A precise vise

Soba vise

Last week, I visited my friend Pierre Oliver to help him draw out the first town for his new layout, full-size on the benchwork. I’ve written extensively about that trip on my Achievable Layouts blog, so I won’t repeat it here. You can visit that blog and read about our work session by clicking on this photo of an SP freight working the Clovis branch:

SP - Clovis branch freight.

But on the way to Pierre’s, I happened to pass a Busy Bee Tools store and recalled that my friend William Flatt has a nifty vise he uses to bench photo-etched brass kits – something I’m going to be doing a lot of as I contemplate my switch to modelling the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway in 1:64.

Fortunately, I’d had the foresight to take a photo of William’s vise when I visited him to collect some detail parts and trolley poles. In fact, we’d used his vise to bend the door frames for an interurban passenger car and I was very impressed by its ability to securely hold extremely tiny things:

Soba vise and bent door frame.
(That’s a tiny bend to make, but the vise had no problems holding the brass)

So, I made a quick detour into the land of the Bee and came home with my own Soba vise.

I decided the vise needed to be mounted in a way that it was secure when being used, but easy to move when I didn’t need it. So I built a mounting pad out of some spare MDF. I included a lip to hold it snuggly against the edge of my Festool Multi-Function Table, with the vise positioned so I would not bash my knuckles when turning the handle.

Soba vise - mounted.

I also included enough base behind the vise to clamp it to the table through one of the dog holes, keeping the clamp out of the way of any material I might be working in the vise. For this, I had to drill a 3/4″ hole in the masonite cover I use to convert the MFT to a hobby bench. This is located directly over a dog hole to pass a quick-release clamp, and I have a small plug for the hole when the vise is not in use.

The vise has already proven its worth many times in my shop. I recently did some resistance soldering work on a brass model and it securely held the parts. I can even clamp my ground lead to the vise for this type of work. I’m really pleased!

Mark: He’s right, you know…

My friend Mark Zagrodney writes A Model Meander and it’s always worth a read – but his post today really resonates with me, and there’s not a single image of a model railway in sight.

I won’t give away the story, but it involves the important role that slippers play in the hobby.

Enjoy if you visit – and while you’re there, have a look around at what Mark is doing. I always enjoy the visit.

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

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!