Completed: Baby bullet welding vise

Yea! A finished project – The baby bullet welding vise.

I’m pretty happy with how this turned out, it works well and everything lines up and functions as it is supposed to. The only thing I don’t particularly like is the shape of the jaws – too bulky and square. But that is cosmetic so no big deal.

I made the mandated by law “at least once per project catastrophic screw up” by mentally flipping coordinates and milling off too much on one of the jaws. A catastrophic screw up is one where you would scrap the part if happened early in the project but now there is so much work in the part the screw up needs to be fixed. In this case, braze in a patch and re-machine. It was so much fun, a few days later I got positive and and negative mixed up and blew past the zero point. Right next the first screw up. Sigh. Same fix. It is nice they can’t be seen in the video even though they are in full view (just below where the rear jaw bolts on, across the face and to my left).

I am developing a real love/hate relationship with the mill DRO. So much potential, so poorly presented. A big problem I have is I view the coordinate system inverted from what the machine people see; coming from a math/graphics background, I view the work (screen) as fixed and the cutting tool (cursor) as moving (vs work mounted on a table that moves in relation to a fixed tool).  I tried reversing the “polarity” of the display but I think that may mess up some of the things the DRO can calculate.
The DRO calculator is a real piece of work – no operator precedence at all (for example 1+1/16 is calculated as (1+1)/16, a huge pain when you have to move some fractional distance), I regularly try something that causes it freeze, pressing +/- at certain times causes the right most digit to get overlaid with some other characters, +/- is lame in general, transferring numbers to axis’s is something I just don’t get. I don’t get it – four function calculators has been a solved problem for decades. Retail for 32 bit SoCs (system on a chip) is like $6.
The arc functionality is great, at least once I get the data entered; this number is entered with this sequence, the next number requires a different sequence, bah!  Funny enough, I can figure that out but the “simplified arc” I can’t.
In case you care, this is an Easson ES-8A. I’m pretty happy with how position is updated. I’m just itching to re-write the head software but, having spent a decade or so doing low level firmware, I know that it is a tar baby. Then again, TouchDRO runs on a phone or tablet and looks pretty good.
Another wish: Ability to store a handful of position/offsets from the scale zero, for example, one corner of the vise which would give you an edge, no need to indicate. You can store 200 points from “absolute” zero but if you hit “zero Y” the stored points are offsets from the new zero (which is what you want when doing repeat parts). If you think ahead (unlike me), you can always be in Inc mode (basically a separate work space) but since the scales have a physical mark (halfway point) the reader can see, it would be nice to have some offsets from that point, they would be more “sticky”.




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Vise glue up

This is what you get slather some metal with flux and heat it up over 1000°F for a while. Ugly.


jigged2If you do a good job and don’t burn the flux (the black stuff in the middle of the green), a hot water soak will dissolve the flux. If you did burn it, you’ll need abrasives.

These are the three parts that make up the base of the vise silver brazed together (the jaw block is welded to a tube). I dislike brazing, especially silver brazing (as the flux is really toxic), it’s just too damn slow. But for parts like this, it is pretty ideal – lots of surface area and a sliding joint. Plus, silver brazing is pretty low heat on the join-metal-together scale of things so heat induced warpage is minimal, which is nice as I don’t want the inner most tube to change shape.

Jigging for brazing is always an issue as the flux gets slippery when hot and things are moving as they heat up. In this case, I TIG tacked one part and clamped another.

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It’s a boring job but doesn’t have to be

A job for an annular cutter, hole saw or boring bar (or some combo thereof). But I want to play with a DRO feature: cutting an arc (or, CNC the very slow way).
miteredThe job: miter a block for welding to a tube:
Nothing special about this job just a bit different approach.
Slow and tedious but I can take bigger bites with an endmill than a boring bar and I don’t have annular cutters and dislike using hole saws.

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Baby needs new shoes

(Paolo Nutini)

One of those jobs you really don’t want to do but, like a frozen pipe or overflowing toilet, it’s best that it gets done sooner than later. In this case, installing leveling feet on the mill. I knew this mill didn’t come with levelers but since it had threaded holes through base casting, I hoped it had provisions for adding them. I didn’t ask because I didn’t want that to be a reason to get cold feet. But noooo, the machine is meant to be bolted to the floor and leveled with shims (?!?). The base is open. Hmmm, hmmm. I think an ideal base would be square a tubing surround of the base but since I don’t have a crane, I would not be able to install it. So I came up with these shoes, which work fine but were a pain in the arse to fitup and install.


