Steamboat

Foot-Vise Rejuvenation and Base Fabrication

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Following are two more views of the vise.

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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)

 

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Nice work Al. 

I'd probably try to clamp the plate to the calking block with a U bolt under the block and maybe one around the vise throught, since you dont want to get evasive. 

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Steamboat, that is a beautiful restoration and base. Most of the other ones like this I've seen have a adjustable block used as a stop for upsetting in the jaws. PVF Al

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Thanks, Das. You have me thinking about something very similar to your suggestion for U-bolting the plate to both the vise column and the calking block. Possibly a U-bolt around the column, plus a couple of flat-head screws (countersunk) that go down through the new plate, past the sides of the calking block, and through a flat bar under the calking block.

Thanks, PVF Al. I appreciate the compliment. It looks like you might have missed my mention of the upsetting block that I plan to fabricate at some point, which would be easy to miss, especially since I tend to be a bit verbose.

Al (Steamboat)

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I think your plan would work well, And make the plate more sturdy than just attached to the calking block. Look forward to seeing what you end up doing even if I will probably never own one of these. 

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Excellent work and I really appreciate the detailed write up.  I have a very similar vise that I started disassembling but put aside when some of the bolts fought back.  You spurred me to get back to that project.

Although mine looks physically almost exactly like yours, the calking plate on mine is separate from the casting (a steel insert) so can be removed if the bolts/pins ever cooperate--allowing that plate to be replaced with something more functional to the non-farrier.  I just haven't figured out what that might be yet.

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Looking good Al. It probably won't matter the casting is so thick but I'd think use a lag bolt for the pivot pin long enough the nut doesn't put any pressure on the hinged jaw.

Probably doesn't make a difference but it sticks out when look.

Frosty The Lucky.

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23 minutes ago, Frosty said:

I'd think use a lag bolt for the pivot pin long enough the nut doesn't put any pressure on the hinged jaw.

Frosty, thanks for the feedback. I think you may have misread something, or perhaps I left out some helpful explanatory information. Maybe this added information will clear things up:

None of the lock nuts on the any of the pivot bolts are putting any strain on anything. The pivot for the hinged jaw is set up the same way as the other pivots. In other words, only one of the pivot cheeks for the hinged jaw is threaded, and the pivot bolt slides freely through the hole in the other cheek and freely through the jaw insert. I left a small gap under the head of the bolt, so that the bolt head is not even touching the pivot cheek for the jaw, so there is no pressure at all trying to squeeze the pivot cheeks together, which means that there is absolutely no bending load on the jaw's pivot cheeks. In fact, I could cut off the bolt heads on all three of the vise's pivot bolts and it would not make any difference. 

If you look at the three diagrams of the beam pivot in my original post, the same basic approach applies to the hinged jaw pivot and the foot pedal pivot. None of the pivot "bolts" are tightened...just the lock nuts.

If you were wondering about the strength of the threads within the cast-iron cheeks and not the cheeks themselves, keep in mind that the nuts are merely lock nuts that are tightened just enough to prevent the bolts from turning. The hinged jaw, for example, has a 1/2" pivot bolt, and the lock nut is tightened against about an inch of threads in one pivot cheek (the same cheek that the nut is in contact with). I'm sure that I could torque it to at least five times the torque that I actually used without any danger of stripping the threads.

While not directly related, it might also be worth mentioning that the jaw's pivot bolt doesn't handle any clamping load when items are clamped in the vise. There is enough play in the pivot hole through the jaw insert that the jaw insert contacts the cast-iron beam before it would put any pressure on the pivot bolt.

I hope that helps.

Al (Steamboat)

 

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Steamboat - that's a great restoration. I have been looking for wheels (and brackets) like yours to weld onto my post vise stand. Did you make the brackets or purchase them? Any idea what I should be googling to find them?  Thanks much.

