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Archive for the ‘Tools’ Category

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

But if You Don’t Try, You Can’t Even Get What You Need

The workshop is really taking shape, and that’s good, because outer order is a reflection of inner order.

What to talk about first?

I got a jack plane. This is supposedly the most versatile hand plane there is, and people say this is where the “jack” name comes from, as in “jack of all trades.” Don’t ask me if the story about the name is true. Google for yourself.

I found it on Ebay, because buying tools in South Florida is about as easy as hiring people who speak English. You can pretty much expect to pay $75, including shipping, for a decent old plane, so I bit the bullet and found one. It sounds bad, but a new plane of similar quality will be in the low three figures.

The plane was in great shape, but it was impossible to make it work, because the edge was not square to the side of the blade. You can move a blade around in a plane to level it, but if it’s off by more than a few degrees, it won’t help. I had to sit and shape this thing with a diamond stone, after trying to do preliminary roughing on the belt grinder.

The good news is that I’m good at hand sharpening, so it came out swell. Next time, I think I’ll get creative and use my oscillating belt/spindle sander. This is a woodworking tool, but there is no reason why you can’t use it for crude metal jobs, and it happens to be very easy to hold things parallel to the belt or spindle.

Thought of that after I was already done.

Here’s the jack plane doing its thing. I am quite pleased.

06 18 15 stanley 5 plane with corrected bevel making shavings

I also fixed my jointer/planer.

When I started trying to do woodworking, I bought a DeWalt 735 planer, which I discussed here recently. This thing is wonderful. Buy one. It doesn’t really plane wood. If you have a piece of wood with one side that has already been planed flat, you put the wood down on that side and run it through the planer, and it will give you another flat side parallel to the first. If the bottom is wavy, it will give you a wavy side parallel to it, and that’s why you can’t really say it planes things. Planing means flattening.

To plane things, you need a jointer. It will put one flat side on anything, and if you already have one flat side, it will give you another one at an angle to it. Generally, that angle is 90°, but if your planer has a fence that rotates, you can get other angles.

I was able to do surface jointing on the planer, using a homemade sled. I was able to do edge jointing on the table saw. But that was not ideal. So I invested in a new jointer. As it happened, the jointer I bought will also work as a planer, but I don’t need that function, so I don’t use it. It’s a Rikon 10″ combination machine, based on an old model made by the Inca company. It’s very small and light, but it will handle boards 10″ wide, which is incredible. Ordinarily, a 10″ jointer is a giant cast iron beast that takes up half a garage. My machine is a little over 40″ long, and it weighs 140 pounds.

I had never set the jointer up correctly, because I used the wrong manual. I am too lazy to get up and look at the actual paper manual, which may very well be correct, but the PDF manual I had was wrong or at least useless. Last week I downloaded a newer one, and I found out I had the dust collection hooked up hilariously wrong. I fixed that, and then I decided to adjust the fence. When I tried to do that, the little bracket that holds it broke. It’s pot metal. It’s also about 0.090″ thick, which means it’s about as sturdy as a saltine.

I’m a machinist! I’m not scared of broken parts! I machined a little piece to fix it. Then I tried to reattach the bracket, and the other side broke.

Okay.

I decided to make a new bracket out of 2 1/2″ aluminum pipe and some crap I had lying around. It was a fascinating ordeal. I found out how hard it is to cut pipes accurately on a milling machine. But I succeeded. Here are some photos. Mind you, it could be improved in some obvious ways, but it works perfectly as it is, and I am not eager to get back to work on it right now.

06 23 15 rikon jointer fence with aluminum pipe mocked up

06 24 15 aluminum pipe being milled in half for jointer

06 25 15 rikon jointer with new fence support installed

I fired it up, and it’s fantastic. Unlike most wood machines, it’s quiet. It works well. It’s very safe, as jointers go, which is like saying it’s like the least-crazy Kardashian sister, but still.

Now I can joint wood.

I also fixed the dust collection on the planer. Someone told me she collected the shredded wood using a simple burlap bag, so I ordered one on Ebay and tried it. I paid five bucks. I could not find a burlap bag around here without spending that much on diesel.

I attached the bag and did some planing (not really planing), and when I picked the bag up, there was a pile of dust under it.

I gave up and ordered a Powertec 3-micron dust collector bag, model 75006. It arrived a day or two ago, and it’s wonderful. I fastened it to the hose with a hose clamp, and when I ran the machine, absolutely nothing visible escaped, except for the bits that inevitably fall out of the machine itself. Those are no problem to deal with.

The Harbor Freight stand I bought is wobbly, so I Ebayed some M6 hex bolts to replace the stupid Philips screws that came with it. I replaced 16 of the 32 screws yesterday, and I will finish the rest this week. You can tighten a hex bolt more than a Philips screw, so I expect the added friction to put an end to the scissory motion of the stand’s joints.

Now the workshop was all fixed, right? WRONG, sliding table saw breath.

I miss Carnak.

I was fooling with the wood band saw, and I tried to resaw something with a 3/4″ blade. Crud came off the blade onto the wood, leaving black stripes. There was something on the blade. I looked inside the saw and noticed (I almost wrote “saw”) black goo on the tires. I tried to scrape it off, and I used various solvents, but it seemed to be very deep. Eventually I noticed that one tire had a big gap in it, so the goo was the only thing holding it on the rim.

I ordered two Grizzly tires for it (OEM parts), and when they arrived, I took the wheels out, figuring the old tires would come right off. No, sorry. They had turned into some kind of cheese which was stuck to the iron like rat paper on a particularly sticky rat. I had to scrape them off in crumb form, and then I had to rub the wheels with lacquer thinner to melt the bits that wouldn’t come off. Unbelievable.

06 26 15 cheese instead of tires on band saw wheels

When I was done and the wheels were back on the machine, some guy told me Grizzly tires were worthless, and that I could expect them to turn into sponges. Great. But for now, they work.

Today I used the tools. I am determined to make a box, just to prove I can make something. I used the jointer and the table saw, which now has new caster brackets AND a new dedicated dust hose. It was like heaven. The jointer ran perfectly, and the dust collection sort of worked. The table saw hose was much easier to deal with than the old one. Things just fell into place.

I have a bunch of little rough mahogany boards I cut from fresh wood I found in a trash pile, and I also have some leftover walnut from a guitar body. The mahogany has a lot of figuring in it, and I was trying to find a way to use it. Finally I decided to try to add visual interest by making the box from boards which were, themselves, made from strips of contrasting wood. If you joint wood nicely, you can glue strips of it side by side, and they will be as sturdy as a homogeneous board.

Here is what I have right now.

06 28 15 striped board being glued together from mahogany

I have to come up with four more sides. The bottom can be plain.

I can’t tell you how great it is to see my tools work correctly, without aggravation or explosions. I know this comes from learning to love inner correction. I was held back because I didn’t get it. If you don’t love correction, don’t expect God to give you success. You may have something that looks like success to you, but it won’t be. Not unless God has completely given up on teaching you.

Two nights ago while I was trying to fall asleep, I saw a bunch of answers to my organization problems. I saw a way to hang my lathe chucks from the shop trusses, on a gadget I can turn on the lathe, from a piece of scrap I just happen to have waiting. I saw a way to build a box to mount on the lathe headstock, to hold the tools I use most often. I saw a way to build a rolling cabinet to hold my CNC lathe, the control box, and all the lathe’s tooling. All this stuff just came to me. Some of it may even work!

Determination is better than nothing, but the best success comes from being blessed. If you want to apply determination to something truly productive, apply it to prayer.

I still want a few more doodads. Maybe a router plane and a tongue and groove plane. Bench dogs; I think I have a design which would be a lot better than the ones they sell online. I can use a few more items, but I am aware that the biggest profit will come from maximizing what I already have.

