Posts Tagged ‘modification’



My latest garage project is coming to me through a series of connections and it involves a restoration project. My cities living history museum has an on-site workshop that is run by volunteers. The workshop is historic type wood working shop that does lots of repairs and building of historic items for the museum/park. One of the larger projects undertaken by the shop has been a full blown building of a 1920 carousel including all hand carved horses.

Doug, the gentleman that heads up all the volunteers and also appears to coordinate practically everything to do with the projects, gave me an inside look at both the shop and some of the major projects that have been completed. The vintage level that the shop works on is truly inspiring and goes to show that machines can’t always substitute for human talent, effort, and ingenuity.

This brings me to my own little shop and the project it has recently seen. The historical park has many vintage pieces of equipment some of which has been donated. They had acquired a Champion Blower and Forge Co. drill press dated from the early 1900’s. The drill had found itself a home in the wood working shop but was only there for decoration as it was not in a useable state. Through a series of connections I was able to contact Doug and meet with him to discuss the future of the drill press.

What the museum wanted was to be able to get the drill to a functioning state so that it could be used as demonstration in the museum’s workshop. After performing my initial inspection I was fairly certain I could get the drill back to working condition again however I had one main concern. The concern revolved around restoring it so that it would be historically correct. I like building things, I like spending time in my shop, I like planning my projects, and I like researching my projects BUT…I do not want to commit to the amount of time it would take to research the historical accuracies nor do I want to be burdened with the time consuming task of trying to collect potentially unobtainable items. Since this is a volunteer venture I also have to consider the budget. It was agreed that the drill would not have to be historically correct. As long as it was in a functioning state and that the overall image was maintained then I was free to modify, and repair, as I see fit.

The good news is that I wasn’t under a time crunch. The museum, being mostly outdoors, shuts down for the winter therefore I had up to 5 months to get the project complete. As long as the drill was ready for opening day in May I was free to take my time.

Onto the details. The Champion Blower and Forge Co. drill press that I am dealing with is Model 101. I found a date stamp on the drill chuck and it read June 1907. I am not going to give a history lesson in this blog posting. I will refer you to Mr. Google should you have any questions. I will, however, tell you a bit about how it operates.

The drill press is hand cranked and only has one gear ratio. The length of the crank arm can be adjusted and therefore I guess you could say that the mechanical advantage can be altered. The unit is equipped with a flywheel in order to add some inertia to the monotonous cranking of the handle. There is a cam lobe cast into the drive gear which activates a cam lever which, in turn, ratchets a lever onto a downfeed gear. This allows the drill bit to feed down between 1-3 teeth, depending on adjustment, with every turn of the crank arm.  I have included a video in this post which will probably do a better job at explaining how the unit operates.

There is much that I can say about both the drill and the restoration process. All the components had been gone through and either repaired or reconditioned. Some small hardware items like screws, ball bearings, and a spring were replaced. I have not included all the details of the repairs in the posting but instead just chose to highlight a few. If you have questions or want specific information just ask!

On last note before I move onto the good stuff. Much of the hardware that I required for the build was hard to find locally. McMaster Carr is a United States hardware supplier that has a massive selection of parts that are of interest to me. Unfortunately McMaster Carr does not sell, nor ship, to Canadians. Fortunately I have some good friends in the right spots that are willing to help out. Jason who happens to follow my blog was able to help me out. For those of you who are not familiar with Jason I would highly recommend checking out his blog as he does some really cool wood related projects. Not to mention he is an equipment junky which I can respect. You can see all his stuff at his blog The Gahooa Perspective. Anyway, Jason offered to put an order in for me and ship it North my way. Very much appreciated Jason, thanks!

I opted to split this project into 2 separate posts. This post includes the nitty gritty parts of the restoration. Part 2 will include the finishing process which will be available at a later date.


Here is the condition of the drill press before any work was performed. Previous work had been done as was evident by weld repairs that were painted over.


I am including this shot only to show the right side for reference purposes. As I scoured the internet in my research it was helpful when I was able to view as much detail as possible. Here is my contribution.


