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Soft jaws for a vise


Glenn

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What do you use as soft jaws, that do not leave marks, for your vise?

For metal soft jaws, use non-ferrous pipe such as copper, brass, aluminum, etc.  Cut the pipe a little longer than the vise jaws, then cut the pipe again the long way.  Flatten it out, put it in the vise and fold a bit of the metal over the top of the jaw to hold it in place.  A radiator hose, heater hose, plastic hose works the same way.

Use two pieces of wood.

Depending on the project, you can use leather, the material from a plastic bucket, etc.  

 

What do you suggest as materials for soft jaws for a vise?

 

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  • Glenn changed the title to Soft jaws for a vise

Depends on whether the workpiece is going to be worked hot or cold. When working hot metal, a piece of copper or brass pipe as described works well, while wood, leather, or plastic can char, melt, or burn. 

 

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 Cooper tubing that is used for plumbing water cut flattened out and formed to fit the vise. I didn't think it would work being that its paper thin until I tried it.

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  Magnets sometimes work good for holding soft jaws on, until the magnots fall off.  Just gluem back in. Had a cheap pair of aluminum ones from a tool outlet that lasted that lasted for a couple years.  Soft jaws make fun little casting projects too.

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Even 1/8" or 1/4" mild steel sheet will work. I fit it hot. A cut on both sides of the sheet will enable you to have cheeks on both the vertical face and the horizontal face that can be folded hot into place. 

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I cut the ends of the al angle and bent them to fit snugly over the ends of the vise jaws. THEN realized I'd have to make another set for the other vise! I cut the folded ends off, being 2" angle they're pretty stable just sitting there, I just have to be a little careful not to knock them off. It's not a thing.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Well, lol, just me being me as usual.  ;)  For me angle iron just doesnt get it for a couple of reasons. first, the top of most post vices is not flat.  They often curve in both directions once you leave the top of the edge. This means that while you are clamping something, the angle iron cover will move, wobble, or get clamped at a weird angle. Sure you can work around this, but when you want to work say half square hot, I just don't want to fumbdiddle with where the protectors are going to end up. Time is precious, heats are short. Second, angle iron has a very sharp edge. This means that when you clamp your work in the vertical and are going to upset, you drive your work down into the sharp and score your iron. Cheeks are a must for me. why? well, for one, when upsetting from the horizontal, there is nothing to keep your iron and jaw protectors from sliding out the backside, no matter how tight they are clamped. Not worth the hassle for me. 

So my solution is to hot fit a piece of sheet metal to the top complex curve and add cheeks from both the top and sides. They stay in place and protect your work from sharp edges. Besides, we are blacksmiths and we love to move hot iron.  :) 

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Oh come on anvil, are you messing with us or cant you really form angle iron to fit your vise jaws so they stay put or form the upper surface to whatever curve you like? I'd feel kind of insulted if you were serious about the "sharp" edges of angle iron being a problem to anybody but a first timer.

Frosty The Lucky.

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IMO I don't really see the need for soft jaws if you're working with hot iron, but maybe I'm overlooking something? Soft jaws, in my mind, are for cold work. Or at least are for instances where the part that's being held in the vice isn't hot. I use either wood or copper depending on the amount of squish I need it to have.. Sure you could use copper or nonferrous alloys hot (you might melt aluminum..), but some of the other options that have been mentioned (i.e. wood, plastic, leather) would not be long for this world if you introduce heat into the equation.

I would not use mild steel sheet for soft jaws... but that's just me.

I have some 2x2x1/2" angle iron jaws that i use for making 90° bends in the vice. I have a third section with a solid semicircular piece welded down the center of one of the inside faces for holding tapers. However, none of those are soft jaws. Those are more like vice insert tooling.. And yes, I put a nice radius on the sharp(ish) outside corner.

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Lol,,, Thomas, assumptions are what they are. I assumed just using the angle iron cold not forged.  Why didn't you remove the cross hatched on your vice? 

Frosty, Hey, Why the attitude? I presented how I like my vice protectors, and listed problems I've found using angle iron. I don't want any sharp edges to mar my work. For me, its not worth the time to solve these angle iron problems, small as they are, I'd rather just use a piece of 1/8" or 3/16" or even 1/4" sheet. Isn't that what this thread is about? Present different ways, and why?  Lol, I think you should use what you want as long as it gets the job done.  ;) 

I've used copper too, but found it wears out pretty quick and I've seen no difference in copper vs iron for preventing  dings etc hot or cold.

I use'd protectors/soft jaws? for quite a while, but I havent used them for a long time. They've kinda evolved into the not needed category. The primary use for my vice is filing and holding my bending forks as I do much of my bending with forks, wrench and post vice. I have an angled filing vice thats held in my post vice for most of my filing.

