Thursday, December 4, 2014

I have moved. I am now in Anchorage. My daughter and I have bought a big house and I am now settling in. That is why long time no posts to this blog. Moving is very traumatic and I have had neither time nor inclination to post.

This blog will continue. I thought of cancelling it and starting a new one, but why bother. Chalupy Acres lives forever, but at my age (75) I could not keep up with it. Living in rural Alaska demands lots of physical labor, and John helped for a couple years, yet it was unsustainable. It was time to go. John and Fluffy are now in sunny Tampa, FL.

So I am now in Suburban Hell. But for all that, it is nice. I have a heated shop. The outdoors are not far away. There are 200+ Km of ski trails. So winters are taken care of. My greenwood woodworking stuff will be severely curtailed. But we have room for a garden, and maybe we will go a-Salmon Fishing!

Thanks for your patience.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Death Star, er, turnip

My life is somewhat unsettled right now. I will go into this later, after it settles. Meanwhile, it is fall in Alaska. Time to harvest the garden. Much to my surprise I grew the Death Star. This is the largest turnip I have ever grown. I did nothing. Like Topsy, she just growed.

Well, the ruler in the picture is the usual 30 cm/1" ruler so you get the idea Furthermore it weighs about 3 Kilos, or 7 lb for the metrically impaired. I have never seen the like. I am given to understand that at the State Fair they exhibit 5 Kilo turnips. Well, not bad for an amateur effort.

The garden this year was mediocre; but then, things are unsettled as I said before. I suspect this turnip is almost inedible, but if I boil it long enough it might do something, like flavor a stew. I am happy I grew megaturnip.

Meanwhile, some animal (I suspect a wascally wabbit) ate my chard. Compared to last year's moose devastation this is nothing. And the greenhouse us quite spectacular. As I said, I got some special plastic. What a difference! Outside temperature 10C, inside 19C, zucchini wonderful, tomatoes great. Ccn't believe the difference. Outside garden over. Greenhouse still going strong. Apparently wascally wabbits don't like zucchini.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Life is a grind

Well, the bandsaw vise is working. I still need some blade adjustments to bet the thing to cut perfectly square. But this is for another day.  Today's post is about a grinder. Specifically I have a 4mm carbide end mill to deal with, for my Proxxon mill. The largest size collet I have for that mill is 3.2 mm which is 1/8" in RGU. So I propose to cut the shank down to 3mm to fit my next collet. I tried very hard to cut it down to 3.2 mm and failed. I cut a taper into it. Slipped in the collet.

Now you might say "you have a lathe, dummy! Just turn the shank down! Piece of cake!" Alas, the end mill is carbide. If I tried to cut it with even a carbide tool, I would ruin the shank, certainly the tool, and maybe even the lathe. Not an option!

The only way to do this with my equipment is with a toolpost grinder. But nobody makes one for the Taig. So I improvised one. I started with some 1/4" - 6.3 mm steel square bar from Lowe's. Nice nickel finish on it, too. The Taig toolpost takes this size. Ten second's worth of time with Handy Bandy cut it off. Then I milled the ends square.

 The basis for this gadget is the Dremel chainsaw sharpener. This gadget is lousy for chainsaw sharpening. But the Dremel screws into it. It is amazingly a metric thread, M19x2, which I cannot cut. It's very large and I have no such tap. So I bolted the sharpener bracket on my piece of bar. I put a dial indicator on the Dremel and on the chuck. Chuck ran out (was off center) .06 mm and the Dremel only .03. I was impressed by the Dremel. It took a lot of fiddling to get the holes in the bracket right in line.
In the end, it took a long time. The grinder does not like big cuts. Furthermore if the grinder axis is off-center you will grind a taper on the shaft. So you have to measure the shaft at root, middle, and end and adjust the toolpost accordingly. There is no way I can get a dial indictor into this setup, I sure tried enough, but no room. I practiced on a broken drill bit until I got the angles right. I wore out 3 grinding wheels in the process. Carbide is very hard. Also things tend to move. So it's grind, measure, reset, go again. Took, essentially, a full day.

But it worked. The new shaft fits, just, the 3mm collet, so I have a 4mm endmill at my disposal on Cecil B. de Mille.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Handy Bandy's vise, a long trip.

The saga of Handy Bandy's conversion into a cutoff saw continues. In this episode we relate that we were unable to find a suitable commercial vise for him; we were obliged to make out own. One of the hardest metalworking projects I have ever undertaken. At first I tried just clamping down the work and hoping for the best.

 Alas, this does not work. The bandsaw blade pulls left to right as you view the picture. It exerts enormous torque on the clamps. The work is pulled crosswise and the blade jams. This needs a proper vise. I looked all over the place and could not find a proper one. So I decided to make my own.