First order of business was to photograph everything before disassembly. Second order of business to to rip and tear and break everything down to individual components to allow for cleaning and inspection. Most of the components came apart with little effort. There where a few parts that needed some persuading however I think the drill and I developed a good working relationship. It had initially expressed some dislike of what I was trying to do but I had assured it, as gracefully as I could, that I was here to help and not to harm. We were able to reach a compromise and at that point I think we each developed a healthly respect for one another. From then one we had a common goal and became good working partners. I would like to be able to call this press a friend.


Here is some evidence of previous repairs. The support that holds the table assembly has been previously broken into multiple pieces. As much as the brazing repair looks excessive I commend whoever performed to repair for a job fairly well done. If you saw the bore of the broken component you would know just how many pieces it was broken into. It was a jigsaw puzzle to repair.


This is the cam arm that converts movement from a vertical plane to a horizontal plane which then activates the down feed ratchet gear. It too has been previously broken and repaired with both brazing and welding. There were some cracks that were still evident so I will end up doing further stitching.


Once I evaluated the condition of all the items I proceeded to get everything to a workable state. I started by running everything through a high pressure hot water parts cleaner to get rid of as much grease, oil, and old paint as possible. Then most components were transferred to my blast cabinet and cleaned up using crushed glass media.


The drill press table had been previously drilled through. Being cast I was nervous about how I was going to repair this. I had TIG welded cast previously and had good success. My main concern was being able to match the material finish.


I filled the holes using a 309 filler rod which works great for dissimilar metals. You can see that cracking on the top of the weld is evident. I am hoping that crack is only a flesh wound and has not penetrated deeper.


I had knocked down the protruding portion of the weld and then set the table up on the mill in order to machine it using my facing mill.


Here is the end result after machining and some sanding. The table is perfectly flat however the repair is evident, I kinda expected it would be. I am not sure how I am going to deal with this yet, I have some ideas. Time will tell which solution will prevail.


The drill press had a previous repair done to the wooden handle on the crank arm. I felt as though the press deserved something more then low budget fir. I opted to machine out a couple of oak handles using classic handle styling by giving them a slight taper.


Roughed out and sanded oak handle.


You may have noticed that the drill press only had 1 handle originally and that I had machined 2 handles. This is because I opted to retro fit an upper handle onto the top down feed gear. Of the drill press models that I researched I saw numerous models equipped with this upper handle. The purpose of the handle was to aid in rapid vertical feed of the drill chuck when setting up the material for drilling. The 101 model I was dealing will had a hole in the casting of the the upper gear that allowed for a handle to be added. I am unsure if a handle was there as some point or if it did not come on this model. The provisions were there so I opted to add my own handle assembly. I wanted to keep all my “gordsgarage” manufactured components looking as though they were original so I built a simple arbor for the upper handle. This is the start of the arbor before the final machining took place.


Here is the final machined upper handle arbor. I needed to cut it in such a way that it would clear the down feed ratchet lever.


One of the more crucial repairs involved the drive gear . This is the gear that is turned directly by the crank handle. The problem was that the gear had worn on the shaft and therefore the teeth would no longer mesh due to misalignment. The gear is cast with no inner bushing. Since the shaft that it rides on inspected to have some wear it was fairly minor. I opted to enlarge the bore of the gear in order to accept a bronze bushing.


Here is the bronze bushing that I machined down in order to fit the gear and the shaft.


The bronze bushing then got press fit into the gear. I made the bronze bushing a very tight fit on the shaft knowing that once it was pressed into the gear I would be able to hone the bushing for a precision fit. Happy to say my gear teeth meshing issue was solved and the gear alignments were perfect.


