Monday, October 18, 2021


 Sorry I haven't been doing much content for this blog.  I have experimented a little with video, but I haven't got anything to share yet.  Not sure if I can stand to see and hear myself (ie; in order to edit a video) enough to ever do a YouTube channel, TBH.

 In my defense, I've been focused on making or finding money (mostly by selling the few things of value I can find to sell), looking for work, trying to drum up business for my job shop business, and occasionally looking for W2 work or maybe even a long contract... but it's nearly impossible for me to do the kind of professional work I used to do on contract, not sure how likely that is to happen...

 Also been feeling very under the weather.  Working on it.

More as it happens.  Thank you for your patience, all eight of you.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Saturday, September 25, 2021

describe a product badly

 Pulverized rubies, glued to flattened pieces of dead tree, used for flattening other pieces of dead tree.


Thursday, September 9, 2021

shop humor



task lighting hack

 Last month, our old microwave died and had to be replaced.  It's an over-the-range vent-hood style, so it has a task light built into the bottom, to illuminate the cooktop below.

 The old unit had two halogen lamps, which I replaced with two much brighter and whiter LED units.

 The new unit came with a great big glass lens over the bulb, but the lamp inside was a single 50 watt halogen unit in a recessed socket making it nearly impossible to use a drop-in LED replacement.

 Worse, they installed a 130V bulb.  They do this to make the bulb last longer, but this is a mistake because it's a halogen lamp, and halogen lamps need to operate at their full, high temperature, to achieve their longest life, because there is a quasi-chemical reaction going on inside.  Plus, using a 130V lamp on 120V results in a more yellowish light, and quite frankly, for food, we want a neutral white light ideally - neither warm nor cool - for food to look its best to the human brain, which is quite picky about the color of food!  I've shown the original and how it looks on the bench...

 Despite their being mounting points for two sockets behind the lens, only one was populated with a bulb, and this is probably because the airflow through that part of the chassis is kinda anemic, and it gets warm now after the light has been on.  With two of them, external parts of the oven would get two hot to touch.

 Gods forbid they should an LED in this day and age which would generate much less heat, or hack their sheet metal a little to allow more airflow in that area of the chassis... price points suck, okay?  I'm sure the engineers involved would have LOVED to do a better job, but they weren't ALLOWED to, by the bean-counters who were ensuring this unit could be sold for $299.99 and not one thin peso more.

 So here's my plan... the second set of pics shows a "COB"* LED panel, epoxied to a heat sink, both of which I found on eBay.

 The heat sink just barely fits into the opening of the glass lens panel that covers the lights, and once inside, there is enough room for it to simply sit there on top of the glass.

 The heat sink is necessary because there is only a small amount of air flow in the area, and the panel would probably overheat; heat is the enemy of all LED products.

 The photos don't do the new light justice, because my phone does auto-exposure, and if I just manually changed it, it wouldn't be a real comparison.  Sorry, it was late and I was too tired (lazy) to get out the real camera and tripod that day.  Although the LED panel consumes only 10 watts vs. the original halogen's 50, it's subjectively (hand-wave, hand-wave) about four or five times brighter.

 Unfortunately, it is NOT a neutral white, and I'm going to replace it when I find one that is.  This was the only panel I could find that filled my needs, and it is decidedly bluish (6000-6500K according to the seller) but the alternative (3000-3500K) seemed too warm.  For neutral whites, you typically want to stay around 4000-4500K.

 OTOH, it was dirt cheap (at the time, when I had any money at all, LOL): - $3.93 - $8.40

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

when should I use acetyl engineering resin?

 Once, a student asked the Master, "when should I use the more expensive acetyl resins instead of say, amides or even vinyls, styrenes, or ureas?"

 To this, the Master replied, "when should you use quality materials in your work instead of, say, inferior materials or even sheep manure?"

 "But," persisted the student, "isn't Nylon nearly as good as Delrin?"

 At this, the Master used the stick he had been leaning on to smite the student on the head. "No!" he exclaimed, "that's why one is called an amide and the other is called an acetyl!  They have completely different properties!  You would know this if you had studied!"

 "Thank you Master," said the student, rubbing his head, "but what about low-surface-energy or low-friction applications where PTFE or HDPE are considered the bes- OW!"

 The student spoke in this way because the Master had just hit him on the head again. "NO!" he shouted, "Teflon and polyethylene are too soft!  They cold-flow!  Use graphite- or molybdenum-loaded acetyl!"

 "Thank *groan* you Master," said the student, rubbing the other side of his head, "but what about high temperature or chemical applications where thermosets or exotics are... um..." (the student raised his hands over his head) "the preferred resins?  Um... sir?"

 The Master glared silently at the student for a moment and then said, "you ask too many questions.  Go and meditate for three days on the value of reference books.  In the latrine.  Without a mask."

 After this exchange, the student was enlightened.  Very sore, but also enlightened.

Monday, August 16, 2021

plan ahead


 If I had made a drawing and taken a little more time fabricating this piece the first time, it would not be in two pieces now.

 The first time I made it, I just did it "by the seat of my pants" and it shows.

 So now I get to do it again.

 This piece is for a fancy, one-of-a-kind "prototype plasma pistol" which will look like a real working device and not a fancy, smooth, well-rounded "ray gun" at all.

 The story that will go with it is that it is a found object, discovered among the personal effects of obscure (and possibly assassinated by a shadowy government agency!) inventor "Uncle Otto".

 The device will include an expensive but replaceable tritium gas light source, which will get dim in fifteen years, but will glow continuously until then.  Unfortunately, one cannot simply include spares, since every tritium capsule that exists today will be exhausted in twenty years.  You have to buy a fresh-made one when the time comes, assuming they don't get banned in the mean time.  Again.