Long ago I found a couple of bedsteads thrown out by the wayside. With my trusty angle grinder I deconstructed the bedsteads and provided myself with a lifetime supply of angle iron, I am here to tell you, bedstead steel is super-excellent. I could make tools out of it, and will in the future. So the idea is this: we have a fixed jaw on a vise (angle iron). We have a movable jaw. Angle iron too. Finally we have an end block. For this I used 13 mm (1/2") square bar. I bought 10 foot of ths stuff for $7 from Fastnall in Wasilla. Now the whole megilla has to be lined up, clamped, and drilled in the proper place. It was quite difficult to keep the whole aligned as I drilled it:

 Now over to the lathe. We need some steel rod. I used hardware store stuff 12+ mm, not the best. I turned down the ends in the lathe to accept hardware store 10-32 screws and threaded then with a die:

 Now we put the whole thing together. We will have to tap the end block for a 1/4-20 (about M6x1) holdit-down screw, which I did, a real pain because I really don't have the proper size drills. I had the holdit screw nade up from a previous abandoned project.

And there is my vise. Now we have to countersink screw holes to take wood screws so I can hold down to the wooden block. Then use wood screws to hold it down. Then realize you need a shim under the movable jaw. Adapt a pice of aluminum. Then you have a vise.
And here is the end result. We have a little piece cut off on the bandsaw. Stiiting on the Al shim. It works. We need a bit of tuning but I have a working cutoff saw.

More to come.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Camera Repair

As I mentioned before my Nikon Coolpix had a latch failure. The tiny little latch that holds the battery lid in place was broken off when I dropped it on the floor. I have improvised with scotch tape -- not duct tape; it stretches too much. Time for a more secure fix. Obviously I cannot photograph any of this because the camera was kaput. But I can show you the result.
What I did is spend half the morning measuring the camera. I then put a screw through both lid and the plastic beneath. Little black thing lower right on Camera. It obviously has to be placed so that there is some "meat" underneath the hole, i.e. some plastic. We are running the risk of drilling into some very significant wire; but the camera did not work anyway, so what the hey! Now -- how to drill the hole? It must be drilled, or at least started,  on the Proxxon mill. I have .001 = .025 mm control on where I place the bit. I also have some tiny aircraft drill bits, Morse number 80 or so  (bigger the Morse number the smaller the bit; most confusing, about 0.6 mm) . The next problem is to drill the hole. My mill will not go high enough to go through lid and bottom. The lid, by the way, goes out and only then will it hinge.  So I put the hole on the bottom where I wanted it. After that I zeroed my dials so I could get back to the right spot. Then I closed the lid. Oh dear the bit broke when I cranked back. On a chance I said "maybe it will cut anyway." It did! Once you have a pilot hole it is not so hard.

What size screw? Well, I had #4-40 caphead screws, these are about 3mm and they worked. So after that I moved over to the drill press; drill and tap for #4-40, put in a screw.  A Coolpix costs about a hundred bucks. My repair is much cheaper. Even if I need an Allen wrench to change batteries. Thanks to John for photographing the repair.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Handy Bandy update

My camera has gone west. I have used Nikon cameras for a long time, ever since I bought my first SLR (remember those?) long ago. My first camera was a Rolleiflex. After that I bought Nikons. Used, of course. Even used they were better than the -- well, let us not mention brands. I had an F-1 and an F-2 -- but again let us not get sidetracked.

So in this age of digital photography I have bought two Nikon "Coolpix" cameras. I have gotten used to them. But alas, they lack vigor. I dropped my camera on a rug -- not a hard floor -- and the little latch that holds the battery in its place broke. The latch is tinware and plastic. It broke. So my camera is literally Scotch-taped together. This is why pictures will be very limited in this post. BTW, neither duct tape nor electrical tape will work to keep the batteries in place. Too stretchy, loses contact.

The real purpose of this post is to document progress on the bandsaw frame for Handy Bandy. John pointed out to me that I had the hinge and the bracket reversed, so the frame would not swivel 90 deg or more. So I did that, and now...

Voila, it works. More or less. I had to take off the cheapo "fence" that comes with it, it wouldn't clear. I made a replacement out of aluminum angle. I blew the first edition,  but it is serving as a stop. I  use some small C-clamps to clamp my stock.
The stock is held in the "vise block," a glued-up collection of particle board attached to the base by wood screws, AKA clamps. But I cannot place this block until I get a permanent vise. I have no idea what the vise will be.  

This is a nuisance. I need a proper vise. A small one. I hope I don't have to make one, because making a vise is no mean task. Until I get a vise, this thing is a nuisance. It is hard to get it set up just right, unless you are Zaphod Beeblebrox and have three hands (A Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams).

