Archive for January, 2012

Welcome to the Garage of Blues

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Festival Seating

Let’s see if I can recap all the stuff that has gone on since my last post.

I’m ramping up the machining. I quit for a long time. My milling machine was acting up, and I was irritated because the lathe I blew a pile of cash on turned out to be incapable of cutting metric threads. Now I’m back. I’ve been writing about this.

I’m trying to choose a new lathe. The old Clausing I bought doesn’t cut the mustard. No metric threads, overpriced and rare tooling…I’m done.

I’ve been looking at all sorts of stuff. The most appealing new machine is the Grizzly G0509G gunsmith lathe. It’s a 16 x 40 with a 2″ bore, so it would be a long time before I came up with a project that wouldn’t fit on it. It has higher tolerances than other Chinese Grizzlys. It has NSK bearings, not the La Choy or Joyce Chen or whatever brand that goes in most Grizzlys.It cuts a million different threads. It has a short headstock suitable for gunsmithing. Everyone loves it. It’s a good safe bet.

Still, I am considering older machines, provided they’re in really good shape.

This week I found a Mori Seiki on Craigslist for $3800. I was stunned. It’s not far away. I emailed the owner the same day the ad appeared, and naturally, I haven’t heard a peep. Very annoying. I assume some dealer pounced on it as he was typing up the ad. I’ll probably see it listed at AM Metalmaq in Hialeah, for $15,000. They always have astronomical prices.

The Mori Seiki is 17″ by something. I don’t know what. It’s an MS-1250G. If it’s in good shape, it will last longer than I will. The headstock is long, so it’s not ideal for gunsmithing. But it’s real quality, and if the bed isn’t too long, it will fit in the garage.

Same guy is selling a Webb lathe and a Webb mill. He has good taste.

I finally got an air dryer for the compressor. I wanted one that would do at least 20 CFM, and I was scared of the Chinese ones on Ebay. Some guy listed an Arrow Pneumatic 20 CFM dryer on Ebay, NIB, for $410. That’s an acceptable price as-is. New, a dryer with this capacity costs well over a thousand dollars. Even an Eaton would be a four-figure buy.

The seller insisted on using freight, which is expensive. I couldn’t get him to respond to messages about using UPS instead. This is a very small machine; freight is overkill. He wanted $155 to ship it. I got disgusted and made a lowball offer, subtracting the difference between freight and UPS. Surprisingly, he jumped on it, and when the freight bill came, it was $120. I would have been happy to pay the asking price. So because he didn’t feel like answering my messages, he ate a big loss and gave it to some freight company.

This will allow me to use the compressor the way it should be used. I don’t like to use the plasma cutter because of the water problem. It also discourages me from painting and blasting. I had checked into cheap inline dryers, but they seemed like the chintzy, problem-filled approach, so I let the whole business drop. I have seen okay deals on used refrigerated units, but most of them are huge, and they run on 220, and I just didn’t want to get involved in any more giant, worn-out machinery.

Hopefully, next week, I’ll be firing the new one up.

I am working on a 304 stainless garlic press on the lathe. This metal is supposed to be a pain to machine, but it’s working almost as easily as aluminum. Go figure. The press is basically a piston with holes to let the garlic out. As far as I know, it is literally impossible to buy a decent garlic press made in a factory. The steel ones are wimpy. The pot metal ones snap. The aluminum ones stain the food. I’ve had enough.

I was working on the bore the other day when the lathe went nuts. It started making horrible noises, and I shut it down. The motor belt had come apart.

When I looked it over, I found that I had mounted the motor so that the motor pulley and the speed-change pulley between the motor and spindle pulley were not in the same plane. They were way off. I have no idea how I managed to do something this stupid. When I was installing the new motor, I must have taken a break and forgotten that it needed to be shifted. The setscrew in the pulley had come loose, possibly from vibration caused by the belt problem, and it had slid halfway off the motor shaft.

I had to buy a new belt, pound the pulley back into place, set the screw, and install the belt. To install the belt, I had to take the speed-change pulley off its bearings so I could slip the belt over it. What a nightmare. I was covered in grease. I shifted the motor and got everything put back together. Then someone told me I could have bought a linked belt which came apart and could be installed without removing anything.


Anyway, the lathe runs more smoothly now, and I feel like an idiot.

I’m working on a follow rest. I needed to make an angled cut on the aluminum block it’s made from, and I realized the only way to do it was to use my rotary table. Then I discovered a new problem. The clamping set for my mill doesn’t fit the rotab. It’s too big. And I really don’t like lifting the 120-pound rotab from the floor to the mill for little jobs. I decided to add a third rotab to my collection. I wanted a 6″ job, but for reasons known only to Enco, the 8″ ones are cheaper, so I got myself one, and it’s ready to be put to work.

