Shop-made tooling; useful, but. . .

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Nov 12, 2017
Generally, I regard setup tooling as permanent fixtures/ jigs that serve in a restricted sense, suitable for limited operations or parts. Does not apply in every case, but any can envision fabbing up something, that spends the rest of it's life collecting dirt on a shelf. If it works; name it, take a picture of mounted part, creating a reference for later.
Other times, a collection of simpler items does the trick, parallels in this case. Great supporting part in a vise, until opening to load another. Coolant knocks them over, chips get underneath them, or they fall while reloading.
Now, before asking for pictures, a valuable trait of machinists is cultivating ability to visualize. . .besides this isn't MTV, I'm not Peter Gabriel or David Byrne.
I'll offer set of favorite hacks regarding parallels and machining vises. We've seen many; separators [spring loaded tubes outside the jaws], or coil springs bearing against them, or two drops of fast-set glue, or magnets, or rubber bands [!], or nothing at all....
I use strapping tape, the steel variety binding loads to pallets. I simply cut a length and form one of three ways, depending on part width.
#1 is hair-pin like, one leg longer than the other. Longer is convexed to contact ends of parallel, the shorter hits middle of opposite bent with a little snow ski like tip. That keeps it or parallel from moving out of jaws opening/ closing on repeat parts.
#2 is great when drilling; a simple U-form, with ski tipped ends.
#3 for wide items; roll a circular length around 3x the jaw opening and lap the joint with a strap clip or bend acute interlocking hooks.
#Freebie. I don't work production; but time saved means I work on my own projects. When possible, instead a lot of deburring, use 4 parallels. Outboard of those supporting workpiece, insert shorter parallels at the jaws. Instant chip and burr clearance.

Bob Korves

H-M Supporter - Sustaining Member
H-M Platinum Supporter
Jul 2, 2014
I use banding, too. Another thing that works well for a lot of jobs is short chunks of the foam insulation used to keep pipes from freezing. It has size limitations as to work size, but can be used multiple ways to increase the range.


H-M Supporter - Gold Member
H-M Supporter Gold Member
Nov 23, 2014
I made a set of parallel holders from aluminum and rare earth magnets. Stole the idea from a seller (there are multiples) off eBay. The price is usually under $15 for 4. They work well though they do accumulate chips. The accumulation is outside of the jaws on the sides of the vise so no harm, no foul. Just have to remember to not clear the chips by hand since I don't always remember where my tweezers are.

Like Bob mentioned, steel strapping bent to a "V" and Styrofoam works well too.





H-M Supporter - Gold Member
H-M Supporter Gold Member
Apr 13, 2016
I use a drop or two of bar & chain oil or a touch of grease. Movable jaw will break it loose sometimes but I just put it back and it sticks. But after seeing these suggestions, I think I'll make a set like Bruce has cause I need another project :rolleyes:


H-M Supporter - Diamond Member
Staff member
H-M Lifetime Diamond Member
Jan 31, 2016
If I'm doing multiple parts , I find it easier to mill some soft jaws . Put a dowel in the fixed jaw for positioning and they're easy to keep clean .


Active User
H-M Supporter Gold Member
Nov 26, 2012
Soft jaws for me. Made the first few with parallels, then installed them in the vises and cut them with a step. No worries about having parallels
fall out now.
This thread has video of them both being made and in use.

I've been having fun and built about 6 dozen, so I've listed some on ebay.

Not really a hobby machine, but it did cost me less than my Bridgeport.


H-M Supporter - Gold Member
H-M Supporter Gold Member
Nov 24, 2018
I tend to always use the same size parallel, so I invested in hard step jaws for both vises. Already had their Vee-Jaws, so it made sense (for the quick change feature).

I paid good money to not have to deal with this issue, haha. Bonus, they included a free set of bump stops due to a shipping issue on my previous order.

Nice undercut in the corner and everything. Lower height as well, but still slightly above the jaw itself.

If I ever need a different size, think I'll just mill out a set of soft jaws to slip over the quick change style mounting screw.
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