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Archive for the ‘Tools’ Category

Blow, Ill Wind

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

Five Bucks Buys You Nothing

I managed to make something in my shop today. Unfortunately, I was fixing something that broke, so technically, I came out behind. I spent time and materials on something that should have been working already.

I don’t care. I succeeded at something. This is the thing to focus on.

I bought a blow gun at Home Depot. It was cheap. It seemed like a great blow gun. The body of it was sturdy, and it appeared to be made well. Then I started using it. The first time I gave it any real use, the trigger broke off.

This was disturbing, because I had just made a major adjustment: I had decided to give in and use the blow gun on my machine tools.

People who use machine tools love to say you should never use blow guns around them, but of course, they all do it, just like everyone texts while driving. They say the air will blow crud into the machines’ workings and cause problems. That may be true, but guess what you get if you don’t use air? SPLINTERS. I have resisted using air, and I get metal splinters every single time I machine anything. I was tired of it. I decided to join the hypocrites.

The truth is that you can use air. You just can’t be stupid about it. Blow stuff away from gears and screws, not toward them.

I was machining something on the mill, and I used the blow gun to clear the chips before handling the part. I didn’t get a single splinter. I was able to get swarf out of places the shop-vac wouldn’t touch. The mill looked clean for once. It was great. Then the trigger ruined it all.

I took a look at the trigger. I was stunned by the cheapness. It’s literally like a plastic toy you would find in a cereal box. You could probably chew it in half in a few minutes. It’s flimsy plastic held on by a pin.


Yesterday I looked for a new blow gun. I hoped to find something decent locally, without driving all the way to Harbor Freight or Northern Tool, but my hopes were crushed. The only two major hardware stores in this area–Lowe’s and Home Depot–didn’t have anything I liked.

Today I decided to make a new trigger from aluminum. I had a square piece of aluminum about 4″ on a side and 1/2″ thick, and I figured I could cut a trigger out of it.

Sadly, my vertical band saw is not set up for metal. If you use a band saw for metal, you have to set special blades aside for it, because it dulls them, and after that you won’t want to use them on wood. That’s a hassle, so I don’t bother with it.

If the band saw had been available, I could have traced the outline of the trigger on the aluminum and used a 1/4″ blade to cut it out. Because I didn’t have a 1/4″ blade just for metal, I had to do the next best thing. I went around the tracing of the trigger with a big drill bit. The holes sort of approximated an outline of the part. I only did this on one side of the trigger, for reasons I now forget. Then I used a hack saw to join all the holes and free one side of the part.

To get the rest of the waste out, I mounted the part vertically in the mill and used a 1/2″ end mill to cut most of the crap out. After that, it was time for the belt grinder.

The belt grinder is a phenomenal addition to the shop, because I can shape metal freehand with it, very quickly, and I’m not limited to steel and iron. If you use a bench grinder on non-ferrous metal, you’re asking for an accident that could kill you.

I fired the belt grinder up and spent maybe an hour reducing the metal to the shape of the trigger.

When I was pretty close, I checked the thickness of the part. The opening in the gun was 0.440″ wide, and the part was 0.470″ thick. My answer was to mount the part vertically in the mill again and cut 0.025″ off the sides. I didn’t thin the entire part. Just the areas that had to swing into the gun handle.

After that, I put the old trigger on top of the new one and used a transfer punch to copy the pin hole location to the new trigger. I put a center drill in the drill press, measured the pin’s thickness, and used a #31 drill to make a hole through the new trigger. I used the center drill to deburr both ends of the hold so the pin would find its way in.

After that, it was just a matter of smoothing off the finger depressions, sanding down the marks left by the 60-grit grinder belt, and making the trigger look nice.

Now I’m done, and I have a perfectly good $5 tool that only took two hours and lots of work to fix. Somehow it seems like something there doesn’t add up, but hey, I won.

The gun still leaks air where the coupler screws in. I hope pipe dope will fix that. If not, I will have to take the blow gun outside and get medieval on it.

I have the tools for that.


The Purpose of Tools?

Saturday, November 26th, 2016

To Make More Tools

I’m having some fun in the shop today. I managed to accomplish two things.

My new belt grinder is very nice for what it cost, but it’s not a high-dollar industrial job. The people who made it are starter-uppers, and they aim at hobbyists. There are little things here and there that could have been done better. The tracking pulley is an example. It has been running about 1/8″ too far to the right, relative to the other wheels, and this seems to put stress on one side of the belt. I was thinking about making a new mechanism, but today I got it aligned with shim washers, so I guess I won’t have the fun of machining something new.

After that, I made a wrench for the tool post on my lathe.

My lathe has a big Aloris-style tool post, and the nut on top is 1-1/2″ in diameter. Naturally, the manufacturer doesn’t supply a wrench. Whenever you want to turn the post, you have to find a tool. Like a lot of people, I’ve been using a crescent wrench. It works, but it’s bulky, it has to be adjusted every time, and it’s not the right tool. Adjustable wrenches are hard on nut corners. The nut on my lathe appears to be hardened, but still. Wrong tool.

I saw this neat video by Keith Fenner, and I realized he was onto something. He had a wrench he had bent in order to reach remote fasteners, and he added a second bend to it and turned it into a tool post wrench. The video below explains.

There are a few benefits. First, it’s the right type of tool to turn a nut you don’t want to ruin. Second, it can be left on the tool post most of the time, so you don’t have to put it down where it will be in the way. Third, because he shortened it, there isn’t much leverage, and that means he’s less likely to torque it too hard and crack his compound slide.

Obviously, you can go to Northern Tool and buy a ready-made combination wrench, but where is the fun in that?

I decided to try this. I have little experience with using a torch to bend stuff, and it’s something I’ve been wanting to do more of. It’s a very useful ability. Also, with the belt grinder running correctly, I had the right tool to round off the end of the wrench after shortening it, and I wanted to try that.

It’s not that easy to find 1-1/8″ box end wrenches. Northern Tool probably has them, but it’s not a standard item at normal hardware stores. It turns out Home Depot sells a Chinese job for $10. It’s made for trailer hitches. I figured I couldn’t lose, so I bought one.

I put it in my bench vise, after cutting two pieces of aluminum to put between the wrench and the jaws. I didn’t want to mar up the wrench. I have brass jaws for this. But I didn’t want to mar up the jaws.

I know that sounds crazy.

I put aluminum foil in the vise with the wrench to deflect heat and protect the vise’s paint. Then I got out a MAPP torch and started heating the wrench.

This experience reminded me how much I need acetylene. A MAPP torch takes maybe 15 minutes to get a wrench hot enough to bend, and I still had to use a breaker bar. What a pain. But it bent. After that, I put the wrench in the vise in a different position, and I bent it again to make the second angle.

With the offset created, I put the wrench in the band saw to cut off the unwanted end, and of course, my Chinese saw threw its blade. It does that just for attention. I did get the wrench cut, though, and I put it on the belt grinder and prettied up the end.


It’s slightly loose on the nut. Chinese wrench. I don’t care. It will be very handy, and it was a fun project. I like easy projects. I don’t screw them up as much as hard ones.

It’s going to be a conversation piece. When average people walk into a shop and see a wrench with two 90-degree bends in it, they will want to know what happened.

I thought about doing this with a smaller wrench and using it for my table router. You need an offset wrench to change the bits. I have an offset wrench made by some company or other, and it’s made from steel plate. I thought a wrench might have a smaller shaft (whatever its called), which would give me more clearance between the wrench and router table, but it turned out I was wrong, so I’ll stick with what I have. If you don’t have an offset wrench for your table router, you should get one. Makes life much easier.

The wrench I bent turned blue in places. I can’t get it off. I assume it’s some kind of metallurgical change that goes below the surface. I probably messed up the temper or something. Who cares? It’s never supposed to be pushed hard, so it doesn’t matter. It would actually be better if the wrench snapped before the compound. But I’ll never torque it that much.

It’s fun to have tools and get stuff done. It was also nice to have this idea handed to me. Keith Fenner is a blast to watch. If you can’t apprentice at a shipyard and spend 20 years learning to do things the right way, his videos will help you catch up a little.

Nuttin’ Fancy

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

New Part for Woodturning Project

I finally finished the nut that holds down the woodturning tool rest I made for my metal lathe.


I started out using a 1/2″ nut and a washer, but the rest wobbled. When you use a flat washer to hold something down, the nut will deform it into a bowl and cause most of the clamping force to be concentrated near the bolt. The outside of whatever you’re clamping won’t feel much restraint. For this reason, engineers and machinists make washers and other clampy things with recesses in them.


If you have a washer which is hollowed out so only the rim touches the thing you’re clamping, the force will be applied as far out as possible. This is very helpful when you’re trying to keep something from spinning. Angle grinders come with flat nuts that have recesses in them, to keep the disks from spinning relative to the shafts.

After I started working on the nut I designed, I realized I might have been able to save time by using a nut made for an angle grinder, but that boat had sailed, so I proceeded.

I used a piece of 1.5″ 304 stainless round bar for the nut. I think it’s 304. I’m pretty sure it was a nub from a piece of 304 I bought. This particular stainless is a very nice metal once machined. It has good corrosion resistance, and it’s pretty. But it acts strangely when you try to work it.

For one thing, 304 work-hardens. This means that when you cut it with a tool, the part touching the tool can get hot from friction and harden up at the surface. In a second or two, you go from a nice friendly metal that cuts easily to a hard metal that refuses to give in. That means you have to be very committed when you cut 304. You can’t cut a little, slow down, check your work, speed up, and so on. When you pause, you may harden the metal.

