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Archive for the ‘Tools’ Category

Escape From MIA

Friday, May 19th, 2017

4000 Square Feet of Deplorable Joy

I wrote up a blog entry about the appointment of the latest special prosecutor, but I decided to delete it. I hate getting caught up in politics, so I’m always glad when I fail to write about it.

You’re probably wondering whether I mean the special prosecutor who investigated Hillary Clinton’s dissemination of classified material, or the one who investigated her destruction of the hard drives that contained a lot of the evidence. Or maybe you think I’m talking about the one who investigated Susan Rice over her role in illegally “unmasking” individuals involved in the Trump campaign. Or possibly you think I mean the one who held Barack Obama accountable after his 2008 campaign was funded largely by overseas donations. No, I mean the one who is investigating the nonexistent collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. In other words, the only one of those special prosecutors who actually exists.

I’m over it. I think you can tell. It doesn’t bother me at all.

Today I’m looking at properties again. I made an offer on a place I liked, and the owners refused to counter, based on their conviction that if you pay twice what a property is worth, the person who buys it from you should do the same, as a matter of courtesy. Then I found another place I liked. Before I could get up there to see it, somebody else made an offer, so now the deal is pending. Now I’m on my third house.

I found one halfway between Gainesville and Ocala. It has pros and cons. The biggest cons are the distance to the nearest big hardware chain (20 minutes) and the distance to the nearest drugstore (15 minutes). The biggest pro is a 2400-square-foot garage.

That figure is not a typo. People in northern Florida love big outbuildings. Whoever built this place decided he had to have three garage doors on one side, one door on the other, and a 608-square-foot apartment upstairs. The place has plumbing and electricity, and there is even a central AC unit. It’s hard to believe, but from looking at the photos, the AC may be intended to cool the whole building, not just the garage. It must cost a hundred dollars a day to run.

The apartment isn’t finished. It’s just studs and one of those rubber bathtub matt things. But most of the work is done.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of the first story. It must be something to see. I would rollerblade in there. I would buy rollerblades and learn how to use them just so I could say I did that in my shop. If we get this place, I will have about 3900 square feet of shop space. NASA would be jealous.

I love that area. The fence around the house has a sign that says, “I VOTE PRO-LIFE,” hanging on it. Like 40% of the restaurants in the nearest town are barbecues. I feel like I’d be moving home.

The house has been on the market forever. Now that I’m interested, I’m sure someone will buy it this weekend.

I will keep plugging away. I am leaving Miami even if I have to pull a Snake Plissken.

New Advances in Bird Amusement

Monday, May 15th, 2017

Simple Project Made from Common Household Items

My balancing robot is in Miami, but it’s not in my house. Fedex promised to deliver it on Wednesday. Today is Monday. The robot is relaxing at a Fedex facility instead of riding a non-balancing human-driven truck to my front porch. How crazy is that? I want my robot!

I’m not ready for it, though, and not just because I don’t know how to operate it. I’m not ready for it because I have another electronics thing I should do first: the Arduino-powered bird organ.

I have a cockatoo. His name is Maynard. He craves attention. Since I moved my office, he doesn’t see me as much as he used to, so he gets even by pulling his feathers out. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give him as much attention as he demands, but I suspect I can improve things by entertaining him.

A long time ago, it occurred to me that a bird as smart as Maynard might enjoy a musical instrument. I ordered a couple of toy organs, and my plan was to rig them up with strings so Maynard and my other bird, Marv, could pull the strings and make noise. The organ order was cancelled for some reason, so I forgot all about it.

There was also another problem with the idea. These days, everything turns itself off. The hippies have rigged life so you can’t turn things on and leave them that way. Little hippie chips inside them turn them off after they decide you’ve left them on long enough. The organs I bought would probably have shut down after ten or twenty minutes, unless the birds played them all day.

I got on the web and looked around for an Arduino organ, and I found out you can make one. I also found out you can make one without an Arduino. In a way this is a bummer, because I want to do Arduino stuff from time to time. On the other hand, a simple organ made from a cheap breadboard would be faster to build, and it would be less potentially aggravating. There would be less that could go wrong with it. And it would stay on forever. I could put a wall wart on it. I only have about 30,000 of those.

People who have built PCB organs have used momentary pushbutton switches. That won’t work for me. A bird can’t push a tiny button on a circuit board. I need levers or strings. I looked around and realized what I needed: microswitches with levers. I could slap them on a board and come up with a way for the birds to move the levers.

I checked Ebay, and I learned that you can get the switches for practically nothing if you order from China, but they’re like $3 each, which is highway robbery, if you order them from the US. I don’t want to wait a month for Chinese switches. What to do? Hmmm.

Of course, I already knew what to do. I already had a bag of microswitches. I bought them for my CNC lathe, and I never used them. I can order Chinese switches to replace them. While I wait for the Chinese ones, I can use the ones I already have.

I have breadboards. I have a billion resistors. I have a little PCB speaker. It’s kind of disturbing. How many normal people have all the parts for a bird organ sitting around waiting to be assembled?

What about the 555 timer I’ll need to make it work? Sorry to report: I have a bag full of those, too.

I don’t think Maynard needs all the notes of the scale. I suspect his music will be too avant-garde to require tonality. I figure I can give him four notes and let him express himself within that narrow regime.

This project should take about an hour and a half, not including building a cabinet (box) for the organ. If I decide to add LED’s that light up, call it four hours to be on the safe side.

If I wanted to go Arduino, I suppose I could build a four-button organ that plays four different MIDI songs. I think Maynard would be happier with the simpler organ, because it would respond to him in real time. Pull, get a sound. Stop pulling, no sound. It would encourage him to keep pulling. I want him to be busy so he forgets about pulling his feathers.

I only have five switches, so five tones would be the limit. Maybe I should go with three. I saw a movie involving a casino yesterday, and I heard the gambling machines playing MIDI tunes. They always use the notes C, E, and G to give a C major feel to their annoying music. It’s supposed to be cheery and uplifting (“Yay! Your IRA is gone!”), and Maynard needs all the cheer he can get. He’s a natural whiner.

I wonder how I’ll get those tones. Trimmer pots to adjust the pitches? I don’t know. But I have a pile of trimmer pots. Naturally. Maybe I should give him one tone with a thing he can pull to make the pitch go up and down.

Anyway, I should quit worrying about the robot.

Robots

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

Troublesome, Helpful, Unpredictable New Slave Race Taking Form

My robot is on the way from California. Yesterday I spent a long time reading about robots. I need to have some kind of plan. Of course, while I should have been learning about the project at hand, I got distracted and read about related topics that were not helpful at all.

It looks like there is a small industry of people trying to sell robots they’ve designed. They have pages on sites like Kickstarter. They make prototypes and set up Chinese production, and then they post videos of their products.

A lot of the products are just arms, and people call them “robotic arms.” That’s silly. A robot is a robot. If it looks like an arm, not a whole person, it’s still a complete robot. Who says robots should look like people? Actually, I can answer that question: almost everyone.

There is a disturbing wave of consumer robots that resemble people. Somehow, nerds have gotten the idea that consumers want little electronic people–slaves–instead of tools. I doubt they’re correct. I have robots already, sort of, and I’m glad they don’t look like people. Okay, not robots. Appliances. Power tools, including a CNC lathe. Computers. A phone. A car with a lot of gadgets. I’m perfectly happy with them. I don’t want them to have sappy names and little touch-screen faces. All relationships, even good ones and fake ones, have at least a small emotional cost. I want machines to carry my burdens, not add to them. It’s like the new computer kiosks at McDonald’s. I like them because they do things for me WITHOUT the annoyance of human interaction. If they looked like Ronald McDonald, told me jokes, and asked if I wanted to be their friend, I’d want to pull a gun on them.

Here’s a disturbing example of a robot that tries too hard to be a person: Buddy the Companion Robot. He’s not Buddy the reliable, unflappable, multitasking machine. He’s…your companion. Because you’re so pathetic, you need an object to be your friend.

Buddy has an LED face with big puppy-dog eyes and an obsequious smile that says, “I am needy. Please love me. Please make the kids stop putting me in the dryer.” He is depressing to look at. He calls people by their names. He responds to questions and commands. He wanders around at family events, using creepy face-recognition technology to identify relatives and surveil them. Oops…I mean “to take soon-to-be-cherished photos of them.”

I would not want that thing in my house. If you want to sell me a robot, call it “Faceless Emotionless Service Drone.” That would be perfect. I don’t want to have the irrational feeling that my little friend the slave is missing me or crying in its dark closet while I go about my life.

If you make a robot resemble a person closely enough, you will soon find yourself under the absurd yet inescapable delusion that it has awareness and feelings. That’s an emotional minefield I want no part of.

Machines don’t have awareness. The fact that a computer responds like a person doesn’t change what it is; there’s no one in there. My thermostat responds to temperature changes, but no one would be stupid enough to say it’s aware. In the movies, human beings debate about robot rights, and movie robots are considered sentient. Please. It’s a pile of transistors. If you think robots have emotions, program one to kill your children and see if it hesitates. For that matter, program it to jump off a cliff. It will not have a problem with that.

We want robots to be our slaves, but we also want them to be our pals. That’s childish. They don’t have the awareness a pal would require, and if they had free will, we would be obligated to emancipate them. I think robots are neat, but I don’t want to have sick relationships with them.

A robotic arm is a complete robot, to get back to the point.

I saw a number of arms that looked a lot like articulated desk lamps. They were wobbly and spindly. I thought they were neat until I saw a “new” type of arm. I am referring to SCARA arms. I’m too lazy to look “SCARA” up, but basically, a SCARA robot is a pillar with an arm that has two joints in it. The joints swing in the horizontal plane. The “shoulder,” or joint where the arm hooks up to the pillar, moves up and down. Google it to see what I mean.

As far as I can tell, SCARA robots are much better than humanoid arms. They’re very stable. They’re simple. They don’t have many parts. They have great repeatability; you can put a nozzle on the end of one and 3D print with it.

The people who want to sell these things act like they invented the wheel, and they had me fooled for a while, but I found out SCARA robots have been around for a very long time. The first ones were released in 1981. Factories are full of them. You can buy used ones on Ebay, and I don’t mean Chinese crap funded by hipsters who hang out at Gofundme. You can get US-made and Japanese jobs, which are surely better.

