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

(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

Paint Storage Solution | small bottles

Thanks to everyone who responded – on blog and through private messages – to yesterday’s post about paint storage options. As it happens, I was running errands yesterday and visited a local gaming store (Meeplemart), where I picked up a laser cut MDF rack from Vallejo:

Vallejo Paint Rack

This assembled in about five minutes (as a dry fit – I must go back and glue everything) and holds 52 small bottles, a handful of larger bottles, and more brushes than I’ll ever use. It sits nicely on my desk or workbench and its tiered design means I can see all the paints, inks, washes and so on that I’m most likely to need when painting.

I’ll need to explore the options at Meeplemart (and Wheels And Wings, a local plastic modelling store) for larger paint bottles, such as Scalecoat.

But at least I have the Vallejo under control!

Paint Storage Problem

I have one:

Too much paint

Most of us can relate to this. It doesn’t take long for the number of little bottles of paint to overrun a workshop. I’m currently looking at a few options – including laser cut paint storage racks available at my local gaming store. But I’m interested in the creative solutions that you’ve devised. So if you have solved your paint storage problem – and have a link to the rack manufacturer or to photos of what you did – share in the comments, and thanks in advance.

I’m not looking for suggestions along the lines of “How about something like…” from people who have not done it themselves. I’m looking for ideas that have actually been put into practice. Let’s see what you’ve got!

Preliminary peek at ESU’s “Full Throttle Steam” decoders

On Friday, I hosted ESU North America’s Matt Herman at the TrainMasters TV studios. TMTV brass hat Barry Silverthorn and second camera operator Christian Cantarutti shot a series of segments for DCC Decoded during which Matt and I explored the soon-to-be-released “Full Throttle Steam” sound and motor control files for LokSound decoders. Noted CP Rail modeller Bob Fallowfield – a fan of ESU’s “Full Throttle Diesel” line and a familiar face behind the ESU booth at train shows across southern Ontario – joined us for the day, and a grand time was had by all.

TMTV - Full Throttle Steam Segment
(Matt – standing – demonstrates the “Full Throttle Steam”-equipped decoder in CNR 1532 as Bob either shoots video on his phone, or genuflects to the awesomeness of Canadian National. Or, perhaps, both…)

As part of this shoot, we equipped one of my CNR 10-Wheelers with a LokSound decoder loaded with “Full Throttle Steam”, including an air-powered bell ringer and CNR-style Nathan five-chime whistle. This is a beta-build of the sound file and there are still a few lines of code to tweak, but Matt is going to send me the updated files once he’s finished working on them.

Once I have those (and have had a chance to customize the various CVs to, for example, synchronize the chuff rate to the driver revolutions), I will shoot video of CNR 1532 on the layout and share it here. But for now, I can say that the early results are certainly impressive. I’m looking forward to converting the rest of the fleet.

(In fact, in preparation for this, yesterday I picked up a refurbished Lenovo laptop loaded with Windows 10 at one of my local computer stores. I use Macintosh computers for everything in real life, but ESU’s LokProgrammer programming and sound-loading tool only works with Windows. Since I wanted a dedicated computer for the workshop, it made sense to find something inexpensive rather than add a PC emulator to a Mac laptop. But I digress…)

TMTV - ESU Segment
(I’m with Matt and Bob as we prepare to shoot a non-steam, HO scale segment at TrainMasters TV. It’s pretty obvious that we’re having a great time…)

I won’t have to wait long for the finished files- and neither will you: Matt anticipates releasing the first series of “Full Throttle Steam” sound files by the end of the month. It’s a great time to be modelling steam.

Stay tuned for updates!

New life for a Record 0

Record Vise

Several years ago, as I was preparing my late mother’s home for sale, I liberated my father’s vise from the workbench in the garage.

I knew at some point I’d have use for this vise. I also knew that it was a Number 0 vise from Record, a well-respected English tool-maker – and that it had only been gently used by my dad. Dad wasn’t that talented with tools, but like many guys from his generation he took it upon himself to tackle DIY projects around the home. (If memory serves, dad purchased this vise from Aikenhead’s, a small hardware store chain in the Greater Toronto Area that was purchased by Home Depot in the mid-1990s, becoming the nucleus of HD’s Canadian operation.)