 

Hibby

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Thanks, Hibby. I made the brackets myself and welded them onto the base. The iron wheels were cannibalized from some casters I picked up at one of the big box stores a while back. The wheels are up off the floor about 1/4" and only contact the floor when I tip the vise backwards. Keep in mind that if you plan to roll your post vise over soft or rough ground, you will be better off with larger-diameter wheels to negotiate the terrain. A little extra tread width would not hurt either. I only use my equipment on asphalt or concrete, so it's not a concern for me.

By the way, since you are working on a post-vise stand, you might want to look at one that I built to get a few ideas:

 https://www.iforgeiron.com/topic/49549-what-did-you-do-in-the-shop-today/?page=206&tab=comments#comment-616374

Al (Steamboat)

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My bad Al, I only skimmed the text so I missed the details. Sinus headache makes it hard to read more than a few lines, I shouldn't be on the comp at all but I'm way behind. 

Really nice job.

Frosty The Lucky.

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I like that vise sooo much! A year ago I found one for sale in really good condition but I was literally five minutes too late getting to it. Enjoy it. 

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15 hours ago, Kozzy said:

Although mine looks physically almost exactly like yours, the calking plate on mine is separate from the casting (a steel insert) so can be removed if the bolts/pins ever cooperate--allowing that plate to be replaced with something more functional to the non-farrier.  I just haven't figured out what that might be yet.

Glad you liked the vise, Kozzy. I'm guessing that your vise might look like this one: https://www.iforgeiron.com/gallery/image/18363-foot-vise/

I suspect that the manufacturer might be the same or related somehow. In any case, the removable plate on your vise is an improvement over the integral calking area on my vise. 

Rusted bolts in old cast-iron items are often a challenge that can try one's patience. One thing that helps is that most of these old bolts/pins/screws tend to be relatively soft steel and can be often drilled and peeled a bit more easily than higher-strength fasteners. Are the fasteners holding the removable calking plate on your vise screwed into blind holes or do the holes go all the way through (the latter being a little easier to deal with)? I try not to resort to Heli-Coil inserts except when other methods fail, but as long as there is plenty of meat to the matrix around a hole, they do offer a good solution that in some cases is stronger than the original, especially when used in softer metal matrices like aluminum.

Al (Steamboat)

 

9 hours ago, Ranchmanben said:

I like that vise sooo much! A year ago I found one for sale in really good condition but I was literally five minutes too late getting to it. Enjoy it. 

Thanks, Ben. The vise was a good find, and considering that I bought it from a dealer who specializes in antique tools and farm gear, I thought it was priced very reasonably. I've already found it to be a useful tool, and not just for blacksmithing. By the way, great job on your latest hammer!

Al (Steamboat)

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59 minutes ago, Irondragon Forge & Clay said:

Could some square stock be forged to fit in the slots, then weld a plate to that stock?

Interesting idea. That could help secure it in terms of horizontal movement. Used in conjunction with a couple of mounting bolts it could be quite solid. I'll give it some thought.

Al (Steamboat) 

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Really nice restoration, and attention to details concerning NOT damaging the pivot mechanism.

Using the shims inside the yoke to limit play, and leaving the head on the bolt both actually increase the durability. 

If designing new vice from scratch the pivot would be a good place to use a shoulder bolt, it would prevent collapsing the yoke and it would provide a smooth bearing surface for the pivot.

I have a question for all you, I’ve always been fascinated with this type vise but have never used one. What is the purpose of the linear teeth on the inside surface of the fixed vice body? Most of this type vise have them but not all.

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5 minutes ago, stevomiller said:

What is the purpose of the linear teeth on the inside surface of the fixed vice body?

Glad you liked the vise setup. As you said, it could be redesigned slightly (larger bore through the arm and through one hinge cheek) to accommodate a shoulder bolt where the shoulder would tighten against one hinge cheek and leave a bit of space under the head of the bolt to avoid squeezing the hinge and breaking it.

