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Archive for April, 2009

Sometimes Crap is Just as Good

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Chucks on Sale at Enco!

Here’s a clever tool question.

I clearly need a 4-jaw chuck for my lathe. I have been holding out for a used American chuck. But it has occurred to me that since the jaws are completely independent, this should be a relatively low-precision device compared to a 3-jaw chuck. The jaws don’t have to be in any particular relationship to each other. If that’s true, shouldn’t an import be just as good?

I am an Electronics Genius

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Programming a VFD is a Waste of my Giant Cranium

Today the new old motor for my lathe arrived. It looked like it came from Al Capone’s vault. The paint was in bad shape, and it was beaten up. But when I connected the VFD, it ran. Not smoothly, but it did run.

I had to get down on the garage floor to get the bolts out of the base of the old motor. Then I had to contort myself into the space behind the lathe to get the wiring hacked out of the conduit and boxes. Getting the pulley stack off the old shaft was a joy, believe me. Then I had to persuade the key to come out of the shaft keyway with a hammer and punch. I cleaned the pulleys with the last of my orange-based gun spray, and I put the pulleys on the “new” motor. I guess I’m ready to install it in the lathe. TOMORROW.

The motor I got today is nothing to write home about. People talk about how great old industrial motors are. I have my doubts. This thing makes a sound on every revolution, so my guess is that the bearings are not great, and the shaft looks like someone used it as a johnson bar.

When I put it on the VFD, it made a whistling sound so loud and shrill it was not acceptable. It would drive you crazy to use the lathe with that noise going on. I figured something was loose in the motor, but it turns out the signal to the motor has a pulse frequency, and that’s the problem. Apparently the waveform of each phase is made up of spiky digital pulses at a much higher frequency. I’m guessing here from a picture I saw. Somehow, if you let the pulses get too far apart, it makes your motor whistle. If you let them get too close together, it creates RF interference. On my VFD, you can vary it between 5 KHz and 14 KHz. I decided to ramp it right up to 14. To hell with the radio. Then I felt bad about my neighbors, and I decided to test it. The RF made Todd Schnitt’s show sound bad in the garage, but in my car, twenty feet away, he sounded fine. Who cares about radio interference that disappears after twenty feet? I ran it right back up to 14, and now the whistle is very quiet and sort of pleasant.

I found a really nice Baldor on Ebay for a small fraction of retail. I am considering buying it. The frame is the same. It should work fine. But I want to be sure the VFD won’t kill it. I know I can get an inverter-ready motor, but I’ll have to wait until one becomes available at a price I like. I’m not sure if it’s necessary.

I loves me some Baldor.

A thread on Practical Machinist says failure of a standard motor due to inverter use is nearly unheard-of, so maybe this is the thing to get. I can sell both of the motors the lathe seller gave me. Maybe I’ll get part of my investment back. I’ll say they APPEAR TO HAVE VERY LITTLE USE. That phrase worked on me. Maybe it will work on someone else.

A company called Orion makes add-on fans for motors running on VFDs. Neat.

I guess I haven’t learned my lesson, because I am corresponding with another machinery dealer. And it looks like I can get a Chinese split air conditioner for the same price as an American unit, without cutting giant holes in the wall. I don’t know if it will really cool 600 square feet, but I’d be happy if it even came close. It’s 12000 BTUs. I guess I could sit right next to it and pour ice down my pants.

If the garage gets too swanky, I’m afraid I’ll never leave.

I have been trying to find the best way to mount the VFD, and I think the answer is to get rid of the drum switch completely (using the VFD to reverse the motor), mount a piece of stiff sheet metal to the back of the headstock (over existing bolts) and mount the VFD to the metal. It would be right in my face, ready to use. Beautiful. Oddly, I happen to have a piece of sheet metal that would be perfect. This would be a good excuse to make a template and do some plasma cutting. Or I could make a plywood support instead, which would give me an excuse to run the mighty Powermatic.

This will be sweet. Some day I may even make something.

Thank You, Obama

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Thanks to You, I Stocked Up

Every morning, out of habit, I check the Classic Arms site. I got my C&R license quite some time ago, and I almost immediately lost all desire to use it, but I’m so used to looking at Classic Arms, I can’t stop.

All week, they’ve been writing about the ammunition crisis. I don’t understand it. I have all the ammunition a person could want, and I got it at great prices. I even have primers. If I were a truly accomplished right wing Christian potential possible terrorist, instead of a highly ineffective one, I could mount a really spectacular standoff and shoot up every cop car in Coral Gables.

