Archive for April, 2011

So I stumbled across this video and I had a burning desire to share it. The video was shot by filmmaker Michael John Evans who is a filmmaker, writer, and illustrator. You can find out more about him here. I know nothing about the film making business and what makes a good film however I think this video is awesome. It features Sean Walling, owner of Soulcraft a bicycle frame building company based out of Petaluma California, building a mountain bike from scratch. I think there are multiple reasons I enjoyed the video, the videography done by Michael is fantastic, the equipment featured is impressive, the precision involved  is soothing (is that weird to admit to? I dunno…it relaxes me), and the soundtrack makes for a fabulous 6 minutes worth of viewing pleasure.

Building a bicycle frame is an item that is on my very long list of future projects. Watching Sean work makes me rethink the skills I lack and need to obtain. Blow this video up to full screen, crank up the volume and give yourself a 6 minute well deserved break. This kind of stuff rocks the show!

With the bending brake in a useable state I was able to pull some partially finished projects out from the corner and attempt to achieve some completion. The snow is disappearing, the sun is shining, and the gazebo is all melted off. Time to get the gazebo leaf table finished and installed.

 The plan is to bolt the table to the joists of the gazebo floor. I hate table wobble plus I don’t want table legs to get in the way of people legs. So the design was a center post to support the table. I need something to cover up the hardware that is going to be used to bolt the table down. Time to pull out the 10 gauge sheet metal and the bending brake.

 The design is simple. Create a hexagon shaped cap that will slide down over the pedestal leg and rest on the gazebo floor thereby covering up the mounting hardware. With my dimensional needs all calculate I started by tracing out a hexagon on the sheet metal. I budgeted for a 3” overhang which will eventually provide me with the appropriate cap height.

 The procedure was fairly simple and straight forward, not a whole lot of detailed explanations required. The traced hexagon was plasma cut out. The pattern was then clamped down into the bending brake and the scribe lines were cut. Once the lines were scribed each corner got a 20 degree notch cut out of them to help me get the proper angle of all my bends. The sides of the hexagon were short enough that I could just use the bench vise to do the bending. This way I could move the piece around quickly and achieve a consistent angle between all 6 sides.

 Once I had the shape bent uniformly I MIG welded the corners and ground them smooth. All I needed to do was cut a center hole for the pedestal leg to slide through. I do not own a circle cutter and I was unable to find a circle template that was the appropriate size. I decided to cut a sliver off the bottom of the table pedestal itself in order to get a proper sized template. I was able to wrestle the table based onto the band saw, clamped it, and the shaved approximately ¼ inch off the bottom.

The circle template then was tack welded onto the hexagon cover and the plasma torch did the rest of the work. The offset of the torch to the guide is about .170” which gave me a total of .340” clearance between the cut hole and the pedestal. Worked out perfect.

 Well I am one step closer to being able to enjoy my meal in the gazebo. Not much left to do but weld a bracket on the base of the pedestal to allow for the bolting, create the floor joist adapter, throw some paint on the whole thing, and finish off the leaf design top.

A friend of mine approached me about doing a small welding project for him. Before we get into the specifics I think some background information is in order. This particular individual of whom I speak of is no ordinary guy. If this guy could under go a heart transplant and get rid of his God given pumper in exchange for a turbocharged straight six he would do it in a heartbeat (I mean a power stroke) This guy eats, breaths, and sleeps horsepower.

His obsessions are not limited to one particular area, I mean if it burns hydrocarbons he either wants to thrust his right foot into it or twist the grip till it falls off. The guy goes from Mustangs, to RX7s, to street bikes, and even to trikes. OK…the trike doesn’t actually run but trust me that thing is freakn’ fast in his own mind. This guy collects turbochargers to make sure he stocks one for every single internal combustion engine he owns including his lawnmower.

