Archive for December, 2011

As with each winter season that passes it would appear that the snow season is also the season for new shop tooling and equipment. I don’t plan it that way it just always seems to end up being the time everything comes together. Well this season is no exception. With the introduction of the RF-45 clone milling machine that entered the family last year it has been a slow, on going, exhaustive researching process of getting the tooling set up for the unit.

I have been in the market for a decent vise to sit perched on top of the compound table. After spending much time on the forums trying to decipher what I should be looking for in a vise it pretty much came down to “don’t cheap out”. Cheap vises are cheap for a reason and although I have no experience with any milling machine vise it would stand to reason that your machined products will only be as precise as the equipment you use. I soon found the name “Kurt” popping up everywhere and realized that Kurt is the granddaddy of all milling vises. That’s great however I am not a production machine shop, is the cost of a Kurt realistic for a home shop guy like myself? As I continued to research I started to read more and more about the Glacern product line. I had previously purchased a Glacern R8 drill chuck for the mill and was quit impressed with the quality. Nicely machined product with smooth operation and yet for a decent price. As I read more I decided that the Glacern GSV-690 vise is the way to go. The finish looked good and I found no bad reviews on them. The price was better then Kurt plus Glacern’s swivel table was priced much lower then Kurt’s.

So here comes the pain. I’m in Canada and finding a Glacern distributor within the great white North’s borders is hard to do. Shipping cross border is a pain and I was fearful that the cost associated with the weight was going to exceed the cost of the vise. There is a company in the Eastern end of the country that does distribute some of the Glacern’s products including the GSV-690 vise I wanted. So this is the point in the story where I care not to elaborate. I have chosen to bury the painful details of dealing with this company so all I will say that after waiting almost a year to get this vise I was faced with yet another hiccup that would deny me another chance of getting my hands on the unit. It turns out the straw that broke the camels back was that the distributor was out of stock as was Glacern. The distributer tried to sell me Glacern’s Premium GPV-615 6” vise however it was not the one I wanted. The premium vise is still a very nice vise however its opening capacity was slightly smaller and although it was ground in such a way that it could be mounted on the side there was still no swivel base available for it.

I sat for days feeling defeated. I was able to buy directly from Glacern however there website confirmed what I was already told; they are out of stock. This has gone on far too long but now was not the time to give up. My next move proved to be the winner. I felt as though I had finally found the door that opened to sunshine meadows filled with flowers and butterflies with the von Trapp children skipping to the tune of Do-Re-Mi. I emailed Glacern customer service to enquire when they would expect to have stock on the units. Within minutes Dave Warren, from Glacern, responded. He had checked with the stock department and they actually had one in stock. It was mine if I wanted it. Wadda mean if? So with tool adrenalin flowing and sweaty palms I quickly responded with “you had me at “in stock”” and a “yeah I want it”. Do you ship to Canada? How much is the journey gonna set me back? Well the transportation fees were quoted at $159, not as bad I thought considering the set up came in at 105 pounds. What choice do I have? This is the best shot I got so I decided to stop thinking about it and make it happen.

But how? 10 minutes ago Glacern’s on line ordering showed 0 in stock and I would be unable to add one to my cart. Well it turns out that things can happen in 10 minutes time and now the Glacern site showed the GSV-690 vise in stock. Fantastic! Added one to my cart and while I was browsing I tossed a swivel base into the mix as well. Went to the checkout, calculated my shipping costs, hmmm…only $144. Sweet!!!! Handed over my 16 digits and I was off to the races. I had looked back to see if Glacern still showed the vise in stock, nope, no more to be had now. Filled with excitement I had to email Dave back to relay my giddiness and say a big thanks!

When I emailed Dave with the thanks and with one more question, however at this point his answer could not change what just happened. It had to do with shipping. I thought to myself “please, please, please, I hope they don’t ship UPS. Not UPS. Please not UPS. Anything but UPS, tie it to the back of a turtle, point it North and I’ll wait, I promise. UPS brokerage fees are killer!  So Dave? What is it? Do you ship UPS? Come on Dave…respond to the email. The 4th email we had exchanged wasn’t quite up to the response time I had come to expect. It took him about an hour this time! 🙂 Well there was good reason for it. Apparently Glacern does ship UPS. NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! But wait, calm down and read on. Glacern is aware of how UPS likes to take advantage of us Canuks and they are working towards a solution. Dave, being the hero he is, had been in discussions with his supervisor and as a one time favor for this being my first order they applied a coupon code that would relieve me of all the brokerage fees. First thoughts? Rock on!!!! Second thoughts? Is this too good to be true? I had better wait till UPS lugs the vise onto my doorstep and asks for nothing more than a signature. Well that they did! No money required and the whining that usually comes from me actually came from the UPS driver about how heavy the package was that he had to wrestle with.

