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Archive for the ‘Tools’ Category

Nuts to Me

Friday, July 25th, 2014

The 4-Jaw has Landed

I have another machining update. I sometimes wonder if I should put so much of this material up, since some people come here for spiritual stuff. But on his own blog, a blogger is a dictator who answers to no one, so here I go.

My first rotary table was a 10″ Phase II. I wanted something big so I would not run into the tool-user’s curse, which is needing a bigger tool ten seconds after you unwrap the one you just bought. Phase II tables are made to mate with 3-jaw chucks one size smaller, so I put an 8″ chuck on this table. Together, these items weighed so much I could not lift them well enough to move them. At least I don’t think so, because lifting the table all by itself is risky. I don’t think I’ve ever lifted them when they were joined.

Eventually, I decided I had had enough of moving this thing, and I decided to get a 6″ table. Unfortunately, Enco had a great price on 8″ tables, so that’s what I bought. And I bought a 6″ chuck for it, because mating an 8″ 3-jaw chuck to it is virtually impossible.

Had I bought a 6″ table, moving the table and chuck together would not be all that bad, but with the 8″ job, I have to separate them.

Generally, my solution to this problem is to leave the table on the mill all the time. I have not yet had a job big enough to make it necessary to remove the table. The 10″ table was a little annoying, but the 8″ one is reasonably unobtrusive when I’m using the vise.

I can tell you find this post exciting.

One of the aggravating things about having a 3-jaw chuck on a rotary table is that every time you remove the chuck (which is necessary in order to clamp stuff to the table), you have to use a dial indicator on it when you put it back on, to make sure it’s centered on the table. A while back, I got the bright idea of using a 4-jaw table instead. It would be 2″ bigger, because 4-jaw chucks are less annoying to mount, and I would not have to indicate it.

I totally forgot that I would have to indicate EVERY SINGLE PART I put on it. But that’s okay. It can do everything a 3-jaw can do, it holds bigger work, and it allows you to machine irregular parts. You can also machine stuff that isn’t centered, and you can use the chuck as a faceplate if you remove the jaws.

Sold.

I ordered an 8″ Phase II chuck. It looks fine, but it came with a lot of grit in it, and the machining in the jaws and slots is somewhat crude.

When I asked Phase II if there was an adapter plate for mounting it, they told me there was not. I thought I would have to make one. But the chuck has 4 holes for mounting cap screws, and there are 4 T-nut slots in the table. Measuring carefully, I realized that the slots were juuuuust deep enough to permit mounting the chuck on T-nuts. Problem: the nuts I had are rectangular, and the slots are semicircular at the extreme ends, so the corners on the nuts prevent them from going all the way in. I had to machine the corners off or make new nuts.

I suspected the nuts were hardened, and they were too small to machine easily, so I got out a 3/4″ by 1/2″ bare of 1018 steel and made new nuts. Here is a shot of part of the process. It got prettier later on, but this is my first effort.

07 11 14 making rounded t nuts for 4 jaw chuck on mill

That thing in the collet is a stud. I used it to center the screw holes under the spindle. Later I made a tool from 1/2″ aluminum rod. The end was turned to an unthreaded diameter that fit snugly in the tapped holes. I put the tool in the collet, used it to center the work, clamped everything, and replaced the tool with a 1/2″ cutter.

The job was simple. First I made a long bar of steel with the same cross-sectional profile as a nut. It was 0.700″ wide at the bottom, and it had two shoulders cut into it so it was 0.450″ wide at the top (the name “T-nut” comes from this shape, which is an upside-down “T”).

Then I drilled and tapped several M10 x 1.5 holes through the bar, for the cap screws.

After that, I clamped the bar to the rotary table and machined two radii into the end. I used the band saw to cut the bar into individual nuts. It was a fairly pretty operation. I had to do some filing to get the last few thousandths of necessary clearance, but now I have this:

07 23 14 4 jaw lathe chuck mounted on 8 inch rotab with special nut

You can see one of my round nuts on the table. That’s a crude one I made as an afterthought. It doesn’t have a pretty round end on it like the others.

Under that table, there are two nuts with one hole each and two nuts that have two holes each. I was going to cut them down, but I thought maybe I would get some type of versatility if I had different types of nuts, and it saved me some work, which was probably my primary motivation.

My next project is to make special T-nuts that fit the jaw slots. I have been told this will damage the slots, but I think that’s wrong. I can make them from brass or aluminum, so they’ll be softer than the table, and I can make them long, so the pressure is distributed over a wide area. I got this idea from my 10″ 4-jaw (on the big lathe), which already has faceplate slots cut in it. Granted, these slots are separate from the jaw slots, but I still think my idea will work. It would make it totally unnecessary to remove the chuck when clamping things. If I don’t like the way it works out, I can always make a round, thick aluminum plate, attach it to the chuck through the existing screw holes, and mill or fly-cut it so it’s level. I can mark it so it’s always mounted the same way, and that should give me reliable flatness every time I bolt it on.

Now that this is behind me, I can move on to the assembly of my CNC lathe’s control box (probably the wrong term for it). It will house the power supply, controller and drive board(s).

Stuff is getting done. The backlog is dwindling. Praise the Lord.

CNC Lathe Motors Mounted

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Send Out the Dancing Girls

Should have appended this to my last post.

Yesterday I stuck the motors on my CNC lathe. The plans called for 10-32 screws, which seems like a bad idea on a metric lathe. I followed the plans, and I ended up with threaded holes bigger than the holes on the motors. In order to pass a 10-32 screw without a lot of slop, you need a hole drilled by a #10 bit, pretty much. That’s the size I chose. I put the motors on the mill with a stop in the vise, and I lined the holes up with the drill chuck as well as possible, and I opened the holes up using my one of my lovely new Harbor Freight HSS drill bits.

The motors screwed right onto the mounts. No problems. Like they grew there.

07 23 14 stepper screwed to x mount with knob mockup

The lathe is virtually done. I have to put a lead screw on it, which is a nothing job, and I also have to install a sensor and two couplers. The knurled knobs need to be opened up a little, and I need to put set screws in them, but that’s very easy.

I did a fine job modifying the lathe, and I even improved a couple of things. Now I’m just waiting for a few parts, including the power supply. I think I’ll start my Meshcam trial on Monday.

If I were starting fresh, I’d use metric stuff for as many items as possible, but it won’t matter.

I am wondering what else can be done with a lathe. What if I had a milling attachment? That could be used for things like broaching. What if I CNC’d the spindle motor? It seems to me that a lathe could do a lot of milly things if it were set up right. I just have to go slow and see what works.

“Please do not Power off or Unplug Your Machine”

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

“Use a Shotgun Instead”

People are commenting on my recent PC upgrade ordeal. There is more to the story.

Yesterday I put the PC back together and got ready to enjoy it. Then UPS delivered the new video card, so I had to take the box apart all over again.

I put a 27″ TV in the garage because my monitor made my eyes hurt, and I wanted to use the HDMI input instead of the VGA input, figuring it might work better. I ordered some sort of Geforce card which would work with my PC. A cheap refurb from Newegg.

When I turned the machine off to open it up, Windows told me I had 15 updates to install. No warning. Just, “Sit down and wait for an indeterminate period.” And of course, some updates installed in a few seconds, and others took forever.

Then the machine started turning on and off. My favorite part was when it said “Configuring Windows – 32% Complete,” then “Welcome,” then “Shutting down.”

I got the silly thing installed, and then when I turned the PC on, I had 800 by 600 resolution, which is pretty awful. Windows 7 didn’t have the right driver. Of course. So I went to the Geforce/Invidia/whatever site to start on the three-minute job of downloading the correct one.

The driver package–I am completely serious–was 221 MB. And the server was not setting speed records. The little speed indication kept changing: “14 minutes remaining’; “11 minutes remaining”; “28 minutes remaining.”

Then I clicked on the download, and while it tried to install, it showed me ads for Nvidia products. Talk about bad timing.

Then the installation failed.

I tried again, eliminating all the choices which seemed irrelevant, and the driver installed.

I could not believe it.

I learned a few things about “new” (probably 2009) video cards. This one does audio as well as video, through one HDMI cable. That’s nice. I was able to disconnect the Y-cable I bought for the audio about three days ago.

I got the thing running, and before I was even done feeling sorry for myself, I found myself in heaven. Good things I had not anticipated were happening.

The wireless mouse and desktop worked over a longer distance than I had realized, so I was able to sit on the garage floor in a backpack chair and run the PC. That was great. And I was able to run Youtube videos in full-screen mode. Bliss. I fired up a series of Tubalcain machining videos and felt the upgrade welts fading.

Here’s a photo:

07 23 14 garage PC with Tubalcain shaper video

Videos are getting so good now, watching Youtube on a large screen is actually a pleasure.

I am still working on quenching the intense malice I feel toward Bill Gates and everyone who has a pocket protector. But other than that, this turned out pretty sweet.

Kill Bill Pt. III

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Gates Must Pay

Over the last few days I upgraded my garage PC to Windows 7, so naturally, in spite of my near-total holiness and renewed character, I am having homicidal thoughts about Bill Gates.

The XP “crisis” was announced a few months back, and I got all excited and bought two copies of Windows 7. Then the drop-dead date passed, and nothing happened, so I procrastinated. I started thinking maybe Microsoft would wise up, in the hope of avoiding massive lawsuits, and continue providing limited support. They seem to be doing that, because I never stopped getting updates.

Anyway, with the CNC lathe nearly finished, I figured it was time to do something. I don’t want to set a PC up for CNC and THEN upgrade.

Elsewhere, I described my experience thusly: “Upgrading my computer’s OS was like being dragged naked over broken glass in hell behind a flatulent donkey with a boombox on its back playing ‘La Macarena,’ which is to say, relatively painless compared to previous upgrades.”

I guess that’s accurate. It was horrible, but survivable.

Microsoft–this will shock people–really screwed up the entire process. I can provide details to help other people who are stupid enough to upgrade.

First, you need the upgrade compatibility tool from Microsoft. It’s free. You run it, and it examines your PC carefully, sends all your personal data to the NSA, and then fails to tell you about all the things that will go wrong when you upgrade. It pretends to tell you, but it misses things. Run it anyway so you can tell people to shut up when your upgrade fails and they start yammering about the compatibility tool.

Second, you need to find out whether your existing programs, for which you probably paid several thousand dollars (unless you’re a typical software thief), will run under Windows 7. If you don’t have time to do this, I’ll help you: they won’t. It’s just way too hard for a hundred thousand overpaid software engineers to make advanced software that is capable of running more-primitive programs. And if it happens to make Bill Gates more money, by forcing people to buy new versions of Office, well, that’s just a coincidence.

I upgraded my ancient PC, and it ran fine, and then Windows 7 told me it wanted nothing to do with my ethernet card. So I had a problem that could best be fixed using the Internet, and the one thing it prevented me from using was…the Internet.

This PC was free, and the motherboard’s LAN port blew out early in its career, so there was a Netgear card in there. And Netgear had a patch to make it run with Windows 7. Laboriously, I moved the patch from another PC to this PC, and it did absolutely nothing but get my hopes up and waste my time.

By the grace of God, and for no reason I can now guess, I had a totally unneeded LAN card in my main PC, so I stole it, put it in the garage PC, and succeeded in getting connected.

Then the PC started quitting and refusing to start.

This is how computers are. A computer never has one problem. It always has a bunch of problems, all at once, that are unrelated, yet which work in synergy to destroy your will to live.

