Soba Vice

soba-vice-005I was at the Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition and looking for a heavy vice for my milling machine (Amadeal XJ12-300). There are a lot of cheap vices around and you can find them starting at around £50 for a 3″ swivel vice.

However, the cheaper vices have a very rough action.

This Soba vice is very smooth indeed, the slide is ground to a polished finish and the screw thread rotates smoothly.


soba-vice-002A 3″ (76.2mm) swivel base vice. The size of a vice is based on the width of the jaws.

Very nice thick gloss black finish with hardened jaws.

First impressions, heavy solidly made vice – just perfect for use in the mill.

The hardened jaws are removable and have machined horizontal and vertical grooves making them ideal for locating round bar stock for machining.

The swivel base has very cleanly marked graduations at 1° intervals.

soba-vice-003The graduations run from a centre 0° position and are then marked every 10° plus and minus 90°s about this centre.

The handle can be removed very easily which is really essential when machining.


Again the handle is cast iron and finished in a thick gloss black paint.

With the swivel base the height is 105mm to the top of the jaws.

Without the swivel base the vice is only 75mm high.

OK, this is a large vice for this small mill, but size and weight does matter when it comes to milling operations.

I actually think this vice would be fine with much larger milling machines and just would not look out of place.

For the last few years I have been using the vice without the swivel base and have aligned the vice carefully at one end of the milling table and left it there, this allows me to use the other end of the table to bolt items down to or to use the rotary table. This vice is the mainstay vice for the milling machine, the other vice I have is a precision ground toolmakers vice which is excellent, but just not as versatile to use on an everyday basis.

soba-vice-007Here using the vice along with the swivel base to machine the angled cutouts on my double-acting oscillating engine.

The swivel on the vice allowed me to carefully rotate the part to the correct position and then lock it in position.

soba-vice-008The problem with the swivel is you set the vice up and get an alignment to with the table by swivelling the vice. You then machine a part and need to rotate by say 10° for the next operation when you realise you did not set a zero – easy use a piece of tape and create a reference point.

Price: approx £70 (2012) for this 3″ (76.2mm) wide jaw version


Heavy, well finished machine vice. Easy to use on swivel base or if height is restricted without swivel. The closing action on the vice is very smooth and quite frankly a delight.

This vice was made by and sold under the trade name Soba. In this particular case I purchased this from

There are a number of different ways to hold or clamp a workpiece – see our page on workholding.

If you’re holding parts in parallel in the machine vice then sometimes the jaws will lock out on one part and the other part will not be clamped as firmly. One way around this is to use a thin shim of aluminium as this will give a small amount of compliance and allow the vice to clamp both parts.

The image shows two pieces of mild steel clamped for end milling with the aluminium shim sticking up above the jaws. In this case parts were being machined for a low-profile machine vice.

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