Intro: Height-Adjustable Portable Vise Stand
A while back I realized that having my vise fastened to a stationary worktable was incredibly limiting.
So I mounted it to the top of a log and added an old brake rotor for a base. Then I could drag it around my shop and use it wherever it was needed. It was a game changer!
However this initial vise stand had a few shortcomings, so I decided to build this new and upgraded version.
Read on to see how I went about making this adjustable vise stand, and maybe you'll want to make one too.
Step 1: Background and Design Considerations
Here's a side-by-side look at the old stand next to the new version.
The old version was very useful and actually more sturdy than you might think.
However, here are the faults:
- in some locations on my garage floor, the stand was a little wobbly
- it never got tipped over, although it could have if I accidentally bumped it hard enough
- there were times I wished it was either a little higher or a little lower
- a few times I wanted to put a longer item in the ends of the jaws vertically, but the log was in the way
So this new version provides the following solutions:
- tripod base - always perfectly stable
- lower center of gravity as-is . . but allows for more weight to be added if needed
- adjustable height
- clearance below the vise jaws
Aside from these functional aspects, I just think it looks cool!
The height range to the top of the vise: from the ground, 32 1/2" up to 40".
That might not seem like a huge range, but it can make a big difference when using the vise to hold random sizes of hunks of metal while you're cutting and grinding.
Step 2: The Secret of This Project
The secret behind this project is the adjustable-height mechanism.
This was made by harvesting the adjustable pillar from an old Craftsman radial arm saw.
I know some people will find the idea of scrapping a tool like this offensive, but hear me out:
Where I live at least, these saws can be found at any time in local online classifieds. I've found them in various conditions, often for dirt cheap. I've even had one given to me for free.
So while they might be perfectly good tools that someone could theoretically still use . . the reality is that there is an abundance of these around, and not enough people who appreciate them, want them, and are inclined to keep and use them.
I think it's better to put some of the key parts to good use rather than see the entire thing get sent to the dump or sold as scrap.
With that in mind, I don't feel bad breaking down an old saw like this.
So I'll occasionally pick up an old Craftsman radial arm saw if I see one nearby for cheap. I'll strip it down for parts, which can be done with a few wrenches, sockets, and hex keys.
The parts include the motor and carriage assembly*, pillar assembly with a large leadscrew (what's that?) inside, a smaller leadscrew, several metal rods, lots of nuts and bolts, and all sorts of other little doo-dads and what-nots.
If you're a scrounger like me, there are a lot of useful parts worth holding on to.
*If you're doing this with a Craftsman saw, it's important to remove the motor and carriage assembly and set that aside. Do not throw it away. If you don't know what to do with it, ask google ; )
Step 3: Clean Up the Pillar Parts
With the pillar assembly separate from the rest of the radial arm saw parts, I decided to go to the trouble to take it all apart and thoroughly clean everything in degreaser.
This isn't necessary, but it's nicer to work with all clean parts.
Step 4: Modify the Crank
I'm going to call this the crank.
The long rod that extends from the base of the pillar has gears on one end that mesh with gears on the bottom of a leadscrew inside the pillar which raises and lowers the post.
This crank rod was cut down and a 3/4" hex head from an old emergency car scissor jack kit was welded to it. This short crank is used to raise and lower the post with the help of a socket attached to a cordless drill.
The following steps show the details of how this was made.
Step 5: Cut the Parts
There are probably several ways that this crank rod could be shortened and used. I just did what made sense to me based on the materials I had available.
The original crank on the radial arm saw had a handle that could simply be reattached to the cut down crank rod, but that would require hand-cranking to raise or lower the post.
So I chose to fabricate this instead.
The ends of these two pieces were cut off using a cutting disc in an angle grinder. Before cutting however, the metal surfaces were wire-brushed to remove paint and prepare them for better welds.
Step 6: Spot Welds and Masking Tape
I wasn't sure if this would work, but it did!
I first taped the the two pieces together temporarily using the wraps of tape to hold the the two pieces directly inline with each other.
This was to account for any gap that might have been on the cut ends due to me possibly not cutting them exactly perpendicular.
Two small opposing sections of tape were removed with an x-acto knife so I could do two little spot welds.
The spot welds were done and the tape burned up, but the two pieces were now tacked perfectly inline.
Once cooled, the joint was cleaned with acetone to remove the tape residue, and then a full weld bead was made around the joint.
This was then wire-brushed to make it look prettier. The finished part was shown earlier in step 4.
Step 7: Create Vise Support Plate
A scrap piece of 1/4" steel was used to create the top support plate onto which the vise will be mounted.
The vise base was traced onto the steel and it was cut out using a portable bandsaw (in my homemade stand, which is covered in this Instructable).
