Thursday, July 31, 2008

Harbor Freight Mini Lathe

I was so excited I couldn't wait to try it. So no pics of the lathe in a "pristine" state.


This is Harbor Freight's "8" x 12" Benchtop Wood Lathe", item number 95607-7VGA.

It came today. I unboxed it and had a 1x2 of some really light and soft pine chucked in 10 minutes.

The variable speed is awesome. It's huge to be able to change speeds on the fly while cutting instead of having to stop, move the belt, start again and hope you still have your groove.

In this horribly soft wood I used a 1/2" skew chisel and cut it down into a cylinder, then cut a captive ring. My first! The old 40" HF lathe wasn't stable enough to let me achieve this in any wood, let alone something as soft as this.


I can't wait to see what else I can make!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Trend RoutaSketch

Trend doesn't seem to sell this any more. It's the "RoutaSketch" and I picked one up on clearance at Rockler for $25.

It was when they had the coupons 50% off any clearance item. They had two of these RoutaSketches, original price $99, clearance price $50, with my coupon $25.

I figured for $25 it was worth checking out. I was intrigued by the concept, that's for sure.

Inboxed, it's clear the thing was made as cheaply as possible. All plastic except for a pair of brass thread inserts in the base and the steel bars to hold up the template and the tracing stylus.

I assembled according to the directions. The steel bars were a REALLY tight fit in the plastic bases. Tight enough I feared I'd break the plastic before even getting to try it. But they survived. The plastic may be tougher than I initially thought!

After assembling the stands I looked at the instructions to determine which holes in the base to use for my Porter Cable router. But, alas, there were no PCs listed in the table!

No Porter Cable support? How can this be?!?!?!

I suspect that maybe PC isn't as big in Europe as it is here in the US. Trend seems to be based in the UK. That might explain it.

I tried to line up the holes in my PC with the myriad holes in the base of the Routa Sketch. No luck. None at all. Bleh.

I decided to grab the Harbor Freight plunge router that's been pretty much setting on the shelf. Sure enough, the template holder screws were a match. In fact, Trend was nice enough to include long screws that fit! A good thing since the ones that came with the router were far too short to mount the RoutaSketch base with.

After some dry runs making sure I had the motions down and was comfortable controlling the router with this big thing attached (really it isn't that bad, things moved quite smoothly) I picked one of the designs that came with the RoutaSketch.

The RoutaSketch comes with a good assortment of line art to use. Oddly enough (or maybe not), at least a few of those are public domain line art. My wife saw one of them at the local library for the kiddies to color!

With the paper on the tracing platform, my plunge router dialed in to make a very light cut, and my daughter and I wearing goggles, I started cutting.

The reason I wanted to use the PC router is I hate plunge routers. I understand the need for them, which is why I own one, but I prefer a straightforward simple router without the plunge feature. During this trial, the biggest reason I hate plunge routers showed itself. If I concentrate on the work, I'll relax my arms, causing the router to "de-plunge". The router keeps making the right motions, but the bit is no longer cutting. Grr...

Another thing that was irritating me was the stylus would grab the paper causing the paper to move. Well this screws up the pattern being cut into the wood. It turns out that the package came with a sheet of acetate to lay over the paper so the stylus moves more smoothly.


Even so, I thought it came out pretty decent!

I just carved into the mini-bench top. Don't worry, I'm not damaging my work surface. I had enough damage to it already that I need to resurface it with my jack plane.

I didn't carve any of the details. This was more a test of the tool. It's not a project. The outline looks good, but you can see where the aper shifted. it shoved the sea horse's forehead into it's ears. The acetate should prevent that from happening next time.

Yes. There is going to be a next time...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Acrylic Acetate Pen

So, during one of my recent trips to Rockler, I picked up a blank labeled "acrylic acetate". The outside looked like white plastic with some black spray paint on it. Meh. I wasn't impressed, but I wanted to try turning this stuff.

It turned easily until the vibrations set in on my craptastic Harbor Freight lathe. I had a blowout. Hence the purpleheart patch. ;-)

I've got two pics trying to show the pearlescent effect. Neither does a great job. You have to see it in person to really appreciate the beauty.

After turning I sanded to 600 grit W/D paper (wet) and polished with Meguiar's PlastX plastic polish. No need for fancy polishing pads or any crap like that. 600 grit and the polish got it shiny and smooth.

