Archive for February, 2011

Well the milling machine is still not up and running. Right now I am still held up by tooling. I have been waiting about 6 weeks now for the supplier to get their stock in on some specifics I am looking for. I’m really not too worked up about the delay since I have more pressing projects that should get completed.

 On Saturday night I was in the mood the get a quick project out of the way. I had made all the grease fitting mods to the X and Y tables at the beginning of the year but still had no method of actually injecting the lube. Awhile back someone had posted a link on a metal working forum that showed how to modify a standard type grease gun into a high pressure oil gun. I tried to find the posting so that I could give credit where credit is due however I failed at locating the source. The modification is really not that involved. You need to start with a standard type grease gun and basically gut the inside of the tube where the grease tube sits. It then needs to be sealed in such a way that it will become a sealed oil reservoir. The modification that was posted described how to make such a gun without the need for welding but what fun is that? The following is my version of the mod.

I visited my local automotive parts supplier and picked up a LuMax Deluxe LX-1112 grease gun for about 20 bucks. It was spec’d out at delivering 10000psi of pressure so I figured it’ll do the trick.

 The idea was to simply seal the cartridge chamber. I took an old oil pan drain plug I had laying around, an old rusty suspension nut that had a shoulder on it, and a washer. I started by gutting the old cartridge. I cut the plunger shaft and got rid of the spring and the plunger. I mounted the cartridge tube onto the lathe and cut off the bottom.

 The drain plug and nut got sandblasted. The nut then was welded onto the washer and then they both received a clean up facing in the lathe.

 All that was left was to TIG weld the assembly onto the bottomless cartridge tube. Once welded the tube was filled with brake clean and leak tested.

 The completed cartridge was given a few coats of high gloss black spray bomb to help hide the surgery. A few wraps of Teflon tape around the cartridge tube threads ensured that the oil would be sealed at the pump end. I got rid of the bleed screw in the pump body and replaced it with a 1/8” pipe plug.

 With the gun complete and filled with fresh straight weight 30 motor oil it was time for a test drive. All the fittings on the mill took oil beautifully. I could see oil seep out all the ways. You can feel the pressure the pump creates as it forces oil into the tight clearances. When the cartridge requires an oil re-fill all I need to do is remove the drain plug and fill’r up. I was able to cross one more thing off my “to-do” list however, while spending time in the garage, I came up with 3 more items to add.

With the gazebo table top mocked up it was time to focus on what would actually perform the supporting role. And the winner was…a 6.5” diameter piece of pipe! I was able to get my hands on a 26” section of the pipe and the girth looked right so I went with it (it was actually free so how could I refuse). I didn’t have a game plan for the base so I took a look at the metal extras I had laying around the shop and started to piece the structure together. The only thing I wanted to make sure of is that the base was visually pleasing. The backyard is built on a hill and the gazebo sits approximately half way down the total slope. When you are at the base of the slope your eye would be level with the base of the gazebo table therefore I needed it to be more then just a stick holding up a table top.

Most of the projects I build end up being over kill. When in doubt build it stout, why stop now? Since the table top substrate was wood I wanted to ensure it was well supported and that there would be as little flex as possible. It was going to have to withstand “table elbows”. I used some 2 x 2 x .100 steel tubing and built six outer supports. They consisted of nothing more then a 45 degree capped end and 3 holes drilled in each to allow for screws to fasten the top to the base. Once the sections were built they got butt welded to the center pipe using the TIG. At this point the supports were plenty strong but the visual was fairly boring and basic.