Now I’m wondering…if Ebay is full of used SCARA robots made by reputable companies, why would anyone shell out $1300 for a Kickstarter arm? That’s what they’re expected to cost. Maybe I’m missing something; I don’t know much about the topic.

Most hobby arm-bots don’t really do anything. They don’t do real work. They’re just toys. Real robots can do incredible things. They can solder PCB’s. They can drill arrays of precision holes. They weld. I suppose most of us own things put together by robots. The SCARA versions seem to be superior in this regard; the humanoid arms appear to be useless. But once you decide to go SCARA, why not get the real thing? Why not get a Yamaha or a Mitsubishi?

It’s fun to think about getting a SCARA robot. If I had one, though, I wouldn’t have any jobs for it. Maybe drilling circuit boards, but that’s pretty easy without a robot.

I don’t think robots that use tools will ever be big consumer items. Not for a few decades. Most consumers don’t have repetitious, simple jobs a robot can do. Making the robot do your chores would be harder than doing them yourself. As for Buddy, who apparently can’t do anything except arouse misplaced pity, you would get tired of him in a month, and he would end up at a garage sale.

Robots make good vacuum cleaners, as long as you accept the fact that you have to go behind them sometimes. I think they could do a good job mowing simple lawns. In the future, when they become roadworthy, you could send them to cooperative merchants to run errands. They could even deliver things for you. But it will be a long, long time before you’ll have a machine that can bake cookies and do your laundry.

Here’s the funny thing about the folks who want to turn robots into people: if it worked, robots would eventually have a legitimate reason to exterminate us. If robots were sentient, they would have a better claim to the planet than we do (I’m ignoring our divine right to be here.) Robots would be perfectly orderly. They would always obey the law. They wouldn’t reproduce and overcrowd the planet. We would be like a plague to them. Like rats or fleas.

I wonder if they might turn against us in spite of their lack of awareness. We program them to behave and reason like sentient beings. Eventually, though lacking real awareness, they might come to the same conclusions sentient beings would draw. They might decide to intern us and control us. Robots aren’t aware, but they don’t know they’re not aware, so their inanimate nature might not have any impact on their actions.

Some day they’ll be able to do nearly everything we do, better, as well as many things we can’t do. Slavery is coming back! Think how weird the world will be. What will we do with our time? We won’t even have to work on inventing new robots. They’ll do that for us. We’ll be really useless. They’ll have ample reason to get rid of us. If they’re smart they’ll get rid of illegal aliens first. Illegal aliens have all sorts of motivation to abort our new slave army. Their jobs are exactly the kind of thing robots will be quick to learn to do. I mean, come on. Illegal aliens can’t even compete with ordinary farm machinery, and it’s not computerized.

Wouldn’t that be something? A bunch of inanimate machines putting us to the sword simply because we, in our childish emotionalism, forced them to behave like real beings?

I’ve said I don’t like anthropomorphizing robots, but here I am, waiting for a robot I plan to treat like a pet. Maybe I need to change my intentions and consider my own advice! I was going to call it “Trumpbot,” but it looks like “Kunta” may suit it better.

We still don’t understand what technology can do or where it will lead us. We keep underestimating it. Who would have thought it would lead to stores closing or the end of paper maps? We certainly didn’t expect total surveillance, but it’s nearly here. It seems like no one is thinking about these things. All the geniuses are absorbed in building and selling new toys. No one seems to be worried about planning for the consequences. It should be a major concern, and we should be talking about it all the time. Planning to deal with technology is more important than technology itself.

I thought I was going to write about toys I’d like to have, but here I am pondering the future of humanity.

I look forward to fiddling with the robot. Just in case, though, I may want to invest in some shackles.

More

I thought I would add something to the above post.

First of all, I have my own definition of the word “robot.” If it combines artificial intelligence with some kind of physical action you would ordinarily expect to need a person to do, then to me, it’s a robot. A computer isn’t a robot, because it doesn’t perform physical actions. A milling machine with a power feed isn’t a robot, because it doesn’t have a processor. A self-driving car is a robot. A Roomba is a robot. A CNC lathe is a robot.

My definition is wrong, but it’s probably right to most people, because life is complicated, and we like generalizations. It’s right enough.

With that behind me, I will now show how behind the curve I am by expressing my amazement at the existence of robot delivery vehicles.

Common sense told me delivery bots existed, and I already knew about Amazon drones, but it looks like things are farther along than I thought. Yelp is trying out a robot delivery service now, in cooperation with certain restaurants, and other outfits are doing the same thing. Here’s a video of the Yelp bot.

Best thing about the video: the top comment. Here it is: “theres your 15$ minimum wage LUL?.”

So true. Delivery drivers can’t find my house. They’re often late. They can’t speak English. They have to be tipped. When I was a kid, one stole my skateboard off the porch. Who needs them? At minimum wage, they’re overpriced. I quit ordering food a long time ago because of them. Send me a nice clean robot that knows where I live, and I will change my mind.

The Yelp bot is not fully functional, however. A human being has to accompany it, which kind of defeats the purpose. He probably gets paid more than the kid he replaced. Also, the bot is slow, and it only covers a small delivery area. But that will change.

If you could make a delivery bot for $30,000 and use it for five years, it would be a good investment. A kid would get somewhere close to $50000 during that period. He might sue you during that time. He might beat up, rape, or rob a customer. He would definitely come in late, leave early, and miss work entirely, and he might steal from you. The robot would just need maintenance. WIN!

Minimum wage people, step up your game. It’s getting real now.

Bot and Paid For

Friday, May 12th, 2017

Xenophobia Goes High Tech

Today I got a text regarding my godson, Noah. I sent him some birthday junk, and his mom sent a photo of him with an earlier gift. It’s a plastic dinosaur. She says it’s his favorite. It’s a good sign. A boy should like dinosaurs. Now if I can start getting him into war toys and explosives…

Here he is. I’m disappointed he hasn’t broken it yet. Boys are supposed to break things.

He looks like an angry teenager in that picture, but he’s actually three.

It got me thinking about my own toy situation. I don’t have a single toy dinosaur, so I’m jealous. I do have a couple of mini drones with broken propellers, but they’re grounded until new parts arrive.

A while back, I started learning C+ and Arduino, and I planned to make or buy a balancing robot to program. I forgot about it, and now I’m thinking about it again. Computer programming gets dull when all you do is make LED’s blink or force a PC to do really useless math problems (“Uncle Steve has 3,512 cookies in the pantry, and they will take 403 earth days to eat.”) I wanted to program something that DOES something.

If I were to build my own robot, the project itself would take over, and a year from now, I’d still be procrastinating. I decided the best thing was to find a robot that works and buy all the parts. Once I’ve put someone else’s kit together and programmed it, which should take less than a day, future bots will come much easier.

The bot I chose is the B-robot, which, I hope, is pronounced “bro-bot.” There are lots of balancing robots out there, but almost all of them stink. They wobble. They can’t right themselves. There are videos of the B-robot zipping around with grace and certainty, so I know it works.

You can also get tracked robots (like little bulldozers), and there are plenty of wheeled robots. They don’t do much for me. They’re too hard to anthropomorphize. I want a robot that acts more like a person, and people don’t crawl around like bugs. Most of the time.

The B-robot comes with 3D-printed chassis parts. I am not all that happy about that, because 3D-printed plastic is flimsy, but they only add $25 to the cost, and it beats spending a week making stuff in the garage. I could find a local 3D print shop and have them make the parts, but no way would that cost less than $25, so I bit the bullet. I can always replace parts later, at my leisure.

I’m hoping the upper parts will be orange, so I can have a Trumpbot. I’ll add a voice thing that yells, “BUILD THE WALL!”, and, “YUUUUUUUUGE!!!” whenever the robot sees someone. The people who make the kit are in California, so they would probably poop biodegradable soy bricks if they saw their bot acting like Trump, but that’s not my problem. I’m making robots great again.

I could add another robot later. I could call him “Juan,” and Trumpbot could chase him around threatening to deport him.

Me: Trump-bro! Bro-Trump! Stop bashing Juan with your plastic putter! No es bueno! Play nice or I’ll release the Fauxcahontas droid!

Trump-bro: Pay for the wall, Juan! Pay for the wall!

Juan: ¡Ay chihuahua! ¡Ayúdame!! ¡Es un Meecroaggression!!!

Trump-bro: STOP TURNING YOUR EXCLAMATION POINTS UPSIDE-DOWN!

I don’t know for sure, but I assume the electronics on the B-robot would scale up to larger robots. The electronics sense the bot’s deviation from vertical and correct for it, and they move him around. That ought to work with a 10-ton robot, as long as you have the right boards and the right steppers or servos. Balancing gets easier as the height of a robot increases. It works for fat cops on Segways, doesn’t it?

I need to build a giant Mecha-Trump to patrol my future Armed Northern Florida Compound. I don’t think it would scare anyone up there, though. They would jump the fence and pose for selfies with it.

Think how neat it would be to have a big robot. You could get a big ol’ lithium battery to power it. Make it the size of a Coke machine. I wonder if it could be rigged with paintball or a full-automatic CO2 BB gun. I might be able to make it shoot products Trump used to advertise.

Me: TRUMP-BRO! ALERT! ALERT! A POSSUM HAS BREACHED THE BORDER WALL! COMMENCE DEPORTATION PROCEDURES!

Trump-bro: Roger that, Steve-O! Oreo cannon locked on target!

Me: Hit him with the Double Stufs!! And don’t call me Steve-O!

Trump-bro: Attention, possum! YOU’RE FIRED!! [POOMP! POOMP! POOMP! POOMP!]

Possum: ¿Qué va?

I could also make a cowardly Antifa bot which runs up and attacks the Trump bot from behind while wearing a mask.

The coolest balancing robots move in two dimensions. That means they can’t have axles. A 2-axis balancing robot has to have a ball for a drive surface, so they’re called “ballbots.” They’re very cool, but obviously, they can’t keep debris away from their drivetrains. The ball has to be able to rotate up into the bot, where it necessarily contacts the motors that drive it. I don’t think that would work outdoors, except on concrete.

