# 1 Building the Chas Parker Jaws

978 Chas Parker 8″ jaws

I’ve been building jaws for some time now, and have been asked to build a couple pairs of Chas Parker jaws by various people.  Well, it took me a year before I decided to try my luck.  I was sent two different 8″ jaws from two different 978 Parker vises.  I own the Parker 956 (6″ jaws) vise, and my neighbor has a  973 (3″ jaws) in excellent shape.  Then another customer sent me a 4-3/4 set  to reproduce.

So, I had three to fit, and one extra size to build.  Hopefully I could do this.  Being a retired Mold Maker, I knew they were not impossible to make, but  selling them would probably be the hard part because they wouldn’t be cheap. Building these particular jaws would be very time consuming and require many setups. I don’t own a Wire EDM, a Horizontal Milling machine (which was used to build them) or a 4th axis VMC machine. I do have a CNC and a surface grinder. My 3-d software that I used  building Injection Molds would also be a big help.

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Chas Parker 956 6″ jaws.

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Measuring 8″ Parker jaws on a CNC with a microscope.

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8″ Chas Parker’s serration cutting.

First I had to figure out the geometry.  I used a microscope in my CNC and found points that I could create in my CAD program like a dot-to-dot puzzle.  The A-2 tool steel I use is expensive, so I really didn’t want to make any mistakes. After I created the geometry, I double checked the angle on the surface plate just to be sure. The top and face angle on the vise must be nails on or the jaw faces will not meet flush when you close the vise. I was trying to figure out why Chas Parker used this design, and the only answer I came up with had to do with the jaw support. If a hammer blow was missed, the Static and Dynamic jaw supports would not break like you sometimes see on simpler jaw designs found in Wilton’s.

My evaluation was that all four jaws were built with different angle. This creates more work, so instead of creating this angle on a Staggered Tooth type cutter, I would have to create the angle on my surface grinder wheel instead. I didn’t want to make different angled cutters and have to re-sharpen them to the right angle.  It was easier to dress the correct angle on the grinding wheel, but first the jaws had to be roughed out before going to the surface grinder.

Chas Parker first cuts (6)

Sweeping in a gage pin to find the edge of the Parker jaws on the sine plate.

After I cut the serrations, I set the blocks up in a vise bolted to a large sine plate made for heavy cutting on a CNC or a Bridgeport type machine.  The jaw block had to be located precisely on the correct angle; the 8″ was set at 12.54 degrees and the others were up to 18 degrees like the 3″ set.  I used the CAD program to calculate location but it could also be done with trig. I also set the tools to the top of the pin because I found this was the easiest for setting all my cutters.

Chas Parker first cuts (8)

Scallop cutting with a 3/8 ball end mill.

After roughing out most of the material,  I programed cutting a finishing cut with a ball end mill.  I did a step over with 3 dimensional cutting of .015 per scallop.  It took time to cut that way, but it was the simplest way I could do it with the machines I have.

I’m excited to write  about finishing and fitting the incredible Chas Parker jaws, but I have to end this blog until I can get caught up on my Wilton orders.  So stay tuned.  You’ll be able to find them on my other site  benchvisejaws.com as soon as they’re ready.

Vise Jaw Steel and Heat Treating: Why It Matters

A tool is only as good as the material it is made from.  Vise jaws can be made out of just about anything from brass or aluminum to copper or soft steel.  The best material for vise jaws is Tool Steel.

Bronze jaws for a 820 Wilton vise

Bronze jaws for a 820 Wilton vise

There are several options for what kind of Tool Steel to use. I am an Old Timer.  Based on my personal experience,  I would choose  S-7 or A-2.  I believe S-7 is the best choice for Bench Jaws, but I use A-2.  That’s because  it’s easier to find and buy, and it comes in a wider selection of sizes in bar form.  The most important reason I choose A-2 is because it is more stable after Heat Treating.   Out of the oven, most Tool Steels are over 60 Rockwell, which is way too hard and brittle to use.

After the steel is cooled then it must be  placed back in an annealing oven and re-heated to a certain temperature.  For instance, S-7 to 500 degrees and A-2 to 1000 degrees, will take them both down to a tough but less brittle 54-56 R/C.   This means when I weld, or use my torch  flame close to A-2 jaws,  I don’t worry about changing its hardness.