I had 20 feet of 5/8” hot rolled round bar kicking around. I bought it in anticipation of using it for a previous project but it never got used. I thought I would see how the metal bender would perform with round bar. I took a ten foot section and ran it through the bender till I had a radius that visually looked good. The bender did a good job however the bar wanted to “fall over” through the bending process. I clamped a set of Vise-grips onto the end of the 5/8” bar so that I could tell which way was up and then I clamped a second set of Vise-grips onto the bar so that I could manually hold the bar straight as it went through the roller. Worked beautifully! I then took my carpenter’s square and measured out 6 even sections along the circumference of the bend.  Lit the plasma up and torched the sections out (it too started to behave)


I TIG’d on the six angle brackets onto the existing 2 x 2 table supports. I think they worked out well. They do add strength however I don’t think they are structurally necessary. To add some finishing work to where the 5/8” rod attached to the support pipe I ring rolled a 1” x 1/8” section of flat bar and tacked it in place.


The main table structure has been fabricated. I was going for a 29” table top height, as that is standard, as it sits now I am at 28”. No problem. Next stage of the process will involve building a support plate to bolt and level the table to the gazebo floor. I will ensure that I gain an extra inch of height when I finish off the base.


I am still working on table top finishing ideas and things are coming together quite nicely. I’m still hogging the details to myself until I have all my required materials organized. I’ll keep you posted.


I stumbled across this video in a forum posting that I viewed recently and was very intrigued by it. I figured the video deserved a mid-week blog entry. The video was created by Jim Quattrocki who has been producing video and films since the mid 70’s. You can see more of his work here.

After seeing this video I could not stop thinking about it. It wasn’t for the reason that Bart is a blind mechanic nor was it for the fantastic video work done by Jim Quattrocki. I think it made me start to question what the underlying reason is is that drives a person to take a passionate interest in mechanical things. For those of you who are not mechanically minded your comprehension of my personal interest in things that go tick and vrroooommmmm may be a mystery. However I think Bart’s story can be related to anyone that has a passion about something.

I had always considered my interest in mechanics (not just cars but how things “work”) to be based on things that I could see. I would see something operate and then wonder how it was built to work. Over the past few days of thinking about Bart’s situation I can not get my head wrapped around the fact that the root of my interest stems from initial visuals. Just to be clear I am not talking about how Bart can function as a mechanic without the use of his eyes but instead where his passion comes from.

It started to make me contemplate the whole nature versus nurture idea. Bart was initially exposed to mechanics through his father. When I reflect back on my beginnings I would have to give my father credit for the exposure he gave me. My father was not a mechanic nor was he a tradesman however he knew his way around an internal combustion engine and certainly taught me a few things. I am not sure I would give my dad credit for instilling a “passion” in me however he certainly gave me an introduction.

I like Bart’s reference to his “Dart fund”. He appears to have a car he is passionate about fixing, repairing, or maybe restoring. I think the fact that he, himself, will never drive his Dodge proves there is an underlying genuine interest in working with “mechanics”. I think it’s fantastic the way Bart received Popular Mechanics in braille, I think that proves that some people were born with grease under their fingernails.

Maybe Bart is no different than anyone else. He talks about how he had to fix his mom’s car out of necessity. Perhaps his passion stems from opportunity. The fact that he was presented situations that allowed him to use his skills not only allowed him to realize his abilities but also made him appreciate them.

I felt as though I would need to conclude this blog entry with something I learned from my contemplations. I’ve got nothing. I am quite content with settling on eternal wonderment. I’m good with that.

It’s only February but for me that means it’s time to start gearing up for the spring and summer projects. The summer of 2010 was the year of the gazebo build. The bulk of the work was completed before the snow set in last fall however there were still a few items remaining. The structure still needs a set of railings, a set of steps, and some furniture. The steps and the railings need to wait till the snow disappears so I guess the workshop is going to turn into a furniture fabrication shop.

The whole point of the gazebo build was to have a place to sit, relax, and eat good food therefore a table and set of chairs are in order. The chairs are going to get purchased. I have the ambition, drive, and technology to build the chairs, and I would love to do something unique, however I have not figured out a way to squeeze more then 24 hours into a day. In fact I don’t need more time I just need to figure out how to operate on less sleep. Anyway…too many tasks, not enough time so the chairs may get done at a very much later date. That leaves the table. Okay…now what? I have only had the last 4 months to come up with a game plan. Let me think…excuse…excuses…I got it. BBQ build, milling machine build, family, Christmas, my job, and all the “10 minute” (more like 2 hour) little jobs in between.

