Milling Vise Alignment In 13 Seconds

astroracer

Active Member
Registered
Joined
Apr 1, 2015
Messages
76
Exactly how my vise is located on the table! Two dowel pins. Squared it up to the table with the indicator in the spindle and drilled and pinned it to the table. :) It comes off and goes back on in the exact same location.
Mark
 

Winegrower

H-M Supporter - Silver Member
H-M Supporter - Silver Member ($10)
Joined
Jul 29, 2014
Messages
448
An old thread, but dowel pinning the vice to a fixed point on the bed is not attractive to me. I have mounted alignment bars on the bottom of the vice, too. It’s ok. What I like best is similar to what BGHansen describes. I keep an indicator with a quill clamp by the mill. It’s not necessary to spend a lot of time tapping and checking...just stick a 123 block or such in the vice and run the indicator along and see what way it moves...you can tell in a fraction of an inch movement in x axis. Tap the vice (the right direction of course) and keep tapping until the needle stops moving. You’re done.

When I use the bars, seems like I always want to indicate it anyway. :)
 

Dabbler

Administrator
Staff member
H-M Supporter - Gold Member ($25)
Joined
Oct 11, 2016
Messages
1,048
My mentor has precisely ground keyways and never needs to check his vice because it is a tight slip fit.

FWIW I don't follow his example because I don't want to risk dragging the key across the table (My back isn't young any more and my vise is 40+ lbs) so I indicate it in. With practice, it takes under a minute. I like the laser idea to get it within a thou or 2... That would get it close enough to save a lot of time, then I can get it to a half thou over 5"... hum... I see another project brewing!
 

Winegrower

H-M Supporter - Silver Member
H-M Supporter - Silver Member ($10)
Joined
Jul 29, 2014
Messages
448
Sorry, the laser idea doesn’t appeal to me...first the reference dot is maybe 20’ away. Maybe you young guys can see a dot that far away to within a 1/16” or so...but I would have to run back and forth, bump it, go check, tighten, go check, etc. Also, i’m picturing a simple laser pointer...how it goes in the vice each time could introduce error. Perhaps with a mirror reflecting back to the mill to a local target it could work...not sure you could rely on the mirror to be perfectly stable over temperature, humidity, earthquakes (CA), etc. But if you like this, great.
 

Eddyde

Bronze
Registered
Joined
Oct 13, 2014
Messages
1,541
I have used the laser trick to realign a drill press table after needing to move it while work was still in the vise. Just mark a vertical line on the wall with a level instead of a dot. Good for round column mills as well.
 

chips&more

Active User
Registered
Joined
Mar 19, 2014
Messages
2,595
There is nothing more accurate than running an indicator along the fixed jaw of the vise. And for me it takes no time at all. And I don’t move my vise around that much, so it does not bother me to pull out the indicator and align the vise when needed…Dave
 

homebrewed

Active Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 28, 2017
Messages
316
I use a machinist square for quick vise tramming. The "fat" end goes against the front of the table, the thin end goes against the side of the vise (the vise clamp is removed on that side). Tap the vise so there is no visible gap between the square and vise. This gets me to .001"/3" (the width of my vise jaws) or better. Make sure there's no swarf between the square and table/vise, eh?

Even if I don't need a well-trammed vise (for something like surfacing a part) I do this because there's a good chance my next use WILL, and at least I won't be off TOO much if I forget I didn't dial-in the vise.....
 

Bob Korves

H-M Supporter - Sustaining Member
H-M Platinum Supporter ($50)
Joined
Jul 2, 2014
Messages
7,060
I use a machinist square for quick vise tramming. The "fat" end goes against the front of the table, the thin end goes against the side of the vise (the vise clamp is removed on that side). Tap the vise so there is no visible gap between the square and vise. This gets me to .001"/3" (the width of my vise jaws) or better. Make sure there's no swarf between the square and table/vise, eh?
When squaring things in, it is best to indicate the actual thing doing the work, not a surrogate. The back of the table and the side of the vise have nothing to do what we want to achieve, and may not be machined correctly themselves. By indicating the fixed jaw of the vise, we are directly making it parallel with the table motion, which is what we really care about for many mill jobs. It is almost certain that NO part of the table is actually dead on square or parallel with the table travel. Maybe very close, but why use intermediates that have inaccuracies and/or can move and wiggle? Using your square clamped in the vise might be useful for tramming the in and out travel (Y on a vertical mill) by indicating it, but that would also be subject to the squareness and the parallelism of the square and it's mounting. Any assumption that the parts and axes of any machine or tool are actually square and parallel with each other is just faith and hope. Test it and see...
 

Cadillac

Bronze
Registered
Joined
Mar 12, 2018
Messages
1,144
For me I do as Hansen explained. It is so easy like said 3-4 times across with a indicator your done. My question is what do you use your indicator for if pulling out lasers and squares all to accomplish a indicators job. Then like bob said you should really be indicating the part if you want to cover all the bases. Indicator is the way to go.
 