But it is still, as it stands, much faster (or at least less work) than a hacksaw. I hate hacksawing, it is a lot of work!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Handy Bandy gets a frame

Of all tasks in metalworking, cutting off metal so you can work it, using a hacksaw, is by far the most tedious and exhausting. So... is there a better way? Well, there is an angle grinder. But this is wasteful, noisy, and also hard to hold.

You may remember my portable bandsaw. I bought it really cheap at a pawn shop. As far as I can tell, it was brand new. But it is a difficult tool to hold by hand. I called it Handy Bandy; I thought I would use it for timber framing. But it is much too difficult to hold by hand. So I thought I would build a stand for it. Thus it would become a cutoff saw.

There are literally hundreds of such stands on the net. But most of them require welding. I can't do that. But one design was build mostly from wood; it came with instructions and photos. As it turns out a lot of the stuff is wrong or outdated. Never mind. The point that you must bear in mind is that Handy's blade is tilted 45 deg from the vertical. Why? I don't know. Maybe they thought  it was easier to start the cut. But what I want is a cutoff saw. So I have to tilt the saw 45 deg off the vertical.

The key of the design I followed is to build a bracket and some clamps that tip Handy over 45 deg. This involves bending a piece of steel strap to very precise dimensions. In order to do this, grooves are milled in the strap. On my micromill this is not easy (especially because I broke my 1mm cutter) but it can be done. The grooves cause the metal to bend where you want it.

 The next job is to heat the metal up and bend it. I used two propane torches. The 90 deg bend is easy The other two are at 45 deg from the vertical. They are harder. But crucial. When the bend is complete the bracket looks like this:

Now we build a block of wood to get the bandsaw up high, so it can pivot. An ordinary hinge is used to get the pivot. Even without the hinge, you can see Mr Bandy is now tipped over 45 deg. And I have not discussed the clamps, I omitted to get pictures of the process; which involved a whole lot of hacksawing!

So now we build up a wooden block to hold Handy off the base (which we cut out of particle board). Observe the hinge. We bolt one leaf down to the block; the other is bolted on to the bracket. There's the pivot.

Next step, we build up another block to hold the bandsaw vise. Which I don't have. Nor have I bolted anything down to the stand. So I clamped up a lashup to try to cut aluminum. Astute observers will notice I am doing something wrong.

Nevertheless it cut off a piece of aluminum (very tough stuff, this particulat piece)
in much, much less time than I could do it with a hacksaw. Note that I have removed the fence from the bandsaw.

When I did a piece of steel it almost got there but at last minute it twisted and broke the blade. It dawned on me then that I am cutting at the wrong end! I should have been at the right end, close to the primitive fence on this bandsaw; in fact I should have put the fence back on! Then the blade will pull the work into the fence and keep it from swiveling.  However, this is very promising.

I have not included a link to the original writeup. Partly because a lot of it is not right. If you search for "portable bandsaw stands" you will find it.  However I spent a lot of today (raining heavily) in reformations. More to come.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Shinto temple, er, table.

The time has come,  the Walrus said, to make a table to support my grinders. I have two of them. I have far too much space in my hallway for a computer. It is currently held up by a door on sawhorses. Far too wide. So I decided to shorten it up and stick in a table wide enough to hold my wet and dry grinders. I had originally decided to use power tools on it. And of course I am using other people's offcuts, i.e. scrap. This means so-called "2x4 lumber." A few moments with a ruler will convice you that modern 2x4 are nowhere near that dimension. This is a way the lumber companies can get a little more lumber out of a log, at your expense. The modern 2x4 is something like 39mm x 88 mm give or take a whole millimeter. Convert it yourself if you want; I don't use RGU. But its not even a 2:1 aspect ratio.

Now my bandsaw will not take the 88mm width -- it is 3" or about  77mm. In retrospect there is a way around this; I could have "housed"  the joints -- but at that point I decided to build this thing by hand tools only. I am glad I did. I learned a great deal. Not the least, how to operate a Japanese ripsaw correctly. I am grateful to Roy Underhill on for some very useful tips. But I can now rip to within a half-millimiter over a 90 mm length. I could not do that when I started this project. Unfortunately I did not document it. I thought it was going to be a one-morning knockout project. I will have to do a future post on how to do these joints, this is really timber framing and a useful art to acquire. This is a lot like building a Shinto Temple. This is an art which requires master carpenters. No master, I, but at least I  learned something. I cut whole thing together piece by piece. When all was done I put it together. And it fit together.