This is what I know for sure. I hate table legs. They always get in the way of the chair legs and people legs. I thought about using repulsorlift technology however shipping costs would be outragous and I’m on a budget. So I need to come up with something in between 4 legs and the repulsolift idea…got it, pedestal leg it is. I had left the center hexagon of the gazebo floor unfinished thinking I may have to bolt the table to the joists. A single round pedestal, maybe 6 inches in diameter, with some clean table supports welded on should take care of the southern end. The only criteria I had been given for the Northern side was it has to be round (that was a request by the woman who will be critiquing the work). I wanted something that would fit well within the nature theme so I settled on a leaf design.

The game plan…I started with a 4 x 8 sheet of construction grade ¾” spruce plywood. Pulled out the woodworking tools and routered out a 48” diameter circle. Then I put the woodworking tools away…that’s enough of that. I took a 14 foot length of 2” x 1/8” flat bar and ran it through the metal bender. One run through the bender got me a beautiful 52” diameter steel hoop. I strapped the hoop around the plywood table base, trimmed it to length, and welded the hoop shut. It worked out better then I expected and the metal edge of the table is perfect.

Next I spent some time on AutoCAD coming up with a table top design. I found it necessary to brush up on my leaf anatomy so some Google searches provided me with the info I needed. Once I figured out how the blade, vein, and petiole of a leaf all fit together I was able to build one on my 2D desktop. I then took the single leaf design and layered it on top of my AutoCAD designed table top till I had a pattern I (I mean she) was happy with. After scaling the design to a 1:1 ratio I printed it out onto 36 pages. I pulled out the TAG welder (Tape and Atmospheric Gas) and my dual opposing blade chop saw (some people call them scissors) and I built a paper template of my leaf design. This project is not going well, first wood work, then arts and crafts, where is the molten metal?

 Back out to the garage…ahhhhhh, I can breath. The paper template was laid onto the table top plywood. Now the fun part. I took ½” flat bar in 2 different thicknesses. The spine and the edge of the leaves were going to get outlined with 3/16” flat bar and the veins would get 1/8”. Grabbed the carbide chop saw (he was no longer sulking) and clamped the ring roller to the bench and away we went. I spent the afternoon bending all the spines, veins, and perimeters of the leaves to form my design. Everything got tack welded with the TIG and then the final edge welds were MIG’d. I was amazed out how well white printer paper held up to the welding. The pattern came out perfect and the table was starting to take shape. However shape is all I have for now.

My original plan was to tile the top of the table. The tiles would all get cut and layed inside the welded pattern. I had not bought the tiles yet however I organized and obtained all the equipment I needed to make all the curved tile angle cuts. Earlier this week I had even run some test cuts on some old floor tile to ensure I would succeed at all the curved slicing. I had my technique all ready to go…one problem, I changed my mind. It’s funny that I did because typically once I have brainstormed an idea, designed the project, set up for it, and have begun executing it I very seldom waiver from the “plan”. Anyway…I have a new idea. It hasn’t been researched yet so I’m not going to share it. If I let the cat out of the bag I fear I will be setting myself up for failure. By not talking I can hide my failure and convince everyone that, whatever plan I come up with, was the one I had been going for.

Winter always seems to be the time of year where new equipment gets welcomed into the garage family. For years now the carbide blade DW872 Dewalt chop saw has been earning its shop keep and has been relied on heavily to do the vast majority of the metal cutting. It has done its time and has accomplished tasks that were clearly a challenge for it. It has never once complained or given up, it truly has a “never say die” mentality. Only once and awhile it started feeling the heat and had requested more then 15 amps to accomplish the task at hand. Unfortunately my breaker panel denied his request for a few more electrons and had to shut the show down for a minute. However once the breaker and the saw had a moment to catch their breath they continued to trek through to completion.

