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Friday, January 6, 2012

Phase II Machine Vise With Swivel Base

My Dad gave me my milling machine some twenty years ago. I had just opened a business, and he thought I needed it more than he did. My Dad was that kind of a guy. I've been using the vise that came with the mill for years now. It wasn't the best vise when it was new, and it was new about fifty years ago.

I've put off buying a new one for some years now because I could not decide which I wanted. I knew I wanted one of the so called "lock down" variety, but a Kurt or Parlec was out of my price range. That left a foreign made knockoff. The problem is that not all are made the same. I also dithered over what size to purchase. What I had was best described as 3 1/2". That meant I could go with 4", 5" (there are a few of those out there) or a 6" vise.

To compound the problem, I had stumbled across a few internet horror stories about poor quality ranging from ground surfaces that weren't flat to weak and porous castings to fixed jaws breaking off the back of the vise. The websites selling such things as vices weren't much help either. They usually gave a sketchy description of their product, sometimes written in Engrish, with a single photo about the size of a postage stamp, and of poor resolution.

So, I bought a four inch Phase II with swivel base. Yeah, short and sweet. Here's why. After pouring over the available dimensions, I concluded a five or six inch vise was simply too big and heavy for me, and my little mill. That left a four inch vise, if I wanted to go larger than what I had. I settled on Phase II for two reasons. I have purchased other parts and tooling from Little Machine Shop in the past. They carry a three inch version of the Phase II vise. Everything I have purchased in the past from them has been of good to excellent quality for the price. If they felt that the Phase II vise was a good cost/quality compromise for hobbyists, then who was I to argue. I also considered that the Phase II rotary table and quick change tool post I had purchased earlier were, in my eyes, excellent products. I like them both, especially the rotary table, and have had zero problems with them.

So, a four inch Phase II machine vise with swivel base was ordered from Get Machine Tools.Com. Little Machine Shop didn't carry one that large, and GetMachineTools.COM is on the same side of the continent as I am. The vise was here in two days, standard ground.
I've published a few photos here, more that I was able to find elsewhere on the internet. Enjoy. As always, click to embiggen. My initial eyeball assessment of the vise is that it's well made. I know, that's not terribly critical of me. I've made a few measurements, and have to make more. The fixed jaw is square with the base, and all the surfaces one would expect to be ground, the bottom, the base, the jaws fixed and sliding, and jaw inserts are ground. Right out of the box, things were sort of stiff and bumpy, but cleaning and oiling cleared that up. For now, it's nice to have something that isn't fifty years old and full of holes. The size is right for my Clausing mill. Anything larger would have been a mistake. The vise can be used with or without the base, of course. I will rarely use the base, but it never hurts to have it, especially that one time you need it.

I was taken aback by the handle that accompanied the vise. It's massive. The smaller handle is what fits the old Enco vise. It's always been sufficient for the amounts of torque I'm accustomed to using. Maybe that's because my hands and arms are huge and freakishly strong (kidding) or because I baby my old mill and tools(more likely). Anyway, a smaller handle that fits the vise better must be had. Cool, another project. I'll be back with more photos of the vise and base, and an opinion as to whether I've made a good investment or not later. For now, I'm going to use my new vise.

Update: Andy at Workshop Shed has asked in the comments about the vise's main screw collecting chips. For the most part it's covered by the threaded casting that carries the moving jaw forward against the workpiece. You can see this, and the underside of the moving jaw in the photo that accompanies this update. The angular projection on top of this threaded casting bears against the underside of the moving jaw, and carries it forward while forcing it down (hence lock down vise), once it meets resistance from the workpiece being clamped. 

 There is a hemispherical bearing that barely shows in the photo.It's inside the moving jaw and it allows for some some jaw misalignment to accommodate a odd shaped workpiece, and bears against the angled projection on the threaded carrier.

The last photo is my best effort to show this bearing and the cavity it occupies in the underside of the moving jaw.The bearing is sitting in a lump of white lithium grease to hold it so its' half round shape shows well. The bearing is rough as a cob, and so is the cavity it occupies, which is cast in place, not machined. I've polished the flat portion of the bearing, and as soon as I figure out how, I'm going to polish the bearing cavity as well. I'm somewhat disappointed that a part critical to the proper operation of the vise was left so rough.


Andy from Workshopshed said...

One of the nice features of your old vice is that the screw thread is not under the area being machined and less likely to fill full of swarf. It would be interesting to see how the new once behaves in that aspect.

p.s. That reminds me, I need to take my 1 year old vice out of the box and mount it on the bench

Smitty said...

I had some time to go down to my shop and play with the vise yesterday. The screw is for the most part covered by the rest of the lock down mechanism, which does work if you "tune" it up. I have the best intentions to publishing more photos on my flicker account for those interested, including partial disassembly to show how the lock down mechanism works, and it's parts, and what needs to be done to improve operation. This mostly involves polishing parts to reduce friction, and removing paint from places where it interferes with operation.

As regards your bench vise, I can remember as a child that a year seemed to stretch out forever, like a road going over the horizon. Now, a year seems to pass like a flock of birds flying over.

Mount your vise, and try to find the time to enjoy it.

-M said...

i use that same vise. it will work very well for you in the mill. make sure you use a dead-blow on your peice and then give the vise an extra pull before machining.

Rong Fu user said...

What is the make of your old vise. I am trying to get another one for dual vise setup. Two same vises on one table for long thin work.

Smitty said...

The old vise has an Enco label on it somewhere. It is at least 25 years old, and no longer in manufacture.