I also got lathe dogs, radius gages (“gauges”?) and telescoping gages/gauges/whatever. Little stuff like this can really slow you down when you don’t have it.

The garage is turning out to be a gift from God. I used to call it the Disco Garage because it had a TV and Stereo. Now that I’ve opened it up and organized it to some degree, adding an old MP3 player with hundreds of CDs, I’ve rechristened it the Garage of Blues.

I ordered two hideous camo backpack chairs from Amazon. They discounted them heavily because no one would buy them. When they arrived, I found that the seats were about ten inches off the ground. I couldn’t send them back, because the shipping cost more than the chairs. I thought it was a terrible buy, but I put them in the garage, and now I love them. I turn down the lights, open a Coke, put on Freddie King, and drift off into a state of total bliss. I really can’t describe the peace I feel out there. There is something about the smell of concrete and tools and oil that does things to a man. It’s better than Valium. I assume. I don’t know much about Valium.

I stuck my creaky old laptop out there, and I have it on wireless. Now I can listen to the blues, machine off and on, and post crap to Facebook without leaving the garage. It’s paradise.

Here’s a photo. I guess it can’t capture the ambience, but seriously, I sit out there thanking God over and over.

Speaking of God, I saw Perry Stone on TBN this week. I can’t believe they let him host their show. TBN is largely about money and ego, and Perry Stone is starting to be highly critical of the hairspray-and-Mercedes crowd. He is saying the same things I keep saying to my friends. This week he had Paul Zink and Damon Thomas on his show, and they started saying the same stuff! They FLOGGED the moneychangers. It was glorious. It showed me that the things I’ve been saying really do come from God.

Damon Thomas said we use the term “megachurch” to describe a place that’s full of people (and therefore tithe money and glory for preachers), instead of focusing on the presence of the Holy Spirit. Perry Stone said we should be looking for the “mega-presence.” They laid into preachers who sit around and brag about attendance, and who spew comforting, politically correct, Dr. Phil-type garbage instead of introducing people to God. It was wonderful. I often tell people I know that we are hearing a lot of Dr. Phil nonsense, and Damon Thomas actually mentioned Dr. Phil, the same way I do! Amazing.

My church goes way overboard on the self-help stupidity, and we have become obsessed with filling seats and getting tithes and offerings. We talk very little about supernatural things, even though we’re charismatic. We bring idiots in, and they teach an inferior version of the self-help that’s available from secular sources. We bring Steve Munsey in, and he teaches his ridiculous lies about the Seven Blessings of This or That Jewish Holiday, and we put up with it because when people hear it, they give money. It still amazes me that no one has called him out on his bogus claim that all the Jews in Israel went to Jerusalem on Yom Kippur. Anyone who can work Google can prove that’s a lie. And any observant Jew can tell you there were no extravagant money offerings, except those people gave on their own initiative. The offerings were generally small, and God scaled them down for poor people.

Watching TBN, I felt ashamed for not being more outspoken. God put me here to be the salt of the earth, and although I am definitely saying enough to annoy people, I am not blunt enough. The salt is not having its intended effect. So I decided to say exactly what I think from now on, when it comes to things that happen in our church. We have been taught to condemn people who say anything critical, and it’s easy to get caught up in that. Legitimate godly criticism has been compared to gossip and grumbling. But it’s not. Find me a Biblical leader who sucked up and pleased men, and who never criticized. There is no such person. But there were plenty of bootlickers who earned God’s wrath.

Obviously, if we teach people to pray in the Spirit and walk by faith, they will receive success and healing and happiness, and that will draw people to the church. This other stuff is filth and ignorance. It’s misdirection. It will never work. I keep praying for God to change my church, and he’s going to do it. My faith tells me that. If I get on people’s nerves, good. I pay the church’s bills. It doesn’t pay mine. I’m not going to worry about the consequences.

We tell people to live by faith, but the church itself operates without faith, according to the world’s rules. That’s no good.

On Sunday, the church tried to get people to sign a pledge, swearing to tithe. Needless to say, I didn’t fool with that. Jesus and James told us not to swear. Anything beyond yes or no is from Satan. He sees the stupid oaths we swear, and he uses them as nooses to hang us. It’s amazing that churches and ministries can’t see the obvious hypocrisy of requiring Christians to swear.

I guess they would say a pledge isn’t an oath. That would be weaseling and hair-splitting. The dictionary equates swearing and oaths and pledges.

God continues taking care of me. He gives me things I will never deserve, and he withholds the bad things I do deserve. It has very little to do with being good. It’s a reward for faith, and even that faith came from him. Anyone can have this, but they will never find it as long as preachers lack the guts to teach them. Very sad. I wish Damon Thompson had a church down here.

What else is going on? I’m building a new guitar amp. A young friend from church is coming to the Garage of Blues tomorrow, and we’re starting work on a JTM45 clone. I can’t wait.

