As with each winter season that passes it would appear that the snow season is also the season for new shop tooling and equipment. I don’t plan it that way it just always seems to end up being the time everything comes together. Well this season is no exception. With the introduction of the RF-45 clone milling machine that entered the family last year it has been a slow, on going, exhaustive researching process of getting the tooling set up for the unit.
I have been in the market for a decent vise to sit perched on top of the compound table. After spending much time on the forums trying to decipher what I should be looking for in a vise it pretty much came down to “don’t cheap out”. Cheap vises are cheap for a reason and although I have no experience with any milling machine vise it would stand to reason that your machined products will only be as precise as the equipment you use. I soon found the name “Kurt” popping up everywhere and realized that Kurt is the granddaddy of all milling vises. That’s great however I am not a production machine shop, is the cost of a Kurt realistic for a home shop guy like myself? As I continued to research I started to read more and more about the Glacern product line. I had previously purchased a Glacern R8 drill chuck for the mill and was quit impressed with the quality. Nicely machined product with smooth operation and yet for a decent price. As I read more I decided that the Glacern GSV-690 vise is the way to go. The finish looked good and I found no bad reviews on them. The price was better then Kurt plus Glacern’s swivel table was priced much lower then Kurt’s.
So here comes the pain. I’m in Canada and finding a Glacern distributor within the great white North’s borders is hard to do. Shipping cross border is a pain and I was fearful that the cost associated with the weight was going to exceed the cost of the vise. There is a company in the Eastern end of the country that does distribute some of the Glacern’s products including the GSV-690 vise I wanted. So this is the point in the story where I care not to elaborate. I have chosen to bury the painful details of dealing with this company so all I will say that after waiting almost a year to get this vise I was faced with yet another hiccup that would deny me another chance of getting my hands on the unit. It turns out the straw that broke the camels back was that the distributor was out of stock as was Glacern. The distributer tried to sell me Glacern’s Premium GPV-615 6” vise however it was not the one I wanted. The premium vise is still a very nice vise however its opening capacity was slightly smaller and although it was ground in such a way that it could be mounted on the side there was still no swivel base available for it.
I sat for days feeling defeated. I was able to buy directly from Glacern however there website confirmed what I was already told; they are out of stock. This has gone on far too long but now was not the time to give up. My next move proved to be the winner. I felt as though I had finally found the door that opened to sunshine meadows filled with flowers and butterflies with the von Trapp children skipping to the tune of Do-Re-Mi. I emailed Glacern customer service to enquire when they would expect to have stock on the units. Within minutes Dave Warren, from Glacern, responded. He had checked with the stock department and they actually had one in stock. It was mine if I wanted it. Wadda mean if? So with tool adrenalin flowing and sweaty palms I quickly responded with “you had me at “in stock”” and a “yeah I want it”. Do you ship to Canada? How much is the journey gonna set me back? Well the transportation fees were quoted at $159, not as bad I thought considering the set up came in at 105 pounds. What choice do I have? This is the best shot I got so I decided to stop thinking about it and make it happen.
But how? 10 minutes ago Glacern’s on line ordering showed 0 in stock and I would be unable to add one to my cart. Well it turns out that things can happen in 10 minutes time and now the Glacern site showed the GSV-690 vise in stock. Fantastic! Added one to my cart and while I was browsing I tossed a swivel base into the mix as well. Went to the checkout, calculated my shipping costs, hmmm…only $144. Sweet!!!! Handed over my 16 digits and I was off to the races. I had looked back to see if Glacern still showed the vise in stock, nope, no more to be had now. Filled with excitement I had to email Dave back to relay my giddiness and say a big thanks!
When I emailed Dave with the thanks and with one more question, however at this point his answer could not change what just happened. It had to do with shipping. I thought to myself “please, please, please, I hope they don’t ship UPS. Not UPS. Please not UPS. Anything but UPS, tie it to the back of a turtle, point it North and I’ll wait, I promise. UPS brokerage fees are killer! So Dave? What is it? Do you ship UPS? Come on Dave…respond to the email. The 4th email we had exchanged wasn’t quite up to the response time I had come to expect. It took him about an hour this time! :) Well there was good reason for it. Apparently Glacern does ship UPS. NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! But wait, calm down and read on. Glacern is aware of how UPS likes to take advantage of us Canuks and they are working towards a solution. Dave, being the hero he is, had been in discussions with his supervisor and as a one time favor for this being my first order they applied a coupon code that would relieve me of all the brokerage fees. First thoughts? Rock on!!!! Second thoughts? Is this too good to be true? I had better wait till UPS lugs the vise onto my doorstep and asks for nothing more than a signature. Well that they did! No money required and the whining that usually comes from me actually came from the UPS driver about how heavy the package was that he had to wrestle with.
So where does this leave things? I’ll tell you where. It leaves me with a brand new GSV-690 vise, with swivel base, straight from Glacern Tools with zero UPS fees. What have I got to complain about? Nothing! Let’s move onto the good stuff…you know…the shiny precision machined tooling.
Well I am not one to critique a milling vise since I have very little experience with them. However the Glacern, upon visual inspection, is a fine piece of tooling. I was concerned that a 6 inch vise would be slightly large for the RF-45 clones table however I think it was the correct choice. The vise comes with centering tabs located on the underside to allow for centering of the vise on the table. In the case of my table the centering tabs are too large. No big deal. I removed the tabs for now so that the vise would sit flat on the compound table and at a later date I will mill the tabs down to fit my table. The feel of the lead screw is smooth and precise. The vise even came with a slideable metal shield that covers the threads to protect them from the milling debris.
In the end I will never know f I would have been better off with a different choice of vise. I now own a Glacern and it’s the new addition to the family that is going be with us through lots of projects. I am thrilled with the quality and even more thrilled with the service and support form Glacern. I think I reached the top with this one.