Many Tormach owners find opportunities to make money with their machines. Whether that’s doing an occasional part for a friend, starting a business with a part they designed, or going full-on machine shop and producing batches of the same part for a client.
When you start making money with your machine, the need for efficiency quickly becomes more apparent than ever. Finding ways to go lean in your shop, rearranging your machines for a specific part-making process, and adding repeatability to your setup are all ways to get more efficient.
Workholding has long been one of the deepest rabbit holes to go down in machining. That’s mostly because there are often several ways to get the job done. Some methods are better for different situations, but in general, there is almost more than one way to hold a part. These are some of the best specialized ways to hold your parts.
Custom Soft Jaws
Soft jaws are custom-cut to fit the part you’re working on. Think of it as an inverter version of your part being cut into the jaws of the vise. The real advantage with soft jaws is how repeatable you can make the process of loading parts.
Because the jaws are cut to precisely fit your part, you can be sure that you can load parts over and over in the same location.
If you have a need to switch between a few different parts, using workholding like the CarveSmart jaw system, which provides dovetailed jaws that can be repeatably placed in your vice. That means you can easily switch between parts and still keep everything in the same place, cycle over cycle.
Toolmaker vises are smaller, precise vises that are clamped into a larger machine vise and are designed to provide more finesse when clamping your parts. These vises are precision ground on all four sides to provide flat surfaces. Because of this, they are ideally suited for squaring a piece of stock or if you have multiple setups that are 90° apart from each other.
Toolmaker sine vises provide even more freedom of angle without sacrificing on the precision. A sine vise allows you to add a precise angle to your work, so if you’re looking for an efficient way to cut at an odd angle, this could be a solution.
Most often, machinists will clamp a part into a toolmaker vise, and then use stops on a larger vise on their machine to provide a repeatable location clamping in the smaller vise. Many users will pull a finished part out of the machine vise, but keep it in the toolmaker vise, for checking the part. That way, if things aren’t up to spec, it’s easier to put the entire setup back together to rework the part.
It might seem redundant to put a plate down on a table that already has dovetail ways, but for repeatable work, they can work miracles.
Tooling plates, like the Aluminum Fixture and Tooling Plate from Saunders Machine Works, provide tapped holes that are spaced on-center across the surface. These holes can be used to secure down a vise, locating pins, or even low profile clamps for securing your parts directly to the plate.
Having repeatable locations for one or several parts means you can do different jobs without changing the setup on your mill. Marking the holes for securing your part or workholding (or leave the workholding attached, if space allows) means you can easily work on multiple jobs without having to relocate the part every time.
Efficiency is important in any shop. Finding the best workholding for a repeatable process can help make parts faster and help create less scrap. The world of workholding can seem like a dark art to the uninitiated, but these accessories will help you start seeing the value of added efficiency almost immediately.