Sunday, April 22, 2012

500 Yard Gong

So, I still have several plow disks laying around, and needed another project.  How about a gong to be rung at 500 yards with a rifle!  Should be a hoot, and very simple to build.

Started with the frame.  Cut my pieces of 1/2 inch black pipe to the length I wanted, then welded pipe fittings onto the ends in order to make a frame.  Basically, I did both ends at a time.  I set one on the floor at each end of the pipe, then laid the pipe on top of them and tack welded them.  By doing so, it gave me a pretty good assurance that both ends were parallel.  So, I completed one set before doing the off-set set.  

The offset angle is just whatever happened when I laid the pipe on the second set of pipe fittings and let the first set rest on the ground.  No real science to this.

Closed up the hole on the front of the disk with a piece of scrap 1/4 inch steel plate.

Finally, welded bolts to the back side of the disk, then pushed them through holes I drilled into a piece of belting material folded in half (Very very tough stuff).  So, it gave me a nice loop at the top for hanging on the frame.

Now to learn my bullet trajectory chart well enough to start hitting it!  It should provide a nice clang as a confirmation of impact.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Wire wheel on the cheap

Now that I've purchased a welder, I have a lot more need for a wire-wheel to clean things up.  So, here's how I built mine very cheaply.
Motor:  1/4 HP electric motor from a garage sale for $5.
Arbor:  about $3 at a hardware store.
Wire wheel:  I don't remember the cost, but if it was over $10, I'd be shocked.
Base:  Made from a 20-inch disk off a plow.  $0
Vertical shaft:  I bought a bunch of 1/4 inch thick square tubing from a machine that had been cut apart at work. Not sure how much I got, but the whole shooting match only cost me $1.  This was a small piece of it.

In the end, I have a very functional little portable unit, and it'll hold me for a few years, anyway.

Child-Proof floor lamp

A while ago, we bought a set of matching lamps.  They were relatively plain, dark metal, with fairly standard dimensions....then the baby started to crawl...then walk...and then...  Well, then we didn't have a lamp anymore.  Apparently the lamp section threads were not designed for flexing, or stress due to impact.  After a tip-over, the lamp really wasn't straight and was never going to be.

Fast forward a few weeks and 1 welder later.  I obtained a used 20-inch disk from a farming implement.  It was quite rusty, but I set my 9-year-old to work on it with an orbital sander, and after about an hour and 3 breaks later, he had it pretty well cleaned up.

After the base had been cleaned, I welded a flange into the center from the bottom.  The flange is threaded to receive 1/2 inch black pipe.  As shown in the picture, whle the bottom doesn't look great, the top (only part visible), it looks fine.
I had a theory about drilling a hole in the base to allow the cord to pass through.  This turned out to be an educational experience, as I maimed the drill bit attempting to even scratch the surface of the disk.  Good point to note:  Disks are hardened steel, and they are really really really hard.  It quickly became clear that I could not drill through the disk, so I cut a notch in the edge with my grinder in stead.  Works fine.

The pipe was cut to allow for a 5'7" overall height for the lamp.  The lamp is actually much taller than most, but we decided that's what we wanted, so the length of the pipe was cut to 4'7".  5'7" - 2 inches for the base height, and 10 inches for the height of the lamp shade holder.

Shown above, the paint drying.  I tried to take a movie, but it seemed to lack plot.  Basically, I put it together for painting.  I also had to make sure and clean and paint the bottom side in order to protect the carpet.

For the lamp innards, I purchased a lamp building kit for about $8 at a local hardware store.  It had pretty much everything I needed, plus instructions.  There were numerous kits to choose from, technically, I bought two.  One, I bought for the 3-way socket included.  Another had some nice spacers that worked as mounts for the top end of the lamp.  They made it a very secure press fit, so there was no need for me to weld something on the top end of the lamp to accept the lamp making pieces.  

So we wired it all up (had to take it apart first), plugged it in and viola!  Finished Product:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The 20-year home-made knife

I'm not really sure what makes 14-year-old boys want what they want and do what they do. When I was 14, I had already spent years saving money and buying knives of various sorts. I had my deer hunting knife; a smaller, lighter knife with a half-serrated blade that I preferred for pheasant; one or two Swiss army knives; a Leatherman ... and probably several others. Yet, for all my useful knives, I still wanted a boot knife. Not a big one, and I certainly don't know what for, but I wanted one ... just not badly enough to save up money to pay for it.

Through all of my knife-buying years, even when buying relative bargain knives, I have required good steel ... always. So, not just any $10 boot knife from an infomercial was going to fill the need. I wanted something that would hold an edge through abuse, and though I didn't have a boot knife, I did have a file.

