So I got a Nomad 883 Pro desktop mill (made by Carbide3D) and I am loving every bit of it! It is very easy to set up, comes with an easy touch screen friendly controller, and I was out of the box making the test pieces within an hour.
All is fine and dandy when you are cutting soft, flat materials. The double sided tape on the MDF wasteboard works well, and once I was feeling pretty comfortable with my CNC; I was even cutting aluminum.
But I wanted to move on from flat pieces, and I'm not overly enamored with the double sided sticky tape method (it leaves too much goop on the backside and I've have had multiple parts break loose). Plus, I have been moving onto stock pieces that don't have enough surface area for the tape to work very well.
So I looked to the vise that was available from the Carbide3D store. And was not impressed.
I mean it's not a bad vise... it looks nice... but $120.00? It just won't work.
First of all, I want a vise that I can attach 3D printed soft jaws to, so I can workhold some interesting shapes. I'm switching over to engraving my multitools instead of laser etching, and I want to be able to quickly load parts in and out like an assembly line. This will be easy via a custom soft jaw jig.
Second, I don't like that the Carbide3D vise has a little nylon pad the presses against the dovetail floor for friction. I'm guessing that after a few over-tightenings that nylon piece will be pretty divot-ed from the screw, and maybe eventually unusable. Plus, as my freshman machine shop teacher said, "NEVER use set screws!!!" (C'mon Doc, I was a freshman, and it worked out fine)(And yes, set screws do have a time a place).
So I have taken it upon myself to build a better Nomad 883 Pro vise. The "Pro Vise".
Now I just want to say, there are plenty of vises on the market that can be adapted to fit the Nomad. But that's no fun.
Here's what I want:
1. A vise that can handle custom soft jaws.
2. A quick adjust so I'm not twisting screws for forever.
3. A mechanical lock to hold everything in place.
4. A low profile so I retain as much Z as possible.
5. A flat working surface and enclosed vise rail so clean up is easy.
Let's get to it.
First up I had to come up with a design that met all my requirements. During my design I drew inspiration from Orange Company vises and the Chick OneLOK vise. A ratchet along both sides of the vise provide quick travel when needed, and a screw will provide the fine adjustment. The ratchet pawls are set outside the vise so that tightening will press the pawl farther into the ratchet teeth. I will mount the soft jaws on top of the vise jaws for ease of getting a wrench in the screws.
For the jaws, I'm using half inch steel key stock, which I've machined square, and drilled and tapped for the attachments.
The slide surface is also steel, cut out on the plasma table. Regular vises would have a machined and ground slide ensuring maximum precision. At some point I might come back and surface this, but after sanding it flatter with a belt sander, it's only a few thousands out of flat from end to end (when bolted to the Nomad's table), which is precise enough for me.
For the ratchet, I figured the Nomad should help build it's own vise. I drilled the mounting holes first into sized aluminum bar stock, which will allow me to screw the stock directly to the Nomad's bed. The Nomad then machines out the ratchet teeth (at 0.01" depth of cut, 9200 rpm, 8 ipm feed, 1 ipm plunge) Again, I didn't machine the bottom surface, but it didn't affect my tolerances for the worse.
Finally, the rail slides and stops were 3D printed. The quick adjust handles/pawls are also 3D printed (for now, they will be aluminum eventually), but the 3D print actually holds up really well for this application. I've machined several parts so far and they haven't deformed or broken. They should last long enough for me to machine aluminum versions of them on the vise. Meta machine improvement!
And there you have it!
I put an O-Ring through the two pawl handles to help it snap closed better when ratcheting, and the whole thing works really well! So well, I can tighten down to where I can't pull the stock out of the vise with my bare hands, and I mean really pulling hard. That's definitely enough holding force to withstand the small torque by an 1/8" end mill.
3D printing soft jaws is my new favorite workflow for identical parts. I made jaws to hold my multi tools so that I can engrave the front of one and the back of the other simultaneously, then swap the two and engrave the obverse sides rather efficiently.
That's all I've got for this project. I'll definitely be using this vise a lot in future projects, and I'll probably find some problems with it that need improving too. Thanks for reading!