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A few weeks ago I decided to rejuvenate an old B. B. Noyes farrier’s foot vise and construct a movable base for it. I’ve included lots of details and photos, so I hope no one gets bored. I picked up the vise a while back for an even hundred bucks (US). Even though the vise needed some TLC, it had good “bones.” In other words, there were no breaks, repairs, cracks, or deeply rusted areas, and the jaw faces were still in good shape, so I thought it might be worth some effort to put it back into operation. It was missing the adjustable-height upsetting block (which would also make an excellent depth stop), but from what I’ve seen, they are usually missing that part, and I figured that I could machine a replacement when I have time. There was also some wear in the grooves in the calking block, but since I'm not a farrier, that was not of much concern to me. I should mention that one of the jaw inserts (the fixed one) is a very hard steel that was unimpressed by the application of one of Mr. Nicholson’s files, while the other insert (the one that swivels on its pivot pin) is made of cast iron. This was apparently by design, since I have seen other foot vises with the same combination of steel and cast-iron jaw inserts. The vise originally was available with several different jaw inserts, but I only have the straight ones. Both the fixed and the swivel jaw inserts can be mounted in two positions, for four possible combinations of jaw curvature and height relative to each other. A bit of research showed that people have used all four combinations on these Noyes vises and the similar Wells vises. Note that the mover's dolly that the vise is sitting on in the photo below is NOT the base that I fabricated for it. Here are some of the key steps involved in the rejuvenation process: First of all, the pivot pins for the beam, jaw insert, and foot pedal were all stiff from decades of neglect and rust. I decided to remove and replace them, not only to free them up and make up for wear, but also to allow the insertion of spacer washers/shims to keep the jaws and beam centered and to allow better access to the inside of the vise for the installation of a new return spring to raise the foot pedal. The old pivot pins were threaded at only one end and had a screwdriver slot at the other end. These pins were firmly rusted in place, and since the pins were headless, I could not apply enough torque to loosen the rusted pins, even after a liberal soaking with rust buster. So, I resorted to a different method...one of several possible methods for that situation that have served me well over the years...which involves careful incremental drilling of the threaded end of the pin to leave a very thin tubular “shell” of the threaded portion, which I then “peel” away by gently tapping around it with a small-diameter round punch that has been ground on the end to form an oval-shaped chisel point with a sharp leading edge. This worked great for two of the pins. I was able to remove the pin for the beam pivot and the pin for the foot-pedal pivot with no damage whatsoever to the original female threads in the cheeks. However, the pivot pin for the swivel jaw insert was recalcitrant and refused to submit to this method of persuasion. Two types of easy-outs were of no use either. This situation required escalating the removal effort to the next level, which involved drilling the threaded hole to a larger size to completely remove the remnants of the pin, tapping new threads in the enlarged hole, and then installing a Heli-Coil insert, as shown below, to bring the threads back to their original size (photo taken after vise was primed). The next step was to true-up the bottom of the vise so that it would lie flat against the planned base plate. I must say that this vise certainly does NOT represent the acme of precision casting. The vise was pretty wobbly when set on the base plate, since the bottom was probably out-of-flat by at least 1/8 inch. I touched it up with a sanding disk in an angle grinder to the point where it was very close to flat, but rather than tediously chasing the elusive goal of perfection with the contact-transfer method using an indicator fluid or other medium, which would have involved dozens of small adjustments, I opted to finish the flattening by using some epoxy mixed with a tough fiber filler. I applied a thin layer of the thickened epoxy on the periphery of the bottom of the vise, laid a sheet of polyethylene over it, and then laid a flat, round steel plate on top of the polyethylene, with some extra weights stacked on top of the plate to squish the excess epoxy out, as illustrated in the photo below (which is not showing the extra weights). The following picture shows the flattened epoxy after cleaning it up around the edges. The epoxy layer is quite thin...probably no more than 1/32" thick on average and nowhere greater than 1/16" thick. This made the bottom of the vise VERY flat, with no wobble whatsoever when placed on the new base. Next, I wire-brushed the vise, primed and painted it, and began installing the components. I used