I finally got around to upgrading my standard sized SO3. I decided to go with the Saunders Machine Works fixture tooling plate and a couple of the modular vices with serrated jaws. Delivery was a little fraught as the courier had left 3 of the 4 packages behind in Cincinnati.
They followed some time after when it was obvious that only one package had arrived in the UK. Anyone in the UK considering a similar project should know that the import duty was £138.93 on £766.08. (approximately 18.14% so cheaper than 20% VAT)
The SMW fixture tooling plate is a very high quality product. It arrived sans some button bolts to connect the stiffener rails to the tooling plate. The missing bolts were 1/4" x 20 x 3/4" in size and obtained locally from ACCU, whom I can highly recommend for all manner of fasteners and fixings. High quality, rapid DPD service and keen prices. Saunders Machine Works customer service was brilliant. They reimbursed my expenditure immediately.
Shout out to ACCU in the UK for a whole slew of high quality products and the best service I have had anywhere in the UK.
Saunders; for folk who are not familiar with their stuff.
Connecting the two halves of the plate was simplicity. It only required the 1/4 x 20 x 3/4" button bolts to secure the fixture plate to the stiffener rails. A word about the rails. They are an option but recommended on the SMW site. I can see why because they add huge rigidity to the framework and the tooling plate and the three of them cost lest than $90 so I would say that is a no brainer.
Once I had removed the supplied MDF baseboard, I had to jack up the remaining framework so that the V wheels would permit the tooling plate to pass. I made a couple of bespoke pieces of MDF on the bandsaw. These were the width of the Carbide 3D supplied frame work and raised it high enough so that the new fitting could be slid into place.
After that, the screws from the Carbide baseboard were used and a washer that was supplied by SMW made it easy to secure the tooling plate to the frame. When removing the baseboard button bolts, I had to dig each of them out of their holes. Once the thread had become disengaged, the bolt head was still below the surface of the standard base board.
One more issue was that the tooling plate is drilled for 6 holes on each side. My frame only had five holes. Tomorrow, I will drill and tap the 3mm holes that are missing in the mirror imaged place on each of the frames. I am awaiting a small torque wrench so that I can accurately torque the screws down to the recommended 8ft lbs as seen at the link, with the appropriate sequence demonstrated.
Finally, everything seems to be as square as it was before I had started. I think a small shim on one side of the tooling plate may be necessary and it will give me the accuracy I am looking for. I will await the torque wrench so I can be sure of the differential between the current situation and after every bolt is tightened to the recommendations.
I will then look at the tramming status and hopefully I should be cutting metal very soon.
Seeing just how effective and versatile the modular vices are, I can recommend this total upgrade and the vices to anyone who wishes to increase the machine rigidity, use the whole baseboard for workpiece holding and have repeatable points at which to secure the workpiece.
My machine ready to have the baseboard removed…
This image will give you a feel for just how much height under the tooling plate that the stiffener rails add to the SO3.
stiffener rails from underneath
an irritating omission on both of my frame rails.
Highlight showing location of missing 3mm tapped hole. (duplicated on opposite frame rail at the same spot)
Two modular vices holding workpieces
Serrated jaw close up from the side.