Another problem with 304 is that it’s chewy. It doesn’t like to break. If you turn it on a lathe, it will literally make curly chips that shoot out behind you and extend six feet across the shop. That’s bad if the lathe tries to pull them back, because they’re razor-sharp, and there you are, between them and the machine. It also leaves huge burrs on things, so you have to use sharp tools or resign yourself to a lot of deburring.

I made this part using the lathe and a rotary table. I ripped my hand open on it while it was on the mill. At least I think I did. I was trying to indicate it in the 4-jaw chuck, and I was moving my hand around it. Suddenly I notice a half-inch cut in the back of my hand. I didn’t even feel it.

I put a 1/2″-13 thread in the nut, leaving the bottom 1/4″ of the bore smooth. I didn’t want a thread an inch long, because it would be hard to cut, and I wanted the threads to be on the upper part of the nut. I figured that would give the most stability.

I put it on the lathe to deburr it, and I used the drill chuck to get the tap started. I moved the lathe chuck by hand. I used Moly-Dee for lube. The tap got stuck. I couldn’t believe it. I put the nut in the mill vise with v-blocks and cranked the tap handle. It felt like the nut was full of sand. I added pipe-threading oil, but it didn’t seem to make much of a difference.

I got it tapped, but I was surprised what a nasty job it was. I guess that’s another 304 thing: jerky tapping.

I got it mounted on the lathe, and it works great. That’s good news, because it means my primitive tool rest design is a success, and I won’t have to start over. I have to go to Home Depot and get a longer bolt, but other than that, the job is mostly done. I have to put two threaded holes in it and add a threaded lever to clamp the tool bar thing (whatever) in place. That should be easy.


The hex on top was supposed to be 7/8″, but I made some kind of error and ended up with about 0.760″, so I took it down to 3/4″, which will work fine. I figured I should have the biggest possible hex so it would be hard for wrenches to beat it up, but this will do.

If you don’t make at least one emergency re-design during a machining job, you’re a fake. There’s something wrong with you. That’s how I see it.

Later this week maybe I’ll finish this up, throw a piece of wood on the lathe, and see if I have to call the EMT’s.

Hoping for the best.

The Sultans of Lathe Swing

Monday, November 7th, 2016

Plus Woodworking

I’m looking for something to do, so I’m writing.

It’s funny; to relax, I do something most people hate. Most people would lose their minds if someone said, “I need 1800 words in an hour.” To me, it’s like asking a cat to go sit in a box. Behind a keyboard is my natural location.

I thought it might be fun to tell about a few Youtube channels I like. They’re all related to tools in one way or another. I’ll do it in reverse order of how much they thrill me.

14. AvE. This guy is Canadian. To me, that means, “American in denial.” When the jihadis come screaming over the tundra from Siberia, he’ll start crying for American tanks to defend him; you just wait.

He lives somewhere near the North Pole, and he has no end of tools. I don’t know what he does for a living, but he seems to know absolutely everything about the tool world. Maybe he’s a mechanical engineer. Maybe he’s one of Santa’s elves, and he was discharged for using profanity.

One of his neat activities is taking tools apart to see if they’re made well. He looks at the quality of the plastic and tests the melting point with a soldering iron. He comments on the switches and fasteners. He checks the machining. It’s all great info. You can learn a ton from this guy. He is very, very smart.

Problem: his personality is so obnoxious it’s almost unbearable. He makes one infantile sexual joke after another. It’s like he has spent his life collecting prurient and scatological expressions. It never stops. It’s like his brain quit maturing at the age of three. It’s like listening to the internal monologue of a serial killer.

I can’t believe he’s married. Maybe he’s a different person around his wife.

I can stand him in short bursts, but I wouldn’t want to watch two videos in a row.

Here’s a video. I’m sure it’s filthy. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

13. Wortheffort. This man runs some sort of school for woodworkers. I don’t know what the deal is. Maybe he’s a preacher or a social worker. He has a beautiful shop and some nice tools, and he clearly knows what he’s doing. If you want to bone up on woodworking, Wortheffort is a good choice.

There are videos that tell about his school, but I don’t watch them, because I don’t care.

His personality can be a little grating, but it’s not too bad.

12. Stumpy Nubs. The name is a little disturbing, and he lives up to it. In one of his videos, you can see his blood all over one of his projects. He’s a woodworker, and he has a mountain of videos. Lots of projects. Lots of expert info. Here is a video, chosen randomly.

11. The Wood Whisperer. This young man does fairly orthodox woodworking, relying a lot on standard power tools such as the table saw and band saw. Manufacturers give him free stuff to use. I don’t know if that affects his judgment. He doesn’t seem to have the transcendent expertise of some of the other Youtubers, but he does good work.

10. The English Woodworker. You’ll enjoy this man’s videos. He has an excellent presentation style. He is passionate. He is interesting to listen to. So why is he so low on my list? Simple. He went to a pay model. He has a few great videos on Youtube, but he started putting things behind a pay wall, and the price was not reasonable. He needs to lower prices or get a Patreon page to bring in income.

6. Baconsoda. This man is nuts. He’s Irish, so maybe it’s not entirely his fault. He’s a woodturner. He has a number of nice projects. Unfortunately, he has like 9,000 videos about other less-interesting things, like his potato garden, which he seems to find very exciting.

I did say he was Irish.

9. Robbiethewoodturner. See if you can guess what his hobby is. He’s another Irishman. Either that, or he has a horrible speech impediment.

He makes neat items on the lathe. Maybe not the most dynamic host on earth.

8. The Tiny Trailer Workshop. When I feel bad about being eccentric, I think about this guy, and I realize things could be a lot worse.

He’s a blast. He lives in the woods somewhere, and he has a tiny trailer with a little wood lathe in it. He composes his own music, and he uses it to score his videos. He makes all sorts of weird things. Sometimes they fall apart. Who cares? He has a lot of fun.

7. Carl Jacobson. Woodturner. He does meticulously turned pieces that show there is more to woodturning that cutting out bowls and slapping shellac on them. Very creative.

Now I’ll start writing about the people in my top tier.

6. Mike Waldt. I enjoy this man’s work more than the other woodturners. When he started, he wasn’t the most amazing woodturner around, but he turned that into a strength. He began shooting video as a beginner, and he kept chronicling his work as he matured and got better tools. His work is very good now. He talks a great deal about tools and methods, so if you want to try woodturning, he’s a good man to watch.

He developed Bell’s Palsy after he started making videos, and you can watch him as he gradually recovers.

5. Abom79. He runs the Booth Machine Shop in Pensacola. He’s a third-generation machinist. He welds, too.

He’s a real machinist, which means he feeds his family using machine tools. He takes real jobs.

He has some nice old tools, and some of his videos are about fixing them up. He has a 27-video playlist in which he makes a parking attachment for a K&T horizontal mill, which is possibly the coolest mill in existence. Don’t ask me what a parking attachment is. Just watch.

He makes mistakes; I wouldn’t say he’s a top-flight machinist. But he’s honest about his errors, and he’s patient with viewers.

12. Keith Rucker. He’s a volunteer at Georgia’s agricultural museum in Tifton. He collects old machines and gets them working again. He calls it restoration; sometimes it’s more like a paint job. Whatever. It’s pretty cool.

He has a barn-sized workshop at his house. He had it built. It isn’t air conditioned, so it proves he’s dedicated.

Last time I watched him, he was working on an old Monarch lathe the size of a VW bus.

His interests are very wide-ranging. He does trains, wood machines, metal machines…you name it. He is no noob. He knows some stuff.

His delivery has a halting quality which can get on your nerves, but still fun to watch.

4. Paul Sellers. You like wood? You like hand tools? This is your guy. He’s an expert woodworker with a passion for teaching. He seems to know how to do almost everything, and he is happy to pass it all on to you.

Some of the stuff he covers: refurbishing saw blades, sharpening plane irons. making bench dogs, building workbenches, hand-tool joinery, and using planes.

3. Oxtoolco. This is Tom Lipton’s channel. Tom Lipton has what may be the greatest machining job on earth; he works at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, better known as “the Berkeley Lab.” Berkeley U. has one of the nation’s top physics departments. They do lots of government-funded research. Big money means big toys and no brakes. I saw a video in which he gave another vlogger a tour, and I was flabbergasted by the size of the facility and the battery of megadollar tools it has.

He has his own shop as well. I’m not sure if it’s a business; I get the impression that it doesn’t make money. It makes my stomach hurt to look at it. It’s huge. It’s clean. It’s airy. I want it.

I don’t know too much about him, but he seems to be about as good as a machinist can get.

He doesn’t actually understand the purpose of some of the things he builds for the lab. He says sometimes they’ll run an experiment that lasts a few nanoseconds, and afterward, the physicists will look really happy. That means he did okay.

Here’s a great video in which he refurbishes a priceless family heirloom to get his mother off his back.

3. Tubalcain. Also known as Mrpete222, Tubalcain is a retired shop teacher. That means he will make you nervous. He has the archtypal crusty shop teacher voice. In fact, he has nearly the same voice as the actor from the old Lite Beer commercials. I think he’s the same guy. He’s just undercover.

Tubalcain has a nearly ideal life. He wanders around to auctions, buying used tools with his retirement money. Then he puts them in his shop and makes videos. He also buys and restores old tractors. Teaching must pay pretty good.

He machines, and he also makes his own castings. He doesn’t have any interest in woodworking. He calls woodworkers “wood butchers.”

If there is some simple machining task you don’t know how to do, chances are, Tubalcain has a video for you. Just make sure you sit up straight and wipe that smirk off your face.

Here’s another one:

I’m up to my second-favorite vlogger.

2. NYCNC. This is a channel run by John Saunders, a young man who didn’t know anything about machining ten years ago. He lived in an apartment in New York, and he wanted to make and sell an invention. Starting from zero, he learned about tools, and he started manufacturing.