But I also knew the vise needed some restoration work – primarily, cleaning and a new coat of paint – and I had other projects on the go. So it sat in a box for a while.

But then a couple of things happened. Last year, I got serious about setting up my shop. And more recently, I’ve been learning to rework brass locomotives, and a good vise is a valuable tool, especially when using the resistance soldering gear.

So, the vise came out of storage. Last week, while my friend and fellow tool enthusiast Chris Abbott was over for a visit, we set about taking apart the vise so that I could restore it.

Record Vise
(Major components of the vise. Smaller items – not shown – include a spring, a couple of pins, a washer…)

There was a fair bit of rust and oily dirt/sawdust inside. That oil probably kept the important bits from rusting, although a threaded insert at the back of the vise needed special attention with scrapers before we could remove it to pull the sliding jaw from the body.

With everything disassembled, I tackled cleaning, and then roughing up the surface with sanding sticks and a brass wire wheel in a drill to help the new paint adhere. I was careful to not hit the machined surfaces with the wheel!

Record Vise

For paint, washed the vise with household cleaner then dried it with paper towels. Then I warmed the vise in an oven (200F – put it in when I turned on the oven and pulled it out when the oven reached temperature – it was warm but could be handled with bare hands). I did this because as a large casting, the vise would get pretty cold in a basement in the winter, and the paint needed to go on a warmer surface. It worked well.

I gave the vise a coat of Tremclad rust-proofing primer and then – since I could not easily get proper Record blue paint (also known as Roundel Blue, which was the colour used in the round “target” markings on British aircraft during the Second World War) – I followed the primer with a coat of Tremclad Dark Blue rust-proofing paint.

The final task was to make a base for the vise. I don’t want to permanently mount it on my work surface – and I don’t have to, since the surface has plenty of dog-holes in it to anchor things. For the base, I laminated together three layers of poplar plywood, then cut and sanded the block to shape before applying a sealing coat of low-glare satin Varathane. Three 5/16″ bolts secure the vise to the base – one on each side, and one under the moving jaw at the back of the vise. The underside of the base is countersunk to accommodate the nuts, which are held in place with semi-permanent Lok-Tite. Washers spread the pressure. It’s not moving unless I want it to!

Record Vise

I carefully sized the base so that when it’s in use, it fits between the pattern of dog holes on my Festool Multi-Fuction Table (MFT). In this way, I can use up to four clamps on it to secure it in place. As the photo above suggests, two is more than sufficient.

Also apparent in the above photo, I shaped the base so that the front edge projects over the edge of the MFT. The angled shape to either side of the vise means I won’t bump the base with my thigh while standing and using the tool. And the projection was designed so that the fixed jaw of the vise would sit just proud of the tracks that run around the perimeter of the MFT:

Record Vise

Of course, if I’m not working a piece of material that is going to hang down below the base, I can position this vise anywhere on the MFT, thanks to all of those dog holes.

Thanks for the help getting started on this project, Chris – and for the useful advice throughout. I’m really pleased with how this project turned out, and I’m looking forward to putting dad’s vise to good use!

There. Are. THREE. Lights!

Workshop with three lights

Over the weekend, I was working on a project in my shop that requires photography. I realized I only owned two arms for my LED photo lights, so I swung past the camera store and picked up a third. As the photo above shows, I get plenty of light on the work surface – not only for photography, but also for seeing what the heck I’m doing.

The lighting rig I built in the shop have worked out really well – although things get pretty crowded looking when I have all the lights mounted:

Workshop with three lights

I make no apologies for the messy work surfaces. Everybody works in their own way – this is mine. I can live with it.

Pull up some dust and sit down…

Workshop - bar stool

Over the weekend, I found this chair at a good price at a local big box office supply store. It quickly made it into my workshop so that I can sit while working on models.

There’s 32″ clearance under the table, which means a standard chair would be much too low. This height-adjustable bar stool fit the bill. I wanted something with a back so I’d be less tempted to slouch while working, and the swivel base means I can easily slide into and out of the seat to grab tools and supplies. I did not want casters, as I didn’t want the chair to roll away from the work table while I was vigorously sawing or filing.

The best part is, I picked up two of these – so a friend can join me.