House of Hacks

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

How to make soft jaws for a vise - Part 2

This shows some improvements to the wooden soft jaws made in part 1.


Hi Makers, Builders and Do-It-Yourselfers. Harley here with another episode here at the House of Hacks. Last episode I showed you how to make some soft jaws for the vise so you could clamp things without using the metal jaws on the vise to mar things up. This gives you a more resilient surface so you don't… if you have projects that are already finished and you need to put them in the vise, they won't get marred by the metal jaws. So that's the purpose of these. Last episode I just cut it out and we had a couple pieces of wood that fit in the vise. This episode we'll go through and I have some improvements to these, clean them up a bit and finish them off as a project.

If you didn't get to see last episode, you can click here and go take a look at it. At the end of that episode, like I said, we had two pieces of wood that just fit in the jaws here and you can clamp. Put something in here and they'll stay in place for you for the most part while you clamp something in here, just like so. This episode, one of the problems with this is they do stay in here but they're a little bit flimsy, they don't like staying in there really well. It's better than just pieces of wood that you have to hold in place. The first thing I want to do is add some magnets to this so they'll stay in place very solidly. In order to do that, we'll first go over to the drill press and drill some holes for the magnets.

I was accompanying my wife on some errands the other day and she had to go by the office store and I found these in the section where they have rubber bands and staples and paper clips and so forth. A couple packs of magnets. There's twelve of them in this pack, three quarter inches around and I don't know how thick but as I was looking at them, it looked like they'd probably fit perfect for this project. And when I got home, I found in fact they fit really, really well. They're thin enough that they're thinner than the wood. So what I'm going to do is bore a hole in the wood. I've got four marks put in here, all in the same place so they should all line up fairly well. I've set the depth gauge on the drill press so it won't go all the way through. Because we want it to be, the magentas to go below the plane, this plane so they won't cause it to rock on the vise. I think we're ready to drill these out.

Ok. I had a slight failure when I set the depth gauge. As you can see maybe from this angle, these two pieces of wood are a little different in thickness. I set the depth gauge for this piece so when I drilled out the holes on this one, they of course were shallower by the difference of the thicknesses of the wood. So the magnets fit perfect in this one, but they're a little bit proud of the plane on this one. I just reset the depth gauge and I'm going to do another pass at these to make them a little deeper.

Ok. So I'm ready to put the magnets in. I'm just going to five minute epoxy them in so they'll stay in and they'll never be coming out. One thing before I epoxy them in though, I've got four magnets here, and I've got them setup so that these two connect together nicely and these two connect together and then I also have it setup so that they go corner to corner and connect up. I'll show why I did that later in the episode, it'll become clear. But I'm just going to mark all these with a mark so I'll put the mark down when I glue them in and that way they'll all be in the orientation I want them to be in.

Ok. The epoxy's dried now and we're almost ready for the next step. I want to show you why I have the magnets arranged the way I did. It's so, number one, when the jaws are in the vise, the magnets are repulsing each other and so they won't stick to each other when they get close. They'll always be pushing away from each other to the other jaw. That's number one. Number two, for storage purposes, they clip together like that for nice compact means of storage. That's it for upgrade number one.

Upgrade number two, I'm going to drill a hole in here for hanging. We'll go over to the drill press and, it's just a simple hole. Ok, over here at the drill press I've got a quarter inch drill bit in here. That should be large enough for most nail heads and also if I want to put it on a peg board it'll be large enough for a standard size hooks that they have for those. I put a little mark here half way between this edge and this edge and half way between where the edge of the magnet is and the edge here. I'm going to come back just a hair so it's a little closer to the magnet to give me a little more wood on the top edge here. So, we should be good to go here. Just like so. Beauty.

Now that I have magnets in and the holes drilled for hanging it, the next step is, I'm going to put some paint on it, try to dress it up a little bit, make it look nicer. I'm not all that great at finish work and so I'm going to spend a little bit of time on it, just more out of practice than anything else. Sand it a little bit with increasing grades of sand paper to give it a nice smooth finish, some wood sealer to seal the wood before I put the top coat on it. Red. So that's what I'm going to do next. The next quote-unquote upgrade.

Ok, that finishes the first pass of sanding. Now I'm going to use some tack cloth here and wipe it down a little bit. Get all the dust off it from sanding. I realize I'm probably going way overboard on what I need for this little shop tool thing that nobody's going to see. But, you know, I'm of the philosophy that always do the best you can and small things like this work as practice for when your skills are really needed.