I went all through the stupid thing. I put in a day of work. I checked connections. I messed with the “on” switch. I got it going. Everything was fine. I left the room. I came back. The computer was off.

Eventually it occurred to me that the power supply might be hinky. In order to test it, I took it out, removed the cover, and electrocuted myself. That was actually unintentional and provided little useful data, but I did do it.

Today I drove to Tiger Direct and got a new power supply. I plugged it in, and the PC went insane, because I had moved some jumper or other. When I finally got it going, it told me it had 168 crucial Windows updates to apply. That was like an hour ago, and I think it has installed 3.

Windows 7 is actually pretty good. When I say that, I feel like a cancer survivor saying dysentery is pretty good. But it’s really not bad. I had always thought that 7 was Vista, which is three levels worse than cancer, but it turns out it’s just XP with fewer landmines.

I still haven’t installed my more-expensive Windows programs. I am positive Finale won’t work, based on the fact that I really like it and want it to work.

Windows 7 has a fairly stupid way of making SOME random programs (i.e. not the ones you care about) work. They don’t tell you this when you install it. You have to download and install a continent-sized program called XP Mode. Then XP Mode disappears, and you can’t run it. That’s because you didn’t install Virtual PC, which Windows didn’t tell you about, when you installed XP Mode. So now you have to install Virtual PC, which takes another year and a half.

When you get all that done, you MAY be allowed to install your old program, in a fake XP window.

Or not. And if the answer is “not,” and you have to buy more programs, giving other billionaires just like Bill Gates even more of your money, well, that’s just a coincidence.

Now my PC is lying on its side with the updates running (or not), and I can’t put it back together until it gives me the go-ahead.

If you try this yourself, may God be with you, because Microsoft definitely will not.

CNC Lathe: Electronics on the Way

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Progress Report From the Crazy Neighbor Who Never Leaves the Garage

The CNC project is moving along well.

Because the machined parts for adapting the lathe are mostly done, I’m thinking about electronics and software. I will write what I’ve learned and concluded. Some of it is surely wrong, but for someone else in my position, coming along later, it will be a lot better than nothing.

First of all, if you’re doing CNC, you should join the Home Shop Machinist board. There are other forums that are useful, but if you’re starting at the bottom, they are likely to ignore you. I have a CNC Zone account, and it’s nearly useless. HSM is friendlier.

Here is my understanding of the way a home-grade CNC machine works. You need 1) a PC, 2) an external controller, 3) a board that drives stepper motors, and 4) stepper motors.

Some people do not use external controllers. Based on what I’ve read, I think that approach is only worth discussing if you want to dedicate an entire PC to nothing–and I mean nothing–but controlling a machine. If you use your PC for music or the web while you work, it will interfere with the CNC machine, and you’ll hate life. So I am ignoring this option, and I know little about it.

The external controller takes output from the PC and turns it into signals that the stepper motors like, if I understand it correctly. Then the drive board turns these little signals into big ones that go right into the motors and make them run. Your PC’s ports can’t do that. The motors need too much juice.

To make the controller and drive run, you’ll need a power supply for them. Actually, I believe you’ll need more than one, because one powers the motors, and the other will power the computerized stuff in the boards. The voltages for this stuff–which nerds refer to as “logic”–are lower than the voltages for the drive.

If you can’t stand the thought of having your machine close to the PC, you will want an ethernet-based system. It will let you have long runs with ethernet cable. Otherwise, you’re stuck with USB. I’ve heard limiting distances described as 5 feet, and I’ve also heard 16 feet. I don’t know which is correct. I would assume that the limiting distance is between the PC and the box with the controller and drive, since the wires that go to the steppers are ordinary 4-conductor jobs with a decent amount of current flowing through them.

If you want ethernet, you will have to use a Smoothstepper drive. Sadly, it only works with Mach3 software, so if you hate Mach3 (many people do), you will be SOL. For this reason, I chose USB.

The USB solution I chose was a Dynomotion rig. They make the Kflop controller and the Kstep drive. These boards are made for each other, and they can be connected with one ribbon cable. They are sized so you can mount one on top of the other. You can run 4 motors from one Kstep, and you can screw another Kstep on top of it for four more motors. You can use other drives, but they aren’t going to be plug-and-play with the Kflop.

With Dynomotion, you don’t have to use Mach3. I guess I should say what Mach3 is.

To design a part, you may want to use CAD software, although you don’t have to. It will allow you to draw the part, with all the measurements. Then you feed this to CAM software, which turns it into something stepper controllers can eat. That something is called “G-Code.” It’s a language, like Pascal or Basic. I don’t really know how this works, but I think it will show you the path the tool will take during the operation you’re planning, and you can check it over and see if it makes sense. There are also G-Code editing programs, which are sort of like Turbo Pascal. They’re word processors for G-Code, and I believe they also compile it. Compilation is the process of turning written code into programs.

If you are a true uber-geek, you can bypass a lot of this stuff and just write the G-Code, but I think you have to give up diurnal life and sleep in a closet, hanging upside-down. I don’t think normal human beings can do it.

CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing) software is hideously expensive, with $1500 programs considered cheap, but there are free options, and there is a $250 program called Meshcam which is popular with unsophisticated users. They have a 15-day trial, which I plan to sign up for after the machine is running.

Mach3 comes after the CAM software, and it talks to the controller. Mach3 is user-friendly, and it has tons of users who have built up a big knowledge base, but many people complain that it’s buggy and ruins a lot of parts. Sometimes CNC doesn’t work, and when that happens, you throw out expensive metal, and you may have to jump to prevent a machine crash. The negative things I’ve read about Mach3 convince me that I should try to avoid using it.

Dynomotion makes a free product to get people free from Mach3. It’s called KMotionCNC. I am hoping I can make it work.

I know zippity-doo-dah about computer programming, having taken precisely one course over twenty years ago, but I believe G-Code is based on C, because CNC people keep saying “C” when they discuss it. In any case, you have to be able to do a certain amount of programming in order to survive, because none of this stuff is really ironed out well enough to trust.

I downloaded a free G-Code editor called RapR3D. I don’t know if it’s any good, but I’m sure it will suffice to get the basics into my head, and that’s all I’m after at the moment.

I have a Kflop, Kstep, and power supply on the way.

Power supplies are extremely confusing. The motors are generally rated for between 2 and 5 amps per phase, and the voltage ratings are below 10, but you are expected to use power supplies with output voltages up to 25 times as high as the motors’ rated voltages. This is normal. The motor specs will not tell you how high to go. I ordered motors that go around 3 amps, and I have chosen a 48V power supply. I know it will work. Other people have used it. You want a lot of voltage. It makes the motors jump around better.

How do you determine the amount of current you need? You multiply the current rating by the number of motors, right? Right. If you listen to people who don’t know anything. In fact, you don’t need to go higher than 2/3 of this number. People will argue about this, but they’re wrong. The motors will draw less than the rated amount of current, because you will be “microstepping.” That means that instead of going a full step with every pulse of juice (1.8 degrees), you will move through a smaller angle, or “microstep.” The motor will produce less than the rated torque, but that’s okay, because you don’t need the rated torque. If everyone else is using 300 oz-in motors for your application, you can use them, too. You don’t need to know exactly how much torque you’re getting. Does the machine run? If so, you have enough torque.

I would like to have a second machine on my system, and that would be a mill. It could have as many as 4 motors, making a total of 7, including the lathe. I can do that if I get a second Kstep board. But I’ll need current for 4 big motors, not 2 medium-sized ones. The big motors are rated at 5 amps. That means I’ll need 13.33A, or 2/3 of 20A. There is a well-known guy called “Hoss,” and he built a Grizzly G0704 CNC mill. People told him he needed a huge power supply, but he put out a video running three axes simultaneously with a small one, and he never hit 4 amps. He says he would be happy to use a 12.5A supply for five axes. I believe him. He certainly knows more than I do. I ordered a 16.7A supply.

I don’t know why the current draw is so low. Maybe it’s the microstepping, or maybe the current comes in little pulses with breaks between them. Maybe it’s because the voltage is so high, you need less current. But I’m confident that the 2/3 figure is correct. The people at Gecko drives agree.

There are two types of supplies. Regulated (“switched” or “switching”), and linear (“unregulated”). The regulated ones have voltage regulators, and they’re made with flimsier components. Unregulated supplies are supposed to be sturdier, and they have various other advantages which I can’t remember right now. I do know this: switching supplies require fans, and if the fans fail, they fry. Dust–not a rarity in garages–kills fans.

Hoss uses a cheap switching supply in his video, but for me the price difference between regulated and unregulated was about ten bucks, so I went with unregulated. Delivered, it will be $141.00. Was it a waste of money? Probably, but ignorance is expensive, and at this stage, I am ignorant. I want to be safe. I would rather buy one pricey supply than a cheap one that blows up, followed by a pricey one.

I’m going to need a box. I’ll mount the Kflop/Kstep combo in there, along with the power supply. I will need a repurposed wall wart to power the logic circuitry. Wall warts can’t really be hardwired, so I suppose I’ll stick a cheap power strip inside the box and plug the wart and PS into it. That’s easier than trying to cut up a plastic wall wart case.

If things work out, it will go like this: PC >> USB port >> Kflop >> Kstep >> steppers >> cool parts >> joy.

This is not a simple project. The user end of the technology is extremely primitive right now. I told someone my dream was to describe parts orally into my cell phone while driving home, and then to find them finished when I arrived. I was kidding, but anyway, it’s nothing like that. You have to know a fair amount about electronics. You have to learn some programming. You have to be able to debug things you know little about. On top of that, before you begin, you have to be a machinist. But the reward, even at this late date, is that you’ll be a decade ahead of everyone else. I seriously doubt that even 3D printers and routers, which are pretty simple compared to other applications, will be in most home workshops within five years.

It’s turning out to be expensive. I’m sure it will be over a thousand dollars, not including the lathe and tooling. And when it’s over, I’ll have a lathe, which is possibly the least-exciting CNC tool. It’s so unexciting, the vast majority of CNC hobbyists are doing something else. It should be very useful, though. Once you buy a lathe, it takes about thirty seconds to run up against a job you absolutely cannot do without CNC, a tracer, or gears you don’t have.

One nice thing about this is that the first tool is the biggest hump. If I add a mill, I won’t have to buy new software or a new controller. I’ll just need the drive board, a machine, and the steppers.

CNC mills are incredibly cool. Go to Youtube and see. You can make stuff you would not believe.

Someone told me I should have CNC’d the big lathe, because the cost would be similar, and I’d be able to do more stuff. I’m not ready to screw up an investment that big, but it may happen later.

This is where I am today. There are probably about 300 errors in what I wrote, but I’m going forward anyway, because you can’t solve all your problems by theorizing. Eventually you have to have a project sitting in front of you.

My guess is that I’ll be able to make a part by August 17, one month from today. I think that’s a very reasonable goal. I am hoping I’ll be good enough to get practical use from the machine a month after that.

It’s very exciting. I will keep you informed as I go.

Doofus-Proof Drawbar Whacker

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

You Need It

Here is an update on my machining.

I have the parts for my CNC lathe conversion mostly done, and I’m going nuts trying to pick motors, controllers, and so on. I have nothing coherent to say about that. But I do have something helpful for people who–and I know nobody who reads this blog would do this–are absent-minded enough to leave a box wrench on the nut of a milling machine drawbar. The big problem with this is that if you turn the mill on, the wrench spins with the nut, and depending on which way it goes, it will either loosen the drawbar or snap the shear pins inside it. Or, if you have a crappy drawbar with no shear pins, it will spin the drawbar in your taper and mess it up.