The next few pictures show some random repairs. On the right is shown the cam wheel that rides on the drive gear and activates the cam arm. There were a couple issues with it. First it had a flat spot on one side most likely caused by it’s inability to turn freely. The second issue was that the securing screw, for the wheel, could not be tightened since it would not allow the wheel to turn. What the manufacturer did was thread the screw in loose and then mushroom the back side of the treads in order to lock it in place. The problem using this method of securing is that it does not allow for disassembly for maintenance or repair. My solution involved machining a new wheel that was equipped with an inner bushing for the wheel to rotate around. This way the allen head securing bolt can be tightened properly and also removed at a later date if needed to. NOTE: I realize the allen bolt I used is not period correct. Fortunately the drive gear blocks it from sight.


Next challenge was to address a one-time-use crush sleeve. The sleeve on the right was used to keep a couple of securing pins in place. The securing pins connected the drill chuck shaft to the down feed acme shaft. One-time-use is the issue and unfortunately for me I was second in line. I wanted to find a solution that would not only look similar to OEM equipment but also allow for disassembly. I machined a bronze sleeve and installed a 10-24 set screw. I opted to leave the outside of the sleeve untouched therefore keeping its worn looking exterior. Again I realize the set screw does not fit with the time period. It’s my project and I can screw with it if I want to. That’s just my one cents.


Just like the cam wheel the cam lever also needed to be able to turn/pivot on it’s securing fastener. The cam lever pivot was originally made from a 7/16 bolt shown on the right. If this bolt was tightend it would not allow the lever to pivot. In order to keep the bolt “loose” but prevent it from backing off the threads have been flattened. This is visible by looking at the deformed thread 6 threads from the end of the bolt on the right. I am not huge supporter in this securing technique and therefore a solution would be required. The second issue was that the female threads that were cut into the lever arm securing bracket were cut at a slight angle. This caused issues with proper lever alignment. My solution invloved building what is visible on the left. It is a bushing that is secured using a 3/8″ square headed (keep the vintage look) bolt. Not only did this allow me to tighten the bolt, it also allowed a better quality pivot, and it repaired 90% of my lever alignment issues due to the fact I eliminated using the angle threaded original hole. Got all that? Didn’t think so.


Another challenge involved the down feed 5/8″ six turn single start acme rod. The drill appeared to have sat for awhile in unfavorable envirmental conditions a therefore the threads suffered some corrosion. I opted not to reuse the orignal shaft but instead build a new one. I began by obtaining a new three foot section of 5/8″ acme rod, cutting it down to size, building up a portion of it with the TIG welder and a 309 rod, and then machining it down to match the spec of the original rod.


In this picture the corrosion of the original threads are evident on the bottom shaft. I am happy to say that the female threads were still is decent condition and that the new, replacement, shaft threads perfectly into its counterpart.

Below is a 32 second video showing the mocked up drill press in action. Normally I toss in some generic music to help pass the video viewing time but in this case I opted not to. The reason being that the pure mechanical sound that this drill press makes is symphonic. I almost think the mechanical sound of the unit working in harmony is the best part. I’m considering making a 3 minute recording and put it up for sale on iTunes. Coming home after a hard days work , sitting in your Lazy Boy with a set of headphones on, and entering an oasis of non cyber stimulation would be well deserved for those in appreciation of such mechanical bliss.


The last 2 pictures show the mock up stage. Do not look too hard at the assembly since I purposely did not assembly everything 100%. The securing pins below the bearing assembly are just loosely fitted in order to allow for easy disassembly. At this point though the fabrication and repair have all bee completed and I am happy to say that the drill performd very well. I have never had the opportunity to use on of these drills in it’s original state so I can’t comment if my rendition if better, worse, or the same however I would have no hesitation in guaranteeing all the work I performed.


At this point the drill will be completely dissembled and the “finishing” process will begin. I’ll save all those details and pictures for a later date.


Title piston

A cyber friend of mine, Andrew, who happens to also own a Honda CB160 asked if I would be interested in performing a piston modification for his Ducati 160 Monza Jr. He had sent me a document that Tom Bailey wrote outlining changes that could be made to a stock piston for these engines.

