A Collection of Tips for the Shop

Soft Jaws
by Howie Grunert

Here is a simple idea. I have a few bench vises in my shop. On one I have aluminum angle plates with glued in embedded magnets for soft jaws, but on the other vise, next to the mill, I have gone one step further.

I removed the steel jaws and replaced them with new ones made of aluminum. First, I roughed the jaws out, then I mounted them and closed the vise tight and, using the mill, leveled the top and ends of the jaws. Now I have soft jaws all the time and they work great. When I clamp something made of brass or aluminum it doesn’t get marked up. Don’t toss the steel ones; you may need them again someday.

Catching the Shop Vac Drips
by Charles Levinski

I use a shop vacuum to clean up after machining and the swarf often has oil or cutting fluid in it. This is no issue for the vacuum, but when I am done these liquids will often drip out of the vacuum hose and onto the floor.

Photo 1 Photo 2

To resolve this, I mounted a small container to catch the drippings. I selected a five-pound coffee container to mount in place of one of the shop vac accessories. In order to mount it, I cut a plastic Crystal Light container and hot glued it to the bottom of the coffee can, deliberately offset in order to fit properly (Photo 1). The Crystal Light container is just the right diameter to slip onto the accessory holder. After vacuuming, I position the end of the hose in the coffee can (Photo 2). No more oily mess on the floor!

Lunch Trays for the Shop
by Keven Coates

Lunch trays are very handy things. I acquired some of the old 70s fiberglass-based trays when my work cafeteria closed and have found them to be extremely useful around the house. Not only do my kids use them for their art projects (which has saved the dinner table many times), but I also use them when disassembling things with small parts.

Have you ever taken apart a carburetor or laptop and dropped a tiny screw? In my experience, it bounces once off the table, rolls down my sleeve, then finally hits the ground. Often I can hear it hit, but rarely do I see it – and this is best case! Worst case is when I don’t even hear it hit the ground! When that happens, fear strikes, and I’m paralyzed until I can carefully examine all of my clothing in hopes of catching it before it descends farther into the unknown!

Using a tray to work over can save you from all of that. If a small part hits the tray, you can hear it and the rolled up lips on the edge mean things almost always stay on the tray. The tray will also hold all the parts safely in one place. As long as you know where they all go, they’re right there for you when you put it all back together.

Also, if you need to put your work away because you’ve been interrupted with a rush project or dinner you can easily move the whole thing and not lose any parts. Come back to it later with the pieces in the same place they were before.



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