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View Full Version : Polishing a Turd: Salvaging an import mill vise



Doc Nickel
11-15-2009, 07:41 PM
A few weeks back, I posted a few "early Christmas" tool gloats, which included three new Kurt-type import clone milling vises to help tool up my ever-growing collection of machinery.

I've been a fan- such as it is- of at least Enco's import vises, since I picked one up in 2003. It wasn't up to Kurt quality, of course, but for $90 and shipping brand new, it was pretty damned good. (And, I might add, a healthy step up from the assortment of "drill press" and other substandard vises I'd been using up to that point.)

The original one is branded an "Elephant", and I'd heard stories from other people that their 'Elephant' was nearly as good, if not better.

These three, however, aren't even up to the standards of a cheap clone. Two aren't horrible, and cleaned up at least acceptably with only minor work and some deburring. I put one on the horizontal mill where it's already well proven it's mettle:

http://www.docsmachine.com/machineshop/slabcutter.jpg

The third, however, clearly came out of a different set of molds, and probably from a different factory altogether- and likely assembled by a crew even had other slave-labor gangs going "man, those guys are really sloppy".

The circumstances of my purchase made it impossible, or at least financially unwise due to shipping, to return it, so I decided to see if I could at least make this thing acceptably usable.

I did it all in what little spare time I could... er, spare, over the course of a couple of weeks, so the work and the narrative are a bit disjointed. I'd have done a few things differently, or at least in different order, had I been able to sit down and focus on it all at once, but the end result is about the same.

Frank Ford's writeup of his cracked 4" vise was a starting point for this mod- this one's not even as good a quality as Franks, so I figured if it's going to survive at all, I'd best beef it up as much as I can.

The casting, however, was too thin to add a rear plate like Frank did, and also too thin for some monster bolts as he used. Will it survive? I don't know. Feels solid for now, so we'll see. If it dies, I'll chalk it up to a learning experience.

The step by step annotated build up can be found here (http://www.docsmachine.com/projects/4vise/4vise-01.html) since there's too many pictures for a HSM post.

Doc.

MTNGUN
11-15-2009, 08:09 PM
Excellent review ! ! ! Thanks.

Jim Shaper
11-15-2009, 08:23 PM
I tried an elephant cam lock drill press vise from enco, but the lock blade was hardened and the shaft was dead soft - it nicked every time you locked it. So much so, it interfered with the moveable jaw's travel.

10 minutes out of the box, I was on the phone with enco arranging return shipping and a full refund.

lazlo
11-15-2009, 08:35 PM
Wow, that's a heck of a write-up Doc!

A couple of notable quotes:

"The casting is already scrap-ladle quality grey iron, I didn't need to make it any weaker."

"There's a reason better tools cost more. There's also a reason they're worth it."

Pretty scary:

http://www.docsmachine.com/projectpics/4in-vise-14.jpg

Black_Moons
11-15-2009, 08:44 PM
hahaha at the writeup, no locking sphere, cast in bolt slots, its epic. porus casting.. lol at filler. Replacing the paint too haha theres nothing left of that vises origional work! I love it.

they might as well of shiped you a couple rusting castings and saved you some time.
10 hours.. Coulda nearly bought a glacern for that at $30/hr shop time :P
I think you just like your surface grinder too much. Nice job.

Btw you forgot to check on the thrust bearings for the leadscrew (or add some if it uses just a washer)


PS: I like your website and logo, but could you maybe make a page contain like 4+ pictures per page? hiting next for every picture and sentence gets a little tedious.

Tony Ennis
11-15-2009, 08:44 PM
Nice write-up, thank you.

Doc Nickel
11-15-2009, 08:44 PM
Yep, but as I said, thankfully, this one's the worst of the lot.

I bought another 5" with a swivel base (the original 2003 one was a 5") and two 4" models- one with a swivel base, one without.

