754 forum posts
24 photos
Posted by John Haine on 26/05/2020 07:26:01:

I removed the swivel base from my vice almost as soon as I got it, and it has never been used.

Not so certain about that - only yesterday I was wanting to mill a slot across the end of a bit of 1" hex steel bar, face to face. The easiest way is to hold the bar in a swivelling vice across 2 flats and swivel the vice 30 degrees. Job done.

Edited By Nick Clarke 3 on 26/05/2020 08:49:38

Edited By Nick Clarke 3 on 26/05/2020 08:50:52

Michael Gilligan26/05/2020 08:49:46
15666 forum posts
682 photos
Posted by Ron Laden on 26/05/2020 08:34:08:

You wouldn't think 20mm a huge jump up from a 80mm to a 100mm but looking at Jason's comparison the 100 is a hell of a lump compared to the 80, glad I went with 80mm.


Excellent point, Ron

Worth remembering that [for the same design], the weight will be proportional to volume, and therefore to the cube of the jaw dimension;

80x80x80 vs 100x100x100


Nick Clarke 326/05/2020 08:55:27
754 forum posts
24 photos

I have the 80mm versatile vice from ARC (the smallest they do) as part of the 'starter kit' I bought with my little SX1L

It has been very useful to have the capacity on hand, but occasionally it feels out of proportion and gets in the way.

I suspect you may find the same with the 100mm on a larger milling machine - useful to have the capacity sometimes, but getting in the way at others.

Martin Connelly26/05/2020 08:55:38
1364 forum posts
159 photos

I've got a 6" Abwood milling vice and every time I take it off the table or put it back on again I think I will have to put a hoist up soon.

Anyone want an 8" swivel base milling vice?

Martin C

Nigel McBurney 126/05/2020 09:11:51
708 forum posts
3 photos

The old English Abwood vices had four bolting down slots,two in line with the jaws,two at the ends so they could be mounted on both x and y axies. the bigger the vice the heavier it gets,I dont know why the modern vices only have two slots.Perhaps the eastern suppliers copied the wrong vices.

Ron Laden26/05/2020 09:19:03
1916 forum posts
365 photos

Which mill do you have Choo, a 9 inch (230mm) deep table is quite a bit bigger than most hobby machines?

Andrew Johnston26/05/2020 09:22:56
5495 forum posts
647 photos

A machine vice needs to be sized appropriately. My main vice overhangs by about a third:


Personally I wouldn't bother with a swivel base. On the few occasions where it might have been useful I just clamp the vice at the appropriate angle. I've never used my machine vice parallel to the table. If I need to clamp something parallel I clamp direct to the table, or there are vices designed for the purpose:

machining pattern bar chamfer me.jpg

I reckon 75-80% of my machining on the vertical and CNC mills uses the machine vice. The remaining percentage is with the work in the dividing head, rotary table, clamped to angle plates:


Or clamped to the table:


On the horizontal mill it's the other way round, I rarely use the machine vice:

flycutter mounted.jpg

I have a smaller toolmakers style vice, although I've never used it.

Like all workshop tooling, buy the best you can afford - it makes life easier. And that's important for lazy people like me. smile


KWIL26/05/2020 09:40:18
3232 forum posts
63 photos


You think you have a weight problem!

I have a tilting swivelling Abwood for occasional use, I have to break it down into its constituent parts, move it and then rebuild it in its new location, on/off the mill. A hoist would be very useful, if I had somewhere to fit it.

SillyOldDuffer26/05/2020 09:44:35
5746 forum posts
1211 photos

Workholding is always a compromise between convenience, rigidity and space. Most of the time I use a DH-1 vice because it's adaptable, suits the size of work I do and leaves plenty of space on the worktable. However, as it's jaws are quite shallow, I sometimes put a larger 125mm vice on instead. But if I take the DH-1 off, I'm just as likely to not use a vice at all. Certain jobs beg to be bolted direct on to the table, and doing so removes nasty bendy vices from the equation!

Both my vices came with swivel bases. Rarely used! For most jobs they waste space and reduce rigidity for zero benefit. Take them off!

Bigger is better provided it fits the machine and size of work being done. A huge vice on a tiny machine would be a right pain and vice versa.


JasonB26/05/2020 10:18:55
18081 forum posts
1988 photos
1 articles

It is also worth looking at the design of the vice, The Versatile that I showed, like Andrew's Kurt has a lip all round it which makes it longer and wider though the lip helps if you did want to mount along the table, The SG Iron one the OP is looking at is a bit narrower so will hide the dials less and something like the Vertex K4 that I use on the X3 is narrower still.

I also don't use the swivel unless needed, that photo was taken when discussing Vice sizes with Ketan to decide on what suited the starter tooling sets.

Actually to get the most out of the Versatile and SG vice you may have to mount it length ways when using the swapable jaws to their full extent eg when used to hold thin plate - no need for low profile clampswink 2

ChrisH26/05/2020 10:49:03
857 forum posts
29 photos

The other thing about mounting the vice with the jaws parallel to the Tee-slots is that then a milling cutter being feed along the X axis, which is what happens most times, the teeth on the cutter is cutting towards a jaw in the vice and not towards the gap between them. Taking very light cuts the latter set-up is not a problem, but when taking heavy cuts it could quite well be a major problem..........

+1 for taking the swivel base off, mine came off before I even first mounted the vice and I have never seen the need to fit/use it. In the spirit of the late John S, it is currently holding down a bit of shed floor until something better comes along.

Also, bigger may be better and usually is, but whatever vice, you usually need to be able to completely machine a part held in the vice in both X and Y without having to relocate the part to finish one face because the part is outside the X and Y travels. No point in having a vice so big that the tool cannot reach front to back of something held in it. Having said that, there are exceptions to every rule!


Edited By ChrisH on 26/05/2020 10:50:19

Dave Halford26/05/2020 11:02:53
742 forum posts
6 photos
Posted by Nigel McBurney 1 on 26/05/2020 09:11:51:

The old English Abwood vices had four bolting down slots,two in line with the jaws,two at the ends so they could be mounted on both x and y axies. the bigger the vice the heavier it gets,I dont know why the modern vices only have two slots.Perhaps the eastern suppliers copied the wrong vices.

They copied the Kurt smiley

steamdave26/05/2020 11:18:40
435 forum posts
33 photos

If you need a larger vice and not too heavy,consider the Darmet Precision vice.

The Emerald Isle

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