The stock 160 piston came with an extra oil ring at the bottom of the skirt. I guess Ducati figured they needed a bit more control. In order to reduce friction and drag some owners opt to cut the bottom oil ring groove off. Once the skirt is trimmed the sides, just below the pin bosses, get a 1.5” radius machined into them in order to lighten the unit up. Once the machining is done the piston then gets polished in order to relieve any stress caused by nicks and scratches.

Since I am not a production machine shop I am not usually set up to perform custom modifications. I am, however, always intrigued by the challenge of figuring out how to accomplish the task. I agreed to give it a go and told Andrew that if I screw it up he’ll be on the hook for a new piston. I guess he figured it was worth the risk because he sent me the piston.

I am happy to say that the minor procedure worked out fine. No money mistakes were made and the piston is on its way back to Andrew.

The following is picture book format of the procedure. It’s nothing too exciting however it involves a piston, metal, and machining so how can that not be cool to look at!

Stock piston

Stock piston from the Ducati 160 Monza Jr. You can see the 4th oil ring groove on the lower skirt.

Trimmed skirt

Trimmed off the lower part of the skirt just to the point were the oil ring groove disappeared. Note how thick the casting is.

Trimmed pistion casting

Trimmed off the thick section of extra casting. I measured the stock piston and then machined the skirt to the identical dimensions.

Piston holding fixture

I built this fixture to mount to my rotary table in order to secure the piston perfectly in place for machining a 1.5″ radius into the skirt.

Skirt radius

Here the piston is mounted and one side cut.

The following is a quick clip showing the milling machine set up for radiusing the piston. The fixture was designed specifically for a 1.5″ radius.

Completed piston machining

Finished rough machining. Both side radius dimensions are identical.

Piston B4 polishing

Final step is to polish the piston up to relieve any stress fractures. This is the stock piston before polishing.

Piston clean up on lathe

I set the piston up on the lathe and give it a quick cleaning before I move onto a 3 stage buffing process using the polishing compounds and the buffing wheels.

Completed piston bottom

Sorry, no pictures of the buffing. Here is the completed piston underside.

Completed piston top

Completion stage, looks awesome. I need to blow this picture up and frame it. I could stare at this stuff all day.

Title bike shop

It has been awhile since I have posted the progress made on the 65 Revive CB160 cafe racer build. Things have not slowed down and lots of fab worked has taken place. It’s a slow, but enjoyable, process and much time has been spent staring at all the angles and mentally engineering the game plan.

Up to this point I had the exhaust under control and it was time to turn my attention to the seat. I was dreading this section simply because there were many factors to consider and everything needed to tie in together. After much work I am happy to say that it appears to all be coming together. I am retrofitting a fibreglass solo seat to the bike. The rear frame hoop was going to need to be build and then all the electrical components would have to get hidden under the seat.

I’ll run you through the details using the following pictures. Much of the fab work never got photographed this time round simply because I was concentrating more on the job at hand then the blog. Anyway…the following gives you the highlights.

Starting mess

This is what I am starting with. Here is what the CB160 looks like, bone stock, under the seat. I planning to cram a lot into this space.

Tank mount has 2 go

The fuel tank mount is going to interfere with the seat placement. In order to maintain the look of the bike the seat has no choice but to tuck up clean to the tank. This means the factory tank mount will need to be relocated.

180 hoop

As I have collected parts for the CB160 I added an 180 degree seat hoop onto one of my orders. I wasn’t sure if I would use it so I decided to trim off the rear frame tabs and tack it into place to get a visual.

180 not working

I think it is fairly evident from this shot that the seat hoop will NOT work. I kinda figured so since the seat lines didn’t appear to be even close to the hoop lines.

Rear hoop template

Looks like I am going to have to try and build a seat hoop to fit. The plan is to bend a section of 7/8 pipe to match the shape of the seat. I needed to build a steel jig to wrap the steel around. I started by building a template of the seat hoop out of 1/8″ MDF

Baking sand

The seat pipe, that would need to be heated and ben,t was going to have to wrap around a fairly tight radius. The idea was to fill the pipe with sand first in order to prevent the pipe walls from collapsing during the bending. Since the pipe would be sealed during the heating process I wanted to ensure I had no moisture in the fill sand. I used some old baking sheets and heated all the moisture out of the sand using my powder coating oven.

