Step Jaws Guide

Step Jaws Overview

Jaws are the component inserted into a vise (or vice) for clamping or gripping the work piece. There are many types of jaws, such as aluminum jaws that are used to grip and protect round, hexagonal or serrated objects, rubber-faced jaws that are used to protect fragile object from damage and particularly ideal for clamping irregularly shaped objects, soft steel jaws that are commonly available, magnetic jaws that are coupled with strong nitrile magnet to hold the jaws in place, and step jaws, which are our main area of focus today. 

Step jaws have tapped holes on both ends on stand-alone pistons, and are able to accommodate for varying sizes of the work piece. Compared with other types of jaws, hardened step jaws have stronger holding power that are able to grip a work piece firmly in place. Another advantage of step jaws is that it only requires minimum jaw movement to hold a wide range of work pieces of any size without having to change the jaws. The jaws are primarily designed for bowl turning and are especially useful when roughing out a handful of bowls at the same time. Step jaws are also used to turn boxes. The bottom can be turned easily by gripping the rim without leaving undesired pressure marks that might make it look unsightly. 
 

Specification of Step Jaws

When you are browsing through a catalogue of step jaws, you will notice that the product description will always include the following specifications:

● Materials used to construct the jaws
● width of the jaws
● length of the jaws
● color of the jaws

As an example, you will very frequently come across hardened step jaws in stores that are made of aluminum and soft steel. They can be anodized, heat-treated, or coated with black oxide. 
 

Features of Step Jaws

In terms of the features of step jaws, inches (in.) or centimeters (cm.) are the most commonly used dimension units. Both parts of the jaws are kept apart wide enough for work pieces of various sizes to be held in place. Most step jaws come in black or gray color, other step jaws that are made of die-cast metal can be of different colors such as yellow, green, blue or red. 

Some unique qualities of the step jaws include exceptional flexibility because of the modular design, meaning you are able to mount various single jaws and elements together to find the right clamping solution for your work piece. They also have a mechanical high-pressure spindle with power intensification. Through this we can get a power stroke which causes the gripper to move still after the clamping process. This is important because the gripper stops displaying the material of the work piece due to the setup process of the spindle. There is always a high clamping force during the clamping process.

Moreover, the most unique thing about the step jaws is that they are able to realize four kinds of clamping: the conventional clamping, gripper clamping, pull-down clamping, and five-sided machining:

Conventional Clamping: The work pieces are manually attached to the vises. Some benefits of this type of clamping include unobstructed movement of cutting during machining process, reduced setup time, high machining accuracy, and so on. Some disadvantages include long setup time and high eject rate.

Gripper Clamping: The grippers are attached onto the machine bed using bolts or set screws. Holes are required to be drilled through the material before the assembly. This type of clamping allows the gripping of heavier material such as glass or resin.

Pull-down Clamping: This type of clamping method is perfect for holding low plates. The clamping action, as the name suggests, is a forward and downward motion into the work piece. 

Five-sided Machining: This is a type of clamping system that is capable of clamping objects for operations ranging from simple saw cuts to more complicated ones cast housings. Such clamping systems are characterized by the high carriage guide, fixed master jaws, etc.
 

Customizing Your Jaws with Soft Jaws

Step jaws are typically made out of hardened steel because they need to be as durable as possible. However, when you want to work on an odd shaped work piece with your step jaws, you have the option of customizing your jaws with DIY soft jaws. The soft jaws should be created to fit over your jaws and accommodate the odd shape of your work piece. A CAD or CAM software can be used to create the inverse of your work piece in the soft jaws. 

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