1 inch practice weld on housing

From the time I have known him the vast majority of his attention has been given to his 1989 E30 BMW. There is one thing I know for sure about horsepower and that is a person can never have too much. My friend is no exception to this rule. However I have to give him credit for he is willing to work for it. By that I mean he pioneers his way to his wants. He does all his own work and modifications and is willing to accept failure. Once he has had his fun, and failure, it’s time to move on to bigger fun and, possibly, bigger failure. By failure I simply mean pushing an internal combustion engine to it’s “I have given you everything I got” limit and “there is nothing left for me to do but explode”. I think he uses the Edisonian approach to its quintessential core. He does his research, he theorizes, he plans, and he organizes however when he gets to a point where laws of nature can’t be calculated there is nothing left to do but “give it a shot”

OK, I think you get the point. Onto the nitty gritty and more about the welding project. He is looking to upgrade the turbocharger he previously retrofitted onto his M20 2.5 litre 6 cylinder in his BMW E30. He had a smaller one and it had done its time. He is upgrading to a Holset HX-35 turbo and coupling it to a BD Power 16 cm2 housing. Where do I come in? He needs a 3” stainless steel V-band clamp flange welded to the BD Power cast steel housing in order to couple his exhaust to the turbo. My first reaction to his request was hmmmmm…I’m not sure this is possible. Cast steel to stainless steel? I don’t know about that.

Now I know there are people out there that say they can “weld” anything. However in some cases the term “weld” is used pretty loosely. Anyone can point a MIG gun at something and pour molten metal onto it however this, in my mind, does not constitute welding. I needed to know if this was theoretically possible in the professional welding world. By that I mean is it possible to get a scientifically correct weld between the 2 metals. So I did some research and this is what I think I know. Technically, it seems that the process of welding stainless steel to cast steel is not actually possible. The professionals whose opinions I read said that they would not guarantee the weld, most of these professionals had lots of experience and spoke intelligently about the topic. Then there was a whole different group of people who said that the process is totally doable, unfortunately none of this individuals came across having extensive knowledge in regards to the finer aspects of metal fusion. So I decided to follow in my friends foot steps. Let’s take the Edisonian approach. I agreed to give it a go however he would have to be willing to accept my failure. He said he was good with that, I’m unsure I believed him.

The game plan was this. My friend agreed to give up one of his turbos he had stashed away (it was one he was probably going to retrofit onto his washing machine) so that I had something I could practice on. Here’s the set up I used; my Miller Syncrowave 180 SD TIG welder set to 120 amps, a 2% ceriated tungsten, pure argon set at 18 CFH, and a 309L stainless steel filler rod. I set out to make a few practice runs. Before welding the turbo I used a combination of MAPP gas and oxygen to preheat the cast. I used the MAPP gas simply because it was what I had available to me. I was shooting for a preheat temperature of between 300 – 400 degrees Fahrenheit. I could only get the turbo up to 240 degrees. Once it was heated I lay down a test weld. Like butter! It flowed great and the puddle control was fantastic. Only after about an inch of weld I wanted to add in a stainless aspect. I hunted through the metal pile and found a small chunk of 304 stainless steel. I plasma cut out a radius to fit the contour of the turbo housing. Through down another pre heat session and then melted some 309L stainless rod to the two of them. The filler flowed really nicely and the puddle was well maintained between both the cast steel and the stainless scrap. I got this covered, give me the real stuff now.

I reported back to my friend and showed him the test turbo weld, after a couple of blows with a hammer he said he was good. “Do it” he said.

When it came down to the real deal there was nothing to it. I preheated the BD Power housing to 240 degrees and then started laying down the beads. I alternated between 3 different spots in order to keep the heat well distributed. I finally was able come full circle and complete the weld. Upon inspection everything looked great. No slip ups and no warping.

 In the end I am not convinced it is a technically “sound” weld however I am certain his new bigger turbo is going to blow up long before my weld does. I think it worked out well and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.

An addition to this post, that is not welding related, is how the extra combustion pressures are dealt with when turbocharging an engine. An area of weakness when increaseing cyinder pressures is the head gasket, they take a beating. A modification that is made to the M20 engine is the insertion of stainless steel wire into the deck of the block circumfrencing each cylinder. The deck is cut “in car” with only the cylinder head removed using a special cutter being driven by manual efforts.  The cutter used was made by Isky Cams model 100 GRM. It is simply a cutter mounted to the outside of a boring bar that allows you to set your depth of cut and circumfrence. Once set you just drop the tool into the cylinder, it’s pins ride on the deck and you manually cut grooves around each cylinder. The width of groove is determined by the cutting blade width and is .035″ which then allows a .040″ Stainless Steel wire to be wedged in.  The inserted wire adds support to the existing steel head gasket and helps to prevent blow outs. Cool hey?