I know someone who has a Grizzly mill with a solid drawbar, and he now has grooves inside the taper. Some imbecile left a wrench on my mill’s drawbar (no need to reveal his identity), and when he snapped the pins, all he had to do was order an $18 replacement off Ebay. And he was able to cram a new pin in the old one to make it work until the new one arrived.

For God’s sake, go check your drawbar right now. If it doesn’t have shear pins, get a new one. They’re cheap. If it has pins, you will see their ends through the finish close to the point where the thin part goes into the fat part.

Anyway, a drawbar wrench should be able to perform two purposes: it should tighten and loosen the drawbar nut, and it should also be heavy enough to whack it to make collets and stuff drop out of the taper. I came up with a tool that will do those things AND which can’t be left connected to the drawbar.

I made a cylinder of aluminum with a hex protrusion on one side, to fit snugly in a 3/4″ box wrench. I tapped the hex part for a 1/4″ screw. Then I stuffed the hex into a wrench, added a screw and washers, and I was done. Here are two photos of it being made.

07 15 14 drawbar hammer on rotary table

07 15 14 drawbar hammer assembled on bench

If you’re a machinist, you will appreciate this. Last week I wised up and got a 4-jaw chuck for that rotary table, because a 3-jaw is a really stupid choice. I found I had to make special nuts to hold the 4-jaw on the table, and I have not finished that job. I haven’t really needed the 3-jaw and table for a while, so I had no issues with removing the table to use it to make the nuts. That was like 3 days ago. And today, naturally, I needed the 3-jaw for this job. So I had to put it on the table and indicate it. Isn’t this always how it goes? The minute you break something down, you need it.

Most people use brass for drawbar whackers, but it doesn’t matter. Aluminum works fine.

I haven’t Loctited this thing, because I want to add better washers. I considered machining one, but I really don’t feel like struggling to machine thin work today.

Tubalcain, the machining star of Youtube, has a similar project, but mine is way cooler. He didn’t pretty his up. Mine is chamfered, and the exposed sides were turned on the lathe. His left baby toe knows more about machining than I do, so I feel smug about doing one thing better than he did.

I hate to doink this thing up by using it.

The wrench is a Husky from Home Depot. You may think it’s not important to mention that, but it is. It’s surprisingly hard to find a long 3/4″ open wrench that isn’t offset.

Machining Progress for June

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

This Junk Actually Works

I guess people who come here solely to read about God will be sore, but I am here today to talk about machining. I am making progress on the parts for my CNC mini-lathe. You can find and buy the plans at Ron Steele’s site.

In an earlier post, I discussed a mount I was making from aluminum on the mill. If you look at the photo, you can pretty well tell I was milling it from flat aluminum plate. I had a few problems. First I misread the plans and tried to make it from 1/2″ plate. Then I saw that it was supposed to be 3/4″ thick. I started over.

The plans called for a 0.510″ bore down the center of the part, to accommodate the screw that moves the lathe cross-slide. The bore had a shallow 0.625″ counterbore, because the screw has a shoulder on it, and the shoulder fits the counterbore. On either side of the bore, centered 0.411″ away, there was a #18 hole drilled through, and there was also a 0.297″ counterbore in the #18 hole locations, to a depth of 1.1″.

This means there was a big bore through the material, and to either side, there was a 1.1″-deep bore centered 0.411″ away.

If you add up the numbers, you find that when it’s all done, there is roughly 0.010″ of material remaining between the main bore and each counterbore. For all intents and purposes, that’s no metal at all. And when I shoved a homemade counterboring tool in there to make the counterbores, the thin aluminum sagged and distorted. I could have bored it out and not worried about it, but it wasn’t workmanlike, even by my standards. I decided to make a third part.

I measured the lathe for myself. The plans are generic, for lathes sold by Harbor Freight, Grizzly, and so on. My lathe is a Big Dog, made by a Chinese company called Real Bull. It’s slightly different. I don’t know how closely the plans fit the other lathes, but they were way off for mine.

I needed a bore about 0.400″ wide down the middle, and the counterbore on it only had to be 0.510″, so that meant I could have about 0.060″ of metal on either side of the bore, not 0.010″. Great news.

I also realized that the 1.1″ counterbores were not needed. The whole point of the wide counterbores was to admit fat M4 screw heads. The idea was to slide the short screws down into the bores and then through the #18 holes and into the lathe. This would have allowed me to keep the OEM 10 mm screws. Obviously (now), longer screws would permit shorter counterbores. So that knocked about 0.090″ off the depth I would have to bore. Great.

Looking at the part, I realized it was symmetrical about the main bore’s axis. That meant a mill was not the ideal tool. It was made for a lathe. So I bought a 2.75″ round rod and used it instead of plate.

I cut it to 2.25″ in diameter. I trimmed one side down to about 1.350″ in diameter. That gave me a part shaped like a hat. Then I had to put a 1.500″-wide bore in the big end, to a depth of 1.400″. My ability to bore a blind, flat-bottomed hole on the lathe let me down, so I did it on the mill’s rotary table and got gorgeous results. Now I had to put flats on it in order to turn it into a flat part.

06 17 14 cnc lathe stepper mount on rotary table

The original part was 0.750″ thick. Measuring my lathe, I realized I could make it thicker on one side. That would allow me to rest more metal against the lathe apron, providing more resistance to flexing.

06 17 14 cnc lathe stepper mount in Alibre for aluminum round rod

I guess this is dull enough already, so I’ll just put up a photo of the part being cut to size.

06 18 14 cnc lathe stepper mount partly milled

There is nothing under the part in that picture. People suggested parallels, but I just clamped it in the vise and indicated it horizontal to within a thousandth. DONE! Then I flipped it and rested the new flat on parallels. The result was perfect.

06 18 14 cnc lathe stepper mount milled not drilled

For reasons I no longer recall, I saved the top counterbore for the mill. Not a great idea, but it worked. I used a CDCO co-ax indicator on the main bore, and I got it to within on 0.0005″ tick. That’s crazy, because it was a drilled hole, and drilled holes are not supposed to be that round, but it did work. I opened up the counterbore using a heavy boring head and a cheap brazed carbide boring bar. Then I put the #18 holes in, using a center drill and my new set of cheap Harbor Freight HSS drill bits.

A word about these bits. You need them. It’s a 115-piece set for about $35. People have complained about the points being off-center, and maybe that’s true. The two bits I’ve used cut true, though, and you should be able to fix the bad ones in your set. But there’s more to it than that.

There will be many times when you’ll want to alter a drill bit. I needed a 0.297″ counterboring tool, and I didn’t have one. An expert told me I didn’t want one, because counterboring tools have little pilot doodads that hang off of them, and they snap easily. He said I needed to grind a 19/64″ drill flat on the end. My main drill set is US-made carbide, and I am not going to grind those bits up, because the discount price is over $200. If you have Harbor Freight bits, who cares? Grind away.

Also, cobalt is not ideal for aluminum. I found this out this week. I was drilling slower than I should have, and the bit grabbed and shattered. I think there were five pieces. HSS is less likely to do that in aluminum.

The part is really beautiful now. Much nicer than the one in the plans. In retrospect, I see that I could have done the whole thing from one piece of metal, but I would have had to put it on the rotary table, and with a 3-jaw chuck or a clamping set, that would have been awkward. Which is why I am planning to get rid of that chuck and get a 4-jaw.

06 19 14 cnc lathe stepper mount with main counterbore and attachment screw holes

My measuring capabilities are getting better, so I am now making parts with very tight tolerances. I realized I had no accurate way of measuring depths, so I decided to get a depth micrometer. The Chinese set from Shars runs over a hundred bucks, but some Ebay guy is selling NOS Scherr-Tumicos for about $62, delivered, and now I have one. It’s beautiful. Unfortunately, to measure different depths, you will have to use internal rods of differing lenghts, and every time you switch, you have to put the mike on a reference surface and calibrate it. If you don’t have a granite surface or something else that has been ground flat, you will have a problem.

Now I have to worry about a coolant system. An Israeli company called Noga makes inexpensive flood systems, but I don’t want one. I think it’s unnecessary. I think I can come up with something that just drips. I have never needed to flood work on the lathe, and in order to do it, I would have to cut up the lathe pan, add a drain, add a pump, add a reservoir, and deal with a gallon or so of dirty coolant. I think I can run a tube under the chip guard and mount something on the cross slide, to follow the part. It can drip WD40 or oil directly on the point of contact. People with mills use a ton of coolant, but I don’t think it’s needed here.

Here is the Alibre drawing I did for the part. For some reason, the screw holes in the bottom of the feet are not visible. Not sure what’s up with that. Some people say you have to create an imaginary plane and drill through it.

Anyway, it’s going well. And I think I’m going to have to have a CNC mill and router in order to feel whole. Not sure about a printer. I think they’re only good for 3D prototypes. I don’t know if that’s worth the money, when you can simply make a part or draw it well. I don’t think the flimsy plastic parts these printers make are very useful yet. Maybe I’m wrong. Sooner or later they’ll print things in metal or something durable, though.

If you have a CNC router, mill, and lathe, you can do a ton of stuff that’s actually useful. In fact, you would probably have to hide it from your neighbors in order to avoid running a free fix-it shop.

I guess I’ll spare everyone the story of how I left a wrench on my drawbar and snapped the shear pins when I turned the mill on, but I will tell you this much: if you have a Bridgeport-type mill, and you obstruct the nut somehow while the motor is running, and it quits working, don’t despair. They’re made to take this. Here are the symptoms that will have you wetting your pants:

1. Cutter continues turning under power.
2. Spindle brake doesn’t work.
3. Drawbar nut turns easily, but drawbar doesn’t tighten or loosen when turned.

Here is what happens. The bar has an upper part, which is hollow, and a lower part, which is just a rod with threads at the bottom. The parts are connected by two perpendicular shear pins which are very soft. When you obstruct the rotation of the nut, these pins may snap. Your mill is not damaged. Just pull the nut part up out of the mill, put a rod down into the top and use it to bonk the top of the bottom half of the drawbar to loosen the collet, and draw the bar out through the spindle opening. Then insert a magnet into the top opening and retrieve the round bushing that came with the drawbar. It will be sitting loose on top of the spindle. You’re done. Now if you want you can hammer new pins into the bar, or you can order one online for about $20, delivered.

Right now my drawbar is held together with a single pin I made from mystery metal. I drilled and punched the remains of the old pins, and I lined the drawbar holes up to hammer new pins in, but after the first one went in, the holes, incredibly, were misaligned, so I gave up on the second pin. I ground off the excess, and I was ready to go. I think things worked out fine, because I don’t know how strong that mystery metal is, and I do NOT want pins that are too strong. Next week the new bar arrives, and I’ll keep this one as a spare.

The accident left a couple of tiny dings in the part, but I’ll get over it.

Sorry I don’t have more photos, but I am not really working hard to document this mess.

I can’t wait to get this thing running, but with all my errors, it could be a while.

I am the Duke of Knurl

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Real Men Have Aluminum Dandruff

I’m having a lot of fun making parts for my CNC mini-lathe.

Earlier in the week, I made part of a motor mount. It will hold a stepper motor which turns the cross-slide feed. Well, it WOULD have held it. But I made a little booboo. The plans called for a part 3/4″ thick, 2.75″ long, and 2.5″ wide, and somehow, I got the idea that I was supposed to make it from 1/2″ aluminum plate. The part is now a paperweight. The way I’m holding it in the vise is wrong, but it worked.

