I’ve gotten tired of the cheap vises I originally bought with my machine (both low quality Chinese or Taiwanese units), as well as the used double station vise I picked up off Ebay (which I don’t see a brand name on). I set out to find some new ones with a few goals:
- Maximize density on the table.
- Get ‘good enough’ accuracy. Most of the time I don’t expect my machine to hold 0.001″, and never better than that.
- Minimize cost.
I started by looking at vises in general, but primarily 6″ and 4″ units. After screwing around in Solidworks a bit, I confirmed that there is really no way for me to fit more than two 6″ vises from any brand on my table without significantly reducing Y-axis movement. That’s probably fine for most of what I do, but I have some small parts I’d really like to be able to drop a lot of in these, so higher density would be nice.
Once I focused on 4″ units, it really came down to a few options:
Quad-I is unfortunately out of business, but based on my findings on Practical Machinist and Ebay they made some stuff that would have been perfect. Probably would have been too good (and pricey) for use in the case, but regardless not an option.
Between the Shars and Glacern vises there were a few things to compare:
- Glacern offers matching bed heights, Shars does not. I don’t think this will be critical for me, but something to keep in mind.
- Price: Glacern $360; Shars $250 (plus shipping for both).
- Overall length: Glacern lists theirs as 13.2″ long, versus Shars at 13.779″ (I’m thinking they shouldn’t have listed that level of accuracy though…).
- Distance between jaws: both give dimensions with 0.59″ thick jaws, Glacern says 4.05″, Shars says 6.02″.
- Similar overall width: Glacern at 6.35″, Shars at 6.535″.
Both units take standard jaws (3/8″-16 bolts on 2.5″ centers); standard mounting dimensions (5.25″ centers); 2.25″ +/-0.0005″ bed heights; use the wedge & hemisphere type anti-lift jaw (Kurt invented this as ‘AngLock’); have integral key and double bolt fixed jaws.
If I were putting this on a Haas or Fadal or other serious machine I would likely never have looked at Shars at all, but I figured in this case it was worth it and bought two. I can fit three (and squeeze in half a fourth if necessary), but this should be good for now.
Unboxing time. Pretty clear that they’re reusing boxes from other parts for the external shipping box. That said, the box for the vise itself (bottom right corner here) at least looks neat.
Inside, there’s two pieces of foam and a smaller box with the handle in it. I’m not actually going to use this handle, but I did notice that it’s just bouncing around in its box (banging on the side of the vice), which seems like an oversight to me. It’s clearly beaten up the box it’s in really well.
The vises also include individual data sheets, although I have my doubts about their veracity (the classic cheap tool QC ‘measurement’ that looks hand written but is printed on is definitely a warning sign here). The numbers in the upper right hands corners do at least match the serial numbers shipped to me.
The vise itself is in a blue plastic bag with a decent but not overly thick coating of a pretty sticky oil (does not appear to be as viscous as Cosmoline or any of the other really thick oils I’ve seen on other cheap vises).
Once these were on the bed I tried out loosening and tightening them, and these things are seriously tight. No problem with my standard short ratchet wrench that I use on the mill anyway, but still concerning. Upon further inspection, it looks like there is junk in the threads. If that’s gotten into the nut portion of the moving jaw, it may be binding. Alternatively it might just be a very tight
Overall, the fit and finish is basically what I expected. From a mechanical perspective, the fixed jaw key doesn’t look great. The key itself doesn’t look the same from one unit to the next, and I can’t tell if there’s a weird relief being cut where the key meets the jaw, or if that’s just a poorly ground surface. There are also paints flecks in a few spots that should be bare and bare metal in a few spots there should be paint. I see minimal tool marks on most of the surfaces seen from the top, I’m not sure if these have been polished post-grinding or if this is just a finer ground finish than I’m used to seeing.
The bottom has similar issues to the top in terms of paint. Not a big deal, but also not that hard to get right. The vise includes two 1/2″ x 3/4″ keys but I have 9/16″ slots so they’re not useful to me. It is nice that it has key locations along both axes. The grinding on this side is definitely visible and looks a little non-uniform, I can’t figure out if this is scratches from some other part of manufacturing and not all grinding marks.
That’s it for unboxing, next step will be measuring these things to see if they match the specified flatness and parallelism.