So I got to thinking about all the individuals that have made a significant contribution to all the aspects related to garages and garage projects. Everywhere I go I am always intrigued by how something was built, how it was engineered, the methods and tools that were used, the skills that people possessed, and the planning and organization that went into the project. All of these things have been done by people using principles of nature. On some level, I experience all of these things in my garage.

I like to take complicated ideas and relate them back to the fundamentals and the basic principles that make those ideas come to life and work. Much of what we enjoy today stems from principles and physics that have already been discovered long ago. I find that to take a basic idea and manipulate it into something is much easier then coming up with the basic idea in the first place. I think the vast majority of what we are exposed to in these “modern times” that are considered technologically advanced are simply a conglomeration of the real advancements made by people long forgotten. I think some recognition is in order!

I decided to start a new theme on the blog. I am going to pay tribute to these individuals whom I appreciate and  from whom I benefit from as a result of their contributions to the things that bring me joy in my life. It’s a celebration blog! I’m not going to write a highschool essay on their lives but I think a simple mentioning that these people exist, or existed, will suffice.

So the first birthday celebration post goes to Leonardo da Vinci. This awesome Italian was born 559 years ago today on April 15th1452. He is also the man whom I need to thank for the title of today’s blog posting. I thought the title quote was fitting for the inaugural post as it is birthdays we are celebrating and with birth comes death. And as a result of their lives being lived, many of us have gained. I appreciate this guy for his engineering and inventing talents. He had a ton of pretty cool garage projects going on in his time. I highly suggest taking a moment to reflect on what this dude was capable of. Check it out here.

Anyway…Happy B-day Leo! You rock the show!

I’ll finish this post off with some of my favorite L da V quotes. Enjoy.

All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.

Experience does not err. Only your judgments err by expecting from her what is not in her power.

I have offended God and mankind because my work didn’t reach the quality it should have.

Learning never exhausts the mind.
Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.

Nature never breaks her own laws

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions

The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding

There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, those who do not see.

Well just when I thought the equipment additions were done for the season one more opportunity kicked the garage door in and settled its way into the workshop. The floor had to give up 4.66 square feet of space to a 17.5 ton OTC twin ram hydraulic press. The new guy should, hopefully, not create any issues unlike the huge fiasco the band saw was able to stir up. I guess the only one who could be genuinely upset with the press is the vise but, come on, I think even the vise knows that throwing some attitude would be pushing it.

 Ok so here it is, 17.5 tons worth of crushing force. Yes it is used, an opportunity came up that I didn’t want to pass on. The unit is an OTC model Y-106 that features their twin ram style 4120 hydraulic ram. The twin is basically 2 individual rams that straddles the center adjustable rod that contacts the work piece. The unit is in good working order, just needed some clean up. The ram has a maximum stroke of 2 inches and when I inspected it the ram appears to be extending fully. The only problem with the complete set-up is that the pressure gauge on the pump is broken, no big deal. I may end up replacing it at some point. The foot print is only 24” x 28” which is great for the size of my shop.

 I am pleased to welcome the new member into the family. I suspect it won’t feel overworked in its new home however I am sure it will be given opportunity to make some substantial contributions to the shop. Welcome aboard!

 Update to the post: I find it ironic that I posted this today on April 13th as it was Joseph Bramah, the inventor of the hydraulic press, who was born on April 13, 1748. Happy Birthday Joe!



Well I am on the home stretch with the bending brake which is a good thing since it seems that I have too many other projects competing for my attention. Both the gazebo table and the lathe stand need to see completion first then I’ll be onto something new.

 Where did I finish off last time? Ah yes…I needed to fabricate the clamping system, then some way of taking the flex out of the clamping fingers, and finally some sort of a leverage system.

 I continue to build with no firm plan and so I start hunting around the shop for stuff I can make use of. Some 1” threaded rod, a couple of 1” coupler nuts, and some left over 2” pipe from the metal bender should work just fine. I need a way to clamp the 3” channel to the 6” channel so that the 10 gauge steel will stay put when it gets cut and then bent. I trimmed the coupler nuts down short enough so that they would fit inside the 6” channel. I clamped the 3” and 6” channel together and drilled a 1” hole through the ends. The 1” coupler nut then got welded to the underside of the 6” channel. I admit reading all this is kinda boring, just look at the picture ok? Instead of purchasing 1” bolts and washers I cut some threaded rod to the required length and welded on the left over chunks I cut from the coupler nut. Tossed them into the lathe chuck and faced the end to clean them up. I then shaved .500” off the 2” pipe to create a couple of heavy duty washers. There you have it, a completed clamping system. It’s not elaborate but it is highly effective.