The plate was then spot welded to the top of the metal post using a mig welder.
The basics of my welding setup:
- Hobart 140 mig welder
- Antra auto-darkening welding helmet
- Tillman welding jacket
- basic welding gloves
- Argon/Oxygen mix gas tank
- Homemade Welding Cart
- Channellock welder's pliers
For cutting and grinding metal, I have:
- a few Makita angle grinders
- Dewalt portable bandsaw
- these bandsaw blades from Lenox, which seem really good
- - - - -
If you're new to welding I strongly recommend this excellent welding class right here on Instructables: Welding Class
Step 8: Run Bead
A full bead was then run around the top of the post and the plate.
Step 9: Add Mounting Bolts
Three 3/8" bolts were welded to the topside of the metal plate which will be used to mount the vise.
These bolts were soaked overnight in vinegar to remove the zinc plating so they would be safe to weld.
Step 10: Pillar Assembly
The pillar assembly was then put back together with fresh grease added to the gears and the internal leadscrew.
Step 11: Make a Tripod Base
This is where things got a little tricky.
I needed to take a four-cornered object with four obviously perfect mounting points, and create a three-legged base for it. I also wanted to not weld the base in place around the pillar. If I ever needed to remove the pillar I wanted to be able to do so without cutting through welds.
The solution appears simple now, but I stared at it for a while before I had a plan that seemed relatively easy and elegant. But I got there eventually. The following steps show the details of how this was made.
Step 12: Top of Base
The top of the base was made from three pieces of 1 1/2" angle iron, leaving one side open where the crank sticks out from the pillar assembly.
If you're making one of these you'll need to measure against your own pillar assembly for exact measurements. But the photos above show the process I used.
Step 13: Add Legs
The legs for the tripod were made from U-shaped scrap steel. This metal was actually the back lip of the metal table on which all the parts are showing in these photos.
Any scrap metal can be made to work - this is just what I had and felt would work out nicely.
I cut three pieces 10 inches each using my portable bandsaw. Each end was then cut with 45 degree angles using an angle grinder and cut-off disc.
The back leg was welded in place first.
Then the two remaining legs were added to the front edges of the base top as shown. I just eye-balled the angles here, and they came out close enough for me!
These two front legs had little bits of metal welded into the top gaps to reinforce them (see photos).
Step 14: Add Leg Braces
To keep the legs from splaying out and make the whole structure more rigid, I added braces between each of the tripod legs made from more scrap angle iron.
These pieces of angle iron all come from old bed frames.
The pieces were rough-cut slightly oversized, and then propped to height with a block of wood and held in place to mark where to cut them down for a perfect fit.
They were then trimmed as needed, paint was ground off, and they were welded in place.
Step 15: Add Feet and Pegs
Small feet were then added to each leg of the tripod as shown. These were cut slightly oversized to allow for the weld.
These little feet are perfect for just sliding the stand around when I need to move it.
Pegs were added to hold flat barbell weights if I ever want to put some additional weight on the stand.
Step 16: Reinforce Top Plate
At this point I added some reinforcing brackets to the top plate.
These pieces were cut and welded in place as shown.
Step 17: Test Fit
Before painting the base and final assembly I did a test fit.
Everything was looking good to me!
Step 18: Paint the Base
The base was painted with a coat of primer and then a few coats of black spray paint.
Step 19: Bolt Pillar Assembly to Base
The pillar assembly was bolted to the completed tripod base using 3/8" bolts, washers, and lock nuts.
Step 20: Mount Vise
I placed some pieces of rubber from an old yoga mat to act as little gaskets between the vise and the post top plate, just to absorb any differences in flushness that might exist between the vise and top plate.
The vise was then mounted to the stand using 3/8" locknuts and washers, the bolts were trimmed off using an angle grinder, and the excess bits of rubber were trimmed off with a utility knife.
The stand is rock solid!
And there is no play whatsoever in the post/pillar mechanism either, which is fantastic.
Step 21: Bonus Step: Vise Clean Up
I got this old vise several years ago, and at the time I snapped a few photos as I cleaned it up.
This little project was never made into an Instructable, so I'm including the photos here just for fun.
This is a Record 3VS vise made in Sheffield, England. I actually consider it a prized possession and I use it almost daily. So it really deserved a nice custom base.
When I got it, it was apparent it had led a fairly pampered (albeit slightly damp) life. Aside from being dirty and having a bit of surface rust, the vise was in excellent condition.
As shown in the photos the vise was disassembled, cleaned, rust removed, screw regreased, bare metal waxed, and reassembled.
This concludes this ministructable.
Step 22: That's It!
Thanks for reading along.
If you make a vise stand like this, please be sure to leave a comment and share some photos. I'd love to see how yours turns out!