I'm going to pick up some more of this stuff once my new mini lathe arrives. Hopefully it'll be more stable than the one I have now.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Update on the Craftsman 8" Drill Press

In this entry I talked about the Craftsman 8" Drill Press model 315.11970 that I had purchased off eBay.

Since I've been doing some turnings, I've needed to use a drill press to make accurate holes in the workpieces.

Too bad I don't have a press capable of drilling accurate holes!

I mentioned that it was "unstable as hell". I recently took it apart to determine why it was so unstable. After all, who would sell a drill press that's unstable when new?

Craftsman would. That's who.

I found that the red plastic housing is the entire framework. There is no metal to metal connection between the drill motor and the post.

Note to engineers: Cheap plastic does NOT provide rigid connectivity in a power tool!

I made a slight improvement by wedging a piece of wood scrap into the tool between the post bearings and the plastic housing. It helped, but not much.

As far as I'm concerned, this thing is completely useless. I get more accurate holes using a hand drill.

If anybody wants to donate something that ISN'T a complete piece of crap, I'd be more than happy to accept!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

First Turned Screwdriver

Rockler currently has their 4-in-1 screwdriver kit on sale for $5.99 so I grabbed a couple. I needed some screwdrivers for work anyway, and thought this would be a great chance to try turning one myself.

The handle is cherry, and the black lines were done by wire burning, a technique where a stiff piece of steel wire is held in a groove cut into the spinning workpiece. Hold the wire in the groove until it starts to smoke.

The hole for the shaft is made with a 5/8 spade bit on my craptastic drill press. The hole isn't perfectly straight, unfortunately. I really need a new drill press! The head of the unit shifts when pressed down into the cut causing an angled hole.

The finish is a 3# cut of amber shellac applied over some BLO (boiled linseed oil). I rubbed the shellac into the spinning handle on the lathe. Gave it a wonderful hand rubbed look.

If you get a chance, give one of these screwdrivers a try. Lots of fun and useful too!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Mini Pencil Project

I've begun creating "mini" pencils. 4 1/4" (including eraser) it is quite a bit smaller than the original PaperMate Write Bros pencil.

The mechanical pencil was disassembled and the barrel tossed. Using a very sharp bench chisel and just hand pressure I cut the mechanism down to 2 7/8". This also required shortening the leads by approx 1/4".

The barrel is made from purpleheart. I drilled a 1/4" hole through it and turned it on a standard pen turning mandrel. (1/4" hole fits the mandrels made to be used with 7mm brass tubes.) The barrel is 2 5/8" long.

The mechanism from most click-type mechanical pencils requires a small lip at the tip end of the barrel. I created that lip by gluing a tiny piece of 1/4" brass tubing into the tip. It is around 1/8" long, the longest I could make it and still have the threads of the mechanism protrude enough to catch the plastic tip from the original pencil.

The close up shows the piece of tubing used. Note that I used 1/4" tube NOT the standard 7mm tubing. 7mm tubing isn't narrow enough to stop the mechanism.

The finish on this one is just some CA glue slapped on with a small plastic baggie wrapped around my finger. No effort at properly finishing this pencil was made because I was in a hurry.

So no comments on the poor finish, OK?

The Write Bros pencils make perfect practice parts for experimentation because they are inexpensive and easily modified. They are not terribly durable since they're all plastic, but are still useful. And at approx 30c a piece, if one breaks, or I screw it up, I'm not going to cry.

The one pictured here was given to my 5 year old daughter. She loves it and has been using it heavily since I gave it to her. So far it's holding up well.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Better Pic of the Kingwood Pencil and the Shark photo studio!

Now that I got my lighting back and functional, here's a better pic of the pencil shown in the previous post.

I've been asked about how I photograph my projects. When I think of it/am not too lazy/have batteries I use this rig.

It's a portable small item studio purchased at WalMart for $50. It includes two color corrected incandescent "hot" lights, the tent, blue and gray backgrounds, a little tripod, and a carrying case.

I also have a handheld strobe attached to the PC socket in my Kodak Z7590 digicam. The camera is held by a really REALLY old Graflex tripod.