The one with the swivel clearly came out of the same factory as the 5"- both were notably poorer than the '03 copy, but should work. The fixed jaw bolts on the 5" are pretty beefy (roughly 3/8") and the castings are thicker. Ditto the 4"- thicker walls, bigger bolts, marginally better fit jaw key, etc. They both actually had the spherical locking element too, which appears to work properly- that better 4" in the horizontal picture held nicely.

But the 4" in this write-up was pretty piss-poor, despite coming from the same ad in the catalog. I ordered one 4" with a swivel, one 4" without. I assumed- yeah, I know- they'd be the same vise, just one would have the base.

And as I'd said in another thread, had I known of the Glacern vises at the time, I probably wouldn't have bought these imports- or more likely, I'd have bought just one- and put the rest of the money towards one of theirs.

Doc.

Fasttrack
11-15-2009, 08:49 PM
Nice job! I really enjoyed that write up. A surface grinder is the next item on my machinery list. I thought I was happy with what I had and I could put off purchasing and new machinery for a couple of years, but thanks to your post I've got an awful bad hankering for a surface grinder ;)

quadrod
11-15-2009, 08:49 PM
Great write up, I recently purchased a basic mill package of a six inch mill vice on a swivel base, clamp set and six R8 Collete's. I disassembled the vice the other day and found lots of grinding grit left from the factory. When i took the movable jaw off i found the same case angle locking peace you have on yours. I also found that while the top ways and jaws are ground to a nice finish the bottom of the movable jaw looked like it had been done with and coarse wheel on an angle grinder. I used a flat stone to take down the high spots and when i get my mill going i will touch up the locking mechanism.

Doc Nickel
11-15-2009, 08:51 PM
Btw you forgot to check on the thrust bearings for the leadscrew (or add some if it uses just a washer)

-Nope. It's a turned flange on the screw that bears against the milled seat in the casting. Period, end of conversation.

I'd considered a couple of options- a bronze washer, a hardened and ground washer, a Torrington bearing, etc. but I already have too much time and money into this heap.


PS: I like your website and logo, but could you maybe make a page contain like 4+ pictures per page? hiting next for every picture and sentence gets a little tedious.

-Yeah, I usually make these a little more concise, but since I did this one piecemeal over a few weeks, it kinda got away from me. It wasn't 'til I reread it later that I noted more than a few shots could have been left out.

On the other hand, I wanted it to be somewhat easier to read than Frank's writeups- While his photos are great and his writing is clear, I dislike having to click on each photo to see a "full size" view, and then click "back" to get back to reading the text.

I thought my way would be at little more user friendly. You're right though, I could put more than one photo per "page"...

Doc.

Doc Nickel
11-15-2009, 09:01 PM
Great write up, I recently purchased a basic mill package of a six inch mill vice on a swivel base, clamp set and six R8 Collete's. I disassembled the vice the other day and found lots of grinding grit left from the factory.

-Funny you should mention that... :D

On the "good" 4-inch vise, I spent half an hour scraping out casting sand:

http://www.docsmachine.com/machineshop/4-vise-2.jpg

http://www.docsmachine.com/machineshop/4-vise-4.jpg

And while the castings were thicker, and a bit "straighter" according to the indicator, they weren't necessarily of all that higher a quality:

http://www.docsmachine.com/machineshop/4-vise-3.jpg

Doc.

lazlo
11-15-2009, 09:08 PM
hahaha at the writeup, no locking sphere, cast in bolt slots, its epic. porus casting..

For what it's worth, I bought a 5 1/2" Enco Elephant vise, circa 2005, and it did have the half sphere. But as I posted back then, it looked like someone hacked the sphere out of a piece of scrap with a stone chisel.

The biggest problem I had was that the bed wasn't flat -- it was off by a ~ 2.5 thou from the left to right bed way. They don't stress relieve the castings, so I think it's post machining warp. I milled the base flat, then the bed, and that fixed most of the problems...