Layout is 90% of the problem in timber framing. For this you need a very acccurate pencil. The Japanese use a bamboo brush, or sumisashi. I found out that a "Sharpie" thin marker works very well indeed, as long as you hold it properly against the square.The tip of the Sharpie is less than 1 mm wide.

I am really glad I did this the hard way, and I hope to do a post on how to cut these particular joints in the future -- since I did not document this project. Today I pegged these joints; hopefully I'll cover that in the future.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Garden, 2014, part 1 of ?

This post is long overdue. We started the garden early this year. Unlike last year, it was not wet. Last frost in late may, maybe around May 15th. Very favorable. First job is to fork up the soil. Some people use a tiller for this. This is essential for new rows, but for old rows I think  it is too violent. I use the old-fashioned spading fork. Then I spread manure, bought at Lowe's because I cannot generate enough compost. The  Alaska climate is, as we all know, very harsh. The   growing season is short -- and so is the composting season. My compost grows very slowly!  Anyway, the manure is mixed in. By hand. The result is nice, neat rows. No weeds, yet.

Then we put in the transplants. These have been sitting in the windowsills since early March.
I always cloche my transplants.Now cloche is a French word; it means "bell". The French, and later all European countries, used glass mini-greenhouses to get an early start on their veggies. These resembled bells; hence their name. Nobody makes them anymore; but on the other hand  there is an unlimited supply of transparent plastic, in my case old fruit juice containers. I run them through a bandsaw and slice off tops and bottoms. This protects the plants. I have seen frost on June 6! These pix were taken late May. If there had been a frost, my transplants probably would survive. They seem to like the cloches. It is almost time to remove their trainer wheels :). I always think I have far too many cloches, but I either break even or have too few. Drink more apple juice, JRC!

The rest of my stuff I start from seeds. I use my trusty Earthways seeder. I will have to do a post on this marvellous device. I was concentrating on what I was doing and did not get any pictures. Shame on me. The seeder saves days of handwork.

As I write some of the seeds are coming up. And I have been weeding already; dockweed is your deadly enemy. If you want to learn more about these techniques go read Eliot Coleman's books. He gardens in Maine, and that is almost as bad as Alaska.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Hephaestus -- a mini-furnace

I really should be posting on the garden, which is my main preoccupation at this time. But I'll do that later. Meanwhile, I would like to tell you about my mini-furnace. I did not invent this thing; I got it straight out of the internet. (Google on "soup can furnace".)

One of the problems with doing mini-blacksmithing as I do is that it takes quite a long time to heat up the work. Maybe five minutes to red-hot. After that it goes faster. Still, it is time and gas wasted. You are heating the atmosphere as well as your work. So I built Hephaestus, the tin can furnace.

 It could not be simpler. A tin can. In my case a roast beef hash can. Drill three holes. Mount it on some L-brackets. Fill the tin can with equal parts of sand and plaster of paris. Use a former (I used a broomstick and neglected to spray it with Pam) for the hole in the middle. But do oil your former. Any oil will do. The filler sets up in five minutes. I had to drill it out and then burn off the remaining broomstick remnants.Silly me.

You note the propane torch at the left. This fits in a hole you drill in the can. A spreader tip works better than a pencil tip. Fire up the torch and stick it in. It is amazing. It goes from zero to orange in under a minute! That is, you stick your steel piece into the furnace and light off. One minute later start forging. Amazing! Do use vise-grips on your piece -- it gets very hot indeed.

This thing really will save time and propane. But now it's time to garden, and I have no spare time. Next post I'll get into that.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Spring Fling with the Trebuchet

In the middle ages, in spite of all the nonsense in the romantic novels, most warfare revolved around sieges. Offense and defense evolved in parallel. The castles got thicker walls; and to knock them down the trebuchet was invented. There is a lot of material on the net about trebuchets.

So I got tired of  working on my picture frames and built a model of a trebuchet out of scrap wood.

As you can see, it is a lever pivoted on a stand. A heavy weight is attached to the short end. A sling is attached to the long arm. In the picture the weight is propped up by a stick. A projectile, in my case a vaguely ball-shaped piece of modeling clay, is put in the sling.  When the stick is knocked out, the weight falls, of course, this impels the projectile. So far I can sling the ball a couple meters, but I have been reading up on this and I think I can improve it.

Lots of variables here. Quite a complicated simple-looking device. Medieval trebuchets could throw 100 Kg a distance of 100 meters -- at least, the modern reproductions can do this. One monster I saw on YouTube (made out of steel) can actually fling a  compact car!

Spring is here and I have the garden to do; I think trebuchet tuning will have to wait.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Napoleon, again

Napoleon returned shortly after I did the post on him. He decided that the spot right beside my bedroom was the ideal spot for his moosely nap. He parked himself right next to my bedroom window.
Fortunately I walked in time to get a picture. He was literally a meter away. Quite unperturbed by the pesky humans. Unfortunately the camera recorded the screen on the window, hence the weird effect.

