Sunday, October 28, 2012

Steady there! Rest.

I own a Taig (q.g) microlathe. It is about 60mm center height and about 30 cm bed. It is enough for me right now, and it fits in a very small space. Now I am adding a feeedscrew (or leadscrew)  to it, following a detailed recipe at Dean Williams's page (look under leadscrew) out there on the web. A feedscrew is a long screw that allows you to traverse the carriage of the lathe by controlled amounts. Dean calls for a 1/4-20 left-handed thread; but I am using an ordinary hardware store threaded rod. Well, at some point the recipe calls for me to turn the threads off the rod. There came the rub. When I got the rod into the lathe the thing whipped around like an enraged Anaconda and bent the rod beyond repair. Now all machinists -- I am a very indifferent one -- know you can't turn long whippy stuff without a steady rest. A steady rest is just a set of fingers in a frame. Taig will sell you one, but I follow George Dyson's principle: never buy anything you can make, and never make anything you can find. Well, I did not think I'd find a Taig steady rest on my walks, so we begin the odyssey.

I happened to have the Taig wood-turning base and some wide flat (about 50mm) aluminum stuff, and that seved as a foundation. I drilled two holes for #4-40 screws in the aluminum flat, and then transferred them over to the wood-turning base. I drilled and tapped the base for 4-40 screws, a ticklish operation because it is very easy to break a 4-40 tap. It is about 3mm across. But I did it. I also drilled the biggest hole I could in the Al bar. 3/8 RGU. It will pass my feedscrew and that is what I want. Eventually I will drill it out larger, but for now it will do. The bar bolts on to the base with capscrews. If I want to turn wood I just have to unscrew them.

Now we have to make the fingers. Classic is brass. Don't have any in the right size. Use Al instead, something like 1/2x1/8  RGU hardware store stuff. Cut it with a hacksaw. Now we need slots in the fingers so we can adjust them to fit the work being turned.

I drilled a row of holes in the proto-finger. This leaves a whole bunch of metal as webs.
So I did something that the books do not advise you to do. I chucked a small endmill in the drill press and removed the webs by hand. Very difficult because my drill press does not have a quill lock. But I did it!  I do have the milling head for the Taig, but holding the work is 90% of milling and I cannot hold those fingers in the milling attachment at this time. At the end we had a quite respectable steady rest.
The slots on the fingers slide over 8-32 capscrews. Get your piece chucked, slide it through the hole in the upright, tighten up the fingers. I now have a new problem. I bought a bunch of fasteners in various sizes, mostly capscrews. Now where shall I store them? Ah, problem solved, problem created. But I have had lots of tapping practice. You can read all about tapping on the web, and in books, but there is no substitute for experience.

And of course this gadget had to have a name. Behold Steady Eddie. Long may he hold long whippy things.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Machine shed: done deal!

The machine shed is done! The next-to-last step was to roof the thing with castoff tin.Then we moved the lawn tractor and the tiller in with them.
As a super step, we had a bunch of spare tarps and cutoff tin. John hung them up as protection from the snow. We feel very rich. The shed is literally a lashup, but  it will keep my machines out of the snow. Now I have to remember to drain all the gas tanks. I have just posted this on our chore list. If you leave gas over winter in your smaller machines you will get gum and varnish all over the innards. Especially the carb. I add gas stabilizer to my small-machine reserve, which helps prevent the condition. Still better safe than sorry.
Anyway, the machines, for the first time in Chalupy history, are under cover. Happiness is a rough and ready machine shed.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Machine shed, rough and ready

I started the summer with dreams, nay, a design, for a timber-framed machine shed/blacksmith shop. We would saw the lumber with an Alaska mill, and mortise-and-tenon the joints. Alas, the summer is gone, and nothing done. All kinds of things got in the way, from chain saw failure (Siegfried started to choke. Needs new points, probably, but hard to find) to  the Snow Splitter, which was really the priority project. Of course everything took longer than expected. So, time for plan B. We will throw up a rough and ready shed. Really rough. 5x5 meters. Low ends 2 meters, high ends 3 meters. All such projects begin with holes in the ground.
 John kindly dug the holes, 60 cm deep. We have put poles in the holes. This involved a trip to the woods and a chain saw. We got most of the poles within 100 meters of my property. We did not peel them. Hey, this is really rough and ready stuff. Next job is to nail crosspieces to the uprights. We do this on the ground. Then we lever up the structure into the holes, a la Pennsylvania barn-raising. An auf! (on up), say the Amish.

Next job is to add rafters. The rafters, of course, must be a bit longer than the five-meter length of  the shed. A trip to the woods, a chainsaw, something of an eye for what's too heavy and what isn't, and we are done.