That’s what leftist nutballs think bulk ammunition buys are for. But sane, intelligent people realize that the real motivation is stinginess. Why pay seventy-five cents each for 20 bullets when you can pay thirty cents each for a thousand? I don’t run around taking hostages and shouting about Ruby Ridge. I go to the range and shoot targets. That takes a lot of ammunition. Actual murderers generally spend very little on bullets. It’s probably pretty rare for 90-pound crackheads and career burglars to go to gun shops and load up on the latest frangible rounds. “How many Cor-Bons can I has for this Blaupunkt?”

Honestly, I don’t know what goes on in the heads of urban liberals. They seem to think that if you have one gun and one bullet, you’re armed as well as you could ever need to be. That’s because most of them have never fired a gun and know nothing about firearms. They don’t realize that people miss, or that criminals usually can’t be incapacitated with one shot, or that you need a lot of ammunition just to learn how to use your weapon safely, accurately, and responsibly.

You know what? Liberals who know nothing about guns should quit telling the rest of us what to do with them. Do I go to their houses and tell them how to work their bongs and bondage gear? Do I tell them how to apply their VD ointment or cook their heroin or beat their three-tooth-having common-law wives in front of their subsidized housing? Do I point at their buttcrack tattoos and say, “That’s not how you spell ‘Obama'”?

“I really think you have too many bullwhips and ball gags. I honestly believe you don’t need this much weed and smack. I think four guys in a men’s room stall is plenty. How many decks of tarot cards can one person use?” Imagine me, butting in to liberals’ lives to say these things. It’s like Dr. Phil telling people how to lose weight. Stick to what you KNOW.

I realized last night that I really need a pistol laser. Some strange person parked in the driveway while doing something that made their car make odd sounds. I went outside with a pistol to check the car out. I kept it concealed, but it was ready to fire. I realized the darkness was a real handicap. The car pulled away, but what if there had been a problem? A laser would have simplified things greatly. I better look into that.

I have long weapons with lasers (finally), but I am not quite ready to walk out onto the porch waving a shotgun every time someone comes near the house. That kind of thing doesn’t fly with the neighbors, and it’s a bit of an overreaction. I’ve paused in people’s driveways for perfectly legitimate reasons; I would have been highly disturbed had they come out brandishing long guns. But it’s proper and correct to have a gun handy when you investigate a problem on your property (after all, I carry mine when I shop for groceries), and you need to be confident of hitting your target.

I also realized that when you go onto another person’s property at night–a bad idea to begin with–you really need to be nice. This individual probably had no idea he was ten seconds and one mistake away from the Promised Land. I would do just about anything to avoid harming another person physically, but sometimes situations go bad in a hurry, and in a contest with some doofus who doesn’t train with his gun, I will prevail in a big way. And when the cops arrive, they will give me a high five (or as we call it in Miami, a “cinco alto”). This is Florida.

I got my rifle and shotgun lasers dirt cheap, but I doubt Hong Kong has caught up with Glock laser technology, so I’ll probably have to spend some coin to get ready. Maybe I should grit my teeth and move to a different caliber, too. The 9mm isn’t all that great for shooting through car doors, and last night I saw that such things can be legitimate concerns. I used to assume there would be no reason to shoot through a door, since a person in a car is not likely to be on your property. But what if you go out to check on a suspicious car, and they shoot? They can be completely off your property and still require a response. Maybe the best answer is to stick a laser on the .38 Super, which does a bang-up job on sheet metal, and use it in those situations. If you use the right caliber and load, a car is about as hard to penetrate as a styrofoam cooler.

One more reason to be nice when you drive.

Anyway, there is no ammunition crisis in my house. Unless you’re talking about closet space.

The Customer is Always Wrong

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Be Sure to Bend Over Backwards to Please Businesses You Patronize

I have been working on the lathe. Now that I’m a master machinist, I’m pretty comfortable out there, dismantling and greasing and oiling. It may be hard for a lay person to understand.

I contacted the seller–PBUH–about the useless thread selector knob, and my best guess from his response is that he plans to replace it. He is expressing impatience and a desire to get this over with. Imagine how much quicker it would have gone, had he sent me the right lathe and spent, oh, seven minutes inspecting it before shoving it out the door. But you can’t ask for the world.

Seriously, think about it. Until yesterday, I had no idea how this thing worked. But he’s upset because I haven’t taken it completely apart, checked every function, and discovered every single way in which he failed to live up to the bargain. Dude, I would have checked the power feed, thread indicator dial, thread selector lever, back gear, sliding gear shifter handle, and a ton of other things, IF I HAD HAD ANY IDEA HOW TO LOCATE AND OPERATE THEM. Maybe with your 9,000 years of experience, you could have taken a tiny fraction of the time it takes me, looked the lathe over, and fixed it up.