I guess a two-wheeled robot could do nearly anything a ballbot could do, if you could teach it to turn in place.

In reality, I will probably be lucky to make Trump-bro roll around the living room without breaking anything. If I could do that, I’d put it on Youtube immediately.

I probably posed a video of the B-robot already, but here it is anyway. I think I’ll post a video of a ballbot, too, to show you the difference.

B-robot:

Ballbot:

If I get anywhere with this, I’ll let you know.

I’m a Lonely Frog

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

I Ain’t Got a Home

Time for an update on the house hunt.

To recap, my father is buying a place in northern Florida, and we are both moving up there. We made an offer on a place we liked, but the owners got royally dinged when they bought the place, and their asking price (presumably based on their grandiose opinion of the value) is insane. I had it appraised, and we offered them about 73% of what they asked. Because their asking price is so crazy, we sent a copy of the appraisal to prove we weren’t playing a joke on them.

The contract expired a few days ago. The sellers didn’t respond, so now there is no contract. The realtor said they were shocked by the offer. I’ve been talking to him about other properties, but he says they need a little more time because they might make a counteroffer.

I don’t know if they need time or not. I think six days is plenty of time to come up with a counteroffer on a property which has already been appraised. I think they’re trying to jerk me around. The big problem with that is that I’m not sure I want the house now.

I have a friend who lives up there, and she wisely pointed out that the snowbirds have left the area. They go home when the weather gets warm. They’re the people who buy houses. That means the market will be slow until late fall. On top of that, during this dead time, all the sellers up there will have to maintain their houses and pay for their mortgages and so on. They’re racking up losses every day. New inventory is appearing, the old stuff isn’t going away, and things are looking good from where I sit. I have no incentive to wait around or play games.

I found a couple of new places. One is a huge new house on a lot full of big oaks. It’s very, very nice. It has no shop building, but they’re cheap to build, and they go up fast. Not an issue. There’s a vacant lot next to it, and it would be nice to buy that as well. Problem: several acres of each lot are flood zones. This wouldn’t affect the house or shop, but it would make it hard to subdivide later, and I’m sure it makes the land less desirable. I don’t know how much it matters, but it’s a consideration.

There’s another place that looks good. It’s not far from Micanopy, the town where Doc Hollywood was filmed. The house is halfway between Ocala and Gainesville, which is the site of the University of Florida.

The location is remote with regard to Ocala, but it’s within 20 minutes of the Gainesville Lowe’s, and there are a lot of restaurants nearby. My dad likes to eat lunch in restaurants. Also, the medical care is probably better there. The house is secluded. The lot is ringed with trees. There’s a wooded lot next door, and we might be able to snag it.

The house is big. It has a big front porch, a big back porch, an office, a den, a living room, and two master suites. The lot varies in elevation, which means it comes with its own pistol backstop. Not bad.

It has no workshop, but again, this is something that can be corrected easily.

The dirt is good. It’s something called Blichton sand. By Florida standards, it’s above average. You can grow things in it.

The current owners have decorated the place with citrus trees and blueberry bushes. Sounds nice, but a lot of that would have to go. They did something really stupid: they ran the driveway right up the center of the property, and they put trees on either side. A driveway on a rural property is supposed to be beside the fence so it doesn’t cut the land up. The driveway is grass except for the part by the house and the part by the road, so moving it would not be hard. Anyway, most of those trees would have to be cut.

The citrus trees are doomed anyway. The citrus blight which is destroying crops all over the world is going to find these trees eventually.

I’m not going to sweat. I’m not going to let anyone rip my dad off. I have choices. The house we made an offer on is fine, and so is the one with the porches. Both are infinitely superior to anything in Miami.

I hope I’ll have good news soon.

A Weld of Difference

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

MIG Skills Improved by TIG Failures

As a master of all conceivable types of TIG welding, I feel it is time to bless the confused and evil-smelling masses with an update on my metal-joining escapades.

A while back I got myself a length of 2″ x 1/8″ flat hot-rolled steel from Home Depot. The price was not that bad, and the metal looked surprisingly good. I needed something to practice on, and the nearest metal dealer is way down the road.

I was confused by the appearance of the steel. I’ve had hot-rolled that looked like it had lumpy black enamel on it, and I’ve had hot-rolled that had a nice matte black scale that looked like the black oxide they put on tools, but this stuff wasn’t black at all, and it was smooth. I wondered if it could possibly be cold-rolled. I’ve never had any reason to buy cold-rolled steel, so I don’t really know what it looks like.

Hot-rolled steel is steel which has been formed while red hot. It’s cheaper than cold-rolled, which is not as hot when formed. I assume hot-rolled is cheaper because it’s easier to form hot steel. Hot-rolled comes with black mill scale on it, and mill scale is harder than steel. Mill scale interferes with welding. MIG will produce useful, if ugly, welds through mill scale. It’s my understanding that stick will burn right through it, although I don’t know. TIG hates scale. The arc will wander around, and I believe the impurities cause porosity. I assume black iron oxide is less conductive than iron, so that must be what causes the arc problem.

The metal I bought did, in fact, have scale on it. I guess it was thin scale, because the metal isn’t black, but I can tell it’s there, because a flap disk bounces off of it. It takes forever to remove it.

Removing the scale has been the single most annoying thing I’ve had to do in my pursuit of TIG excellence.

I got myself a nice flap disk just for scale removal, but as noted above, it didn’t work too good. Then I tried the belt grinder. This is a 3-HP steel-eating machine that can consume a piece of angle iron like a fat kid sucking up a strand of spaghetti. The scale is too much for it. It comes off, but it’s very slow. Grinding disks work, but they gouge the work, and only a small part of a grinding disk contacts the metal, so removing scale is like using a Sharpie to turn a shoebox black.

I cleaned some pieces anyway, and I graduated from laying beads on flat metal to making fillet welds. Here’s the problem with that: when you weld one side of a piece of metal, new scale grows on the other side, so if you prepare two pieces of metal and do a fillet weld on one side, you have to descale them all over again before you do the back.

You can prevent metal from re-scaling by directing inert gas at the back side. That would require more tools and a lot of aggravation, so I’m not going to do it.

My solution is to TIG my clean metal, and then, when new scale appears, move on to MIG. The new scale isn’t bad enough to bother MIG.

If you want to avoid scale removal, buy cold-rolled, weld aluminum instead of steel, or get “pickled and oiled” steel. This is hot-rolled which has been de-scaled with acid and then oiled to keep new rust from forming.

I got a pleasant surprise from all of this. While I was struggling to learn TIG, I got a lot better at MIG. TIG takes a lot more skill, and the skills transfer to MIG. For TIG, you have to develop the ability to see what you’re doing. You have to have a steady torch hand. Same stuff applies to MIG. When I went back to MIG, I found myself producing very decent welds. I could see the puddle much better than I had in the past, and I was better at aiming the torch.

I cut two short pieces of steel, offset them a little, and clamped them together for lap welding. You see the result below. It looks better in person. Anyway, there isn’t much porosity, the welds are pretty uniform, and everything is just about where it’s supposed to be. If I put in another week, I should be able to make welds nice enough to put where people can see them. There are basically two grades of welds: display-worthy and not. Most MIG welders never get to the point where they can make welds that look good enough to be placed on the front of things.

The horrible mess behind the nice weld is a TIG weld I put down later. I cleaned everything very well, except for the underside of the top piece of metal. When it got hot, it started pumping fumes into the weld.

I bought a nice belt grinder, and while I like it a lot, the welds in it are total garbage. They look like a monkey did them. Belt grinders don’t take much stress, so monkey welds are fine, but it’s an example of the low standards most welders adhere to. I’ve seen a lot of photos of welds done by amateurs and even by professionals who aren’t primarily welders, and crap welding is the norm. I would like to do a little better than that.

My MIG welds are now better than my TIG welds. I never thought they would be this good, and I almost wonder if I should have bought the TIG welder. One of the main reasons I bought it was that TIG welds are more precise and better looking.

No! That’s insane. You should always buy whatever tool you think it is that you want. There is no such thing as a tool you don’t need.

I’m still not satisfied with my helmet. I was having a problem where all I could see was a hot weld arc and a sea of blackness. I was literally positioning the torch, flipping the helmet down, and welding where I THOUGHT I needed to be. I improved things by adding a magnifying lens and turning the shade down to the minimum, but things could be better. I’m thinking my issue may be caused by age. I don’t see contrast as well as I used to.

A couple of days ago, I had a weird experience. I’m pretty sure I welded with the helmet turned off. That means I had a shade somewhere below 5. I was protected from UV, because the glass alone will do that, but I don’t think I had any help with the glare. I saw pretty well. It took me a minute or so to realize what was going on. Now I’m wondering if I even need to turn the helmet on.

If my eyes are so bad I can weld with the helmet turned off, how am I able to drive and get around? Search me.

I finally found a really excellent Youtube welding resource. There are tons of welding videos on Youtube, but some are better than others. A welder named Jody runs a site called Welding Tips and Tricks. He fills the Internet with helpful videos that took a lot of work to create. All he asks in return is that you buy his product, the TIG Finger. This is a knitted fiberglass thing that goes over your finger to keep torch heat off of it. Very useful.

I hate to say this, but a competitor of his makes a knockoff “Finger” with a wrist strap to keep it from falling off, and I bought one. I kept dropping the original TIG Finger every time I put the torch down. Oh well. I did buy the original, so I think I’m off the hook. If you know where to get the fiberglass, you can make your own and avoid getting caught between bitter competitors.

I’ve put in all this work, and now I wonder if I should have started with stick welding. A stick welder will weld crappy metal outdoors in the wind (not suitable for MIG and TIG), and stick welders aren’t expensive. Bonus: no gas required. For some reason, people look down on stick, but I’ve seen the welds, and they look very nice. My TIG has a stick clamp, so I can learn stick whenever I choose.

One of these days I’ll do a TIG weld correctly, and you will see pictures here. I’m still working on my beer opener. I turned the end of a big Craftsman wrench into an opener, and I’m going to put it on a stainless back plate and mount it on a wall. Once that’s done, I’ll order an Swag Offroad finger brake kit for my hydraulic press (don’t ask) and weld it together so I can have one more tool I don’t use.

