Amateur Machinists' Tools, Techniques and Materials

Vicious Brass

Posted by hammerscale on October 11, 2014

A word of caution, regard brass with as much or more respect than any other material in the workshop. For some reason, the interface between soft 360 free machining brass and an exiting HSS drill bit is something akin to the adage of an immoveable mass meeting an irresistible force.

To deduce I was witness to such an event and there was blood would be correct.

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Chapman Tools

Posted by hammerscale on September 29, 2014

I don’t think I’ve ever owned Chapman products, but Jay Leno’s always entertaining;

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Atlas Drill Press

Posted by hammerscale on September 28, 2014

The most recent addition to the shop is this Atlas 15″ drill press, here seen as I received this fine machine, sporting no motor and safety yellow livery.


Here is it after new bearings, new paint, and some measure of love. The original Jacobs chuck was a little bell mouthed in the jaws, so I upgraded to a keyless Rohm chuck. I had an old motor from an Atlas lathe that suits very well, and replaced or made new hardware where needed. I may resurface the table in the future.


I think I’ll leave it set on a higher speed for woodworking. Right now I have three more drill press projects in the pipeline.


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Huot Storage

Posted by hammerscale on August 31, 2014

I’ve got a few of the small Huot storage boxes, pro’s are they’re well laid out for your tooling needs and they’re fairly well constructed considering the cost. Con’s are the drawers are a bit herky-jerky and the storage for the reamer cabinet is just too small to hold the larger tools.

Following product is a step up, and every fulfills every organization fantasy of my autistic nature.

BTW, I always thought it was pronounced “hote”, not “hew-ot” as I discovered first time watching the video.

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Tool out your Work Area

Posted by hammerscale on August 25, 2014

What I’ve discovered with most of the AXA tool holders (Chinese knock-offs of Aloris brand) is they all pretty much use 4mm hex head screws for fastening the tooling. The Chinese screws are often inconsistent in size tolerance causing the standard size, ball end hex wrenches to sometimes slip.

Rather than fumbling around looking for the proper hex wrench, I supplemented my lathe and tool bench with a couple of these, “Wera” brand precision hex wrenches, available at McMaster-Carr, part number 6625A64


Both convenient and inexpensive, putting (multiple) adjusting tools with-in arm’s reach speeds things up.

BTW, Aloris brand uses SAE fasteners.

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Caswell Plating

Posted by hammerscale on July 28, 2014

Caswell Plating offers an extensive line of plating, anodizing and other surface treatments for metals and plastics. Here’s a few pieces plated with their electro-less nickel plating system.


The company is in Canada (their USA distribution center is right over the border in upstate NY) and there sometimes is a loss in the translation of English in the instruction book. For instance, they refer to “SP” cleaner/degreaser for prep prior to immersion in the plating solution.

Here’s the sequence I use for cleaning parts:

1 – Degrease parts in mineral spirits, for gross removal of cutting oil and metal particles.

2 – Degrease again in a clean bath of a fast drying solvent such as Naphtha or acetone, to remove the heavy oily film left by mineral spirits .

3 – Immediately before immersion in plating bath, degrease again in a solution of TSP (Tri Sodium Phosphate) and almost boiling water (distilled water)
TSP is what I believe they refer to as “SP Degreaser”. If you can’t find it locally, you can order if from McMaster-Carr, etc. You will be impressed by the amount of still-clinging metal fragments released in this step.

4 – (optional) clean off any residue with a quick rinse bath in clean, hot, distilled water.

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Taking pleasure in measure

Posted by hammerscale on February 13, 2014

Some measuring credos and observations on machining tolerances.

1: Measure with a micrometer, not a caliper.

2: The machining feed and speed should be the same. (in other words, dont take a measurement off a roughing cut.)

3: Make sure the micrometer is zeroed correctly. Use a known standard, or for a 0 to 1 inch micrometer, bring the anvil to a close.

4: Use the same feel and pressure when taking a measurement. It’s your fingers, get a consistent feel for how the mic closes.

5: Make sure both work piece and micrometer anvils are clean. Use your finger tips to feel for grit, contrary to pop opinion (a.k.a. old man foolishness) you do not need to clean the micro with a folded hundred dollar bill or any other nonsense, your finger tips are fine. The human finger can detect inconsistencies smaller than 1/10,000 of an inch.

6: Take multiple readings. With round work travel slowly across the diameter of the work piece. Gently wiggle the micrometer as you take a reading to fight any tendency of the anvil faces to skew instead of lay flat

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The Good Old Days

Posted by hammerscale on January 10, 2014

A brief history of the Henry Ford Trade School, started 1916.

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Welding video

Posted by hammerscale on December 27, 2013

A good intro into the basic theory of the smoky art;

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Drill Doctor

Posted by hammerscale on November 22, 2013

I’ve owned a Drill Doctor for a while and find it quite an asset to the shop. Recently, after sharpening a fairly large diameter bit with the DD I found it rubbing instead of cutting. I recognized this immediately as negative relief. In other words, the cutting edge, though sharp, was lower than the following edge. I had never had this issue grinding small bits, and a few attempts at fiddling with the DD settings proved fruitless. As much as I hate to admit it, I had misplaced the user guide, so off to the www.

My search brought me to the following video;


This addressed directly the issue at hand, and the girl with the French manicure pointed me towards the solution.  First, I followed the directions to grind completely (spark out) which seemed to help, but only minutely. I then adjusted for greater relief as instructed, choosing the maximum setting.  After grinding, the bit was just beginning to cut, and I could see some small chips lifting off, but the bit still rubbed when pushed.

As I had adjusted the bit’s maximum relief in the DD chuck, the third attempt I set using ” seat of my pants” adjustment. I rotated the bit manually just a small amount further in the chuck, maybe 1/8 of a turn.  This did the trick, as after grinding the drill bit cut thru steel like butter.

This adds a little trial and error for setting up a bit in the DD, just something to be aware of.

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