That’s about all I have today. If any of this sounds good to you, follow my example. Pray in tongues copiously every day, and try to communicate with God in private. This is the foundation of a successful life, and everything else grows from it.

Freedom for Student Loan Cosigners

Friday, January 20th, 2012


I have a wonderful tip for people who cosign student loans.

If you call and ask the loan people what they’ll settle for, they’ll offer a reduced principle payoff figure–around 10% off the number on the notices they send you–but they’ll tell you it goes on your credit report. That’s obviously a bad idea. Do not use the words “settle” or “settlement” when you contact the lender, because this is what they’ll try to foist off on you.

Here’s what you want: a cosigner RELEASE. Be sure you use that word.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. If you make them an offer they like–and this offer can be way lower than the settlement figure–they’ll execute a total release, and they won’t tell the credit bureaus. Try 50% of the principal and see what happens. You might save thousands. If you cosigned for a someone who has no character and no intention of paying, this may be the best way out.

Check it out, if you’re on the hook because you tried to do some fool a favor. It makes no sense whatsoever, but it works. You pay much less, your credit is unaffected, AND you can tell them to quit calling you and sending you letters. They’ll keep going after the debtor, but you’ll be in the clear.

Hope this helps somebody. It’s not legal advice; it’s just something I happened to learn.

More Machining Mysteries

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Even Solomon Couldn’t Sift Through This BS

I’m going to get rid of my annoying Clausing lathe. I was a moron to try to save pennies by buying an old lathe with no features. I want something that has a 2″ bore or bigger, and I want metric threads on tap (pun possibly intended) instead of having to perform major surgery on the lathe.

Every time I start to think I know a little bit about what I should buy, I hear a conflicting story.

When I was looking for my first lathe, I was told I had to buy “old iron.” American machine tools RULED, even when they were 300 years old and wouldn’t turn on! They were so BITCHIN’ compared to CHINESE JUNK, only a FOOL would buy anything else!

Then I bought my geriatric lathe, and I started hearing stuff like this:

It’s a cruel trick to witlessly seduce a noob into buying what was once a great machine tool that today is worn-out with broken and missing parts. For a year the poor sap will break his heart trying to get acceptable quality work from a machine that would challenge a machinist of 40 years experience. Then thoroughly dicouraged and thousands of dollars poorer he junks the lot and takes up a lesser vocation.

When a noob asks you a question and you respond from basis of experience you are undertaking a responsibility. I strongly suggest those of you with experience AND strong opinions, set aside your personal preferences and guide your protege into choices he can live with.

PM is a bit zealous on the old iron topic and many there recklessly propagandize the poor noob into believing the old worn-out American junk is superior to new, snug better quality Asian import machines. I delight in scotching their prejudices with personal experience, matching machine to task scenarios, and actual quantified data when appropiate. Tragic to say the noob has been misled in ALL machine shop message boards.

That comes from a guy named Forrest Addy, who is openly worshiped by machining-forum nerds. “PM” means the Practical Machinist forum.

Og said to go ahead and buy Chinese, but I thought the “old iron” people had a clue, so I wasted my money on the Clausing.

I’ve been looking around to see what’s available, and I’ve been thinking the Grizzly 16″ gunsmithing lathe might be a good move. It’s very cheap for this type of lathe, because it’s Chinese, but it’s hyped as having a bunch of special touches, and it looks like the hype has some ground under it. I spoke with a Grizzly tech, and he said the claims are true. It really does have special bearings and gears. It runs exceptionally smoothly. It’s a decent machine.

Shiraz Balolia, the president of Grizzly is a world-class marksman, and he had this lathe created because of his interest in gunsmithing. That’s actually true; it’s not just catalog puffery. It may look like other Chinese lathes, and it may be built in the same plant, but it has improved parts and tolerances. I find that credible, simply because I know how it is to get caught up in a fun project related to a hobby. Also, Balolia chose this lathe for his own use and kept it for a few years. As he has pointed out, he can have any lathe he wants. And you can download the specs and sample measurements from Grizzly.

While I was researching this, a very experienced machinist suggested a different lathe. It costs $2950, which is extremely low for an American 16″ lathe, and it has a sliding gap, which is the only kind of gap which can be used without messing up the lathe. Removable gaps can’t be reinserted accurately without major work or extraordinary luck. Funny how lathe makers don’t mention that in their ads. I found that out this week, so I no longer care whether I get a gap.

Here is the lathe he suggested:

That’s an ancient 16″ Leblond with a sliding gap. There are other photos. The ways are rusted. The compound is rusted even worse. There is so much rust on one of the screws, the surface appears to be eroded by maybe 1/16″. It has clearly been sitting in the rain for a good long time. But this machinist, who is respected by people I respect, said he would buy it sight unseen.

