Cutting Serrations on Jaw Faces

Customers ask how to cut serrations in the jaw faces. Here’s how I do it.

There are a couple ways of doing it.  One is using a metal shaper, which pushes an angle cutter through the steel.  Or maybe with a Bridgeport type machine you could tilt the head and use the corner of a carbide end-mill to cut the grooves.

I decided to build a fixture.  It holds carbide tipped slitting saws or carbide tipped side mill cutters with a 1″ ID 4″ OD, and range from 1/2″ thick to 3/16.

Serration Cutting-9-2017 (2)

Serration Cutting-9-2017 (1)

I also built a fixture to sharpen the cutters on my surface grinder.  I can get about a dozen jaws cut before re-sharpening.

Serration Cutting-9-2017 (5)

The holder is custom made and I made it long enough to serrate a set of 9″ wide jaws.  I can cut 7″ deep with this holder.

Next I needed an angle fixture to hold all the different fixture plates. I made the angle plate from 1-1/4 thick aluminum, and it is solid.  The fixture plates are designed to hold the jaws at 30 degrees and made so when you are through the first cut then you rotate the jaws to the other side of the fixture plate to finish the diamond serrations.

Serrating 6 at a time (3)


Jaw sizes require different pitches and depth of cuts.  The pitch is the difference between cuts.  The baby 2″ jaws have a pitch of .050 between cuts where the 8″ jaws have .125 between cuts and are much deeper of a cut.  I like about .04 square diamond on the bigger jaws where the 2″ jaws have a .020 diamond flat.

Baby Jaws serration cutting

Fixturing for the straight serrations used on Yost and Starrett jaws should be a little more accurate.  Cutting a 6″ jaw and having the jaws just a little cocked will show a crooked serration.  I use pins that the jaws rest on to keep the cuts straight.  The Starrett jaws are shaped like an L, and after cutting the serrations, I remove the material on the back side before heat treating.

Cutting Starrett jaws (3)

The Wilton 6 inch and the 8 x 1-1/2 x 1 inch jaws like the Parker jaws have to be held by a special fixture that I hold the blocks by the back side.

8 inch Chas Parkers (7)

These 8″ Parker jaws first need the serrations cut before carving out the back side for final fitting.

The serrations are obviously an important part of the grip of jaws.  Cut serrations like these are old school and well worth the effort.  The newer style jaws made after the late 1970’s are from powdered metal injected into molds, so the serrations do not have to be cut.  This easier and faster method results in a brittle jaw that chips.  The quality of the newer style will never compare to the jaws built from tool steel by the vise companies of the past.

China Jaws and USA (2)

You can see the difference in a molded set and cut serrations. I do not have to mention which is which because it is so obvious.



Replacing Your Bench Vise Handle

Bench vise handles get abused almost as much as the jaws.  When it is time for a new handle, you may have an idea how you want to do it yourself, or you can purchase one from me.  I want to share the steps I use for building handles. My way is not the only way, it’s just my way.  Things to consider are whether the spindle needs any work,  which type of steel to use,  and the method of knob installation.

Communicating back and forth with a customer is so important.  It is easy to leave out critical details on the phone or in emails, which kills a lot of time on both ends.  That is why I share a drawing with each customer to hopefully clear up any discrepancies or uncertainty.  First, I rely on the customer to provide handle specs for  the overall length and knob style and even the knob diameter.  Then I create a drawing to be accepted by the owner.  The drawing shows how the handle is made and how the knob will be slid in place with the peening material beyond the knob.

The first area I look at is the spindle handle hole.  If the hole is worn from the handle sliding for many years of use, then I consider machining out the hole to the next larger size.

The picture shows a ratchet spindle off a Prentiss that is pretty worn on the sides.  It shows that a smaller handle was used and it wore out the edges.

It is tricky locating the hole by hand,  but with a top reading indicator in my CNC,  I can find the center and also align the hole straight up and down. If you miss getting the spindle straight up and down you will not clean up the hole.  I like leaving .015 clearance for the handle bar.



Next, I begin work on the handle itself.  I like using high-strength 1144 carbon steel from McMaster Carr. This stuff is easy to machine but also very strong.  It is a little springy, and actually very difficult to bend.  If you do bend this stuff, then you are using way too much pressure on your vise.

The handle is turned with a smaller diameter on the ends.  I like a 3/8″ diameter for any knob under 1″, 7/16″ diameter for knobs under 1-3/8″, and 1/2 inch for anything bigger.  I also leave at least a 1/4″ extra for peening. 



I studied handles from all the USA vise companies, and determined the most common method for peening the knobs on.  I like to leave around a 1/4″ of peen material beyond the knob.  Then I chamfer the knob pretty heavily for the peen material to fill.   Another quicker method is to weld the knobs on.  If I were in a hurry, I would choose TIG  with no filler.