If you have a Rikon joiner/planer, get rid of the fence bracket before it blows up while you’re using it. My design will work for you, and it’s fairly easy to copy from photos, but you can do just as well by clamping a piece of aluminum extrusion to the table, after cutting a cavity on one side to accommodate the cutters.

If…WHEN…I get somewhere with the box project, I will post photos.

I guess I should add that I quit my church’s volunteer team. I am not a deacon or armorbearer now. People are noticing a change in the church’s direction; I’m not the only one. Unlike me, they won’t say anything, so when the crisis comes, it will seem sudden to the people in charge. Nothing I can do. I have been withdrawn, so I am not permitted to counsel anyone, and if I did, no one would listen. Which is why I’m not allowed. God will not let me do it. He pulled me back to a peaceful place, and I am not going to mess that up by running back to the front line.

I mind my own business. I arrived after worship started today, and I left at 1:15, after two hours. I checked at 2:00, and church was still going.

The volunteers had a meeting at 7:00 a.m., so had I not quit, I would have been there for at least seven hours!

I’ve been to these meetings in the past, when church started at 10:30. We were told to come at 8:00. I would wake up at 5:30 or 6:00 in order to have time to pray, so I would have to go to bed on Saturday by 8:30 p.m. I would be at church at 8:00 a.m. Almost no one else would come until 8:30, because the volunteers had no respect for other people’s time. The meetings would start at 8:45. We would talk in circles for an hour, or the pastor would give the people a very long lecture which a lot of us didn’t need. For example, he would lecture us on responsibility, and the responsible people had to sit through it. Or he would lecture people on punctuality and attendance, when the only people who were there were the ones who didn’t need the lecture. They were there, after all. Then we would sit around and do nothing.

One thing that extended the service today was a very long appeal for money. The church is trying to start an orphanage in Haiti. They’re nagging people to buy tickets to a banquet. I think this is a dead end and a waste of time. The Mercy and Sharing Foundation has a great orphanage going already, and they spend 100% of contributions on the kids. They pay the administration costs themselves. I would rather send the money to someone who already has buildings, employees, contacts, and a track record.

The pastors brother in law showed us a video and begged us to give money. I mean begged. To me, it seemed like a guilt trip. Charity is very important to me, but I never, never respond to guilt trips, because manipulation has been a source of great pain in my life. I don’t mean to be obnoxious, but this is the same man who runs the men’s ministry, which isn’t going anywhere. He runs the church’s building drive, which isn’t going anywhere. We have an Indiegogo page and some T-shirts. When God wanted Nehemiah to build the temple, he didn’t have him sell T-shirts. He sent a man to pay for it. The way to get a new building is to show love and consideration to people who come to church, and to teach them to pray. It seems like they hope a millionaire will walk in and write them a check. That’s not how it works. They don’t need a millionaire. They need two hundred ordinary people who give steadily, and they need to manage the money correctly.

Some people in the church seem to think I’m rich because I’m not on welfare and my used pickup truck is paid for, and sometimes I sense that people want me to wave my magic checkbook and buy them what they think they need. I bought a used organ, and the head deacon asked me when I was going to give it to the church. I said, “never.” When I located it on Craigslist, they couldn’t get it together long enough to chip in and go get it, so I bought it for myself. I did the work. I paid. My organ. They had some sort of need a while back, and one of the deacons said I should handle it. I asked why, and he said, “Because you’re the man with the money.” Oh, really?

That’s how poor people think about money. They think other people get it magically, and they’re supposed to give it to everyone who has less, on demand, because that’s fair. That’s not how it works. God is fairer than I am, and he doesn’t do that. God is an investor. He doesn’t give money to people who can’t handle it, and neither will I.

The organ was never a possibility. They’re killing attendance with noise already. I don’t want to make it worse. I was going to make them another guitar amp, but I’m afraid to let them have it. They would injure everyone in the church.

At the end of the service, they honored the pastors with free dinners at Tejas de Brazil (a very expensive and mediocre restaurant) plus tickets to a spa. The people at my church love spas. They’re always giving the pastors spa tickets. I don’t get it, personally. I think it’s odd to let strangers rub grease on you and put things between your toes, and it’s boring to sit and do nothing, but they’re entitled to like what they like.

I think the presentation was a bad move. The pastors’ daughter and son in law came down recently for a week of recreation, and then the pastors went with them to their home in Buffalo. A week later, they came back, and then they took off for Chicago. Now we’re pampering them as though they had been working too hard.

The church is only open a few hours a week, and the rest of the time, we see social media posts showing that the pastors are taking it easy. No one is at church.

People are complaining that they work long hours and then see Facebook posts about the pastors taking trips, going to restaurants, shopping, and walking on beaches. We don’t see them repairing the church, evangelizing, or doing whatever it is you expect pastors to do during the week. People ask where the money for tickets and so on come from. Attendance is bad, and that’s to be expected when the pastors aren’t around.

Sorry to see it happen. I can’t save the world.

So far I have missed one Sunday service and one Tuesday prayer session. People keep coming up to me and asking where I’ve been. They think I’ve quit. I’ve been there more than the pastors have! We have a house prophet, and he’s the most honored person there except for the head pastors. Over the last year, he has probably missed a third of the services, and he routinely comes late. It’s very odd that people are so alarmed when I miss two events.

Usually there are only two of us at the Tuesday session, so of course, everyone else thinks I’m AWOL. They didn’t see me because they didn’t come.

I don’t think I’ll go on Tuesday nights any more. If only two people are going to pray, I might as well pray at home, save 36 miles of wear on the truck, and avoid an hour and fifteen minutes of unpleasant traffic.

I feel very free. I feel like I was trying to do an impossible job and my boss told me to let it go. People are worried about me, but I sleep better, I’m losing weight, and I no longer have to drag people who refuse to walk. Sometimes churches develop a cult mentality, and they think that if you disengage, your life must be screwed up, but this time, the problem is on the other end.

Today someone talked to me and said she had been praying for me. She said, “We need you.” I know she meant to be nice, but that’s a pet peeve of mine. When people left my old church, they always sent people after them to tell them how much the church needed them. They never asked the people who left what they needed. She’s a wonderful lady, but she said exactly the wrong thing. Let the organization burn. The people are what matter.

I agree; they need me. And when I was a kid, I needed vegetables and exercise. But I chose ice cream and TV.

I could be helpful to the church, but they would have to listen, and that’s not going to happen. So telling me they need me isn’t addressing the important issue. I don’t care what they need. I care about what they are willing to receive. I’m not a Gitmo guard. I don’t force-feed people. I can’t.

Things get better and better. It’s all about humility and correction. I’m thrilled that I managed to share this to a few receptive people. The rest…what can you do?

Face Front

Monday, June 15th, 2015

No Seconds on Vomit

Lots of interesting things are happening.

First off, my Woodriver #92 shoulder plane arrived, along with an offset router wrench.

06 13 15 woodriver plane and router offset wrench

Routers connected to tables are hard to reach with wrenches because the collet nuts are below the tables’ surfaces. What you really need is a wrench with two 90° angles in it. The first angle puts the head of the wrench below the table, and the second one makes it horizontal so it engages the nut. I was going to make my own wrench some day (right), but Woodcraft has prefab offset wrenches on sale, so I got one. It’s amazing. I love it. For around ten bucks, I saved myself a day of aggravation.

As for the plane, I have already told my sad tale regarding the Stanley 92 I bought. The blade was too narrow. The only safe bet is a new plane from a reputable maker, and they are not cheap. Lie-Nielsen makes insanely expensive stuff that works perfectly. Veritas makes excellent stuff that is slightly less expensive. Woodcraft’s Woodriver brand is very good, but it’s Chinese, so it’s cheaper.

I went Chinese. What the heck.

The plane is magnificent. It’s ground from solid lumps of iron. Everything is square. The grinding is much finer than the grinding on the Stanley, which looked like I made it myself. The blade is a tiny bit wider than the body. It’s great. I love it. I’m sure spending more money would have paid off in some way or other, but this is a beautiful tool.