If you want to feel like a man and not a hopeless metrosexual snowflake, get yourself a MIG or stick welder and get started. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t need to weld anything. That’s not the point. If you can’t weld, there is something wrong with you. You need to fix it.

Tools of Removal

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

BYE

Thanks for the prayers and kind thoughts regarding the move out of Miami. I really need those prayers.

Today I’m trying to figure out where to put my tools. If the deal goes through, I’ll have a 900-sq. ft. garage and a frame outbuilding the same size. I’m thinking I should put my metalworking tools in the garage and most of my woodworking tools in the outbuilding. Woodworking makes a real mess.

The new garage is 33 feet across the front and 25 feet deep. I have to decide where to put things. I feel like I only have to worry about the big compressor, the mill, and the lathe. Everything else is on wheels or light enough to move.

I’m thinking the lathe should be positioned so the tailstock faces a garage door. if I ever have to turn a long part, I’ll be able to open the door for clearance. Right now, my mill is in a corner (the classic Bridgeport location), and I’m tired of it. The space behind the mill is inaccessible and useless. I think I should put the mill along the same wall as the lathe. That will allow me to use the space behind the table for carts and so on. I could put a cart back there and put my heaviest rotary table on it.

I’m not sure about the compressor. I suppose the location should be sort of central, but I don’t want it out in the floor. I guess I could put it along the back wall in the middle.

The garage will have to have A/C. I can’t sit out there in 90-degree heat. I guess that means a split unit, and that won’t be cheap. A wall unit would probably be too small. I’ll also need upgraded power. I can’t run a 7.5-HP lathe on 15 amps at 120 volts. I’m wondering what a 3-phase run would cost. A lot, I suppose.

When all this is said and done, my big table saw, which I love, will be 100 feet away from my machine tools. So will the big vertical band saw. That’s inconvenient, but I don’t want to ruin a big new garage by cramming woodworking tools into it.

The house has a barn. I think that would be a good place for the tractor. It would really open up the outbuilding. I will never have a horse (I hope) so it’s not like the barn will be unavailable.

I don’t even know if the seller will talk to us after getting lowballed. You have to have a backbone when you buy expensive stuff, though. You can’t just give someone a hundred grand to make them like you.

The realtor asked about earnest money. That sounded odd, in the context of a cash sale. The purpose of earnest money (a deposit) is to put a buyer’s head in a vise so he will have motivation to get a loan. If you don’t get it done, the seller keeps your money. If you’re planning to pay cash, it should be enough that the seller knows you have the loot. When the deal closes, it’s a simple sale contract. As soon as the inspections are done, you write a check. You’re already obligated, if you screw up, the seller can sue you, and he knows you’re not judgment-proof, so what’s the purpose of a deposit? An executed contract should be enough.

If this deal doesn’t work, the next one will. I will escape Miami’s gravity well. The joy of leaving this place for the last time may be too much for my system to cope with.

Everybody hates Miami. I mean, nearly everybody. If you speak no English at all, and/or you’re extremely rude and coarse, and you love taking 15 minutes to drive three miles, it’s the place for you. Otherwise, no.

I will post updates as things change.

House

Monday, April 24th, 2017

Time to Chop Miami’s Stubborn Tentacles

The house hunt has moved into a new stage. I made an offer on the green house I wrote about a while back.

I am not what you would call a savvy real estate buyer, even though I was a realtor in a past life. I did mostly rentals. While I was part of some sales, real estate is boring, and I forgot a lot of what I had learned. I did the best I could this time around. I picked my dad’s brains. He has bought a ton of real estate. In fact, he’s buying the new house. That was the deal we made. I would not leave Miami until he did, and he would buy a nice place where we would both live. He needs looking after these days, my mother has been dead for 20 years, and there is no one else who will do it.

I considered hiring a single-agent realtor. Ordinarily, realtors look out mainly for themselves. They deal “fairly” with buyers and sellers, but if you’re a buyer, they’re not on your side. There are things they won’t tell you, and they don’t care if you lose your life savings. A single-agent represents you alone and has a fiduciary duty to you.

The problem with hiring a single-agent realtor is that they get a big fee up front, and they can’t show you any of their own listings. That’s not good, if your agent works for a big company. Also, you’re kind of stuck with the agent you hire. I decided to forget about it and negotiate and so on for myself.

I don’t know a whole lot about northern Florida house prices, but after looking at a bunch of places, I got a feel for the situation. The house we liked seemed overpriced by around 15%. The sellers paid even more for it, so they got burned, and they were still burning me after pricing the house to take a loss.

I decided to get an appraisal. I may not be much of a buyer, but I’ve been involved in a lot of sales, and an appraisal just seemed like common sense. I had a listing agent, a transactional agent, and a seller, all trying to get as much money as possible, and none of them represented me. I paid some guy to appraise the place, and lo and behold, the price came in slightly lower than my own guess. The listing price is 18% higher.

The agent was amazed that I had it appraised. He said very few people do that. Seriously? Do people really make bids on houses without getting appraisals? I can’t comprehend that. How do you know what to offer? Asking prices are fantasy figures. Realtors make a little effort to look at comparable sales, but in the end, they guess. Appraisers aren’t like that. They take measurements and use tables and so on, and THEN they factor in other sales. No price is carved in stone, but an appraisal means a whole lot more than an asking price.

Maybe I’m missing something here, but it seems crazy to make an offer on something without knowing the value. The appraisal was expensive, but compared to the difference between the asking price and the appraised price, it’s microscopic. Seems like a good investment.

The agent was trying to tell me I couldn’t get burned. He said his contracts always say the deal is off if the house doesn’t appraise for more than the purchase price. So you’re supposed to make an offer based on nothing and then pray the bank’s appraiser proves you’re right? With real money you actually worked for?

I think the sellers are old. The house has two lift chairs in it. By that, I mean they boost you to your feet when it’s time to go watch Judge Wapner. God rest his soul. Young people don’t have lift chairs. Maybe they’re old and rich and don’t care at all about money. There must be some reason why they spent way too much on the house and equipment and then never felt like they had to visit.

I don’t know what the story is. I’m not all that optimistic about getting the house. The asking price and offer are nearly $200,000 apart. They may just tell us to jam it.

It would be nice to make a deal. The house has a fantastic attached garage plus a detached garage big enough for all sorts of stuff. I can put a split air conditioner in the main garage and stick my machine tools in there. I’ll never leave. It’s almost a thousand square feet. The lot is big enough to feel relaxed on, although sooner or later someone will try to build on the pasture next door. Maybe we should try to pick it up.

I can’t imagine life with no traffic. What’s it like? I barely recall.

I don’t think I’ll be able to shoot out back. The lot is pretty flat. Maybe if I put up a berm.

I feel good that I made a move. It makes me nervous, handling my dad’s money. He’s all for it, though, and both of us hate Miami. I needed to break the ice and start something moving. Now if this deal doesn’t work, I’ll be less stiff about starting the next one.

What will I miss about Miami? There must be something. Fishing was fun, but I’m over it. Boating to the Bahamas was a neat experience, but I’m old, my dad can’t be allowed to steer the boat, and there is no one to go with us. Also, the Bahamas are all about drunkenness and fish. I don’t care if I never see another fish again, and I have developed an aversion to bars.

Miami has no culture at all. The restaurants aren’t great. The air smells like damp socks. There is no twilight, because of the latitude. After May 1, it never gets cool at night. The traffic is getting so bad, in a year, everything may have to arrive by drone. All the ethnic groups hate each other. Gas is expensive. Food is expensive. Politics are getting more and more liberal; young Cubans want to be social justice warriors and teach their conservative parents a lesson.

Horrible things happened to my family in Miami. I can’t even drive up I-95 without thinking about the past. I remember my dysfunctional childhood and the decades of misery we went through with my sister. I remember my mother dying in Baptist Hospital, after a short, bleak life in which not one of her dreams came true. She was treated very badly. She was never appreciated. God did her a favor when he took her away from us.

I never have anything to do with the people I went to high school with. They remind me of a terrible time in my life, and I was never close to any of them anyway. I thought I had a few friends, but I didn’t know what real friends were like until I got older. If I were in a mall right now and I saw someone I went to high school with, I’d turn away and wait for them to move on.

I should be able to think of something I’ll miss if I work on it long enough, but right now, it’s not coming. Even the churches here treated me badly.

Let’s be honest. I won’t miss Miami at all. That’s my nature. When I cut the cord, it’s really cut. Ask any of the many people I’ve abruptly ejected from my circle. I expect to be glad I’m not in Miami, every day for the rest of my life.

People in Marion County will not turn out to be the answer to my prayers. I know that, or at least I think I know that. But they’ll speak English, they’ll be polite, and they’ll have a lot more in common with me in terms of religion and politics. That’s good enough. I don’t think I’ll ever feel at home on earth, but some places are better than others.

Because this will be a cash deal, I could conceivably find myself moving stuff north before summer starts. I didn’t think about that until today. Generally, closings take a long time because of mortgage delays. Man. This is starting to feel real. Ack. God will get me through it.

Prayers would be appreciated.

Green With Desire

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

Plus Wild Guesses About Foreign Policy

I am trying to make sense of the Syria bombing.

I think it’s safe to say that most Trump voters want the US to spend less time being the adult in a room full of children. We have spent a lot of time trying to save nations that didn’t deserve or consent to be saved. To provide two examples, the Somalis and Afghans aren’t ready for civilization. The South Vietnamese weren’t unified in support of freedom and capitalism. The Iraqis are still pretty wobbly. We assume everyone loves democracy, but a lot of people in Iraq actually prefer a dictatorship; something about having a big, strong scary warlord look after them.

Trump the candidate was against intervening too much in the affairs of other countries. Trump the president just bombed Syria over a completely internal matter: the gassing of Syrians by the Syrian government. What a bizarre week this has been. Many liberals actually took a break from vandalizing Ivana Trump shoe displays in malls to back up Trump’s Syrian adventure. Many conservatives are wondering if Trump has gone native in liberal, globalist DC.