You can see why I’m puzzled. It looks like scrap iron to me. Does the motor run? Is the saddle frozen to the ways? Does it have .125″ of way wear near the spindle? Who knows? I wouldn’t go near it. But if a really good machinist says he’d buy it, who am I to discount his opinion?

I’m not going to buy a piece of junk like that. No way. But you can see how it would be hard to make it fit into my understanding of machine tools. And it makes you wonder: if something that abused and worn can be considered a good buy, what does a REAL junker look like?

I’m learning more about the machining itself. It’s pretty irritating, but it’s better than living in ignorance. Here’s an example.

There are lots of DVD teachers out there, and they give the following procedure for chucking round things in 4-jaw chucks. Stick the work in the chuck. Tighten it. Put an indicator on the part. Turn the part by hand and adjust the jaws one at a time until the runout goes away.

The old guy who suggested the Leblond says that’s wrong. If you do that, it will be okay where the indicator touches it, but farther out, it will be out of whack. So you have to wrap the base of the part in a soft sheet of metal, like copper, and…I don’t really understand this…chuck the sheet and part (chuck jaws touching sheet) and bang around on it until you get perfect alignment all the way down.

I’ve seen lots of people talk about 4-jaw chucks, and this was news to me.

I’ve also learned that you can tram a lathe using a precision angle block. This is just a precisely ground hunk of metal with two perpendicular sides. You put it on the table, put the extended quill against it, and adjust one axis until there is no light between the quill and angle block. Then you do the other side. Takes two minutes. Do this, and you’re accurate to within half a thousandth over six inches. You may want better accuracy for fly-cutting, but for 95% of what you do, this will cut the mustard, and it gives you the freedom to move your mill’s head whenever you feel like it.

The blocks are cheap on Ebay. I found a new one for $60, delivered. This should be a great help, and I can also use it on my table saw, drill press, and band saw.

I’m learning that you can always make machining easier or harder than it already is. There is no end to this stuff.

Yesterday I tried to open up the opening of the follow rest I’m making. I had a tough time trying to find a way to clamp it. I couldn’t get it to fit in the vise with the V-blocks needed to hold it at a 45° angle, so I decided to try clamping it to the table, using parallels as spacers. This is as far as I got.

I finally realized I was reinventing the wheel in order to avoid lifting my 10″ rotary table from the floor to the mill. I decided to face the risk of an episode of incontinence, and I picked the 120-lb. table up and stuck it where it needed to go. Then I learned that my clamping stuff won’t work with it. The T-slots are narrower than my mill’s slots. So I had to get a whole new clamping kit, plus several additional T-nuts. That’s on the way from Grizzly. Also ordered some lathe dogs, finally. I don’t know why some lathe dogs cost $40 and others cost $3. They seem fairly primitive. I ordered the $3 kind, so I guess I’ll learn the answer.

I realized I needed a THIRD rotary table. The tiny 4″ one won’t hold a big part, and I really don’t want to lift the big one more often than I have to. I figured 6″ would do. I checked Ebay and the other sources. Used ones are getting hard to find. I was surprised. And Asian prices are creeping up. I’m glad I bought my other tables a long time ago.

Enco has an insane pricing structure. I checked 6″ tables, and it turned out 8″ tables were considerably cheaper, so I did what I had to do. Same company. Same quality. Go figure. This happens a lot at Enco.

I keep checking lathe prices. I don’t know if I’ll go with Grizzly, but whatever I do, I’ll know a whole lot more about lathes than I did last year.

I still think you have to be an idiot to buy old American machinery that isn’t like new. Last night I realized it perverts the whole business. You buy machine tools so you can make things from metal, but then you find you spend all your time wet-nursing a senile machine that deserves to go to its final reward. Machine repair is not machining. Two different things. You can buy a car from the junkyard and make it run, but most people just want to drive, right? Same idea.

I guess if you have 40 years of machining behind you, you can make any machine work. I don’t really know. I don’t know how you can take a lathe with .005″ of wear by the chuck and flat ways 10″ away and make a straight part 15″ long. It must be magic. I can’t do it.

Don’t buy a worn-out machine unless you or some helpful buddy who lives under a mile away is a complete machining wizard. That’s probably the bottom line.

I thank God for letting me do all this incredibly cool stuff. It amazes me that I get to do so many things I’ve dreamed of.

Mitt Romney, AKA “McCain II”

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

We Are Caught in a FAIL Loop

I have to wonder why Republicans chose the elephant–the animal that never forgets–as their symbol. We are the party that ALWAYS forgets.

Last time around, we nominated the most “electable” candidate. We knew he was electable because the press told us so! If you can’t trust liberals to tell you which candidate the conservative party should choose, who CAN you trust? They had to be right.

So we chose McCain. For all his good points, he was an old man women find unattractive, and that matters a lot in an election. He was perceived as crabby and mean. He was so liberal, conservatives could not get excited about him and get out in sufficient numbers to push him over the top. Somehow, though, he was still conservative enough for liberals and the brain-dead centrists to hate.