The leveling feet are Bosch units with M16x2 (5/8″) threaded posts on steel pads that I got at the scrap yard decades ago just knowing that would come in useful one day. I put a piece of paper under one corner of the mill and traced around it, cut some 1/2″ steel plate and made what you see above. Stared at it for a while and decided I would screw it to the base (it needs to be attached so they can’t walk away but loosely so if as the mill settles, they don’t crack the cast iron base). So began the no fun dance: jack up one side of the mill, slide in a foot, lower the mill, note which way the tab needs to bend to match base curve, try to stand up, mash head on feed handle, say “ouch” in many different dialects, jack up mill, try remove foot, jack up mill some more, remove foot, mash head, over to the bench, tweak, repeat. That was the easy part.
Then mark, drill and tap holes in base. Do it poorly, lying on floor to try and drill level, repeatedly mashing head, back and forth to the bench to file out the tab hole so the screw fits loosely when the foot is weighted. And the front two are installed.

feets plateOK, they work. For the back two, stream line the process and correct a stupid.  The tab is 1.5″ high so there is some meat at the bottom of the tapped hole. The 1/2″ plate worked well. Inset the tabs because it looks better if you can see that the mill is firmly on steel. By making the part symmetrical as shown, there is minimal measuring, just rotate, push against the stop, make the cut. For the holes, I played with a feature of the mill: storing points. There are five steps: spot drill, pilot drill twice, drill to size, tap. By storing each location, I could do an op, push a button on the DRO, move to (0,0) and repeat. Do a tool change, repeat. Way nice when a tool change can involve climbing a ladder to loosen the drawbar.

Just because it is cool, here is power tapping one of the holes. Sooo much nicer than grunting one these big taps.

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2 bolts, 4 hours

And no, I’m not quitting my day job.
boltsSo, I got this new mill and I got a really nice Yuasa 4″ mill vise off ebay, stuck the vise on the mill and … crap, my hold down studs are too long. OK, I’ll order some but for now, all thread. Crap, the flange nut flange is too wide for the vise counter sink. Hmm, got a mill, got a lathe, got hundreds of pounds of nice steel, I can do that.

I single pointed the 1/2×13 thread and used my SHARS thread mic for the second or third time. I really like it and think it compares favorably with my Mitutoyo , Starrett, Brown&Sharpe, etc mics. I haven’t verified its accuracy (against wires), but it has a wonderful feel. And it is sooo much nicer to use than thread wires (although I suspect wires are more accurate).

To cut the hex on top of the bolt, I wanted to play with the rotary table. Not the “best” way to do this, the spindexer or hex collet block would be faster but I don’t care. Getting used to the DRO, I love it already (although the calculator function seems a bit brain dead and the manual is written in Chanlish for a different model); I set the Y axis zero at the radius of the bolt flats. This way, as I cut each flat, I just feed to zero, brainless. To do this, I cut two [parallel] flats, mic’d them, subtract the diameter I want (7/8″ or 22mm), divide by 2 and set Y. Lots of ways to do this.
For example, the bolt head starts out at as a 1″ rod; take two light cuts and I have two flats that measure 0.99″ and the DRO knows it is touching metal (I think this is faster than finding center). Do the math: (0.99-0.875)/2 = 0.0575″ to take off of each side so set Y to 0.0575″ (since my DRO reads in even tenths, 0.0574″).  Well, that’s how I think it should work but nooooo, not how the DRO works; ½ doesn’t work in calc mode and there is no “push result to Y” function (far as I can tell). So manually have to transfer the result and it is erased in the process so I gotta remember it, which I don’t trust. Grrrr. I can leave the result on the display, move Y to match and zero Y but I just don’t think that way.

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Blind broach

There needs to be a key between the two vise tubes to keep the front jaw from rotating. The exterior one is easy to cut on the mill, the interior one not so easy. Adding to the problem is I have threads on one end so it needs to be blind. Sooo, even if I had a broach, it wouldn’t work.
broach1[OxTool] Tom is going to cut a through slot in the outer tube and “make it one” by welding the tube to the base plate. For various reasons, I’m not so keen on that idea and hit on this one, from watching too many shaper videos, using the lathe to cut the keyway. So I got out my biggest boring bar (a whopping 3/4″), ground a square edge on a HSS blank, locked the spindle and started plunging. Took forever but worked well.