I’ve been thinking about workbenches. My current bench is something I threw together from plywood, two–by-fours, and four-by-fours, before I really knew what I was doing. It’s extremely sturdy, but the top isn’t flat, and it’s not optimal for woodworking.

I considered ripping the top off and putting a real woodworking top on it, complete with a woodworking vise, but I think that’s stupid. I can put holes in it to hold bench dogs for various operations, and I have a Rockwell Jawhorse to hold wood for planing and other stuff, so I don’t really have to have a perfect woodworking bench. I think.

In other news, I am now capable of hand-sharpening things.

When I was a kid, I loved playing with knives, and my parents didn’t care, so I got good at sharpening things. This weekend I had to deal with planes and chisels, and I tried to find the best way to tackle it.

A lot of people use jigs. If you Google “General plane sharpening jig,” you’ll see an example. These things hold blades at precise angles to stones, so the edges produced are straight and accurate.

Other people use bench grinders and align things by hand.

I have a grinder set up for lathe tools, with a white aluminum oxide wheel. This thing is wonderful for its purpose. I put a little homemade jig on it, and it works great. But when I tried to use it for planes and chisels, it gave me crooked results, and little bits of the edges turned blue, meaning they had gotten hot and lost their temper.

Frustrated, I got out my DMT diamond stones. I have them in fine, extra-fine, and 8000-grit. I found that if I held a blade down carefully with my bare hand, I could correct and sharpen edges pretty quickly, without buying jigs and megadollar Japanese water stones.

A long time ago, my dad borrowed a chisel. God only knows what he used it for. Maybe scraping paint off a brick. He left it out in the rain for weeks. Yesterday I decided to fix it.

I held it down on a stone and ground it until it lined up with a machinist’s square. I used WD40 to keep the stone from loading up. Surprisingly, it sharpened easily, and I got a great result. I lapped the back side, and I finished it on the 8000 stone. When I was done, it was shaving-sharp.

06 14 15 Buck Brothers chisel sharpened on DMT stone

I don’t have to buy a bunch of junk and store it. I don’t have to worry about conditioning waterstones whenever I use them. Hooray! Very nice.

I fine-tuned the Woodriver plane blade, which was already fairly sharp. I stuck some wood in the Jawhorse and started using my planes. I couldn’t stop. It was so neat, seeing wide, clear curls coming off the wood. This actually works.

I’m getting a few other things. I watched a DVD by a guy named Frank Klausz, and he made dovetails using hand tools, very quickly. That opened my eyes. Most people use a router. You can also use a bandsaw. Honestly, power tool dovetails are a big pain, and when you use power tools, you always have to worry that something is going to jump out and damage you, the work, or your other tools. If I can dovetail a drawer in half an hour using a hand saw, I’m all for it.

Klausz showed how to take a fairly cheap dovetail saw and tune it up in a few minutes. You can’t use them the way they come from the store. I thought that was neat. But then I learned about Zona tools!

Zona makes small tools for model makers. One of their tools is a tiny dovetail saw. It costs around ten bucks. You don’t have to fettle it. You take it out of the box and start cutting. How can you go wrong? I ordered one. They also make excellent coping saw blades, so I ordered a coping saw. CHEAP! We’ll see how that works out. Why spend a hundred or more bucks on a fancy saw that isn’t any better?

On the spiritual side, I had an interesting experience yesterday.

As I believe I’ve said, I quit serving at my church a while back. I got off their Facebook groups, because they kept typing things like, “PLEASE DELETE THIS POST!!!” They didn’t call or text. They didn’t come to me privately. They just typed things like that, in front of kids and people I’m supposed to lead.

Mind you, I am older than most of the church leaders. I have much more education. I never remind them of those things, but come on.

One post was about a new rule. I was guarding the office door when they counted the offering, and someone made a rule saying no one was allowed in unless I let them in. This offended people, so I went to the church’s FB page and explained it. Nicely. Really, there was nothing wrong with what I said. Trust me. But later on…”PLEASE DELETE THIS POST!!!”

When things like that happen, you realize something supernatural is going on. When you absolutely cannot please someone, a spirit is involved.

Yesterday, I came in and sat in the back. I was in God’s presence, and I was worshiping, but I realized something was bugging me. I looked around, and I realized that in front of me, in various parts of the room, at eye level, women’s rear ends were waving at me. They do that. Many of the women wave their rear ends when they worship, and some wear really tight pants. It’s a bad idea. Obvious?

You can say it’s my fault for being lustful, but that’s stupid. Being tempted is not a sin. If it is, then Jesus is in hell, because he was tempted. You decide. No heterosexual man, holy though he be, will be unaffected by a display like that.

In fact, our pastor’s wife agrees with me. A while back, she posted this: “Ladies: tights are not pants.”

Anyway, I posted this observation:

If you sit in the front row in church you look proud, but if you sit in the back you see all the women dancing in tight pants.

Now, you can decide whether that post is offensive. It’s not, but you will have an opinion. It’s obvious. It’s a problem men deal with. Paul talked about it, saying a woman should even keep her head covered in church.

A lady piped up and said this, revealing that she had no comprehension of what I had said:

I strongly believe this post is not edifying to anyone. Mature christians know how to refrain from speaking this way and instead pray n ask God to guide your own eyes. In shock

“In shock.” That’s what I get. I don’t have the authority to say women should not display their rear ends in church. I don’t have the authority to mention the office rule, so I guess this is not a surprise.

Here is what the pastor’s wife said:

Can’t believe this conversation during our worship time !! Amazing !! Pastora

You have to think about this. I quit bothering them on their page. I quit sharing testimony and revelation on Facebook, almost entirely, because God told me I was wasting it on people who didn’t care. That was great. It was relaxing to be freed. But yesterday, people came to me. Withdrawing from their area of control and showing them respect didn’t make any difference.

Someone said it was interesting that she was on Facebook, criticizing people for being on Facebook. The truth is that everyone Facebooks during services, including worship. The pastors are no exception. This is normal. So the problem wasn’t the Facebooking. It wasn’t even the content, since modesty is something she is also concerned about. The problem is me. It’s who I am. The fact that it came from Steve is the problem.

Remember the Holocaust? The Jews blamed themselves. They tried to assimilate in Germany, even before Hitler came to power. Then when things got bad, they pleaded and tried to please the Nazis. They tried to work within the system.

The restrictions and persecution got worse and worse. The smart Jews left. The rest were shot or sent to starve and burn. Why? Because they were greedy? Because they were arrogant? Because they were successful? Of course not. It was because they belonged to God.

When you become one of God’s favorites, you become a favorite of the devil, too. You may get God to cut off his favor, but you will probably never be able to get the devil to stop working on you. God pulls back from useless people, but the devil loves cruelty and death, so once he gets you down, he keeps kicking.

If people are angry at you because of your anointing, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Stop looking at yourself when you haven’t done anything wrong. It’s not your fault. You didn’t cause it, and you can’t fix it. It’s normal. It is how the rest of your life will be.

The problem isn’t the way I say things. I’m not rude, and besides, you can say things to humble people any way you want. The prophets were unbelievably blunt and harsh, and they are revered. In their time, they were murdered and beaten, but now they’re revered. The problem is the pride of the people I tried to talk to. I’ve had plenty of harsh, rude, criticism from church people–much of it wrong and misguided–and I have not responded the way they have.

Our church has a heavy-duty pride problem, so God has pulled me back. Most people there won’t understand, because, hello, they have pride.

Putting an end to my public revelations won’t help them. That’s not God’s intention. His intention is to help me. It will be harmful to me to keep casting pearls before swine, and I will be wasted on them. It will make me bitter and frustrated. Iniquity is contagious, like mold.

We’ve had a number of false prophecies, and the church is not growing. The branch churches we opened disappeared, and there has been no public admission. Things that should be explored are covered up. That’s a recipe for failure.