I use two pieces of heavy angle in my post vice as a poor mans break for sheet metal, but not for forging right angles. I do those over the edge of the anvil.  The frame on this firescreen is 3/8"x1-1/2" on the top. The inner piece of the frame is half square. The apex's of the outline of the seashell are pairs of right angle bends with a space in between for the countersunk rivet.

seashell widescreen detail_small.jpg

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Sorry I came across like I was copping attitude, anvil. I thought you had to be joking about breaking the edge on a piece of angle iron being too much trouble. A couple seconds on a grinder or maybe 30 with a file is a lot less time and trouble than cutting a piece of sheet metal and making several bends. Add 4 saw cuts and bending the ends over to clamp on the vise jaws makes it what 3-4 minutes tops for a durable permanent tool?

Honest I thought you were just flicking a little friendly guff at me so I flicked a little back. 

Frosty The Lucky.

 

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Well it was my loaner vise for folks I was starting out, I left the teeth sharp as I might someday have need of them like that; I could always use the other 10 postvises that were not so checkered. But putting sharp teeth back into the jaws would be a botheration.  Unfortunately I leant it to a college student in El Paso and it never came back before I moved 200 miles away; so no longer an issue.

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Hey, no problem, attitudes are what make us human.  I have been known to flick a bit of this and that on occasions.  

I kinda thought that might be the case with your vice. Too bad it went,,, wherever it went. Finding an old new post vice is rare.  

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I thought I'd tune up my attitude as well. I was a bit pompous on my right angle bends above. I do use my post vice for many right angle bends.  I was thinking of a specific situation, not the big picture. It depends. I learned first over the anvil, Then when they became habit, I added the post vice as a tool. Usually for a test piece or a one off where precision isn't critical, its over the anvil and a max 3 heats. Two is good and one heat is doable. When I need speed and precision, I add the post vice and my gas saver and ox/Acetl rig. As above, I start in the forge and do the initial bend with my forks. I make a tight bend and straighten both branches with my forks. Then, with a good amount of remaining heat, I clamp a branch in my vice with the bend easy to forge. I check my reference points ( 3 centerpunch marks, one on the inside edge and one on each branch and on  same side as the first). The rule for a forged right angle is to add half the thickness of the material to each side of the center mark, then set the other two. If you are using half square, you add 1/4" to each side for the upset. So as an example, if my two other reference points are set at an arbitrary 4" from center, I mark each 4-1/4". Then upset by striking the very center of each side of the bend and only the center of each. Measure with your metal folding steel ruler and when they read 4", you are done with the upset. If one branch is a little longer, then add a local heat there and only there and finish the upset. Thats usually one heat. Put it back in the forge, or use your torch, and take one more heat around the bend. When you upset it, the upset is heaviest around the top and bottom of the inside angle.  now lay it on your anvil, both branches on the anvil, and use your crosspeen gently with straight downwards blows(don't try to push it!), and move the upset material to the outside edge. A little cleanup, and done.  

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I was talking square stock, not round stock above.. When I do a right angle bend in round stock, I either start with say half square and forge weld the half round or smaller, to each end of the half square, then make my bend in the middle of the square stock. It makes a transition and looks good. I like doing this with my dinner bells, except because I use coil spring, I square up the apexs by upsetting them or drawing down the long runs inbetween the apexes.  But the formula for an upset right angle corner is to add half the diameter to each side. So for 1" square, you add a half inch to each side and for half square, add a 1/4" to each side. In case you can't tell, I really like doing right angle bends. And if you can do an upset right angle bend, you can do an any angle bend. I think they ought to be taught in most all smithing classes as a basic right beside with drawing out, upsetting and tapering, and basic scrolling

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When you say "half square" you mean 1/2" square, yes? The, "add 1/2 the thickness to the marks on each side of the center mark" would equal 1/4". 

I don't know where half round came into my head but you'd take it to mean 1/2" round. 

I was thinking half round like for a railing cap, a half round shape. 

The fog begins to clear! :)

Frosty The Lucky.

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It was prolly because I used the wrong word. I used "diameter" when I should have used "thickness". And yup, half square = 1/2" square.

The reason I corrected myself was because of an assumption I made from Frazer's post about making right angle bends on a post vice.  I want a radius'd inside edge and a sharp outside edge. The only way to get a sharp outside edge is to upset the area around the bend. This is pretty basic, so meant for those who don't know. When you bend a piece of iron, the outside edge is drawn out, the inside edge is upset, and the centerline stays the same length. So to get a sharp outside edge, you have to add back that lost mass. Upsetting like I described is a quick and precise way to get it back. I believe he was talking of a radius'd bend and I am talking of a forged right angle. two different critters, and both are important ways to deal with bends.

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