Project updates

I haven't been managing to keep writing updates and especially they seem to be held up by the desire to get along some photos. I decided to put some of my wip chapters up and leave better descriptions for later.

Mounting rail for lathe

I decided to make a mounting rail on top of the lathe chip guard that could be used to mount lights and whatever experimental things I might think up. Material is 10 x 20 mm steel box section mounted on two Al pieces that mount to the chip guard.

I sawed off a piece of the tube for the rail and picked up a suitable looking chunk of Al. I sawed off some Al at nearby school and milled it off to a rough shape at home.

I then drilled, threaded and tapped the appropriate holes and also milled a few small oval slots that might let cables pass out. It's been working as a mounting point for an Ikea LED light since.


I picked a piece of Al for the "handle" side of the latch. I milled the sides and knocked off the corners with a file. I drilled a 4.5 mm hole on the centerline, a bit away from one end and reamed it to 5 mm and turned a matching tight shoulder on a piece of 8 mm steel I intend to use as an axle. I drilled and threaded an M4 hole for a set screw and filed a matching flat on the axle to hold the parts together in correct orientation. I haven't picked out a set screw, yet. There's also room for a washer between the handle and the body barrel.

I planned to have all the external pieces be Al or brass, but I seem to have forgotten that. Hopefully rust won't be a problem. I'm thinking about the grip shape, roughing and/or decoration etc.

On a trip to the site, I noticed that I have an entirely different kind of lock I've been building the model after! It's not a big change, though. I'll need to mostly modify the design to be deeper and to have the latch and handle 90 degrees from one another instead of in line.

Once I got back, I turned another brass collar and bored it to fit the body. I cross-drilled and tapped for M4 and turned a 5 mm shoulder on the axle. When I was filing a flat, I noticed I forgot to check which way it points. Oh, well. It can be worked around. I marked the travel of the set screw on the brass collar and milled off a gap into the body using the smaller 8 mm or so 2-flute end mill. This makes the rotation stop in "open" and "close" positions with roughly 90 degrees of travel between them. I then marked the desired direction of the tongue on the brass collar and started to figure out a bolt circle.

I decided to use three M2 screws to attach the tongue to the brass collar so they turn as a unit. Further support will come from the axle if tolerances allow. I scribed some coordinates for the pivot point on the tongue and drilled it to 5 mm. Then it was time for the interesting exercise.

I set up the dividing attachment with the three jaw chuck vertically on the cross slide. I could now clamp the brass collar on the three jaw and align it so the set screw hole pointed out towards the operator. I used an M5 bolt and nut to clamp the tongue on top according to my aligning mark. The idea was to drill a hole on the opposite side from the set screw and two more 120 degrees from that, forming a three hole circle. I would avoid drilling through into the cavity if possible. First to 1.5 mm (I don't have a closer fit and that seems to work fine for tapping M2 in brass for me) through and then to 2 mm for clearance through the steel part as I naturally don't want the thread on both pieces.

The whole show went through quite flawlessly and once cleaned and carefully tapped all the way in, the screws went in just as intended. This thing divides and drills beautifully. I could put the assembly together with temporary screws. It would take some fiddling to get the movement to have some friction without completely binding. Oh, the fit on the tongue is quite solid and it still bolts on each of the three ways. Great success!

I cut off some M4 threaded rod, filed the ends and sawed on some slots since I hadn't found set screws in the nearby shops. I also cleaned the pieces a bit and knocked off the sharp edges etc. At this point, the thing mostly goes together. I'm planning to grind the tongue a bit at Tarlab and set it aside for testing. I haven't quite decided on whether I should apply some finish on the parts, especially where the steel is exposed to elements.

This didn't get installed before the winter. I'll see when I'm on site next and I'll try to fit it then. I might like to redesign some of it, though. Maybe I'll make another.

Also, solar panels could use some mounting posts. That goes in the ideas list.

Scribing block

This is a very handy and simple layout tool and one of the first things I wanted to make when I got my hands on some metal. They are for sale, but not near here and probably not in very compact sizes. I probably do most of my marking with this and a Sharpie.

The body of the tool is a piece of Al block that was just cleaned up a bit on the sides. There is a fairly flat face on it and a fairly perpendicular end to go with that. The idea is to set the end on a table or plate and a scribing tool on the flat side, set at an angle. This thing can then be used to move the scribing point at a set height from the surface for marking accurate lines on the sides of objects. The objects could be any shape, as long as they have one flat side to lay down on the plate that you want to mark lines parallel with.

I cut a piece of 6 mm x 2 mm HSS flat bar diagonally with a small grinding disc and ground and honed a slightly diagonal edge on it. This forms a farly sharp little point for the scriber that will lay flat against the body of the tool.

I also picked a piece of scrap brass plate and sawed off a few pieces that would form a finger and a heel for a clamp. I cleaned these up a bit and soldered them together using a small torch, some goo flux, and common electronic (old tin-lead most likely) soldering wire.

There are holes on the clamping finger and body and a counterbore for the screw head on the back. A long screw locks quite well into the body forming a stud for the clamping finger. A wing nut can be then used to control the friction for adjusting and locking the flat scriber in a suitable angle and height.

The tool also folds into a fairly safe and flat shape. I should just remember to lay it down because it will fall over quite easily if left upright.

Later, I put some threadlock on the screw to hold it in.

This was done before the Emco arrived. Now I might be able to mill the sides more flat and to remove toolmarks. It's been useful several times when laying out other projects.