Making the knob is pretty easy, especially if you have a metal lathe. I have found it is easier to cut steps in the ball before sanding the ball smooth. The steps are cut to the arc of the radius.  When you file, sand or grind the steps down to the cut lines from the lathe bit cuts has disappeared. 

Once I rough the front radius, the back radius is easy to match. I built a holding fixture to grab the knobs and I have it extended beyond a safe distance from the lathe chuck. Each knob is drilled and reamed for a precision hole and the fixture is machined and threaded for a flat head cap screw. The knob is bolted tight and then easily worked into shape.

When a customer receives their handle back  from me, they will need to peen the opposite end after it is installed in their spindle.  I use a 6″ vise with a square slider for the handle to rest while peening.   I also use copper caps or a delrin pad to grab the handle without marring the finish.  I also rest the finished handle on a piece of delrin, nylon or aluminum to save the finished knob from being damaged.







Next, I take my oxygen acetylene torch to heat the end before peening, I like to get it pretty red before hammering.  I use a hammer that feels comfortable and easily swung.  You do not need a big hammer because the red hot steel moves pretty easily. I like to keep the torch on the work the whole time while I am hammering, since this keeps the steel from oxidizing in the fits and the chamfer.  I tend to pound straight down and move the steel close then hammer at about a 15 degree angle all the way around the knob to form the steel to the chamfer real tight  .If you haven’t forged before, it’s just a matter of patiently pounding and shaping until it looks the way you like.  Don’t rush.  The pictures show the finished peening.








This is how I finish the knobs after they cool:  First I rough grind the excess steel down with my 6 x 48 belt sander.  Then I get closer with my 1″ wide ribbon sander. The rest is hand work on the bench. Using a DA gets the scratches off pretty quickly.  Using a smooth file and then going to 120 grit sand paper, then finishing up with the Scotch Brite pad that I supply with the order, will get the same finish that I gave on the first knob.












This is pretty much how I build handles. I also add a rubber bumper to all handles.  I make these myself since I can not find a supplier that carries the ones I like.  Give me a call if you have any questions, and good luck.

Pipe Jaw Building

Making pipe jaws were a challenge in the beginning. I wanted to support the old vises by making these jaws since you can’t find any new ones very easily. My first issue was how the heck do you measure them. I wanted to build these as close to originals as possible since some customers want to replace only one.

Back in my mold making days I had to figure out how to measure shapes that were curved and needed it very accurate. I did this with a microscope attached to my CNC. I like the Skoal scope shown in my picture, which is very affordable.


I used the readout on my CNC to create points at every intersection.  On this drawing of a Starrett 326 Pipe Jaw, I added small circles at every intersection where it is easy to connect the dots.starrett_326_pipe_jaws

After squaring up the A2 Tool Steel blocks, I rough in the large and small V section where the teeth go, as with this CO Wilton Pipe Jaw. I do this so when I cut the teeth so I am not removing too much material.  It keeps the cutters corners sharp.


After carefully looking at the geometry created taken with the microscope, it became clear the teeth were rotated at 14 degrees and the teeth are cut at 90 degrees. The vise companies had special cutters made to cut the teeth at one swoop but I cannot afford to have a cutter of this size made or have room for a machine to handle this horizontal cut. Instead I made a special set of jaws to hold the pipe jaw at 14 degrees and use the corner of a 3/8 end mill and step down each cut.

Before I could do that, I needed the geometry and depth numbers so I could program my CNC. Here is a drawing I used for a American Scale Pipe Jaws. Looks more complicated than it really is.a-scale_pipe_jaws

As you can see in the drawing above, I color coded the geometry to help me in programming. After that, I pick up the pipe jaw noted here. When rotating blocks at a angle it becomes more difficult to locate the block. It is helpful to use a 1/2 inch gauge pin held on with a flat magnet and sweep in the pin center with a test indicator. I rotate the indicator 180 degrees then drop the indicator to hit the high point of the pin and rotate the indicator to  find the high spot, set the dial to zero and do the same 180 degrees on the other side of the pin till I have reached a zero reading finding the pin center. You could use a edge finder but I choose an indicator.

I also set the end mill to the top of the pin and that would be my Z-zero. All the numbers on the drawing are taken from the pin center line in the X axis (left to right) and the depth of the cut (Z-axis) is taken from the top of the pin.


After programming my CNC,  the rest is easy. Using a sharp carbide end mill I cut a roughing cut leaving .005 on the X-axis and .005 on the Z-axis, and then do a finish cut.


De-burr the entire jaw.  Send to heat treating and harden to 54/56 Rockwell.  Done.