It was amazing, how McCain was transformed. He got himself nominated, and suddenly, he was an evil arch-conservative who wanted to pollute our air and water, freeze old people to death, kill puppies and kittens, and send flying monkeys out to kidnap little girls from Kansas.

The press assassinated him, and the astounding EKG flatliners in the middle of the electorate refused to swallow him. We turned down a distinguished war hero with unassailable credentials as an effective legislator, and we hired a fungible Chicago bagman who had worked 143 days in the Senate, after defeating a conservative Senate candidate most people believed to be psychotic.

Here we are again, four years down the road, and what have we learned? We’ve learned we need to DO IT AGAIN. It worked so well last time. Don’t touch the Bible-thumpers! Avoid anyone who grew up between the coasts! We need someone liberals will cross the aisle to vote for! We need another RINO!

So now people are telling us it’s a done deal: Romney will be the candidate.

Did I say “Romney”? I meant to use his new name: MCCAIN II.

Reagan taught us you don’t have to believe what the people believe, in order to be elected. What they really want is a bold thinker who will TELL them what they believe. Convince them you’re competent and sure of yourself, and you’ll win their hearts, which matter much more than their minds. This is why even Jews voted for Reagan.

We have no guts and no brains, so we’re rejecting this proven wisdom. We’re going to give craven cowardice a try! We’re like socialists. Just because we’ve failed over and over doesn’t mean our ideas don’t work. It’s not that what we do is stupid; it’s that we do it wrong.

Romney will never be President. I can’t predict the future, but that’s what experience and common sense tell me. No Democrat will vote for him. Centrists will be too stupid to see how he differs from Obama, so they won’t come out for him, unless Obama rapes someone on the White House lawn in November. Many conservatives won’t care for him enough to go out and vote for him. And we’ll be saddled with four more years of the Accidental President; the Ted Williams of politics. Chauncey Gardiner meets Zaphod Beeblebrox.

Bachmann could have won. Palin could have won. Santorum could win, if conservatives would make some effort to support him. He’s no Reagan, but he’s no Romney, either.

If you don’t think any of these people could win, consider Ron Paul. The man has a screw loose. He has the common sense of a crackhead on Sunday, when the scrap metal dealers are closed. It’s amazing that he was ever elected to ANYTHING, and the fact that he polls on third place is absolutely frightening. This is what happens when you have supporters who won’t give up. Paul is, and always will be, a fringe nut, but he has hordes of supporters who queer every poll and keep his name in play. They’re like a spotlight that shines on an ant, casting a shadow the size of a whale. If the Paulbots were behind Sarah Palin, she’d be in first place.

Thanks to his supporters, whose common sense is right up there with that of their leader, Ron Paul is the President for Life of the Internet. Thank God, that’s the only thing he’ll ever be President of.

He’s anti-Israel. He’s pro-“Palestinian.” He wants to withdraw from international politics to the point where we have no influence anywhere, as though saving aid dollars were somehow the key to prosperity and security. That’s great, if your country is situated inside a bell jar. Here on earth, not so much.

Wait until the “race war” newsletter comes back. It’s festering under wraps right now, because the press doesn’t want to shoot its wad at the wrong time. If he somehow got nominated, it would be revived in mid-summer, and we would hear about it through November, because it’s a very sound story, and it has legs. Nobody who warns people of an impending “race war” is ever going to be President, even if he weasels and blames it on a subordinate.

I keep praying for God to wipe out the Obama, Paul, Romney, and Gingrich campaigns. It’s hard to think of anyone I would not accept over these characters. Even Biden looks good. At least he’d be ineffective. As it is, the RNC should be paying him. He has done things for us no Republican could have done.

Now I suppose Paulbots will show up and troll. Proves my point. Where are the Sarahbots? Where are the Rickbots and Michelebots?

The GOP has absolutely no guts, and we deserve to lose. I didn’t think it was possible, but my faith in our incompetence is surging.

Sad Note

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Reader’s Loss

Please pray for long-time reader Bradford Kleeman. His mom was ill for a long time, and now she has passed away. I hope you’ll pray he finds God’s comfort and reassurance, and that he is strengthened in his walk.

The Nut Down the Street Still Wants More Tools

Monday, January 9th, 2012

No Reserve ‘Chute

The hunt for a better lathe continues.

This whole enterprise has me thinking about my first big power tool. About three years ago, I saw a used table saw on Craigslist. It was a Powermatic 66 set up for cutting Corian counters. It had the long Biesemeyer rails, and it came with about 16 expensive blades. Price: $500. That’s a good deal, even for an eleven-year old saw.

The problem was that it weighed about 600 pounds. I had nobody to help me move it, and my only “big” vehicle was my dad’s Ford Explorer.