Eventually, he was able to expand. He moved to Ohio and got a gigantic shop. It kills me to see it in videos. There’s so much room, you could roller skate.

He has a Tormach mill, and the Tormach CNC company is one of his sponsors. He makes all sorts of interesting stuff.

Why is he my second-favorite tool vlogger? For one thing, he went from ignorance to professional machinist in ten years. I’ve been fooling with tools as long as he has, and I’ve accomplished squat. For another thing, he has a great attitude. He loves what he does, and he loves teaching other people about it. There are better machinists out there, to be sure, but how many started in an apartment, ten years ago, from scratch?

For some reason, he reminds me of Bridget Fonda. Very distracting. Once you get that in your head, you keep seeing it over and over.

1. Keith Fenner. This man is the king.

As proprietor of Turn Wright Machine Works in Massachusetts, Keith Fenner does all sorts of machining and welding work for companies involved in various maritime pursuits. He makes and fixes prop shafts. He fixes rudders. He repairs cutless bearings. He puts new ears on backhoe buckets and line-bores them so they fit. He made his own gigantic purple wheeled log splitter. He made his own 50-ton press, with a chain-driven elevation adjustor you won’t believe.

His main tools are old junk, but he’s so good, it doesn’t matter. He has an old Clausing lathe and a belt-drive drill press which must be twelve feet tall. He also has a K&T horizontal mill which he repaired himself after he bought it. He has a CNC plasma table he put together.

There is nothing this man can’t do. If you bring him a cast iron pump housing with a big chunk missing, he can put new metal into it and machine it back to original specs. I am in awe of his capabilities.

I haven’t seen him do woodworking. Maybe it’s beneath him.

That’s it. That’s my Youtube tool pantheon. I hope you check some of these guys out.

The main thing is this: I feel much better now that I’ve written this. I spent three hours today dealing with a cable guy who literally knew three words of English (he didn’t know what “remote” meant), and I needed to get my mind off it.



Saturday, November 5th, 2016

Witness Me, Blood Bags

Sorry for the Mad Max references. I couldn’t resist.

What an awful movie.

To get back on track, I had a couple of good experiences this week, and I felt like I should share.

Since about 2007, I have been trying to become proficient with tools, and I’ve bought lots of stuff. Table saw. Three lathes. Milling machine. Plasma. I’ve had a lot of fun, and I’ve also done lots of very, very bad work. It turns out owning the tools is not the same thing as being able to use them. What an unpleasant surprise.

Sometimes I do good work, though, and I improve all the time. Occasionally, something happens that makes me feel like I’m making progress.

Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of tool Youtubes. There are some wonderful providers out there. They’re just regular guys, shooting video in their garages and shops. They do marvelous work (sometimes), and they share what they know. These Youtubes certainly beat the garbage available on network TV. I think. I don’t actually watch network TV, other than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I’m not sure who hosts the current crop of late shows. I know Jimmy Fallon and that other guy have shows. I had his name a second ago. Kimmel! He has a show.

There are still some tools I would like to have. I want TIG and an acetylene rig. I want a surface grinder. I would love a CNC mill more than life itself. But from watching the videos and seeing what professionals get by with, I realize I’m not doing too bad.

This week, while I was watching tool videos, I had a wonderful realization: the guys in the videos were doing things wrong. They did things I could do better. Now that I’ve said that, I can’t say who I was watching, because for all I know they Google themselves.

One guy is a professional machinist, and he uses manual tools. By that I mean he doesn’t use CNC. He has been working for maybe 20 years. He has a huge TIG machine, a stick welder, and a bunch of machine tools.

He was making a part for a machine, and it was a long job. Lots of videos in one playlist. He did a lot of things I couldn’t do if you held a gun to my head, but he also did things I can do, badly. He oriented parts in inconvenient and inefficient ways while machining. He used the wrong tools for certain jobs.

I felt great about that, not because he screwed up, but because my perception of his mistakes showed that I had learned a few things, and that I was not as hopeless as I had thought.

He machined a long part, and I would guess the ratio of chucked metal to unchucked metal was 1:6. It was way out there. Ordinarily, you want at least a third of a part to be in the chuck, so it doesn’t fly out and kill you. I was practically punching the couch, hollering that he could just center-drill the far end and put a live center in it for support. It would have taken two minutes.

I watched a CNC guy do his thing. He has wonderful tools and a clean, spacious shop that makes me swoon every time I see it. I can’t believe he makes a living with that much empty floor space. You could literally roller skate in his shop. Anyway, he’s great with CAD, but when the time came to machine a part, he made workholding and locating errors I would not [necessarily] have made, and he sometimes did things the hard way. The part he ended up with was not that great.

I can’t mention his name, either.

It’s nice to feel borderline competent.

The CNC guy had a part in his vise, and one end was a few thousandths lower than the other. What do you do when that happens? You loosen the vise and bump the part until it’s level. Hello? You can use a screw jack. You can use a shim. You don’t just leave the part sitting there, because the measurement isn’t critical. Saying a measurement isn’t critical is like saying an ugly loaf of bread is “rustic.” It means “I am not very good at this.”

I’m not picking on him, because let’s face it: he knows a thousand times what I do. But it’s great to know I could have offered him a useful suggestion.

Now that I think about it, I had another similar experience. A guy was “restoring” (painting) an old lathe, and it took him forever to realize a wire brush was better than a putty knife for removing paint.

Why do people call paint “restoration”? How would you like it if you went in for a knee replacement and the surgeon painted your leg and sent you home?

If you’re not scraping or grinding your machine to remove the wear, you’re not restoring. Deal with it.

I love watching these guys. I learn a great deal every week. I even ordered a couple of their promotional T-shirts, to support their channels.

Maybe this week I’ll get back to CNC and make the lathe work. I’m 99% of the way there. I just have to conquer one programming glitch which has proved to be elusive. Then I can order a proper ball screw and make the lathe accurate.

Then I’ll still wish it was a mill. Oh well.

Guess I’ll go out in the garage and move things around until I can see the floor. Maybe I can get a few things done this weekend.


To make up for all the criticism, I’ll post one of the videos I’ve enjoyed. This guy has a hilarious, but typical, problem. A relative wants something fixed, and HERE YOU ARE, WITH ALL THESE TOOLS AND NOTHING TO DO.

He’s not one of the people I mentioned above.

Cult Movies and Abrasive Tools

Friday, November 4th, 2016

I Wish Mitch the Kool-Smoking Mormon Were Here

I have my belt grinder in more-or-less usable condition.

It was quite an ordeal. Jobs like this remind me of what Charlie Baltimore said in The Long Kiss Goodnight: “Yeah, well, that’s the thing about being a secret agent, Mitch. Nothing is ever simple.”

I love that movie. Brian Cox should have gotten an Oscar for the scene with the dog.

I ordered a metal box for the VFD, because you can’t mount a VFD in areas where metal filings and abrasive dust are loose in the air. Had I been aware VFD’s were so fragile, I would have ordered a KBAC VFD with it’s own little hazmat suit. I had to pay over thirty bucks for a metal box from BUD Industries.

The box had knockouts all over it, and you can’t screw anything to a knockout. I had to cut a piece of aluminum channel on the band saw and then turn it into an adaptor plate using the mill. I then had to drill and tap holes in the plate so I could screw it to the box and screw the VFD to the plate.

I got the VFD installed in the box, and then I had to run the AC and motor wires to it. That was fun. I had one knockout that refused to move, so I had to spend half an hour ripping it out and polishing the hole with a rotary tool.

The plan was to have this: 250V plug ==> cord ==> box ==> VFD ==> motor wires ==> VFD. I got it all put together, and then I had to deal with the control panel.

No one wants to use a tool that has a control panel inside a metal box with no windows. It’s a pain. Luckily, I had a VFD with a panel that detached. You can run an ethernet cable from the VFD to the panel, and you can put the panel out in the dangerous world of grinders and dust, where it’s easy to reach. This was my plan.

How do you run an ethernet cable through the side of a steel box. You don’t. You have to find a special coupling that has an ethernet jack on each end. You mount it in the box, and you run a short cable from the VFD to the coupling. Outside the box, you run a long cable from the coupling to your control panel.

Here’s the coupling.


Ordering this stuff is simple, right? No. First you have to know what to call the coupling. I finally found that out, and then I was able to search on Ebay. Almost no one in the US sells these things. I finally found one, and then I had to wait for shipping. I also found two cables at Monoprice, which allows you to buy cables in any length you specify. Neat.

Today I finished throwing it all together. I put the coupling in the box, and I ran the cables. I made a little aluminum mount and screwed it to the grinder platform. I screwed the panel to the mount. I was ready to go.

I did one other thing I’m happy about. I put a twist-lock plug and receptacle between the VFD box and the motor, so if I have to work on this thing, I can break it down into two major parts without opening anything up. Very nice. I love using twist-lock plugs on motors. I don’t know how OSHA feels about it. They are welcome to drive out here and give me a citation.

My final accomplishment was programming the VFD so the cooling fan didn’t run all the time. The VFD box is not vented, so a fan inside the box will actually heat it. Not good. Also, it wears out the fan. I found a programming parameter that makes the fan turn on when the VFD is hot. I have to wonder why that wasn’t the default setting. Why would a cold VFD need air?

I couldn’t find an ideal location for the panel, so I just put it in front of the grinder, out of the way of the belt. We’ll see if it blows up. Here’s a photo.


This is excellent. I now have an abrasive cart with two variable-speed belt grinders. What useful machines. I actually used them to make the aluminum panel mount. Abrasives are seriously underestimated. If you can’t grind and sand, you’re handicapped.

Now I guess I can make knives.

On to the next challenge. The excitement, as always, is palpable.

