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Made from tool steel, stainless steel or cast iron are rectangular in shape where all or some of the faces are precision ground or lapped.
The most common use for parallels in a machine vice to provide clearance when drilling in a vice or where the workpiece has to be slightly higher than the vice jaws for machining.
Additionally if the vice itself has a damaged face parallels can be used to hold the workpiece securely. Different height of parallels can be used to support a workpiece that does not have a ‘flat’ surface underneath and is to be clamped to the machine table.
Parallels will be normally supplied in pairs and are machined to be the same dimensions on their corresponding faces. A range of thicknesses and sizes are available meaning they can be stacked up to support a workpiece. Similar to gauge blocks parallels with a good surface tolerance can be lightly bonded together by sliding or rotating them together as “wringing.”
A set of parallels may contain a number of pairs of the same dimensions or several pairs of varying dimensions. There are also very thin (wavy) parallels which can be used as a single parallel, being wavy they stand up by themselves and be compressed or flatten as the vice jaws are closed allowing the workpiece to be secured.
Adjustable parallels such as those from Starrett are also available two precise sliding wedges which are connected means the parallel can be set to a specific size with a micrometer and used as a support or as a gauge.