Metal files are made of high-carbon steel. While not rust proof (or resistant), high-carbon steel has one very desirable attribute for knife making ... hardness. File steel is made for cutting metal, so it should come as no surprise that it is harder than most other metals. This attribute, while contributing a certain amount of brittleness, means that a blade made from the same material will hold up to a great deal of abuse, maintaining its sharpened edge through it all.

The Blade

So, the first step in making the knife was to shape the blade. Nope ... I take that back. The first step was to borrow a bench grinder from my dad's neighbor ... then start shaping the blade. I really don't know how long I ground on that blade, but over the course of several days, a relatively innocuous file turned into a rather precarious double-bladed knife, slowly thinning, shaping and shortening as it went. Then the trouble started.

When I finished shaping the blade, I found that I had not really considered what was appropriate for a handle. Unfortunately, what I lacked in ideas, I made up for by getting lots of advice. Though I won't go into the whole story of how the knife-making project fell into shadows, I must have started thinking more about girls than that knife, because execution of all the ideas thrown at me was done very poorly, resulting in several failed attempts at different handles and the lack of a decent tang on which to mount a handle. In the end, I cold-blued the blade to protect it, and it behaved as a letter opener for many years.

Moving forward 20 years, one wife, and 3 children....

The other night I found myself bored. Not without things to do, but bored. In my boredom, I started cleaning and once again found this glorified letter-opener screaming, "HA!  I beat you!" and for some reason, the game was on!

To the garage I went, grabbed my angle grinder and went to work. Still lacking a decent tang, I shortened the blade significantly to add about a 2.5-inch tang, with a rather odd shape at the bottom. Initially, I intended to make the bottom a wedge shape to hold tight in the fiberglass that would ultimately become a handle. However, after some consideration, I realized if I made the wedge a solid wedge, the slot in the hilt would not be able to fit over it from the bottom, so the final design was more of a hook shape than a wedge, and probably holds even better in the fiberglass than the wedge would have.

Through my grinding process, I also removed some light surface rust that the years had left behind and all of the very poor bluing job, planning to improve the finish at a later time. After the grinding was done, I started working on the blade with progressively finer sand papers, finishing with 1000 grit 3M micro-finishing paper.  The end result was quite nice.

Finally, On to the Hilt.  

Using a piece of scrap steel from my garage, I went to the effort of grinding a hilt. Since I wanted to keep the weight down, the hilt is not entirely steel, but steel backed by fiberglass, therefore only the part that might take abuse is steel, the rest is part of the fiberglass handle.

A Fiberglass Mold.

After about an hour of grinding the blade and hilt, it was time to make a mold for a handle. I knew when I was doing it, I should be taking pictures, though my fury to finish would not allow me to stop.

I drew one half of the rough design I wanted on a piece of paper, folded it in half lengthwise, then cut it out. The fold allowed me to cut both sides of the handle shape at the same time, providing very nice symmetry for my pattern (If only my band-saw had been as good). The paper cutout was then sprayed with a low-tac adhesive and stuck to a piece of 3/8 inch plywood, then spray painted and the paper removed. By doing this, I had a very sharp outline of the proposed handle shape to follow with my jigsaw.

When the paint was dry (10 minutes - I LOVE KRYLON!) I took the board to my jigsaw and removed the unpainted image of my handle-to-be, along with a slot for the blade out in front. I then screwed the wooden outline to a backboard and customized such that the blade and hilt would be held firmly in place while suspending the tang into the middle of the fiberglass slurry.

Glass bedding kits for rifles come with very short strands of fiberglass to mix with the resin. Unfortunately, I didn't have a bedding kit available, but I did have woven glass cloth and automotive resin. I slowly unraveled 1/2 inch squares of fiberglass cloth until I had roughly a cup of short strands in my mixing bowl. I added the resin and hardener and mixed the whole mess until I had a fibrous bowl of smelly goo, which I promptly put into my mold.

Having used nothing as a release agent, the handle was very difficult to remove from my mold and the mold ultimately had to be cut off of the knife, thus destroying any chance of an after-the fact picture.  I spent quite a bit of time finish shaping it on my home-built sanding drum, then moved progressively up to 600 grit sand paper before masking the blade and spraying it with Krylon ultra-flat paint for its final finish.

Blade Finish

Nearly complete, I returned to the matter of protecting the blade from rust.  As discussed above, the blade is high-carbon steel and NOT stainless. Therefore, there is a possibility of rust at any time if the blade is not properly cared for. One appropriate solution for this would be to re-blue the blade, another consideration was to spray it with Brownelle's Alumahyde. Ultimately, I landed on the prospect of trying something new, and I chose household chemicals in stead.