After three years, it’s obvious that I won’t be used there, and there are definitely people in the world who will be able to benefit from what I have to offer, so I’m not allowed to strive with the same old crowd any more.

I’m a deacon, or I used to be. Here’s what I did: every Sunday I stood outside the office door. That’s 98% of what I did. It’s not like they were getting a lot of use from me. I didn’t teach. I wasn’t one of the people who is called up to pray for folks in services. I was on the prayer line for a while, but that’s open to anyone who shows up. Whatever it is that I was put there to do, it has not happened.

I did not fight back at all on Facebook. Some of my friends were mad, and they stuck up for me, but I behaved pretty well.

My natural instinct is to start posting correction, but I was in prayer about it today, and God did not like that idea. It would be rebellious.

For weeks, I’ve been praying for God to take the proud people out of my life and bring me humble people. I was proud all my life, and I shut God out. Now I’ve finally learned to love correction, but I’m surrounded by people who are just like I used to be. I deserve it. I sowed for this. But now I want out.

I prayed for God to take proud people away from me, and look what’s happening.

I never used to think of these people as proud. It blew right by me. I did not understand what pride was. But now I see it. And a friend called me to say God had given this word in private, regarding the church: “Arrogance.” The friend was disturbed. It was not what the friend wanted to hear. The friend wanted to believe the best. But this is what God said.

If I go on social media and start yammering, I will be saying, “God, you did exactly what I asked, and now I feel like fighting you. You very graciously showed me the proud people in my life, and you came between us, and now I want to go back and work on them, because I know better than you do.”

If I do that, why should he ever do anything for me again?

When I was a kid, I knew a battered wife. I felt terrible for her. But even then, I knew that she chose what happened to her. When she got away, she went back. If you keep going back to people who have no respect for you, you are your own enemy. You are even more guilty than they are, because you, more than anyone, have an obligation to be on your own side in life.

So I said nothing that could be construed as engaging the Facebook attack.

When God generously, graciously, patiently frees you from something counterproductive, you do not go back. You do not. How many times do you think he will save you?

I don’t put much of anything on Facebook, unless it’s about tools or food or trivial stuff. It’s a complete waste of time. What I wrote yesterday was an exception to my new pattern.

I’m writing here, though. This is my domain, literally. Anyone who comes here uninvited and makes trouble is intruding on my authority. I will not be stifled here, and I will not let anyone comment stupidly.

Posting things here is like writing them on paper and hiding it in a drawer. No one from Miami reads my blog. They’re not interested in what I say in person, so they won’t come here to read it.

I hope God keeps sending me people who will benefit from what he tells me. It is not possible to bless proud people. It cannot be done, because all real blessing comes through listening. Only humble people can be blessed.

I’ve done a lot of slimy, disgusting things in my life. I am not a good person. But it is not right for younger people who are unaccomplished and have limited prayer lives to treat me like a child, especially after telling me I’m a watchman and a prophet.

I plan to keep going to my church, sitting in the back and leaving after a couple of hours so I won’t get worn out. Sooner or later I’ll end up in a new church, and I will not volunteer for anything. I will not speak in front of people. I will not accept any office.

God doesn’t really run churches. They are extensions of the world. It is pointless to try to fit in. I’m sure there is an exception out there somewhere, but I have not seen it yet.

Keep praying in tongues. If you can’t pray in tongues, keep praying for God to show you how. Keep asking for humility. Keep asking God to destroy your pride and help you to be honest. These are the things that will fix your life and heal your heart and mind. The other stuff–the money and houses and so on–will only be curses to you unless you become the kind of person who can receive a blessing.

Forget transferring your worldly ambition and work ethic to the church. Those things are for Satan’s children. Our tools are faith, honesty, love, and humility. Don’t listen to foolish blowhards who think God has chosen them simply because they’ve managed to get people to come listen to them every week.

When God removes toxic people from your life, thank him and get with the program. Do not go back to your own vomit. If you didn’t like it the first time you ate it, the second time will be even worse.

Life is good, and it will keep getting better. I can’t take everyone with me. I accept that. Jesus couldn’t do it either. I will be happy with whoever shows up and takes the right attitude.

The Truth Can’t be any Planer

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

Something New: Tools That Work

You’re probably wondering how to handle the chips and dust from your DeWalt DW735 portable (HA!) planer, now that DeWalt has stopped making the dust collection attachment.

I wondered, too. I bought my DeWalt years ago, and I have used it very little because it was inconvenient. It weighs over a hundred pounds. To use it, I had to pick it up off the floor and lift it onto my Workmate. After clearing seventy or eighty pounds of junk off the Workmate. Then I would turn it on and go deaf, and chips would shoot all over the place.

A responsible person does not buy tools without the required accessories and storage. I know that NOW. I needed a stand and a dust system.

I still don’t have a dust collector. I am not sold on them. Yes, obviously, it would be fantastic to have a bunch of 4″pipes running all over the garage, connecting to every tool. But that is a gigantic amount of work and expense, and it looks like it’s not necessary. The table saw does just fine with a shop-vac. So does the router. So do the bench grinder and oscillating spindle sander. The drill press is impossible to rig up for dust collection. That leaves the vertical band saw, and I’m not sure a dust collector would fix it.

I don’t think I need a full-blown dust system–feeble pun not intended–but I should make some sort of effort. And the planer needed to be on a moving platform so I would not have to risk ER visits by lifting it from the floor.

I have become convinced that bench tools are stupid. For the most part. Think about it. You buy a bench drill press to save space. Where do you put it? On the bench. Where it takes up space. Or you put it on the floor. Where it takes up the same amount of space as a floor press, but you can’t use it without getting down on your knees.

Bench tools take up just as much room as floor tools, so you might as well buy floor tools or put bases on your bench tools.

DeWalt makes a nice rolling stand for the planer, but I didn’t like it. It would cost over $150, for 12 pieces of Chinese steel, four wheels, and a slab of MDF. And it had no bottom shelf for a dust bag or whatever. If you rig it for a shelf, you have to put the pedal that unlocks the wheels out where it takes up room. I opted for the He-Man’s choice: Harbor Freight. They make a table that costs $40, plus a mobile base that costs slightly less.

Don’t do what I did. The table is wobbly, so if you want it to be rigid, you will have to add additional steel, which is a pain. The base requires four pieces of 1 1/4″ square lumber to connect the four corners, and because that’s a weird size, you will have to cut the wood yourself. Big mess. The instructions are horrible. I hope the guy who wrote them also writes documentation for China’s nuclear weapons.

The table has no top, so you have to buy plywood and make one, and that’s also a pain. The sanded plywood from Home Depot is sanded in the same sense that club soda is pre-sweetened, so you will have to go back over it, and then you will have to hit it pretty hard with Danish oil or something.

Just buy the DeWalt stand.

Anyway, after three days of work, I got the stand assembled and mounted the planer on it. It works, but I can’t get the wobbles out of it, so I know some metalworking is in my future.

I got the idea for this project a few weeks after I finally threw out the old hose from my shop-vac (I had upgraded to a nice orange hose), so I had to pay $20 for a new hose. Never throw anything out, because the minute you do, you will need it or someone will offer you a thousand dollars for it. On the other hand, grow up and throw things out, because clutter is unhealthy.

You can’t win. I know I haven’t.

If you have the same planer, you will benefit from my dust-collection efforts. I found a 2″ flexible pipe coupling at Home Depot, and I used it to connect it to the 2 1/2″ port on the DeWalt’s dust attachment. You may wonder why a 2″ connector fits on a 2 1/2″ port. I do, too.

I connected the other end of the coupling to the vacuum hose. Then I put a hose clamp over the other and of the hose. When I finally get a dust bag (still working on it), I will slip the dust bag’s collar under the hose clamp and tighten it. The planer has an incredible fan in it, so it will blow the crap through the hose, even though it’s narrow, and it will go into the bag.