Your Car’s Paint is Crap, and You are Going to Die

Friday, October 21st, 2016

Car Paint Poisons Make Arsenic Look Tempting

This week I gathered information about car paint. It looks like the things I wrote a few days back are pretty much correct. Two-stage paint (base plus clear coat) is crap, at least when you buy it on a new car from a manufacturer that doesn’t care about quality. It WILL fail if you put it in the sun long enough, no matter what you do, and unlike old-fashioned paint, it can’t be fixed.

People buy expensive waxes and treatments, and they pamper their cars, thinking it will keep the clear coat from peeling. It doesn’t work. The only thing that works is keeping the car indoors. Good luck with that, if you have a big vehicle.

Last night I watched a Youtube video from Eastwood, a company bodywork hobbyists love. A professional painter appeared in the video, and he provided the information I relayed above. He said carmakers do calculations. They ask themselves, “How much money do we have to put in the finish to make sure it doesn’t fall apart during the warranty period?” Then they spend that amount of money (exactly) knowing their cars will peel.

Also, they like 2-stage paint because it’s easy to apply. It requires less skill. Here’s what Eastwood says:

Most antique and muscle cars were painted with a single stage paint from the factory where color & gloss is achieved in one paint. While more affordable and producing a factory-like finish, it’s also less forgiving. You will need to have good painting technique to achieve even color and gloss.

Evidently, they could do better if they wanted. Thicker clear coat would last longer, and they can put additives in it and apply it better. They choose to stick it to us instead. That’s highly disturbing.

You can walk down any street and see old cars with original lacquer paint that looks okay. You can get thirty or forty years out of an old-fashioned paint job, if you wax it and give it a buffing when absolutely necessary. But with all the progress we’ve made since then, you can’t make a new American car’s paint last even fifteen years in a sunny climate.

If you take your peeling car to a painter and have him fix it–$1500 and up–he can do a better job than Dodge or GM. Your paint will last longer. It’s hard to believe the manufacturers don’t even try. Evidently, in addition to skimping on clear coat thickness, they use water-based two-stage paints which don’t adhere well. If you go to a painter, he’ll use something with solvents in it, and the quality will be superior. So carmakers aren’t even trying.

The news gets even better.

The paint they use now is like epoxy. You have to mix it with a product that makes it harden on your car. That product is full of chemicals called isocyanates, and they’re so poisonous it’s a wonder they’re legal. You can develop a life-threatening allergy to them the first time you inhale them, and guess what? You’ve already been exposed! Unless you live in a hole.

If you’ve ever used Great Stuff foam, or you’ve been in your home when someone used spray foam in an attic or wall, you’ve inhaled isocyanates. You can develop the allergy and the asthma it causes years later, so you may have a nice present awaiting you.

Once the problem manifests, you’ll get sick every time you get near isocyanates, so don’t walk past a body shop if you know what’s good for you.

I’ve used Great Stuff many times, and I’ve gotten it on me. I had an A/C duct foamed in by a contractor, and they didn’t tell me to leave the house. I’ve mixed 2K (two-part) primer without a mask. I’ve sprayed it without a suit. Oh, well. Let’s hope I’m one of the lucky ones who doesn’t get sick.

Here are some horrible things I learned about 2K paint:

1. You have to wear a suit (with gloves) and use a supplied air respirator with a hood if you want to be safe. Charcoal masks from Home Depot don’t give adequate protection, although you will see people using them on TV all the time. A supplied air system will run you at least $400. It’s a little machine with a blower and a hose. It pumps air into your hood to keep poison out.

2. You can absorb isocyanates through any exposed surface, so if you’ve sprayed with any skin exposed, you’ve danced with the devil. Fabrics don’t stop this stuff. You have to wear something like Tyvek.

3. You have to wear protection even when you’re mixing paint, sanding dried paint, or cleaning your tools.

With all this terrifying information in front of me, I’m wondering why anyone would go near 2K paint. Exposures add up, and one day you cross a line that’s invisible. Then you have the allergy, and you may have permanent lung damage. It’s strange that people choose to paint as a career.

Here’s something weird: supposedly the greenies had a hand in popularizing isocyanates. There was some environmental issue with the older paints. It made the bunnies and flowers sad, I guess.

That makes complete sense, now that I think about it. If 2K paint kills human beings but saves snail darters and certain subspecies of cockroach, to a greenie, it’s win-win.

I was hoping to get my motorcycle parts painted. Now I’m wondering if it’s worth the risk. I’m also wondering if anyone out there is making any effort to come up with an isocyanate replacement that isn’t completely evil.

So to sum up: your car’s paint is probably garbage, and if you park it in the sun, it will peel off no matter what you do. If it peels, you have to do a complete paint job; there is no way to repair clear coat. If you paint it yourself, you will push yourself closer to developing a horrible allergy that can cause you to collapse and suffocate.

My truck already has some little peeled areas. I can’t even guess what it would cost to paint it. I feel like having it redone in lacquer or some other primitive finish. Nothing could be worse than 2K. Maybe it won’t be as shiny, but I never wash it anyway.

The Answer Isn’t Clear

Friday, October 7th, 2016

Paint Delamination is Now as Certain as Death and Taxes

You won’t believe this. I’m picking one of my old hobbies up again.

That’s so out of character for me.

A very long time ago, I decided to put new side covers on my Moto Guzzi. The model I bought came with terrible, cheap side covers that crack and fall off. The problem is so bad, some guy on the Internet makes money selling covers he makes from thick fiberglass. I bought two.

Problem: the covers weren’t painted. So I found a source of base coat/clear coat products, and I bought paint. Then I procrastinated for practically ever. Then I went back to the project, bought the correct primer, and primed and sanded the covers. I didn’t quite finish. I sanded through the primer in a couple of places on one cover.

That’s where I stopped. Since then, the project has been in the gravity well of the black hole where my hobbies vanish.

I was intimidated by the prep work. I hate painting to begin with, because it’s very hard to do correctly. I hated priming and sanding the covers, because it was a big, tedious job. I thought I would have to repeat it with the paint and clear coat.

Sadly, I was laboring under a delusion.

My motorcycle painting knowledge came from a set of DVD’s made by a motorcycle painter named Fritz. The DVD’s are really good, but they weren’t completely applicable to my project. I didn’t know that.

Fritz didn’t use clear coat. He sprayed his stuff with primer, sanded it, sprayed it with some color or other, sanded it, applied graphics, sprayed it with another color, sanded it…he did a lot of sanding. I figured I would have to do that with my base coat and clear coat, and that would be a lot of work. Also, I would be pretty likely to have to do a lot of it over, because I would surely sand through something.

I was thinking about it today. I realized the DVD’s didn’t depict the kind of work I was going to do. I decided to check something out. I Googled to see if it was necessary to sand the base coat in a base coat/clear coat application. Guess what? It’s not.

Car makers like base coat/clear coat (“BC/CC” or “2-stage”) paint, because it’s cheap and requires little skill compared to real paint. The primer has to be done well, and the clear coat has to be done well. The base coat is just slopped on. You don’t have to sand it, because (apparently) the clear coat covers the crappiness of the base coat surface. And supposedly, clear coat is thick, so you stand a pretty good chance of sanding and buffing it to perfection without blowing through it.

Personally, I do not like clear coat. It always, always goes bad sooner or later, even if you wax it, unless you never park in the sun. When it goes bad and peels, it can’t be fixed. You have to sand it off and replace it, and that means redoing the base coat as well. You can’t dissolve it, so it’s impossible to paint more clear coat over it, expecting the new clear coat to bond with the old. It will just sit on top, so in order to fix a small peeled area, you may have to repaint an entire hood or door.

That’s just stupid.

Old-style paint is different. If you screw up an area, you can sand it back and paint over it. If you have to completely redo it, you don’t have to fool with a clear coat. You just scuff it up and paint again. That’s my understanding, anyway.

Remember how long the paint lasted on your 1970 Buick? Remember how it didn’t peel after twenty-five years? Remember how it came back to life when you buffed it? Modern paint doesn’t work like that. It is 100% doomed to failure unless you park indoors. When it fails, you have to replace two finishes, not one, and you have to do entire panels, which generally means the whole car.

Many people think wax prevents clear coat peeling. That appears to be incorrect. People think clear coat peels because chemicals get to the clear coat. In reality, clear coat peels because it expands and contracts at a different rate from paint. Every time your car heats up, the clear coat and paint expand to different degrees. That puts tension between them; they pull sideways on each other. That loosens the clear coat. Then it comes off.

Wax won’t prevent that. Maybe it will block UV radiation, but it won’t turn clear coat into a material that expands and contracts with paint. Clear coat is plastic, like a billiard ball. Nothing dissolves in it. You can’t add a conditioner that makes it more elastic. It is what it is what it is, forever.

You can go to a junkyard in South Florida or Arizona right now and find a 1960 car with the paint intact, and you can wash, buff, and wax it back to a nice appearance. Try that with a 1990 car. I don’t think you will have much luck.

The two areas where two-stage paint seems to excel are shine and ease of repairing shallow scratches.

I may be totally wrong about this, but I don’t think I am. It’s very hard to get information. Car painters love 2-stage paint, because it’s easy to apply, and probably because they know it will fail and bring them more business. Manufacturers praise it because they sell it. Detailers and wax manufacturers love it because it gives them something fragile for their products to protect. On top of that, most people who talk about the subject are ignorant blowhards who repeat everything they hear without checking. If some uneducated doofus on a car website says wax protects clear coat, 95% of ignorant blowhards will repeat it and get angry if you disagree.

By the way, care to guess one of the big hidden reasons we use 2-stage paint now? If you guessed “EPA,” get yourself a cigar. Somehow or other, 2-stage paint is greener. It’s no surprise if it’s also inferior. How often do green alternatives work as well as the technology they replace? About as often as Mexicans buy Trump shirts.