Fillling seat hoop

I used a 7 foot section of thin wall 7/8 tubing and welded one end shut. I then filled the tube full using the dry sand.

Compressing sand

The other end of the tube got a 3/4″ nut welded to it. I then used a 3/4″ bolt and threaded it into the tube to compress the sand solid.

Clamped 4 bending

Here is what the bending jig looked like before I put the heat to it. You can see the steel template I built to resemble the shape of the seat. I cut it out of scrap 3/8″ steel plate using the previously built MDF template as a guide. The steel then got tack welded to the bench and angle iron was clamped in place to help hold the steel tube in proper location. The next step was all about the heat. using a oxy-acetylene torch I was able to get the pipe to bend like butter.

Bent hoop

And here you have it, the results of my bend attempt.


The hoop worked out fantastic. The wall collapsed ever so slightly however it will absolutely not be a factor. I was more then impressed with how well the whole procedure turned out.

Plugs and hoop

I trimmed the seat hoop up to proper length and then built some solid steel frame plugs to help secure the hoop to the factory frame rails.

Plugs mocked

Frame plugs in place and ready for the hoop.

Hoop welded

The hoop was TIG welded into place and the frame ground down smooth.

Hoop fit 1

I am fairly critical of my work but in this case I would say the fit is near perfect. The lines of the seat fit beautifully along the new frame hoop.

Hoop fit 2

Another picture showing the fitment of the seat to the hoop.

Rock guard trimming

I had bought a rear rock guard to help keep road debris away from the engine. Before I could build the seat pan the fiberglass rock guard required some trimming in order to allow for pan placement.

Seat pan shape

First step in building the seat pan was to create an initial template using a cereal box.

Seat pan template

Once I had my cereal box template I then cut out a plasma guide template from 1/8″ MDF. Here the template is clamped to the seat pan steel and ready to get plasma cut.

Seat pan bend

Some minor bending on the press gave it the right angle to allow it to snuggle into the frame rails.

Seat pan test fit

The seat pan fitment worked out great. Eventually it will get welded all the way around the frame however more fab work is needed first.

Power distribution mounts

This next picture may not look like much but the work actually took many hours. Much of the bikes life line systems need to be hidden from sight therefore mounting options are limited. Most of the systems will be hidden under the seat. It took hours of staring and planning to come up with a mounting sequence that would work. Even ended up doing multiple “re-do’s”

Power distribution mock up 1

And here is the gist of it mocked up. The components that are now mounted under the seat include the battery, starter solenoid, fuse panel, power supply relay, license plate lights, charging regulator, ignition module, seat mounting posts, and wire management studs. It fits!

Power distribution mock up 2

Here is another angle of the set up. You can se the 4 aluminum posts that support my seat. The posts thread onto 8mm studs and therefore I am able to unscrew them and machine them down on the lathe in order to allow for precise seat fitment.

Power distribution mock up 3

I bought a lithium battery for the bike which allows me to mount it any way I want. Here you can see the power hook ups I built out of aluminum. To the left is the one side of my 2 piece custom license plate light I machined out of aluminum. In a few more pictures you will see what the light looks like from the exposed side.

Seat knob 1

I wanted to ensure I could remove the seat without any tools so I machined this knob out of some scrap I had. It is weighted very nicely to allow for quick spinning on and off.

Lic light and plate mount

Here is the rear underside of the seat pan. The license plate light housing will eventually get powder coated black. The tab to the right of the light is my license plate bracket holder.

Seat support

This is what the underside of the seat looks like. I built steel plates to fit precisely on top of my aluminum posts. The center section is my seat hold down.

Seat fit 1

Here’s an overall view of the rear tail section showing the fitment of the seat to the frame rails, the installed brake light and how the license light and license bracket is tucked up underneath. Super clean.

Seat knob 2

The seat hold down knob sits in the center section and does not protrude below the frame rails therefore is hides out of sight but is still very accessible.