Moose are nocturnal animals. During the day they nap. I'm glad Napoleon did not feel threatened at Chalupy.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Asy ou know I have been struggling with the picture frame. The carving was the easy part. The hard part is doing the miters. My shooting jig is now very accurate. But it has a real problem. The plane follows the miter. If this is not exactly 45 deg then the plane tends to follow the (erroneous) angle. And one degree is far too much error. I tried a commercial miter box and it had far too much slop. Well, desperate situations demand desperate measures. I resorted to Cecil B. de Mille.

 I packed up the frame pieces on home-made parallels. This is so that you don't try to mill your priceless mill table along with the wood. I stuck my faithful 3 mm carbide end mill in the chuck. I then set the wood at 45 deg with the X-axis of the mill; that goes right to left in the picture. I tried the Y axis (90 deg from interfere X) but I did not have enough travel. Setting this thing up was a bear.  The clamps interfere with measurement. And my protractors keep slipping their settings.  In fact the clamps can slip too.  I finally overcame these difficulties. A whole day's work to do all the pieces. They were badly off; a degree is far too much.  Only problem is that the end mill is ever so slightly too short. Had to make several passes, varying the depth of cut (Z-axis). The part nearest to the left-side clamp is a bit too thick for the end mill. In this business a tenth mm a gross error.

When I clamped it up (in the homemade jig) there were some errors. I went back and "shot" the corners. See previous posts. It now fits quite well. Not absolute perfection. But not bad for a first frame.
Now I am putting some bamboo skewers (at bottom left) through the corners. Commercial framers use corrugated knock-in steel pieces; but I don't have any and am not sure I'd use them if I did. A miter joint is a very weak joint (if indeed it is a joint) and it needs reinforcement. I made a drill jig to make sure the holes went where I wanted them. I couldn't do this on the drill press; the frame is too big for my little drill press. Must use a hand drill, a very imprecise tool. The drill jig is at lower right corner in the picture above.

When I finish this operation I will plane off the pegs and give it to John. He has far more paintings than frames! I have learned a lot from this experience. Unlike other woodwork things, a miter jont is unforgiving. Get it wrong, never get it straight again. Next time I will do the joints before carving anything at all.

I must make a miter box. But to do so I must find some aluminum channel. Easy, you say. Go to Home Depot/Lowes.  Not so in Alaska. Well, eventually something will turn up.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Napoleon invades Russia! Er, Chalupy.

Yesterday I went skiing, as I do every day the snow is decent. It has been a very bad winter for skiing and I take every opportunity I can to do so. I start out with my "warmup track" around the house. When I started on my second lap around the track, I heard this noise. It sounded something like "snap, crackle, pop" and it was coming from the tractor, or so I thought. A close examination of said machine revealed nothing. What's this? I skied a few more meters and behold! A large moose hiding behind the tractor, chowing down on alder or birch. Well, he wasn't bothering me, so I didn't bother him either. You are well advised not to intefere with moose. They may be (and are) placid creatures, but if they are feeling threatened they can trample you to death.

So later John and Fluffy returned from a Safari to Wasilla, and reported that the moose was napping behind the tractor. Nap? Nap? Napoleon, said I. That's his name. I think it's a he; if it were a lady it would probably have offspring. OK, put moose out of mind.

But this morning when I went out to do something or other there was something not quite right. There was something lurking around Brutus, the Ford Explorer that J&F drive.
 What is this? Looks like a moose to me. Awfully close to the house, too. After some effort we got closer and found a moose chewing its cud. Moose, in case you did not know, are ruminants.
At this point Napoleon started making distressed noises. Far be it from me to distress Napoleon. I backed off.

Furthermore the beast had been licking  Brutus. John accuses Napoleon. He says  he is having an illicit affair with Brutus. I think, however, that it is a salt infatuation. Moose love salt. Maybe I should put out a salt block. Can't put out hay. Moose cannot digest hay.

Anyway, I went to the bathroom window and got the following priceless shot:
When I went skiing today, Napoleon  was ensconced behind Lysander, my tractor. When I went by, he was sort of ruffled so I went elsewhere. When inspected at 6PM tonight, by John, he was at the extreme end of the driveway eating up the twigs. Amazing creatures. And Brutus definitely needs a bath. Not every Ford Exporer can boast that it has been licked by a moose.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The jig is up

My picture frame did not fit really nicely. It had its gaps. Now, I am used to furniture. If furniture does not fit well I tweak it a little. With picture frames it is another thing completely. As I said, when I laid this thing out I had very primitive tools.  But when I was a lowly Officer Candidate in the U.S. Air Force there were three possible answers to any question: yes sir, no sir, no excuse sir!  In this case the correct answer is the third -- no excuse, sir. The frame did not fit.

