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soft jaw covers for bench vise - why copper?

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  • soft jaw covers for bench vise - why copper?

    i've been thinking of making a set of soft jaw covers for a bench vise and it looks like the original ones are copper. any reason i couldn't use brass? it is easier for me to find brass sheets (in fact i think i have some that will work). i was just wondering if there was some special reason the original ones were copper.

    thanks,

    andy b.
    The danger is not that computers will come to think like men - but that men will come to think like computers. - some guy on another forum not dedicated to machining

  • #2
    I think you'll find copper is softer and grips better.

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    • #3
      Brass is slippery. Use aluminum instead.
      Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here

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      • #4
        hmmm. i think i can round up some aluminum. if i had the choice, is aluminum better or copper? i was thinking around 0.100-0.125" thick, but i'm open to suggestions on that as well.

        a final question, i've played around with brass before and it is easy to anneal so it doesn't crack when you bend it (heat it and toss it into a bucket of water). is aluminum soft enough to bend, or does it need to be annealed and if it needs annealing, what is the procedure?

        andy b.
        The danger is not that computers will come to think like men - but that men will come to think like computers. - some guy on another forum not dedicated to machining

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        • #5
          That is the same as saying "can I bend steel?"

          There are as many alloys of aluminum as steel and some can be bent hundreds of times without cracking and some can't be bent once. Perhaps the most common in thin plate and extrusions is 6061. It's hard to bend but can be annealed by waving a torch over it until soot burns off. I wouldn't depend on that procedure for anything that matters but for vise jaws it will work fine. If you can find some scrap from an aluminum boat that is usually pretty soft stuff unless it's a Grumman. You can also just make some smooth jaws from regular hot rolled steel and then use aluminum flashing to cover them. That gives a solid hold and still prevents marking fairly well.
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          • #6
            Copper seems to work the best for soft vise jaw covers. Most vises have removable jaws. You can make replacement jaws of what ever material you wish, hardwood, rubber, plastic, copper, aluminum, or brass; you name it. Thing to do is to just do it. Make small scale experiments and see how they work. It's easier to get forgiveness than permission. Besides, experimenting is fun - even with brass or aluminum vise jaws. You learn far more from non fatal mistakes than complying with orthodoxy.

            I don't know what the stuff is called but many years ago we had a few odds and ends of laminated rawhide about 1/2" thick. Who know what it was used for but it was wood hard and tough. It made perfect bench vise jaws and hammers although it was stinky to work with.

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            • #7
              For what it is worth, Wilton makes a set of rubber like jaws with magnets inserted in them for fast attachment. They seem to work fairly well, but a lot more flexable, more give than either aluminum or copper.

              I have made aluminum jaws using sheet metal, bent to shape to fit over the steel jaws - 0.050" or so. If you don't have any, get a cookie sheet.
              Last edited by Paul Alciatore; 11-01-2009, 04:24 AM.
              Paul A.

              Make it fit.
              You can't win and there is a penalty for trying!

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              • #8
                I make jaw protectors from ally sheet. I've no idea what grade it it - I simply cut two rectangles from whatever scrap I have kicking about, clamp them together in my vice, bend one over each jaw & hammer them flat. Never had any break or split yet.
                Peter - novice home machinist, modern motorcycle enthusiast.

                Denford Viceroy 280 Synchro (11 x 24)
                Herbert 0V adapted to R8 by 'Sir John'.
                Monarch 10EE 1942

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                • #9
                  Never had any break or split yet.
                  Until you run into some 2024 or 7075 scrap. It's like spring steel and about as likely to take a sharp 90 bend.
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                  • #10
                    To expand on Evan's aluminum annealing. Adjust an oxy-acy torch for a smoky flame, blacken the work with it (include the jaw face - you want it soft), re-adjust for a neutral flame, start heating gradually in one place, the soot will burn off in a pattern that looks like a water puddle drying as the base metal reaches temperature under it. Keep moving, it's not difficult to reach melting temperature.

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                    • #11
                      thanks for the replies! i have made replacement jaws for vises before, but two if the vises i have do not have replaceable jaws and i was thinking of putting some sort of cover on the jaws. it looks like lots of things will work (and i have lots of things laying around ). i'll skip the brass for now, but i can try aluminum, leather and rubber. if i come across some copper sheet i'll give it a try as well.

                      thanks again.

                      andy b.
                      The danger is not that computers will come to think like men - but that men will come to think like computers. - some guy on another forum not dedicated to machining

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                      • #12
                        You can also anneal aluminum in a self cleaning oven on the clean cycle. They reach about 800 to 900 degrees which is enough to anneal but not melt aluminum.
                        Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here

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                        • #13
                          Kind of hard to come by at times, but if you can find some lead sheet, you can make jaw covers of that, which will work really nicely for things you don't want to scratch. It doesn't last very long, being so soft, but it works beautifully while it does. Also keep your eyes out on scrap piles and the like for old copper flashing. It doesn't take much to make a couple of jaw covers, so even little scraps and cutoffs can be very useful.

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                          • #14
                            i happen to have a bunch of lead sheet. i guess i'll try that as well and once it gets ruined i'll just toss it into the bullet casting bucket with the rest of the lead scrap.

                            i thought the lead might be too soft, but i guess it only needs to be slightly softer than whatever it is you're grabbing.

                            andy b.
                            The danger is not that computers will come to think like men - but that men will come to think like computers. - some guy on another forum not dedicated to machining

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                            • #15
                              Most home building supply stores and good hardware stores sell some 1/8 buy 1 1/2 - 2 inch aluminun angle in about 6 foot lengths for some use in bathroom showers . Cheap and makes good soft jaws for your vise T have many different sets made up from it.
                              Every Mans Work Is A Portrait of Him Self
                              http://sites.google.com/site/machinistsite/TWO-BUDDIES
                              http://s178.photobucket.com/user/lan...?sort=3&page=1

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