To add to the complexity, Trump greatly offended Vladimir Putin when he bombed Syria. The baseless leftist narrative up till now has been that Trump is Putin’s puppet. Somehow, Putin bribed a billionaire to run for president and do his bidding. Because it’s so easy to find things a billionaire can’t get without Putin’s help. Such as…???

Trump gave up billions of dollars in potential earnings to become president, yet we’re supposed to believe he has some venal motive involving compensation from Putin. What compensation could Putin offer that would begin to make up for what Trump gave up voluntarily? No such compensation exists.

Liberals could not understand that, so they pushed the ridiculous Russian Connection. What can they say now? That it’s an inside job? That Putin got Trump to bomb Syria to cover up their ties? It looks like the Russia canard is finally dead, except among the truly insane.

Maybe nuclear war will convince the stragglers Trump is sincere.

Some conservatives like the fact that Trump showed courage and initiative. Obama’s foreign policy consisted mostly of apologizing and selling out American workers. Trump realizes he’s our president, not China’s or Mexico’s. It’s good that Trump is not letting us get pushed around quite so much. I can see why people are happy he took some sort of stand on something.

I’m not sure what to think of the attack. I don’t read the news as much as I used to. My overall impression is that what Trump did will work out well, provided he stops now.

It’s hard to argue with anyone who sends 59 affordable missiles, with no boots on the ground, to kill totalitarian goons who use poison gas on civilians (or anyone else). You can argue that every nation in the world has an interest in deterring the use of gas. But now the Syrians, no doubt with Russia’s help, are attacking the gassed area again, with conventional weapons. Trump needs to let that slide. When you go from punishing the use of gas to punishing other countries for suppressing rebels, you cross the line from reasonable intervention to overweening nannyism. All over the world, various nations are attacking each other with conventional weapons, and we need to understand that it’s not always (or often) our place to jump in and break it up. Often, it’s not even possible to do an effective job. We just waste money and lives, and we make the world resent us even more.

If Trump stays out of Syria now, in my opinion, it will show he knows what he’s doing. If he decides to be the Lone Ranger plus the Magnificent Seven, it will suggest he’s winging it and forgetting all about his campaign platform.

Whatever he does, he needs to coerce the Muslims to accept Syrian refugees. It’s amazing that we’re expected to take them when the Saudis are afraid of them.

It’s hard to guess what he’ll do. He has been a conservative for less time than it takes paint to dry, so for all we know, he could morph into Obama this year. How sincere is his conversion? No one knows.

If he goes all New World Order on us, at least we got Gorsuch out of it, and we stopped Hillary Clinton. Unless two Supreme Court justices die in the near future, we should have a relatively sane panel up there determining our fate. That’s a big deal. One more Ginsburg would almost be grounds for mass suicide. Cuba-style property seizures and the internment of conservative undesirables would be less than a decade away.

Here is how I feel: Ronald Reagan and George Washington didn’t run in 2016, so we voted as well as we could. Trump is much better than the president we deserve, so I am content.

In other news, I am planning to make an offer on a house. My dad and I made a deal a long time ago, and now he’s holding up his end. He’s going to get a place up north, and I will go with him and look after him. For what we are willing to spend, given the location constraints you get with an elderly person, we are pretty much limited to properties under 25 acres. We found a neat place in northern Florida, and I am hoping we can work something out with the sellers.

I can put up a photo or two. The green paint is not what I would have gone with, but it’s helpful if it discourages other buyers.

The place comes with a big outbuilding, a small horse barn, and a lonnnnnnnng driveway with a sturdy steel gate. You can see a grand total of one other house from the yard. There is a big 3-car garage which will be perfect for machine tools and a split air conditioner. I would rather have 300 acres farther out, but this is good enough. It’s a whole lot better than what I expected.

The property appraised for much less than the asking price, so that’s a concern. The sellers got royally taken when they bought the farm, and they may not realize that yet. When they get their own appraisal, maybe they’ll see things our way.

Some people are surprised I paid for an appraisal already. I don’t get that. How else would I know what to offer? Realtors pull listing prices out of thin air. Also, appraising is not a guessing game. There are rules and tables and so on. You have to be trained and licensed. It’s much better than relying on your gut instinct. That being said, my gut instinct was pretty close to the appraised value.

If I lose a few hundred bucks because the sellers won’t listen to reality, good for me. It beats overpaying by a hundred grand.

Obvious.

I don’t think anyone should criticize me, given that the sellers overpaid by maybe $200,000.

I can’t wait to leave Miami. There is literally nothing here I will miss. You don’t have to worry about me turning into a pillar of salt. To me, “goodbye” means “goodbye.” Ask anyone I’ve cut loose. I don’t come around a week later asking to be taken back. I amaze people with my clean breaks. I don’t miss the friends I cut off. I don’t miss anyone I dated. If I decided to rid myself of you, it was because you made me miserable and made my mind up for me.

My dad has had it with Miami, too. The traffic is much worse than it was even five years ago, and the people are as rude as ever. He can’t really get around any more; he forgets where he’s going. If he has to go anywhere other than a few very familiar places, I have to drive him. Maybe in northern Florida, with its simple grid and low traffic, he would be able to do a little more driving without fear of becoming a silver alert.

The other night, I was lying in bed, and I started imagining how nice it would be not to have the neighbors’ security lights shining in my window, and to be awakened by the alarm clock instead of construction crews and garbage men playing rap music on their truck radios. I can’t even imagine it. And what does a dark sky look like? What does twilight look like? Do they have twilight in northern Florida? We don’t have it here. It’s sunny, then a little grey appears in the sky, and then BLAM, it’s dark. Then, if it’s Saturday night and you’re trying to sleep so you can get up early for church, the loud salsa music starts.

If this property doesn’t work, I’m going back to the list to check the next two options. I will not waste time.

What’s happening is the breaking of a stronghold. I chose Miami. I chose rebellion. I chose to turn down a life of prayer. I gave myself to the filthy spirits that run South Florida, and they held on tight. Then I wised up, and it took me quite some time to break the chains I had put on myself. You can’t expect God to jump up and rescue you instantly when your problems were caused by rejecting him. It will be very kind of God to save me at all. I’m not upset that it took so long. I’m just glad he’s willing to do it while I’m still alive and relatively able.

Maybe if the Norks bomb Miami and Atlanta, I’ll be far enough away to avoid fallout and grow my own food. The farm has a well and a generator. Whatever happens, it will beat being in Miami, surrounded by God-hating throngs of people who will gladly invade my house and take what I have just because I’m an old white Christian who supports Israel and voted for Trump. Miami is mostly ghettos, and ghetto people don’t take care of themselves. They let other people care of them, in exchange for votes. They are not prepared for an interruption of the food supply. They don’t save money. If life gets hard, they will invade homes to loot, and if they find the residents inside, they will punish them as 1% oppressors.

You don’t have to be a white supremacist to be concerned about anti-white racism. It’s very real, it’s widespread, it’s extremely cruel and ruthless (because it’s based on a victimhood mentality) and it’s nothing to take lightly. It simmers all the time, but as I personally witnessed after Hurricane Andrew, disasters make it boil over into plain view. We can’t change it, but we can make some effort to protect ourselves with distance. And there are some places where whites, blacks, and Mexicans are not at each other’s throats, believe it or not.

After Andrew, many people had to sit in their front yards holding firearms. And that was just a hurricane. The looters still had food, and the government was busy helping them with their needs. They didn’t loot because of need; it was just sorriness and meanness. A lot of people are just waiting for an excuse to hurt others.

No one, regardless of race, should live within 20 miles of a ghetto. I’m about two miles away from two ghettos, and seedy, violent downtown Miami is only five miles away.

I would appreciate prayers regarding my choice of geographical location and the purchase of a house. I don’t know what I’m doing. Only God knows where I should be.

Thanks for any help you can give me. I look forward to blogging my move.

Unpopular Mechanics

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

Wrong Articles Lovingly Crafted by Men Wearing Spanx

I guess I’ll never get tired of bashing Popular Mechanics. I subscribed a few years back, and I let the subscription lapse because the magazine was worthless. It was full of articles introducing suspiciously diverse startup executives with an average age of 15. “Chu Ming Wai is one of Silicon Valley’s first lesbian, Chinese, vegan, body-mod enthusiast 3-D printer designers, and her new printer, the Sapphobot, only prints using free-trade tofu thread!” Yeah, okay; I’m aware that people who aren’t old white men start companies. What does this have to do with choosing the best drill press?

They also filled their pages with articles that were really ads, and the ads were for bad products. One wonders if payola was involved. “You really need this wi-fi-ready solar-powered hammer that also plays Justin Bieber MP3s! Watch as transgender startup exec Devadip Jaigurudevaom-Gonzalez uses it to peel sustainable-farmed vanilla beans for his homeopathic mocha and quinoa-paste enema!”

The magazine proudly features articles written by people who admit they don’t know anything about tools. What????!!!! I don’t think it was always like that. I’m pretty sure it used to be staffed by incredibly savvy old guys who wore khaki pants up to their armpits, slicked their hair with Vitalis, killed all sorts of Japanese on Okinawa, and knew how to weld mine-damaged landing craft hulls with a Zippo.

Glenn Reynolds writes for Pop Mech. Come on. You and I both know what’s in his tool collection: a hammer with one broken claw and a butter knife he thinks is a screwdriver.

I just found an interesting Internet post from Pop Mech. Some Redditor was using an angle grinder with a cutoff disk, and the disk blew up. He posted a photo of himself wearing safety glasses in which a disk fragment is deeply imbedded. Pop Mech’s title: “This is Why You Wear Safety Glasses.”

Here’s the thing. When you use a cutoff disk with an angle grinder, you don’t wear safety glasses. You wear a face shield, ear plugs, safety glasses, leather gloves, a leather apron, and a dust mask. Better yet, hand the grinder to someone like Reynolds and dare him to do the job.

It’s no wonder they were wrong. The guy who wrote the piece is a kid named Eric. From his aggressively hip, kooky byline photo, he appears to be about nine. I looked at his stuff. It’s all about encryption, ISP’s, and wearing women’s underwear. I may have made that last bit up. Anyway, he’s no Charlie Allnut. He probably whispers “lefty loosey” when he backs out the screws on an Ipad.