While I was waiting for this thing, he said something about how it was going to be cleaned and checked over. I am not sure how you can clean something and leave a thick layer of ostensibly undisturbed crud all over it, but some people have gifts I lack. Maybe he means he hit it with the leaf blower, Carl Spackler style. As for checking it, the nonfunctioning thread selector knob would appear to indicate that the check consisted of driving by and glancing at it through a car window.

This is the same guy who sent me three “new” micrometers which were completely petrified. He didn’t even open the box and give the thimbles a turn. Just FOOMP! Into the box and onto the pallet. NEXT!

If there’s one thing a customer loves, it’s a vendor who causes terrible problems and then complains that the customer hasn’t fixed them fast enough.

In brighter news, I haven’t found anything else that really scares me. I got up my nerve and opened the headstock up. The lid on that thing is machined cast iron, even though stamped steel would do fine. It probably weighs 12 pounds. I took it off and looked in there and saw…1974. That’s the year the lathe was made. I traveled back in time. If I had been wearing long pants, they would have instantly gotten three inches wider at the ankle.

The inside of the cast metal headstock was brown; I suppose they get that way before they leave the factory. I may be wrong; cast iron rusts really fast. But the steel parts–the gears and shafts and pinions–looked almost as if they had just been made. They glistened and winked above a pool of fragrant oil, as if they had no idea it was 2009.

So it looks like there is nothing wrong with the guts of the machine. Only those parts that have been subjected to the ignorance of prisoners are beaten up.

I had the speed set pretty slow, so I figured it was safe to turn it on and see if it had splash lubrication. It did. And it splashes real good, even at low speeds. I had to jump out of the way to avoid getting a nice stripe of oil down the front of my clothes. The biggest gear caught it and sprayed it vertically into the air.

I tried to lubricate the lathe. I got out my new grease gun and loaded it up and went to work. And it looks like I shot grease into two fittings intended for oil. Oh, well. Two of the big gears outside the headstock had fittings, and I misunderstood the manual, and there you go. I couldn’t get them apart to the point where I could scrape the grease out, so I left it in there. Hopefully the lathe won’t explode right away.

I oiled all the other bits as well as I could, and I used solvent to get the crusty grease off the ways and other moving parts. You wouldn’t believe the difference it makes. The grime the seller left on this thing as about as slippery as cold peanut butter mixed with molasses, so when I tried to move the tailstock, for example, it required a good shove. Now everything slides all happy-like. And some of the noise has disappeared. I’m starting to see how this could turn out to be a good machine instead of a nightmare.

I may have to take the carriage off. There’s a little clamp that fell off, and even though a simple bolt holds it on, it’s a bear to hold in place while you attach the bolt. I’d like to apologize to the seller for letting that clamp fall off! I’m so sorry I didn’t see that he left it loose, causing it to drop as the lathe was put in place in the garage. That was irresponsible of me.

I sure hope there were no problems with my money, which has been in his bank account for over three weeks. I sure hope it wasn’t the wrong size, and that it wasn’t defective.

This gives me more confidence about buying a mill. It shouldn’t. But it does. This only worked out by God’s grace, and I was an idiot for trusting this guy. But somehow it gives me hope that I’ll be able to get this stuff done.

Up the River Without a Paddle

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

God Bless the Bureaucrats

I got absolutely nothing done today, with regard to the lathe. I had to go with my father to bring his boat home from the yard. The bridge Nazis have decided Miami’s Brickell Avenue bridge will now open and close based on random readings from a plethysmograph attached to the bridgetender’s goiter, so the big signs on the side of the bridge, which used to have some relationship to the bridge schedule, are now purely ornamental. The signs say the bridge stays down between 4:30 and 6:00 p.m., so it should open on demand before 4:30, but at 3:05, the genius in the tower told us she felt like having an opening at 3:30, so we had to wait. While she watched Oprah. I guess.

I sat there on the flybridge trying to figure out what the purpose of the bizarre new policy was. Then it hit me: I’ll bet it’s GREEN. It takes a lot of juice to open a drawbridge. I’ll bet some pea-brain in the city government decided to save forty dollars a week by holding up traffic.

Of course, you have to use your boat’s motors to fight the current and wind while you sit there waiting, and if you add up all the boats that get stuck, that takes more energy than the policy saves. And then there’s the obvious cost in lost man-hours. The Miami River is very important to commercial boat traffic, and they need to get in and out in a timely manner. So the green hypothesis doesn’t make any sense at all.

