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Milling Vise Alignment In 13 Seconds

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gr8legs

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#1
I rarely remove the vise from the milling machine - just too much fussing around to get it back parallel to the table axis.

A recent project required several change-outs of vise and hold downs - so I came up with something that gets my vise alignment down to a few seconds, rather than the 3-5 minutes of twiddling and swearing.

Before removing the vise I put a laser pointer (I use a rectangular level with a laser included, but any laser of suitable size will probably work) into the vise and shoot a dot of light at the wall about 20 feet from the milling machine.

I mark the spot on the wall with a post-it note (and also make note of the Y-Position of the mill) and then remove the vise and do whatever other operation I have to do.

When it comes time to re-mount the vise I put it onto the mill table, put the laser back into the vise and reset the Y-Axis to the previous setting.

Now it's a simple task to jockey the vise around until the laser dot is spotted onto the same location on the wall - and the vise is right back in the same alignment!

Easy Peasy! Probably infinitely repeatable as long as the mill stays in the same spot and no earthquakes intervene and accurate enough for most jobs.

DSC02662.JPG DSC02667.JPG DSC02663.JPG DSC02665.JPG
 
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#2
Out of curiosity, did you indicate to confirm as a laser dot (not sharp) can still be off a few thou without noticing.
 

RJSakowski

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#3
How do you reproduce the y position of the vise on the table? My vise has two bosses on the bottom side but when they are in contact with the side of the Tee slot, the vise is aligned so I wouldn't need the laser. I found that as I tighten the mounting bolts, the vise will walk a bit so I bias the vise by placing a short length of 2 x 4 between the back of the vise base and use the column to bias the vise while tightening. It will generally get me to about .001" over 4".

Have you made any measurements regarding accuracy and reproducibility?
 

Eddyde

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#4
Out of curiosity, did you indicate to confirm as a laser dot (not sharp) can still be off a few thou without noticing.
I think if the dot is 20 feet away the error at the vise will be so small it would be negligible.
 

RJSakowski

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#5
I think if the dot is 20 feet away the error at the vise will be so small it would be negligible.
Twenty feet is 240 inches. If the dot is 1/4" in diameter, .25/240 is about .001"/". I typically align my vise to be less than .001"/4" which would correspond to .060" @ 20 ft.

However, for many operations, .001"/" is sufficiently accurate enough and the 13 seconds mounting time is very attractive.

I wondered about the reproducibility because most laser leveling devices typically quote 1/8" inch accuracy.
 
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#6
My point was, I have yet to use a commercial laser that is not blurry around the edges or truly round for that matter, so repointing to the exact spot could be tricky resulting in error. Indicating the vise would confirm how close this technique works. The whole technique makes sense minus the blurred distorted dot.
 

JimDawson

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#7
Hmmm, Gonna have to try that.
 

gr8legs

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#8
I wondered about the reproducibility because most laser leveling devices typically quote 1/8" inch accuracy.
I don't depend on the level to do any leveling, just repeatably positionable in the same spot in the vise. I bottom the laser in the vise and then align the vise by comparing the horizontal position of the dot on the wall with my previous mark. Although I use an 'X' to mark the center of the laser dot, I suppose I could draw a box around it to better delineate exactly where the spot should align to.

Also, I'd guess a round-barrel laser flashlight would not be reliable for this as the beam is not guaranteed to be concentric to the flashlight barrel axis.

One other thing - as the table slots are wider than the bolts holding the vise I make sure that the same side of the vise is 'thunked' against the slot so I only move one end of the vise while aligning it to the mark on the wall.

Stu
 
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Eddyde

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#9
My point was, I have yet to use a commercial laser that is not blurry around the edges or truly round for that matter, so repointing to the exact spot could be tricky resulting in error. Indicating the vise would confirm how close this technique works. The whole technique makes sense minus the blurred distorted dot.
Agreed they are a bit blurry, however one can easily align a laser dot much it better than+- .25" and as pointed out above, even that much error at 20' would only be a thou off at the vise.
 