Seat lines

Final shot with the seat mounted, adjusted, and secured with my power distribution hidden away. It was a long process however highly successful.

Title Porsche heads

So the blog has been suffering over the past few months. I challenge myself to hone my time management skills and usually I do it fairly well. However ever since spring hit it has been a struggle to juggle all the work that needs to be done. Something had to give and unfortunately it was the blog. The garage projects continue to happen however the blog postings have not.

Even though I am still feeling the pressures I figured I better just suck it up and post something. So here it is. I had spent the last couple months catching up on summer yard projects. With the completion of the outdoor fireplace last year it was time to pick up a load of birch for burning. I had a temporary firewood holder made from 2×4 lumber and decided it was time to rework it and build it out of metal.

Wood holder

About 4 summers ago I had built a “built in” BBQ with a full stone surround and tile top. Over the past years the tile has taken a beating. With the constant freezing and thawing over the winter the tiles started lifting and the top was in need of a rebuild. So this spring I stripped the tile top off and built a steel one out of 10 gauge. I bent all 4 sides, built a couple accent handles, and then powder coated it matte black.

BBQ top

Next was onto the deck skirting. The deck was built about 5 years ago and I had always planned closing up the lower section. I stash my spare aluminum under the deck and my better half was tired of looking at it. So the deck skirting got done, no metal, all lumber in order to match the rest.

Deck skirting

One of the garage projects I got side tracked on was some cylinder head machining for a friend’s 1973 Porsche 911. He acquired the car about a year ago and it needed a top end rebuilt so he stripped it down and upon inspection all the heads requires some repair. On the air cooled Porsche 911 engines it is common for the cylinder head sealing ring the wear a groove into the head itself. Typically this happens on the exhaust port side. The fix is to machine off about .010” on sealing surface of the head. Since the head is stepped machining of the step is also required as the same amount needs to be removed from the head surface and the step.

Gasket ridge

Here you can see the groove that gets worn into the cylinder head sealing surface. Always on the exhaust side.

When he approached me my initial reaction is that I am not set up to do this kind of machining. But as I pondered the details a little more I figured I may be able to pull it off. It was a challenge so I was game. I had warned him that he will be on the hook for any “money” mistakes I make. He already had another set of heads lined up for $2500 just in case my risky venture didn’t turn out.

In the end the heads turned out great. It took a lot of time, careful set up, and repeated measuring but I was fairly pleased with the results. I’ll work you through the process using the visual format. Let’s continue…

Combustion chamber center

The project began by having to build an adapter in order to mount the heads to the lathe. I started off by finding the center of the combustion chamber. I was just barely able to grab the edges of the combustion chamber step in the jaws of my lathe chuck. Now I was able to spin the head up and mark the center on the opposite side.

Milling machine center

With the center marked I transferred the head over to the milling machine in order to continue measuring for an adapter.

Stud centers

I machined an aluminum center finder in order to locate the exact center of the studs. using my DRO I was able to measure, within .0001″, the spacing between the center of the combustion chamber and the 2 studs that straddles it.

Lathe head adapter

With all the dimensions calculate the rest was simple. Using a 3.5 inch chunk of 1014 steel I machined up a precision adapter that would bolt to the studs on the head and, in turn, allow me to center the combustion chamber on the lathe.

Heads blasted

With the adapter built it was time to clean the heads up. Before machining they all got run through the bead blaster to get pulverized with #80 Aluminum Oxide

Ready to cut

Heads are clean and ready to cut!

Here goes nothin'

The heads just barely fit on my little Craftex B227 lathe. I set up a dial indicator in order to monitor my cuts a bit more closely.

The following is a video I shot cutting the heads. To many of you it may seem kinda boring but for me I think it’s pretty cool. Unfortunately YouTube cuts the quality down therefore the video is a bit choppy. I spun the heads up to just over 1600 RPM in order to perform the cutting.

Dial indicator adapter

I built a dial indicator holder in order to mount the tool into the 1/2″ collet of my milling machine.