One guy on the web uses a pillow case to catch the chips. Supposedly the planer doesn’t make much fine dust, so you can use a crummy filter bag. But I am trying to find something better. Might as well get rid of as much dust as possible.

I will want to put a lower shelf in the stand, to hold the bag. After that, I should be in business.

A planer is a wonderful thing. You can’t use the wood you buy at the store until you plane and joint it, and a planer performs both functions. You will need a planer sled to make it joint, but that’s no big deal. If you put a Wixey DRO on it, you can thickness (“planer” is really a misnomer) wood with great accuracy, and you won’t have to do much sanding at all. If you don’t have a planer and jointer, you will need to get very handy with hand planes, which is not a bad idea, but still.

Speaking of hand planes, as noted in an earlier post, I rehabilitated one last month, and I am adding some new ones to my collection. I seem to have the skill to get old planes going, so I might as well pick up a few.

To make a plane work well, you need an edge like a razor, so you will want water stones or, if you’re a hack like me, a super-fine diamond stone. Anyway, if you can get planes to work, you can avoid a lot of dust, expense, and noise. Machines replace skill and effort, but they come with their own problems.

For jointing, you want a #7 plane or bigger. I don’t have one, but I do look around on Ebay. It’s also nice to have a shoulder plane. It fine-tunes tenons, and you can cut slots with it. IF you can find one that works. Stanley makes one that seems okay until you try to use it. I am referring to the #92. The problem with it is that the blade is narrower than the body. That means you can’t cut all the way to the side, so you can forget cutting a slot, which has to be cut on both sides. I bought a Stanley, and the blade was 0.007″ narrower than the body, so there was no way to make it work. I sent it back, and now I’m waiting for a Woodriver medium shoulder plane. This is the cheapest new shoulder plane that actually works.

You can buy ordinary planes (smoothing, jack, jointer, and so on) used without much fear, but shoulder planes are a pain in the butt, so you might as well grit your teeth and spend for a new one.

I don’t actually know how to USE these things, but I am going to put in a little effort, now that I have learned how to obtain them and make them function.

I guess I went down a rabbit trail there. Sorry.

I got the planer set up tonight, and I am really happy about it. Having stuff is fine, but if you’re not aligned with God’s will, your stuff won’t work, or it won’t bring you pleasure. Now that I’m getting with it, things are going more smoothly, and the things that are happening in the garage are exemplary.

Correction keeps pouring into me, and I am more grateful for it every day. I know, and feel in my heart, that inner correction is the blessing we are supposed to be seeking. We clamor for money, houses, and even sex, but we reject the opportunity to become like the God we beg for favors. No wonder he doesn’t help us.

The devil was cursed for saying, “I will be like the most high,” in his own heart. The funny thing is, we are blessed for saying the same thing. Satan wanted to be like God in that he wanted to be admired. He wanted to be all-powerful. He wanted to punish. We are supposed to be like God in that we love and forgive. We are supposed to have his humility and kindness. If you want God to do things for you on earth, you have to say, in your heart, “I will be like the most high.”

The idiots on TV are trying to convince us that power and wealth will come just because we go to church, send preachers money, and recite Bible promises. If you were God, would you subsidize that garbage? Of course not. It would be like continuing to send your college-student son an allowance after he told you he had become a dope dealer.

You don’t get blessed because you’ve changed. The change IS the blessing. After that, the other things–money, houses, and so on–can’t hurt you. They can’t spoil you. So God has no reason to withhold them, and you just might get them. After all, Jesus gave us instructions for getting wealth: seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. He didn’t say anything about buying Creflo Dollar a jet.

I still can’t write about these things on social media. Today I wanted to say something. I at least wanted to warn people. I wanted to say that the reason I quit sharing things was that I was no longer allowed to, because no one listened. But I wasn’t even allowed to say that. So here I am. Saying it to twelve people.

Today God showed me that trying to warn people who have already had multiple chances is like trying to rekindle a bad relationship. If you’re out, be grateful. Don’t return to your own vomit. So I’m not pushing it.

Here’s a photo of the planer. I am determined to make something out of wood in the near future, just to see my tools do what they’re supposed to do. Maybe a box. I have a great DVD about box-making.

06 11 15 DeWalt planer on HF table with hose attached

Last night after I got done working in the garage, and after I had cleaned up, I turned around to walk out, and I felt as if I had turned too fast. Suddenly I saw the garage with new eyes. It looked new to me. I saw tools that could actually be used. I saw increased order. It was very strange.

External order comes from internal order. There is no other way to get there.

Tools I’ve Helped Renew

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

Don’t Buy What You Can’t Store

Things are going well here. I am getting more done with tools than I used to. Below, you will see an example.

05 27 15 Rockwell grinder with lid installed

That’s a Rockwell 1″ x 42″ belt sander/grinder. I found it on Craigslist. The owner wanted 30 bucks. I could not pass that up, even though I did not want the tool.

I drove up to a borderline-ghetto area to pick it up. The owner was a young man with tattoos. He took me to his backyard, where he had a small shed set up. It was immaculate inside, complete with a two-tone paint job on sheetrock walls. He had a Logan lathe, a Rockwell drill press, and several other old machines set up. I was startled. You wouldn’t have expected anything from the outside.

He couldn’t get the grinder to work, so he removed it to sell and kept the stand.

Because the motor was in the stand, I needed propulsion. I decided to try a treadmill motor.

These motors used to be real bargains. They run on DC, and DC motors are usually expensive, but because there are a lot of old treadmills out there, treadmill motors have been easy to come by.

Some, at least, are controlled by boards that can be removed along with the motors. One of the most common boards is the MC-60. It has no transformers or power capacitors on it, but you can plug one end into a wall socket and the other into a motor, and it will make it run.

I found a 3/4-HP motor and an MC-60 on Ebay. I don’t recall the total cost. Somewhere around a hundred bucks. I made a mistake and fried the rectifiers and thyristors on the MC-60, so I had to put new ones in, but other than that, it worked.

The motor came with a cast-iron wheel for a flat belt, and the wheel had vanes in it so it sucked air through the motor. It wouldn’t work for my purpose, so I made a new aluminum pulley with vanes. I bought a plastic junction box at Home Depot to hold the control and switches. I mounted the whole mess on a piece of thick plywood, and I applied rubber feet.

The grinder needed to have crud cleaned out of it. It was also adjusted incorrectly, so things were rubbing. I got it clean, and it turned out to be in good shape. Even the wheels were okay. They are notorious for falling apart.

I ordered a few belts for it, and now it works. Very nice. A belt will cut non-ferrous things without exploding, and it produces less heat, so it can be very useful. If you’re grinding aluminum on a wheel, you need to be aware that aluminum can melt into the grit, expand when hot, and then make the wheel explode. This can lead to unpleasant events such as having large chunks of wheel imbed themselves in your facial bones.

Bench grinders are extremely dangerous, but almost no one knows that.

I put a reversing switch on the grinder so I can use the lower wheel for thicknessing parts. I will put some sort of table under it, and then I’ll be able to raise and lower the table and shove parts under the wheel, against the rotation. If you grind with the rotation, the belt will try to yank the parts away from you, and it will try to pull your fingers along with it, breaking them if necessary.

Right now I have an Accu-link belt on it, but I think I should get a normal v-belt, because Accu-link belts are not made with reversing motors in mind. It only takes a few seconds to reverse the belt, though.

While building this thing, I learned a lot about DC motors and belt grinders. Now I’ll be ready if I go on to build a 2″ x 72″.

A while back, I found that things were rusting in one corner of my shop. Eventually, I started to suspect that muriatic acid was to blame. I had a jug of it stored in that area. I investigated and found out that muriatic acid will make things rust even if you keep it capped. I moved the acid to another location and started polishing and oiling things. One of those things was a neat old Stanley #6 plane I got from a tool restorer.