And another view. At the lower end, the thick end of the rafters, lashings are in order. Nails not long enough, unless you use "cabin spikes" (which we used to nail the crosspieces down) and even then you have to drill holes. Thank heavens for cordless drills. 
You can see the rafters in the above shot a little better. We will nail "nailers" (crosswise to the rafter strips) to the rafters and then use castoff "tin" (really galvanized steel) available at your friendly Ghost House for free.

Now comes the icing on the cake. It snowed last night. But Lysander the heroic tractor must be gotten under cover. I agonized all morning. Can I get him to start? Almost didn't dare try. Haven't run him for over a year. Just in case I charged up Lysander's battery. It is an old 6-volt system with positive ground. Yes, positive. Lysander was built in 1941. You can tell by the serial number. So I took my courage in both hands and went on with the starting drill. Pour gas into the tank. The gas is old. It has been stabilized, but it is still two years old. Worry about it. Hook up the battery.  Remember + is ground! Take off the glass crud filter and clean it. Drop the nut on the ground and spend an eternity fishing it out. Turn on gas. Pull out the switch. A major project. Needs pliers. Pull out the choke. This thing has not started for about a year and a half. Give it a shot of ether into the air intake, cheap insurance. My fingers are freezing.  Climb up into seat. Make sure it's in neutral gear. Push in clutch. Push starter button. Lysander turned over. Black smoke from exhaust. Sput sput. Too much gas. Push in choke. Try again. Roar! Ran a little rough at first. So would you if you were over 70 years old and hadn't worked out for over a year. Then it settled down into a lovely Lysander rumble-roar. I cannot believe how well this machine is built. Anyway I drove him into the shed. I think he looks very happy there. When the pic was taken he was still running. He has a generator problem. Won't charge battery. Must worry about that, but not today.
Personally I think Lysander likes his new home. But this is sheer anthropomorphism. It's just a machine. Or is it? As Roger Welsch (q.g.) sagely  remarks, could it be that tractors have (gulp) souls?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Moose in the yard, as usual

 It is fall. Hunting season is over. Somehow the moose know that, and they are starting to reappear in the yard. Now, if I could only get them to trim the lawn... but anyway, look, Ma, there's a moose in my yard!

Originally there was but one. One is a male. He has one small horn. Then we had three. I suspect that they are a family. Mommy to the left; son center, daughter right. I took this picture through the mosquito screen in the living room, a bit blurry. Sorry. Well, they are mowing the lawn, in a sort of mooseish disorganized manner. So I dashed outside, braving the -7C temperature. I got a slightly clearer picture.

I took a bunch of other pictures. No doubt the camera was mad at me. Point and shoot, they say, but they say nothing about whether you have all the complex settings in the camera correct.

But anyway, moose are fun. Don't get too close to them. They can trample you to death. And as I write this there are two more moose in the yard. My camera is out of battery. That kind of a day. These are a different set. Much darker than this morning's group. Definitely a moose day at Chalupy.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The snow splitter project revealed

In winter, the snow accumulates on the roof. Eventually, a warming combined with gravity gets it loose. With a crack of thunder it slides off the roof, and I am blocked in. Hours of shoveling. The snow blower won't touch it. It's so hard you need not just a snow shovel. You need an ice axe, the Dragon Lady, and divine providence to be rid of it. So, in the depths of last year's winter, the Snow Splitter project was born. The idea is to build a sort of shed off the front porch. This will deflect the avalanche of snow, and maybe we can get out to the car without so much shoveling. So the project began with laying out the foundations. Stakes were driven in the appropriate locations.
 I will admit it up front. We made a gross mistake. We did not use batter boards. These things are foolproof. Unfortunately we were foolish. Fortunately John has an excellent eye.
 So at the end, we had three holes in the ground where the furthermost uprights would sit. We put my standard 4x4 (or 8x8 cm in metric, which is what I work in) and put my forms, used to shore up my porch) in. We aligned them by eye. Unfortunately not good enough, but it worked in the end. Slightly cockeyed, a cm in three meters. 
 Then we infilled with rock and steel scrap. mostly package strapping steel twisted in a vise. Reinforce concrete at all times.
 At this point I used commercial stuff. I could have made it. It would have taken much longer! I used  commercial anchor bolts. The anchor bolt sticks up in the above pic. We also used commercial 4x4's for this project. Then it was time to mix and pour concrete.
We used pre-mixed concrete from Home Depot.  We have no concrete mixer. Used a plastic tub and a shovel. You want the concrete wet enough to pour, but not so wet as to puddle. Another case of Goldilock's equation. Not too hot, not too cold, but Just Right. . Here's John pouring concrete. 
 And we have two foundation posts in the ground. To this we attach steel upright hangers, available at your friendly Home depot (or Lowe's depending on preference).
  We attach the uprights to the hangers. To the uprights we attach the crossbeams, also with steel hangers. All these gadgets save time. It is more elegant to make mortise and tenon joints. This time I went for expediency over elegance. Here's John up on the ladder putting in a beam:
And here you can see our simple structure. 
Now for the ridgepole, all held in by steel stuff at all critical joints. 