Measuring step

Here is where the time consuming part comes in. I needed to perform 2 careful measurements. First one was the step. I was shooting for .100″ as that is what the factory spec was. I didn’t use the dial indicator as the measuring tool, I simple used it as a zero point and then performed all my readings using the DRO.

DRO head measuring

The Z axis of my DRO was the scale that did the measuring. All I did was use the Z axis of the milling machine to adjust my dial indicator to zero. then I was able to read my measurement off from the DRO. Here my machined step is well within spec.

Measuring head width

My second measurement involved having to measure the over head height. I built a crude gauge block seen in this picture sitting on top of the vise. I would zero my dial indicator and DRO Z axis to the gauge block. Then I had a base point in order to reference all my other heads to. This dimension is incredibly crucial as a one piece cam housing sits across three of the heads. If the head dimensions aren’t equal then stresses will be placed on the cam and cam housing.

Head dimensions

Lots and lots of measuring, here is 2 of 5 pages worth.

Completed head machining

And here is the finished product. .010″ shaved of cylinder head gasket surface as well as the deck. Just enough to clean up the groove.

6 completed heads

Happy to say I got all 6 heads done and dimensioned with no “money” mistakes.

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?

With the feet completed last week it was time to start cutting and welding the metal which will, eventually, resemble a lathe stand. I didn’t have a plan drawn up for the design I simply started to work off some basic critical dimensions.

 The main structure was simple. It was all welded from 2 x 2 x .100 square tubing, the same stuff that I built the milling machine stand from. It was nothing more then a rectangle boxed frame with extended rear legs to accommodate the back splash.

I wanted to try and maximize the amount of space on the lower portion of the stand. The lower section was going to house the tool chest and a couple of shelves to hold my turning stock. For about a week straight my mental planning process was fixated on somehow incorporating the top section of the tool chest as useable space. I came up with some elaborate designs but decided that, in the end, using the top storage section was not going to work out. So the plan is to mount the tool chest as high in the lower stand section as possible and sacrifice the upper storage section. This meant getting rid of the tool chest lid. What was the best way to amputate the lid from the rest of the box? The first plan was to drill all the spot welds out on the piano hinge. After I counted about 20 welds I figured forget that! Then I thought I could slide the hinge pin out of the piano hinge. Well it turns out the hinge pin was peened into the hinge in about 20 spots as well. Ok…looks like its going to get done the fun way. Got the plasma cutter out and in about 20 seconds I had the lid sliced off. With the lid off I was able to lose a couple of inches off the overall height of the chest. If anyone has any suggestions as to what I can do with a tool  chest lid just send them my way.

 With the chest test fit into the stand I could now determine my shelf spacing for the 2 lower shelves. I only had 10 inches to work with. 2 of those inches were going to get lost to the 1” angle iron frame for each shelf. I wanted to ensure that there would be enough space between the shelves for me to get my hands, and eyes, into so that I could scrounge around for miscellaneous turning stock. I figured 4 inches per shelf was too tight. I opted to build a rear pivot into the middle shelf. This way I could mount the center shelf lower which would gain me more room for my hands. The lower shelf now did not have useable space above it however I could now lift my middle shelf up so that I could access my lower shelf. The turning stock will roll towards the rear of the middle shelf when it pivots up but oh well. I’ll build a back to the middle shelf yet so that the turning stock won’t roll out and fall behind the lathe. I made the shelf pivots from a couple of nuts and socket head bolts I had kicking around. If you view the pictures the design is self explanatory. The nuts were simply a way for me to screw the pivot pins into the main stand frame. The shelves will get lined with expanded metal.


