Harold Hall


Toolmakers Vice, machined from a budget drilling vice, Harold Hall

In this project an economy drilling vice is modified to get somewhere near the provisions of a Toolmakers vice. These budget vices are widely available, though the supplier from where I obtained the one illustrated, MSC/JL, had a wider range, that is four sizes being 1 1/2" to 4" jaw widths. The one being modified in this article, Photograph 1, is the 2 1/2" size. MSC/JL also have a  large number of outlets in the United States.


The modification consists of re-machining the essential surfaces, machining fixing groves and fitting a much jaw keep plate to minimise jaw lift. The longer keep plate will give much the same result as a longer jaw.


First, dismantle and clean off the paint from the machined surfaces, if painted, and mount the vice body on the vertical slide, Photograph 2. Place a bar in the lower tee slot to support the casting whilst the upper clamps are fitted, remove the bar and fit a single clamp (not yet fitted in the photograph) on the lower edge. This sequence highlights a problem when working with a vertical slide that is not present when working on a horizontal table, that is, gravity can make positioning a workpiece a problem whilst being clamped.


Having mounted the vice body, machine the surfaces that the jaw keep plate slides on. These go the full length of the vice, not always the case with economy vices, so will benefit from a long keep plate passing both in front and behind the jaw, Photograph 3. However, even with my long cross slide the length of the vice was near the limit of its acceptable traverse. If your lathe is limited in this respect machine from the front end as far back as you can go, then move the position of the vice and machine the rear end a very little deeper than the front. This will have little effect on the accuracy as almost all of the benefit of the extended keep plate is from that in front of the jaw.


I should add that the front face of the slide must be set, using a dial test indicator, to be exactly parallel with the traverse of the cross slide, without that the accuracy of the final product will suffer.


Workshop Projects

This project is aimed predominantly at the workshop owner who uses the lathe for milling. However, the project should be of interest to the viewer who's workshop contains a milling machine.

Budget Drilling Vice, to be used as the basis for a precision toolmakers' vice.
Toolmakers vice, being machined on a vertical slide.
Toolmakers vice, longer jaw keep plate fitted






All pictures can be clicked on to provide a larger view



MSC/JL (UK) supply two very similar looking ranges of vices. The ones used here are the budget ones, very much cheaper that the others. Look for Vices, Interstate brand.