The plane had some rust on it, but it wasn’t actually damaged. It got me thinking about another old plane that was in the garage somewhere. I dug the other plane out and looked it over. The sole was deeply pitted on one side. I mean, maybe twenty thousandths deep. I didn’t know if it was worth saving, but online tool people assured me it was worth a go.

I had to grind off maybe an eighth of an inch of pitted and dented blade, but I eventually got a good shaving edge, which I did my best to polish with a 6000-grit diamond stone. I used sandpaper, WD40, and a flat surface to clean the plane’s sole. I found myself a crummy two-by-four to use for test purposes, and eventually, I got the results you see below.

05 29 15 Stanley 4 plane sharpened and cleaned making shavings

It’s not a desirable plane. It was probably made about fifty years ago, when Stanley was making dubious products, but with effort, I got it to function, so now I can’t throw it out.

I’m considering getting a big rolling tool cabinet to organize things. I already have a really nice 26″ stainless Craftsman combo, but it’s not enough. I want something I can put the CNC lathe on, so it won’t be on my bench any more.

It’s hard finding good boxes now. I got very lucky with my Craftsman, because their stuff is mostly junk. So is Husky. There are a lot of used boxes out there, but I don’t think $1300 for a used Snap-On with rust and flaking paint is much of a deal.

Supposedly, the best stuff comes from Vidmar and Lista, but I will never find that locally, and if I did, it would cost a ton.

I made a surprising discovery. Harbor Freight makes very nice tool boxes. Not the best, but much better than Craftsman. You can get a 44″ roller for $369. I took a look, and they’re not bad at all. I also discovered Extreme Tools. Their boxes are supposedly better than Snap-On and Matco, but they’re considerably cheaper. For $900, you can get a 44″ box with 18-gauge steel in the drawers.

You can order from their website, but that’s a bad idea. If you do that, you have to deal with the shipper, and shippers are idiots. They ruin things all the time, and you have to jump through hoops to get things fixed. The best route is to order from Home Depot. The price is about the same, and delivery to your local store is free. Home Depot will then have to eat any shipping problems, and they will also collect the local sales tax so you don’t have to send a check to your state.

It’s a tough choice. I would like to use credit card points, and if you use them to buy Home Depot stuff with a gift card, you get 100% of the value of the points. If you shop at Harbor Freight, you only get 60% of the value. What it boils down to, for me, is about $360 more for the Extreme Tools box. Might be worth it. But then I’ll get hammered again if I buy a side cabinet to go with it.

I see tool organization as part of God’s pattern of correction and ordering. I bought a lot of tools without much thought for storage, so I have stuff all over the place. A second rolling cabinet would make a big dent in the problem.

Speaking of God, things go well in that area. I feel like a fool for taking so long to understand how wonderful correction is, and that it’s the main purpose of our walk with him. I wish I had seen the obvious sooner. I knew it was important, but I didn’t realize it was the biggest blessing available, after salvation.

You can know things without really feeling them in a way that motivates you.

Unfortunately, things are not going as well for people around me. My church is shrinking, and enthusiasm is waning. They insist on loud music and long services, so people come a few times and then get tired of it and move on. I can’t recommend the church to people any more, because I know they won’t stay. Everyone at the church has been made aware of the issues, but they have made a firm decision not to change, so there it is.

Every morning I wake up and spend hours in prayer, and until recently, God gave me revelation which I shared on social media. That’s over. I still get revelation, but I am not permitted to share it. When I consider sharing it, something stops me.

I realize what’s going on. I have been striving to convince people, and they have decided not to listen. I have been wasting my time. God required me to do it for a while, but for my own protection, he has told me to stop.

This is how the Christian life works. The only reason God allows us to remain here in this filthy mess of a world is to reach other people. For that reason, we are required to pray for them and talk to them. But we aren’t supposed to overdo it. We can’t force people to listen. We can’t choose God’s children for him. When people reject us consistently, we are supposed to pull back and let them receive the harvest for which they have sown. That’s where I am now.

If you keep pestering people, your relationship with them deteriorates, and you run the risk of becoming bitter and angry. You also become frustrated, because you feel you’re not achieving anything. When I stopped prodding and encouraging, I felt as though I had put down an anvil. I had been carrying lazy, proud people on my shoulders. It wasn’t until I put them down that I realized they were wearing me out.

It’s a great feeling, but I would rather see people listen and change.

Even God doesn’t get that wish. He can’t change people, and neither can I. He likes to put us in positions where we suffer what he suffers, so we understand what he goes through. Now I know what it’s like to have my time wasted by people who don’t listen. That’s God’s life. The entire Bible is about mankind’s failure to listen and the destruction that followed.

God told me this a few months back: hell isn’t full of sinners; it’s full of people who don’t listen. Sin can’t keep you out of heaven if you are willing to listen. A humble, repentant serial pedophile is better off than a missionary who thinks he knows everything.

Pride is THE worst sin. I know Jesus made it seem like all sins were equal, but he was talking about their effect on salvation. When it comes to destroying a person’s progress with God, pride is IT.

A small number of people have been affected by the things I’ve shared. That’s all I think I will get. Again, I am learning how God feels. He never gets the majority. It’s always a small remnant.

I don’t think the church will be around long. We started churches in Winter Haven and Georgia. The Winter Haven church disappeared, and I’m pretty sure the Georgia church is also gone. There haven’t been any announcements. Things are not going well in the main church. The other day I counted 50 people in attendance, excluding babies and small children. That’s not good. Back when we were moving forward and experiencing revival, attendance was a lot better.

I’ve had a lot of great experiences in the church, and I’ve made some wonderful friends. We have seen each other change for the better. Now I will wait for the next chapter in my life.

I may hop in the truck and check out a flea market today. I’ve never tried it, and they say you can find cast iron skillets and old tools at good prices. If not, it will be a nice outing.

Why You Can’t Use the Courses You Passed

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Enroll at Ebay University

I got a few comments on my last post, which was about studying electronics online. I feel like I should add a few things.

Andy-in-Japan says: “Thanks for the info – I’ve been looking for something to help out some members of the extended family that were a step up from Khan. And this looks fantastic!”

Steve G. (not sure if he wants his full name here) says: “The MIT courses are good from what I’ve seen. There’s also a new edition of The Art of Electronics out this month that I am digging into now; depending on the things you want to learn, it could be a good resource.”

I’m glad the stuff I wrote looked helpful, and I hope it was, but I know a little more than I did then, so I am adding a few things.

First off, I had to take to my bed after Steve mentioned The Art of Electronics. This book was one of the few dark spots in my efforts to get a physics degree. I felt like it was written in nerdese, which is impenetrable to normal people.

One of the big problems with technical texts is that they are written by people who can’t remember what it was like to NOT know the subject and the jargon. So they use weird slang and explain things poorly, if at all. I think the lab manual from The Art of Electronics is great, but the book seems more like a reference than a teaching tool. I would stay away from it if I were getting started. Which I am, sort of.

I am going through the lab manual now, redoing the experiments with a breadboard, an oscilloscope and multimeters (thank God for Ebay). It’s good for me to remember what it was like to do things in an ordered way, with tables and whatnot.

Second thing…I would not recommend relying on the MIT/EDx course. It’s incomplete. I don’t consider this a knock on MIT. They do a great job producing miracle workers. I think it’s a knock on electronics teaching in general.

I rounded up a few external sources when I got started. I will list them here.

1. The Electric Circuits Problem Solver
2. Electronics Demystified
3. Basic Circuit Analysis (Schaum)
4. Principles of Electric Circuits, Thomas L. Floyd, 2000.

I have some other things, but these are the really useful ones.

I knew I needed to do solved problems in order to learn, so I started trying to do problems in the first three books. I found I could not get through a chapter without extra research, because they mentioned ideas and methods that were not mentioned in the MIT lectures.