06 05 14 aluminum part for cross slide motor mount before boring

I was very careful when I made this thing. I got it within a thousandth of nominal size, or whatever it’s called. I stepped up my measuring game in order to get there. It’s a PRECISION paperweight.

When I started machining, I watched a lot of videos. I didn’t have machinist buddies who could teach me, and the videos are very informative. In particular, I like the ones from Lex Liberato of Swarf Rat. But they have their flaws. For one thing, most of the guys I watched tended to rely on dial calipers, which are not very accurate.

A dial caliper is an improved (arguably) version of the old vernier calipers we used to use in lab classes. Instead of making your eyes hurt from trying to read tiny vernier scales, they have dials attached to them, and they read in thousandths of an inch (imperial calipers only).

It’s easy to get the idea that this means you can measure something to within a thousandth of an inch of its actual size. That’s wrong.

Back when I taught physics labs at the University of Texas, we were told to tell students to try to estimate down to one-half of the length of the smallest unit an instrument measured. For example, if you had a ruler marked in millimeters, you would try to make a good guess and come up with a measurement accurate to half a millimeter. That won’t work with dial calipers, because their accuracy is actually lower than the smallest unit measured.

Calipers flex a lot, and you can screw up the measurement by applying the wrong amount of pressure. They have little knobs that tighten the jaws against the work, but no one with any skill actually uses the knobs, because they kill accuracy. In reality, you’re supposed to put your finger and thumb on the jaws and push them together. There are a lot of problems with calipers, and a very skilled machinist told me never to use them unless I was satisfied with up to 0.005″ of error.

What you really want are micrometers. Calipers are faster and easier to use, so they’re great for interim measurements when you’re working fast, but when you get close to final dimensions, you want something better. Micrometers will get you within half a thousandth when used badly. If you use them well, you can get down into the low tenths.

Cheap mikes are much better than they used to be. I just got some from Shars, and I paid around $20 each. I checked them using shop-grade Enco gage blocks, and the figures I got (with bad technique) were 0.0003″ off nominal size. Micrometers come with ground carbide doodads that you are supposed to use to measure accuracy, but they can’t be trusted, so don’t use them. Even lame gage blocks will be within a tenth of nominal size. It sounds crazy to say cheap gage blocks are better than carbide standards, but it’s true. Don’t ask me why.

I took out my new Chinese mikes and put them to work on the part I was making, and I came within half a thousandth. I think. Actually, I guess it could be a little more, since I was getting 0.0003″ of error on the gage blocks. Anyway, the parts were very close to specified size. Much closer than they needed to be. Had I been off by fifteen thousandths, it would not have mattered.

I made this Y-shaped mount thing, and I felt pretty smug. Then I saw that I was supposed to drill a 1/2″-wide hole down the center of it. This is the subtle clue that alerted me to the fact that the part was too thin. So today I had to make a new piece of aluminum so I could redo the part.

I used my table saw to cut a 1″ slice out of a square aluminum rod 3.5″ on a side. Does that sound crazy? It works. I would not cut steel with it, but aluminum cuts beautifully on a table saw, if you go very slowly and use lots of WD40. In five minutes, you can cut something that would take 15 on a little band saw, and you can get accuracy within 5 thousandths.

I never trust the sides of new stock to be square, so after shortening the block to 2.75″, I put it on the mill with a 1/4″ carbide 2-flute cutter and cut a flat side on the top. I put that against the fixed jaw and put a round piece of aluminum between the other jaw and the other side. This allows the flat side to rest firmly on the fixed jaw, to serve as a reference. I made another flat side and ended up doing all four sides.

Now I had a problem. I had four square, flat sides. But I also had two really large sides, perpendicular to the rest, that were neither flat nor parallel. They had saw marks on them. How do you fix a thing like that? You can’t rest it on parallels and mill the upper side, because it won’t rest flat on the parallels. If you put two flat sides against the vise jaws, it will be level in one direction, but it can slope from one side of the vise to the other.

This really bugged me. Finally, I put two flat sides against the vise, snugged it up a little, and bopped it into line with a wooden brush handle. I put a test indicator on the mill spindle with an Indicol holder, and I moved the knee up and down, measuring how far a flat side veered off vertical. I figured that if a side were perfectly vertical, the block had to be positioned correctly. I got it to where it barely moved.

I put a 1/2″ cutter in the mill and took about 0.020″ off the top of the block. I flipped it over, put it on parallels, and did the other side. Then I checked the thickness, which was uniform. I was too lazy to get out the Indicol holder again or use some other method to check squareness, so I put a machinist’s square up against every corner I could find, and I could not see daylight. Good enough.

06 06 14 cnc lathe new block for second try at motor mount

The big lessons I learned over the last month were:

1. Calipers are useless for accuracy below 0.005″, in spite of what people claim about their results.

2. Cheap micrometers are good to under a thousandth. Good ones will get you down close to a tenth, if you have good technique.

3. When buying micrometers, you have to check them using gage blocks, because carbide standards are junk.

4. If you test a micrometer, you have to test it at several settings, because a micrometer which is accurate down near 1″ may be less accurate near 2″.

5. Expensive calipers are a complete waste of money, because they’re still not accurate.

6. Don’t use micrometer ratchets, because they’re not reliable. Learn to tighten them directly, going by feel. This takes practice. Which I haven’t done yet.

I also learned some stuff about lathes. Mainly this: don’t use lube when cutting aluminum with carbide. At least not until you do a finish cut. In my experience, it seems to help the finish a little, but that could be my imagination. I’ve used a lot of WD40. It made a big mess. It was completely unnecessary. Thank God it evaporates, or the garage would be full of it.

Milling lessons I learned: don’t use lube when milling steel with carbide. It stinks and doesn’t really do anything.

None of this stuff applies to steel cutters, and you absolutely must use lube when milling aluminum with carbide, because it will weld itself to the cutter. If you screw up and fill your flutes with aluminum, you can knock it out with a center punch. The punch will catch in the aluminum, and this will keep it from going sideways into the sharpened edge of the mill when you hit it with a hammer. You can also soak it in lye to dissolve the aluminum, but some people think this leaves tiny cracks in the carbide which will make it more likely to break.

While I’m sharing lifesaving information, let me tell you about knurling.

I had to make these knobs for the CNC lathe. They’re 2″ wide, and the narrow part is 1/2″ long and 1″ wide. They’re harder to make than you think.

05 21 14 cnc lathe motor knobs finished

When you knurl, it’s hard to turn the part. The knurls put a lot of pressure on it, so you need to be able to grip it well. How do you do that with a part like the ones I made? If you make the short part and wide part first, and then you knurl the wide part, you have to hold it by a half-inch-long stub. That’s no good. It may spin in the chuck. If you make the whole thing 2″ wide and knurl one end, planning to cut the stub later, how do you hold the part while you cut the stub into it? You can’t, because you’ll have to put the knurled portion into the chuck. That will damage it, although in practice, you can do it with a level of marring which is nearly imperceptible.

Here’s the answer: soft jaws. These are sacrificial non-hardened steel jaws that replace the hardened jaws of your chuck. To hold a part, you run a boring bar into the jaws and make a bore exactly the size of the part. Then when you tighten the jaws on the part, a lot of metal is in contact with it, so you don’t get pressure points that mar the work. You can make soft jaws yourself, but you have to be stupid to do that, because Shars sells them for about twenty bucks.

I don’t have soft jaws. I made the knobs with a knurled portion about an inch long. Then I put the stubs in the vise and turned the knobs carefully, cutting them down to 1/2″ in width. It’s slow and not all that professional, but it works.

You will notice a shimmery sort of line that runs around the knurls. I’ll tell you the reason for that.

I have a scissor knurling tool. The advantage of this is that it squeezes the part from the top and bottom, applying no net sideways force to it. A scissors tool won’t push the part out of the chuck. It’s great. Buy one.

There is a problem with a scissors tool. You can’t gradually increase the pressure, the way you can with a tool that pushes from the side. You have to adjust it in steps, using a nut on top of the tool. The problem with this is that it’s easy to end up with too much pressure. That’s what happened to me.

When you use too much pressure, as you move the tool down the work, it may turn slightly in the toolpost. When that happens, you get that little shimmery band. It’s a very minimal defect. But you don’t want it, so don’t be afraid to make several light passes.

Here’s another great thing to know: you do NOT have to measure the diameter of the work before applying diamond knurls. I had been taught that this was necessary, but that’s wrong. You have to do it with straight knurls, or they won’t mesh on successive turns. But diamond knurls will work on any diameter. Try it and see.

Also, it’s nearly impossible to get a knurled part with a precise specified diameter, because knurling makes the diameter bigger.

I plan to redo these knobs, but with all the false starts and scrapped parts, I considered these adequate for a 1.0 version.

In the past, I tended to do a lot of machining that required little precision. I called it “woodworking with machine tools.” But eventually, you have to get it together. The last couple of weeks have improved my skills a great deal. I hope the things I’ve told you in this blog entry will help you. Believe it or not, it took a lot of practice, reading, and forum begging to get this information.

Og from Neanderpundit may come over and obliterate all of it, but it has worked for me, and I got it from people who are much better at machining than I am. It may not be the best advice available, but it’s pretty good.

The Tower of Gutenberg

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Print Your Way to Godhood

Interesting stuff is happening here.

I got my garage fixed up to the point where I can actually use it. I call it the Garage of Shalom. The tools are arranged in a fairly orderly way, there is a nice air conditioner, and the floor is usually safe for bare feet. I am mostly done putting reflective foil in the roof so the AC won’t have to work as hard, and I have a 30″ TV I can use to watch tool DVDs.

Last year I ordered some CNC plans for my mini-lathe. This week I’ve been working on it. Yesterday I bought some metal, and I started working on the knurled knobs that will permit the lathe to be used manually.

Knurling is a bit of a pain, especially when, like me, you don’t practice. Also, there is conflicting information out there about how to do it. Let me clear one thing up, in case you’re a beginning machinist: DIAMOND KNURLS WILL WORK WITH ANY DIAMETER WORK. You will hear people say that you have to measure the circumference and take test passes. That’s true with straight knurls, but diamond knurls will line themselves up somehow. This doesn’t come from me; it comes from an extremely skilled elder machinist. So quit measuring.

I know of two types of knurling tools. One mashes knurls against the work from the side. This pushes the work off-axis and requires lots of force. It’s a bad idea. The other type of tool is called a scissor knurl. It’s like a pair of pliers with a knurl on each jaw. You tighten it up so one knurl is pressing into the top of the work and the other is pressing into the bottom. The forces cancel, so the work is not pushed away from the center axis of the lathe.

One problem with knurling is that it doesn’t like being held in a chuck. You may be able to put a knurled part in a chuck with hard jaws without marring it, but don’t count on it. I’ve found three ways to deal with this issue. 1. Leave the knurling for last, so the part is never held by the knurled portion. 2. Make a longer knurled portion than you need, so you can cut it off after you chuck it to do other operations on the work. 3. Use soft jaws to hold the knurled portion. Number 3 is a lot of work unless you have soft jaws sitting around waiting.

This is a photo of the knob I ruined yesterday. It’s about 2″ wide. I don’t feel bad about destroying it, because it was my second try, and I learned a lot while doing it.