That’s why it’s probably true. None of this green crap is correct. “Recycled” newspapers go to the dump. There is no such thing as global warming. “Green” jobs kill regular jobs. It’s all a feel-good fantasy.

I guess I shouldn’t be this irritated about something I merely guessed at.

I’m rooting around on Google, and it looks like the Coast Guard is in charge of the bridges. That explains everything. The Coast Guard dances for the Obamessiah, so maybe some of his “progressive” foolishness has trickled down and infected the bridge schedule.

I took the side cover off the lathe and looked the gears over. I can’t see anything missing. The lathe was going “tonk tonk tonk” when it ran, and someone told me it could be a missing gear tooth, so I had to look. It turns out the lathe only makes this sound with the chuck attached. I’m thinking maybe some filth between the spindle and chuck kept it from seating tightly, so it rocks a little and makes noise. Or there could be a loose part in the chuck. Or I don’t know how to seat the chuck. I used the spanner wrench that came with the lathe, but I was only guessing.

The chuck spins on, so you have to wonder what happens when you use the lathe in the direction that unspins the chuck. It has to be fun when that hunk of steel flies off at 1800 RPM with a workpiece attached to it. It weighs maybe 30 pounds. My guess is that a smart lathe operator never operates the lathe in this mode unless held at gunpoint. Or because his federal-employee boss tells him Obama Almighty says counterclockwise is green and diverse.

Is this bad engineering at its worst, or is there some way to lock the chuck on the spindle? I’ll try to find out.

I think the bearings on the motor shafts may be giving out. Something down there doesn’t sound healthy. I assume they’re reasonably cheap, since they’re on the cheap side of the drive train. The precision stuff is up top. I’ll look them over when I replace the motor. I’ll bet it’s some kind of standard bearing you can buy from MSC.

While I was at the boatyard, I asked the owner if he knew of anyone up there who had bits of appetizing scrap suitable for scrounging by a metalworking hobbyist. He told me to leave my number with the receptionist. I don’t know what types of round stock they use, except for aluminum tubing. Propeller shops make a lot of custom shafts from stainless, so they have to end up with lots of short scraps, but this yard doesn’t do that type of work. I think Miami Propeller is the only place around here.

There are a lot of stainless “Aquamet” scraps on Ebay. I have a hunch that’s propeller-shaft material. It sure sounds like it. “Aqua.” I looked this stuff up on the web, and it sounds like fine metal. Maybe I could make interesting kitchen tools from it.

I once threw out a four-foot long, three-inch thick shaft stub. I feel pretty bad about that now. But you can’t keep crap like that lying around, on the assumption that one day you might go insane and buy a lathe.

I’m pooped and the birds are squawking. I better deal with them.

One Fun Way Microsoft Cripples Your PC

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

No Wonder Apple is Doing Well

My computer has been driving me nuts. It used to boot in 30 seconds, and now it takes all day. I found one of the reasons, and I thought I’d share it with you.

Windows XP has a feature called “search indexing” or something similar. It makes your computer root through its hard drive all day, looking for stuff and recording in it in order to make searches faster.

I am finally ready to assert, without reservation, that Microsoft’s people are hopelessly incompetent. I used to think the bizarre problems with their products had to be justified by considerations lay people can’t understand, but that’s not true. These people are just second-rate. The search thing is proof. No one in his right mind would put a thing like this in an operating system. How many times per week do you search your computer? I probably do it twice. If it’s slow, I don’t care. What I do care about is having my CPU run at 99% for half an hour, slowing everything to a crawl, so searches will be faster. It’s just plain stupid. You don’t have to be a computer whiz to realize how dumb this is. It’s like paying a maid to dust your entire house five times a day. The benefit can’t begin to measure up to the cost.

The thing that really used to make me question their ability was the unbelievably bad and unreliable networking software, coupled with help files so weak it is completely pointless to try to use them. But this is even dumber. It’s like something GM or Chrysler would do. The people at Apple are bumblers of the first order, but they can’t top this.

Well, maybe they can. I’m sure an angry Mac user will chime in. They exist. The Kool-Aid doesn’t work on everyone.

If you open the “Run” window and type “services.msc” and hit the Enter key, you’ll get a long list of things your computer does without asking you. Go down to the search indexing entry, stop it, and disable it. Your computer will run like Bill Gates chasing somebody else’s money.

I wish I had Windows 3.1. It was much better.

I Turned a Lathe On

Monday, April 27th, 2009

For Fifty Cents You May Touch my Finger

The boatyard trip did not pan out, so I fiddled with the lathe. It’s actually running.

I know you’re amazed that I installed and programmed a VFD and got the lathe running so fast. I would be amazed, too. If that were true. But it isn’t. The lathe story has more kinks and turns than an Obama campaign promise.