Using an acid mixture made of vinegar, lemon juice, and green Rit dye, I submerged the blade for 20 minutes. Though I don't really believe at this point that the Rit dye bought me any benefit, the resulting patina was quite nice and should provide years of rust prevention.


Shown below is the knife with a rather crude first attempt at a leather sheath.  The Sheath 2.0 is currently under construction, but has bogged down as a guy can only push a needle through three layers of leather for so long before boredom overtakes him.  But hey, there's no hurry!  Maybe I'll finish in another 20 years!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Improvised Drip Coffee Maker for camping

As with any camping trip, you have to prepare to provide the necessities. For me, this means coffee, then a sleeping bag, a tent, and food ... in that order. I have a percolator for camping, but greatly prefer drip coffee, so I improvised the following for under $20.

I was searching for an insulated, stainless steel coffee pot. The thin-walled type only keeps your coffee warm while you keep the stove going or keep the fire burning. The glass-tube vacuum-insulated type coffee makers are fragile. I found this one, stainless steel lined and vacuum insulated for $16 at Walmart.

I went searching for a basket, i.e., a stainless steel bowl. After a fruitless search, I was headed out of the store past the BBQ Grills, and I saw a small stainless bowl intended for marinating. It looked to be about the right size, but also had a wonderful little red sticker that said, "Clearance!" At $3, something that looked perfect, certainly was worth the gamble. It came with a marinating brush which will be saved for later use (possibly even for it's intended purpose). The bowl, however, I modified.

First, I cut off part of the handle, rounded it , and bent it down to allow it to nest atop the carafe. As it happens, the base nestles nicely onto the carafe, so all I was really doing was making the handle hold its own weight by catching a small ridge on the top of the handle
Then, I drilled a hole in the bottom of the pan, and pounded a counter sink down into my hole to make a slight funnel-shape surrounding the hole. Not a lot, but a bit. Later on, I used the counter-sink to slightly enlarge the hole to optimum size.
Thrilled with my progress, I put it together and promptly went to make some coffee. I boiled some water on the stove, put a filter and grounds into the improvised basket, and poured the water in ... However, I found I was not done.
The picture at left shows a commercial basket from my daily use coffee maker (complete with the coffee build-up that has occurred over the past few months ... my coffee maker only gets cleaned when my mother-in-law comes to visit ... otherwise it's in constant use). In the bottom of the basket, there are little baffles, which seems like a good name for them because I was largely baffled at their use.

As it turns out, the engineers that came up with the baffling idea had a reason. Without the baffles, only the small part of the filter directly over the hole works to filter the coffee. It promptly plugs. In the commercial coffee makers, the baffles suspend the filter above the bottom of the basket so that the entire bottom of the filter will allow the coffee to pass through.  I definitely needed baffles.

I was about to cut apart a pie tin and carve some baffles when my wife returned home. I explained the problem to her and she said, "I have an idea. Do you want to hear it?" In 12 years, my wife hasn't spent a lot of time re-purposing good items for other (possibly better) purposes, so I really didn't expect the help. She opened a drawer and pulled out an apple slicer! PERFECT! I got so excited, I virtually leaped into my shoes and headed for the door, still holding the apple slicer.

 "Where are you going?" she asked.

"To Walmart to buy an apple slicer!" I replied.  Honestly, for someone who just came up with the perfect solution, the question seemed a bit dense. I was within striking distance on completing a project; obviously, I was going to the store.

"Why not use that one?" she asked.

"You do realize that if I use it, it will be destroyed for it's current purpose?" It's not the first time I've done a project. I would have thought she'd known that!

"I know. It's ok. I have two of them!" she said, pulling another from the drawer. I LOVE MY WIFE!

So, my third building material was not only perfect, but free!

After removing the plastic with a Dremel tool, and cutting some groves in the bottom of the center ring to allow for coffee flow, the baffles rested into the pot so perfectly, one would think they were designed for the purpose. I was quite pleased!

Back to Experimentation! I boiled another pot of water, re-filled the basket with a new filter and coffee and poured away. Almost immediately, I could hear the tell-tale sound of coffee tinkling into the pot. It was working, and working well, but after a minute or two, the progress slowed to almost nothing. I lifted the coffee filter out to figure out what was causing the problem, only to find that there was no problem. The baffle system lifted the filter up so high, that in combination with the coffee grounds, it looked half full even after the water had poured through. So there had been no problem! It worked great!

Since it takes a bit for the water to get through the filter and coffee, I found that if I fill the basket with water 3.75 times, I get a full pot.


(I'm not sure, but I think the coffee tastes better this way!)