partially-threaded hex-head machine screws/bolts to replace the old pivot pins. Note that for each pivot, one cheek is threaded and the other is not. Also note that I was very careful NOT to tighten the bolts where they go through the pivot cheeks. In fact, I left a little space under the heads of the bolts. If you use bolts with heads on them and tighten the bolts a little too much, it could break the cast-iron pivot cheeks, and I’ve seen a couple of these old vises with welded or brazed cheeks, probably for that very reason. The old pins were threaded at only one end and had no heads on them and therefore could not possibly squeeze the hinge cheeks together and break them. Because of the rust and the pivot-removal process, I could not tell if the old pins had been staked in place or if the pins were just screwed in until the unthreaded portion of the pin was up against the cheek. To prevent the new bolts from rotating, I simply installed a lock nut on each bolt. The following three drawings of the beam pivot represent 1) the pin that came with the vise when I bought it; 2) how I replaced it with a bolt; and 3) a caution about what to avoid if you work on one of these vises. The bolt heads were not necessary, but I left them on because I wanted to be able to remove the bolts easily for future maintenance. If I were going for a museum-quality restoration (assuming that this vise was in its original configuration when I bought it), I would have cut off the bolt heads, cut a slot at that end of the bolt like the old pins had, and ditched the lock nut. I installed spacer washers/shims in the beam pivot and the foot pedal pivot to help keep the beam and pedal centered while in use. I’m not sure if it originally had such spacers, but if not, I think it should have had them. I installed a pair of return springs on the foot pedal to raise the pedal (see photo below). This took a bit of experimenting to come up with the right spring length, spring rate, and a mount that would work correctly on the pedal (and not slip out of place) without having to modify the pedal. It worked out well. The springs raise the pedal to the correct at-rest height and seem to have just the right amount of tension. Note that I was trying to plan ahead for eventually installing an upsetting block (or depth stop, if you prefer), and using twin springs left a space between them that should allow the mounting bolt for the upsetting block to pass between the springs. No spring is required to open the vise jaws, since gravity will take care of that as long as the foot pedal is raised. Now it was time to build the base for the vise. I got a good deal on a slab of 1/2” plate from a local supplier’s scrap pile and found the rest of what I needed in my own “surplus” pile. I installed two cast-iron wheels, as well as two home-made leveling feet to compensate for any unevenness in a floor. I only plan to use this vise on concrete or asphalt, so I kept the wheel size fairly small, which also helped make the base more compact to fit inside my slowly-evolving mini-shop. Even though I flattened the bottom of the vise with a bit of epoxy, I was still leery about over-tightening the cast-iron vise base flange against the new steel base plate, so I mounted the vise using eight heavy springs, as shown below. It might look like there are only four springs, but there is a second set of springs inside the other springs (i.e., concentric double springs). These heavy springs limit the force holding the vise to the base to what I consider a safe level to avoid possibly cracking the cast iron, but there is still more than adequate force to keep the vise securely mounted. The vise doesn’t move at all on the base when in use. Following are two more views of the vise. All in all, it works great, but there are still a few improvements that I might make to the vise. For example: I would like to make some removable steel jaw liners, and maybe a set of brass or copper liners. I would like to install a thick steel plate over the calking block, partly because there is a good deal of wear in the calking block grooves, and also because I think that a flat surface would be more useful for my own purposes. I will try to figure out a non-invasive way of installing the plate, since I would rather not modify the vise itself. I’m also thinking about adding a small tool rack to each side of that plate, which could double as a handle for moving the vise around. Al (Steamboat)
I made a vise stand for my post vise recently. I don't want to bolt the vise stand to the floor because I like the ability to roll the vise outside to work on something or roll it out of the way if I'm not using it. Lately, I have been working on trying to twist square bar and making picket baskets. The problem is that the vise stand will walk a little or rotate if the force being used is anything but straight down. I worked on removing any raised areas on the bottom and that helped a decent amount but, it still moves too much. It's frustrating and a little nerve-wracking trying to chasing your vise while working with red hot metal. I have attached a couple of images of my vise and stand.