Then it was time for the rafters, which I measured and worked out. Since our design was off, because we didn't use batter boards in the first place, I recalculated the rafters.  In the next pic, Fluffy passed up screws. She brilliantly discovered that since the screwdriver is magnetic, all she had to do was pass up the whole drill, screw and all, to John...
 ..who then could screw the rafters in. We used screws rather than nails; much stronger.
 At the end, we have a respectable snow splitter. We used salvaged roofing for, well, the roof.  It will divert the snow off the door! A lot of detail work left, like the flashing along the ridgepole. We'll do that, if only it stops raining.
Of course, this thing suggest YAP (Yet Another Project). Extend this thing all the way to the shop. Then we can walk to the shop in winter, unhindered by snow. So many projects, so little time.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Shaped planes, part VI (and counting) -- a plow plane

Once again, a plane-making chapter in this series. The ultimate object, of course, is to make picture frames in 14th century style. To make a frame you make a molding. Once you have the molding it is not so hard to make a frame. But to make the molding  you need molding planes, i.e shaped planes. After some experimentation I decided to make a plow plane. See the YouTube video I cited a good while back (Florentine 14th Century Frames). It is used to make the stair-steps (rabbets or rebates) that are later smoothed out to make the molding.

Of course, nowadays everyone uses power routers. But not me. In the old days it was all planes, and that is where I'm going. Onward!

Construction of a plow plane begins with the body. This is a priceless piece of oak, 145mm x 40mm x 22mm. It was once my daughter's dining room table, and the 22 mm is the thickness of the wood -- no doubt something in RGU, the Henry III units beloved by the USA. But oak does not grow in Alaska. I can live with 22 mm.  The first thing is to make the body.

I have constructed an oddly-shaped mortise and a plain old rebate, or rabbet, in the block of wood. The oddly shaped mortise slopes at 45 degrees and 60 degrees respectively. The 60 deg is arbitrary. It will acommodate the wedge. The 45 deg. is the bedding angle for the plane. Wedged planes are ancient. But they are very effective. Not quite as convenient as a screw adjustment. And why the rabbet? Well, the plow is a skated plane. The plane rides on a skate, or piece of steel. I have temporarily attached the skate to the rabbet in the body.

 The skate itself is made of a piece of steel from a worn-out  Japanese saw. I had to anneal it to drill the holes for attachment. Hence the lovely colors in the skate. No art, just necessity. The skate is two-piece. The leftmost provides support for the blade. It takes a bit of fussing and fiddling here to get the proper clearances for the front part of the skate. You want maybe 3mm clearance in front; have to allow cuttings to escape. When you have fussed and fiddled, you can attach the skate permanently.

 I have used an aluminum strip here, because I couldn't find brass of the proper thickness in Alaska. Note the brass rods sticking out of the side. They are for the fence. I'll do the fence later. The rods are in the wrong place, by the way. I had to move them later. That is not where they go! The rods themselves are welding rod 3mm thick. May be too flimsy. We shall see.

Next, we grind the cutter. I have gone into cutters before. I cut this one to shape on Gadget 1, see my last post. I had the good sense to make one of out of cardboard before I cut metal. It is shaped somehat like the letter L with a very thick horizontal. Final shape of the blade is obtained by grinding.  I did the bulk of it with a DTT (Dremel-type tool). The cutter itself is a piece of old circular saw blade. Then we use a wet grinder to put a preliminary edge on the thing. I have no picture of this, because in the middle of battle one often forgets to take pictures! No war correspondents here.
The next step is to add a fence.  The fence is a piece of wood that causes the plow to go at a fixed distance from the edge of your molding. It is attached to the brass rods I mentioned before (now relocated), with a pair of thumbscrews to keep the fence from creeping away and ruining your molding.
There is a lot of work still to be done, of course. I have to grind the cutter to its final shape, file the groove in the cutter that makes it ride on the skate, really sharpen the blade (see my thread on sharpening); in fact lots and lots of details and tuning. The piece of wood at the bottom of the picture is a stand-in for a molding blank. You can see that the plane will cut a groove in the blank. This is what we want, after all.

You can find plow planes in antique stores, at exorbitant prices. They are also made in Asia, not so exorbitantly priced. You can plunk down a great deal of money and buy the beautiful Veritas plow plane (search on plow plane). I refuse. It is much more fun to make my own. I remind you of George Dyson's (q.g.) saying, "never buy anything you can make, and never buy anything you can find."