The seller sold me a Clausing 5914. The photo he showed me was actually a 5936. The differences? The 5936 has no clutch, a smaller motor, and no variable speed drive. There is one more difference, which I’ll get to in a minute.

The lathe arrived, and I complained, and this guy insists I got a better lathe than the one I wanted, which may be true, but I spent money on a bigger VFD than I needed (sort of; you’ll understand in a minute), which cost me a lot of money. The seller will not take it back unless I pay shipping. He’s completely wrong on the law, but if this lathe can be made to do what I want, it would be a waste of time and money to take him to court.

I got the VFD out today and started reading the manual. The box had a sticker that said I couldn’t return the VFD if it had been opened. Fine. I had to open it, right? So I started reading up on it, and then I went to look at the lathe’s wiring and motor. I had to find out what size the motor really was; I had been hearing 1 HP and 1 1/2 HP. You need this information to make the VFD work.

I located the motor’s plate, and I removed a panel covering it, and I cleaned the grime off the plate, and lo and behold, it was a 1-phase motor. I am not kidding. You can’t use a VFD with this kind of motor. So instead of spending $125 more for a bigger VFD, I had spent $350 for a VFD I couldn’t use at all. Which is a lot worse.

The seller had offered to send a 2 HP motor for nothing. This was back when I was complaining to him about the small motor. We both thought everything was three-phase at that time. I emailed the seller today and told him to go ahead and ship it. His explanation for the 1-phase motor was that they had replaced the 3-phase job and wired the new 1-phase motor up so it would work with a 3-phase plug and socket. I figured I had a really worn-out lathe, because three-phase motors are very tough, and this lathe had buried one.

I emailed the seller again and suggested I return the lathe and we split the cost of shipping, since it wasn’t much more than what he would have to spend to make this right. He wasn’t having any of that. He claims he received the email after he shipped the motor, but I wouldn’t believe him if he said Barney Frank loved show tunes.

In the midst of all this, I emailed the manufacturer. They got right back to me. Guess what kind of motor this lathe originally shipped with? SINGLE-PHASE. I think you know what that means. This is the original motor. So I got this guy to send me a bigger three-phase motor, on the theory that the old motor had been replaced, when the lathe was actually stock.

Am I going to tell him? Of course not. He promised me a lathe with a 2 HP 3-phase motor, and I am entitled to it. I’ll keep the extra motor and see if I can use it on a mill or a bench grinder or something. Or I’ll sell it. From what I’ve seen so far, I don’t know that this seller would be honest enough to admit that I’m entitled to the motor, so I’m not planning to help him find out it’s not what the lathe came with. For all I know, he’d get on the horn to UPS and beg them to bring it back to him. At this point, if he shipped me a gold Rolex by mistake, I’d sell it, make the deal right, and send him a nice note and the excess money. Minus the price of half a dozen expensive bird toys.

I think the odds that he reads this blog are about like the odds that I’m going to get a refund, so I’m not afraid to say this stuff here.

I tried to measure the runout on the spindle, and if the indicator is right, it’s very low, so I am hoping the lathe isn’t a basket case.

I don’t know where I’m going to get a four-conductor cord or a plug for the new motor, but it looks like I don’t have to worry about that right away.

Okay, I’m stupid. I don’t need a four-conductor cord, do I? The power to the VFD will be single-phase.

I’m turning into a real Fred Sanford/Tim Taylor. When I realized the existing cord was too short, I walked across the garage to the unnecessary forty-foot length of 50-amp 3-conductor cord I bought for my welder, sliced off a piece, put a Home Depot plug on it, and hooked it up. I actually have things like that lying around. Well, I didn’t have the plug. I had a receptacle, for some reason. I had it half wired up before I realized it was a receptacle and had to get in the car. Still, I think I’m pretty amazing. I had my cable cutters and Ideal wire strippers right there at hand. And I bought my first grease gun today.

Please don’t feel inferior.

I can tell I’m going to be a great machinist, because I have already nearly thrown a heavy workpiece across the garage (I dove for cover while the lathe spun down), and I also left the key in the chuck once. I didn’t turn the lathe on, but the sight of the key still in the chuck was enough to put the fear of God in me. And I turned the back gear on without disengaging the direct-drive thing, which didn’t make the drive belt very happy.

Time to eat some Costco chicken.

What to do When You Run Out of Bible

Monday, April 27th, 2009

The Book of Jasher

Can’t write too much. My dad’s boat is in the yard, and I have to get up and go to the boatyard with him so we can run it back to the marina. It had oysters on the hull when we took it in. Oysters! I can’t convince him bottom paint isn’t permanent.

