Milling machine vise

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HMEM Supporting Member
Jan 4, 2011
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Does anyone have experience with the import milling machine vises? There are pretty impressive looking 6" vises available in the $100 to $150 range. I realize that they do not compare favorably with the $600 Kurt vise but most of us home shop hobbyist have a hard time justifying the price difference. I only paid $600 for my Excello mill which required some rebuilding. Most of us have machines which will not hold tolerances of .00001 and we are not going to require the rigidity of heavy production and have no problem making three passes to get the job done. Are they adequate or can they be tweaked to be usable in the home shop?
In the $100-$150 range for a 6" Kurt quasi-facsimile, you are definitely in the economy you-get-what-you-pay-for range. We bought a Shars economy grade 6" for the school robotics shop and wish we hadn't, mostly because the bed height and positions of the hold-down holes relative to the fixed jaw are nowhere close to matching the beater Kurts we wanted to pair it with to hold long stock. Oh, and the jaws on the cheapo vise were hollow underneath! No wonder it weighed so much less than a Kurt. On the other hand, the Shars premium 5" I bought for home is very nicely finished, hard, and accurate.

For something very necessary and used often, it's buy once, cry once IMHO. Check under the couch cushions for some extra funds and set up a lemonade stand. You won't regret buying something decent. Haas sells rebranded mill tooling at pretty good discounts and the quality is very good in my experience. I even put Haas tooling on my non-Haas mill and the mill did not explode!
I have a cheap import and when I tighten work in the jaws the rear jaw moves .007 +.
Have solid rear jaw tilting vise I use now.
The cheap import rear jaw is bolted down over a 3/8 or 1/2 in . ( can't remember now ) square key.

Determine what kind of work you want to do ?
Are you measuring parts with a ruler (inches ) or a mike
I am not being prude, but if clamping a chunk of steel or aluminum and milling
a slot or drilling a hole is your plan, then Vise quality is minor.
If you expect to hold work to a few thousandths Consistently or repeatedly
then better quality is required .
Cheaper vises are not parrallel in jaw spacing and/or flex when clamping
The keyways may not be plumb with the jaws
The leadscrew .screws and nuts are soft , not hardened and ground
Look at your work requirements and decide what you want
To save you time searching, you will not find a quality vise anywhere under $ 300
Even Used Bridgeport vises are $ 200 on Ebay , and even they are not "Kurt" quality
OK Thanks. I guess that I will just stick with what I already have. I have a L W Chuck vise which I have been using for several years. It is reasonable quality and from what folks are saying it is probably better that the import vises. I will keep my eyes open for a good used vise.
I agree with what Richard Carlstedt says above.

I also have a vise purchased from Enco when they were in business that I disassembled and "tuned" as suggested several years ago on this forum: Sorry, I don't know who posted about it or when. Possibly it was Chuck Fellows "back in the day." For the work I do, it works well enough, but sometimes takes more fiddling than a Kurt might.

This Old Tony on YouTube has several videos on vises, including this review:

So...... Consider your needs, your budget, your tolerance for frustration, your level of perfectionism, and what other things you might need the money for and I think you do get what you pay for sometimes.