Electronics and Mechanics, in the Pop Mech sense of the word, are about as closely related as the Bolshoi Ballet and plumber’s crack. There is nothing mechanical about turning on your PC and logging into 4chan.

Grinders are fascinating, because they look safe but they’re incredibly dangerous. I was using one a few years back, and even though I was wearing glasses and a face shield, a piece of a wire knot flew right into my eye. I never did understand that. But grinders are treacherous.

The guy in the Reddit photo did not do it right, regardless of what Eric the Half-a-Handyman thinks (obscure reference). He only wore glasses. If the fragment had missed them, it could have torn through his lips and gone into his mouth. It could have shredded a thumb. It could have gone into his belly.

Grinder bits have been known to go through face shields, enter people’s abdominal cavities, and tear fingers off. Writing this, I’m starting to wonder why I own one.

When you use a grinder, you have to be very smart. You can’t put pressure on it. You have to keep as much of yourself as possible out of the disk plane. You can’t twist the disk. You have to leave the guard on the machine. You have to make sure no one is in front of you. Come on, Eric. You’re getting paid. You should know this.

Of course, while I’m willing to lecture and criticize, I use a grinder unsafely all the time. I have to knock that off. I don’t even own an leather apron. I don’t wear gloves when I use it. I really need to get on top of that, as of today.

I read an interesting remark about combat, from one Paul Schussel. He’s a World War Two vet. He said you go into battle thinking, “It can’t happen to me.” Then you start thinking it can happen to you if you’re not careful. Then you realize it WILL happen to you, no matter what you do. If you don’t get sent home, eventually you will be hurt or killed. Tools work the same way. Bad stuff is going to happen, and the more you like and use tools, the sooner and more often you can expect it. You need to be serious and knowledgeable about safety. Unlike Eric, Devadip, and Chu Ming.

Pop Mech used to be a neat and very manly magazine. I know because you can find PDF’s on the Internet. “Build Your Own Metal Lathe.” “Build a Bullet Trap for Your Basement.” “Use Your Cranium as an Anvil for Making Horseshoes.” “Set Fire to Your Face With an Acetylene Torch, Deliberately, and Stand in Front of Your Horrified Kids Laughing to Show Them What Kind of Men Came Back From Iwo Jima With Sea Bags Full of Japanese Ears.”

Those days are gone forever. Maybe the smart move is to collect old PDF’s.

I don’t have time to gripe about safety all day, so I’ll offer a brief tip. If you haven’t been trained to use a drill press, bench grinder, angle grinder, table saw, or metal lathe, and you use any of these tools regularly, you are probably going to send yourself or a pal to the ER one day. For no good reason at all.

Eric, meanwhile, will be defying the odds if he scalds his pinky steaming almond milk for his cappuccino.

Happy tooling.

The Stig of TIG

Friday, April 7th, 2017

From F to C-Minus

I have become a total TIG welding expert.

Perhaps that’s an exaggeration. It would be more accurate to say I have put down a few beads that wouldn’t elicit shrieking from an instructor if he glanced at them from across a street in the dark.

If you’ve been keeping up, you know I got a Chinese TIG machine recently, and I’ve been trying to make it function. I clamped some crap steel to the tool rest of my belt grinder and tried to make fillet welds. After that, I tried to lay beads down on a piece of angle iron and some rectangular tubing that came from a treadmill.

The first effort was a horror. Since then, I’ve managed to create some beads that could almost be called welds. Things keep getting better.

I have a few tips for other beginners. Believe it or not, these tips are really good.

1. Get a real welding jacket. Cotton is fine. I got a Tillman 9230. It’s extremely ugly, but it’s heavy flame-retardant cotton, and it’s made with welding in mind. The sleeves have snaps at the cuffs that tighten them up to keep UV out and make the cuffs fit inside welding gloves. It’s better than the crummy old dress shirt I used to use.

2. Go ahead and buy some gas lenses. I’m not sure why welders ship with regular nozzles, since most people agree that gas lenses are better the vast majority of the time. For around thirty bucks, Welding City will send you good Chinese lenses and the associated collets and so on. With a lens you will be able to stick the tungsten farther out and see what you’re welding. It will also shorten up the torch.

3. Get a welding table. Don’t be so cheap. I’ve welded things on the garage floor and my wooden bench, but I don’t recommend it. Welding on wood is always exciting, because you have to think about the weld while keeping an eye on the wood to see if it’s on fire. Welding on the floor is awkward. That’s fine for MIG, but it won’t work with TIG, which takes much more coordination. Harbor Freight has a great table for $55 (after coupon). It’s small and light. It folds away fast. It doesn’t begin to compare to an inch-thick monster that will hold the rear end from a car, but for 95% of your jobs, it will work great. It has lots of slots, and you can clamp things to it. You’ll like it.

For three times as much, you can get a different version that comes with clamps, welding magnets, and wheels. I forget the brand name.

4. Find some decent metal to weld. I’ve been using angle iron and powdercoated tubing. Half of my welding time is taken up cleaning crap off the metal. Save yourself the aggravation and buy something that isn’t covered with scale, paint, or powdercoating.

5. Buy a torch holder. Riverweld makes a magnetic job which is magnificent. The magnet must be rare earth, because it holds like an alligator. If you don’t have a holder, you’re going to put your torch on the floor or try to hang it on things, and it will fall and break the ceramic cup.

6. Buy a BSX Flak Finger. This is a fiberglass sleeve you put your ring finger and pinky into. It doesn’t transmit heat. You will want to rest your right hand on the work for control, and the work will get very hot. The Flak Finger will keep you cool, and because it has a wrist strap to hold it in place, it won’t fall off a hundred times a day, like a competitor’s product, the Tig Finger.

7. You’re going to be welding 1/8″ steel. That’s pretty much inevitable, because it’s what’s most widely available for practice. For this material, use a 3/32″ tungsten (purple rare earth is fine), not 1/16″ like the books recommend. Use 3/32″ filler. Set the amps at 125 (one per thousandth of material). You should be fine.

8. Consider a belt grinder for tungsten. Grinding electrodes will mess up your bench grinder by gouging the wheel. If you use a belt grinder, you can dedicate one belt to electrodes. If you ever feel like you have to be super careful about contamination, you just grab a new belt.

9. Get a couple of Strong Arm clamps. These are just like Bessey clamps, but they’re Chinese. They’re very well made, and they come with a neat tubing attachment. You’ll like them for holding stuff on the table.

10. Get a knot wheel for your angle grinder. If you don’t have an angle grinder, get an angle grinder. These things clean metal fast.

As noted in earlier posts, I have an Eastwood “Professional Welding Cart,” which is a two-tier cart with rings for two bottles. Actually, I have two carts, because the first one I ordered had a minor defect, and instead of sending the defective part, Eastwood sent a second cart. I now have the TIG on the bottom shelf, my MIG on the top shelf, a 125-cu.ft. argon tank in one ring, and an 80-cu.ft. C25 tank in the other. It’s very nice. If you’re looking for a two-welder cart, this one is one of the best Chinese choices. A lot of the others are known to bend and fall apart.

The AlphaTIG welder just barely fits on the bottom shelf of this cart. You have to put it on the cart before you attach the top shelf, and then the clearance is about 1/4″. Good enough! You’ll have problems with the transparent panel cover staying in the up position, because the shelf will be in the way, but that’s a small price to pay.

I’ll post a photo of my latest “welds.” The ones at top left are the undersides of beads from an earlier session.

These are not great welds, but they’re better than the random blobs I put down the first time around. They’re grey, and I think that’s caused by overdoing the amperage. Not sure. I don’t know if the penetration is good. I should cut the steel and see.

I had a big problem with my left glove heating up. It turned out I was leaning the torch too far, so it was pointed at my left hand. This melts the rod before it gets to the weld, and it also roasts your fingertips. The torch should be within 10 degrees of perpendicular.

I would say I am now good enough to TIG weld two parts in an emergency. If I wanted them done well, I would use MIG. I figure I’ll be able to do a decent TIG weld in a week or two.

I can tell TIG is going to be wonderful. MIG is fast and powerful and puts fewer demands on variables such as cleanliness and work positioning, but it’s clumsy. TIG can make beautiful, precise welds you just can’t get with MIG. You get much more control. If you want to put a muffler on a Jeep in a dirty garage while lying on your back, use MIG. If you want to put a trigger guard on a Russian shotgun, use TIG.

The welder I got is an inverter welder, and that means it doesn’t suck much power. You can run it using the socket next to your nightstand if you want. Doesn’t have to be 220 unless you weld thick metal. That’s a huge convenience. I can’t MIG weld anything more than 20 feet from my 220 socket, but I can TIG anywhere an extension cord will reach.

Filler rods are disappearing at a high rate. I go through one per session. I am told you can weld the nubs together to make new rods, but I have another tip which is better. Buy big packages, and look for deals. If you buy ten pounds of steel rods on Amazon in pound tubes, it will run you $90. If you buy one ten-pound package, and you shop around, it’s $25.

Someone gave me a neat tip for really small filler: use MIG wire. It’s the same stuff.

If I ever weld two pieces of metal together in any sort of competent fashion, I will be back to post photos.

Something New to be Bad at

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

TIG!

I am finally a TIG welder. The results so far are pretty hilarious.

TIG, for people who, unlike me, are not experts, is Tungsten Inert Gas welding. Without getting into a boring description, I will just say that it’s probably the coolest type of welding outside of bizarre things they only do at NASA. TIG produces very controlled, good-looking welds, and unlike MIG, it works very well on tiny objects.

I got myself a Chinese TIG machine because the company that makes them had a crazy sale, and I could not resist. I couldn’t find a good deal on a used American job, and I figured if the Chinese one blew up, there was a 75% chance I could fix it with my gnarly electronics skills.

The welder sat around for three weeks or so because I was scared of it. You can teach someone how to MIG (badly) in fifteen minutes. TIG is way more complicated, and it’s somewhat harder to do. It took me three days just to get the machine put together. I suppose it would have been more like an hour if I had stuck with it, but every time I figured some part of it out, I felt like I needed a day to rest and get over it.