In the photo is a roll of shipping tape. I use that as a lint catcher because there's always dust and lint and crap that settles on the background cloth. Adhesive tape is the easiest way to remove it on the spot.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Kingwood Pencil

The second and third pens I've turned. On the left is a "learning experience". It started out as ebony, but I had such trouble turning it I ended up with a huge blowout. I repaired it by cutting off the blown out part and gluing a block of padauk onto the barrel.

It worked OK but I had real issues with the CA glue finish. On the padauk it went wonderfully. On this ebony/padauk pen it bunched and blobbed and did things that didn't happen to me the first time.


For the kingwood pencil, however, I changed my finish. Instead of the CA glue, I used 10 coats of shellac. A 1 lb cut applied to the spinning blanks with an old cotton sock gave an amazing finish. No ridges, no bumps, no blobs, nothing but smooth shine.

The hardware kit is a click pencil in black enamel. I'm curious about the durability of the black finish. I love how it looks right now, so I'm hoping it wears well.

We'll see.

I just picked up some 1/4" (7mm nearly) brass tubes from Hobby Lobby. Two 12" tubes for $3.47. I also picked up some other goodies I'll talk about later.

The tubes are for me to make my own barrels for some existing mechanical pencils I have. Classic Pentel drafting pencils, and some inexpensive all plastic pencils. I'd also like to make replacements for the housings of some of my favorite gel pens. I haven't decided how to do that yet, so stay tuned!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

First Pen Turning

I finally got my hands on the tool accessories needed to turn a pen(cil). So using a scrap cutoff of padauk, I went to town and made this beautiful padauk mechanical pencil, with gold plated trim and a black stripe on the clip.

Wait, what accessories were needed?

Aside from the obvious (lathe, turning chisels, drill press, wood), the following are absolutely necessary:
  1. Pen mandrel to fit your lathe.
  2. Pen kit.
Yep. That's it. The mandrel is $9.99 at Woodcraft Item 141469. Pen kits are around $5 at all the usual vendors. I got a pencil kit at Woodcraft.

Another thing you may find useful is a barrel trimmer. this squares the end of the turning blank to the newly inserted brass tube. Keeps things neat and tidy. Mine was $20 at Woodcraft. All that is left is to make the pencil!

I took a scrap piece of padauk and cut it into 4" sections. Two of those sections I put into the drill press and put a 7mm hole through them to hold the brass tubes. I then pressed the tubes into the wood with a drop of CA glue ("super glue") to hold it together.

Then I mounted the whole thing on the turning mandrel with a bushing on either end, and one in the middle between the blanks.

After tightening things up and mounting the mandrel to the lathe I was ready to turn.

Too bad my craptastic Harbor Freight lathe wasn't compatible with the mandrel! I knew it had a "morse taper #2" fitting. But it didn't occur to me to check that the fitting was in the headstock... The part that turns. The fitting is only in the tailstock in the cheap 40" lathe. The tailstock doesn't turn, so the mandrel wouldn't turn. I had to find a way to get the mandrel MT2 base into the headstock.

I had a faceplate that was separated from a mug I made that I hadn't cleaned up yet. There was enough meat on the wood there to carve out a MT2 hole for my mandrel to rest in.

Once it was carved out, the arbor fit nicely. My live tailstock (a MT2 spinner) was tightened snugly into the dimple on the end of the mandrel and I fired up the lathe.

It worked perfectly!

All that was left was to start cutting the wood! I started off gently removing wood because of the thin diameter of the mandrel. I was afraid it would start bowing under any pressure. It turns out that my fears were unfounded. It's very rigid and does not bow under normal cutting pressure.

The pen blanks were turned with a 5/8" spindle gouge and finished with a 3/4" skew chisel. I got such a great finish I was able to sand starting at 600 grit! A pass at 600 and a pass at 2000 got me a nearly mirror finish all by themselves. I then applied some thick CA glue for a finish.

If you're applying super glue for a finish, don't worry about slopping it on the bushings and such. The pieces will pop right apart and the CA glue will be removed the next turning session.

I got the blanks out and started assembling the pencil. The package for the pencil kit didn't explain what parts went where. It took some trial and error to get things where they belonged. I'm sure once I've done a few of these the positioning will make sense. Until then, I'll have to pay extra attention to the order the pieces are assembled.

As you can see, the results were awesome! I'm really happy and want to make more! Lots more! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!