By the way, there's a cool article by Stephen Thomas in an ancient HSM Magazine where he did a top-to-bottom refurb of a Chinese mill vise like DOc, but he hand-scraped the whole thing. :eek:

I vividly remember Forrest quoted as saying "You really Gold Plated that turd." :p

lazlo
11-15-2009, 09:11 PM
On the "good" 4-inch vise, I spent half an hour scraping out casting sand:

Doc, in the second picture on the good vise, you have the ball thrust bearing on the table. I'm surprised the bigger vise didn't have it?

Doc Nickel
11-15-2009, 09:52 PM
Doc, in the second picture on the good vise, you have the ball thrust bearing on the table. I'm surprised the bigger vise didn't have it?

-Sorry, I guess I wasn't very clear. I'd already had one 5" vise, and just bought three more. From my earlier 'early Christmas tool gloat':

http://www.docsmachine.com/machineshop/import-vises.jpg

I got another 5", this time with a swivel base, plus two 4" vises, one with a base, one without. You can see that the two 4" vises are completely different animals- different castings, different quality, different paint, etc.

The new 5" and the 4" with the swivel base aren't bad. They're the "good" ones, both have the thrust washer on the screw and a spherical element on the wedge.

The "bad" 4-inch, on the right, is the one in my write-up. No sphere, no thrust washer or bearing, notably thinner castings, considerably crappier handle, smaller bolts all around, etc. etc.

Doc.

Black_Moons
11-15-2009, 10:38 PM
I hate companys that swap products around from whats pictured without notice. I think it should be illegal -_-;

Just the other day I went down to KBC to pick up a dial indicator because it had a large secondary 0~1" in 0.1" increment scale on it and was on sale
but suprise suprise when I ask to see it, they show a completely diffrent indicator then whats in the monthly sales magazine shiped to my house just a week prior, Same with thier compass, pictured one in magazine is much better then the one they actualy sell (noticably diffrent parts too)
Oh, And thier import carbide grinder, diffrent color and a few other diffrences, hard to make out from the picture but clearly not the same one. Ended up returning that POS after realising about a dozen diffrent things wrong with it basicly requireing the entire thing to be rebuilt and even then it would have serious faults trying to use diamond wheels (it wasent even taped to hold a diamond wheel on the right side) and the wheel bolt got in the way of the TABLE from getting close to the wheel. Anyway enough ranting.

I wonder if the weight of your swivelless vise even matchs that in the catalog if the casting is so much thiner and porous.

gunbuilder
11-15-2009, 10:43 PM
Doc,
I feel for your miss fortune, I took advantage of the free shipping on an Enco vise. What a mistake! I think it was the 6" with the large opening. Just about good enough to use, not near a precision vise. Not even as good as an old worn Parlec. With very little use the movable jaw started to lift, bad.

The best part of the whole thing is Enco took it back. All I had to do was to box it up. They even sent a call tag, so the return was free. They used UPS, who cares it the junker is busted up.

So I got a cheap education in vises. Usually I don't get by with cheap.

Thanks,
Paul

Willy
11-15-2009, 11:20 PM
Doc don't feel bad that the vise didn't come with a thrust bearing.
The 5" swivel base vise I've been working on, much like your 5" swivel base vise, did have one...kinda.
I posted a thread about it not too long ago.

http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net/showthread.php?t=37254

Thrust bearing.

http://i76.photobucket.com/albums/j31/250willy/DSCN0220.jpg


Outside thrust washer behind lock ring.

http://i76.photobucket.com/albums/j31/250willy/DSCN0215.jpg

You aren't missing much in the way of a bearing!

Very little if any real use on this particular vise.

Nice writeup on polishing the turd however. After having a real good look at one myself lately I can certainly sympathize with the amount of work you put into yours. Among other things I did end up up making some hardened washers in lieu of the factory installed "thrust washer".

Although not as bad as your four inch vise, I did see enough voids in the castings, never mind the quality of the castings, to realize I'll be skating on thin ice if I ever have to lean on it real hard.

Doc Nickel
11-16-2009, 12:48 AM
Doc don't feel bad that the vise didn't come with a thrust bearing.