05 20 14 aluminum knob knurled and damaged

This knob is supposed to have a 1″-thick part that attaches to the stepper motor or something. Then it goes to a 2″ knurled portion. The thin part is only 1/2″ long. If you try to grip the knob by the thin part when you knurl it, it will spin in the chuck, because in order to get clearance for cutting tools, you can only put it about 1/4″ into the chuck. That means the way to do it is to make a really long knurled portion, turn the part around, cut the thin part, turn it around again, and trim off the excess knurled part.

I tried to do this, but because I used a short piece of stock, I could only put the knurled part about 3/8″ deep in the chuck, so I had to take shallow cuts when finishing the thin part. I went over 0.050″, and the part came loose and fell in the chip pan. It was ruined. But now I know how to do it next time, and the metal I used was scrap, so who cares?

CNC is interesting to me, because it is part of the developing home-manufacturing revolution. This era started with inkjet printers.

Before there were inkjets, we used keyless electric typewriters that had been interfaced with computers. They were called daisy wheel printers, because they used metal wheels with “petals” that had characters on the ends. The wheels rotated, and the petals where slammed into the paper when the appropriate characters were lined up.

This process worked great, if you were satisfied with what a typewriter could do. When inkjet printers arrived, the world changed, because they could put a tiny dot anywhere on a page. Any image that could be built from dots could be printed. Now we use that concept in forming 3D objects. If you can move a printing jet anywhere you want, you can do the same thing with a cutter, laser, or waterjet.

I don’t know if printers were influenced by CNC, which already existed, or if the eventual merging came via some other route, but at some point we ended up with relatively cheap machinery that essentially printed parts. You can buy a CNC router right now that will allow you to draw something on your PC and then “print” it into wood by moving a router bit over the work. This also works with plasma cutters and water jets, and you can also buy 3D printers that form complex objects gradually from extruded plastic.

I don’t know how close CNC lathes and mills are to that type of interface, but if it isn’t being done right now, it will be this year, because it’s an obvious step in the evolution of home manufacturing.

I’m not that excited about 3D printing right now, because the parts it makes are flimsy. Sooner or later, we’ll be able to make metal and composite parts using printers, and when that happens, people like Barack Obama will start wetting the bed, because it will be impossible to control manufacturing of guns and other weapons.

The lathe I’m fixing up will not be all that exciting, but it will definitly be cool. I don’t know if I’ll be able to make precision tapers (Morse, etcetera), but I should be able to do all sorts of threading, and I should be able to make lots of curved shapes that are difficult to produce on a manual lathe. And things that would now take a day to make will take half an hour or less.

I can’t see myself CNCing my mill, because it’s more complicated than a lathe, and I don’t want to lose manual operation. But at some point, I would like to get a smaller mill and set it up. I’ll put up two videos to show why. The first is a manual mill producing a relatively simple part with a lot of effort and preparation, and the second is a CNC mill doing something difficult in a very short time.

That second mill is a home-converted Grizzly G0704. There is a guy who calls himself “Hoss” who teaches people how to do this conversion. If you’re not impressed by that video, there are surely better ones.

Generally, there are two types of parts made by manual mills: simple, clunky-looking parts produced manually and beautiful, complex parts made using CNC. The computer can easily do things that are hard or impossible for a person, and it can replace a lot of expensive tooling. It multiplies the usefulness of the mill by a big number. And you can have all this for a couple thousand dollars. If you buy a new mill that’s ready to use, you only have to spend about twice that much, and if you think about it, for an average homeowner, over the course of twenty years, that isn’t a big expense. It’s two nice refrigerators, and it will allow you to avoid a lot of expensive repair calls, because you’ll be able to make parts when things break down.

And it’s fun.

Many people who make CNC routers call them milling machines. This leads to confusion, I guess. A true milling machine cuts hard metal with great precision, and it’s a heavy piece of equipment, because you need a lot of iron to resist bending and twisting when the forces are applied. Some CNC routers can cut aluminum fairly well, and for this reason, the people who make them like to call them milling machines. If a milling machine is what you want, a router will probably disappoint you. But it’s still a great tool.

Here’s a CNC router at work.

I’m not watching every second of these videos, so I hope they contain enough information to serve their purpose.

These things print objects. That’s what it boils down to. And you don’t have to apprentice for ten years to run one.

I have to wonder if the government has any idea what’s in store for it. The press was not ready when blogs came along and put it in a chokehold. They can’t control information any more. Now the government is facing the same problem, in a different area. It can’t control manufacturing. It never could, but it is now losing control to an unprecedented degree.

People are drawing up plans for firearms. The government is trying to prevent the plans from getting out, but even the NSA, which keeps its nose up our rear ends every second of our lives, can’t control flash drives and private networks. The government’s nerds aren’t as good or as numerous as the non-government nerds. They will never be able to keep up.

We are getting more powerful. There is no way to stop it. New moral challenges are looming. If the government can’t stop us, what will? I’m glad Tea Partiers and Christians are empowered, but what about jihadists and enviro-terrorists? The stupid, heartless, clumsy government has too much power. Internet nuts have too much power. It’s not confined to good people. And there is no possible way to regulate any of this effectively. We might be able to do something with Uncle Sam, but everyone else is on the honor system. And there isn’t much honor.

Whatever. I want a CNC lathe. I may want to CNC my plasma cutter. I want a CNC mill and maybe a router. And if 3D printing ever becomes useful, I want that, too. I do not want to build bombs or automatic weapons, unlike many people who want these tools. I just want to be able to make stuff and “discover my hands.”

When the Internet was young, we didn’t see the changes it would bring. We still don’t see the future impact of the printing revolution. Life is going to be very weird when three homes on every block have CNC tools. I think the patent office is going to have a lot of new business, and so will lawyers who sue for infringement.

When God created man, he knew that we had the capacity to become gods. He knew that if he left us alone long enough, we would be capable of incredible feats. I suppose that’s why hell exists. The beings that refuse to submit have to be caged, or sooner or later they will do damage so great we can’t conceive its magnitude. In the relatively near future, we are going to see what happens when man can’t be controlled. It may be quite a show.

And now, for no good reason, a photo of the godson.

05 19 14 noah PJs

Black Socks, Bermuda Shorts, and a Warm Ma Deuce

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

The Dream is Within Reach

I had the funniest experience yesterday.

I was watching American Pickers, the show about the guys who drive around buying old stuff other people have hoarded. They resell it, usually at about a 100% markup. They burrow through barns and attics, and they meet all sorts of interesting people. Very often, they end up on big properties with one or more outbuildings, and the buildings are full of junk.

Yesterday, they took a random right turn and ended up on a dirt road which had not been selected in advance (supposedly). They went past a “KEEP OUT” sign and stopped at a building resembling a garage. They hollered and went in, and they found two weird old guys playing homemade musical instruments. They were surrounded by tools and knickknacks.

I heard myself think, “THIS IS HOW I WANT TO LIVE.”

Not so much the sitting around with another old guy, playing music on an instrument made from a plunger handle and a Chock Full of Nuts can. Not that part. The part I liked was being a good distance off the road, on a big property, with no one aggravating me. In a building with concrete walls. Surrounded by cool stuff.

They visited another guy later. He was some sort of engineer, I think. I don’t remember. Naval something or other. He had a lathe, a huge bending brake, lots of grinders, a giant vault, and God knows what else. There were old tin toys there. He had a wooden wind-tunnel model of a plane; his uncle had built it for some outfit that was trying to make supersonic aircraft.

I realized one of the major differences between my garage and his shop was character. He was doing more to keep his junk ordered. I tend to avoid the garage in the summer, because the heat is bad, and a couple of pieces of garage door insulation fell off a while back, which made things worse. The garage was a big mess.

Day before yesterday I went out and fixed the insulation and straightened up a little. After I watched the pickers show, I continued. I went back to work on my garlic press project. You can’t really clean up a shop if there are old projects lying around.

In cross-section, from the side, the press is an H. It’s a stainless tube blocked by a plate about halfway down. The plate will have holes in it, and there will be a plunger which mashes garlic through the holes. Think of a hypodermic syringe with a sieve instead of a needle at the end. Sort of like that.

I had a cylinder made, and I had bored out one end of it. I needed to bore the other end, leaving a 0.10″-thick plate in the tube, for the holes to go through. I considered doing this on the lathe, but the steel I’m using throws ungodly long chips, so I stuck it on the mill and used a 1/2″ end mill.

08 28 13 garlic press body on rotary table

It took forever, dropping down 0.025″ at a time and going through 360° of rotation, but I got it done. Now I have to radius the sharp edges and drill the holes. The plunger is already done. It fits so well, when you drop it in the press, it sinks in very slowly, because it’s hard for the air under it to escape.

That’s cool. I like to drop the plunger over and over and watch it sink.

It’s looking more and more like I’m getting out of here. God be praised. I would say that even if I were an atheist. I do NOT NOT NOT like Miami. I want to be able to go outside and walk a hundred yards before hitting a property line. I want to hear English once in a while. I want to be able to wear long pants occasionally. I want to be able to drive ten miles in less than twenty minutes.

My dad has a 46-foot boat which has been a problem. He uses it as a place to hide out, which is fine, but it’s his main motivation for staying in Miami. I can’t let his hobby ruin my life. I want him to enjoy himself, but this is too much to ask. He doesn’t want me to move 700 miles away, and I understand that, because of his age. I’m against it, too. But if I have to leave without him, I will do it, because this place is not right for me.

Today he started talking about selling the boat. Thank you, Lord. He could keep it in Pensacola (currently my preferred destination), and maybe that’s the better option, but I’m glad to see him consider unloading it. It shows God is breaking things loose.

I am not excited about practicing law, but it’s a pleasant way to earn money, and if I can do it up there and generate income without becoming a cubicle slave, you better believe I’ll do it and be grateful.

Some people need room. I guess I’m one of them. I have several worthwhile hobbies you can’t indulge in a small suburban house. I want to be able to shoot on my own land. I need a shop with an area of at least 800 square feet. I need a normal-sized kitchen. Until I get these things, I’m going to feel like I’m wearing a burlap straitjacket.

I feel bad for my dad. Rejecting God preserves your pride, but it costs you peace and satisfaction. God is ordering my path, and he would gladly order my dad’s path, too, if he would give in.

I’ve located some tempting properties in the 20-acre range. That will suffice. I’d rather have a hundred, but from this chair, I can see three houses without standing up, so 20 will seem like heaven itself.

Prayer in tongues lines things up. It makes things happen. People reject this advice. I can’t help that. I put it out there. Benefit from it or don’t. At least I can say I told you.

Hopefully by this time next year, I’ll have a shop and some tomato plants. That would sure be nice.

Smaller, Worse, Slower

Monday, February 18th, 2013

America’s New Slogan

Last night I had a remarkable experience. I watched the James Bond movie, Skyfall.

It’s remarkable that I sat through it. Skyfall is a truly terrible movie. They have the best James Bond ever, and they’ve already destroyed and abandoned the character. It also looks like they’re hiring people’s girlfriends to write the scripts. But apart from that, I was amazed by what it showed me about the world.

Part of the movie took place in Shanghai. According to Wikipedia, Shanghai is twice the size of Los Angeles. The population is around 23,000,000.

They showed some night scenes, shot from the air. You could shove New York inside this place and never notice it. It’s gigantic. And the buildings are gorgeous. They’re new. They’re clean. They’re immense. They’re lit up with all sorts of electric displays. Lights. Moving advertisements. It looks like a carnival for giants.

The streets are filled, not with bicycles or pedestrian traffic, but with cars, trucks, and buses. The roads are modern.