Being crazy, I decided to go for it. I drove to Jupiter, Florida, early in the morning, and I met the owner at a storage facility. His business was dead, he had to get the saw out THAT DAY, and he was not going to let me check to see if it came apart for moving. And there was a surprise. When I had called about the saw, he had said something about helping me move it, but when I got there, he was wearing a back support, and he said I was on my own. I believe he was hoping I’d give up. He knew he had underpriced the saw.

Still being crazy, I gave him my $500 and got to work. He took off and said I should lock the unit when I left.

I had a Panasonic impact driver. This is a magnificent tool no one should be without. It turns just about any type of fastener easily, without stripping. I also had a socket set. I started removing screws and bolts.

I discarded the crummy plywood table he had put on the saw. That meant I just had to get the wings, rails, and motor off, to make the saw light enough to move. I got it dismantled, and then I wondered…how was I going to shove the cabinet into the Explorer? If I didn’t get it done, I was going to have to leave with everything but the saw itself, and the unit owner would get to auction off my new used tool.

There was a big pile of two-by-fours in the unit. They were cut to about five feet in length. The unit had a raised floor, about 2″ above the pavement outside. That gave me a 2″ vertical surface to brace two-by-fours against. I backed the Explorer up and put a few two-by-fours against the vertical surface, and I put the other end against the rear of the Explorer. Then I covered the two-by-fours with towels, walked the saw over to the truck, spent a moment of terror leaning it over onto the two-by-fours, and pushed.

Incredibly, the saw went up the ramp, and pretty soon it was in the truck. After that, putting all the other junk in there was a lark. I got the saw home, unloaded it on the grass so it wouldn’t bang on the driveway, put it in the garage, and assembled it. Suddenly I had the most amazing table saw in, probably, a one-mile radius.

I still had to put a new plug on the end of the cord, to match my welder’s 220 receptacle, but basically, I was done. I felt like I had jumped out of a plane with a needle, thread, and a bolt of cloth, and I had made myself a parachute on the way down.

On the way to Jupiter, I had doubted my sanity and my maturity. I was really afraid I would end up paying this guy $500 for a saw I would never be able to take home. Yet somehow, it ended up in my garage, and it has been a joy to use ever since. As I think I’ve mentioned, the other day I cut an aluminum four-by-four with it, lengthwise, and the cut was so regular from one end to the other, I could not detect any variation when I put the aluminum on the milling machine. It would have to be within one or, at most, two thousandths for that to happen. That’s a wonderful saw, people. And those blades retail for something like $200 each. I don’t know, because I have so many, I’ve never had to buy one.

Now I’ve realized my Clausing 5936 lathe–the supposed bargain–was a huge mistake. No metric threading. Unbelievably expensive replacement parts (Clausing charges $400 for a new PLASTIC lever for the front of a Clausing Colchester). More wear than the seller admitted. No brake. No clutch. Extremely scarce and expensive used accessories. It would be fine for someone who wants a CNC or ELS machine, or someone who doesn’t care about metric threads, but other than that…MISTAKE. So I’m looking for something different. And that means another episode of being intimidated by huge tools. Will it fit in the garage? Will the concrete break in half under the weight, sending the garage contents into a brand-new sinkhole? Will I have to hire illegals every time I want to change the 100-pound chuck? AM I STILL CRAZY?

Thing is, crazy though I may be, all of my tools have worked out reasonably well, in terms of space and manageability. I reorganized the garage the other day, and it’s so roomy now, I’m getting two folding chairs for guests. I love it out there.

I’m trying to make a rational choice. I’m trying to distinguish neurotic fear of big tools from reasonable concern about overdoing it.

There are so many temptations out there. Here’s an example. Most lathes have small spindle bores. Lathes have passages through their spindles, so you can put long things in the chucks and have the excess go through the head of the lathe and out the side. If you can’t get something through your spindle bore, you have to turn it over the ways. This means using a live center and God knows what else to support it. It’s inconvenient and a little bit tricky. If you have a big bore, a lot of your projects will go right in the chuck, instantly. And I recently learned that some quality lathes have 2″+ bores. But you pretty much have to go over 3000 pounds and a 14″ swing to get that.

On top of that, it seems like the selection of really nice used lathes is better when you go past 12″ in swing. I’ve found a few I’d have real confidence in, unlike the beater I got last time I shopped the used market. I found a couple which are basically new.

All of this information adds up to “bigger lathe than I originally wanted.” I started out looking at 13″ lathes, but the pickings aren’t that great.

I keep going to the garage with a tape measure, trying to see what I can realistically fit out there. One problem with big lathes is that they tend to be a little over 3 feet wide, not including handles which project from the front. You can’t put them directly against the wall, either. You really need a few inches, at least behind the pedestals, so you can remove crap and adjust the leveling screws. So you need to sacrifice maybe 46″, measuring from the wall out. I think my current lathe comes out about 33″.