BaronJ

Brass
Registered
Joined
Aug 7, 2018
Messages
661
Hi Guys,

I have fitted pegs to my vise base so it just drops into the slots and should be accurately square when refitted, but I still run an indicator down the inside of the fixed jaw. It always causes wonder when its a fraction out. A tap with a brass hammer is all it takes and then a check on the securing bolts.
 

Bob Korves

H-M Supporter - Sustaining Member
H-M Platinum Supporter ($50)
Joined
Jul 2, 2014
Messages
7,060
A tap with a brass hammer is all it takes and then a check on the securing bolts.
Indeed. I wonder how much of the movement is between table and knee...
 

BaronJ

Brass
Registered
Joined
Aug 7, 2018
Messages
661
Hi Bob,

Yes I agree ! But in my case I don't have a knee mill, even so there is a fraction of play in both the table and the head. But the table will still move a fraction.
 

Downwindtracker2

Active User
Registered
Joined
Sep 5, 2014
Messages
411
When I bought a bunch of tooling from guy who had tried to use a round column mill/drill to make a CNC. A couple of things were a $10 indicator holder for the spindle and a import .0005 test indicator, he said they didn't work and asked it want them as well. Of course I said sure. He had bought one of those two dial indicator things for tramming the head, which he tried to sell me, as well. First time I used the indicator holder on my mill/drill, I found it might have been over priced at $10 new. It flopped around some, but slip-joint pliers came to the rescue with the thumb screws. Using a dead blow, this time I was lucky, one sweep right and one sweep left and the vise was on. The alignment gods were with me. I've also used a #96 button back dial indicator mounted in the chuck. Harder to see.
 

bretthl

H-M Supporter - Sustaining Member
H-M Platinum Supporter ($50)
Joined
Oct 16, 2017
Messages
217
What an awsome idea. If the laser dot can be positioned within 1/16 of an inch from the dot on the wall 20 ft. away then you could expect that traming the 6" jaws with an indicator would give:

0.0625/240 = y/6

y = 0.0016"
 

Cadillac

Bronze
Registered
Joined
Mar 12, 2018
Messages
1,144
How would you align a vise with a laser? I have used lasers for grading and other construction stuff which the kurf of the laser is ruffly a 1/16 to a 1/8. I can eyeball my vise closer by visually aligning the back jaw with the edge of the table making them parallel. Idk settting up a laser and getting close is just as long as using a indicator and being dead on.
 

jbolt

Active User
H-M Supporter - Gold Member ($25)
Joined
Dec 3, 2013
Messages
1,616
I didn't dowel my vise to the table but I do have dowel holes drilled into the bottom of the vise at different locations where I most commonly locate the vise on the table. The pins are removable and when inserted locate against the edge of the T-slot in the table. As long as everything is clean when setting up there is no need to indicate.
 

Shootymacshootface

Active Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 17, 2018
Messages
356
What an awsome idea. If the laser dot can be positioned within 1/16 of an inch from the dot on the wall 20 ft. away then you could expect that traming the 6" jaws with an indicator would give:

0.0625/240 = y/6

y = 0.0016"
Yes ,very creative, but as Bob Korves inadvertently explained, the table would have to be in the exact same position every time, including tension on the gibbs.
 

Toolmaker51

Active Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 12, 2017
Messages
120
Doweling ANYthing to 'sacred' surfaces of a machine tool is very, no extremely, uncommon. Cylindrical dowels need clearance to install and remove, introducing undesired error. Tapered pull dowels would be better, but still über-unconventional. The other problem with doweling relegates all the gib wear to one zone, far better usage alternates vise placement on what ever schedule you deem fit.

If one cannot dial a vise in 3-4 passes with an indicator, they need more practice, and perhaps a change in technique. Clamp a long straight bar in the vise and view it lengthwise in accordance with the table slots. I do this when the material is not smooth enough for indicating. The laser level method isn't a bad starting point, but a laser pointer won't work. They are not intentionally centered in their body.

But the following is my everyday go-to, several decades worth.
Start with the indicator midway on fixed jaw, move Y to achieve some indicator + & - travel. Any line should be a convenient zero, just because it's marked '0' is not fully relevant. Any displacement of the needle moving X will be readily apparent of which direction is angled from table travel. One stud can be lightly snugged, tap in the vise body to lessen the needle travel as you move towards end of jaw. By the time you arrive, the jaw reading and starting zero should be very close. I continually get a vise .0001 in 1 1/2 passes.
 

MarkM

Active Member
Registered
Joined
Apr 23, 2017
Messages
495
Bob I have to disagree with you. Vises are ground parallel on all sides, a square in the shop should be up to snuff parallell and at 90 degrees. If not give it to a carpenter.
Tables and slots are parallel to the axis on machines. Why do you think they put key slots in Vises?
If so the machine tool is junk! I have never ever come across a table in a shop out of wack as you state not parallel on there axis!
 

