What Makes a Machinist's Vise a Machinist's Vise?

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SteveHGraham
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What Makes a Machinist's Vise a Machinist's Vise?

Post by SteveHGraham » Sat Jun 16, 2018 9:13 pm

For a long time I've been wondering: what makes a "machinist's vise" a machinist's vise? Is it really the best option for a bench vise in a machine shop? I've never started to put something in the vise and then found out it wouldn't work because it was a machining project in a mechanic's vise.

When I was starting to set up my shop about 11 years ago, I found a great price on a 5" Wilton mechanic's vise, so I bought one. I have never had a problem with it. Later I found out it was (probably) made in China. I have read that Chinese Wiltons are made from a weaker material, so I am more likely to have the vise snap under pressure. Don't know if that's true. Sometimes I wonder if I should keep my eyes open for something different. I wonder what I'm missing.

In a distantly related question, would you want a copy of a Wilton vise made from welded steel? Tom Lipton, the Youtube machinist, made a beautiful copy of a Wilton baby bullet vise from steel. Instead of solid cast material, he put it together using welds. Obviously, welds are going to be something like 1/4" thick, whereas a real Wilton is solid iron. I'm wondering if a steel vise held together by thin welds will be as trustworthy as a solid iron casting.
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Re: What Makes a Machinist's Vise a Machinist's Vise?

Post by WJH » Sat Jun 16, 2018 9:17 pm

To me, at the very least, it's square, clamps square, can be indicated reliably off of

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Re: What Makes a Machinist's Vise a Machinist's Vise?

Post by Glenn Brooks » Sat Jun 16, 2018 11:45 pm

Steve, Iam certainly not an expert. I’ve learned one of the important differences is that good machinist vise jaws consistently exert downward pressure on the work as you tighten the jaws. Whereas mechanics vises often allow the work piece to slide around a bit, sometimes rideing up in the vise some thousands, making repeatability difficult and more time consuming. Second what WJH said about sub thousandths square and parallel jaws. And I assume consistent accuracy throughout the range of motion of the jaws, for different sized parts. Maybe an analogy might be the difference between a slip fit and a rattle can fit between a shaft and a bore.

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Re: What Makes a Machinist's Vise a Machinist's Vise?

Post by BadDog » Sun Jun 17, 2018 12:51 am

There may be a confusion between the Wilton "Machinist Vise" and milling vise. I don't think square along its travel and indicating really comes into the picture there. I don't have the Mechanic bullet, but I do have a US 5" Wilton Machinist bullet and a Chinese 6" Wilton bench vise (step below the mechanic bullet).

I got the former with a lucky find covered in about 6 layers of slathered house paint. But I recognized the shape, and you could just make out the cast letters if you knew what you should be looking for. Paint stripper and a bit of cleanup later, and I have the nicest vise I've ever had the pleasure of using. Not super beefy like a big Prentice, Columbian, Sarret, etc. but super well made and very positive in its function. Seems I found that it was made in the late 50s? Very steady and square, with no wobble at all, but I'm not keen to abuse it, so it's used only as a vise, not an anvil or press.

The Chinese wilton is the polar opposite. Loose slide, jaws that don't care if they offset over 1/16" or more, anything clamped and applied torque is quite happy to roll from side to side until it takes up the crazy amount of slop, just a rough cob of a vise. I've got a HF vise that's much MUCH better. I got this one from a scrap bin for free, and it didn't appear all that old or used, and I would say it was found about where it belonged, if you wanted a good vise that is. I'm guessing someone bought "a Wilton" and wasn't happy with the results. The 1/2" plate mount it was found on is worth more than the vise. But I like it just fine. That one gets abused at my whim, and surprisingly it's taken the abuse so far, including 4 lb hammer work bending 1/4" plate brackets and such. The jaws are black from O/A cutting/heating, there are plasma scars making lines across the top, I expect there is at least a few MIG berries stuck to it at the moment, so it has its use for me.
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SteveHGraham
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Re: What Makes a Machinist's Vise a Machinist's Vise?

