One-Hand Quick-Change Vise Maximizes Freedom for Soft Jaws
A “four-leaf clover” device enables machining of deep profiles into four different directions of the jaw. Developed in a Pennsylvania job shop, the vise system is now marketed to other shops.
Soft jaws are a hard reality for Beistel Machining. Serving makers of electrical transmission equipment among other customers, this 11-employee job shop in Donora, Pennsylvania, frequently machines brass castings that are best held using vise jaws machined to match the form of the part. For increased productivity, shop owner Brent Beistel wanted a vise system allowing for easy, rapid change-over from one soft-jaw job to the next. And for reduced tooling inventory, he wanted to increase the number of jobs he can hold with each set of jaws. He ended up devising the system he wanted: a one-hand, quick-change vise system allowing for machining of jaw forms into all four edges around the jaw. Now, he markets this vise design through a sister company he launched last year, Byce Tool Workholding.
Mr. Beistel wears his love of machining on his sleeve, almost literally. We first met him several years ago, when we noticed his CNC-machining-inspired tattoo. A natural tinkerer like many machinists, he had a hard time not imagining the vise he thought he was looking for. He says he would sketch and modify drawings of the vise mechanism late at night in front of the TV. Then, “In December 2015, when business was slow, I decided we’d create this vise,” he says. “We started machining components, figuring out what worked and what didn’t, and proving out the design.”
The key to the vise system he developed is a quick-change clamp for the underside of the jaw block that includes an overhanging angled surface for precise location, along with spring-loaded balls to secure the jaw in place. Removing the jaw to reorient it or replace it with another jaw is a one-handed step that consists of pushing the jaw against the spring-loaded balls so the jaw can be “unhooked” from underneath the jutting angled surface. Here is what that looks like:
As the video and the photos above show, the clamp secures the jaw entirely from the underside and center of the jaw. A four-way clamping/locating feature on the jaw’s underside—it resembles a four-leaf clover—is what makes it possible to machine workholding forms into four different faces of each jaw. This feature permits each jaw to be secured in every 90-degree position, and thanks to the small footprint of this clover form in the jaw’s center, users can cut deep profiles into the jaws without this machining reaching or interfering with the clamp mechanism.
Mr. Beistel’s own Pennsylvania shop will produce the vises. He is quick to stress that the product is American-made. Indeed, at least at first, it will be made by one American in particular. While the product is still new and still winning its earliest users, he says, he plans to continue assembling every Byce Tool vise personally.
Many job shops start in a garage with a used mill and a manual lathe. The owners of this Utah job shop took a different tack. Along the way to a very successful business, they've debunked a bunch of myths commonly held about job shops.
When the length and stiffness of a workpiece make it difficult to machine, many turn to the steady rest.
As demonstrated at this Cincinnati-area shop, machines that both mill and turn shine brightest when workpieces are massive.