Fine Tuning the Vises

The vises are all installed, but they are not fitting quite as well as they could.  On some, one side closes very slightly before the other.  On other vises, the bottom closes just a little before the top.  These problems can easily be fixed, but it is a little time-consuming.

First a quick apology.  My photos in this post are all over the place.  I got working and zoned out a little.   The end result is that I don’t have a series of photos of me fixing one vise chop from start to finish.  I do have photos of every stage, just on different vises.  So if the images seem to be jumping from face vise to tail vise and back again, its me, not you.

The first thing that I did for each vise was to repeatedly open and close it, watching carefully to see if it closed evenly.  If I noticed one side (or the top or bottom) closing before the other, I marked those high spots with a pencil.

I marked the areas that closed first.

I marked the areas that closed first.

On the below image of one of the face vises, you can see that the foreground closes slightly more than the background.  Granted, it’s only a hair off, but it’s worth fixing.

There was a slight difference in the gap as the vise closed.

There was a slight difference in the gap as the vise closed.

To fine tune the fit, I planed the high spots.  The time-consuming part is not the planing, it is the continuous disassembly and reassembly of the vises to check the fit.

I removed the vise chop from the bench to plane it.

I removed the vise chop from the bench to plane it.

I planed down the high spots, being careful to plane evenly and avoid creating a bumpy or uneven surface.

I planed the areas that closed first.

I planed the areas that closed first.

I used both my No. 4 and No. 5 Stanley planes.

I used both my No. 4 and No. 5 Stanley planes.

Once I had planed the high areas, I took two full length passes of the chop to somewhat flatten the face.

One other important thing that I should point out here.  On each vise chop, I deliberately took a few extra passes at the bottom of the chop (where the holes are drilled and below). This will cause the vise to close at the top about 1/64th of an inch before the bottom. This should help to reduce the tendency of these vises to open up at the top when tightened.

With this done, I reassembled the vise and re-checked the fit.  In most cases, I had to repeat the process one more time for an optimal fit.  This repeated assembly has some added challenges considering the way I build these vise chops.  The holes are exactly the same size as the guide rods and main screw (20mm and 30mm respectively).   This tight a fit makes for a much nicer vise once finished, but sometimes needs a little “persuasion” to go together or come apart.  The template that I made while making the chops, did a fantastic job.  The metal parts all line up perfectly.

Here you can see just how precise the holes in the vise chops are.

Here you can see just how precise the holes in the vise chops are.

So, here you can see both tail vises closing evenly:

Both end vises closing nice, tight, and even.

Both end vises closing nice, tight, and even.

Once all four vises were fitting well, all that remained was to flush up the tops.  When I made the vise chops, I made sure that they were about ¼” taller than needed.  After all, it is much easier to plane down the chops to fit than it is to try and “add wood” later.

The vise chops still need to be flushed up with the benchtop.

The vise chops still need to be flushed up with the benchtop.

I set the plane for a fairly thick shaving and got started.

A course set plane should make short work of this.

A course set plane should make short work of this.

Action planing shot!

Action planing shot!

Why is making shavings so much fun?

Why is making shavings so much fun?

It is also important to check that the top of the vise chop stays level with the bench.  I used a square periodically as I worked to see how close I was.

I checked my progress with a square.

I checked my progress with a square.

Looking better.

Looking better.

Perfect!

Perfect!

Both tail vises and both face vises were made level with the benchtop.  I still need to do the final flattening of the bench, but I did an initial flattening before attaching the breadboard ends, so it shouldn’t take much.

I planed down the top of the vise chop until level with the benchtop.

I also planed down the top of the face vise chops.

Slowly getting closer to being done.

All four vises fine tuned, fitting well, and flush with the benchtop.

All four vises fine tuned, fitting well, and flush with the benchtop.

Next I think I’ll flatten the top, and then it will be time to make some sliding dead-men.

More soon.

 

– Jonathan White

About Jonathan

I am a woodworker and hand tool restorer / collector. I buy too many tools and don't build enough - I need help!
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2 Responses to Fine Tuning the Vises

  1. I take it the front aprons are flat and square and that is why you did all the planing on just the vise faces? Also, any plans for dog holes in the bench or the vises?

    • Jonathan says:

      Hey Ralph,

      You got it. The ends and edges of the bench are nice and flat. They were surfaced on my planer before assembly. Also the edges are all sapele and much harder than the douglas fir chops. I think that it is far easier to plane the chops to fit the bench rather than the other way around.

      All of the vises will be getting dog holes that will line up with corresponding holes in the benchtop. In fact they are already done, but as usual I’m about three blog posts behind the actual stage of the build.

      Hope you’re well.

      Jonathan

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