 Don’t stop now, I’m almost there. Next is a solution required for taking the flex out of the clamping fingers of the brake when the bend is being made. The problem is that since only the ends of the 3” channel are clamped, and since the clamping fingers are bolted to the 3” channel, and since I carved out a .250” slot down the center of the 3” channel, the whole length of channel wants to twist during the bend. I decided I needed something to clamp the clamp. It’s like airplane building; I need to implement redundant systems. So a hunting we will go for more scrap to build with. After inspecting 4 metal piles I came up with a section of 4” x 3/8” flat bar and a length of ½” cold rolled round bar. It’s time for more bridge building and therefore a second truss system will be added to the build. The plan is this. Make a couple more clamping bolts a bit longer then the first, drill a couple of 1” holes in the ends of the 4” flat bar, then fabricate a truss to give the set up some rigidity. Again…just look at the pictures, I’m doing my best to try and make all this sound interesting. When it came time to weld the ½” cold rolled round bar onto the 4” flat bar in order to marry the 2 of them into a truss I decided to build a warp into the assembly. If I could concave the flat bar then it would give me even more clamping force once it is bolted down solid onto the 3” channel. Before welding the truss I propped the ends of the flat bar up with some 1/8” filler rod and clamped the center. It then all got pretensioned and welded which resulted in a very rigid, concave truss. Great! 2 down 1 to go.

 Leverage system, what to do. As much as I wanted to make things look pretty I opted to weld on a couple of handle receivers which have some locking set screws. The pipe was leftover from the BBQ project and would allow me to use a couple of  ¾” round bars as handles. The build process was no more then cutting a couple lengths of pipe to proper size, then drilling and tapping them so they each would accept an 8 mm socket head screw. Unfortunately I have no chunks of 3/4” rod lying around. I’ll have to keep my eyes open for some freebies; I plan on coming under $100 on the complete build.

 Well here it is…official test time. It has taken a few weeks, and some “fly by the seat of my pants” engineering but I have something that resembles a bending brake. Who am I kidding; I’m not sure this contraption looks much like any brake I’ve ever seen. Oh well, if it functions and actually bends something then I guess it will have earned its title.

 First up, a scrap piece of 10 gauge sheet metal. I marked a bend line and clamped it into position under the 3” channel. I took some time to set the circular saws shoe plate into proper position on the guide plate. I am shooting for a 90 degree bend therefore I need more then 1 width of a saw kerf. If I set the saw blade slightly off center I will be able to make a cutting pass in 1 direction and then head back in the other direction essentially making 2 cuts side by side. This should hopefully give me a wide enough cut to allow for the 90 degree bent.

 Ok, enough talk…here is the video. I did my best to make it quick however it still took a hair over 5 minutes to shoot. I think the video does a good job of explaining what I have been writing about over the past few weeks. If you have been following the build and feel lost then this is your reward for hanging in there. If you haven’t been following the build and have just stumbled your way directly to the video then good on you, you just saved yourself 3 blog posts of confusing descriptions.


 The bend came out as good as I hoped for from the start. It’s a tight, clean, straight bend. The cut line does not impact the strength of the bend for my purposes, it feels rock solid. The bend actually took a bit more force then I had anticipated. I am unsure how much force will be required for a longer length however I suspect getting some proper handles on the machine, and then being able to bend from both ends, will help. The saw cut worked out get. The line was straight, the depth was fairly consistent, and the cutting width of 2 kerfs was perfect. I would have to call the project a success. I have a few little touch ups to do yet. I am contemplating throwing a coat of paint on it yet, maybe I’ll paint the metal bender at the same time. Time to get back onto the other projects.


Well the R&D continues to take place with hopes that the 10 gauge metal bending brake will actually perform its function. The fingers and the clamping mechanism have been fabricated but not completed. I’m holding off on putting the finishing touches on those items until I can perform a test run of the system. This way if things don’t work out I will be able to modify without having to undo too much.