It buries anything America has to offer. It’s not even a contest. Our cities look puny and dirty by comparison. They look poor.

Shanghai has three buildings over 400 meters in height, and it will have a fourth in 2014. The entire US has two, and they would rank third and fourth in present-day Shanghai. Take a look at this page to see what has happened in Shanghai: Shanghai: 1990 vs. 2010.

We have lost. That’s what the movie showed me. Our economy is still bigger than theirs, but they’re on the way up, and we’re on the way down, and unlike us, they still believe in “bigger, better, faster.” Their human rights record is dismal, and they have a lot of pollution, but they are still leaving us in the dust, and even if they cleaned up and treated their citizens better, that would not change. Critics love to point to the pollution and oppression, as if these things somehow generated China’s prosperity, but they’re wrong. It came from hard work, and from our disobedience to God. These people are our enemies, and God has stopped restraining them, just as he has stopped restraining the anti-progress leftist nuts who used to lose elections here in the US.

A long time ago, I realized that a man’s sins can breed and feed an giant enemy who sits beneath the horizon. You may think nothing you brings consequences, but somewhere, an angry behemoth may be dining on your wickedness, and one day, he may step over the horizon in the blink of an eye and destroy you. It happened to the ancient Jews more than once, and it can happen to us.

Shanghai is just one city, in one country. What about Mumbai? What about Moscow? Xingdao, Beijing, Hong Kong…go to Ebay and look for tools, and see the place names that come up.

When China goes after Taiwan, we will back down. They’re going to be ready, armed with weapons we paid for, and we’re going to be mumbling “Believe in America” and “You didn’t build that.” The socialists and America-worshipers will have to drop to their knees and say, “Enjoy your new province.”

America isn’t going to be restored unless we repent and pray. It may already be too late for our nation, but you can still save your family.

GPS Without Transistors

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Follow the Pillar of Fire

I want to pass on a little advice. It’s a piece of knowledge that has been useful to me.

As many Christians know, the Bible is like the Constitution (or any other set of laws). It provides many benefits, but you won’t necessarily receive them unless you apply. It’s like the Fifth Amendment. The cops can’t question you after say you want an attorney, but if you don’t assert your right, they’ll question you anyway. There are many things God will do for you whether or not you ask, but on the whole, it’s best to make your needs known and stand on God’s promises.

Here’s a promise which is particularly useful: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” That’s Psalm 37, verses 23 and 24. It’s clearly a general promise available to all. It doesn’t say “a good Jewish man” or “a good man who sacrifices at the temple” or “a good man with freckles.”

Lately, I’ve been bringing this promise up in prayer, more than once a day. I ask God to honor it until the next time I ask. I believe prayer is like manna in that you shouldn’t rely on yesterday’s ration, so I think it’s important to ask repeatedly and not to expect the prayer to keep you going for the rest of your life. There are some things you only have to ask for once, or which you can stop asking for, once God confirms he will do what you want, but it pays not to take chances.

I remind him of similar promises. The Bible says that when your father and mother forsake you, the Lord will take you up. It says you will hear his voice behind you, telling you which way to turn. It says he will lead you in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

I also ask God to lead my enemies onto the points of their own swords and to hold them there until they repent.

What I’ve found is that when I make this request, things go better. There is less dead time in the day. I get things done. I spend less time goofing off or wandering in confusion. Life is more organized. There is less stress.

This prayer got me over the hump with CAD software. As I wrote earlier, I’m finally able to use it. And it has also led to greater musical productivity. I’m getting all sorts of good melodies written down. I really think I’m going to get to the point where I’ll be selling music. It’s going to be good enough to publish. That’s amazing. Music can be extremely lucrative. You only need one successful work to keep you fed and clothed when you’re retired.

I suggest you try asking God for guidance, daily. See what happens.

I’m very excited about music, because I’ve come to realize that writing music requires the same gift as cooking. It’s really no different. When you write recipes, it comes from inspiration. You’ll be sitting around thinking about other things, and suddenly you’ll imagine a flavor or a texture, and the way to create it, and you’ll write it down and try it. Your imagination tells you what will taste good, and your work only serves to confirm it. When you write music, melodies that “taste good” to the ear come into your mind, and all you have to do is write them in musical notation. If it sounds good, it IS good. That’s the only test.

I find that God is as willing to give me tunes as he is recipes. And here’s one great thing about music: you don’t have to make a mess in order to create it. You don’t have to drive to the store and buy food. You don’t have to wreck the kitchen. And when it’s done, you can preserve it forever, and you can email it and publish it with very little effort.

I don’t know how I would go about finding a market for music, but I’m sure there’s a way. When I have a portfolio built up, I should be able to do something with it.

I consider myself a writer and a creator of music. I think those are the things I should focus on. The other stuff is great, but I believe it deserves less priority. No one will ever pay me to run a lathe, and no one will ever draw closer to God while listening to me make a pizza.

I’ll put up the piece I’m working on now. I was shooting for something resembing a spiritual, but it has more of a classical sound. I love classical music. There’s no reason why I can’t enjoy writing it. I know it’s not fashionable, and composers are expected to come up with inventive new forms of music no one can stand to listen to, but only a moron would say the genre is exhausted. There is a lot of classical music, but only some of it is truly great. There is still a big need to fill. I’m always frustrated because my favorite composers (Chopin, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, and Beethoven) didn’t leave more work, and I’m sure other people feel the same way.

Chopin actually had some of his works burned when he died. Unbelievable.

This piece isn’t done. It’s very short, and there are lots of things I may want to do with it. But it does show that things are going well.

12 31 E Minor Piece

Get connected to the power supply and see what God will do for you. I think he is leading a lot of people out of the spiritual dark ages.

Chewing Through the Straps

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Observations From the Life of a Runaway Slave

More stuff is breaking loose in my life.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be able to use tools. I wanted to be able to fix things and make things. A few years ago, I started making it happen. I got a table saw, milling machine, lathe, welder, and a bunch of other stuff. I’ve enjoyed it tremendously, but it seemed like I was being restrained. I was never able to make myself come to terms with CAD software, and there were essential things I chose not to buy, because I was cheap.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve returned to the workshop. I’ve spent some money; a low four-figure sum. I picked up a few little things that made things much, much easier, and plans I had put on the back burner are beginning to come to fruition.

I also got started with CAD. Og and other Internet friends gave me advice about this a few years back, and I tried a few things, but I got nowhere. It was very frustrating. I’m not going to say what my IQ is, but it’s sufficiently high that you would think mastering a piece of software would not be beyond me, and I was completely confused. I could have fixed the problem by spending tons of money on training, but I already felt a little queasy about the money I had spent on tools.

A few weeks back, I started looking at the programs again. Og had recommended Allycad and Alibre Design, and I looked into other things, like Turbocad, Autocad, and Draftsight. I wanted 3D, because I don’t need the aggravation of trying to picture a pile of 2D drawings as an assembled machine, so I ruled out simple, free programs.

I signed up (again) for a free Alibre trial, and once again, I was utterly flummoxed. I could barely draw a line. If you ever want to fully grasp the meaning of the word “counterintuitive,” try this software, or any CAD software. Alibre publishes a book of step-by-step exercises, and I downloaded a few pages, but it turned out the book is completely obsolete. It goes with a user interface which bears little resemblance to the current version and is currently unobtainable. I was going to give up and get Turbocad, plus training, but then I found the Youtube video that appears below.

That guy does everything wrong. Anyone who produces training videos knows that you go step-by-step, and you include every detail. He doesn’t do that. He flies, and he leaves things out. And it WORKS. Watching the video, I managed to draw an oddly-shaped tub with chamfered edges.

That was a breakthrough. Using what I had learned, I was able to go through the first three exercises in the Alibre book. I managed to translate the old interface into the new. Here’s a useless and unrealistic part I created (but did not design).

01 01 13 alibre exercise crank

I say it’s useless because you can’t really attach the flat piece to the handle and axle that way. If it’s a press fit, the thickness of the metal can’t go to zero around the inserted portion of the metal, and there is also nothing there to allow a real-world weld. But that doesn’t matter. I drew it successfully, so now I have a foothold in the world of CAD. I’m ordering the rest of the design book. And I bought the program, which, “coincidentally,” was on sale for 50% off this week.

This may seem unimportant, but it’s a huge leap. The actual work you do when you make things is of trivial importance. What really matters is the design. Most of the act of creation is mental. The actual cutting and welding…that’s just housekeeping. I would rather design a thousand parts and make one than make a thousand and design one. If I can use CAD, I can exercise my creativity, and I can keep the results forever.

You can do all sorts of stuff with CAD. I don’t know much about it, but my impression is that you can send designs by email, print them, use them in patent and product submissions, have parts made from them, and even send them to machines that crank the parts out for you. Compared to anything that existed thirty years ago, that is godlike power.

So I’m happy about that. And I’m getting interested in 3D printers. They make actual parts from sturdy plastic, at a cost which is not prohibitive for a hobbyist. My gut tells me that as the technology advances, ordinary CNC may go the way of manual machining. Who knows what they’ll be able to do with lasers and plasma in the future? Today it’s plastic. Tomorrow, you may be able to cut metal on a printer, in your own house. And prices are dropping. In ten years, everyone will have a 3D printer, or they’ll have them at Home Depot, to be engaged at affordable prices.

This is exciting. It gives individuals a level of control they’ve never had before. Democrats are already wetting their pants over it, because it will make home gun manufacturing easier. There isn’t one thing they can do to stop it. They can pass laws, but we all know how well gun control laws work. And the First Amendment will guarantee that people will be able to pass designs around.

Sooner or later, technology is going to make us so powerful that Democrats are going to have to give up on controlling the means and look toward improving the man. And only God can do that.

I am not interested in printing guns, but the possibility shows how powerful the new technology will be. The printing principal is packed with potential. It provides mankind with a type of leverage that rivals the mental augmentation of computers. In fact, it’s the reason computers exist. If we couldn’t print circuits, the PC would be impossible.

So the CAD thing is good news.

Here’s another thing: I’m getting more original music. I used to have a constant flow of variations on existing tunes, but I wasn’t really able to write original music. Common sense told me the same gift had to be the source of both types of music, but it wasn’t happening for me. Lately, that has changed. I get original tunes more and more often. I got several over the last few days, and they’re not bad. Composition is like cooking with sound, so if you know what tastes good to the ear, you should be able to write good music. I’m going to write some worthwhile stuff, if God stays with me.

I used to be bummed out because I didn’t receive original tunes. Now I realize there’s a new danger. Soon I’m going to receive more tunes than I can finish. What do I do then? I keep reminding myself that it’s better to waste than to want.

It’s wonderful to be able to budget and economize, but truthfully, I don’t think that’s what God intended for us. I think he wanted us to live in such abundance that things would serve us, instead of lack that requires us to serve things. If you have too much, you can focus on what you’re doing. If you have too little, you have to focus on getting more. You shouldn’t serve the dollar; the dollar should serve you. I would rather have more than I need and have to give things away or even throw them out than not have enough. It’s better to receive a hundred tunes and write three than to receive and write one.

Here’s a hard thing to accept: God is not against waste. Or at least, he reckons waste differently than we do. That’s my opinion, based on my observations. Consider the loaves and fishes. Did God pass out just enough? No, he gave the people so much, they had baskets of scraps left over. Consider Solomon. God gave him so much, he really didn’t know what to do with it. Consider the way America used to be blessed. We fed the world, and then we let crops rot, because we had no place to put them. God told the Jews not to harvest every square foot they planted. They were ordered to leave crops untouched, in case the poor wanted them. What we call “waste” is a symptom of abundance.