Tonight I mixed a tiny amount of primer and touched up the bare areas on the side cover with a Q-Tip. That will make a lot of car nuts groan, because they think you can only apply car paint with a sprayer. That’s not true. It’s fast with a sprayer, but you can brush it if it makes you happy. I’ve already used a brush on the covers, and it worked perfectly. It sure beat mixing up a wasteful, expensive amount of primer to spray and then starting the compressor and air dryer and rigging up the spray gun. Ten minutes of effort as contrasted with two hours.

I’ll sand the cover down, and then maybe tomorrow (or not) I’ll hit it with the base coat and clear coat. I may wait until I come up with graphics; I’m not sure. I have to be ready with graphics when I spray the base coat, because you have to apply the clear coat within 24 hours of spraying the base. I want to have a plan before I go to work.

I look forward to getting these side covers off of my end table. They have been in my way long enough.

If what I’ve written is wrong, let me know, but please don’t be an ignorant blowhard. Don’t say, “Everybody knows…”, or, “I only use 2-stage paint, and here is what I think based on my limited experience.” Let’s have some science and engineering instead of mindless regurgitation.

Q: Who Owns the Night?

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

A: Who Created it?

Last night I realized there had been a change in my life. I’m pretty happy about it. I am no longer having bad dreams.

For a long time, I had bad dreams most nights. To make things worse, I had the same dreams over and over.

Often I dreamed I was back in Austin, Texas, where I lived when I was in graduate school studying physics. I got burned out and quit, and apart from my childhood, it was the most miserable time of my life. I was separated from God. My prayers didn’t go anywhere.

In the dreams, I went back to my old apartment, which was, mysteriously, still mine. I would find huge rooms hidden in it. It was full of great tools. The space and the tools sound nice, but the apartment was a depressing mess. Things were piled up on the furniture; it was as if I had left in a hurry, after living like a slob.

In the dream, I had no friends in Austin. That’s what it was like in real life, unfortunately. The physics guys were very socially inept, and a lot of them were downright creepy. Some were full of anger, possibly because of all the wedgies and red bellies they received while they were growing up. In the dreams, I felt the isolation of Austin again.

When I went to law school, I had lots of friends. I still don’t understand the physics personality.

Sometimes I dreamed I was in a big airport, which I took to be DFW. I never actually got anywhere. I was just moving around in the terminal, as though changing planes. When you’re on a journey, you don’t want to spend an entire day in an airport. You want to board a plane, fly, get off, and do whatever you wanted to do at your destination. I never flew or arrived. I just walked, past endless book kiosks, smelly bars, and Cinnabon stands.

I also dreamed I was back in college. I would find myself walking around on campus, or going to and from campus. The disturbing thing was that it was late in the semester, and I had forgotten about one or two courses. I had dropped them, but I hadn’t filed the paperwork, so as far as the school knew, I was just failing. I kept wondering what I was going to do. I wondered if they would give me a break.

I hated these annoying, persistent dreams. Life was getting better and better, but my nights were unpleasant.

It wasn’t the first time I had been plagued by bad dreams. When I was young–say before the age of eight–I had nightmares every night. I would find myself at parties, surrounded by relatives I loved. When they came close to me to greet me, their bodies would twist apart so they were unrecognizable. They were impostors, sent to scare me. I also dreamed a pure white devil would come up through a manhole under my bed and torment me; sometimes he chased me in a van. He always had a big smile. Making a defenseless child suffer brought him glee.

My worst dreams took place while I was awake. I would wake up and see enormous bugs, snakes, and lizards climbing all over the bedroom. They were on the walls, ceiling, floor, and furniture. They crawled over me on the bed.

One night I woke from a nightmare and yelled for my mother. When she got to the bedroom door, she suddenly shrank in size, down to a height of two or three feet. It showed me she was powerless to help me. That was the point.

It’s wonderful to have peaceful dreams again. I’m not sure what the significance is. I believe spirits that have access to us give us bad dreams. I’ve been attacked by spirits during dreams.

Sometimes I wish my dreams were less vivid. When I’m awake, I remember visiting places that don’t exist. Sometimes I have to ask myself whether I went to a certain place or just dreamed it. It can be very hard to tell.

It seems like I’m going over a hump. Behind me, there were a lot of bad experiences I had to go through in order to be corrected and made strong. Ahead of me, there is more peace and help. I feel that way during the day, not just at night. I expect things to continue to improve.

If you lack peace, there are spirits behind it. You can count on that. If you ever get into the presence of God, you will feel overwhelming peace. That proves that anxiety and agitation come from the other spirits. They are not like him. Other spirits nag, threaten, and manipulate you. They try to make you afraid not to obey. God offers you peace and rest in exchange for preferring him.

You should always be aware that anyone who torments you in order to make you comply is doing evil. God doesn’t work that way. It’s beneath him. God wants free consent. He does not like coercion. Something to think about when other people try to get you to do things.

I would go further than that. If anyone has the power to coerce you, and they use it, there is a kink in your relationship with God. He is jealous; he doesn’t want anyone else to be your master or your father.

I don’t have complete peace, but things get better all the time. I have plenty of incentive to continue, and I have overwhelming incentive not to go back. Some ex-cons are willing to die before being sent back to prison; I feel that way about the powerless life I led before I started doing things God’s way. You can have this planet. You can have the prestige and riches. You can have the fame. Just give me my peace and power.

My Latest Attack of Stupid

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

I Should Probably Quit Cussing the Innocent Now

Man, this is embarrassing.

For days, I have been trying to get my 3HP 3-phase motor to work with a 3HP TECO variable frequency drive (VFD). I have had no end of problems.

The drive kept pooping out at high RPM’s. I could not figure it out. I disabled DC braking and did all sorts of other things. I got really intimate with the Chinglish owner’s manual. I changed this setting. I changed that setting. I even made a new drive pulley for my 2HP motor, in case I had to go back to it.

Tonight someone suggested there might be a “wiring fault.” I could not figure out what he meant, but I went back to the motor itself, to check what I could.

It was wired for the wrong voltage.

Many 3-phase motors come ready to accept either 230V or 460V. Or 220V or 440V. For some reason, we can’t seem to settle on a number for voltage which is double the usual American household voltage. Sometimes we call it 220; sometimes we call it 250. Whatever. A lot of motors come ready to handle twice OR four times the standard wall socket voltage.

When you use a motor, you have to fiddle with the wires coming out of it in order to make sure it knows which voltage is coming. I didn’t do that this time. I’ve dealt with a number of 3-phase motors, and none showed up wired for 440. Or 460. Whatever. It was always 240.

The one I just bought was wired for 460.

The motor wanted twice the voltage I was giving it, so naturally, it kept running out of joie de vivre.

I feel so stupid. I should have checked this carefully.

Now I have to add to my Google legacy, for other belt grinder owners. Yes, you CAN run a 4-pole 3-phase 3HP motor at 120 Hz on a VFD. You can probably go somewhat higher.

I rewired it. It runs great. It has a ton of power. I’m happy.

With that behind me, here is an obvious question: do you really need a 3HP motor on a 2×72 grinder? My feeling is that you don’t. I fired up a 2HP motor tonight, and I had a hard time bogging it down. The 3HP motor is significantly stronger, but I can’t say I felt like I needed the added grunt.

I think you want 3HP if you plan to go above 5000 FPM, for sure. To do that, I would want a pulley over five inches in diameter, in order to avoid revving the life out of the motor. The added torque of a 3HP motor would allow you to work very aggressively at high belt speed, in spite of the tension you would lose to the big pulley.

The thing is, if you shop for motors on Ebay, you’re likely to find a 3HP motor for the same money you’d pay for 2HP, so why not go for it? The only real down side is the weight. Moving a motor that weighs over eighty pounds gets old.

This grinder is unstoppable now. It is a seriously impressive machine, by garage-doofus standards.

Guess I should make something with it.

My Crowning Achievement

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

Pulley Nearly Finished

I guess everyone is wondering how to make a crowned pulley for a belt grinder.

I am still mired in the belt grinder project. I’m sort of thinking my best bet is a 3HP 2-pole motor, but I have a 2HP 4-pole motor sitting around, and I want to test it to see how well it works. Maybe it’s the answer.

I tried the 3HP motor at 167 Hz (5000 feet per minute on the belt), and the VFD couldn’t deal with it. I know for a fact it can run the 2HP motor that fast.

It’s too bad I don’t know much about electrical motors. I sort of suspect that the people who have been giving me advice don’t know much either. Some have told me that when you double the speed of a motor, you halve the torque. I have no idea whether that’s true or not. It’s not that easy to find information on 3-phase motors online. I am planning to try to educate myself, but I haven’t succeeded yet.

I had a drive pulley which fit the 2HP motor, but I bored it out to fit the 3HP motor, so I can’t use it on the small motor. That meant I had to make a new drive wheel. Simple, right? Turn a 4″-thick pulley on the lathe, bore a hole, add a set screw…done. Actually, that would probably work, but I wanted to be totally certain the belt would track correctly, so I made a crowned wheel. I finished it a few minutes ago. But for the set screw hole, it’s done.

I have read that you only need one crowned wheel on a machine to make the belt track, but everyone seems to use crowned drive pulleys as well as crowned tracking pulleys, so I don’t want to rock the boat just yet.

Making the pulley was a bit of a pain. In case someone Googles the process in the future, I will leave some information.

First of all, as I said above, you may be wasting your time. You may be able to use a cylindrical pulley. Check it out, if you can.

Once you decide to make a crowned pulley, you need to know a couple of things. The crown doesn’t need to go all the way to the center of the wheel. You can just crown it toward the outside. How far toward the outside? I don’t know.