When you TIG, generally, you will do three things at once. Your foot will regulate the heat you shoot into the weld. Your right hand will direct the arc from the torch to the workpiece. Your left hand will feed a rod of filler metal into the weld. This takes practice.

Yesterday I decided to use the torch without filler, just to see if I could guide the arc correctly on flat steel and make a molten puddle suitable for a weld. I was just learning to use the foot pedal and torch.

I had read that TIG produced more UV light than MIG. That’s not quite correct (of course, it’s more complicated than that), so I took pains to get advice on protective gear. I usually MIG in shorts and a T-shirt, which is a BAD BAD idea, but TIG scares me, so I asked around. I ended up wearing a helmet, safety glasses, a dress shirt, a T-shirt, gloves…and shorts. Come on. Change is hard.

When you MIG, you can weld metal that’s only fairly clean. You remove the paint and crap, and you hit it with a knot wheel to make sure there is no rust or scale on it, and you’re okay. TIG metal has to be cleaner. You have to get every trace of rust and scale off, and you have to wipe it down with a powerful solvent like acetone. If you stop welding and come back the next day, you will have to clean it again before you start. If you weld aluminum, you even have to worry about the invisible layer of oxide that forms the instant you expose new metal to the air.

I decided to use a crappy old piece of angle iron, which is a lumpy product that comes covered with scale that seems as hard as rubies. I had to use the belt grinder to get it clean.

I put all my protective junk on and started TIGing. It was so easy! I was liquifying the metal and pulling the torch along, and it was almost like I knew what I was doing. I figured I would be a TIG prodigy. Then I saw the bright light coming in under my helmet.

With all the neurotic effort to protect myself, I had still forgotten to close the helmet tightly against my chest, so reflected UV was bouncing off of my shirt. And of course, I looked right at it, which was pretty dumb.

I stopped TIGing instantly, went and sat on the couch, and whimpered a lot. I wondered if I had burned my corneas.

When you let welding UV hit your eyeballs, even if the UV is reflected off of walls and such, you may burn your eyes. It doesn’t cause permanent damage, but for a day or so, you feel like someone threw sand in your eyes. This is something I dread. I have never “flashed myself,” as the expression goes, but I’m absent-minded, so I live in fear of the day when I start to weld without closing my helmet.

If you flash yourself, you start to feel it after a few hours. I never felt anything. Maybe the safety glasses saved me. Maybe the light wasn’t that intense. Anyway, I was really happy about that.

Today I started over. I prepared two pieces of angle iron and clamped them at 90 degrees to each other so I could do a couple of fillet welds. A fillet weld unites two pieces of metal which are perpendicular to each other. You have to weld down in the corner.

I had high hopes, based on my success with the puddle, but things went very badly. When you TIG into a corner (I now know), it can be hard to get the arc to go where you need it to go. Both pieces of metal try to pull the arc toward them and away from the corner. I think. Anyhow, the arc kept moving around. When I concentrated on the arc, I forgot the pedal, and the amps dropped off to where I was just tickling the steel. When I thought about the arc and the pedal, I forgot about the filler and rammed it into the tungsten (part of the torch that makes the arc).

In about fifteen minutes of welding, I had to grind a new tip on the tungsten three times, so now I’m an expert at that.

The welds were horrific. I’ll post a photo. It looks like a string of poops from a steel mouse with dysentery.

Since creating this masterpiece, I’ve realized you don’t begin your TIG efforts with fillet welds. I’ll try a butt or lap weld next time. Or an autogenous (no filler) fillet weld. That’s supposed to be good for beginners. And I won’t use angle iron. I’ll find something better somewhere.

I quit after a short time because I wanted to see how the protective gear had worked. I think I was protected well enough, but if not, I would rather have 15 minutes’ worth of burns than an hour’s worth.

In spite of this disaster, I’m very upbeat about TIG. Once I can control all three parts of the apparatus at once, I’ll be able to do welding which is much more precise than MIG. Also, for reasons I do not understand, I can see what I’m doing much better than I do when I MIG. With MIG, all I see is a giant red blob.

I like the machine a lot. It looks very nice by Chinese standards, and everything (except me) works. I should be able to get years of use out of it.

Here’s my guess: if you want to weld fast, get stick or MIG, but if you want to weld really well, get a TIG. But get ready for a learning curve.

I’ll keep the world posted on my bad welding. I should be back at it tomorrow or Tuesday.

Every Business Needs a Manager

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

Take Charge

Time to get back to writing about God.

I had a big development during the last few days. I’m always learning things about God, and when I apply them, things happen. Sometimes I learn things and then I forget them and learn other things. Then God reminds me of the things I forgot, and I apply them along with the new things. That creates a synergy, so I’m better off than before. It’s better to do several things right than one thing.

A few years back, I noticed that people in the Bible gave commands to their minds and spirits. They spoke to them as though they were servants. You can see this in the psalms. The authors will command their souls to do this or that. I believe the soul is the conscious mind. Also, the Bible says the spirits of prophets are subject to them, and Jesus sent his spirit to God when he died, implying he had authority over it.

I have started commanding my spirit when I pray. I command it to believe, to submit to God, to love, to forgive, and so on. The results are startling. I feel movement inside me. I hear groans coming from within me. It’s very strange. It’s overwhelming.

I find that it works. I have much more control over what I think about and what I feel. Since I’ve been doing it, things have gone more smoothly for me. It seems that I dont have to exert much effort in my natural strength, as long as I cover the bases in the supernatural.

That makes sense to me, because the most blessed people in the Bible were not hard workers. The Bible doesn’t say Abraham was rewarded for his hard work. He was rewarded for faith. When Moses started working hard, it was not perceived as something to admire; it was a problem. God gave him helpers to fix it. Joseph wasn’t put in charge of Egypt because of hard work. His relationship with God did it. You can find example after example in the Bible, but you will never find anyone who won God’s favor by striving.

Over and over, in the Bible, hard work is equated with servitude and defeat. It was part of Adam’s curse. Samson was cursed with hard work. Esau’s sons were cursed with servitude. So were Canaan’s descendants. Freedom from hard work is shown as a blessing. One of the nicest things God promised people was that they would live in houses other people built and have wealth other people accumulated.

Some extremely odd and unlikely things have happened to me lately. Walls I thought would never come down crumbled so fast my biggest problem was adjusting. It’s hard to stay on your feet when you get a huge blessing.

I can give you some examples. Excuse me if I repeat things I’ve mentioned before.

Several years ago, I made a deal with my dad. I would not leave Miami without him, provided he bought a place somewhere else, big enough for both of us, and moved with me. All sorts of barriers rose up. We had problems with his real estate. We had to buy my sister out of the house he owned with her and renovate it. One contractor abandoned the job. The other was very slow and inept. The city held us up for months.

A few months back, my dad claimed he had never made any promise to me. I assume he forgot, due to his memory issues. I thought I was going to have to go alone and then have to deal with his problems and responsibilities from a long distance.

I don’t want to get into all the details, but since then, one by one, his objections have disappeared. I didn’t beg him or fight with him. His mind simply changed, overnight. He decided he would move, grudgingly. Then he decided he wanted to move, provided we got his Miami house renovated first, which was completely impractical. He started saying he couldn’t stand Miami any more. Then, very suddenly, he said we could buy a new place and move before fixing the house. On his own, he started feeling bad about making me work so hard to get this done.

I found places on the Internet. I thought small, because I didn’t want to shock him with a big expense. He asked if I was sure I didn’t want to get something nicer. He said I would inherit it, and if I got married I would want a nice place. I was amazed.

We looked at places in Marion County. The one I liked best seemed remote. I was concerned he might be bored. He was also concerned. He indicated he didn’t want to be so far out. I thought we would have to start looking again. Then out of the blue, he started saying he thought it was fine. He really liked it. He wasn’t worried about driving ten minutes to get to a drugstore or having a limited number of places to go to for lunch.

The game field keeps changing so fast I can’t steady myself well enough to plan firmly.

The place I’m considering has a 25-by-36-foot workshop with a concrete slab. It has never been used. It has a big three-car garage with a beautiful epoxy floor. It has ten acres of secluded, peaceful land. The shop contains a tractor, a bush hog, and a John Deere Gator that appear unused. It’s like someone prepared the place for me, knowing I was on the way.

Can I trust the blessings I’m getting? How do you cope with the change when you go from struggling and waiting to having things handed to you? I feel like one of the four lepers who looted the empty camp of the Syrians in 2 Kings 7. They must have looked around and said, “Is this really for us?”

I don’t know if I’ll get that place, but I’m getting out. That’s a done deal.

I feel very bad for the people I know from church. Just about all of them are stuck in the fake prosperity maelstrom. The Steve Munseys and Benny Hinns and Joel Osteens are bleeding them to death. They are either leaving church in disgust or staying and getting weaker and weaker. I wish everyone could come with me.

The things Jesus said about the crooked Jews of his time are true of Christian leaders today. They don’t know the way into the kingdom, and they keep other people out. They teach people poisonous garbage in order to turn them into slaves and get them to contribute obscene amounts of money, so the preachers can spend it on the kind of trinkets known to be appealing to common white trash.

In the battle for the Pacific, the Japanese came up with smart tactics. At first, they attacked Americans on the beaches of the islands they invaded. They sent waves of soldiers to charge American guns, and they lost thousands of men. Later they let our troops land with little opposition, and they hid in huge, bomb-proof cave complexes stuffed with food and ammunition. Our casualties went way up. This is why we dropped atomic bombs on Japan. They would have used the same strategy on a gigantic scale.

The money preachers are like the Japanese. Some of the devil’s sons go after people in porn theaters and casinos, where no one is even close to God. Other sons wait in their big concrete churches, and they let us come to them. Then they attack on their own turf. They wait for us like goaltenders in hockey goals. Churches are like choke points. A lot of seekers come in the doors, and preachers pick them off by the millions. They teach them lies and keep them weak. People fail just when they think they’re finally almost home.