The only other main component of the setup left to build is the slider guide for the circular saw. The idea is to build a plate that will bolt to the circular saws factory shoe assembly. The fabricated plate will act as a guide between the 3″ channel and the saw. The guide will allow me to make an accurate “scribe” line in the 10 gauge sheet metal. Not only will it ensure the cut line will be straight but it will also control the depth of the cut.

I started with a scrap piece of 4 inch x 3/8″ flat bar and plasma cut it down to turn it into a 3″ x 12.5 inch rectangle. Here I was able to get some more milling machine practice under my belt. As much as it is not crucial that the guide is perfectly square I figured I would take the time to end mill the steel to get my 90 degree corners. With the steel cleaned up and milled to size I opted to mill a partial slot down each edge the length of the metal. The slots will eventually allow the 3″ channel to straddle the flat bar thereby creating guides that will allow the circular saw to travel down the length of the channel.

Ok…I screwed up, just a bit. It was the math. Trying to keep track of edge finder offsets, end mill diameters, and depth of cuts had me doubling instead of halving. The first milling cut went twice as deep as it was supposed to on the guide. My first reaction? I have to start over (yeah right…that wasn’t actually the first thing that went through my head). My second reaction? This is a good thing. So this is how I see it. Screwing up on the first cut is way better then screwing up on the last cut. I have a hard time mentally coping with the mistake, I don’t have an issue making the mistake, I just want to fix it. The wrong cut will not affect the function of the guide…much. So I decided to trek on and continue to machine the same piece of metal. If I had more confidence that a second mistake wouldn’t happen I may have actual started over. This way if the arithmetic goes wrong again I feel better about the fact that I am learning something. In the end that is more valuable than a perfect guide.

Once the edges were milled just enough to allow the guide to smoothly travel down the 3″ channel it was time to mill out a center slot wide, and long, enough for the 7 1/4″ carbide blade to fit through. No problem here. I chucked up my OSG 3/8″ four flute end mill and with a few passes I had a beautifully clean center slot chiselled out.

Next item on the list was to mount the milled plate onto the saws factory aluminum shoe plate. It was a simple procedure that involved clamping the 2 plates together and drilling a couple holes through them. The milled guide plate got tapped with a 6 mm x 1.00 pitch thread and then had a couple of stainless steel studs threaded in and welded. The aluminum shoe plate was mounted on the bed of the mill and the drilled holes were slotted to allow for fine adjustment of the saw to the guide plate. The two plates can now be bolted together and adjusted to fit the milled slot of the 3″ channel accurately.

With all the main components somewhat fabricated I was able to perform a few test bends to make sure the engineering would turn a plan into reality. A scrap test section of 10 gauge sheet metal was clamped down under the 3″ channel. The circular saws depth of cut, as well as parallel, adjustment were made. The initial scribe cut through the sheet metal was straight and the depth was fairly uniform. The scribed metal then got slid over and re-clamped under the bending fingers. All I had was a couple pairs of Vise-grips to use as leverage for the bend. The force needed to make the bend was more than I had anticipated. It was somewhat good news in that it meant that there was still a substantial amount of metal supporting the bend. The down side is that it puts an excessive amount of flex on the bending fingers. The amount of force required also causes the angle iron that performs the actual bending to flex excessively in the center. On the ends the angle iron has the hinges to support it and therefore the flexing is greatly diminished.

So it was time to add some “seat of the pants” additions to the brake. First thing is to address the flex that occurs in the angle iron when the bend is being performed. I figured a truss style design was in order. I needed to take the forces that are applied to the angle iron, reverse them, and use them to stabilize the steel. I utilized a 40″ section of 1/2″ cold rolled round rod I had and created a truss that tensioned the angle iron in the opposite direction that it wanted to flex. The idea is that in order for the steel to flex it would have to actually stretch the 1/2′ rod. There is obviously not nearly enough force placed on the angle iron during the bend that would cause the rod to stretch therefore the angle irons flex was greatly reduced. If none of this makes sense to read just look at the pictures, you’ll figure it out pretty quick.

Life was busy this week so the saw guide and the truss is all I have to show for my efforts. It’s looking like the brake will in fact perform its intended function so I will continue on working on the final components. These will include the actual clamping system; the C-clamps are intended to be temporary. Other required items are the leverage handles and an addition to aid the clamping fingers from flexing due to the force of the bend.