So where does this leave things? I’ll tell you where. It leaves me with a brand new GSV-690 vise, with swivel base, straight from Glacern Tools with zero UPS fees. What have I got to complain about? Nothing! Let’s move onto the good stuff…you know…the shiny precision machined tooling.

Well I am not one to critique a milling vise since I have very little experience with them. However the Glacern, upon visual inspection, is a fine piece of tooling. I was concerned that a 6 inch vise would be slightly large for the RF-45 clones table however I think it was the correct choice.  The vise comes with centering tabs located on the underside to allow for centering of the vise on the table. In the case of my table the centering tabs are too large. No big deal. I removed the tabs for now so that the vise would sit flat on the compound table and at a later date I will mill the tabs down to fit my table. The feel of the lead screw is smooth and precise. The vise even came with a slideable metal shield that covers the threads to protect them from the milling debris.

In the end I will never know f I would have been better off with a different choice of vise. I now own a Glacern and it’s the new addition to the family that is going be with us through lots of projects. I am thrilled with the quality and even more thrilled with the service and support form Glacern. I think I reached the top with this one.

Ram tough? Not as tough as hard core cyclists. A riding friend of mine approached me with an idea for a small project to help spruce up his winter beater. This winter season he found himself battling the snow drifts in an older Dodge Ram 4×4. Being an avid cyclist he wanted to bring out a bit of his personality in his vehicle. So it was decided that the ram hood ornament was going to be replaced with a mountain bike handlebar assembly.

The plan was to machine a perch that would bolt to the original hood ornament mount. The perch would allow for the mounting of a stubby steering stem. The original ram head was spring mounted. Since the handle bar assembly would weigh significantly more then the aluminum ram it was decided to incorporate solid mounting of the perch.

The build was fairly simple, the pictures tell the tale. A section of 1.375” solid round 6061 aluminum was chucked up on the mill and a centering slot was machined. The slot was designed to ensure the perch would not pivot which in turn would have put the bars off center.

The rest of the work was done on the lathe. The perch was machined with a built in stem cap. The idea behind it was to prevent theft of the stem. The stem would need to be mounted onto the perch first and then the perch bolted to the hood from the inside. Since the hood is latched, with an inside release, one would not be able to remove the perch. This, of course, does not prevent someone from unbolting the bar from the stem…not my problem.

In order to provide a bit more support for the whole assembly a smaller bushing was machined to give some strength from the underside of the hood. The completed perch was then taken to the buffing wheel and finished with a mirror shine to match the rest of the mount. In the end I think the perch worked out great. My fiend still has yet to piece the whole show together however it is guaranteed to add some personality to his ride and will keep him dreaming about the trails to come in drier months.


I am not sure the blog has reflected, all that well, what my time has really been consumed with lately. I had posted a short bit on a collapsible paint booth that I am in the middle of building. Well the work certainly has not slowed down and, as with most projects, always takes longer then one expects. Anyway…progress continues to take place and a booth is starting to actually take shape out of the pile of aluminum that used to be lying on the garage floor.
The booth has been great practice for improving my aluminum welding skills. I am feeling much more confident with the procedure and feel that I have really been pushed to a whole new level of options when it comes to fabricating.

I have spent a few full day Saturdays working as quickly as I could just to get the main frame up.  The overall dimensions came out to 9 feet wide, 13 feet long, by just under 8 feet high. The idea is that it will collapse small enough, an light enough, to allow for storage on my garage ceiling.

Up until this point I have completed 3 key components. The 2 end frames have been welded up. One of the end frames houses the door which also acts as the exhaust filter and the other end frame has the intake filter incorporated into it. The 2nd key component is the roof section. The roof has been split into 2 sections thereby allowing it to fold down in between the 2 end frames. The end frames and the 2 roof pieces are all held together with hinges. The 3rd key component involves the vertical supports for the center roof sections as well the horizontal floor braces that secure the 2 end frames.

I am not too sure what I can really say about all of this. The pictures are all fairly self explanatory up until this point. I have chosen to make the roof vertical supports and the horizontal floor braces separate from the rest of the structure. I have room for separate storage of these components. With the main frame in a collapsed state the overall thickness is only 4 inches however this will change a bit yet. The entire structure is getting wrapped in a tarp which will only add some bulk to the collapsed unit. I am unsure how to calculate the overall thickness until I can actually test it. Hopefully the unit will still fold as nicely as it does now.