I had an evening where I thought I would give the stand some personality. I had bent a piece of 1” square tubing for my metal bending video but I never actually had a use for the bent length. The arc has been kicking around the garage and taking up space (it’s hard to store bent steel). The chunk of steel shone in its debut performance of the video and now it was time for it to reappear in a new act and star in a different role. The arc got sliced up so that it would fit between the 2 rear legs. I had some 304 stainless steel 5/16” round bar left over from the BBQ grates so I cut some sections out and created a decorative top trim section for the stand. The trim serves no purpose other then it allowed me stop tripping over the poorly stored 10 foot bent 1 x 1. I did the original mock up of the trim on the bench but then did the entire SS rod welding when it was mounted to the lathe stand. The SS round steel got TIG welded to the steel using an ER309 filler rod. The tops of the rear legs got capped with a couple of decorative post caps I have had laying around for years. I think the trim touches worked out well, my wife thinks it makes the stand looks like a bed. I can see her point.

 The backsplash is nothing more the 11 gauge steel plasma cut to fit. The backsplash then got stitch welded in from the back side.

 With the main structure completed it is time to focus on the base chip tray and the upper shelving. This is going to lead me into another project. The problem is this. My brain does not always mentally design projects according to what equipment my hands have to work with. My hands continually argue with my brain. The brain wants something a certain way, it’s real stubborn. My hands, as capable as they are, still need certain equipment to perform the tasks my neurological side is insisting on. It’s like my brain has a mind of its own and is oblivious to the fact that just because it sits at the top of my spine it still has other appendages it needs to consider. Anyway…it looks like another project will need to be completed before the lathe stand gets finished.


…and going to repurpose it. Actually it goes something like this. There has been some unrest in the garage this winter. It started with the chop saw and plasma freakin’ out on the band saw and just as they all settled down and started getting along the lathe decided to throw a hissy fit. It turns out that it can’t understand why the milling machine ended up getting a stand built for it with an integrated tool box when he, the lathe, has been stuck doing all the machining and he only rests on top of the useless factory stand. I couldn’t argue; the lathe had a point. His factory stand is completely useless. The stand is about 4 inches too low, there is a center section with a big hole in it that takes up cubic inch shop space, and the two side cabinets make for very poor storage space. I had been watching for a deal to come up on an extra wide tool chest and final one emerged. I managed to score a 40 inch wide upper tool cabinet with ball bearing slides. So the lathe is going to get a new stand and the old factory stand will get taken apart and repurposed. I think one of the cabinet stands will get turned into a belt sander stand, we’ll see yet.

The idea is this; to build a more useful lathe stand. The criteria are as follows; raise the height of the stand up probably 4” to help save my back. The new tool chest is going to get the lid cut off and then mounted into the stand just below the lathe. I’ll see how much room I end up with between the floor and the bottom of the tool chest. I plan to add at least 1, if not 2, shelves to hold my turning stock. The chip tray will be built similar to that of the milling machine. It will be water tight in case I decide to add coolant sometime down the line. An addition I am desperately looking forward to is an integrated back splash; I am tired of making a mess of the wall behind the lathe from the cutting oil that gets tossed around. If my mental design pans out then the stand will also get a 2 foot double florescent light fixture as well as an upper shelve to hold some supplies.

I started the build with fabricating the adjustable feet. Since the height of the feet will play a factor in how high the stand is built I needed to determine foot height first. The design for the feet is the same as I use for all my other hockey puck feet. I start by drilling a 1” hole 90% way through into the puck. I like to keep the bottom of the hockey puck sealed to the floor just to keep the moisture off the threaded leg. The legs all get chopped out of a 3 foot section of 1” threaded rod. The threads then all get cleaned up on the lathe. I usually use 1” washers to weld onto the threaded 1” rod however I don’t have any plus I don’t think they look very nice. I still had some 2” seamless pipe with .5” thick walls leftover from the metal bender project. I trimmed off 4 slices and cleaned them up on the lathe to use as the support washers on the hockey pucks.

The base of the stand where the threaded hockey puck feet will get screwed into was made from 2 x 2 x .100” square tubing. I took four 1” coupler nuts and cut them to length so that they would fit inside the square tubing. The nuts then get tack welded in place and will act as the threads for the adjustable feet. The square wall tubing then gets capped, welded and ground to finish them off. Now that the time consuming feet issue has been dealt with I can start on getting the main frame of the stand mocked up as well as plasma off the top of the tool box.