This principle is found over and over in the Bible. We are told that he who waters will be watered. We’re told that being stingy will make us poor. We’re told that when we’re asked to carry something one mile, we carry it two. God ordered the Jews to give up about 14% of every work week, plus holidays, in times that were very, very hard, when every penny counted. I believe we’re supposed to have and give more than we need. Otherwise, there will always be gaps that aren’t filled.

I don’t think God wants me to work hard. I think he wants me to have ample time to pray and minister every day. I believe that every hour I spend in prayer saves me hours of work, just as the sabbath made the Jews more successful. And I think God is going to give me many more tunes than I can complete. I am an heir, and this is how heirs live. Our cups run over, our yokes are easy, and our burdens are light. Or God is a liar.

I think excessive devotion to work is a Satanic notion. It seems very natural to expect people to earn things. The problem with that is that God wants to give us things that are greater than what we can earn. I believe we limit him when we insist on earning.

Think of the beggar the disciples healed. They didn’t ask him to do their laundry or make a pilgrimage on his belly. They touched him and healed him, for nothing, and he got the use of his legs back. If he had had to earn that, he would have stayed on the ground for the rest of his life.

A while back, some Obama underling told the press the Bible said, “God helps those who help themselves.” Clearly, this person was not familiar with the Bible. The Bible does not say that. It says you shouldn’t be lazy. But it doesn’t say blessings come primarily by, or with the prerequisite of, great effort. Not unless you’re cursed.

Adam didn’t earn the title to the earth or his life of ease in Eden. Noah didn’t earn preservation in the Ark. Lot didn’t earn his angelic rescue. Samson didn’t earn his strength. Gideon didn’t earn his improbable victory. These examples are shown to us to make us understand that faith, submission, and humility are what bring us blessings and power.

Offhand, I can only think of one person in the Bible who thought he had earned his blessings, and that person was Job. And God set him straight, but good.

Satan wants us to think we have to earn things. With this lie, he gets us to devote way too much time to work and way too little time to prayer. And then we don’t get what he promises. For example, you may get rich, but your family may be messed up because you weren’t around to pray for them and teach them.

Prayer is job one. I’m sure of it. Quite literally, prayer is an investment. It is the seed God gives the sower, and in your season, you will get the harvest.

I feel much freer than I did before. I feel like the restraints are being removed. In ignorance, I buried myself in curses, but God is washing me clean and killing their effects.

Spend time praying in tongues every day. Try to make it add up to at least an hour. And pray for God to guide your steps, leading you to the experiences you need to have. Good things will happen. It may take time, as a tree takes time to bear fruit, but it will happen.

“…Then the Old Guy Waves his Stick, and OUT COMES THE DANGED BEAR…”

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

They had it Coming

My former church has finally gone completely insane.

Today they welcomed Kim Kardashian. Yes, the Kim Kardashian who poses nude. The sex-tape Kim Kardashian. I don’t know if they took her into the green room so she could bless the pastors with her wisdom, but she tweeted about her presence at church, and they proudly re-tweeted it.

People are saying it’s wonderful that she went to church. Uh…no, it’s NOT wonderful. Not unless she repented. Churches are supposed to welcome REPENTANT sinners. The other kind screw churches up.

Think of it as an immigration problem. Say you live in a Christian nation, and Muslims start showing up. When there are 50 of them, it’s no big deal. When they’re 50% of the population…big deal. You’re going to have Sharia law, honor killings, an end to the pork industry, lots of terrorism…it will be bad. When sinners come to a church and don’t change their ways, and their numbers get too high, they convert the church. Not that this would be a big change for Trinity. It’s barely a church as it is.

I was furious when I heard about this. It’s bad enough that the pastor sucked up to R. Kelly, who narrowly avoided conviction on a statutory rape beef with video evidence. Do they really need to use Kim Kardashian to prove they’ve made it?

The name “Kardashian” used to be associated with top-notch legal representation. Those days are gone. Now it connotes promiscuity, nudity, stupidity, and shallowness. As the good book would put it, it has “become a proverb.” Why would any pastor be proud this person came to his church? Only a desperate self-promotor or a feckless infant could think this was a good thing.

It would be wonderful if Miss Kardashian went to a church and told everyone she regretted all the dumb things she had done. I’d be the first to welcome her. Well, actually, I think a woman should do that, just to be safe. But I would be all for it. But for her to roll in and out with no evidence of change…how is that a victory for anyone?

I really blew up about this on Facebook. The gloves are off. I said the leaders of the church clearly did not know the Bible, and I posted a long series of verses about respecting persons. The pastors are like children. It’s as though they had never heard of the Bible. This stuff is obvious to teenagers who read the word, but these adults don’t have a clue. Or they just don’t care, which is looking pretty likely.

Some lady tried to “correct” me, saying I should not “touch” God’s “anointed.” That’s sad. Preachers have succeeded in brainwashing many Christians, so they will cover up their pastors’ backslidden behinds. They say all sorts of curses fall on those who speak up. But God didn’t curse Jesus, Paul, Isaiah, Micaiah, Malachi, Peter, Jude, Jeremiah, Samuel, Nathan, or any of the other Biblical figures (or if you’re Catholic, figurines) who spoke up. If you took the negative remarks out of the Bible, the remaining text would be a pamphlet.

She said I should only correct people privately. But she said that publicly, which is a little hard to explain.

As Perry Stone teaches, there is a difference between “anointing” and “gift.” A person who is anointed has God’s authority to do some job or other. He has God’s approval. Anointing is not always permanent. God anointed Saul, and he took the anointing away. A gift is a natural or supernatural ability. It may persist when the anointing leaves. This is why truly foul preachers sometimes continue to function in their gifts. It helps explain why some very bad churches stay very big for quite some time.

Anyway, a preacher who teaches false tradition and serves his belly is not acting under an anointing. Not in my book. And because they commit their sins publicly, it only makes sense to correct them publicly. Besides, the leaders of Trinity Church know exactly what they’re doing wrong. People have spoken up. They just don’t care.

God is not going to stand up and give me leprosy for criticizing people who milk the poor and lie to them. If he did things like that, John the Baptist would have exploded. Repeatedly.

Quite honestly, I think these people are idiots. I have tried to show restraint. I’ve said I disagreed with them. I’ve said they were off the path. But after a time, you have to start using terms like “idiot.” Even Jesus did it. After a certain point, mildly critical language just doesn’t do the job. If you speak about foolish people too respectfully, there is a danger that other people will not understand just how foolish they are. “I’m going to try Trinity Church.” “DON’T!” “Why not?” “They’re…missing the mark.” “Well, I’ll just check it out.” “THEY’RE IDIOTS! THEY’RE IDIOTS! DANGER! DANGER!”

I think God takes a similar approach. He starts by sending you little hints. Then he sends people to correct you. Then he might let you get a physical illness. He might let you suffer defeat. Eventually, if you keep pushing it, he buries you in burning sulfur and pitch. Or he sends you to hell.

I wish I had never heard about this. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life reflecting on the stupid behavior of a group of carnal ministers. But there it is. And I don’t investigate this stuff. People bring it to me.

How about some positive news? Today Apostle Michael Tomasulo visited my church. My denomination, or whatever it is, is big on apostles. They seem like the real thing. They have shown up and said some very solid, very impressive things. Mr. Tomasulo is one of them.

I met him on his last visit. He’s an EE (electrical engineer). I was building guitar amps at the time, so I was really glad to meet him. I have a lot of weird interests, so it’s always comforting to meet someone who can relate. When I meet a person who shares one of my interests, it’s like meeting someone from home. Which is odd. And I can’t combine all, or even most, of my interests in one friend. I have to have an assortment. The gun friend. The cooking friend. The physics friend. The law friend. And so on.

Today he lit into TBN (he can’t stand watching it) and megachurches that teach self-help and motivational gibberish. LIKE TRINITY. He said exactly what I was saying to my prayer group three years ago. I said we didn’t need Dr. Phil and Oprah. I said motivational speakers were not what God wanted for us. He said these things today, even referring to Dr. Phil and his mothership. I saw a preacher on TBN say the same things last year (no word on whether his body has been found). God tells all of his people the same things. The church is unified, as Jesus prayed it would be. It’s just scattered. Like golden tickets in a pile of worldly Wonka bars.

Before he spoke, and before I knew what he would talk about, I put this on Facebook: “At my old church we had great motivational speakers who promised God would make us rich if we gave them money. Here at New Dawn Ministries, we have to settle for prophecy.”

Lately I’ve been getting back into tools, and I’ve started watching engineering lectures. Engineers don’t know where formulas come from. Physicists do, but they don’t know what to do with them, so I’m hoping to bridge the gap a little. I’ve been watching EE and ME stuff from NPTEL (Indian universities) and other sources. Today I decided to ask Mr. Tomasulo a few things, to see if he could steer me in the right direction. So far I’ve learned how much a truss can hold when the beams have been tempered in a tandoor.

Lo and behold, it turned out he wanted to talk to me. He remembered that I had been building tube amps. We started talking. I kept trying to tell him how much I admired engineers for knowing how to do USEFUL things, and he kept trying to tell me how much he admired physicists for knowing the root causes of stuff. Anyway, it turned out he was considering supplementing his income with EE work, and we started talking about amps. I told him it might be possible to generate some money building amps, and now he wants to come check out what I’m doing. Even if it goes nowhere, now I’ll have a friend who is almost a physicist. An EE is really not that far off. They are not the dumb engineers. What they do takes brains. They don’t seem to realize that, though.

An EE is actually more useful to me than a physicist, because a physicist wouldn’t know anything new.

We talked for quite a while, and unfortunately, his wife was standing right next to him, and she was bored so severely she required medical attention.

So here is what happened today. As a former physicist and amp builder who was recently told he had the anointing of a prophet and teacher, I met a guitar-playing EE apostle who wants to build tube amps. Tell me that’s not a weird day.

I want to introduce this guy to my dad as “Apostle Mike,” and I’ll insist he call him that. Come on. That’s irresistible. “Glad to know you, Mike.” “APOSTLE Mike, Dad.” “Uh…”

“Dad, I’m going to Five Guys with Apostle Mike. Do you want anything?”

I guess I’m stupid. That cracks me up.

But hey, it’s what he is.

I think if I could pick a job, it would be prophet. Apostles have to travel. Prophets can hang out in their garages and mess with tools most of the time, and every so often, they pop out, go to the local church, and say something that scares the living daylights out of everyone. Then they go home, and people leave them alone. It’s like Punxsutawney Phil, only holy.

“An earthquake is going to destroy the city next week, and afterward, an omer of organic dove’s dung from Whole Foods will cost as much as an Ipad 2. Plus God is going to give Deacon Fred a withered foot for playing Powerball. See you later, and stay off my lawn!”

I’m not positive my expectations are totally realistic. But it’s my understanding that a prophet can command a she-bear to eat punks that get on his nerves. That could be really handy.

Welcome to Zoar Farms

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Where the Cows Lick Pillars of Salt

Sorry I did not come by to weep with everyone on Tuesday night. On Monday, I had a 2-phone-battery conversation with somone who thinks going into drug rehab is somehow a service that benefits ME, and I decided to get up the next day and get out of Miami.

Ocala. That’s what it’s all about.