Last year I introduced a Hypertherm PowerMax 45 into the family. I was a bit unsure how the chop saw would react to having to share his space and his tasks. It turns out that the 2 are getting along just fine. It took awhile for each of them to settle into their new roles but I think the 2 of them have gained a healthy working respect for one another. The plasma came into the shop with a fairly large head on his shoulders, which I can understand, it had a lot to prove (room and board in the garage ain’t free!). Although the plasma gave the chop saw a run for his money it wasn’t long before the plasma put his ego aside and started to share the tasks. Initially I think the chop saw was really impressed to see what Mr. PowerMax could tear up; however, quick and dirty was never high on the carbides priority list.

Well just as everyone was getting along I brought in a new member, a Craftex CX103 1 HP 7” x 12” coolant fed bandsaw. I think I made a mistake; I didn’t talk to the chop saw or the plasma about this. I had been contemplating the addition for quite some time. A deal came up and I jumped on it. Needless to say the other 2 guys were upset. I don’t think the 2 of them understand just what the band saw is capable of. Chop and plasma thought they had everything handled between the two of them, they each knew their place and they performed with excellence. They were in for a hard lesson. For about a month now the two of them have had to sit in their designated shop area silently. Both of their egos were too big for there cutting capacity. A little down time will hopefully do them some good. I had recently outfitted the chop saw with a new 80 tooth blade however he’s not going to get a chance to grind his teeth quit yet. I tried to explain to them that neither one of them can slice up 4” solid round stock cleanly; they just seemed to pout. I had a cylinder head that needed some cutting; I gave them both an opportunity. When they got a look at the task at hand the talk was no longer so big, ha! Just what I figured. That’s right, why don’t the 2 of you just sit there and observe for awhile.

The real need for the band saw came about as a result of the metal lathe. I have had the lathe for some time now and the metal cutting requirements for lathe stock is different then for welding. Lath and milling have “girth” needs which is where the band saw shines. The main feature I wanted in a saw was coolant feed. I am tired of overheating tooling and material. The cutting capacity of most lower end coolant fed saws start at 7” x 12” which would suit me needs just fine. The rest of the features are fairly standard, it has a hydraulically controlled down feed and the typical 4 speed adjustment range. Some band saws come with gear boxes, which are nice, however mine has the belt and pulley set up. It is a vertical and horizontal saw meaning it can be used in either position. The table it came with, for use in the vertical position, does not scream quality so modifications will be in order down the road.

I picked up, uncrated, and adjusted the saw all in one day. I was happy to have some time to go through all the adjustment. I was careful to set the blade both parallel to the vise and parallel to the table. And with a test cut it showed that the accuracy of the squareness far exceeded my needs and expectations. 

The coolant tank and pump sit in the base of the machine. I filled it with a 20:1 mixture of water to water soluble coolant. And then some plumbing in of the drain was all that was required.

The saw comes with a cheap carbon blade on it; I really didn’t expect anything else. Once the teeth have done their time I will step it up to a bi-metal blade. Tension adjustment is easy from the outside of the machine.

Over the last month the saw has been doing the majority if the cutting in the shop. So far I have no complaints.

A future project of mine includes some foundry work so I have been collecting quality scrap aluminum so when the time comes I’ll have something to melt. I thought I would put the saws capacity to the test. I have a couple of BMW M62 engine V8 heads that I stripped down. I punched out all the steel plugs, removed all the valves and beat out the guides. The size of the head only gave the saw approximately a sixteenth of an inch of clearance. I took three test cuts. The first 2 consisted of a 1.250” cross section and the 3rd cut I shaved off an even 1.003” straight through. The cuts took about 3 and half minutes and came out clean. Overall I have no complaints. I would say that as long as the chop saw and plasma can work out their attitude issues we should all make a great team.