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Surface plates - ideas and designs?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Magnumcharger, Nov 29, 2011.

  1. I've got a whole series of vehicles that I'm looking forward to restoring, customizing and building from scratch.

    Being a former autobody mechanic, (now a home garage tinkerer), I've seen many frame machines up close, but have never actually worked on a surface plate, which is probably the "golden standard" for anybody who is absolutely serious about building a straight chassis and body.

    Although I've built many of my shop's tools from scratch including a rotisserie, I'm lacking the knowledge about the key essentials to building a surface plate.

    I see some on the web being four posts with longitudinal rails, and two plates running the length of the frame. Others look to be solid 1/2 inch plate steel, much as a table top. Which is preferred, and why?

    Better yet: what have you seen, or what do you use?

    Attached Files:

  2. khead47
    Joined: Mar 29, 2010
    Posts: 1,786


    get a bolster plate from a huge stamping press. shipping will be a bitch.
  3. The one my supermodified is on I built out of 14' long 8" flat web H beam. Got the metal for a case of beer from a Butler building mfg. plant.

    The one with the Silver Crown chassis on it is a 4X10' 1 1/2" thick plate, drilled and tapped every 6". It weighs 4000lb...

    The plate jig is amazing... I've straightened bent chassis on it, and built every kind of sub assembly you could imagine on it. We even bolted a shop crane to the side of it to pull engines out of the race cars. Only wish I'd had some way to bring it along when I left CA...:(

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  4. Rex Schimmer
    Joined: Nov 17, 2006
    Posts: 743

    Rex Schimmer
    from Fulton, CA

    I agree with khead 47 any old machine tool floor plate would be about the best you could find. Lots of them around and not hard to find some that are in the 6x10 foot size. The are flat, will not distort, they will have tee slots for holding things down and they are cheap. As khead said getting them transported is the real cost as they are very heavy.

    If you are looking for something not quite as good you can pretty much make your own using almost anything, the trick is to keep it flat which means that if you fab it out of steel plate and make it heavy enough to be any good you will need to have the surface machined which means transportation to the machine shop, machine work and then back to your place again big dollars and it will not be as good as a cast iron machine table.

    I am doing a single car project for Bonneville and am building a pretty light table out of some 2x2 tubing and 3/4 inch MDF board. I am making it so that I can adjust the corner heights to keep it flat within 1/16 inch. It will work well for my project but it is not something I would do several cars on.

    Like your pickup, impressive motor.


  5. bobscogin
    Joined: Feb 8, 2007
    Posts: 1,761


    An Acorn Platen is great for automotive fabrication and you can expand the size anytime you need because the sections bolt together.

  6. If you look around a little these old Blackhawk dedicated benches are still around and can be had for a reasonable price . Strong already drilled and you can even get lucky and find them with a unverasl measuring system. Still have mine from years ago and it works well.

  7. A_Pmech
    Joined: Mar 6, 2010
    Posts: 4

    from Central IL

    Portage Layout Plates used in conjunction with a pair of 36" or 48" Portage Layout Machines are the cat's meow. In fact, it's how the factory builds them.

    However, the plates weigh about two and a half tons for each 5' square section and require a proper foundation. They must then be shimmed into the foundation with an autocollimator to ensure the surface is flat. 5,000 lbs. of iron distorts a lot more than you think just under it's own weight. Any errors in the plate are compounded in the layout machine.

    An example of a nice Portage installation:

  8. These are exactly what we use at the school, and they do work great. I've "invented" a number of little gadgets to go along with these that make them a lot more user friendly.
  9. FrozenMerc
    Joined: Sep 4, 2009
    Posts: 2,826


    If you have really deep pockets, it doesn't get any better than a Bluco table. We use ours at work constantly for building up prototype chassis and components.


  10. Last edited: Nov 29, 2011

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