Dividing plates

I've been planning on turning an old HDD platter into a dividing plate and attaching that to the spindle pulley or shaft with a pin block. It doesn't have to be very elaborate for my use, but occasionally I'd like to have one.

Perhaps also a brake. And definitely a wrench. A wrench can also be used as a lock for 6 positions.

With the Emco, I don't strictly need one, but now I could make one much easier for the Taig.

On the flip side, the indexing attachment won't do as a rotary table, so it would be nice to have something like that as well. I know I could mount a thing on the headstock and turn the milling head 90 degrees to cut arcs, but still. It could be an opportunity to try making a worm gear as I've long planned.

Plant light

I thought I'd improve my improvised little plant light so it isn't hanging on by duct tape. I took it down from the shelf and stripped it to the bits I'll keep to start with. That is two 1 W LEDs and a driver held on to a bit of nasty small Al U channel by magnet wire.

I looked through by box of metal bits and picked a piece of Al plate that was roughly as thick as the channel. I set a scribe to the thickness and drew lines around one edge to mark out a fairly square piece and hacksawed it off. I then filed the sides a bit smoother and marked a slot that would fit in to the channel. I sawed a limiting line and used a file to cut a flat recess in the end until it fit the channel.

I fit the bar fairly off-center as the new piece would be side by side with the vertical anyway, so that might feel more symmetric in the end. I then drilled 1.5 mm through the channel wall and some way into the new piece at the crossing of the "T". I then removed the new piece and drilled the hole in the solid piece through and the one in the channel out to 2 mm. Hand tapped M2 threads on the solid bit and picked out a screw that wouldn't reach all the way through. The parts went together fairly smoothly.

I thought I'd use the Ailsa Bay flywheel as a base and put a steel rod or something on as a post and then make a little block with a stud on the side so I can attach the head on with a wing nut for adjustable friction. I ended up using a bit of Al tube and threading the ends to M6 and turning a small step on one end. I also turned down the neck of a flush bolt to fit the base and so now the stand is a stack of the bolt, flywheel, tube, head joint, and a hex bolt.

In the end the light can be turned up or down at the joint and side to side by positioning the whole thing. That should be enough. The electrical side isn't pretty, though it has a comic robot look about it like my things seem to do. With the low power supply, it should be quite safe, but in the end it might just no longer be such a hasty tape job so I'd like to make it better. We'll see.

Gold bolt

So, I made a 5/8" 11tpi bolt out of PA6 to work as a plug in a tractor. My wife remarked that it looks like the Gold Bolts in Ratchet & Clank games and I looked it up. It seems to be a combo bolt with a slot in the head. I thought I'd make her out of brass.

I'd just seen Bigclive's video about gold in whisky, so I thought I'd look and see if I can buy gold leaf on eBay. There's some sources and it's not horribly expensive, so I bought two types. I think one is some sort of foil and the other one claims to be 24 k. I'll see if either would work for gilding. If not, maybe it's useful for something else.

I cut a few pieces of brass and started thinking about holding them and building bolts.

Later on, I got to it and turned and threaded the body part. I left a fair size spigot on the end to hold it later. The other side was turned down to fit the head. I soldered the head on first warming the whole thing and the flux with a heat gun and then using a small torch for the actual joint. The solder flowed in nicely, but that means there's some on the bottom of the threads now.

I milled the hex on the head using the indexer and milling post on the Emco. It was a long overhang, but it worked quite well. I wish I had a way to use some tailstock or jack support that moved with the carriage for milling and drilling these awkward pieces. I didn't want to grip the part by the thread.

I used a slitting saw (one I made earlier, not the ones that came with the lathe) to cut the slot in the head, turning it 180 degrees to cut the other side symmetrically. I used the slitting saw to cut several equally deep slots between the symmetric outer cuts and then simply bent the flaps left between the cuts until they broke off. I filed the slot to shape and mounted the chuck and the piece back on the lathe.

I cleaned the head and made some chamfers and turned and/or sawed the spigot off the end (I forget already). Some polishing and deburring later I essentially had a pretty neat piece. It could be polished more or gilded and the solder seams hidden away somehow, but it's already pretty cute.

I did also receive the gold leaf, both imitation and supposedly real. There is a big difference between their strength and behaviour and even colour. I will need to practice and find some suitable medium for holding it if I want to use it for something.

Turning another belt pulley

I had a bit of round Al that might be an offcut from some 50 mm rod. I thought it would make a nice pulley for the jack shaft, a motor, or some other spot.

Turns out, the torque problem is really obvious on the outside of a piece this big, especially trying to take a continous cut. I still managed in several sessions to turn down the end with a chunk missing down to about 25 mm and to smooth out the top.

I didn't have very good tool bits for grooving, but made some grooves to start with. I'll probably be able to make better ones by the time I have a place to use this.

The usual center drilling done, this time to a very specific depth so I wouldn't drill into the stock I'm not using. I hacksawed the piece off, which was also a lot of work given the size of the material. Turns out my hole made a just visible pinhole on the sawed surface so it was pretty near perfect. I used a conical reamer and some drills to open the hole out and then a 5 mm H7 reamer (only one I have) to bring the hole to a neat form.

Another spigot to hold it, and I could smooth out the back a bit as well. After chamfers and some sanding, I have a neat little pulley waiting for use.

This has been waiting around since. It might become a part of the next motor mount for the Taig.