Also, for a 2″-wide belt, you want about 0.030″ of crowning. That’s radius, not diameter. Sadly, I didn’t pay attention, and I took 0.030″ off the diameter. I forgot that my lathe reads diameter measurements, not radial ones. I’m sure it will still work, though, since there is a ton of slack in the suggested measurements.

I did not have 4″ round aluminum stock lying around, so I used 4″ square stock. That was fun. I had to cut 3.5″ off on the band saw, and then I had to put it in the 4-jaw chuck. I turned part of it down to a 4″ cylinder (slightly smaller due to inevitable chucking error). Then I drilled a hole deep enough for the motor shaft. After that, I crowned one end.

The crowning job was simple. I set the compound slide to around 1/2 a degree, so it would come toward me very slowly as I moved the tool toward the headstock. With this setup, I could start the crowning cut 0.030″ into the work, and it would back out completely as I cut about an inch toward the headstock. This worked perfectly; I had a cylinder with one end that was very slightly tapered.

Then I made my mistake. I parted the cylinder off of the square bit.

I should have crowned the other end at that point, because it was firmly chucked, and everything was completely concentric with the lathe’s axis. Oh, well.

Because I now had a cylinder with one cruddy-looking, parted-off end, and it wasn’t chucked, I had some extra work to do.

First, I chucked it, used a dial indicator to get it concentric, and faced the rough end. I knew this was the best grip I would ever have on the part, so I took this opportunity to bore the hole to size. I opened it to 5/8″ with an S&D bit, and then I finished it up with a boring bar.

It’s frustrating, boring things to size when you can’t test fit them. The motor could not be lifted onto the lathe, and I could not take the part out of the chuck without messing things up. I had to run between the lathe and motor with dial calipers, which are not all that accurate. When it was all said and done, I was still a thousandth or two over the size of the shaft. A totally snug fit would have been nicer, but what I got was perfectly acceptable.

When that was done, I had to shove the part way out in the chuck’s jaws, with the tapered side toward the headstock. That means the chuck was gripping a tapered part. Usually, this is a really bad idea, because chuck jaws are very straight. If a part is smaller toward the headstock end, the jaws will only grip farther toward the tailstock, and if you don’t get a good grip, the part can move or even fall out. But the taper on my part was very small, I am brave, and I am too lazy to make an arbor or take other extraordinary measures to get it perfect.

I managed to put a taper on the exposed end, and then I rested a straightedge on the wheel and rocked it to see where the crown’s apex was. It was a bit off center, so I used emery cloth to sand the wheel until there was no pointy apex and the crowning appeared symmetrical.


With all that done, I had to put a 3/16″ keyway in the wheel.

Keyways are tight slots made with broaches. A broach is sort of like a really thick saw blade that only cuts in one direction. You use a special bushing to hold it in the wheel, and you push it with a press.

In Youtube videos, this is really easy. People use crummy, small Chinese arbor presses and broach things in no time. That didn’t work for me. It will work with a thin wheel, but the thicker a wheel is, the more pressure you need. Earlier this week, I broached a 1/4″ keyway, and I had to use a 20-ton press. Today I broached a 3/16″ keyway, which should be easier, and my 3-ton arbor press was just barely enough.

I learned something disturbing: broaches aren’t made for fat wheels. If a wheel is too thick, a broach will not be finished cutting when you push it until the end is flush with the top of the wheel. I had to put a punch on top of the broach and push it the rest of the way through. On top of that, I had to broach it from both sides. Very aggravating. A 1/4″ broach is maybe 1.5 times as long as a 3/16″ broach, so the smaller your keyway is, the more likely you are to get stuck.

I finally got it done, and now I have a beautiful wheel that needs a set screw hole. Once that’s done, I’ll throw it on the little motor and fire it up.

I suspect this wheel is actually better than the one I bought, and having made it myself, I can see how hard it is to make one with accurate dimensions.

I still have the little motor the Post Office broke. The seller filed a claim, and they paid it. He didn’t want the motor back. The Post Office didn’t ask for it. Now it’s here, with one broken bolt hole. I managed to get the fan working, so the motor can be used. I’m almost afraid that if I turn it on, the Post Office Fraud Squad will swoop in and arrest me.

I don’t know what to say about that. They did screw up the motor, and it was non-functional. It’s still seriously damaged, so I didn’t get what I paid for. But I feel weird, sitting here with a working motor I didn’t pay for.

I guess all parties are happy, so let the good times roll. And even if it works, I plan to replace it, because the broken base is depressing to look it.

The information I have received about motors and speeds and VFD’s has been inconsistent and tinged with ignorance, so I’m still going by trial and error. Anyway, I should be up and grinding tonight, and then I’ll have more data.

I’m excited that I can make crowned pulleys. I’m even more excited to know that I probably don’t have to.

Some day, possibly years from now, I will post a photo of a finished knife I made.

That’s all I have. You can stop pretending to be interested now.

Sparks Finally Flying

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

Your Tentative Guide to not Making Stupid Mistakes About Belt Grinders

I continue learning things about belt grinders, sometimes too late to capitalize. I might as well keep documenting my discoveries so other people will benefit.

To get everyone back up to speed:

I bought an Oregon Blade Maker 2″ x 72″ grinder. I set it up with a VFD and an 1800-RPM motor. I found out that you need an enclosed motor (TEFC or TENV) to do it right, because the crud the grinder throws will get into open motors and kill them. I bought a new TEFC motor, and the Post Office broke it. I bought a second motor, and this time I went to 3HP. The other motors were 2HP.

I might as well point out that I use “1800-RPM” to describe any motor that has a speed anywhere near 1800. The actual speed of a 3-phase 4-pole motor running at 60 Hz will be somewhere below 1800, but the difference isn’t worth getting worked up about.


I did a lot of research, trying to choose the right motor. Some guy who is a big banana on a knife-making forum claimed 1800-RPM was the way to go. Something about 1800-RPM motors being built better with regard to the stress of high speeds.

Right away, I should have realized that didn’t make sense. But I trusted him.

I don’t know a whole lot about electric motors. When I was getting my degree, we went through the principles of electric motors, but the things they teach you in physics are generally a long way from practical. That’s why we also have engineering classes. Not the same thing.

I was too lazy to sit around studying the 3-phase motor; I figured any guy who has the awe and admiration of a whole bunch of people on a knife forum ought to know which motor to use.

A person with common sense would have looked at the motors that come with turnkey grinders; they’re 3600-RPM motors. Dohhh!

Arbitrarily, I had decided I wanted the belt to move at 5000 feet per minute (FPM). With a 4″ drive pulley, that required 4775 RPM. With slippage, that’s probably not quite accurate, but that was the figure I chose. To get 4775 RPM, I would have to run the motor at 167 Hz, or almost 3 times the motor’s rated speed.

I didn’t think this was a problem. I knew the bearings were probably good for over 14,000 RPM. The armature–the thing that turns inside the motor–was probably made to the same specs as a 3600-RPM armature, and at 4775 RPM, it would only experience something like 1.7 times the centripetal force. I didn’t think it would fly apart.

The 2HP motors I had ran around 40 pounds. I found a wonderful deal on a 3HP model with nearly the same NEMA frame as one of the 2HP jobs. “Hey,” I figured, “same frame…can’t weigh much more.” WRONG. It’s 84 pounds. Also, NEMA frame specs don’t tell you the overall length of a motor casing. This motor is maybe four inches longer than the others.

The new motor was a real joy to carry to the garage and hoist onto the grinder cart.

I got the motor going, with a lovely jury-rig wiring job, just to make sure it was okay so I could kiss the Ebay seller goodbye. It ran fine up to 150 Hz, but after that, it decided to slow back down on its own. The 2HP motors hadn’t done that.

I went to Practical Machinist, a forum I dread. These guys can be ruthless to hobbyists. But they know a lot. They told me I was lucky the motor hadn’t blown up. I think they were wrong about that, but they also said the motor would probably act as a frequency filter at high speeds, killing the speed. They said the torque would also drop off pretty badly.

I can’t have that. Daddy needs his torque.

No word on why the 2HP motors didn’t act crazy.

What do I do now? I can get over 3500 FPM as it is, no problem. I can also make a new 6″ wheel, which will get me to whatever 3/2 of 3500 FPM is. Okay, I’ll work it out, since it’s a two-second math problem: 5250 FPM.

If I go to a 6″ wheel, surely the force applied to the belt will be 2/3 of what it was (at a given RPM figure) at 4″. That’s just basic physics. On the other hand, it will be going 2/3 as fast at a give FPM figure, and if torque drops with speed, then there ought to be some compensation.

You can see why I need an engineer. They have little books with tables that answer questions like this. Physicists have to derive the answers using calculus and tensor analysis and God knows what else.

One reason I went to 3HP is that I wanted to start with something strong, so it would make up for any losses I had due to the VFD or overclocking or…whatever. I believe 2HP is the most common size motor for a 2×72, but people who use belt grinders seem unanimous: get 3HP if you can.

Now I have to make a decision: leave it alone, make a 6″ wheel (cost of metal: $33), or get a 3600-RPM motor.

I think I’ll just use what I have and see what happens.

The weird thing is, my second motor helped pay for my third one. The seller refunded my money, included shipping, and the Post Office paid his claim. Now I have a free 2HP motor. The Post Office isn’t coming to take it away. That means I can put it on Craigslist, where I can surely get $50 for it.

The big motor only cost about $130, including shipping. It’s a magnificent motor; the unit itself was only $65, which is ridiculous. If I choose to sell it, I can fully expect to recover almost all of what I paid.