Fortunately it came to me that I was neglecting a VIT (very important tool), namely the miter gauge (Britons read mitre gauge) that came with the bandsaw. This is just a very large protractor.
Beacuse it is so large, it is much more accurate than most store-bought protractors. I have a reasonably accurate shop protractor and I used that to lay out my shooting jig. But inexplicably the left side was off. By at least two degrees. When you are doing picture frames two degrees is suicide; it will never line up.  The right side was perfect; again inexplicably. There was nothing for it but to rebuild the jig. So I got a fresh piece of wood. Now I hate power tools, but I used the bandsaw (and its miter gauge) to get it right. No use introducing extra errors of hand wobble at this point.

Here is the new jig in action:
Ah, but there is more. All the lengths, inside and outside, must match. Elementary, my Dear Watson (which Sherlock Holmes never said. He said "elementary" any number of times; he said "my dear Watson" even more. Never did he put the two together). So we have a lot of fiddling (because it wasn't cut right in the first place)  to do and it is sometimes frustrating.  The shooting jig has no fine adjustment. I am enough  of a machinist to resent this! Version 2.0 will overcome all these faults. Darned if I know how yet.

But on to successes. The carving process left gouge marks all over the place. So I ground up a form tool out of a piece of old hacksaw blade. I collect old hacksaw blades for just such a purpose. I made  a paper template, ground the thing on a Dremel tool, and adjusted as I went along.

The left end of the tool rides on the straight edge of the molding. The tool shapes the molding. I use it by hand, although I could cobble up a scratch stock (q.g) to do it. By a remarkable piece of serendipity the other end of the tool, a conventional factory rounded edge, is just right to smooth out the middle. So we make progress. Very slowly, to be sure.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Shoot that frame!

Usually one thinks of "shooting" as pointing a gun and pulling the trigger. But this word has a meaning that probably goes back to the Romans. Maybe they made picture frames too, although I doubt that any are left. Most of our extant frames date back to the Renaissance. Those people really did shoot frames. So what do I mean by "shooting a frame?"

When you make a picture frame (think of the last frame you saw, or have hanging on your wall) with miterered corners,  there are three requirements. One of them is that the pieces should be cut at exactly 45 degrees. The second is that the  dimensions of the pieces should be exactly the same. Especially the inside dimensions. The third is that the mating surfaces should be as smooth as you can possibly make them. Otherwise it looks, well, amateur.The big boys -- the pros -- use a guillotine-like affair. This is beyond my means. A miter joint is a really weak joint, you would not like to use it for furniture. For picture frames it works all right. Just.

You could concievably cut miters (Britons read mitres) at any old angle. Say 30 deg. But then the mating part must be cut at 60 deg because the frame is rectangular. The jigs required to get this straight would be quite complex, unless you resort to CNC cut frames. So most of us stick to 45 deg, half the right angle.  I did too.

The crucial step is to build a shooting jig.  Here it is.

It is basically a scrap board clamped in my woodworking vise, which is attached permanently to my dining room table. I have a very small house; everything is multi-purpose, especially in winter. It is really a very simple jig, but it took me all morning to tune it. There is a triangular piece screwed on to the board.  There is a rabbet (Britons read "rebate" which is where our corruption comes from) and the angle between the rabbet and both sides of the triangle is 45 deg as accurately as I can measure it. It took quite a lot of planing (and a very accurate protractor) to get the angles right.  In the rabbet slides my trusty Veritas rabbet plane. Expensive. Worth every cent of it. My frame member is clamped (you can just see the clamp upper left) to the jig. When you plane across, left to right, you shave just a tad -- 0.1mm at most -- of the approximate saw-cut miter. This is called shooting the miter. Adjusting this thing is very difficult. Takes patience. But by George, your miters will be at 45 deg. This is a very old-school technique. Most people use CNC equipment for this nowadays, I suppose.But shooting makes a glass-smooth surface, especially with the Veritas plane which is a low-angle plane.

When I was all through with the shoot, I had a big gap in my frame. Surprise! My dimensions were way off. One piece was a full 6 mm off the other, which is suspiciously close to 1/4". When I laid this out at my daughter's place, I had very primitive layout tools so I suspect I made a mistake because I really cannot deal with RGU. So now I have to take 6mm off one side. I got down to 3mm and then decided to take a break and go back to machining my steady rest. Next post.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A picture frame

As I think I mentioned I spent two weeks in Anchorage. As a project, I determined to make a picture frame. I brought my carving tools with me. I should have brought some more, but that is hindsight. So we went to Home Depot and bought a pre-milled molding. I hate these things, I want to make my own. But needs must when the devil drives, as they say.