Bob Korves

H-M Supporter - Sustaining Member
H-M Platinum Supporter ($50)
Joined
Jul 2, 2014
Messages
7,060
Bob I have to disagree with you. Vises are ground parallel on all sides, a square in the shop should be up to snuff parallell and at 90 degrees. If not give it to a carpenter.
Tables and slots are parallel to the axis on machines. Why do you think they put key slots in Vises?
If so the machine tool is junk! I have never ever come across a table in a shop out of wack as you state not parallel on there axis!
We will have to disagree then, Mark. Nothing is machined perfectly, and tolerances can add up. I always try to measure the important surface directly when possible, and I do not trust anything to be correct as received. A single appropriate test takes all guessing away, no leaps of faith. Most work does not require extreme accuracy, and when it doesn't, then shortcuts can be taken, with often large time savings. If that type of workmanship becomes ingrained and carries over to important work, then there can and will be unacceptable inaccuracies.
 

MarkM

Active Member
Registered
Joined
Apr 23, 2017
Messages
495
Bob I would never put a vise square or anyhing to be machined that wasn t checked when i received it. If It s not up to tolerance I don t use it and send it back so if I come to a situation where I may have a strange setup I can trust what I am using.
Like I said if it s not up to tolerance give it to a carpenter. I was just stating the fact that a decent vise ground on all sides can be indicated in more than one surface and a table on a mill not parallel shouldn t be in the shop.
I ve checked all my kit as I always have so I can use it. I think your off on a Tangent!
 

Firstgear

H-M Supporter - Gold Member
H-M Supporter - Gold Member ($25)
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
Messages
573
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.
Accuracy is not what you are worried about, repeatability is what you want. The accuracy number is what it can be off from perfect level. If it is perfectly repeatable then it will be fine.
 

Dabbler

Administrator
Staff member
H-M Supporter - Gold Member ($25)
Joined
Oct 11, 2016
Messages
1,048
I'm going to try to wade in here but I might get punched by both sides. :distress:

- I know of a toolmaker with 60+ years experience that has his vise set up with 1" long precision ground keyways that just fit the slots on his milling machine. He has pre-indicated in the precision ground jaws on the vise. Many hours went into this prep, and he has to force the vise down whenever he reinstalls it - but every time it is within one-tenth, end-to-end. Defrayed over the past 40 years since he made this setup, he has saved many hundreds of hours. The downside is that he has several scrape marks, where he accidentally marked the table while removing and installing the vise.

- On the other side, I also know of another machinist with 45+years experience that always indicates in his vise every time. He has made custom washers for the vise with flats on them that help him to get very close, usually within .001 or .002. I've watched him indicate the vise in in 10 seconds flat - to one tenth! No marks on the table, but a little extra time every install.

Who is right? well I don't know. I don't have the time to do all the work for option A, but one day I might. I have my own version of option B, but it takes me a minute or more to get it close.

To address the OP question -- I think the laser is fine for getting it to that .002 level. If that's all you care about, then just use that. If you always go for more accuracy, you have a good starting point. Everyone develops their own technique, and lives with the advantages and disadvantages of it.
 

Bob Korves

H-M Supporter - Sustaining Member
H-M Platinum Supporter ($50)
Joined
Jul 2, 2014
Messages
7,060
- I know of a toolmaker with 60+ years experience that has his vise set up with 1" long precision ground keyways that just fit the slots on his milling machine. He has pre-indicated in the precision ground jaws on the vise. Many hours went into this prep, and he has to force the vise down whenever he reinstalls it - but every time it is within one-tenth, end-to-end. Defrayed over the past 40 years since he made this setup, he has saved many hundreds of hours. The downside is that he has several scrape marks, where he accidentally marked the table while removing and installing the vise.
I do exactly the same. I also use t-nuts that are carefully shop made from mild steel, and with all exposed edges and corners rounded over to smooth large radii. They do not mark the table if they slide on it, but I do try to keep them clear of the table until over the t-slot. The t-nuts fit tightly enough to have to wiggle and push down on the vise slightly to get them into the t-slots, and also into the slots on the bottom of the chuck when changing the vise from 90 degree mounting to longitudinal mounting and back again. I always get within .0001" by simply dropping the vise into the t-slots, and a simple light push in the known direction with the heel of my wrist when tightening it down gives zero movement of the .0001" needle over the 6" jaw travel. I no longer check the vise each time I put it on the table. I take my vise off regularly for mounting work on the table, or other tooling, and always mount the vise in a different place each time I remount it, to spread any wear over the entire table. I am lucky that the mill, a Millrite built in 1967, came to me having never been used before. It was quite grimy from sitting for decades in storage, but no rust at all, and while cleaning it up, there were no chips or scratches anywhere on the working and sliding surfaces. I am working hard to keep it that way.
 

RobertHaas

Active Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 16, 2016
Messages
127
A precion ground 24" bar clamped in my vice sure shows what a tenth out looks like. A brass hammer and some patience goes a long way for me.

FYI my machinist square gets me pretty close (+_.001) and for most of the work I do that is fine, however I can and do get 10 times closer when necessary.
 
Top