Mish Weiss is not enjoying radiation treatment, and some of her blood counts are not good. Keep her in your prayers.

Yesterday I read a big chunk of the book of Jasher. This is an old document which is supposedly a sort of companion to the Torah. Some people claim it’s a forgery, but I believe there are references to it in the Bible. After reading it, I have a very hard time believing it’s not genuine. It’s a long book, and it’s loaded with obscure details and “begots” and so on, and it seems very consistent with the style and message of the Bible. It’s not considered part of the canon, however, so I guess you have to be careful with it.

It’s full of fascinating stuff. For example, it describes the “images” Rachel stole from Laban. It says people used to kill firstborn males and preserve their heads, and they put metal tablets with “the name” inscribed on them under the tongues of the heads. Then they consulted the heads and asked them things, and the heads spoke. Creepy, to say the least. It says an image belonging to someone Laban knew (“Can I borrow your severed head for a minute?”) told Laban where Jacob went when he fled.

The Jews have a lot of stories about the power of “the name,” meaning the true name of God. Supposedly a person who knows it can work wonders, not all of them good. The Torah says something about testing an accused adulteress by making her a drink containing the dissolved name of God. If she’s innocent, no problem, but if not, she gets a disgusting disease reminiscent of the worst types of VD. Maybe Aaron will chime in on the subject.

I hate to say this, but it reminds me of the Coca-Cola formula. Supposedly only two people know it, and they’re not allowed to fly together.

Am I the only one who prefers the term “VD” to the more modern “STD”? It’s amazing how we’re rearranging the language to keep morality out of it. In the past, “whores” used to get “the pox” and “the clap.” Now “sex workers” get “STDs.” Calling it something clean-sounding doesn’t make it morally equivalent to an earache.

Prostitution isn’t “sex work.” It’s a degrading, sinful, disgusting, depraved lifestyle that leads to disease, drug addiction, self-hatred, social isolation, and early death. I guess those are “sexually transmitted adverse results.”

Some books that are not universally recognized as scripture seem silly when you read them, and it’s easy to dismiss them as bogus. For example, it’s hard to take the story of Bel and the Dragon seriously. The style doesn’t match the book of Daniel, and the story is a little cartoonish. But so far, the book of Jasher seems convincing.

I better go put my shoes on.


A book called Tree of Souls says the name mentioned in the story of the “images” was the name of a foul spirit, not God. In another place it says “spirits,” plural, and that incantations were also written on the object put in the head’s mouth.

More Lathe Fun

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Never Pay by Check

My lathe troubles have abated to some extent.

I ordered a Clausing 5914 lathe from an out of state dealer. Every piece of email correspondence from the order onward had “Clausing 5914″ in it, as did the invoice. A Clausing 5936 is what I ended up with. It’s basically the same lathe, but it’s my understanding that it has a 1 HP motor instead of 2 HP, and it has step pulleys instead of a vari-speed drive. I spent $125 more than I had to on the VFD, because I didn’t know I was receiving a smaller motor.

The seller claims I knew I was getting a 5936 because he sent me a photo of the lathe. The photo doesn’t show the model number, and I wasn’t able to tell the difference between these two models by looking at a photo. It’s hard to see how he could be telling the truth, unless he has some kind of problem with his mind or his memory. He has health issues; maybe they interfere with his ability to keep up with orders.

He says this is a better lathe. Maybe that’s true, but it sure looks like he knew I wanted a 5914. He cut $400 off the price without telling me; the 5936 was more expensive, and I sent a check for the price of the 5914, and he never said anything about it.

I can go to small claims court and win. He’s subject to Florida jurisdiction because of his website. But suing people unnecessarily is not compatible with my beliefs. I believe God is real, and he makes things right better than any court could. I wouldn’t buy anything from this guy again, but I’m not planning to go on a crusade to get even. I would like to part with him on friendly terms and get on with my life.

Maybe he seriously believed what he did was ethical, and maybe I ended up getting something better than what I ordered, but this is not acceptable business practice. If this had happened with Grizzly, they would have sent a truck, picked up the machine, apologized profusely, and either refunded all my money or supplied a new machine. No expense to me.

He’s offering a replacement motor and a replacement for the broken casting. I should take him up on those.

I also bought a set of micrometers from him. They’re NSK carbide mikes. I got a set of 3, 0″-3”, new old stock. But they’re very old. The grease inside them has hardened into varnish, and only one of them is usable. I tried Kroil on the two frozen mikes, but so far, no luck. He says he’ll take them back. That’s good, but I wish they had worked. They would have been a great deal. I paid $45.