-Ouch! Yeah, that wasn't much of a bearing, was it. :D

I thought about getting a thin Torrington from the local bearing shop, but again, that might be more than this piece deserves. I also vaguely wondered if it wouldn't tend to lead me towards overtightening.


Although not as bad as your four inch vise, I did see enough voids in the castings, never mind the quality of the castings, to realize I'll be skating on thin ice if I ever have to lean on it real hard.

-Yeah, I'll definitely have to baby this one a bit. It's intended for my old mill-drill, which is already a pretty light machine, and the current rebuild project is leaning towards boosting the spindle speed specifically for cutters 1/2" and under, and primarily for aluminum.

I almost wish I had two, so I could crank down on one 'til it broke, to get an idea of just how strong or weak this thing is.

Doc.

Frank Ford
11-16-2009, 02:09 AM
Tell me again why we fix this kind of junk.

Oh, yeah, it's because we CAN, and by Grabthar's Hammer, we're not about to let them beat us, no matter how much effort it costs us. . .

Circlip
11-16-2009, 03:22 AM
We are constantly being told that the quality of Chiwanese goods is improving, but where is the Cut off point?? Given that "Scrap metal" is exported to China, when will all the sand that they have exported be put back into their own foundrys?? OR, is it increasing the Indian foundry sand pile to be recirculated back again ???

Keep the "Gloats" rolling through the crocodile tears of local industrys demise.

Regards Ian.

Doc Nickel
11-16-2009, 06:58 AM
Tell me again why we fix this kind of junk.

-Sometimes it's all we can afford. Much as I'd love a Glacern, Parlec or Kurt, I can't easily afford one. Well, that's not strictly true; for what I paid for all three of these imports, I could have come pretty close to the cost of a Glacern.

But I was suckered in by my prior experience, and assumed I'd get something of about equal quality. Fool me once, and all that...

Doc.

Sparky_NY
11-16-2009, 07:16 AM
I was thinking how you could have taken a used kurt and with half of that work made it like new. The biggest issue is having a grinder big enough to do the ways and bottom, you have that covered.

lazlo
11-16-2009, 10:20 AM
We are constantly being told that the quality of Chiwanese goods is improving, but where is the Cut off point?? Given that "Scrap metal" is exported to China, when will all the sand that they have exported be put back into their own foundrys??

Hobbyists have been saying that for years -- it's wishful thinking.

Comparing the 80's Chinese tools to today's offerings, quality has gone downhill.

dp
11-16-2009, 11:15 AM
I've heard it mentioned before, but I really like your surface grinder and what it brings to your work.

And nice job putting lipstick on that pig iron!

strokersix
11-16-2009, 11:15 AM
In my experience, Grizzly machinery is generally an OK value but tooling is often a big disappointment.

Good example: Grizzly knee mill (8x36 table) is pretty good, especially since I swapped on an older BP step pulley head and a riser.

Bad example: Grizzly tap extensions purchased recently are so bad I haven't even tried to use them. Clearly a lot of runout and crooked.

I purchased a 4" vise recently too and after reading the rework process linked here I now know why it feels so soft when clamping. Perhaps I'll tear it down and work on it.

I expect others have similar experiences.

madman
11-16-2009, 11:44 AM
For years i put up with ,struggled with (having to regrind jaws )handles that fit so loosely. Jaws arent even straight. When i clamp a piece in that chinese vice the body distorts? Anyhow i recently bought a Kurt vice for $50 dollars and its now my favorite. I should of bought one 20 years ago instead of being a cheap bugger. I think sometimes money spent on quality pays off.

reggie_obe
11-16-2009, 02:15 PM
Maybe it didn't deserve mentioning on you website. Before mounting and grinding in the vise jaw inserts, did you mill or grind their faces, flat and parallel?

Roy Andrews
11-16-2009, 02:34 PM
doc, great job as usual. but sadly comes back to what i often tell my wife "just because it's cheap doesn't make it a good deal"

snowing up there yet? we have had it twice so far but nothing to talk about.