Swivel Jaw Taper Pins: Removal, Sizing and Fabrication

If you are thinking about buying a swivel jaw vise without the pin, or one that is damaged beyond repair, it really shouldn’t be a deal killer. Swivel jaw vises use a pin that is tapered, and the pin should fit tightly and not wiggle or rock.  If the pin is kept clean, oiled and taken out every now and then,  you will never have a problem.  That said, removing these pins after years of not being used is some times difficult!

See the swivel pin all smashed in this 7" Prentiss

Hard to see the swivel pin all smashed in this 7″ Prentiss Vise.


I have had several that were really stuck, and making a Jack Screw is a great starting point. I use a coupling nut with two bolts which is as good as a simple compact jack screw.

Pushing a Swivel Pin (4)



Next, be sure to have a steel plate underneath the jack screw so you will not damage the cast dovetail that locates the nut.  The tapered pin hole in the swivel jaw and the static support has a through hole so you can get to it underneath inside the square slide area.

The 7 inch Prentiss I show in my top picture will most likely have to be drilled out and removed with a slide hammer.  I just know it.  I’ll add a picture when I get to this repair. I will be using plenty of heat from my oxygen and acetylene torch.  When using heat, be sure to heat around the pin.  I like having the flame pointing away from the stuck pin, and on the mass around the pin.  If you heat the actual pin, it will expand the same as the casting.   You want the steel around the pin to expand and break the rust seal holding the pin.  keep pressure underneath with the jack screw and eventually she will pop.  You don’t have much time heating though, because the pin will inevitably warm up too. Doing this a couple of times will work. This way works too if you are replacing the pin with a new one. I tapped the pin with the largest thread I could get away with and built a puller setup like in the picture. Using the square slider as a support for the setup is a safe idea. I kept heat on the pin area and eventually it popped.

Prentiss 21 swivel jaw Repair (12)


The Prentiss pins are made to 3 degrees per side, 6 degrees for the included angle.Prentiss # 20 pin You might need to measure a old pin or vise to figure what angle the pin is that they used.  Some have suggested cutting a thin shim and hand file the angle till there is no gap.  Then use it to set the angle on your lathe or angle grinder.  I prefer to measure the major diameter then the minor diameter subtract the two and divide the sum for the triangle end. Then measure the length of jaw support for the other leg of the triangle.  Use simple trig (TOA) Tangent = opposite over adjacent then atan the sum for your angle.  Some just duplicate the geometry on a CAD system to figure the angle like what I do. Prentiss-swivel-jaw

This drawing is a cut away view of a Prentiss 19-1/2 Swivel jaw. I added the triangle for this example.


Making the pins can be done in a couple ways.  I like spinning the pin in a surface grinder on a sine plate with a spin fixture. The ground surface is a clean way to make angle pins. If you have a lathe, then it is an easy angle adjustment on your compound.  You can be creative on the knob end.  Make it a full ball, or what ever shape you want.  I like adding a 3/16 hole through the side in case it ever gets stuck. Prentiss #20 pin

I also like to build the pin out of 303 SS so it will not rust. Stainless Steel is a soft metal but will hold up fine under clamp pressure.




Those Pesky Wilton End Cap Pins

I see older Wilton vises fairly often where it looks like the end cap pins kept working themselves out.  On some the owner welded them to the static jaw support.  I have a simpler and more effective way to take care of the problem so that the vise can still be taken apart and reassembled easily.


Welded up end cap pin.

Eventually, the two 1/4″ pins that hold the end cap support and nut will either need to be replaced or taken apart to clean the nut. Wilton uses a straight soft pin that is drilled and reamed through the static jaw support, the end cap support, and finally the cast nut. This pin aligns two separate parts on the tail end of the vise. Two pins are used and must be removed by driving the pins out from one side.  I have had a few that were tight and I had to remove them by welding a slide hammer to the pin and pulling them out like the welded ones.


Setting up the puller for welding.


I like using a TIG welder.

This 5 inch vise takes a 1/4″ pin diameter drilled and reamed in line connecting the end cap housing and nut.  I decided to assemble it a little more simply to make it easy to take apart.

Pin Replace I started by clamping the static support to an angle plate.   The pins are perpendicular to the base and in line with the jaws.


I added a gauge pin so I could sweep in the pin with a indicator to pick up center  Then I ran a tap through the static support. Take a thickness dimension of the static wall thickness so you know how deep to tap . You can also do this with a heavy duty drill press.  It just takes longer to set up.


Tapping for a 5/16:18 thread size.

I like to hold the nut in by jamming a piece of wood in the end.  The two pin sizes I have seen are 1/4″ for the larger vises and 3/16″ for the smaller vises. These two size pins are perfect for a 5/16:18 (tap drill .257) and a 1/4:20 (tap drill .201) thread size.


5/16:18 x 1-1/2 Socket Head Cap Screws.