To recap, I went to Winter Haven to help launch a new church, and I felt like a runaway slave. Afterward, I started thinking about moving north. Then my buddy Mike started talking about Ocala. Either that, or I came up with the idea myself. Can’t remember. I started looking at Ocala real estate on the computer, with the intensity of an Obama campaign staffer researching Romney’s overdue library books. I found out that you can get a magnificent farm up there for the cost of a little-bitty house in Coral Gables. I’ve been making lists and looking at Google Earth a lot.

Originally, I thought I would go alone, because I didn’t think my father would ever leave this place. Then he started coming around. That was great, because I refuse to have a mortgage, and if we both go, we can have a much nicer property.

I checked out fourteen places, from two acres to forty, if I recall correctly. If I had to describe this area, I’d say it looks a great deal like the area outside Lexington, Kentucky, only without the backwardness and bigotry. I hope. Mike says everyone got along great at the racially mixed school he went to in Ocala.

I had read that the dirt up there was too sandy for growing things, but that’s not true. I saw all sorts of hay, and people were growing stuff in their yards. It may not be the finest dirt on earth, but clearly, it works. We don’t really have dirt in Miami. A lot of this area has a few inches of white sand over oolite (coral rock), and when they build houses, sometimes they add a little muck from the Everglades, so you end up with grey sand. To plant a tree in my yard, you have to use a mattock and cut a hole in the rock. I’ve pretty much had it with our dirt.

I was able to move between properties ten miles apart in about as many minutes. As a victim of Miami, I can’t even express my joy. The traffic here is nearly unbearable, and the worst part about it is that when you finally get out of the car, you’re still in Miami.

There are actual hills up there. At one point, while driving, I felt pressure in my ears. I didn’t think that was possible in Florida.

I also enjoyed hearing English. Diversity is swell, but I get very, very, very tired of playing charades to make myself understood in the United States of America, by individuals who have been here since Carter.

People get mad at me because I can’t understand their bad English. One of the biggest night school subjects here is ESOL, or English for Speakers of Other Languages. That’s great, but they haven’t gotten around to adding UESOL, or Understanding English for Speakers of Other Languages. Funny thing, I find it easier to talk to relatively new Haitians than Cubans who have been here 20 years. The Haitians learn English very quickly, and when their English isn’t good (very rare), I can talk to them in French.

Anyway, I do look forward to saying everything ONCE.

The Romney signs…they were everywhere. I saw a few Obamas, but not enough to matter. Mike says a politician who runs as a Democrat in Marion County has no shot. I love that.

I would say the Ocala area looks, well, not hectic. I suppose it could get dull. But I don’t do much anyway, in terms of going out on the town. I don’t like movies because my feet stick to the floor and people yap in Spanish. I don’t like restaurants because I cook better than they do. Clubs…don’t even joke. I can generally be found at home, at church, or running errands. My assumption is that if I join a good church up there, I’ll have a social circle within two to three months, and after that, life will be much as it is here, only without the unpleasant sensation of being in Miami.

I saw a lot of wonderful things. Barbecue restaurants, plural. All sorts of businesses related to farming. They would be helpful to a tool-oriented person hoping to get into things like canning food and maintaining a workshop. There’s a Krystal restaurant in town. They don’t have a Costco, and that will smart, but you can’t have everything. There’s a Gordon Food Service 60 miles away. I wanted to be remote, so I shouldn’t complain.

It may be hard to find a place that doesn’t have horse paraphernalia. I am not going to have much use for a barn. I know people will say I can put a workshop in it, but horse barns are cut up into little stalls. I think it would be pretty hard to convert one. Mike says we can rent stalls to people. Basically, they would be paying to give me handy manure.

I don’t know much about maintaining rural property, even though I’ve owned a ton of it in common with family. As far as I know, you don’t have to do much with barns and land. We did virtually nothing to the farms we sold, and they held their value. I don’t want to end up bush-hogging thirty or forty acres once a month, or mowing a giant yard.

I’m going to try to put together a plan and get this done. Things are probably going to get very bad now that we have chosen Obama a second time, and if a depression hits the cities, the entitlement flash mobs will be invading houses en masse, raping, killing, and stealing. Or “stealing BACK,” as they would say. Places like Ocala will be very dangerous for that crowd. Up there, a guy with scoped rifles (and friends with scoped rifles) might have a real advantage over liberal dentists and accountants in Coral Gables. I guess it sounds like I’m planning to move so I can shoot a bunch of people. No, but I don’t want to be an easy target when the anti-Christian, anti-conservative Kristallnacht comes.

I guess I should write about the election.

Many conservatives are questioning the legitimacy of Obama’s victory. Let me give you a bitter pill. It’s completely legitimate. Unless they turn up an extremely unlikely election-rigging scam which spans many states, no reasonable person will ever be able to deny that we chose this man. We know what he is, and we want it.

People are saying he won because the media didn’t go after him. I’m sure that helped him, but his screwups have been covered fairly well. Everyone who owns a PC or TV should be aware of his failures and negative traits. People claim he won because the public has drifted left. I very much doubt it. I don’t think the public is smart enough to know what left is.

Obama won because a big percentage of the electorate is ignorant and/or not very bright. Grab a typical college graduate and ask him if he has any idea why entitlements lead to unemployment and low productivity, and chances are, he won’t have a clue. The people who decided the election were not favoring leftism. They went for the guy they liked best. They saw the debates, and they thought about things like hair and suits, and at the end, they decided Obama made them feel better.

People who are obsessed with politics think everyone worries about things like the proper level of taxation and the size of our military. In reality, the average voter votes based on instinct, which is something that exists to help creatures who lack the ability or inclination to reason.

Ronald Reagan ran against Carter. He projected confidence and charm, so he won twice. Bush I ran against Dukakis, who looked short, dumpy, and timid, so he won once. Clinton charmed female voters, so he beat Bush I. Bush II seemed less crazy than Gore and less snotty than Kerry, so he got eight years.

I know it’s not really that simple. Policies matter a little. But it’s very obvious that we are as willing to vote for extreme leftists as right-of-center conservatives, so I don’t believe substance means much.

Anyway, Obama is the President, and he is the true choice of the people, so get over it.

As to why Obama won people’s hearts, I believe the answer is supernatural. We have killed tens of millions of unborn babies (and quite a few that were born), we have turned against Israel, a huge percentage of us support perversion, we think fornication is a God-given right, and we are becoming cruel and extremely proud. We pray less than ever, and church attendance is dropping. We are becoming God’s enemies. In my opinion, our reward is national decline. God has blinded us to Obama’s revolting shortcomings, so we did something no reasonable nation would do. We chose Obama not once, but twice.

I was highly disturbed when I saw the election results. I was in a hotel room, trying to sleep, and I stupidly forgot to turn off my phone. People woke me up more than once, calling to express their horror. At some point in the wee hours, I gave up and looked at Drudge. Arrgh.

Before the election, I spent a great deal of time in prayer. I felt great faith pushing through me. I thought a Romney victory was very likely. When I saw that I was wrong, the thing that disturbed me most was not the Obama victory, but the fact that I had believed he would lose. It’s very unusual for me to have strong faith for a result and then to see something different happen. It affects my relationship with God. I will never doubt him or criticize him, but a failure like this makes me reevaluate the things I do in my walk of faith. Am I praying correctly? Am I interpreting what I feel correctly? Is there something else I should be doing? If I’m wrong about this, what else am I wrong about?

I believe God sometimes sets his seal on things. By that, I mean he decrees that a thing will be done, with complete finality. He doesn’t say “if” or “maybe.” It’s done. Period. I believe he reveals this to some people during prayer. Sometimes the rush of faith that follows a request is so powerful, it’s overwhelming. There’s no way to deny it.

This happened to me back when an ex-girlfriend was filing nutty lawsuits against me. One day I was praying in my truck, and a wave of faith hit me, and I grabbed the console between the seats because I felt I would be pushed over if I didn’t have something to hold. After that, I knew I was going to win, and I was right. On top of that, I asked for very specific things in the last two hearings, and I got them.

I’ve also had it happen with regard to other things I’ve asked for. I asked God to do everything within his power to get my father and sister to accept Christ, be baptized with the Spirit, pray in tongues, be freed from their iniquities, and live in power and blessings, and my faith told me it would be done. God didn’t say they would change; he just said he would do everything possible. They still have free will.

I have found that usually, a strong rush of faith that doesn’t reach the threshold of a sealed answer will still get the job done. But sometimes–I think–a small amount of doubt is enough to sink the ship. I think that’s what happened with the election. I felt great faith, but I also felt something pushing back, and I wasn’t able to get to the point where doubt was completely destroyed. It may sound like I’m giving a lot of importance to my prayers, but my religion tells me the prayer of one man held the sun still in the sky, and I am not willing to limit God.

I think that in the future, I’ll have to be careful not to conclude that something is sealed when it isn’t. I also think that when I’m not sure a thing is sealed, and it’s an important matter, I should continue in prayer until I get resolution. That’s my take for now, anyway.

For a long time, I’ve prayed for God to bless and empower Christians, not America in general. I won’t pray for America’s success because America has been harmed by false prosperity. When things go well, we do what the ancient Jews did. We turn away from God, credit ourselves, and sink into sin. I see that happening around me, so I have prayed that God would bring down ungodly people who are in power and strengthen believers. I believe this will help people turn back to God, where they will work to achieve his ends. They will work as they were intended, with his authority, to increase his kingdom in the earth. I think the Obama disaster is God granting prayers like mine. Like the Hebrews who feasted on quail till they puked, we’re going to feast on our own conceit. God will give us the incompetent, dangerous leaders our egos tell us we need, and they will lead us over cliffs until we repent. That’s my best guess.

God is taking away the things we believe in. He is taking away every stable investment. Stocks are shaky, and Obama’s tax changes will kill them. Gold is volatile. Real estate could plummet again at any time. Even cash is sinking. Thanks to Bernanke’s backdoor socialism, if you sell your risky stocks and put the money in the bank, you still lose value. It looks as though a time is coming when everything we cling to will turn on us, and unless we have a good grip on God, we will sink.

This is why I like the rural-compound-with-no-mortgage idea. Little properties in places like Manhattan and Coral Gables are only valuable in good times. They have no real value. A Park Avenue condo, for example, is a tiny box with no soil, even if it costs ten million dollars. Right now it’s valuable because there are a lot of people who have money. When things go bad, people won’t want little boxes. They’ll want acreage, so they can grow things and defend themselves. Bernanke can wreck the dollar, but he can’t dry up your well or prevent potatoes from growing in your yard.

I keep meeting people who have Ocala connections. Mike was the first. I went to church and mentioned it, and I found out that one of the armorbearers already owns 20 acres there and wants to move, but his wife won’t let him. He has a carry permit, and he’s learning to can! One of my best friends, a former armorbearer, is married to a woman who has family in Marion County. She has wanted to move there for a while now. The other day, I mentioned the idea to a friend who used to be part of my prayer group at Trinity. He goes to New Dawn now. He says he went to high school in Ocala. To me, these things seem like confirmation.

I think God is probably going to protect Christians in the years ahead. I think we will do better than ever, while the country sinks. I think Israel will also prosper. America is abandoning Israel, and God never will, so he will find other ways to bless his nation. If Christians and Israel do well, it will serve to ground persecution. No surprise there. We’ve been told to expect it.

When I say “Christians,” I mean charismatics who really know God. I don’t think he’s going to do much for people who don’t have the Holy Spirit, because they don’t hear his guidance as well. They say 20 million confused people who claim to be evangelicals voted for Obama. I think that should tell you how lost a so-called Christian can be.

If I learn anything new, I’ll let you know.