I’m trying to find other micrometers. It looks like I found something interesting. There is a company called Scherr that makes good measuring tools, and they don’t get the same prices big names get. I found some nice new Scherr micrometers on Ebay. I may get them to replace the NSKs. The biggest one is a left-hand mike. I’m not sure what difference that makes. I assume it means it’s a mirror opposite of a right-hand mike. Surely I can use a mike just as well with my left hand. I’ll end up paying twice as much, but these are better tools, and they may actually work.

I’ve been trying to get the grease off the lathe. I know a machine tool will always have a certain amount of grime on it, but I want it clean enough so I can touch it without blackening my hands and clothes. It has something resembling congealed cosmoline on it. Denatured alcohol seems to take it off.

The chuck is not great. It has one-piece jaws, and it’s not adjustable. I was going to see if the seller had any nice used chucks for the lathe, but I think you can guess what happened to that plan. God only knows what he would send me.

I’m somewhat discouraged, because I trusted this man’s reputation, and things went poorly. I’ve been talking to another dealer with a good reputation, about a couple of old milling machines, but now I wonder if a good reputation is worth anything. Everybody I checked said the lathe seller was a saint.

Caveat emptor. Every deal can’t be a good experience.

Wrong Lathe!

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Life Can’t be Simple

Here’s weird news. The lathe I just received isn’t the one I ordered. The seller had two for sale; one was a Clausing 5914 with variable speed drive, and the other was a 5936 with step pulleys. For some reason, the step pulley model was more expensive. I paid the lower price, and I received the wrong lathe.

Now I can’t figure out what to do. This thing may be better than the other one for all I know. I emailed the seller.


Here’s what someone says about this lathe on Practical Machinist:

The 5936 doesn’t have the Vari-speed, but more importantly doesn’t have the traveling clutch/brake. The metric change gear sets sell for $750 – $1,000, but remember that you can’t cut imperial threads with the metric gearset installed, and the metric banjo doesn’t have the high/low compound gear selector, so you have half the number of change gears available.


More fun information: it has a 1 HP motor, and I just received an expensive 3 HP VFD which I can’t return without paying a restocking fee.

New Old Lathe Arrives

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Tower of Pallets Yields Monstrous Machine

The lathe is here! The Rodeway truck arrived while I was trying to eat breakfast.

The palleting was terrifying. Like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. The seller put a pretty lame pallet under the lathe, and the Rodeway guy stuck a second pallet under one side of the first pallet, and when the lathe got here, it was wobbling around like one of those weighted Bozo punching bags.



It looks like I won’t be renting an engine hoist. The Rodeway guy kindly removed the lathe from the palleting and put it within inches of its final destination. He scared the crap out of me, rocking the lathe around and yanking things out from under it. On more than one occasion, it started to fall toward him–all 1000+ pounds of it–and he reached out and steadied it with his hand. I would have been fifty feet down the driveway before it hit the ground.

The minute he offered to get rid of the wood, I started calculating his tip. And every time he nearly got killed, the figure went up. I was terrified the whole time. I can’t believe it didn’t fall on its face.

It managed to hit the wall once, with the corner of the chip pan. But everything is okay.


I can’t say it’s in the condition I anticipated. It has obviously been used a good deal; there is wear around the spindle. There’s a big piece missing from the base of the headstock. But I have no reason to think it isn’t in good functioning condition. I couldn’t find any signs of wear on the ways, although they’re hardened, so I probably shouldn’t have expected to see wear.

I also ordered a set of new NSK mikes with it. It’s very odd. The box is beat-up on the outside, but the mikes are still packed in greasy bags. It’s as if someone had a bunch of boxes in a warehouse and forgot about them. I also got a test indicator. I was expecting some magnetic bases, but they’re not here.

Later today the VFD should arrive. Then I have to figure out how this thing works.

I had him leave it about fifteen inches from the wall, so I could get behind it to fix it up. Once I think I’m in the clear, I’ll back it up to where I can get my car in the garage. Believe it or not, it’s possible to scoot it short distances without too much effort, and without danger of tipping it over.

I guess there will be no need to bolt it down. But I should look into some decent feet for it, because I’ll have to level it before long.

It doesn’t take up as much room as I had thought. That’s a blessing. I guess I chose the right size.

Time to go sit quietly and be amazed at the crazy thing I’ve done.

Finally, an Internet Poll That Makes Sense

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Freep at Will

I can’t believe the lathe is arriving today. I can’t believe I did this. I have absolutely nothing on hand to put in the chuck! I got sidetracked by an idiotic lawsuit, and I’m also lazy. But I guess getting the lathe set up and getting the VFD attached will be more than enough work for one day.