Summing up, it doesn’t really matter what I do. In the end, changing motors might run me $100, net. By that I mean the most I can expect to put into a motor, after all the deductions and whatever are included, is about $100. I would probably make money by selling the motor I have and buying a new one.

If you want a 2×72 grinder, here is my advice:

1. Don’t build one unless you’re incredibly handy and have free metal. A nice grinder costs only slightly more than the parts required to make it.

2. Get a 3-HP TEFC or TENV motor.

3. Use a VFD.

4. Make sure the motor’s rated speed is 3600 RPM.

5. Don’t worry about getting an inverter-rated motor, because nobody else does. If the added cost is not much, sure, go ahead and get one, but in practice, you will probably never have a problem with a random 3-phase motor of good quality.

If you have an OSHA shop, I’m sure they don’t do what I did. I mounted the grinder on a board and put the board on a foam shop cart which has a 250-pound shelf capacity. I don’t plan to fasten it down. It’s heavy, and it’s not going anywhere. I could push it over if I really wanted to or I was just stupid, but those things don’t apply, so I don’t intend to worry about having a top-notch professional imbecile-proof installation.


Sadly, I have even more advice.

I looked into crowning, which is what they do to at least some of the pulleys on a typical belt grinder. This will sound crazy, but if you make a pulley bigger in the middle (with a “crown” like a crowned road), belts will try to move toward the crown, not off to the side. This helps them track well. If you have a belt grinder, and it’s not made with tremendous precision, you will want to have at least one crowned wheel.

There are people out there who do great business selling crowned aluminum wheels to knife makers. A lot of folks can make a non-crowned wheel, but making a crowned wheel is intimidating, so the appeal of having it done for you is obvious. I fell for it myself.

If you have a lathe, you can make a crowned wheel, fast. The guys who sell crowned wheels tend to use CNC to make wheels with a rounded profile (radiused from one end to the other). That’s not easy to do on a manual lathe. But you don’t have to do it. In fact, you can make two very shallow straight cuts on a wheel and take it straight to your grinder.

For a 2″ wide wheel, you want the radius (or maybe it’s the diameter; look it up) to be about 0.030″ less on the sides than it is in the middle. I haven’t checked, but I have read that you need about a 0.5-degree angle to do this. That’s simple; just use your compound slide.

If you want, you can pretty it up with a file so it looks round.

You do not want to cut all the way to the middle so the pulley has a pointy ridge in the center. It’s unnecessary, and it doesn’t work as well.

Here’s a jim-dandy link that will tell you what you need to know, while correcting whatever errors I made while trying to paraphrase it above: CLICK.

If you have a VFD, you will want to make sure flying crud can’t get in. You may want to build a box for it, or just move it away from the grinder.

I think that covers it.

Oh…also, don’t buy a grinder with a platen as your first tool. Get a contact wheel 8″ or 10″ in diameter. That’s what most people use most of the time when making knives.

I may be mistaken about some of this stuff, but it’s a lot better than what I thought I knew a week ago. You can’t trust knife makers when it comes to tools, because they don’t know much about them. They make wonderful knives, but that doesn’t make them tool experts.

‘Ullo John! Gotta New Motor?

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

Or Another Box of Parts?

I am still working on the belt grinder.

As I lamented a day or two back, I found a really nice Mitsubishi TEFC motor for peanuts, and the Post Office broke it. It’s a mystery to me why people who transport other people’s things are so careless; it seems like those jobs bring out the ape and vandal in about half of the folks who take them. Look out an airplane window, and you can pretty much count on seeing a sullen twenty-something throwing suitcases just for fun. That’s a fact of life. The only solutions are heavy-duty packaging and damage claims.

The Mitsubishi was a 2-horse motor, intended to replace the open 2-HP motor I already had. I did not want metal filings and bits of abrasive going into the motor and killing it, so I had to get something that was enclosed. The Mitsubishi looked like a good deal. It was very cheap, and it was Japanese. Americans make better stuff than most people in the world, and the Japanese make stuff better than we do.

Once it was busted I had to go back to Ebay and search. The 2-HP offerings were not too bad, but they were limited. I had a thought: why not try 3-HP? That would expand the possibilities.

I was afraid it was too much motor for a belt grinder, but I Googled around and asked questions, and it turns out 3 is just about optimal. My VFD’s are rated for 3 HP, so there is no reason why I can’t move up. With effort, it is possible for a human being to bog a 2-HP grinder down somewhat. This doesn’t happen as easily with more power. Also, and I don’t know why this would be true, you can get more life out of belts with a bigger motor.

I can’t guarantee that last part, but it’s what I read. Something about bearing down on belts being better for them than light pressure. Maybe they load up less?

It sounds crazy.

I looked for brands that were well-made yet which didn’t receive the attention they deserved. You can find bargains that way. In the end, though, I went with an American-made Dayton motor. The price was great, and it looked nearly new. Now I’m hoping American Daytons are better than Taiwan and China Daytons. Not that I have had any problems with my late-model Dayton grinder, which is from one of those countries (I forget which).

The Dayton has a 182T frame, which has a different bolt pattern than the 184-frame Doerr I’ve been using. I’ll have to make a new platform. Also, a 182T frame has a bigger shaft, so I’ll have to bore out the drive wheel I bought, and then I’ll have to broach a keyway into it.

I found out what the “T” in motor frame names means. It means “thick.” It probably doesn’t really mean that, but if you see a “T” in a frame designation, it means the shaft is thicker than it would be without the “T.” A 182 frame has a 7/8″ shaft, like my drive wheel. A 182T has a 1 1/8″ shaft.

I deeply, deeply regret using Dupli-Color water-based Bed Armor truck bed paint on the first platform. It looks bad, it grabs dirt and grease, it peels, and I just found out it has another problem. It’s glue.

If you paint something with Bed Armor, and then a few days later you bolt a motor to it, the motor becomes attached to it permanently. It’s ridiculous. I had to remove the old motor from my grinder platform, and I found I couldn’t pull it off. I had to lift the motor, platform, and grinder together and put them on the floor. Then I was able to get the motor and grinder loose by pulling while standing on the platform. The paint where they had been sitting looked awful when I tore them off.

I have been wondering whether I could get away with cutting out a circle of air conditioner filter material and taping it over the air intake on the old motor, to stop crud from going in. I’ve learned that some people use pantyhose for this. But it would look stupid, and it might cut down the air flow too much, so why not get a motor that works without filtration?

I’m selling the Mitsubishi. The seller didn’t ask for it back, so I’m Craigslisting it. I figure I can get $50 for it. That will bring the effective price of the Dayton down pretty low.

As long as I’m talking about things no one cares about, let me walk back my rave review of Rust-Oleum Forged hammer finish paint. I still like it, but I learned something about it: you can’t put pressure on it for quite some time after it dries. Days after my motor’s paint job dried, I left the power cord looped over the top of the motor for a day or two, and the paint sort of tore. I don’t know how long it has to cure, but I would give it at least two weeks before putting pressure on it again. I sanded out the messed-up bit and sprayed over it with no problems, so the paint is very forgiving.

I intend to use the grinder the way it is until the new motor gets here. Then I’ll make a new platform and paint it, and I’ll bore out the drive wheel. Sounds like a day’s work.

It’s going to be cool, having a 2×72 grinder handy. It will change my life. There is no end of the problems you can solve by ripping material off of things with abrasive belts.

I’m hoping to finish off the knives I’m making. Shouldn’t take long at all. Then off they go to be hardened. I will post photos.

That’s it for this Wednesday. Pray my new motor arrives in one box.

Welcome to the Popular Mechanics Swimsuit Issue

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

Introducing Our First Model

A few people actually commented on my last blog post, which involved a motor I cleaned up for use with a grinder. Now that I realize what a giant hit my motor essays are, I have decided to post another photo.

Here is the motor, sitting on the platform I have to re-drill and repaint, with the variable frequency drive I have to put in an enclosure.


You have to admit, it looks nice considering what it used to be. The new used wave spring I ordered arrived yesterday, so I’ll be installing that later.

I finally realized that you restore a lumpy shaft by filing in the axial direction, not across the shaft, so I may try to polish this motor’s shaft a little more. It’s not perfect. A real man would put it on the lathe, but that involves pressing the bearings off, so I would have to get new bearings.

The new used motor I ordered is supposed to arrive today, so I’m not sure why I did all that work, but if I ever need a 2-HP Totally Open to Crap motor, I’ll have one on deck.

Out of curiosity, I looked into motor longevity. Apparently, no one actually knows how long a motor should last. For one thing, no one has defined “motor death.” Is it when the bearings go bad? Is it when the wiring burns up? There is no consensus.

Leeson (DISCLAIMER: a company that really wants you to trash your old motors and buy the new ones it makes) says you can hope for something like 15 years of operation, and I assume that’s in industrial applications. If not, a lot of people who buy Leeson motors will be hopping mad, because a motor that lasts 15 years in a factory will last three months in your house.

When bearings go bad, you can replace them for a few dollars. Bearing death is not motor death. If I understand things correctly, the real problem comes when the insulation on the stator breaks down, and this can be accelerated by heat or current spikes (which, actually, equal heat).

I wondered about this, because there are always tons of used motors available on Ebay. How do you know what condition the stator is in? You don’t. A motor can look really nice on the outside without telling you much abot the inside. Maybe some of those 75%-discounted Ebay motors aren’t great deals. Or maybe they are, if insulation breakdown takes several decades. Some motors appear to be immortal, continuing to run after nearly a century, so it may be that there are motors out there with insulation so wonderful they are very hard to ruin.

I do not know.

In my garage, even a Chinese motor made the day after a major drunken holiday will probably outlive me, because I don’t use them much.