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Projectus bumpis

Tom over at OxToolCo has started a new project, cloning a Wilton baby bullet vise, something near and dear to my heart – I’ve had a 3½” bullet for decades, just love it and want one of the smaller bullets. So Tom drawing up the plans and starting videos of his build was all it took to shelve my current project and start this one.
Note: If you also want to do this project, be aware that the plans are, uhhh, spotty and you’ll get lots of opportunity to add your own flair (or scratch your head). In my case, I’m doing some major deviations.

chipsTom’s materials list is quite expensive so I set about scrounging over at the Burchams. I would up buying 300# of steel for about 10# of vise but at 40¢/pound, not bad. And these complicated threaded parts are really nice steel; way, way better than 1018 lumpy cheese mild steel.

I ordered a new mill, sold my old mill, so I worked on the parts I could do in the lathe. But now I need to do some mill work and no mill. I ordered an in-stock mill but it has been almost a month and it isn’t on the truck. Seems to me a strange way to do business but hopefully it will be worth the wait.

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Projectus stallis

I’m working on another comparator, because I just love things that measure and this will help me learn how to make things that move precisely and repeatably. And it ain’t easy. I’ve got a head unit that works (ie the horizontal movement) but the I’m a bit stumped on the vertical component.

Here is where I’m at:

The interesting bits are: a 40tpi screw (same as on micrometers), an adjustable dovetail (with a piece of plastic for a gib as the steel/brass combo isn’t as smooth as I’d like), a sort of interesting way of attaching the sliding part (ie nut) to the screw (see if you can figure it out – the other end is the prototype) and an interesting and easy way to do simple engraving.


For the thimble, just to figure out how to do it, I wanted graduations.  I picked 2½ thousandths (of an inch) because that is an even divisor of a circle (one full turn is 0.025″, 0.005″ is 72°==360/5, 0.0025″ is 36°). I could then mount the thimble in the spindexer and engrave the lines. I don’t have a graver so I hit on the idea of using a center drill as a small endmill, worked fine, leaving a fat shallow groove).

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Mill vise stop redux

My brain hurts from thinking about the evaluation order of recursive lazy functions so out to the shop to make something. No brain cells will be harmed in the course of this project.

mill stop 2 parts

One thing I see quite often while watch machining videos is a stop mounted on the milling vise. Quite simple and always ready to use. The mill stop I made a while ago requires it to be bolted to the table which means I’m tempted to make do without it (since it is almost always on the shelf). This is bolted to the mill vise so it is always there, ready to be used.

A fun project, I got to use the rod bender (the key is one wire with a sleeve) and the knurling tool I made, some welding, turning, threading and milling. I tried some [artistic] design but that was a real bust, kinda looks like a 6th graders bird house project. But it is bomber stiff, feels good in hand, is tool-less and I resolved the evaluation order so I’m calling it a success.

mill stop 2 mounted

I positioned the pivot so the stop block is square to the vise bed (when it rests on the bed), one of those no care details I like to sweat. It can be used on either side of the vise.
The block is held in the vise with a ChuckECheezeBall (aka one of Chuck’s (Outside Screwball) Screwy Balls), nice for oddball work holding (if you watch his video, you’ll see the stop that inspired this one).

Tech details: 3/4″ rod (extending 4″ on each side of the vise), 3/8″x16 cap screws (I’m pretty sure the holes are M10x1.5 but fit is good¹), 1/4″x28 everywhere else, 1/2″ plate & square tube, 3/4″ plate for the stop, 3/4″ knob, 1/4″ wire with 3/8″ sleeve welded on for the key.
¹I just measured and the thread is indeed 3/8×16, not metric. Strange as everything else I’ve measured on this vise is metric.

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Surface plate finish up

The finished surface plate stand.
A steel stand for a small surface plate with drawers   drawer

I sanded down all the welds, slapped on a really crappy paint job (I had it but ran out of the black towards the end) and pimped it with some stick on vinyl pin striping. The ladder rung holes are the drawer pulls (the holes & knot alignment are pure accident but once I saw it that made the decision use them as pulls). The drawers are almost full extension as they [almost] ride against the rail above them.
The thing that really bugs me is it really rings. Even with around 100 pounds of stone and iron on it, smack the plate and stand vibrates for quite a while.

drawer stopThere are drawer stops on the back of the guides, just some rectangular bits welded on.

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