  This is an old project which got set aside ten years ago because I was so broke I couldn't afford to buy even basic raw materials from which to make some parts I needed for it, never mind the fancy shit like a tritium gas capsule!  Nozzle in photos is after it broke, that's why it's crooked.

 Yes, it will have some sort of pistol grip / hand grip, but it will NOT have a housing - it is meant to look like it was built from real parts, and actually functions, but was never completed or turned into a production item - it's meant to look like an experimental prototype.

 I'm making it so it can be completely disassembled if someone wants to do that.  It has real electrical components now, and will have many more before completion.  It will not contain electronics which can wear out, nor will it use batteries, so no blinking lights and no goofy phaser sounds.  It is constructed in sections much like real high voltage, pulse-compression and plasma devices are made.  I am using my own knowledge of real-world plasma "guns" (lab devices, not weapons) to inform the design elements so it will look realistic, not "futuristic".

 It is also meant to NOT be fragile (unlike the Weta Workshop blasters, all of which have tiny, fiddly, fragile little parts which are known to break if you look at them cross-eyed), which is why now I must re-make the nozzle; it held up to casual handling for years, but when I knocked it over on the bench by accident, it broke because I had made the flared part too thin.  Oops.  In my defense, I had never made a flash hider for a plasma pistol before, let alone without any design drawings... it was my first time.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

a sight that has not been seen by anyone in over a decade


 My workbench, it is clean.  That work surface literally has not been visible in over ten years, after I sorta stopped doing anything meaningful in the shop, which more or less coincided with when I had to give up the mad scientist hobbies, subsequently becoming very badly depressed for a long time.  I am barely beginning to pull out of that long slump now.

 Things got pretty bad for a while, and I just let the shop turn into a big mess you could hardly walk through.  Now at least I have the work surface cleaned off, although I have a serious storage problem so there is nowhere for the pile of project parts sitting on the top shelf / riser.

 But at least my bench is once again available to work on, which is important because I am about to hang out my shingle for various money-earning local work.


 I am still working on the air compressor; the power circuit has to be run through a cramped and filthy crawl space below the roof, and I haven't felt limber enough, non-achy-enough, strong enough, healthy enough, and so on.

 The machine also needs an aftercooler and water trap to be added between compressor and tank, then a three-stage drying and filtering setup, which will be accessible outside the sound enclosure which will eventually surround the air compressor.  I haven't had the spare scratch to buy any of that stuff yet.

  That will be a significant project in itself, since a surprising amount of ventilation is required - 1,000 CFM for every 5 HP - to keep the pump and the motor cool.  That will only happen with forced ventilation from a fairly respectable (but fortunately not physically large) blower; convection is not going to bring in the necessary fresh air.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

when you find you are only human after all

  When I saw all the tool marks in drill and mill tables, and the general scarification of all the tools in general in my high school metal / machine shop, it wasn't hard to understand how they got that way, especially when I watched some of my devolved classmates, one or two of which had the intellectual capacity of a small plastic soap dish.

 But when I first set foot in a friend's professional machine shop, which had been in operation since the 1950s at least (he took over the business after working there for 30 years) I was startled to find that machines used by professional machinists also get all scarred up with tool marks.  In my youthful naiveté, I thought it evidence that too many careless employees had been hired.  Pffft.

 When I bought my (home shop grade, floor-standing, junky major
name brand) drill press, not old at all, and from the original owner, I
smirked at the drill holes I found in its table:


 Not long after that, my friend with the machine shop decided to sell one of his Bridgeports to make room for a CNC machine, and sold me the 1970s era mill for 1/5 what he could have sold it for on the open market, which was nice.  Of course, I had to buy a vise, and tooling and cutters and fluids, and replace the one-shot oiler, and get a phase converter to run the 3-phase motor, and so on.

 By the time I bought that machine, I had already seen it among the three my friend had at his shop, and I had probably even used it at some point in the past, so I knew the table was marked up here and there...

 And I told myself, "other people may be that careless, but I never will!  I will take good care of my things!"

 Now, this is of course, the voice of youthful naiveté, and it is tantamount to saying:

 "Other people may operate their power tools when they're tired and working to a deadline, but I never will!"

 "Other people may work in their shop when they've had one too many beers (or painkillers), but I never will!"

 "Other people may lift carelessly and hurt their backs, but I never will!"

 I mean, just thinking that way is dumb enough, but if you actually say it out loud, that's just begging the gods, the spirits, your ancestors, The Fates, the local hobgoblin, who- or what-ever, to directly intervene and bring down your hubris a notch or two!

 But dammit, I really did manage to keep from making any new marks in my new toys, mostly by actually following my own seemingly sensible rules.

 Until one day I didn't...

 I was moving the mill's table, and I needed to move the quill up a little to clear the vise jaw.  The quill handle on the Bridgeport is odd in that it can be placed in a lot of positions for comfort and convenience, but this means if the handle is up and you push, the quill goes up, but if the handle is down and you push, the quill goes down.  If the handle is out in front where it belongs (and where nobody every uses it) then the quill follows the handle motion intuitively, you dummy.

 So I pushed when I shoulda pulled, or vise-versa* and now I have a divot in my mill vise.  *goth-sigh*

 I also managed to not hurt my back for nearly the same amount of time, until I did, and I'm still recovering from that one.  I'm far more over the divot than the back injury, for what it's worth.

*see what I did there? VISE-VERSA?? OMG I SLAY MYSELF.  Ha.  Haaaa.
Thanks so much folks, I'll be here all week, try the veal!

Saturday, August 7, 2021

wise cracks

 SMAW is called "stick welding" because that's what the electrode does when you try to start an arc. ;)