You shouldn’t use a belt grinder which isn’t anchored correctly, or which doesn’t have proper protection for the motor or VFD, so of course, I am already using this grinder. I’m not using it much, though. I used it at about 600 RPM to clean the remaining milling marks off a knife I’m making. It worked great. It was slow, because I refused to turn the speed up, but it beat the daylights out of using sandpaper or a whetstone.

A surface grinder would have knocked it out in 10 minutes, and it would have left the knife with a very precise thickness, but I don’t have a surface grinder.

This project is going really well. Even when I do the wrong things, I am succeeding at them.

Some day you’ll see a finished knife here. And won’t that be special?


The new motor arrived. Check it out.



Can you believe that? The seller jammed it into a flat rate box. Naturally, the Post Office destroyed it. I wonder if they do that deliberately, just to punish people for mailing things they don’t want to carry.

The base is broken, and the fan shroud is crushed. The shaft will not turn.

To his credit, the seller refunded the cost of the motor plus shipping.

Back to Ebay, I guess.

Five-Day Job Enters Week Three

Friday, September 9th, 2016

Gross Motor Skills

I’m still not able to use my new belt grinder. Not really.

For a long time, I wanted a 2″x72″ belt grinder, because it’s a powerful tool for removing metal and other materials from stuff. If you want to change the shape of something fast, a 2×72 grinder (I am reverting to the typical lazy expression without quotation/inch marks) is your best friend.

As people who actually read this blog know, I bought a pretty yellow grinder, and I rigged it up with an old motor and VFD I had lying around. So far, so good. But there are some issues.

First of all, do not ever buy Dupli-color water-based pickup bed paint (“Bed Armor”). It’s horrible. They make a poisonous (probably) solvent-based bed paint which is magnificent, but I bought the water-based type because my local Advance Auto Parts didn’t have the version that works. The results were not good.

I intended to use it on the wooden platform I made for the grinder. I guess I should point that out. The solventy stuff makes a rock-hard finish you could probably pressure-clean, and it dries fast. It’s useful for lots of projects. I hoped the water-based version would work just as well.

I made the platform and started spraying it. The paint came out in globs and big droplets. It didn’t want to adhere to the wood, so I had to use a lot. There were big globby areas when I was done. It self-leveled to some extent, but when it was over, it looked bad. Also, it takes over a day to cure.

When it was cured, the surface was like fresh concrete, only without the durability. It was gritty. It attracted and held onto grease and dirt. Worst part: I could scrape it off with a fingernail.


That being said, I decided to use the platform until I got the grinder set up, with the intention of stripping and fixing it later.

The motor I intended to use had some problems. Mainly, it was caked with black grease which was not far from wax in consistency. The grease was inside the motor as well as outside. How did that happen? Don’t ask me. It appeared as though someone had operated the motor near a mysterious, implausible source of flying grease, and the motor’s fan had sucked it in through one end of the case.

Also, the case was rusty and peeling. It was like that when I got it, but I made it worse by storing capped muriatic acid near it. You can’t have muriatic acid in a room with iron. Even if you cap it, the acid will get out into the air and make things rust.

The motor was free, sort of. I bought my first lathe (used) from an outfit called Plaza Machinery, and in addition to promising me one model of lathe and sending a different one, the owner sent me the wrong motor. He made some truly pathetic, grudging efforts to make up for what he did, and sending me the crusty motor was among those efforts.

I offered to send it back to him at one point, but he had my money, and he was no longer willing to talk to me, so I kept it.

He also sold me micrometers that didn’t work. Then people got mad at me when I criticized him on a machinist forum. Amazing. Obviously, if you’re part of a hobby, your loyalty should be to your fellow hobbyists, not to characters who promise you one thing, insist on cashier’s checks so you can’t fight them through your credit card company, and then send you something else.

Forum people tend to suck up to vendors, and that’s sad. They’re like church people who try to rip out the throats of honest individuals who criticize crooked pastors. It’s a mindset I can’t comprehend.

The lathe guy was obnoxious, and his business methods were suspect, to put it kindly (more like euphemistically). I forgive him and all, but that doesn’t change what he was. I don’t care if every Internet machinist on earth gets mad at me.

I guess they’ll all stop sending me big weekly checks to pay my bills.

I felt bad putting my crusty motor beside my beautiful grinder, so I decided to paint it. I took the end shields off (that’s what the ends of motors are called). I sprayed chemical stripper on the case (outside of the motor) and used a plastic spatula to remove the crud. That stuff is amazing. It takes about ten minutes to work, and if you’re not inept, you can spray it very accurately.

I cleaned the excess stripper off in the kitchen sink. It’s good to be single.

I finished up with an angle grinder and wire knot wheel. I would guess that the whole depainting process took 45 minutes, including wiping it down with DNA (denatured alcohol). I gouged one of the motor’s wires, but I was able to perform microsurgery on it and fix it. About half of the strands were cut. I cut the rubber back on each side of the gouge. I wrapped thin wire around the remaining strands to build them up. Then I buried the joint in solder and covered it with shrink tubing. It’s really nice. I was shocked that I was able to do it at all.

Having panned a brand of paint and a machinery dealer, I will now offer some praise.

Hammer-finish paint is great for tool restorations. It has little dents and dimples in it when it dries, so it masks scratches and dings in a machine’s surface. It looks snazzy. I decided to try it. I got me a couple of cans of Rust-Oleum Forged Hammer Finish paint. This stuff includes primer, and it’s about a dollar more than the regular Rust-Oleum hammer finish paint. It has a neat spray nozzle that works in all positions.

I taped the motor off (the way people who actually care about their work do), and I blasted it with paint. Over the next day, I would say I ended up with three coats. It looked wonderful. It’s hard. It’s shiny. It makes the motor look smooth. Excellent. Buy it. It does take a long time to cure, though.

The end shields on the motor are aluminum, and I was not able to make them look good by buffing and sanding. They were too beaten up. I cleaned them using electrolysis (and by boiling them in cleaning-strength vinegar), and then I hit them with black hammer finish paint. The results are beautiful.

The grease was a real problem. I cleaned the motor on the outside using DNA and turpentine, but I couldn’t do much to the inside. The stator (the wiry bits that don’t move) was bonded to the case, so I couldn’t remove it to clean. I wiped off whatever I could and let it go.

Turpentine takes grease off in a hurry. It dissolves it instantly. Then it evaporates. Highly recommended.

The motor had a broken wave spring (washer that functions as a spring and holds the rotor in place in the shield), so I ordered one from Ebay. I also put a clamp fitting in the hole where the wires come out, to provide strain relief and keep the wires off the sharp threads in the hole.

This motor has no junction box. A junction box is a little sheet metal box the wires go into when they leave the motor. Another nice present from Plaza? I don’t know. I can’t believe the motor was made that way. Because it has no junction box, there is no place to connect a ground screw. I’m thinking I may buy a galvanized box from Home Depot and attach it.

So anyway, now I have a beautiful motor that runs like new. That’s a problem. The motor isn’t really suited to grinder use. It’s not sealed against dust, so abrasive and/or conductive stuff from the grinder will get sucked into it. Initially, I didn’t care about this. Free motor. And it was old and beaten up. If it blew up, so what? But now that the motor looks like a rock star, I don’t want to ruin it.

Now I have some wonderful facts about motors, for your enjoyment.

Far as I know, there are two types of motor that work well in dusty environments. One is TEFC, and the other is TENV. TEFC means “totally enclosed fan-cooled,” or something close to that. TENV means “totally enclosed non-ventilated,” or something similar. Look it up. What am I? Your nanny?

The motor I have is more like TOTC, or “totally open to crap.”

If you decide to put a grinder or sanding machine together, think about grit and try to keep it out of your motor. I already have a little belt grinder with a TOTC motor, but I at least arranged the fan so it sucks air from the clean side.

I couldn’t stand the thought of my painted motor eating grit, so I went on Ebay, and I found a TEFC motor for the low, low price of $65, with an ad that practically said, “We will take almost anything for this.”

The motor is a Mitsubishi. I kept looking at the photos, trying to figure out whether it was bulletproof, better-than-American, Japanese Mitsubishi or crappy, depressing licensed Mitsubishi from China or Nigeria or something. I sent the seller a question, and he said he didn’t know, and he offered to take fifty bucks. SOLD!

So now I have that on the way. I have to wait for it before I can do the final setup on the grinder.

The motor has a 145T frame, and the old motor is a 184-something, so I’ll have to put different holes in the platform.

More motor information: motors can be described by frame designations. These are numbers like 145T, 184, 156, and so on. An organization called NEMA created specifications for various frame numbers. If you know a motor’s frame number, you can look it up, and no matter who made the motor, you will be able to determine the motor’s shaft diameter, feet pattern, and so on. This is very helpful when you’re trying to install a motor in a machine you already have. If NEMA says it fits, it fits.

My new motor and my old motor have the same horsepower rating and speed, but the 145T is smaller (nice), and the base is different, so the 184 holes won’t work. With luck, one of them will be okay, but I’ll have to make three more, which is more aggravation than you would think. When you’re Carlos the carefree Cuban self-taught handyman from Hialeah, you just grab your Harbor Freight drill and one of your three rusty drill bits, and you make crappy holes surrounded by tearout. Then you demand payment in cash and run away before your work explodes. When you’re trying to do a good job, you have to use at least two bits per hole, and you have to clamp stuff under the work to prevent tearout. So I have that to look forward to.

When all this is done, I have to make some kind of housing for the VFD, to keep crud out of it.

In about 8 days, I should have a grinder that works. Exciting.

I realize no one read this, but I write what makes me happy, so I suppose that’s okay. If you made it this far, your prize is the photo I post below. In the photo, the motor is only mocked up, but you get the idea.

Enjoy. You lucky, lucky few.