An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Vise squad

My framebuilding tools generally tend toward the manual variety -- for power tools I have a bench grinder, belt sander, and drill press. Beyond that it's all done by hand. Okay, the torch uses an electric oxygen concentrator, but otherwise the tubes are cut and mitered by hand, and I often have to clamp tubes in V-blocks when the frame jig doesn't quite do the job.

My bench vise gets a lot of action. 

One tool that has become vital is the cross-slide vise used on the work table of the drill press. Holding tubes in place for drilling, and in a few cases cutting a miter. This weekend it became unusable.
Slide vise. Not mine.

This is what the main carriage looks
like from the bottom.

I've had this item for several years, and it's always been a little problematic. Harbor Freight has been a miss/hit/miss place to purchase tools. When I bought the cross-slide vise at this establishment, my wife asked me if I'd bought the least expensive model. I hadn't, but I had bought the least expensive model that I thought would meet my needs. Fool that I was.

The vise was made to hit a price point, and not be anything near sufficient for any kind of precision work. Issues developed immediately. The carriages were neither smooth nor secure. I tightened up some hardware, which took care of most of the slop. The handles would often come loose. Any vibration during use would cause the upper carriage to slowly move. And the main carriage had almost a half-turn of the handle before it would move in either direction.

And this last item is what became worse over time. Drilling small holes wasn't so much of a problem, as the low torque against the tube didn't cause undo shaking. But trying to use a hole saw to make a hole of any appreciable size cause the entire drill press to shake. Yesterday it was enough to walk the tube right out of the vise, gouging it beyond use. 

I disassembled the lower carriage to see what was the cause -- the threaded rod for adjusting the lower carriage went through a plastic fitting that had a peg protruding into the upper slider. PLASTIC. With no means to tighten the piece, and no way to lock the carriage, every bit of vibration worked against that plastic, causing increasingly more slop as time wore (see what I did there) on.
The offending plastic piece.
And the hole into which it fits.

So I'm on the search for a new cross slide vise. I'm extremely gun shy of low priced models, especially anything made in China. I won't be going back to Harbor Freight, that's for sure. And shopping online when I can't verify things like materials and construction makes it even more difficult. I may be replacing it with an X-Y table and stationary vise.

Until then I'll be drilling holes by hand undersize and using a file (by hand again) to bring them up to spec.

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