For all I know, later on in the MIT course, all these things are covered, but I doubt it, because they are fundamental things that would be unlikely to appear in relatively advanced lectures.

I have been taking written notes from the MIT class, and I have been inserting additional notes between the pages. I write up my own explanations of material from other sources, including debunking some of the BS. This has made a world of difference in my progress.

It doesn’t do you much good to learn three methods from one guy when you find yourself confronted with challenges that require five methods from other teachers. And sometimes the things you learn will turn out to be wrong or so backward they cause you problems.

If your teacher is good, you should be able to do any problem that isn’t above the course’s level, regardless of which book it appears in. Obvious?

Example: I had to relearn Gaussian elimination, for purposes of solving systems of linear equations (voltages and currents and so on). One source said to put augmented matrices in reduced echelon form and then use the results. This is insane advice. It can be incredibly tedious and nearly impossible to put a matrix in that form. In reality, you can save yourself a lot of pain by settling for echelon form or simply creating one row among the unknowns with only one nonzero entry.

I’m not going to explain that, because it’s boring, but trust me: you do not want reduced echelon form unless the matrix is really cooperative, and you can waste your life trying to obtain it. I spent hours trying to do it with a 3 x 3 matrix, and then I wrote my own treatment of linear equations and realized it’s a five-minute job IF you don’t do it the stupid way.

I also learned that Cramer’s rule (another tool for solving systems) is to be avoided at all costs. Lots of tedium, and no advantage over Gaussian elimination. Maybe I’m wrong, but I can’t see any reason to consider using it. But the books teach it.

Another example: an instructor may not tell you how to count loops in a circuit. This may be important, depending on what you’re doing. The answer is simple: count the components and sources, subtract the number of nodes, and add 1. Again, it’s too boring to explain, but it’s very useful.

If I were enrolled in the MIT course for credit, I would be in trouble, because I would never have time to consult the other sources or write my own material. I would have to keep up with tests and so on, so my time would be limited. Because I’m not taking tests, I have time to do it right. And if I ever decided to take the course for credit, it will be a joke, because I’ll be better prepared than most students.

Third thing…if you plan to study electronics, you should definitely get your own equipment and do practical work at home. After all, you’ll eventually need it. You’re studying so you can use what you’ve learned, and you can’t do that without equipment.

I have a breadboard and some handheld multimeters, and I also have some other stuff lying around. An old HP function generator and an HP current source. I learned something that will be very helpful to anyone amassing equipment on the cheap: old bench multimeters are plentiful on Ebay. A bench multimeter is a big box which, if you’re lucky, has an AC cord instead of batteries. They do all sorts of things, you don’t have to hold them in your hands or prop them up, you never have to change batteries, and you can get a nice one delivered for $50.

I forgot to mention the oscilloscope. I have an ancient Hitachi I bought for $50. It would not be useful for creating the next groundbreaking CPU, but it will be a very long time before I reach a point where I need anything better.

Radio Shack has an interesting product that can be useful. They’re going out of business, so this is the time to buy it. Forrest Mims, the electronics educator, helped them create a self-contained project lab, complete with a little breadboard, an ammeter, and components. You can buy it for under $35. It comes with two books of projects. I grabbed one, and it’s nice for gaining practical experience without driving yourself crazy looking for the components you might find in a college lab text. You can also use it for testing your own ideas.

They call it the “Electronics Learning Lab Kit.”

I fiddled around with electronics in the past, but I never really got anywhere. It was like I was in a jar with a big heavy lid on top, obstructing my progress. Now things are really coming together. It makes me wonder what I could have accomplished when I was younger, had I really known how to study. In the past, I just showed up in class and did what they told me. That doesn’t really work unless your teacher is exceptional.

It shows how life changes when you submit to God. When you do things in your own strength, no matter how great it is, you will fail, or your success will be a curse, because God opposes the proud. Once you submit and start gaining supernatural power, tasks that used to defeat you start to crumble before you, and people who used to chase you start running from you.

America is in decline because we’re proud. We forgot who made us strong, so we don’t pray or give him credit. We don’t get to know him, and he does not guide our lives, so we do silly unproductive things, and we lose a lot. People who used to hide from us are now out in the streets giving us orders. Foreigners come here illegally, appear on TV, and shame us for refusing to give them privileges exceeding our own. Terrorists kill us from time to time, on our own soil. This is how life goes for the rebellious.

Things are rapidly getting worse, not just for America, but for Christians who live in America. We are not being spared. Our enemies beat us every day. That’s because we’re not good Christians. We don’t pray in the Spirit. We don’t hear from God. We have no idea which way to turn. He doesn’t help us, because we’re trying to do our own will, and we’re claiming it’s his.

I can’t go back to that. I would rather die than go back to wondering who would defeat me next. It’s not an acceptable way to live. Often released convicts say they will never go back to prison, no matter what it takes to avoid it. I understand that completely. No one wants a life of defeat, hopelessness, and humiliation.

It’s not really important whether I master electronics, but my success is a good example of the way God turns things around when I listen to him.

America is not going to do well. We can’t admit we’re wrong. We think evil is good and good is evil, so we can’t even diagnose our problems. A small residue of people will find help from God, and the rest will continue to fail. Even those who prosper financially will be failures, because they will have to lose themselves in order to get what they want.

When things get really bad, people will point to Christians who are successfully persecuted, and they will say it’s proof God isn’t real. In reality, it will just prove that proud, ignorant Christians don’t get much help from him.

It’s unfortunate that there is no solution to the problem, but at least you can save yourself, and you can help a few people around you avoid the mess. Really, that’s what we should expect. Lot, Noah, Moses, and Jesus were not able to save many people, and that’s a pattern which exists because of the stubbornness of human beings. It will never change as long as we have free will.

Anyway, while the country continues to slide, I will try to enjoy whatever peace and productivity I can.

I hope the information on electronics will be helpful to people, and that folks who know more about it than I do will add to what I wrote.

CNC Surprises

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

No Cigar

I feel like updating the saga of my CNC progress. I have learned a great deal about CNC, but in relation to the amount that I need to know in order to be competent, I know just about nothing.

First thing: do not build a CNC lathe. Do not even waste your time. A mill will do nearly everything a lathe will do, plus a million things a lathe can’t begin to do. You can thread with a mill. You can turn parts with a mill. You don’t want a lathe. Believe me. And if you have a lathe, no one will want to help you, because only about 10% of CNC hobbyists use lathes. Even software makers ignore us.

Second thing: precision is expensive. You can fix a machine so the computer compensates for backlash. But it doesn’t actually work. Say you’re milling a round hole instead of boring. You have to make the cutter travel in a big circle, as well as rotating. Every time an axis changes direction, you’re going to get error due to backlash. The only way to get rid of it is to use ballscrews, and cheap ballscrews don’t really work, although they may make you feel good. On the web, people with cheap screws talk about backlash figures between 0.005″ and 0.010″, which is huge.

When I got ready to build my lathe, I figured the machinery itself would be simple to create. The plans I bought didn’t mention ballscrews. Then I got it running and found out I had 0.018″ of backlash on the z screw. The software compensates on simple parts, and that’s very good. It’s worth a lot. I can do a lot of stuff I could not do with a manual mill, and I can do it with good accuracy. But sooner or later I’ll want to cut a part that requires a sudden change in direction on z, and I won’t be able to do it well.

Another annoying lathe issue: you have to tell the computer about the cutters you use. When you use a tool, only a tiny part of it will touch the work. The computer has to know where that contact occurs. Tools have rounded corners, so there won’t be a sharp, defined point where the tool makes contact. It will vary as the shape of the work and the direction of tool movement change. Lathe inserts vary a lot, so you may have to have a whole bunch of tools defined. I’m not sure HSS is useful at all, because you can’t grind it precisely. If you try to tell the computer the radius on a tool made from HSS, you’ll definitely have error.

