Its been a long time since I put up a written blog posting. For those of you that have been checking back once in a while thank you for hanging in there. Much of my effort goes into the Youtube channel work that I do and I only have so much free energy these days. For more current work you can follow me in the virtual world on Instagram and Facebook.
This particular post is related to YouTube activity as well. Some of you may know a fine gentleman named Keith Fenner. He has a YouTube channel that is responsible for getting me involved in making videos about metalworking, craftsmanship and the trades.
Every year now for the last three years Keith puts together a toolbox with the intent of finding a worthy apprentice/recipient to give it to. He calls this activity "What's in your box?" This has been hugely popular and directly supports young folks getting a foothold in the trades. Candidates or acquaintances of the candidate submit a video nomination for consideration. These candidates are voted on by some of the metalworking YouTube community and the box is awarded to the selected person.
Keith accepts donations during the year of tools and material to fill the boxes so there is an opportunity for lots of folks to participate and contribute to this great cause. A good portion of the tooling items he has put up himself. This it really a powerful demonstration of Keith's dedication to the trade and his willingness to teach and foster younger folks entering the craft. Check out Keith's website for more specific detail and rules for the toolbox giveaway.
As part of this years toolbox giveaway some of the YouTube machinists community have generously volunteered to actually make some handmade tools to contribute to this years TurnWright machine works toolbox giveaway. I think this is an incredible idea and allows many folks that support the trades and the toolbox giveaway idea to contribute something deeply personal like hand crafted tools.
Of course I volunteered to do a project as part of this years giveaway. I recently announced the fact on one of my weekly Meatloaf episodes . I let folks know that the project I intended to do was fully designed and ready for fabrication. I stopped short of actually telling what the project would be to the dismay of many viewers I'm sure.
My first problem was deciding what the project would be. There was no particular shortage of small projects offered up by the participants of this years event. The problem that I had was that most of the projects I have done at one point or another in my career. Sure I could do another one of these projects for the toolbox giveaway but I really wanted to do something unique that would be challenging and of high interest to the metalworking community. Also it needed to be small enough that any reasonably equipped shop could follow along and make their own with a little Yankee ingenuity. What follows is the description and plans for the 2015 toolbox giveaway project.
Who doesn't like a Wilton bullet machinist vise? I don't know too many folks that do not appreciate a high quality bench vise. Every shop should have at least one high quality bench vise in it. Until you have used one its hard to quantify the differences in performance and the sheer pleasure of using one.
Anybody that follows my work on YouTube, Instagram and now Facebook will know that I really love using and collecting tools. Bench vises are no different. I had the pleasure of using a good Wilton vise many years ago when I was learning the trades. Once you have gone Wilton you can never go back. Needless to say I have a minor collection in my shop. Here is a short history of the Wilton vise company written by kc-Steve over on the Garage Journal forum. The Wilton vise company is a real American success story.
Here is a shot of part of the harem of Wilton vises in my shop. There are actually a couple more but getting them all into a single picture would have involved some disassembly.
This brings us to the subject of the actual project. We are going to fabricate a copy of the iconic Wilton Bullet vise from scratch. How the heck are we going to do that is the first thing that popped into many readers heads just now I'm sure.
Just to be clear this is a welding fabrication and machining project. Unfortunately for all the iron casting fans out there we won't be doing any iron casting this week. One of my criteria for the build was that folks with modest home shops could follow along with the build. The blog article is a simple way to communicate the plans to folks that want to build their own. The actual build will be videotaped and posted on YouTube at the Oxtoolco YouTube channel. This video project series will accompany the blog article and document the techniques used and the entire build process.
Wilton vises were built in a huge variety of sizes and shapes. We will focus on the iconic "Bullet" vise design. This is the first and most successful configuration of Wilton vises ever made. Wilton offers a wide range of sizes. From the monstrous eight inch bullet vise with a twelve inch (300mm) jaw opening down to the smallest currently made bullet vise the three inch wide jaw bullet.
There is a particular model of Wilton bullet vise highly prized among Wilton vise aficionados. This particular vise was manufactured in the late fifties into the mid to late 1960's. Marketed to jewelry makers combined with another Wilton invention called the Power-arm. These tiny versions of the bullet design are fairly rare with vises in good condition selling for north of three hundred dollars at the writing of this article.
I know you guys are not surprised to find out that I have one of these in my collection. You can get a good sense of size and scale in this picture. The jaws of the baby bullet are two inches (50mm) wide. It can open its tiny little mouth to just at two and a half inches (64mm). Just what every toolmaker needs right?
Here is a baby bullet mounted on the omni directional Wilton power arm. This allows you to rotate and position the vise jaws at any angle for doing fine work ergonomically. This is also really handy for welding small parts as you can orient the part favorably for welding.
Here is the corner on my welding table. I call this setup the NOGA vise after the multi directional indicator arms sold by the NOGA company. This vise can be re-positioned in a huge variety of positions allows access to weld even oddball joint orientations. This vise is a 2-1/2 wide with solid copper jaws. The copper grounding plate can just be seen peeking out the rear of the vise at the base.
Close up of the power arm showing the pivoting ball arrangement. The ball is clamped by shifting the black knob. This pushes a threaded seat up against the ball locking it the desired position. The vise can rotate as well as lay over past ninety degrees as the ball stem goes into the slot.
How the baby bullet project was conceived. Most projects in my shop start with what I call a chicken sketch. Named after the pattern that would be left if a chicken walked on the paper and left a design behind. Mentally I broke the vise down into all the different elements. Sometimes when a complex project is viewed as a whole it can be a little daunting. When you break it down like this into single parts each part magically becomes manageable.
The next step was to fully disassemble and measure all the baby bullet components. This took a little while to measure and model the vise up in Solidworks. Measuring swoopy curved castings is not trivial with generally orthographic measuring tools. In this shot I have not added any blending radii to the vise jaws themselves. This is one of the tricky areas of the build. We want it to look like the original but since folks building their own may not have access to look at one first hand there will need to be some "Artistic License"allowed in this area.
Here I have added some radii to the vise jaws. It really changes the look of the model adding a few radii. You can go crazy modeling radii sometimes so I will probably leave it like this for the build. Some of the sharp corners will be naturally filled when the various parts are welded together. The video documentation will answer some of these questions for folks that are following along building their own baby bullet.
Here is a cross section shot showing the internal guts of the baby bullet project. I didn't model the threads on the clamping screw in case anybody was wondering. This is an accurate representation of the innards of a Wilton bullet vise regardless of its size.
Here is a link to a public dropbox file folder. You can download the PDF's of the parts of the baby bullet there. You do not need to sign up for dropbox unless you want to. It is a convenient way to get higher quality documents to the folks that want to build their own vise. Click on the link and select the file you want then at the upper right click on download. As feedback comes in during the build I will most likely add drawing revisions to the folder. These will be the normal drawing format of rev A, B, C etc. Hopefully I have captured most of what is needed to build the vise.
Baby Bullet Project PDF Drawing Link Click Here
I plan to build one of these vises complete on camera for the 2015 Keith Fenner toolbox giveaway. I have had a number of folks step forward and offer to volunteer their time and equipment to help with whatever project I finally decided on. Depending on the resources of the volunteers there may be an opportunity for many folks to participate in this really honorable cause and project.
I hope you follow along with the project and build your own vise for the pure fun of it. Please comment and test all the links for me.
Thanks for looking.