Metalwork of any kind is fascinating stuff to watch. When the metalwork in question is in service of the clockmaker’s art, the ballgame changes completely. Tiny screws and precision gears are created with benchtop lathes and milling machines, and techniques for treating metals border on alchemy – like heat-bluing of steel clock hands for a custom-built clock.
If you have even a passing interest in metalwork and haven’t followed [Clickspring]’s YouTube channel, you don’t know what you’re missing. [Chris] has been documenting a museum-quality open-body clock build, and the amount of metalworking skill on display is amazing. In his latest video, he covers how he heat-blues steel to achieve a wonderful contrast to the brass and steel workings. The process is simple in principle but difficult in practice – as steel is heated, a thin layer of oxides forms on the surface, enough to differentially refract the light and cause a color change. The higher the heat, the thicker the layer, and the bluer the color. [Chris] uses a custom-built tray filled with brass shavings to even out the heat of a propane torch, but even then it took several tries to get the color just right. As a bonus, [Chris] gives us a primer on heat-treating the steel hands – the boric acid and methylated spirits bath, propane torch flame job and oil bath quenching all seems like something out of a wizard’s workshop.
We’ve covered [Chris]’ build before, and we encourage everyone to tune in and watch what it means to be a craftsman. We only hope that when he finally finishes this clock he starts another project right away.
Continue reading “Metal Magic: Heat Bluing Steel Clock Hands”
Breaking a stud or a bolt is a pretty common shop catastrophe, but one for which a fair number of solutions exist. Drill it out, shoot in an extractor, or if you’re lucky, clamp on some Vise-Grips and hope for the best. But when a drill bit breaks off flush in a hole, there aren’t a lot of options, especially for a small bit. If the stars align, though, you may follow this video guide to dissolve the drill bit and save the part.
Looks like [Adam Prince] lucked out with his broken bit, which he was using to drill the hole for a pin in a small custom brass hinge. It turns out that a hot solution of alum (ammonium aluminum sulfate), which is available in the spice rack of your local supermarket, will dissolve the steel drill bit without reacting with the brass. Aluminum is said to be resistant to the alum as well, but if your busted bit is buried in steel, you’re out of luck with this shop tip.
We’re a bit disappointed that [Adam]’s video ends somewhat abruptly and before showing us the end result. But a little Googling around reveals that this chemical technique is fairly well-known among a group that would frequently break bits in brass – clockmakers. It remains to be seen how well it would work for larger drill bits, but the clocksmiths seem to have had success with their tiny drills and broaches.
As for the non-dissolved remains of the broken bit, why not try your hand at knife making?
Over the last few months, [Chris] has been machining a timepiece out of brass and documenting the entire process on his YouTube channel. This week, he completed the clock face. The clock he’s replicating comes from a time before CNC, and according to [Chris], the work of engraving roman numerals on a piece of brass would have been sent out to an engraver. Instead of doing things the traditional way, he’s etching brass with ferric chloride. It’s truly artisan work, and also provides a great tutorial for etching PCBs.
[Chris] is using a photoresist process for engraving his clock dial, and just like making PCBs, this task begins by thoroughly scrubbing and cleaning some brass with acetone. The photoresist is placed on the brass, a transparency sheet printed off, and the entire thing exposed to four blacklights. After that, the unexposed photoresist is dissolved with a sodium carbonate solution, and it’s time for etching.
The clock face was etched in ferric chloride far longer than any PCB would; [Chris] is filling these etchings with shellac wax for a nice contrast between the silvered brass and needs deep, well-defined voids.
You can check out the video below, but that would do [Chris]’ channel a disservice. When we first noticed his work, the comments were actually more positive than not. That’s high praise around here.
Continue reading “Brass Clock Face Etched With PCB Techniques”
Calligraphy is a rewarding hobby that is fairly inexpensive to get in to. For someone just starting out, poster nibs are a great way to practice making letterforms without worrying about applying the proper pressure required to use nibs that split. With a few tools, you can even make your own poster nibs like [advicevice] does in this Instructable.
Poster nibs are typically made with a single piece of brass that’s folded at the point where the nib touches the paper. The backside forms a reservoir that holds the ink. The other end is formed into a semicircular shank that is inserted into a nib holder. The nibs that [advicevice] made consist of two pieces of flat brass stock plus a section of brass tubing for the shank of the nib. One side of the nib is slightly thinner than the other to act as a reservoir. This keeps ink clinging to the nib through the magic of surface tension.
Nib construction is fairly simple. [advicevice] cut the brass stock to the desired length and width, cut notches with a jeweler’s saw to allow the ink to flow, and cut a piece of tubing that holds the nib snugly. He recommends using three grades of sandpaper on the edges of the brass stock and tubing. After soldering the nib to the shank, he beveled the business end by rubbing it on 150-grit sandpaper. He followed this with 350- and 600-grit papers to avoid injury and tearing the paper when writing.
If you simply must spend more money, build a machine that writes calligraphy for you.
Brass, beaten and molded can be a thing of beauty. Watch as this craftsman puts together a very nice looking tuba. The tools of the trade in this case are somewhat automated, with that mechanical hammer, but it looks like much of this is still done by hand.
Here is the first real fruit of [Joel’s] labor on his oiling system for a CNC mill. Regular readers will remember hearing about his quest to go from a manual mill to a CNC version. As part of the overhaul he decided to add a system that can dispense oil to the different wear parts on the machine. We first looked in on the project when he showed off the pipe bender he built for the task. Now that he has that at his disposal he was able to route tubing to many of the parts.
The system starts with a central brass manifold which is pictured in the foreground. Each pipe was bent and cut to reach its destination with a minimum of wasted space. After a test fit showed good results he brazed the pieces together using silver solder. Each of the ball nuts have been drilled out so that oil will be injected onto the threads of the ball rod. Three input ports on the manifold will eventually let [Joel] connect the oil injection system via flexible tubing.
If you’re in to making your own PCBs at home, you know the trials of etching copper clad boards. It’s slow, even if you’re gently rocking your etch tank or even using an aquarium pump to agitate your etching solution. [cunning_fellow] over on Instructables has the solution to your etching problems, and can even produce printmaking plates, jewelry, photochemically machine small parts, and make small brass logos of your second favorite website.
The Etchinator is a spray etcher, so instead of submerging a copper clad board into a vat of ferric or cupric chloride, etching solution is sprayed onto the board. We’ve seen this technique before, but previous builds use pumps to spray the etching solution and cost a bundle. [cunning_fellow]’s Etchinator doesn’t used pumps; it’s driven by two cordless drill motors sucking up etching solution through a hollow tube.
The basic idea behind the build is sticking a vertical PVC pipe in a box with etching solution. Mount an impeller in the bottom of the tube, drill many small holes in the side of the tube, and spin it with a motor up top. The solution is sucked up the tube, sprayed out the sides, and falls back down into the reservoir. Put a masked off copper board in the tank and Bob’s your uncle.
Not only did [cunning_fellow] come up with an awesome PCB etching solution, but the same machine can be used for etching brass plate for printmaking, and even photoetching brass sheets for model planes, trains, and automobiles. The quality is really amazing; the Instructables robot above was etched out of 0.7 mm thick brass, with an etch depth of 0.35 mm with only 0.05 mm of undercut. A very awesome build that is already on our ‘to build’ project list.