It will fit, but when I consider going for it, I ask myself, “Am I being brave, like I was with the Powermatic, or am I just nuts?”

Asking other guys with tools is not helpful. They’re worse than I am. They’ll say things like, “I had problems moving around my 22″ lathe until I moved the living room furniture out in the yard. You might try that.” I know a hobbyist who has a JIG BORER. “What’s a jig borer?”, you’re asking yourself. Right. Exactly. This guy bought a one-ton machine to do something so obscure, most people don’t even know what it is. He has a 14″ Nardini lathe the size of a Yugo. I’ll bet if I asked him whether I should buy a 14″ lathe, he’d say it would be convenient to use when my REAL lathe was set up for other things. He’s looking for another big lathe, himself.

The other funny observation I must make is this: I still spend more time working ON tools than WITH tools. Today I have to resume trying to get the power feed and handwheel shimming fixed on my mill, just so I can use the mill to finish the follow rest for the Clausing! So I’m working on one tool so I can use it to work on another tool. That’s like Borges. It’s like M.C. Escher’s to-do list.

I don’t care. It’s all tremendous fun. I truly believe it shows how God is aligning things in my life. He created me with certain gifts and desires, and finally, I’m getting the means and the opportunity to do things with them. That’s Psalm 37, verse 4. No doubt about it. If your life is awful, and you’re stuck doing things you can’t stand, consider that. There is a way out, but you probably won’t find it without God, because if you did, it would discourage you from looking for him.

My New Favorite Bar

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

I Know Why Your Vacuum Cleaner Died

The machining adventures continue.

I’m trying to make a follow rest for my old Clausing beater lathe. I want to get a bigger (or at least better) lathe, but while I have this one, I’m making the best of it. I’ve seen people say a steady rest is more important than a follow rest, but so far, I’ve never needed a steady rest, but I’ve been bitten in the butt by the lack of a follow rest. Without one, it’s very hard to turn anything long and thin, and that kills a big percentage of the projects I want to do.

A steady rest provides a sturdy support for a big, long, rotating object which extends way past the spindle. Sometimes you can use a live center for this without a steady rest, but sometimes you can’t. I think. I don’t need to turn long, heavy objects. At least not yet.

I’ve been watching my lathe videos this week, and the guy who made them uses a 17″ South Bend with a 3″ spindle hole. I think he bought it because he’s a motorhead. He runs a place called Precision Measurement Supply, in San Antonio, and he sells products for other motorheads. He says he can put a driveshaft through the spindle of his lathe. That’s pretty cool.

Naturally, whenever I look at a lathe now, I think the spindle bore is too small.

My lathe has two flat spots on the saddle between the tool post and the spindle. Each one has what appears to be a 5/16″ threaded hole in it, so at some point, somebody must have anticipated mounting something there. It happens to be the perfect place for a follow rest. The holes are almost 9″ apart, so I’m bridging them with a 10″ bar of aluminum, and I’m going to find some way to put the follow rest on it.

I had a hell of a time (sorry, Christians) getting the bar ready. Back before I knew anything about cutting metal from raw stock, I got some good deals on “drops,” or spare pieces of metal, from a big metal retailer. I bought an aluminum four-by-four, if you can believe it. It was something like 3 feet long. I figured I’d slice it up in a hurry with my dry cut saw, but for some reason I no longer recall, I decided not to do that. I got myself one of those infamous 4 x 6 horizontal bandsaws. Mine came from Northern Tool, but it’s probably just like the Harbor Freight jobs. It looks like they made it on the shift that started on the morning after the Chinese New Year. Pretty sloppy. But it works.

It has always been very temperamental, so I leave the cutting speed low, and I fiddle with it a lot. I decided to use it to cut a 10″ length of aluminum four-by-four, and the blade kept popping off. I got it to stay on, and I made the cutting pressure very light so the saw would stop throwing up. That made the cut take forever, and that made the motor got hot. Well…bad workmanship made the motor get hot. You should be able to run it all day, but it died after an hour or so.

Oh, the misery I went through, getting the saw to work again. I finally learned that it had a thermal fuse inside the motor housing. This is like a little resistor, and it burns up at 268° F, I believe. Let’s see…128 C…262.4° F? Is that right? Too lazy to check. Anyhow, these things are so cheap, they don’t reset, and nobody wants you to know they exist, because if you think the motor is fried, you’ll buy a new saw. Other AC motors have these things, too, so if your vacuum cleaner dies, open it up and look. You have to go to Radio Shack and spend $1.79 on a new thermal fuse (or “cutoff”), and then you have to solder it in where the old one was, WITHOUT getting it so hot it blows again. Don’t ask me how I know.

I got the saw running again, and it blew after 40 minutes of running with no load. I did all kinds of research on things that make motors hot, and I think I know what’s happening.