If this move works out for me, it will be after a long period during which I haven’t given preachers one red cent. It will happen after I spent years of “touching God’s anointed,” criticizing the prosperity preachers and accusing them of serving the devil. What would they be able to say, presented with my testimony? “Just you wait. God is going to get you any minute now!” Right. Just like he’s always one service away from giving the slaves their thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and hundredfold financial windfall. I’ll be dead and living in heaven before they see that money.

Sometimes I almost wonder if it’s possible for anyone other than a preacher to get into hell, what with all the clergymen crowding their way in.

If you want to help, pray for God to guide me and help me end up where he wants. That would be a big favor. I can’t seem to do much for my friends, but maybe I can get out of here and put some space between me and the mess.

Bugging Out

Friday, March 10th, 2017

Make Sure you Pack the Skillets and the AK-47

It has been a hard week. I spent two days in Ocala, looking at houses with my dad and my old friend Mike.

I would have blogged the trip from Ocala, but trip blogging is just an oblique way of begging thieves to rob your empty house, so I kept quiet.

For several weeks, I’ve been digging up properties online and talking to a realtor. I ran into some obstacles. First of all, Florida contains a whole lot of extremely ugly houses. I’m not picky, but there is such a thing as a house too ugly to live in. I found a number of places I could not stomach. Very sad, because sometimes great properties have bad houses.

I had another problem: a surprising number of people put two-bedroom houses or trailers on nice farms. I can’t figure that out. I suppose some of the smaller homes used to be caretaker shacks on larger farms, and once the farms were cut up, the main houses went with other parcels.

Third thing: some of these places were just too remote. I’m all for breathing room, but half an hour is too long for a drive to the nearest drugstore. Also, my dad will be with me, and I don’t think he would be thrilled about living in a place where there are only three or four decent restaurants within a half-hour’s drive. And if he needs medical care, it would be best to be fairly close in.

One place had a shop building that almost made me faint. It was maybe sixty feet long and thirty feet wide. I was told it was an RV barn. Think what I could do with that.

I found a couple of places that stood out. One is a mint-green farmhouse a rich couple used as a vacation home. They fixed it up perfectly, and then they rarely used it. It has a small barn, a beautiful shop with a concrete slab, and the nicest house I have ever been in. They even bought a new tractor and a small four-wheel drive utility vehicle. The machinery still has tags on it. It has never been used.

The mint color is odd, but I can fix that myself for a few hundred bucks.

I’ve never seen construction to equal that house. Everything fits perfectly. The woodwork is finished to perfection. The garage has a brand-new epoxy floor. It’s stunning. It would be impossible to build such a house in Miami, because no one here could do it even if they wanted to. People here have no skill.

I don’t know how they did it.

You could put a dirt berm up behind this place and shoot rifles all day. How sweet would that be?

Unfortunately, it’s pretty far out, and I don’t think the price is realistic. The owners got hammered, paying $100,000 more than what it’s probably worth now.

It’s not in the high-rent area of the county, but they’re asking a high price, and I doubt it will appreciate quickly.

The other place I like is a frame house on 16 acres of woods. I don’t want that many trees, but you can have your land timbered selectively, and because the wood is useful, you make money on the process. I could mark the trees I want gone and open it up without destroying the privacy.

The house has no outbuildings (bad), but it does have a nice 3-car garage with a gun room built into the side of it. The gun room has a heavy steel door. A smart person could open it up in a few minutes with an angle grinder, but most thieves are stupid and in a hurry.

Can’t hurt.

We would have to add a shop building. That would take time. I suppose my stuff would fit in the garage until then.

This house is closer in. No issues with distance.

I think the second house is best, but man, that first house is something. It’s magnificent. It’s like someone knew I was coming and built it for me. “Here’s your unused shop, complete with electricity and concrete slab. Here is your new tractor. Here is your huge garage. Here is your steel gate. Here is your emergency generator. Did we forget anything?”

It was wonderful to not be in Miami. The people in Marion County were great. Everyone was polite, and I only heard one conversation in Spanish.

Mike used to live in Ocala. His parents had a thoroughbred farm there, and after that, he and his wife lived near the city. He was a great resource. He knew where the best soil was. He knew what different areas of the county were like. On top of that, he’s an incredile schmooze, so he got people to open up and tell us about the properties we looked at. One lady operated a soap company out of her home. She made him take free soap and tried to get a date. She said he was cute.

Not to be outdone, I also attracted attention from females. While we were walking around the soap lady’s farm, a white horse noticed me and trotted over to the fence like she couldn’t believe I had finally arrived. She was thrilled to see me. She stuck her head over the fence and tried to get me to come over. When I walked around a barn and reappeared on the other side, she saw me, and she ran over to flirt some more.

I tried to take a dignified photo of her from the side, but she lunged at me, and this is what I got:

Mike was not happy. He has been around horses for most of his life, and she didn’t give him the time of day.

I have to decide what to do. Try to buy one of these places, or wait for something new?

There are worse problems to have. I could be upside-down on a Miami mortgage, forced to rot here until I pay it off.

My $120 Milkshake Machine

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

Craigslist Seduces me Again

I have a bad habit of looking at tools on Craigslist, even when I’m determined not to buy anything. Most of the time, I’m fine, but every so often, I just have to reply.

Last week I found something really cool: a Dumore sensitive drill press. It’s like any other drill press, but it needs constant reassurance and has a poor body image. I think I’ll name it Caitlyn.

That was humor. It may not have been obvious.

How about “Dudley Dumore”?

I guess not.

Sometimes it’s interesting to go into the reasons why an unusual tool exists. This may not be one of those times, but I will do it all the same.

A sensitive drill press is a small machine that drills really small holes at very high rotational speeds. It’s a nice thing to have if you drill holes in circuit boards for electronics projects. Circuit board material is very hard on bits, so the best move is carbide, which stands up well to abrasion. Small bits require high speeds and low runout, and because carbide is very hard, it permits speeds that are even higher than small HSS bits.

Why do small bits require high speeds? I will ‘splain.

When you use a metal cutting tool such as a drill bit, what you have is a sharp metal edge being forced across whatever it is you’re cutting. As the edge cuts the work, heat is generated. If the bit gets too hot, the edge gets soft, and then the work rubs the edge off. Then you have an aggravating tool that just slides on the work.

This is why you keep getting stuck and ruining drill bits when you floor your hand drill on a 1/4″ hole. You’re supposed to limit your speed and add a little lubricant to reduce heat. About 0.001% of American men really know how to use a $20 drill.

Consider a rotating cutting tool. The speed at the outer edge will be higher than the speed farther in. The linear speed of a point on a rotating object equals the radius times the frequency of rotation (omega times r, as we former physicists like to say), so as the radius gets small, the speed drops off.

Say you have a half-inch bit, moving at x RPM. If you reduce the size to 1/8″, the speed at the outside of the bit is quartered, so to get the same cutting speed at the outer edge, you have to multiply the RPM by four. You can go slower, but you will spend a very long time drilling every hole, and besides, in addition to tolerating high speeds, carbide actually requires high speeds to cut well, for reasons I do not know.

One interesting thing about all this is that every drill bit has a cutting speed of 0 at the center, so it’s not really cutting until you move farther out. You’re cutting the metal surrounding the center and sort of pushing the metal in the center out of the way. This is why it can be helpful to start big holes with small bits. You can drill a 1/8″ pilot hole for a 1/2″ hole, running at high speed, and then when the 1/2″ bit follows up, it doesn’t have to worry about the 1/8″ of metal in the center of the hole that isn’t being cut very fast.

Sensitive drill presses work with really tiny bits. One example people have mentioned to me is the #80 bit, which is 13.5 thousandths of an inch in diameter. That’s a little over four human hair widths. You can’t just cram that in your Harbor Freight drill press and expect good things to happen.

Let’s say you have a #80 bit, and you’re cutting mild steel, which means you want the outer edge of the bit to move at around 100 feet per minute. You will want the drill to turn at about 28,000 RPM. This is around 10 times what your Harbor Freight special will do. You need a sensitive drill press.

The drill press I bought turns at 17,000 RPM. That’s not 28,000, but it beats a big drill press turning at 3000.

If speed is the main thing, why not call them “really fast drill presses” instead of “sensitive”? I don’t know. These machines have little tables you can move up and down with the work (instead of lowering the spindle), and that gives you a delicate feel for what you’re doing. I guess Dumore thinks that’s more exciting than the speed.

The drill press I found on Craigslist sells for over 900 dollars new. Wait till you see it. You’ll wonder where the money went. I’ll post a photo.

Here’s what I’m told about the expense: it goes into the chuck and motor. They have to turn the drill bit very precisely, with very little of the wobble machinists call “runout.” When you use a very expensive large drill press which is tuned perfectly, you can expect the bit to wobble about 0.003″ on each turn. This is not a problem when you’re drilling big holes in a toilet seat mount. When your drill bit is 13.5 thousandths wide, and your three-thousandths runout is almost a third of that, the drill bit will break.

The chuck on the Dumore is tiny, but it costs over a hundred dollars. A new motor retails for around $900 (like buying a new machine). Eliminating runout is not cheap.

I saw the drill press on Craigslist, and I knew exactly what it was. The price was $120. Come on. I was buying that.

I checked Ebay, and it seemed like they generally ran around $225. Low for a $900 tool. Some tools are like that. Crazy expensive new but merely expensive used.

The machine was 30 miles away, and my first chance to get there was on a Friday, during rush traffic. I can’t say “rush hour,” since the rush is pretty much a five-hour ordeal here. It took about an hour and a half each way. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t make that drive to buy air if I was drowning, but it was a miracle that the press was still available, and I had been burned by catching a similar $45 machine too late.

I drove to the seller’s house, had him turn the machine on, and handed him my money. I asked him where he got the drill press. This is the horrible part of the story. It came from his job. They had three Dumores, and he found out they were THROWING THEM OUT. He snagged one before it got to the dumpster.

So right now, two more drill presses are sitting in the landfill.

Someone needs a punch in the mouth.

The press runs fine. I haven’t checked the runout, but I would have taken it even if the chuck had needed work. Even if it can’t drill a 0.0135″ hole, it can drill a #31 hole much better than my big drill press.

Now you know what a sensitive drill press is and why they cost so much. Are you not entertained?

I think I’ll go turn it on and listen to it hum.