Tony Wells

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#10
Get a longer shop......shoot it out the door at the neighbor's house.......a nearby (but not too close) tree target.:)
 

Randy_m

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#11
If you remove your vice a lot like I do, do as follows.
1. Mount an angle plate on your mill parallel to to x axis.
2. Flip your vice over and clamp it on the angle plate.
3. Put a jack under the "long" side to support the weight.
4. Indicate the vice in the Y axis to .000 +/- .001. Use the jack for this.
5. Mill a slot aprox. .050 deep, centered on your "bolt down ears". Cut the slot WIDER than your T-slot. I.E. 3/4 slot for a 5/8 T-slot ect.
6. Now get a piece of 3/4 key stock, screw this down into your new slot. (Drill and tap ect.)
7. Use some gauge blocks and measure your T-slot in your table.
8. Mill your key on both sides to this dimension, staying .001 off the bottom of your vice.
9. Remove set up and install vice.
10. Install new soft jaws and machine them in place.
11. BAM! Perfection every time you remove and install your vice.

P.S. match mark the key to the vice so it can be removed and reinstalled.
 
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#12
I'm in, I'll give her hell tomorrow and see what 20,40 and 60' do on my tired eyeballs.
 

coolidge

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#13
I'm in, I'll give her hell tomorrow and see what 20,40 and 60' do on my tired eyeballs.
Regarding your avatar, we need a larger picture of your shop you may be the new king of clean!
 
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#14
Regarding your avatar, we need a larger picture of your shop you may be the new king of clean!
Dude, Sometimes I feel like a janitor. Most the time I pick up and always sweep at the end of the day and use this time to enjoy quality music drink a cold beverage and ensure nothing is smoldering (fire watch). About the time I finish sweeping, my German "Shedders" come to visit and coats the floor with "love". Hahaha, Its true!
 

mcostello

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#15
John Stevenson has posted a mill vise alignment bracket that locates off of the front of the base casting on a Bridgeport, it may be faster, little bit harder to make.
 

Bob Korves

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#16
If you remove your vice a lot like I do, do as follows.
1. Mount an angle plate on your mill parallel to to x axis.
2. Flip your vice over and clamp it on the angle plate.
3. Put a jack under the "long" side to support the weight.
4. Indicate the vice in the Y axis to .000 +/- .001. Use the jack for this.
5. Mill a slot aprox. .050 deep, centered on your "bolt down ears". Cut the slot WIDER than your T-slot. I.E. 3/4 slot for a 5/8 T-slot ect.
6. Now get a piece of 3/4 key stock, screw this down into your new slot. (Drill and tap ect.)
7. Use some gauge blocks and measure your T-slot in your table.
8. Mill your key on both sides to this dimension, staying .001 off the bottom of your vice.
9. Remove set up and install vice.
10. Install new soft jaws and machine them in place.
11. BAM! Perfection every time you remove and install your vice.

P.S. match mark the key to the vice so it can be removed and reinstalled.
Randy has the right idea. My probably 50 year old Bridgeport vise came to me with accurate keyways and screw holes machined in both directions into the bottom of the vise. Most machine vises have them. The slots just needed to be lightly stoned for any burs. The mill table slots are also kept bur free by lightly stoning. I made keys carefully that fit both the vise and table slots with nice snug fits. Now when I just set the vise on the table and let the keys fall into the t-slots the vise never trams at more than .001" in 6". Getting is zeroed really close is easy when it it already trapped so closely. After a few times mounting it, I know I can put it on the table, let the keys fall into the t-slots, bump the vise once in the direction I know aligns it best, lock it down, and it will test within a few tenths over 6", every time. Trying to tram a vise placed loosely on the table is a major PITA, relatively. A little effort setting your vise up now saves lots of work down the road...
 

Bob Korves

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#17
A bit off subject here, but many people leave their vises on the mill when it would be much smarter to take it off and mount the work to the table or use some other setup. They build wonky setups that are not rigid and present the work to the cutter poorly, all because they find it a major job to remove, install, and tram the vise. If you make some aids for easily removing, installing, and tramming your vise you will be much more likely to do it more often. You also gain a fair amount of additional Z headroom when you mount to the table or fixture plates. Always using the vise tends to limit your thinking to a few inches of real estate when you have a big table that never gets used or even considered. I also mount my vise to one side of the table so most of the table remains available for alternative setups with the vise in place but unused.
 

Downwindtracker2

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#18
On youtube, one smart fellow used a laser and a mirror on the opposite wall to align his round column mill/drill.
 

kd4gij

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#19
Get a longer shop......shoot it out the door at the neighbor's house.......a nearby (but not too close) tree target.:)

Just make sure you don't point it at a cop car or his house. :angry no:
 

derf

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#20
I have a real simple way. Once I have it squared, I just dowel pinned it.
 

pineyfolks

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#21
Mines just keyed. Fine for most jobs and if I have to a quick swipe with an indicator gets it spot on. I was waiting for someone to say they clamped a rifle scope in their vise.
 

