I made a washer!

Okay, it’s a humble beginning, but…

Washer-Lathe

Last night, my friend Ryan Mendell visited. Ryan is a brilliant machinist, and he offered to give me some instruction on my recently-acquired Sherline lathe. We didn’t worry about measurements, but we talked about set-up and adjustment of the tools and tool holders, then worked through the four basic operations one performs on a lathe – facing, turning, boring, and parting. By the end of the lesson I had the small brass washer pictured above.

What a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to make something else!

Machine tool bases

I spent a couple of hours in the shop this morning, and built some bases for my Sherline tools.

Lathe base

Mill base

Over lunch at Big Fat Burrito recently, my friend Ryan Mendell recommended that I top my bases with a layer of Ultra High Molecular Weight plastic (UHMW). He reasoned that oils and swarf would clean up nicely – and since he is the most talented machinist I know, I followed his advice. On Thursday, I made a trip to Plastic World, a local supplier where I buy styrene sheet, and had them cut me two pieces of 1/8″ thick UMHW to the base sizes recommended by Sherline.

On the way home, I hit a local building supply company for a sheet of 3/4″ MDF, some wood, and a selection of hardware, including rubber feet. (Sherline recommends the rubber feet to dampen vibration … and they do!)

Lathe base - underside

I used the UMHW and the dimensional lumber to lay out the base sizes then cut them with my track saw. Glue and screws secured the wood rails to the MDF. I used dimensional number of various “1 by” sizes – being careful to choose sizes that were as high as possible to help contain the mess, while still low enough that they would not interfere with tool components such as hand wheels. I also ran strips of 1×2″ underneath the MDF base to raise it slightly off the table, and mounted the feet to these. This gives me enough air space under the machines to easily slip my fingers underneath to lift them by the bases.

Lathe base - top

The UMHW is held in place by the bolts that hold down the machine tools, so that I can remove and replace it if need be. I used the tools themselves to lay out and mark the locations of the bolt holes. Machines are secured with washers, lock washers, and nuts from below.

(Thanks for the advice, Ryan – I’m really pleased!)

Machine tool accessory storage

My workshop is built using kitchen cabinets from IKEA, so naturally when it came time to think about organizing the drawers, IKEA is at the top of my list. Yesterday, I made the trek to the big blue and yellow box in the burbs, where I picked up a sampling of drawer organizers in the “Variera” line, including the two approaches shown below:

Variera plastic bins

These plastic bins are sold in pairs (one green, one white) and do a good job of holding small pieces, such as cutting tools and tool posts. Their one drawback is that they don’t fill the drawer completely, front to back: they leave a gap which becomes wasted space (unless I build a styrene tray to fill it, which is a possibility). I have not tried them in different-width drawers. I’ll need to do that. But they hold 90 percent of the machine tool accessories I have. I’d like some larger bins – the size of two of these, together – for bigger accessories.

Variera wooden insert

The wooden drawer organizers use the full space and I like the look – easy on the eyes, and the tools. They don’t provide as many bins, but I could cut and install additional dividers as required. (For wider accessories, I will have to experiment with cutting away a divider between two bins.) They do offer longer spaces for things – which may make them more appropriate for hand tools such as knives, pliers, hammers and so on. They also provide more room for larger accessories such as the lathe’s thread cutting gear shown at left.

I suspect I will eventually deploy a mix of storage options. IKEA has a one-page handout in the kitchen section that shows how the various drawer organizers fit into various size drawers, so I will have some homework to do…

Machine Tool Task Lighting: Jansjo

Good lighting is critical to doing good work, and sometimes you want to aim a light exactly where you need it. Like this:

Tool lighting - Jansjo

While wandering in IKEA yesterday (as one does…), I stumbled across these neat little LED lights. The “Jansjo” lights were about $15 each, so I picked up a pair of them. As the photo shows, they can be positioned to put the light exactly where I need it. If you care about these things, they come in a variety of colours. I bought the silver, because they were on sale and because I think the finish will be easier to keep clean.

Jansjo lighting from IKEA

I’m really pleased with my find.

A turn for the better

Lathe
(Some assembly required)

Yesterday, I picked up my second Sherline tool – a 24″ lathe. Through my experience with Andy Malette on the CNR 3737 project, I’ve learned that I’ll probably get even more use out of this lathe than I will out of my mill. It should come in handy for air tanks and other turned bits for a number of current and future projects.

I ordered this back in November, but between the Christmas rush (yes, people buy machine tools for Christmas) and wildfires in southern California (where Sherline Products is located), it took a couple of months to come in. I picked up this lathe from Atlas Machinery – a venerable Toronto-area dealer – and had a great experience. Their Sherline expert, Mike, is very helpful.

Obviously, I need to assemble the lathe. There are lots of bits and bobs to attach, and a thick assembly guide to get my head around before I start. I also need to mount the lathe on a base to help contain the swarf it’ll generate. (This is something I have to do for my mill as well.) Finally, I need to add some task lighting to the machine tool section of my workshop. But I’m looking forward to putting these tools to good use!

Mill and Lathe

What’s in the box?

What’s Trevor got in the box?
Sherline Mill Stuff photo Sherline-02.jpg

I had a question from my friend Terry Smith about the accessories that came with my recently-acquired, lightly-used Sherline Mill. A partial list of the box contents includes…

3013 – Step Block Hold Down Set
3052 – Flycutter
3079 – 3/8″ End Mill Holder
3090 – Metric Milling Collets (it’s a metric mill)
3551 – Milling Vise
3570 – Rotating Vise Base
3700 – Rotary Table
3750 – Tilting Angle Table
4360 – Chip Guard
8160 – Digital Readout

… plus some Centre Drills and a set of six End Mills, a Jacobs chuck, a dial indicator, a Starrett edge finder, and other goodies.

Also, a leather-bound copy of Tabletop Machining by Joe Martin.

I’m looking forward to putting these to good use.

(No, no cheese straightener, Pierre…)

Tool Time

Sherline Mill photo Sherline-01.jpg

I visited a friend yesterday who’s downgrading his involvement in the hobby, and I ended up buying a couple of his tools – including a really nice, gently used Sherline Mill, plus a big cardboard box full of accessories:
Sherline Mill Stuff photo Sherline-02.jpg

I have zero experience with mills or lathes for model work, but my friend Chris Abbott is well-versed in their use, so I’ll be in good hands. I’ve admired the work that others have done using such tools and look forward to exploring the new possibilities for modelling that this mill opens up to me. And I believe that one of the greatest things about a hobby like model railroading is its ability to force you to learn new skills and rise to new challenges – such as learning about tabletop machining.

I already have a couple of small projects in mind. First, though, I must find a place to permanently mount the mill.