Jaws for every chuck

Ways to boost operating efficiency shouldn’t stop at the machine tool. Shops also need the right cutting tools, toolholders, and workholding.

For many shops, the addition of new metalcutting technology is all about buying machine tools, with cutting tools, toolholding, and workholding dealt with as afterthoughts. But such a strategy seriously undermines the productivity of new processes. Instead, shops should examine the benefits of machine, tooling, and workholding together before making large capital investments.

Likewise buying those ‘cheap’ imports from China could be more costly in the long run.

Holding turned parts

“Holding parts for turning have a variety of options from which to choose. For instance, you may opt for 3- or 4-jaw chucks, which grip parts for safe machining and establish workpiece location and orientation with a degree of specified repeatability,” says Joe Soares, who took over ownership of Southern Africa’s jaws and chucking manufacturing specialist Heri Precision Engineering just over two years ago.

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Soft jaws that have been manufactured by Heri Precision Engineering

“With these kinds of workholding devices, the shape of the workpiece determines the number of jaws needed. But the array of workpiece shapes makes it difficult to reduce the selection process to simple rules of thumb.”

“We manufacture jaws for any current chuck style or size. Products include soft jaws, hard jaws, full grips, and specials. We have been doing so for 30 years and yes you could say that we are specialists in this field.”

Heri was formed by the late Helmuth Wiederhofer, an immigrant from Austria, in 1973 and a partner that he paid out 15 years later. At that stage the company machined precision engineering components and that still comprises the bulk of company’s production schedule every month.

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Owner Joe Soares

However Wiederhofer ventured into the local manufacture of jaws and accessories for any current chuck style or size in 1983 and the company soon became known for supplying quality, precision machined products. This side of the business has built up steadily over the years and the company is even in the process of exporting a certain percentage of its production.

“I joined Helmuth in 1984 at the age of 22, shortly after completing my fitter and turner apprenticeship and studies. He became my mentor and developed a wide range of my skills that I am very thankful for.”

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Special hard jaws in progress

“I left the company in 1999 and joined Derry Engineering where I gained another 12 years of valuable experience, thanks to Dan Pienaar, in management and high volume production environment.”


“Sadly Helmuth passed away suddenly in July 2009. Heri kept operating as a going concern. However, in February 2011 I was approached to purchase the company and I officially took ownership in May 2011.”

“The fact that I was given the opportunity to take over the ownership and running of the company where I started my career in the engineering industry, is very sentimental. Nonetheless sentiment does not make money and I knew from the onset that I had a big task on my hands.”

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Part of the company’s machine compliment includes a Samsung lathe

“The name Heri Precision Engineering has invaluable goodwill in the industry and is renowned for its quality.”

“The shop floor was a mess and the CNC machines were tired. I immediately set about putting the company back up where it belongs and reinstating those great customer-supplier relationships I knew the company had while I was there. Two old CNC machines were retired and sold and within two months there were four new CNC machines on the floor. I also invested a large sum in new measuring equipment and tooling.”

“I also knew that I had competition from the cheap Chinese imports but I was not too worried about that as I knew that I would lower my costs with the new equipment, which would be passed on. This is now starting to become a reality. More importantly the staff bought into my plans and pulled out all the stops to help get the company back on its feet.”

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The company has two Daewoo machining centres and a turn/mill lathe supplied by Puma Machine Tools

“They also had to go through a learning curve with the new CNCs because they had been used to working on antiquated CNC equipment.”

Heri now has three Doosan machines – one a turn/mill lathe and the other two are machining centres equipped with a 4th axis. The machine compliment is made up with one Samsung lathe and a Dahli 720 machining centre.

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Besides the manufacture of its own range of jaws, Heri machines braking components, parts for the mining industry, replacement and new components for the timber and sawmill industries, suspension components for the OEMs in the automotive industry and roller compactor components

Besides the manufacture of its own range of jaws, Heri machines braking components, parts for the mining industry, replacement and new components for the timber and sawmill industries, suspension components for the OEMs in the automotive industry and roller compactor components.

Mostly the company does small to medium batch runs.


“The correct workholding selection can increase manufacturing process stability, efficiency and safety. Workholding requirements can be affected by many factors, including the material being cut, critical tolerance requirements, workpiece shape and dimensions, and frequency of change-over. High volume machining has a different set of requirements than those for a job shop, with closer attention to consistent quality over longer periods of time” explained Soares.

“Jaws are made from precision steel blocks. Each jaw is machined on six sides to tight tolerances on the width, height and squareness of the sides. Each jaw is exactly what we say, a precision squared block.”

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Machined brass components

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“Different sizes and configurations are currently in production. However we carry a large stock of the popular sizes, but the company also produces special orders to precise customer specifications including wider and longer jaws.”

“At the end of the day jaws are a consumable but, as said previously, an important component of the machining process.”

Heri operates from a facility in Alberton, Gauteng with a compliment of 13 staff.

The company is currently upgrading its website (www.heri.co.za) so as to make it easy for the visitor to navigate. “An added feature will allow you to fill in your size and then order online,” concluded Soares.

For further details contact Heri Precision Engineering on TEL: +27 (11) 902 3703 or visit www.heri.co.za