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"harbor Fright" Mill Vise Tweaking?

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Finster

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#1
I was at Harbor freight the other day looking at cheap throw away stuff. I noticed the ultra sloppy mill vises they have for around $70. I was wondering if anyone has ever tried to tweak one and make a real mill vise out of it or are they just total unusable garbage? Without buying one and playing, I was thinking better screws and maybe playing with the dovetails, gib's and what not. They are super lite weight so it would probably be almost useless for anything but the smallest jobs. I'm thinking of giving it a go just for fun. I can always use a new anchor for the boat anyway. Has anyone ever tried it?
 

Bob Korves

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#2
I recommend you go out and find an old quality vise to clean up and tweak rather than wasting your time on a HF vise. It is better to start with a candidate that has good bones. HF vises are known to contain some of the worst cast iron around. Some of their bench vises have jaws fallen off when you open the nice clean box. You can read the reviews online for the model number you were looking at to find out what others think about it. Read ALL the reviews for the EXACT part number you are contemplating before buying it, and do the same for anything you buy at HF. They have some real gems there along with plenty of garbage. I rebuilt an old Bridgeport vise that came with a mill I bought. It looked like hell, but there was a very nice vise hiding under all the grime. I am totally happy with it, and I don't think I would be saying that if it was a tweaked HF vise.
 

Finster

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#3
I recommend you go out and find an old quality vise to clean up and tweak rather than wasting your time on a HF vise. It is better to start with a candidate that has good bones. HF vises are known to contain some of the worst cast iron around. Some of their bench vises have jaws fallen off when you open the nice clean box. You can read the reviews online for the model number you were looking at to find out what others think about it. Read ALL the reviews for the EXACT part number you are contemplating before buying it, and do the same for anything you buy at HF. They have some real gems there along with plenty of garbage. I rebuilt an old Bridgeport vise that came with a mill I bought. It looked like hell, but there was a very nice vise hiding under all the grime. I am totally happy with it, and I don't think I would be saying that if it was a tweaked HF vise.
Yep I agree. I figured they weren't worth messing with. Fact is, I have a nice swivel vise for my mill so I don't need one. I was just looking for something to play with and maybe use it on my cheapo drill press. Guess I'll pass. There are vises galore at flea markets and yard sales during the summer. Often they are very cheap. A lot of people don't know what they have. I'll just wait since I don't really need it.
 

kd4gij

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#4
If you are talking about the x-y vise they have, It isn't for a mill. but with a little tweaking it is fine for a drill press. I have one. There is a thread on here about tweaking it.
 

casca92

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#5
If you are talking about the x-y vise they have, It isn't for a mill. but with a little tweaking it is fine for a drill press. I have one. There is a thread on here about tweaking it.
Greetings
would you have a link for the tweak on the x y vise. I ordered one stuck it on the bench and never thought about it until I wanted to use it. after the 90 days was up I found I got a nice boat anchor instead. so got to try an salvage it if I can
thanx
casca92
 

Charles Spencer

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#7
I've got an x-y vise from Amazon that I'm sure is very similar. However I'm not as ambitious as those in the above posts. Basically what I did was

clean off the grease
file the edges
clean up the ways and dovetails with emery cloth followed by steel wool
cleaned up, deburred, straightened, and adjusted the gibs
piled washers under the cranks to remove most of the slack (see the arrows in photo)

Now it works quite well enough for what I do on my drill press

I don't think I'd use the dials for measuring. You can install stops to set it up for repeatability.

press 6 hm.jpg
 

Bob Korves

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#8
I've got an x-y vise from Amazon that I'm sure is very similar. However I'm not as ambitious as those in the above posts. Basically what I did was

clean off the grease
file the edges
clean up the ways and dovetails with emery cloth followed by steel wool
cleaned up, deburred, straightened, and adjusted the gibs
piled washers under the cranks to remove most of the slack (see the arrows in photo)

Now it works quite well enough for what I do on my drill press

I don't think I'd use the dials for measuring. You can install stops to set it up for repeatability.

View attachment 234802
I have a similar XY vise that I have had for about 30 years and never used once, because of the issues it has. It would likely work fine if I got after it like you did, Charles. Need to move that up on my long list of projects. I also have a drill press like yours from what I can see of it.
 

RandyWilson

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#9
On day while walking through HF (Seems I do that a lot) I spied the various vises on sale. The vise that came with my mill is quite large. So I bought the little 4" vise for around $10 after sale and the ever-present 20% coupon. When I got it home and opened the box, I started to put it right back for a return. But then I thought that for $10, I should keep it and see if I can make something usable out of it. A beginners practice piece, if you will. So far I have milled the bottom flat (0.060" warpage/roughness). That was a good practice figuring out how to firmly clamp the thing upside down true to the slide. Next up I will address taking some of the slop out of the moving jaw. This will likely require milling the bottom of the jaw and possibly making an adjustment shim holder.
 
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