I purchased some long set screws from McMaster Carr and chucked them up in a lathe and turned the ends down to 1/4  (.250) of an inch to slip into the reamed portion of the assembly, tap drill size for a 5/16:18 thread is .257. Another way to turn the 5/16 set screw down to a 1/4 inch is clamp the set screw in your drill press and use a disc grinder and slowly grind down the threads to a 1/4″.  Take your time and check often with a set of calipers or a micrometer.  That is how I made the ones in the picture.


Ready for assembly and painting.

Pretty simple fix and real easy to disassemble.





Removing Stuck Jaws From a Bench Vise

Like everyone else, I get a few vises with the screws either smashed or the wrong screw hammered into the jaw screw pockets. Here is a quick way to remove screws if you have a TIG welder. Removing jaws with TIG (1)Coming up with a way to hold the screw so you can use two hands for welding is the trick.  If you can get comfortable, then you have a better chance of welding the screw head and not the jaw.  I like to use magnets to align the bolt.  It is hard to tell by my picture, but I like using these small 1/4 diameter super magnets.

Removing Screws (3)Some jaws are a little harder to remove.  This small #825 Wilton (2-1/2 jaw width) gave me fits.  The jaws have been on the vise for many years and were ground smooth to the casting. The 10:32 screws were tough to weld around, but I got lucky.  Removing Screws (6)I used a magnifier inmy hood and saw the tack welding of a #6 screw to the head of a #10 screw.





Once I removed the screw, then I had to weld a slide hammer to the jaw and pull it from the Static and Dynamic jaw support.

Removing Screws (17)

The alignment dowel pin is suppose to be a press fit to the jaw, but over the years the dowel sometimes rusts into the jaw support casting.  I welded right to the jaw with my slide hammer, then after the weld cooled, I hammered it off.

Removing Screws (19)    Having access to a welder, the TIG has more control and a more accurate method of adding filler rod, but a good wire welder can  have success too.  Good luck.

# 3 Chas Parker Jaws Fit and Finish

Once I see by the customers  pictures and sketches and feel pretty good about building their jaws.  I need to correct the miss alignment in the jaw faces by adjusting the angle on the sine vise and re dressing the angle on the wheel to finish grind the jaws. One angle must be dressed on the bottom of the grinding wheel and the angle on the back side is set by the sine vise. I relieve the wheel for side wheel grinding to finish both angles.

Wheel ready to finish sizing the jaws.

Wheel ready to finish sizing the jaws.

Using a ball endmill and stepping over to cut the top radius.

Using a ball end mill and stepping over to cut the top radius.

Next is cutting the top radius. I create a surface model of the top arc in my software so my Cutting software will follow the surface. It cuts the arc by stepping over .05 and down .025 for roughing and a step over of .007 for the finish cut. The small step over along with a large ball end mill like a 3/8 diameter gives you a small peak to peak point that is easy to smooth down.

Finish cut of .007 step over leaves small peaks to smooth out.

Finish cut of .007 step over leaves small peaks to smooth out.




Next is adding the pin holes, if possible do it on a milling machine, even using a good drill press if the vise is a small one. Or using a hand drill also works. I drill and ream the hole for my customers and this allows the customer to use the same drill size to spot the center of the hole, then drill 1/64 under the finished hole size before using a reamer to finish the hole.


Picking up the C/L of the jaws before reaming the pin holes on a sine plate.

Picking up the C/L of the jaws before reaming the pin holes on a sine plate.

I have a Bridgeport 12 inch sine plate that I used for my #956 (6″ jaws) vise. The angle came out to 6 degrees so I could drive the 5/16  pins out from the bottom. It takes longer to get set up then it is to drill and ream the holes. I also include soft pins that are knurled at one end to provide a good press fit and making sure the pins do not work loose.

I use a Scotch Brite pad for finishing.

I use a Scotch Brite pad for finishing.



Now you are ready for cleaning up the radius cut and smoothing out the rest of the jaws, I mark the jaws underneath for assembling  after heat treating. Now the jaws are ready for Heat Treating.

After heat treating and with knurled pins.

After heat treating and with knurled pins.

They come back at 54 to 56 Rockwell hard. A lot harder then the original jaws from Chas Parker. A hand file cuts the original jaws and just slides over the new set.  Back from heat treating your choice is to mount them to your finished restored vise or do more hand polishing to remove the colorful design you get from heat treating. Final assembly by driving the knurled pins in.

8" jaw width.

8″ jaw width.

A very nice finished Chas Parker # 978 vise.

A very nice finished Chas Parker # 978 vise.

Here is a finished # 978 Parker from Chuck in Tucson. These jaws are 8″ wide. Really nice job of restoring this old Chas Parker vise. Yes these jaws are expensive to build, but having one of these old Parker vises with ruined jaws makes the vise below par. The old USA iron should if possible be brought back to working condition. If you are interested in having a set of Chas Parker jaws built then please visit my site Here.