First task was to lay out the molding and saw it to size. Later on I found just the tool I needed by my bedside. Too late. So there was a big mistake. I laid out the wrong angle on the molding.  Regardless,  I had to carve it.

Now, carving these thing is not something I am going to tell you about. I am following Chris Pye's book. You can buy the book, or go to his website. I think he even has a blog. If you are going to do carving I think you can do no better. If you cannot follow Chris Pye, perhaps you should take up Origami. No insult intended; some people do Origami very well indeed and it would be very boring if we all did the same things!

This is a repetitive design, and it requires painstaking attention to detail. There are obviously four sides to a frame, and they have to match up. You can see my carving tools. I made them all myself, see my Microforge label on this.  It was difficult in Anchorage, because I did not have any sharpening materials. But my daughter came up with a Japanese waterstone, which saved the day. I will not use anything but Japanese waterstones for final sharpening. If you do carve, you will find you need razor edges and mirror finishes (I use a leather strop charged with rouge for final edges. There is a sharpening label on this blog.) .

So one of the problems of the Anchorage sojourn was that  the corners of  the traditional miter (or mitre, whichever you prefer) were not at 45 degrees. Oops. So back at Chalupy I laid out a 45 deg miter and cut it out with  a Japanese razor  (Dozuki) saw. I hate western backsaws. Clumsy wide-kerf things. In retrospect I should have built a mitre box. Act in haste, repent at leisure. I did cobble up a jig. Not precise enough, as it turned out. I do have a miter box, but it does not coexist with my Japanese Dozukis.

After a while I evolved the improved jig above. This was much better. So I have two decent miters and two bad ones. This is OK. I have to shoot the miters anyway. That means plane them to the exact angle. I will have to build a shooting board, and I am still mulling this one over. If you are going to build a picture frame it had better fit. And, as you all know, I hate power woodworking tools. So some time spent on a shooting board will yield future dividends.

I spent this morning making up some corner clamps. Getting eveything perfectly square meant resorting to Cecil B. De Mille. I milled the things as if they were metal, first cutting them on the bandsaw. Yes, power tools. But I think all means are fair when you are making jigs or fixtures. Get it out of the way! It was an interesting milling exercise, it took me two hours to figure out how to do one of them and then about half an hour to do the rest. The problem is that the corner clamps were much too big for my micro mill. The corner clamps are tensioned by string and ice cream sticks. Be sure to wind the sticks the same way!

At the end there is the provisional frame. There are some huge gaps; I don't think they are so visible in the picture. But they are there. On to shooting the miters. We will overcome. This is a fun change from metalwork, and we might yet have a frame. Stay, as they say, tuned.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Steady Rest, some more

I have been away in Anchorage for the last two weeks. Although I can post from there, the laptop I use drives me to distraction. Most of this is caused by the touchpad cursor; I suppose I could do something about that -- but the laptop also runs Ubuntu Linux, which I hate. Just me. I could fix all these things, but I don't feel it's worth the effort.

While I was in Anch I did some carving, a pleasant change from machine work. That's a future post. I would like to record progress on my steady rest.  All of it before I left for Anchorage.

I finished milling the dovetail slides and for improvised cutting setup it was a very good fit. I was pleased. I will have to drill and tap some holes for fixing screws, but that comes later.

 Next picture: the body of the steady. It will be screwed to the dovetailed piece.This is just drill and tap. I will not show it.
Now comes the really crucial step. I must put a great big hole (25mm) in the vertical plate. The center of the hole must be exactly at center height on the lathe. Once  you get the hole drilled, the center is gone! So I put a sharp point in the lathe chuck, and located the centerpoint by tapping the work with a hammer. That is center height. (The nominal height is 2.5" or about 62mm, but it is not advisable to rely on this.). we have a centerpunch mark. Right where it belongs.
So we can drill a pilot hole on the punch mark.  Now if I could chuck this in the lathe I'd be in clover. I could bore it out with a boring bar. But the upright will not "swing" in the lathe. Obviously -- it is at center height. So we will have to mill it out. The big boys do this on a rotary table. I have no such animal. It costs almost as much as the mill! So instead I built a fixture.
 Somewhere on my walks I found a very heavy piece of steel; whence it comes I know not. But I drilled my work something like 6mm and also my fixture, more or less in the middle. I pushed the work on to the pin. Then I could rotate the work around the pin, with my hand. So the cutter cuts a circle. Keep increasing the Z axis till you go through. This is definitely the pauper's rotary table! But it works. As Tom Lipton says, "we're all heroes in Aluminum".
After this, all that remains is to screw the upright back on, drill and tap the fixing screws, and make the fingers. 
Bought some aluminum to make the fingers. Haven't done a thing yet; busy carving. At least next post will be a relief from all this machining.We'll be doing some carving in wood for a change.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Steady Rest Redux, and some misadventures

I really started out to make a feed screw for the Taig lathe. Really I did. What I have found out about this machining business is that to make A, you have to first make B. However, that entails making C and D and so on, so sometimes you lose track of where you are.