The teeth are there to engage an adjustable block (which is missing) that could be used for upsetting the end of a piece of stock at some set depth below the top of the vise, or it could be simply used as a general-purpose adjustable depth stop. It's my observation that the block is usually missing on these old foot vises. I've seen a couple with the block intact, and I might eventually see if I can machine one to match the teeth. It would be a handy time saver when doing repeat operations, such as adding a bend or twist at the same location when making up a series of bars.

Al (Steamboat)

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Al, thanks so much for the quick response and explanation.

As stated, I’ve never seen one of these vises in person, only pics, and the end stop has never been present. It’s driven me mad trying figure out what the heck the teeth were for! Anyways, that would be a great feature to have, I’d encourage you to pursue your thoughts of fabricating a replacement. I’d really love to own one of these vises, maybe someday.

Side notes for anyone designing using shoulder bolts, in fixtures, tools or equipment. Some or many of you might know this already, as we have many accomplished fabricators on this site, but it doesn’t hurt to state this anyways.

Many folks miss when designing around them (especially when used as a stub axle vs this vise where the two sides of the yoke prevent cantilevered force): design so that you have enough thickness in base material to counterbore (above the threads) for at least 1/2 the shoulder diameter in depth. Make this counterbore at most .002” larger than the shoulder diameter. This removes shear load from the bolt threads and also prevents the bolt from bending at the relief cut where shoulder meets the smaller diameter threads. On something supported outboard, like the yoke on this vise, or a clevis, the counterbore can be just enough to true the surface/make it perpendicular to the threads, so that contact of the shoulder is complete. Otherwise it puts extreme load, again, on the relief cut between the shoulder and threads.

When I was a MFG engineer I often had equipment/fixturing on my production lines that was designed by others, or purchased through vendors, that didn’t follow these rules. We constantly woul deal with either the shoulder bolts coming loose, bending, or flat out breaking. When I repaired or redesigned them I always followed the above and the problems stopped.

Best

Steve

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Yep, I agree that a properly-fitted/machined counterbore would definitely be a good way to avoid shear and bending forces at the the relief cut, which is the principal stress riser location in a shoulder bolt. When torqued to produce the correct stretch in the bolt (or to specs for the bolt material, size, threads, etc.) and engineered for the intended use and load, it's an excellent approach.

Al (Steamboat)

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Greetings Steamboat,

         I have 3 caulking vises simulator to yours. The original upsetting block was cast and bolt through the base. Reproductions at one time were available by an east cost casting company which I bought 2 . Sorry they are no longer in business.. They sold them on line and at the SOFA tail gate sales. Originally they came with replaceable movable jaws that had cut outs for round stock. Most were lost. One improvement I made was to add a 1/8 shim to the fixed jaw which will allow the vise to close tight. This will also raise the pedal height to a more comfortable position.  Have fun and a great restoration. 

Forge on and make beautiful things 

Jim

 

 

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Thanks for the comments, Jim. I've seen photos of the accessory jaws with the half-round grooves, but I don't have any of those...just the flat jaws. Fortunately, my vise already closes tightly without having to add a shim or jaw liners, and I've set up the foot pedal so it rises on its own to a comfortable height. The jaws close completely when the pedal is pushed down within about one inch of the base, so I have a little extra travel available that will allow for future wear. I gained some extra travel when I replaced the worn pivot bolts. I think that I may already have a milling cutter that closely matches the profile of the teeth cast into the body of the vise, so it's just a matter of finding time for yet another project to make an upsetting block/stop.

Cheers,

Al (Steamboat)

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Al,

I just picked up what I can only assume is the same model is yours those diagrams are going to be a big help with fixing mine I already replaced the missing spring so it works at least.D03808A2-E9CB-4541-A653-DA23C8BD5A3D.thumb.jpeg.93b002797483f2d2ec6258399f506d3e.jpeg

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Yeah, it looks like the same model, and it appears to be in good condition. Glad the diagrams were useful to you.

I've been busy with tons of other projects lately, so I haven't posted to the forum for a while, but I'm hoping to get back to some blacksmithing projects soon and start posting again.

Cheers,

Al (Steamboat)

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