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Mounting a Drill Press Vise (vice):

How should a drill press vise be permanently mounted?

A couple of years ago I bought a drilling vice but never got round to unpacking it. I have now decided to fit the vice to the drill press. It seems to be stupid holding work by hand when I have got the correct tool!

Question 1. Do I attach the vice to the base or to the platform?

Normally to the table (platform). Most work is done on the table. The machined base is rarely used except for very large work (in proportion to the machine).

Question 2. The base and the platform each have slots cut to take a vice. These run from front to back. They don't mate up with any holes in the vice. The slots in the vice would allow for left and right movement. What should I do? I had thought about

This is tricky. But a little logic sorts it out.
You do not want to mount the vise so that the line of the jaws is right to left. Every time you clamp work you would need to loosen and adjust the vise in and out.

Since the table does not rotate then the vise needs to be able to move in and out or be mounted so the jaws axis is perpendicular to the table (a line toward the column) so the work can move in and out and the table right to left. However, this means the work will be in line with the column and the operator. So long pieces are a problem.

That leaves mounting the vise diagonal to the table and centered under the spindle. Long work can slide through the jaws in either direction and the table can be used to center right to left. This does not look nice and neatly "machine like" but it is the best solution. If the vise has parallel ways with a gap in between try to set the vise where holes drilled through a variety of work sizes do not hit the vise. This is one of those areas of compromise.
As a right hander I normally prefer the vise handle to be toward the right but it does not make a lot of difference.

While you hate to drill into a brand new drill press table I would drill or drill and tap holes for the vise once I've found the optimum position. You MIGHT get one corner to line up with a slot and if two work at the right angle GREAT! If you make holes for the vise in the optimum location then students could take it off and replace it without needing the long explanation above. Most light duty drill press have thin table so through holes may be best. Check for ribs on the bottom side before determining that final location.

The vise I found for my drill presses is a non tilting Wilton drill press vise that they no longer make. It is sort of like this but larger with four corner mounting lugs.

On the old drill presses the table rotates as well as swings on the column so the location of the vise is not so critical. Every square inch of the table can be put under the spindle. However, for heavy drilling you want the work supported on the center line of the arm as even heavy drill press arms spring.

I saw an article recently on drill press table repair titled "The Arc of Shame". The arc is the line across a swinging but non rotating tables that can be drilled into . . . Some machines end up with the table nearly cut in two from holes drilled into the table. There is NO excuse for that.

I always put piece of wood under my work when drilling if there is any possibility of drilling into the vise or table. For work without a vise the hole in the table should always be in line with the spindle. Teach your students to do that and you will save a lot of holes getting drilled in the table.

The worst part about non-rotating tables? You will need to remove it or use a hand drill to drill the holes to mount the vise.


References and Links

Copyright © 2009 Jock Dempsey,

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