Here is a description of A-2 Tool Steel from Hudson-Metals.com:

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A-2 Tool Steel Bar Stock

“A2 Tool Steel is a versatile, air-hardening tool steel that is characterized by good toughness and excellent dimensional stability in heat treatment. A2 is intermediate in wear resistance between O1 oil-hardening tool steel and D2 high-carbon, high-chromium tool steel. A2 provides an effective combination of strength and toughness, tool performance, price, and a wide variety of product forms.  APPLICATIONS: Punches and dies, chuck jaws, cutting tools for woodworking, tooling for plastic injection, dowel pins, hammers, industrial knives, and gauges.

The original Wilton jaws built in the early 40’s to late 60’s were very hard. You can find some of these old Bullet Vises around with still sharp serrations even though they are over 50 years old.  See the photo below with two old jaws from the 50’s and the new ones made by WiltonViseParts.  The old ones can still can be used.

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Old jaws next to new jaws.

My Heat Treater and I tested several old jaw sets for their hardness and found they were a consistent 54-56 Rockwell Hardness.  He believed they were made from an Oil Hardening Tool steel like O-1 which is an oil quench.  That was a popular Tool Steel used at that time.  A-2 and S-7 are both air cooled, and that is one reason they are so stable after heat treating. I have made jaws out of O-1, but found they warped more than I liked; about .007 over 5″.  The A-2 shows no sign of warping, so that means the jaw face stays flat and will close  parallel as it should.

When annealing Tool Steel, you can induce an inert gas to keep the jaws from oxidizing.  My Heat Treater likes to use nitrogen. When nitrogen is used at 1000 degrees, and it adds a colorful pattern to the A-2 steel.  Each jaw pattern is unique.  See some examples in the picture below.

If the jaws are made from a good Tool Steel and heat treated to a proper hardness, then they should last the life of your vise.  If you clamp a hard object like a car axle, or tighten down on a hard object like U-joints which are about the same hardness as your jaws, then the serrations will flatten or chip.  Copper Caps not only protect the work piece, but also protect the jaw faces.

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Colorful 3-1/2 x 3/4 x 1/2 Jaw Set

One thing I tell my customers is that they are buying a Premium set of replacement jaws, and if cared for, they should never need to buy more.

Building Swivel Clamps

Swivel Clamps

Swivel clamps are an important part of the old vises that often end up needing attention.  Some of the older Bullet vises had swivel clamps that were built out of hex stock, so I decided to try my luck at building some of these.  I chose to use just CRS for the hex part of the body.  I built a set of aluminum jaws for my Kurt machine vise with the 3/4 and 7/8 hex machined into the jaws.  I can clamp two at a time to machine the round part above the hex. Hex-Swivel-Clamps (5)The 3/4 hex body is 1-3/8 tall while the 7/8 are 1-5/8 tall.

Handles are prone to bend and often end up taking abuse from all you hammer and extension pipe guys, so replacing them with steel that is stronger than the original is a good way to increase an old vise’s lifespan.  I use 1144 CRS steel,  that is a modified SAE 1144 steel which is semi-hard and very strong.  This steel is a higher-strength alloy than 1018.Hex-Swivel-Clamps (3) Click here to read more about this steel.

Then I build a clamp setup (in the pic, underneath the radius punches) out of P-20 Mold steel and give the handle material about .007-.012 of pinch, the two steel pieces are pinned and bolted together, then drilled and reamed to size in the two halves on center.  I then machine off the pinched amount on the mating faces.   radius punchWhat you can’t see in the pictures is that I leave the handle material about 5/16 above clamp fixture and squeeze it tight in the vise. I heat it till it is cherry red before using another piece of P-20 tool steel that has a radius cut in the end like a punch.Making Swivel Handles (2) I use three radius sizes so far for different handle sizes, 1/4, 3/8 an 1/2 R.  It takes me no more then three times heating the handle ends cherry red and hammering the end radius on the swivel handles till I reach a set dimension normally at least 1/16 larger then the shaft diameter. It does take more then three times with heat and pinching doing handles over 3/8 in diameter.Making Swivel Handles (3) Making Swivel Handles (7)I have figured out through experience what is important. How hard to hit, keeping the punch perpendicular, and when to stop so the ends are a uniform size.  Having the proper jigs, a good strong vise to hold them, the right size hammer, and a lot of practice is all you need. Note the swivel clamps below for a large Reed vise. This method can support many different types of swivel clamps out there. If you want to purchase some of the ones I make then select this link. Wilton Swivel Clamps.

Making Swivel Handles (8)

Medium size Wilton swivel clamps (1)