I am to the point were I need to fabricate the fan assembly that will be moving all the air. I have chosen to build my own fan assembly using a 1 hp motor and separate aluminum fan blade driven by a pulley system. Once the fan assembly is mocked up I will jump back onto the frame and incorporate some duct work to help direct the air flow. Stay tuned…there’s more to come.


I thought it was about time to do some garage interior decorating. We all like comfortable spaces to live in that are littered with pleasant things that surround us. I had a few extra evenings of time in between some of my bigger projects so I figured I would tackle a task that has been sitting in the corner waiting to be completed.

A military friend of mine gave me a couple of worn out tank track sprockets from a Leopard C2 tank that is still in service. The C2 is the Canadian version of an upgraded German Leopard 1 tank. They were built between 1977 – 1979 weighing in at 42.5 tons. They sported a 38 liter Mercedes Benz diesel cranking out 830 HP which was able to push the tank to a top speed of 65 kph. Now 65 kph is the “official” speed however messing with the diesel pumps will push this monster to over 75 kph. If the tank couldn’t catch ya it would get ya with its 105mm rifled main gun. Well you can imagine what that kind of horsepower coupled with that kind of weight will do to a set of metal drive sprockets. These sprockets are equipped with wear marks that indicate when the sprocket is worn out and then requires replacement. I had the sprockets sitting around for awhile during which time I would brainstorm unique things to do with them. I suspect they each weigh around 80 pounds so they definitely have some heft to them. They would work as a fantastic base for a pedestal type of stand, thought about making a coffee table, a bar table with foot rest, plus lots a wacky stuff that would be completely useless when done. As the sprockets got stared at it was noted that there were 12 mounting holes around the perimeter. Hmmm…12 holes…..what else has 12. Case of beer? Yeah ok but so what? Build a beer can holder? Why? 12 inches in a foot, 12 stars featured in the flag of Europe, the Majestic 12, 12 ounces in a Troy pound. What else has 12 holes…this is a waste of time, it’s gotta be almost 12:00 and I have to get a move on. What to build, what to build. What’s the time? I have to get going…

So I couldn’t think of anything so I figured I would build a new shop clock for the garage. What would be cooler then having an eighty pound German tank sprocket hanging on the shop wall? Nothing! That’s why I did it. Obviously weight was going to be a factor. I went to the hardware store but I couldn’t find any picture hanging hooks that were rated for tank sprocket usage so I decided to build my own.

I TIG welded together a simple wall bracket out of mild still and splashed it with spray bomb. The bracket was built to span the 20 inch O.C. wall stud spacing. I was able to bolt the bracket into two studs using six 3” long 3/8” lag bolts. Trust me it is solid. The sprocket is going to hang from the bracket on a couple of ½” studs that were mounted into the brackets frame.

I used a battery operated clock motor therefore battery replacement had to be taken into consideration as a design aspect. The clock is not that easy to take down off the wall for the occasional battery replacement. I picked up a double A battery holder and soldered it into the clock motor which would allow me to remote mount the battery on top of the wall bracket. This way I had easy access to the electrons.

Now that the foundation was dealt with it was onto the actual clock. My instinct initially told me to grind down all the rough edges of the sprocket, clean off the rust, and give the unit a few coats of flat black. But the more I looked at the sprocket the more I started to see lots of character in its present state. I figured why do anything? Just leave it as is. So as far as sprocket prep went, there was none. It got left with rust and all.

The face plate was plasma cut out of  .125 inch 6061 aluminum plate using my circle cutter. I thought it would look great with all the aluminum polished to a mirror finish so this is what I started to do. Once I got through the first 2 stages of polishing I set the aluminum plate into the sprocket for a quick visual. The soon to be clock started to take on more of a mirror look then a clock. The polishing did not blend well with the worn sprocket. I got out the dual action orbital sander, loaded it up with 220 grit paper and in about 2 minutes I had a fantastic orbital brushed finish to the plate. After a second visual, with the plate mounted in the sprocket, it was determined that this is the way to go.

Onto the numbers…I could have just left the mounting holes of the sprocket unfinished however I didn’t want it to look like I just hung scrap metal on the walls. I decided to spin up some aluminum inserts for the sprocket holes. I spun and few samples that had some nice bevels to them but in the end “fancy” was not meant to be. It really came down to creating something that was simple. In the end I spun out twelve 2” diameter buttons out of solid 6061 aluminum round bar. I had contemplated anodizing and dyeing the 3, 6, 9, and 12 buttons a funky color however I wasn’t sure if dyed aluminum would suit the project. I decided to leave all the buttons with a brushed finish.

So with the faceplate install, number buttons attached, and the clock hung it became evident that I made the right decisions along the way. The sprocket adds character to the shop and the choice of aluminum finishes blended well with the history. Now all I have to do is figure out what to build with the second sprocket I have.