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Thread: Dowel Vice Onto Mill

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Northwest Missouri USA

    Default Dowel Vice Onto Mill

    Every time I set up the vice on the mill table I want to dowel it to the table so I don't have to go to all of the trouble next time. Seems like a Cardinal Sin to drill holes in the table but my machinest buddy uses a boring machine that had one of the tee slots ripped out about 10" long and repaired with screws. Couldn't look uglier but works fine, makes lots of money.

    Any thoughts?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2005


    If the side of the vise is flat you could set the vice up parallel then clamp a bar to the t-slots alongside the vise. Remove the vise when you need to and put it back on against your bar when you need it again. Of course this isn't perfect becasue the bar stays behind.

    The only way I can see to dowel it, is with tapered dowel pins with a threaded hole on the big end. This allows you to draw the dowel out, but maintains perfect alignment that doesn't require a slip fit on one side. We used these extensively for fixturing assemblies in production machines. They allow you to remove the assembly for maintainance and get it back in without needing to use the $20,000 worth of fixtures and gages the machine was built with.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2001
    Toledo, Ohio


    Assuming it is not on a swivel base, keying the vise to one of the T slots in the table will assure it is in tram when being installed.

    If the vise does not already have a key slot in the base, install a tight fitting key in one of the table's T slots. Invert the vise and clamp it to this key. Mill a keyway in the base of the vise, usually through the slots for the hold down slots, that corresponds to the table slot. Install a key in this slot with socket head cap screws.

    You might have to shim the fixed jaw for the ultimate in tram, but the vise will always be reinstalled in the same position.

    If the vise is on a swivel base, the base can be keyed in the same manner and the vise to base can be taper pinned to assure tram.
    Jim H.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2001


    Yes, check the base of the vise for key slots. You should be able to make keys to fit (probably) the center T-slot of the mill table.
    Try to make a living, not a killing. -- Utah Phillips
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    There are lots of people who mistake their imagination for their memory. - Josh Billings
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Palo Alto, California


    I've keyed two vises that way - both were Palmgrens that came with smooth bases.

    Clamp the vise down on a piece of ground steel stock that fits tightly in the t-slot (mine is 5/8") with part of the stock protruding above the vise jaws. Then stand the vise on its nose with the ground stock in the slot. Clamp down to the table and mill a corresponding slot in the base of the vise to fit the ground stock. Screw the stock in place in the milled slot. Presto - a vise that's aligned surprisingly well to the table.

    One vise is a swivel type, and I keyed the swivel with four small taper pins before milling the slot in the base. Got everything to fit nice and tight, and it repeats parallel to about half a thousandth over the four inch width of the back jaw.


    Frank Ford
    Gryphon Stringed Instruments
    My Home Shop Pages

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Mapleton, IL


    Most mill vises have key slots. The only issue is filing them to fit precisely enough...which means flopping a big heavy vise a few times.

    Most tables have t-slots in some standard size, so having some ground dowel pins around for quickly squaring other things is not a bad idea....but make use of the t-slots rather than drilling additional holes in your table. They tend to fill with swarf when not in use and just look cheesy.

    One other thought that I have had was that most of the Kurt style vises have threaded holes on both sides of the fixed jaw mount. I figured that taking a piece of maybe 1.5-2" round stock (big enough to protrude behind the mounting flange on the vise base), turning it nice and round and then milling a flat on one side followed by a couple of holes to align with the vice jaw mounting holes gives you a nice bar parallel to the fixed jaw. On most Bridgeport (and other) style mills, the vice is big enough that it hangs over the back of the table a bit. Just run this bar up against the flat Z axis ways and you have it square to the world provided the rest of your axes are as square as they should be. You just set the vice back in place, push it back, and run the table in the y axis until the bolt-down holes in the vise base line up with the t-slot and tighten them. Of course, I haven't had a chance to actually test this

    P. S. this makes a nice handle for managing the vise, too.

    Paul Carpenter
    Mapleton, IL

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    In my subterrainean lair, okay, it's a basement.


    Drilling a hole in the table is always a last resort, like Pcarpenter said, it fills up with fines. I do like the idea of adding handles - the bigger vises are a backbreaker after a while..

    I'm honestly surprised nobody suggested making a sub plate, this way you don't have to modifiy either the machine or the vise - just make a plate and use sinekeys for location. It's really a good idea for all workholding - vises, spin indexers, air collet chucks, super spacers, etc. It has the advantage of allowing you to place the vise relative to the table exactly where you want.

    Now, if you really wanna get fancy, why not make your own pallet system? It's relatively straight forward, using Bullet pins, a base plate that goes on your table that has bullet pins and Eyebolts on it(the former is for location, the latter for subplate retention). The subplate that has the vise/chuck/etc mounted on it has a liner mounted in it to recieve the pin, and a slot cut into it for the eyebolt(the eyebolt has a hand tightened "nut" on the end).

    The idea is, you can change setups in seconds. I've seen a coupla vartiations of this in a few shops, mainly due to the fact that most commercial pallet systems are a freaking fortune.

    EGO partum , proinde EGO sum

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Phoenix, AZ


    A friend of mine was a machinist. Tool & Die for several years, and then several more in a custom small run job shop. Anyway, he suggested taking a hand full of hardened pins that fit your t-slots tight. Then grind 2 smallish flats 180* apart. Now you can stick them anywhere in your t-slots with the flats against the table, and turn with a wrench to "lock" them in place. Close enough to trammed for most work and can be used for setting the vise, random work pieces having a flat side, whatever. And because they are easy to insert and remove by simply twisting, you can put them anywhere on the table to suit your needs...

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Hazel Park, Michigan


    Practice, Practice, Practice......It's REALLY not that bad once you get the hang of it. Shouldn't take more than 5, -10 minutes tops to tram that baby in
    to .0005" across it's jaw length.....
    Even if you use loose keys in the slots, plop it up there and you are automatically within a couple thou, tap it in and snug er down.
    The biggest complaint I have is the weight of those damn things,
    Some of em will make your voice go up a few octaves.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Lower SE Michigan, USA


    Guy Lautard, in one of his MBRs, outlined a procedure to key your vise to the mill table; it's similar to what is described above, with an exception:

    He says to make keys that are oversized, as compared to the table slots, and mill them to proper size with the vise upside-down, clamped to a pair of carefully-turned pins that index the vise jaws to the Tee slots.

    If you machine slots in the vise as described above, that would work also, but DON'T depend on existing keyways in your vise to be parallel to the jaws. At least, my vise didn't have such a situation. Using Lautard's system works great and saves a bunch of time. I suppose if the vise has to be perfect, it might not be good enough, but it works for me.

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