I actually did make a feed screw. It was a 1/4"-20 RGU feed screw, approx. M6x1. It was far too flimsy.  I knew it had worked for Dean over on (look under "feed screw for the Taig lathe") but I found it very wobbly. So I needed a bigger screw. I am limited by ready availability, so maybe M10x1 would do it. Not for sale at Home Depot. Maybe 3/8"-16? This is about M10x0.75. But, here comes the problem, I cannot get a 3/8 screw through the bore of a Taig, so ... we need a steady rest. I made one before, see label "steadyrest", but it is too flimsy, just like the 6mm feedscrew. 

I had used a wood-turning attachment as the base of the old steady. It worked. But not really steady enough for what I want. So first I have to make the slide. This is a 45 degree dovetail slide, about 7mm on perpendiculars. So I set out to make the slide.

I had some 1/2" (12+mm) steel so I traced the outline of the old slide onto the new stock. Then I had to mill it out. And now we come to making C. I wanted to use my new Christmas present, a 4mm endmill. The bigger the endmill, the less work. But Cecil B. de Mille cannot chuck a 4mm bit.The biggest chuck is 3.2 mm or 1/8" RGU.
Now you cannot possibly turn down a 4mm mill shank down to 3.2 mm, even with carbide tools. The stuff is much too hard. But you can grind it down. So I mounted my trusty Dremel on the cross-slide. The adapter you have seen before, it is part of a chainsaw sharpening attachment. It ate the grinding wheel to a nub, but it worked. Sort of. Alas, I had a taper on it. It is very difficult to get the Dremel exactly parallel to axis of lathe. I finally set up a dial indicator.

I am getting far too much runout. (Off-center error), 0.1mm or so.  I actually did grind it down to 3.2 mm at base, but it tends to squeeze out of the chuck. Disaster. Time for another plan. 
I set up the vertical milling attachment on the Taig and put a really big (12mm) bit in the chuck. This is a no-no. You are not supposed to do this. I did it anyway and it worked.  So I "hogged out" most of of the slide by this method. I must say it was a pleasure to take really big cuts. By my standards anyway. So now we can clean up on Cecil. I put the bar right on the table and held it down with toe clamps, just like the big boys on YouTube.

The next job is to cut the 45 deg slots for the dovetail. The big boys use dovetail cutters. I haven't one; and it would never fit in my mill anyway, so we improvise. Using a protractor we tilt the piece to 45 deg and mill straight down.
Here you see the first dovetail cut. I am setting up for the second. Tomorrow, all deities willing, I will start cutting it. Then I can worry about the rest of the steady rest. Then I can worry about the feed screw. Whay did I ever take up machining? Because, in the end, it is fun. Getting to the end may not be so much fun, and is sometimes very frustrating. Life, after all. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Chain Mail, the coda

So we come to the end of the chain mail saga. I have made enough rings to go around the earth, or so it seems. One last thing to make. It is only fortunate that the recipient does not read my blog. She is much too busy! This number is a fine-mesh, 3/8" or about 10 mm as opposed to my usual 13mm rings. It is harder to do the small rings than the big ones. I have tried 6mm rings and I consider it almost impossible.

 As usual it is a pendant plus a chain. All in 4:1 mail, which means that each center ring links four side rings.

In this piece, the center rings are copper -- salvaged electrical wire -- and the others are steel, 14 gauge fencing wire. Very cheap stuff. I like the contrast. There are two pieces. the pendant and the chain to go around the neck. Here is the pendant. I like the contrast of copper and steel. Picture has a slight yellow cast to it. Sorry. Blame auto-exposure.
 The chain is single-strand 4:1 chain mail. If you were making this for protection you would not use copper, you would use all steel. But I'm making it for decoration. I want it to look nice; protection is merely symbolic.
The wire at the top of the pendant is there to stiffen it up. It does tend to sag, but I think I will remove the wire and just put in two more linking rings into the top.

And I am now really through with chain mail. If disaster comes and we all revert to the middle ages, at least I could make a living as an armorer. Although by now I am quite deft at this, it is very labor-intensive. But then, another word for the middle ages is labor-intensive. No machinery allowed. Glad I did it, but enough is enough. Now back to other things, such as my clock.