Post by SteveHGraham » Sun Jun 17, 2018 8:02 am

I'm asking about bench vises, not milling vises.

Here is one of the Tom Lipton bullet vise videos. I have to wonder if that vise will be as strong as a cast vise. He used a TIG welder to assemble it. First he created the welds, which are thin, and then he thinned them more by shaping the vise with a file.

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Re: What Makes a Machinist's Vise a Machinist's Vise?

Post by Conrad_R_Hoffman » Sun Jun 17, 2018 9:24 am

I've no idea what a machinist's vise is. My view is there are bench vises like we all grew up with. Mine is a red Craftsman bought so long ago I'm sure the lifetime warranty has expired. I'd love to own a Leinen bench vise with the movable rear jaw, but they're expensive unobtainium in this country. Then there are milling vises like the Kurts. They need to be square and the movable jaw needs to pull down when tightened. Next up are grinding vises, with the movable jaw pulled down at an angle to prevent lifting. They should be 0.0002" or better in all directions and on all surfaces. The ones with a conventional knob and screw are handy, but not as good. Beyond those are all the specialty vises like the engraver's vise, the pattern maker's vise and the watch maker's vise.
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Re: What Makes a Machinist's Vise a Machinist's Vise?

Post by Frank Ford » Sun Jun 17, 2018 10:08 am

It's all a matter of coolness in the bench vise category

Coolest of all is Machinist vise.

Less cool, in (sort of) descending order of coolness and stoutness:

Tradesman vise

Pipe/Bench vise

Mechanics vise

Shop vise

Utility vise - - only good for clamping and holding stuff, but not cool.

Clearly it costs more to be cool.

Best to get a real USA Wilton bullet vise to avoid being uncool. (nyuk, nyuk)

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Machine specific, i.e., Milling, grinding, shaping vises are machinist vises, too, I reckon. . .
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SteveHGraham
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Re: What Makes a Machinist's Vise a Machinist's Vise?

Post by SteveHGraham » Sun Jun 17, 2018 11:55 am

I don't feel cool at all. I don't even have a hipster beard.
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Re: What Makes a Machinist's Vise a Machinist's Vise?

Post by Rich_Carlstedt » Sun Jun 17, 2018 1:33 pm

In general, I have always considered it to mean the moving jaw remains totally parallel to the stationary Jaw and does not rock or tilt side to side. ( Absolute requirement !)
These requirements are critical to a machinist doing hand work like filing or punching. It also has a large throat- Which means no pipe jaws to lessen the capacity of the work. It may or may not have an anvil for hammering. It also may pivot on a base, bot not roll axially !
They are made of strong materials and are heavy for their size

A bench vise is a mechanics vise and can be anything and can also have the leadscrew exposed.
Rich

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SteveHGraham
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Re: What Makes a Machinist's Vise a Machinist's Vise?

Post by SteveHGraham » Sun Jun 17, 2018 2:50 pm

That sounds somewhat credible.
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Re: What Makes a Machinist's Vise a Machinist's Vise?

Post by NP317 » Sun Jun 17, 2018 6:14 pm

What makes a machinists' vice??
The machinist.
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Re: What Makes a Machinist's Vise a Machinist's Vise?

Post by earlgo » Mon Jun 18, 2018 12:35 pm

When I retired, I 'needed' another vice in the garage/shop so I purchased this YOST vise from Sears. I have seen others similar and I am sure made in the same Chinese factory. I bought it from Sears in the hopes that if it broke they would honor their warranty. It is a good sturdy vise and other than it is sometimes awkward to use, it is convenient as it rotates about the main shaft so that one can orient the jaws parallel with the floor or in any other orientation with or without the 30° pin stops. It is aggravating because the moveable jaw is behind the casting part that holds the main shaft, but having said that, it is still a solid vise.
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Was I supposed to bolt it to the bench? :wink:
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