RJSakowski

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#22
Mines just keyed. Fine for most jobs and if I have to a quick swipe with an indicator gets it spot on. I was waiting for someone to say they clamped a rifle scope in their vise.
Like you, I take advantage of the keys. However, for those who don't have a key vise or may have a mill with rough cut Tee slots, the rifle scope will work. Several decades ago, I needed to do some landscape leveling and made the level below/. It is a Western Field 3 - 7 x 20 .22 scope. It will easily resolve .05" @ 20 ft. which works out to about .001" in 5". I don't use it because I have an enclosure around the mill and it would be literally a pain in the neck to bend over to sight it. One issue may be that the scope may not focus on a target only 20' away. I tried mine it looks like it would be usable.

On trick that I used to make the trial and error adjustment procedure more tolerable was to fix one side of the vise so it acted as a pivot point. I would then sweep the fixed vise jaw with an indicator and note the correction needed. I would then mount a toe clamp on the table with a feeler gage equaled to the correction needed. Then pull out the feeler gage and slide the vise to contact the toe clamp and clamp the vise. This usually gets you close enough and is far less frustrating than the tap/measure/tap/measure method.

Bob

Level _01.JPG
 

Bill C.

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#23
Like you, I take advantage of the keys. However, for those who don't have a key vise or may have a mill with rough cut Tee slots, the rifle scope will work. Several decades ago, I needed to do some landscape leveling and made the level below/. It is a Western Field 3 - 7 x 20 .22 scope. It will easily resolve .05" @ 20 ft. which works out to about .001" in 5". I don't use it because I have an enclosure around the mill and it would be literally a pain in the neck to bend over to sight it. One issue may be that the scope may not focus on a target only 20' away. I tried mine it looks like it would be usable.

On trick that I used to make the trial and error adjustment procedure more tolerable was to fix one side of the vise so it acted as a pivot point. I would then sweep the fixed vise jaw with an indicator and note the correction needed. I would then mount a toe clamp on the table with a feeler gage equaled to the correction needed. Then pull out the feeler gage and slide the vise to contact the toe clamp and clamp the vise. This usually gets you close enough and is far less frustrating than the tap/measure/tap/measure method.

Bob

View attachment 112502

Novel idea.
 

Bill C.

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#24
A few shops I have worked in used keyed vises. I always indicated them anyway.

Like Bob I would snug down one bolt and use a brass knocker or dead blow hammer and indicated the non-keyed vises. After tightening both bolts I would recheck the alignment to see if it moved.

By-the-way, in most cases I would use double washers (two standard stacked) on top of the vise base if the washers were bent from over tightening by the previous machinist.
 

Sheather

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#25
Using a laser is a neat idea; thank you for sharing it!

One option (instead of getting a longer shop) if you want/need more accuracy with the laser method - put a mirror where the current target is. Bouncing the laser back across the room would double the distance, giving you about half the error.

They do something similar for eye exams, so that the exam rooms can be reasonably sized but maintain the required visual distance to the eye chart.
 
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#26
don't most kurts have slots for alignment underneath
 

Hidyn

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#27
I feel it must be said that a tree would make a bad target, as a point on the tree will constantly be shifting as it grows, and even big ones shift in the wind.

I know that it wasn't a terribly serious suggestion, but I can't help myself. :p
 

BGHansen

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#28
Tom's Techniques gave me my current method which goes pretty quickly (though probably not 13 seconds unless I'm lucky). Eyeball the vise close to straight and lightly tighten the T-nut bolts. Mount a test dial indicator on the spindle, move the X so I'm at the edge of the jaw, adjust Y/the indicator until I've deflected the needle. Then engage my power feed letting the indicator drag across the jaw face and watch the needle. Give the vise a tap with a brass hammer until the needle stays on a number. Tighten the nuts and recheck. Usually successful in a max of 3 passes back and forth.

Bruce
 

stupoty

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#29
Im too retro , i put a square in the vice and use a 123 block and another square of the front of the table :)

I used to use the keys on the bottom of the vice but wanted the vice at an angle one day.

Stuart
 

RIMSPOKE

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#30
MY VISE IS KEYED TO THE TABLE SLOTS .
THE LASER SOUNDS LIKE A QUICK & SASSY WAY TO GET IT VERY CLOSE .

TO ME , THE LASER SOUNDS LIKE THE CAT's MEOW WHEN USING A SWIVEL BASE WITH
LEFT & RIGHT HAND SETUPS .
 
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