Doc Nickel
11-16-2009, 04:02 PM
I've heard it mentioned before, but I really like your surface grinder and what it brings to your work.

-Oh man. It's kind of a shame I do most of my work in aluminum. :D

'Course, if I didn't, I'd probably find myself grinding everything and output would slow to a crawl. But by golly I'm glad I picked it up- now I just have to start collecting (and building) all the bits and fixtures to do all the stuff I want to do...


Anyhow i recently bought a Kurt vice for $50 dollars and its now my favorite. I should of bought one 20 years ago instead of being a cheap bugger.

-Hey, trust me, if I could have, I would have. But a $50 Kurt is about as rare as honest politicians, and on a 5" or 6" vise, shipping would add $100 to $150.

I had a chance to get some free shipping, looked around for for a quickie Kurt deal, found nothing under about $350, decided to take another chance on the imports. (Which, as the write-up notes, was actually based on a relatively positive prior experience.)

If I run across the elusive cheap Kurt (or any other quality brand at a price my budget can withstand) you can be sure I'll snatch it up in a heartbeat.


Maybe it didn't deserve mentioning on you website. Before mounting and grinding in the vise jaw inserts, did you mill or grind their faces, flat and parallel?

-Nothing of the sort, actually. I ground the mounting faces on the fixed and movable jaws themselves, but I didn't bother with the jaw inserts. First because they were actually pretty straight and square to start with, and second because they're some kind of crap not-really-steel-not-really-iron-either metal I'll be replacing with milled mild steel plates as soon as I'm at least reasonably confident the vise as a whole is even going to hold up.

I've also started thinking I might just reserve this particular vise just for fixturing. I already have a collection of cheap drill-press vises with aluminum jaws I've milled and bored for repetitive jobs (they're accurate enough with at least one fixed reference point) so I might just build half a dozen sets of blank aluminum soft jaws and start using this vise.

Weak as it may be for general clamping, it's still stronger than the drill-press vises.


snowing up there yet? we have had it twice so far but nothing to talk about.

-Technically. There's about half an inch in my area, and even that was three weeks late.

I blame Al Gore.

Doc.

davidfe
11-16-2009, 04:19 PM
Doc,

Write up is excellent. Thanks for taking the time
and effort.

What model number was it?

Regards,
David

dp
11-16-2009, 09:17 PM
After reading your repair story I was just dying to know more about my 4" vise so I disassembled it tonight. Here's the catalog page: http://www.hhip.com/products/catalog_view.php?CatPage=91

This is well finished - I won't take the paint off, but all the exposed machined surfaces are free of pits and air pockets. The wedge for the moving jaw is machined smooth and has a hemispherical spacer like the Kurt. The spacer is staircased and looks like it was turned without benefit of a ball cutter or file.

The bolts that hold the fixed jaw are too damn small in diameter, and too short, just the same as yours. The counter-bore holes for the bolt heads are properly flat, not tapered. No casting sand was found in any dark corners. The moving jaw setscrew has a locking screw to back it up - nice touch.

It has a nicely made thrust washer and a yellow metal washer behind the screw retainer. The fixed jaw has two keys but the holes in the frame for the bolts are much larger than the bolts by a good 1/16", so these two keys are doing all the work. That I'm going to fix.

I'll blue the machined surfaces of the body on my granite plate and see how that looks. Fortunately I have a 6" Kurt clone from Enco :) I can use to rework this one.

So far I'm pretty happy with what I've found - the bolts can be replaced, and the rest is in good shape. The tag says "Made in the USA" for what that's worth.

flutedchamber
11-17-2009, 12:08 AM
Doc,

I salute your persistence and high quality workmanship when working with "less than quality parts".

I don't know if posting company names are allowed here, but the company that I bought my mill and lathe from has 6 inch Kurt vises in used very good condition for $150-$250, plus shipping. He also has other brands as well as larger Kurt vises.

I bought one from him for $150. It needed paint plus a new thrust washer. Some idiot drilled two 1/4 inch shallow blind holes in the movable jaw, but this was the worst of the damage.