Low Profile Vise

A tipical problem: I need to mill a slightly long part, let’s say, a 10x10x130mm bar. Sure, you can use the good Sherline vise and clamp the part by the middle, but vibration at the ends of the part is a problem.  So after getting inspired by this and this , I decided to build my own wide low profile vise.

Start point

First, I bought a pair of used step jaws. They are really high precision, and include two stop options. As I understand this jaw types are for Kurt type vises, the big brand in professional vises (of course my vise will be a joke compared to one of this vises, but that’s not the point).


Design specs were:

  • Low profile
  • 4″ wide
  • Interchangeable jaws (must fit my Kurt 4″ jaws of course).
  • Should have stops.
  • Should be able to be used in the X or Y axis.
  • Should not require clamps for installing.
  • For light duty work (well, this cover Sherline use).
  • And, of course, a simple design.

I choose 1/2″ tooling plate for the base and 1″ square bar stock for jaw supports. As always, after some draft drawings I began the building process.


Main steps in building this thing were:

  • Cutting to size and squaring the base plate
  • Milling T slots (easier than what I expected).
  • Cutting and squaring jaw supports.
  • Drilling a lot of holes (harder than what I expected).

Some parts appears in previous posts. Here are some pics.

And here’s the assembled and installed vise.


After clamping an aluminum bar I found a problem: front and back supports lift about 0.5mm after tightening; it seems aluminum over aluminum lifts, but t-nuts remains fixed. So after that I add a key to the fixed jaw support (previous pics show that); at least this will allow to keep alignment.

Installing it’s a bit tricky, as two of the clamping screws go below the back jaw support.

How much clamping force? I don’t know, but at least I was able to raise the whole mill holding the clamped bar with both hands (I was not able to take a picture of this). That’s enought to me. Here are my vise and the Sherline one.

Tightening looks, at first, a bit troublesome, as this requires to tighten 8 screws, but anyway it’s a less than a minute process, so I can live with that.

Final Toughts

Sure, this is a light duty vise, but I love the step jaws, the stops and the fact it’s low profile.

I must admit I would have like a larger back for the movable jaw support, but space limitations led me to the actual design.

This vise can be used to clamp small flat plates, but a simpler solution for this are Dave Hylands Fly Cutting Clamps. They are the best practical design I’ve seen fot this type of clamps, so for sure I will anotate this in my long list of some-day-I-will-do projects.

3 Responses

  1. Another of my want-to-do project. I must try to stop reading your posts; project lists getting too long but time too little. Think I need to seek help on this.

    This low profile vise looks easier for me to implement than the others. I’ll give it a shot. First off, to buy the T-slot cutter after lunch.

    Thanks for sharing.


  2. Hi, I’m Italian and I congratulate you for your site and your works!!!
    I ask your help: how did you created the T-slots? Let me explain: What drill did you use?
    I can not find T-milling for my six millimeters spindle!
    Thanks for your help.

    1. Thanks. I was lucky as I found a 7.5x2mm woodruff cutter on a local flea market. These cutters are really hard to find. You cant try to make your own, as some guys do: http://homepage3.nifty.com/amigos/t_slot_cutter/t_slot_cutter-e.htm (very nice, a project itself, wish I try some day). Regarding the cutting process, of course you first cut the middle area with a standard end mill, and the cut the sides with the woodruff, using a small cutting depth and cleaning with a brush between passes (woodruff cutter can clog if you take too much material). As a final step I did use a small dovetail end mill to cut a small chamfer underneath the slot ways. T-nuts aren’t really “T”, they have a small radius near the threaded/flat-part join. Good luck!

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