I have not used a CNC mill, but it stands to reason that it should be less complicated. Say you’re using a half-inch end mill. You know exactly where the lower surface is, at all times. You know where the sides are. Not complicated. Maybe I’m wrong, but I can’t really see myself spending days telling the computer about the small number of tools I’ll use.

I’m going to keep the lathe, because even with limited precision, it can be useful, but I would not waste my time building another one. I’m hoping to use it for threading and tapers, as well as curved parts like dial handles. Things like that will justify its existence until I get a mill going.

People are telling me I should have bought a used machine. There are a lot of old CNC machines out there that have obsolete electronics. I may be wrong about this, but I will relate what I understand to be true. Years ago, CNC required big dedicated computers and expensive controllers. In 2014, a secondhand PC can handle most of that stuff. There are old machines out there with screws and motors that still work, but they have heavy, useless built-in electronics. Commercial users want to get rid of them, so hobbyists buy them and bypass the ancient circuitry, running them with Mach3 or LinuxCNC.

I would love to have an old vertical machining center, which is just a very fancy milling machine with an enclosure that keeps chips and coolant contained. But they’re gigantic. There’s one for sale down here, and it weighs over 8000 pounds. I’m crazy, but not that crazy. Also, what if you buy one, and the screws are no good? You’re out maybe six grand, and then you have to put another two or three thousand in. Arrgh.

I am thinking I should get a new Chinese mill, like an R45 clone or a Grizzly G0704, which is a little smaller and less rigid. I would have to put decent screws on it, which would give me gastric distress, but it would do just about anything I want to do. I still have the ability to add 6 more axes to my controller, so I should be able to keep the lathe and add a mill with no problems.

I bought Dolphin CAD and CAM, which is a pretty good commercial program. They gave me a big discount. I haven’t gotten to where I can actually use it, but I’m working steadily. I have managed to get Mach3 working (most of the time), so I use it to fine-tune the machine. Yesterday I cut a #2 Morse taper in aluminum, just to see if it would work. Tapers have to be very precise, but the geometry is simple, and the tool doesn’t change directions while it’s on the work, so I figured there was some hope that my lathe would pull it off.

Below is a photo of the taper. It fits fine in the center bore of my rotary table. I put Sharpie ink on it and tried to rub it off on the inside of the bore, to check for high and low spots, but I couldn’t see any problems in the result. It would definitely be sticky enough to hold a drill chuck in the lathe’s tailstock.

09 17 14 Morse 2 taper cut on mini-lathe

If I can make tapers that actually work, it will be a nice ability to have. I should cut an R8 and see what happens. My experience with lathes is that even with error in the chuck, you can get a very nice, round part as long as you don’t move it around while cutting it. If you take it out and put it back in, it won’t be in the same position. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to try to make an R8 taper, but the dial indicator or test indicator will tell me for sure.

I am enjoying the lathe. I plan to keep working on it until it can thread. But compared to a mill, it’s…handicapped. That’s just how it is.

The Unlikely Smell of Success

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Lathe Debut Imminent

I’m not at church today because the A/C blew out. I can’t wait until we have our own building.

The CNC mini-lathe is pretty much done. I have to get the electronics going, but apart from adjustments and nonessentials, the hardware is ready to go.

I will not criticize this design, because I am not competent to do so, but I have had some negative comments from experienced CNCers. They don’t like the direct couplings between the steppers and screws, and one said it was a bad idea to use a lead screw to move the saddle. I don’t know what else you would use, though.

Yesterday I cut the lead screw to size. It had to be 22″ long, with a 1.75″ portion turned down to 0.25″ to receive an adjustable collar. I got it to about 0.248″.

Turning a lead screw in a lathe is pretty nerve-wracking. If you simply stick it in the chuck, you risk ruining the threads. You can bore soft jaws out so they hold it without marring, or you can make a split bushing that goes over it. You chuck the bushing, and it tightens around the screw without harming it.

I made bushings, but in practice, they were no good. When I chucked the screw, it wobbled pretty badly. I considered boring my soft jaws, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to bore all the way through a brand new pair. I might need that metal for something else later.

This was not a precision job, and I had extra screw material, so I tried the gonzo approach. I wrapped the screw in several layers of foil and chucked it.

It’s hard to put an indicator on a coarse thread. It will bounce around. I decided to eyeball it. I put something straight next to it and turned it, and I saw no deflection. I knew that put me within a couple of thousandths, which is not far from the best the chuck can do, so I was happy.

I center-drilled the far end, put a live center in it, and turned 1.75″ down to size. No problems. If it’s not perfect, I can’t detect it without instruments, and that’s more than good enough.

08 02 14 CNC lead screw turned to size

I had a problem when I mounted it on the lathe. I have some new flexible “plum” couplings, and I put one on the z screw. These couplings have an aluminum spider fitting at each end, and in between, there’s a layer of urethane, like a skateboard wheel. They allow for a lot of error in the rotation of the things they connect, but they also pull apart if you pull the ends away from each other. I want my setup to be rigid longitudinally, so the screw isn’t slopping back and forth and creating incredible backlash. I had to go back and use my old rigid connector, which works fine.

Plum couplings are perfect for the x axis, except that the one I got was a tiny bit too long. There was a layer of urethane between the shafts I was connecting, and it was too thick. In order to use it, I would have to make a thicker x mount or alter the coupling. I’ve made the x mount twice already, so my answer was to mill the urethane out. It should not matter. It installed easily, and it looks like it will run fine.

08 03 14 CNC lathe x axis mount with plum coupling

The z screw system goes motor, coupling, screw end, adjustable collar, wave (spring) washer, thrust bearing, mount, thrust bearing, screw body. The collar appears to be there to hold the screw tightly against the mount, putting pressure on the washer and bearings. It has to be very tight. I had problems with it slipping. I had to tighten it to the point where I was afraid the set screw would strip. I don’t know if 0.248″ is too small for the collar or what. When I made the screw, I assumed a couple of thousandths wouldn’t matter. It’s adjustable, right? But it may be that I need to put some foil inside it to take up room. Or maybe I need to make a bigger, tougher collar. In the real world, there would be a taper, I guess, with the bearing pressed onto it so it could not move. But this is not the real world. This is home CNC.

08 03 14 CNC lathe z axis mount with coupling and bearings

I don’t have a project box, but I have a Bud Portacab on the way. This is a foot-tall lunchbox sort of thing made from aluminum. I want to put plugs on the back for 8 motors (the limit for two Kstep boards). I’m not sure what kind of connectors to use. They have to be 4-wire connectors that will handle up to 18 gauge wire. I will also need a plug for the lathe’s spindle sensor.

I’m getting a lot better at machining, because I have no choice. It’s easy to machine when the plans are in your head, and everything is approximate. When you’re working from drawings, you have to apply yourself.

I’m hoping to see movement from the lathe this week. I need to get it put together and figure Gcode out well enough to do a simple cut. After that, things should get a lot easier. It will just be a matter of study and practice.

Most CNCers don’t do lathes, and that’s understandable. A mill will do a lot more. But I don’t have a mill waiting to be hacked up, and the mini-lathe was sitting here doing nothing. It should be very useful, though, and it will give me some understanding of the most important tool technology of our age. Most people are getting left behind when it comes to CNC/3D printing, and ten years from now, they’ll be like the old geezers who hate cell phones. “Damn this thing. Hello? Hello? What? I have to open it? Hello? Hello? Which button?”

After this, I have to make the lathe ball-cutter for which I bought plans. After that, I might like to make a small surface grinder. I considered making a tool grinder, but they’re not really that useful. People tell me that even if you have a great commercial grinder, you will probably do bad work, because it takes skill. And cutters aren’t that expensive, really. A surface grinder would be nice. If you like making machining accessories, you will want truly flat surfaces once in a while, and hand scraping is a real chore.

Hope I have a victory Youtube to post soon.

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.