Somebody sent me a link to an MSNBC poll this morning. The poll is about Ob*ma’s first 100 days, during which he has managed to outspend all of his predecessors, insure a socialist future, nationalize a big chunk of our banking industry, and assume partial control of our doomed automakers. I am trying to think of something worse he could do, but I’m drawing a blank. Oh, I forgot this: he plans to respond to increasing belligerence and military spending in Russia and China by gutting our armed services and killing the missile shield, and he’s not doing anything to counter Chinese infiltration of our computer systems and the onboard electronics of our military planes. And he’s hostile to Israel, as demonstrated by his refusal to meet with Netanyahu without formal notice and his Secretary of State’s unbelievable remarks about Iran.

Great President.

As usual, both sides are trying to Freep the poll. I voted twice already, in five minutes. This is much like Wizbang’s silly award polls. I made a few people mad a few years back by pointing out that there were no safeguards against multiple votes, and I was criticized roundly for not being a good do-bee and all-around team player. I’m not sure why I was obligated to muzzle myself to help someone else’s completely self-serving efforts to publicize his blog, but there you go. MSNBC is apparently a few years behind Wizbang, when it comes to Freep-proofing their polls. They don’t even check your IP. I voted once in Firefox and once in Explorer. I would guess that if I cleared my cookies, I could vote over and over, all day.

Go vote if you want. It’s fun, even if it serves no purpose whatsoever.

I just voted again. I restarted Internet Explorer, and the vote buttons came up. Can’t seem to vote a fourth time, though. How can anyone be sufficiently unenlightened to believe in Internet polls in 2009?

Here’s a new Internet poll.

pollcode.com free polls
How stupid do you have to be not to realize that Internet polls don’t work?
Stupid as a bag of rocks Stupid as a bag of rocks with a learning disability Stupid enough to think socialism needs another chance So stupid you think machine guns are semi-automatic So stupid you think George Bush bombed the World Trade Center in order to increase global warming   

I better have some oatmeal and get ready for the lathe.

That Kitty’s Dynamite!

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

And we Don’t Even Have the Holy Hand Grenade

Mish Weiss has been treated with steroids. I don’t really understand it. I think they help her maintain her appetite.

Once or twice, she has freaked out and started throwing things. This is supposedly related to the steroids, although that could just be her cover story. Since then, others have compared her to the Hulk.

Mish also likes Pop Tarts a whole lot, although that is not really related to steroids. Today someone sent her this photo:


I didn’t think it captured the Mish I knew, so I fixed it up. And you can see it here.

While you’re there, say hi to Mish.

Cat Pee!

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

No One is Safe

For several days, I’ve been noticing that my car smells like cat pee. It has been driving me crazy, because I park indoors at night. You don’t expect cat pee smell to get on a car that stays garaged.

Virtually all cats, nearly all homes where cats live, and even some cat owners smell like cat pee. It is not something I enjoy, and since I don’t have a cat, I never expected it to be a problem.

Today I went out to the car, and I saw a bunch of fibers on the roof. I thought they were from a tree or something, but I don’t park under a tree. Then it hit me: CAT HAIR. Somebody’s mangy cat has been sleeping on my car’s roof, so now the car stinks. Can you believe that?

I left the car outside a couple of times last week, and I guess I’m paying the price.

Guest Arrives Shortly

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Help me With the Accommodations

Today I have a challenge. I have to figure out how to take this off a skid and turn it and put it up against a garage wall. It arrives tomorrow.


We are looking at about a thousand pounds here. I can’t lift it by the chip pan; it has to be moved using forks under the bed or some kind of strap.

A while back, I unexpectedly received an enormous used Genie Superlift, but it’s not well suited to this job. It only lifts 650 pounds, so picking up the entire lathe is not an option. And it would be awkward.

People have recommended a rented cherry-picker. That seems like the way to go. The manual has information on how to pick the lathe up, so I can probably rig a strap on the hoist and back the lathe against the wall.

I’ll have to run over to the rental place in a while and yammer at them.

People have recommended putting pipes under the lathe and using them as rollers. That would work, but it would still be tough getting the pallet out from under the lathe. One really pathetic solution some people use is to leave their machine tools on pallets. I really don’t want a giant motorized object rocking around on a bouncy wooden platform, waiting to fall over and crush me.

Maybe I should invest in a couple of HTC mobile bases; one for each end. I put one on my 700-pound table saw, and it works perfectly. But the lathe has leveling tabs that might cause problems.

And Jeff, I am not buying a forklift, so don’t even say it!

Leo will still tell me to get a Bobcat, however.