Typical electric motors have bearings at each end. At one end, they have a bearing which is fixed rigidly in the motor housing. At the other end, they have a bearing which is supposed to be snugly inserted yet able to move when heat makes things expand. My motor, in spite of being made by the finest Chinese prison laborers, had a very tight fit on the bearing that should have been able to move. I think this caused the other bearing to get pulled out of whack. It was proud in the endbell, to put it in engineerese. I’m guessing here, but I suspect that misaligned bearings or bearings under the wrong kind of pressure can make a motor hot even though they don’t resist rotation all that much. Anyway, I can’t find anything else wrong with it. I may open it up and relieve the endbell’s surface with sandpaper. I found some experts yapping about it on a forum, and they claimed you could have .010″ of clearance between the endbell and the bearing without causing it to rot the endbell, as some others claim it will do.

Here’s a digression. I’m considering getting a surplus 3-phase motor and wiring it up to one of my existing machine tool VFDs. I realized I can run more than one motor from a VFD, and since my VFDs are bigger than 1 HP, they’ll be big enough to run anything I put on the saw. I can put a switch on the wall, selecting a machine tool or the saw. Pretty neat.

I got the saw to cut the four-by-four, and I faced it on the mill, but then I had to cut out a piece about 1.5″ on a side and 10″ long. I considered using the table saw, but I chickened out and used a big end mill. Man, what a job. It took something like an hour, and I made piles of chips. I Googled around and saw that knowledgeable people weren’t afraid of using table saws on aluminum, so I got out the WD40 and the featherboards and went to town.

It’s amazing how well a table saw will cut aluminum. I was done in five minutes, and I’m slow. The cut was beautiful, I didn’t waste nearly as much metal, the chips vacuumed up in a few seconds, and the cut was so straight it was within a thousandth or so of perfect. Incredible.

From now on, the table saw will be my first choice for aluminum. I have plenty of surplus triple-chipped Corian blades, and my time is worth something, believe it or not.

Here’s the aluminum after I cut it out.

After that, I used the mill to make it pretty. Here it is, as of last night.

Today I used a radiusing end mill to round it off and make it even prettier. I hate this end mill, because the manufacturer gives you no clues on how to locate it on the work, but if you bump the outside of the fat part, set the DRO, and then go in about .125″, you’ll be close enough for government work. Once you get the z measurement dialed in, you lock the quill and worry about the x and y.

I keep looking at lathes. There are some real deals out there. A guy who sold me some mill tooling had a beautiful Clausing 8015VS 13 by 50 on his site for a price which escapes me. Under ten thousand. It looked brand new. He also had a Chin Hung 16 by 67 for a similar price. Both of these things looked unused. I would never consider a lathe that big under ordinary circumstances, but the clean paint and unscarred ways made my heart thump. I started measuring in the garage. Thank God, after I emailed him, he took the Clausing off his site. I guess it’s sold.

I could put the Chin Hung in my garage, amazingly. But it’s just insane. It’s about 110″ long and 40″ wide.

It’s a wonderful machine. Tons of speeds, great rigidity, and quality construction. The same lathes are sold under the Kingston name.

I’ll try to forget I saw it. But it sure is beautiful.

I am starting to think I need a tool post grinder. Because they’re cool. My lathe DVDs feature a tool post grinder segment. You can use these things to put perfectly round points on things like scribers and centers. You KNOW I can’t live without that. Come on.

I highly recommend the DVDs. The series is called “Lathe Learnin’.” They run $125. I think Smartflix has them, but I don’t believe in stealing intellectual property, so I don’t keep copies of rented DVDs. I wanted something I could keep and watch over and over.

Some DVD machinists are extremely fastidious. Rudy Kouhoupt is an example. He must be the best machinist who ever lived, because I was watching one of his disks today, and I think I’m about 20 minutes into the discussion of punches. Seriously, I know every type of punch, and I know exactly how to sharpen them, and the video isn’t even about punches. He did a video in which he ground lathe tools, and before he even got started, he milled out a special adjustable grinding table with a sliding rest.

The problem with the super-persnickety machinists is that they will teach you to sit on your butt doing nothing, unless you can do everything perfectly. The Lathe Learnin’ guy is the other type of machinist. His motto ought to be, “OPEN A BEER AND GO FOR IT,” because all he cares about is getting it done. He shows you all the tricks a real machinist will use when he has deadlines to meet, customers to please, and less than twenty million dollars in tooling financing.

I tend to get caught up in trying to do things too well, so his approach is really helpful.

I want to finish that follow rest, but the mill power feed has gone nuts again. Something funny is happening inside it. I better call the importer and see what they can tell me.

Anyway, I feel like I’m finally getting somewhere with my tools. It’s a great feeling. God really does give you the desires of your heart, once you agree to do things his way.