Ok. The next thing is to put on some of this wood sealer.

Ok. Going to let that sit overnight and dry.

I've got three coats of sealer now on the soft jaws. And I sanded with 320 grit between each coat just to try to smooth everything out. I think I'm now ready to put the color coat on it. So, I'll do one more final sanding with 320 just real lightly to cut the sheen and any high spots and then I'll paint it red.

I just put a final sand on it and wiped it down with tack cloth and I just created this little makeshift painting booth. This is the first time I've done anything like this, kind of see how it works out. I hung it on some wire, you can see it hanging here. And I put a hole on the top of the box and the idea is, as I paint, I can turn it to be able to get on the back side of it. We'll see how it turns out.

The makeshift painting booth idea worked really well. The box contained the overspray and the rotating wires worked to get on both sides of the object. So, overall I was really pleased with it. I did have two issues. First was, the box is a little bit on the small side and getting paint up underneath on the bottom was a bit tricky. The second thing was, when I first started, I had my two objects, the wire was bent a little bit closer than it is now and the objects, the magnets would sway together and cause them to click together, kind of like that. I had to pull it apart with the wet paint on there, clean things up, and it was really messy. I ended up spreading the wires apart a little bit and didn't have the problem anymore. Overall I would say it was a success and worked well.

The last thing I want to do to these soft jaws is put a silicone surface on it, kind of give it a rubberized jaws on it. Keep the paint from transferring to objects that it's holding and give it a little more soft jawness I guess. So, I ran into this product a couple months ago called Sugru. It's available online and I've used it for a couple projects. It's really cool stuff. It's a room temperature curing silicone putty. It's kind of like playdough from kindergarten. It comes in these sealed packets in multiple colors. This particular packet has five colors in it: orange, blue, green, black and white. I think I've used up all the black on other projects. But it comes in these little tiny packets and they're color coded. And there's a little instruction: seven steps to becoming a Sugru guru. Here's some green. I think we'll use green… actually this is black I think. We'll use black for these jaws. I think I have another one in here. White. Orange. Here we go. I don't know if I'll need one or two packets, so I'll open one and give that a try. The biggest downside to this stuff is it does have an expiry date. This says use by August and it's now a couple months after August. It still fells like it's ok to use. My guess is they're a little conservative on the dates. So, we'll open this up and hopefully it'll be good. Just cut this open… And there's just a little… Yeah, it still looks pretty good. Just kind of manipulate it with your fingers a little bit. It's a little bit on the dry side, but I think it'll still be pliable enough to work. You just kind of manipulate it a little bit to get it working well. In this case I'm just going to roll this out. It looks like I'm going to need two containers for this particular project. One for each soft jaw. I'm just going to kind of put this on here, about like so. You can use all kinds of different implements to form it the way you want it, to texture it the way you want it. I'm going to use an old ribbon cable from a old hard drive just to kind of give it some lines, texture in it. And we'll see how that works out. Try to get it fairly level and flat. And peel this off. That's kind of what it looks like. It's not a perfect job but we can kind of push this back a little bit. Square it up some. Like that. So now we'll just let that sit and I'll do the next one with another one and let it sit, let it cure, and come back to it in a little bit.

So I think that's about it for this project. The Sugru's about cured. It's been about ten hours and the packaging says it's three millimeters for 24 hours and it could probably go overnight and be a bit better. But it feels like it's pretty solid now. I really like this Sugru. I've used it on a couple projects now and it comes out really cool. It is past its lifetime though. This was definitely dryer and not as pliable to work with as it was for the last couple projects I worked on that were before the expiry date. So that's really the biggest disadvantage, particularly for me. You have to order it online and so you either have to have some on hand and risk having it go bad on you before you use it all up or you don't have it on hand and you don't have it when you need it. So, it's kind of a good news/bad news situation in that regard. I haven't quite figured out what I'm going to do with this long term as a product and using it in my hacks and stuff. So, I think that pretty much wraps up this project. It's nice and red and painted and I now have a clean spot, I'll have to redo my vise and get it repainted. It has a little hole to hang things up. Looks nice and has the silicone to buffer, give it a little padding. I'm pretty pleased with the way that turned out.

Until next time, go make something. It doesn't have to be perfect, just have fun.