Restoring A Rusty Rebar Cutter

We’ve all probably come across hunks of junk that used to be tools, long-neglected and chemically welded into a useless mass of solid rust. Such items are available for a pittance at the local flea market, or more likely found in an old barn or rotting on a junk pile. They appear to be far beyond salvage, but with the proper application of elbow grease and penetrating lubricants, even a nasty old seized-up rebar cutter can live again.

We honestly almost passed up on the video below when it came across our feed. After all, a rebar cutter is a dead-simple device, and half the fun of restoration videos like those made by [my mechanics] is seeing all the parts removed, restored, and replaced. But it ended up being far more interesting than we expected, and far more challenging too.

The cutter was missing its original handle and looked for all the world like it had been cast from a solid piece of iron oxide. [my mechanics] was able to get the main pivot bolts free with a combination of leverage, liberal application of penetrating oil, drilling, and the gentle persuasion of a hydraulic press.

These efforts proved destructive to both bolts, so new ones were made on the lathe, as were a number of other parts beyond saving. New cutters were fabricated from tool steel and a new handle was built; before anyone comments on anyone’s welding skills, please read [Jenny]’s recent article on the subject.

The finished product is strikingly dissimilar to the starting lump of oxidized junk, so there’s going to to be some debate in calling this a “restoration” in the classical sense. The end result of a [my mechanics] video is invariably a tool or piece of gear that looks far better than it did the day it was made, and any one of them would get a place of honor on our shelf. That said, he’d probably be swiftly shown the door if he worked at the Smithsonian.

Whatever you want to call these sort of videos, there are tons of them out there. We’ve featured a few examples of the genre, from the loving rehabilitation of classic Matchbox cars to rebuilding an antique saw set. They’re enough to make us start trolling garage sales. Or scrap yards.

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Grind Your Welds With Pride, If That’s The Way You Do It

To grind or not to grind? What a question! It all depends on what you’re really trying to show, and in the case of welded joints, I often want to prove the integrity of the weld.

My ground-back piece of welded tube. Eagle-eyed readers will spot that the grinding reveals a weld that isn't perfect.
My ground-back piece of welded tube. Eagle-eyed readers will spot that the grinding reveals a weld that isn’t perfect.

Recently, I wrote a piece in which I talked about my cheap inverter welder and others like it. As part of it I did a lower-current weld on a piece of thin tube and before snapping a picture of the weld I ground it back flat. It turns out that some people prefer to see a picture of the weld bead instead — the neatness of the external appearance of the weld — to allow judgment on its quality. Oddly I believe the exact opposite, that the quality of my weld can only be judged by a closer look inside it, and it’s this point I’d like to explore.

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The Clickspring Playing Card Press Is A Work Of Art

We have no idea what a playing card press is, nor do we care. All we know is that after watching [Chris] from Clickspring make his playing card press, we want it.

Digging a little deeper, [Chris] offered to make this card press for [Chris Ramsay], a magician who specializes in cardistry, or the art of illusions with cards. The feel of playing cards is crucial to performing with them, and a card press keeps a deck of cards in shape. Not a commonly available device, [Clickspring Chris] designed one in an elaborate style that brought in elements from [Chris Ramsay]’s logo.

Like all Clickspring videos, this one is a joy to watch, but in a departure, there’s no narration — just 30 minutes of precision machining and metal finishing. [Chris] has gotten into metal engraving in a big way, and used his skills to add details to everything from the stylized acorn at the top to the intricate press plate, all of which was done freehand. And those snakes! Made from brass rod and bent into shape by hand, they wrap around the side supports to form [Chris Ramsay]’s logo. All the brass ended up gold plated, while all the screws ended up with a heat-blued finish. Settle in and enjoy the video below.

It’s been a while since the Clickspring skeleton clock was finished, in which time [Chris] has been working on a reproduction of the Antikythera mechanism. His video output slowed considerably, though, when he made a new finding about the mechanism, an observation worthy of writing up as a scholarly paper. We can’t begrudge him the time needed to pursue that, and we’re glad he found time for this project too.

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Scrapyard Milling Machine Gets Work Done On A Budget

Which to buy first, a lathe or a mill? It’s a tough question for the aspiring home machinist with limited funds to spend on machine tools, but of course the correct answer is a lathe. With a lathe, we are told, all other machine tools can be built, including a milling machine. Granted that might be a slight  exaggeration, but [Maximum DIY] was still able to use his budget-blowing lathe to make a decent milling machine mostly from scrap.

Details are a bit sparse in the forum post, but there’s enough there and in the video after the break to be mightily impressed with the build. Unlike many DIY mills that are basically modified drill presses, [Maximum DIY] started with things like a scrapped bench grinder pedestal and surplus steel tubing. The spindle motor is from a paint sprayer and the Z-axis power feed is a treadmill incline motor. The compound table was a little too hard to make, so the purchased table was fitted with windshield wiper motor power feeds.

Therein lies perhaps the most clever hack in this build: the use of a plain old deep 19mm socket as a clutch for the power feeds. The 12-point socket slides on the square shaft of the wiper motor to engage the drive screw for the compound table – simple and bulletproof.

To be sure, the finished mill is far from perfect. It looks like it needs more mass to quell vibration, and those open drive pulleys are a little nerve wracking. But it seems to work well, and really, any mill is better than no mill. Of course, if you’re flush with cash and want to buy a mill instead of making one, this buyer’s guide should help.

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Giant LED Display Is 1200 Balls To The Wall

When you’re going to build something big, it’s often a good idea to start small and work out the bugs first. That’s what [bitluni] did with his massive 1200-pixel LED video wall, which he unveiled at Maker Faire Hanover recently.

We covered his prototype a while back, a mere 300 ping pong ball ensconced-LEDs on a large panel. You may recall his travails with the build, including the questionable choice of sheet steel for the panel and the arm-busting effort needed to drill 300 holes with a hand drill. Not wanting to repeat those mistakes, [bitluni] used the custom hole punch he built rather than a drill, and went with aluminum sheet for the four panels needed. It was still a lot of work, and he had to rig up some help to make the tool more comfortable to use, but in the end the punched holes appear much neater than their drilled counterparts.

[bitluni] mastered enough TIG welding to make nice aluminum frames for the panels, making them lightweight and easy to transport. 1200 ping pong balls, a gunked-up soldering iron, and a package of hot glue sticks later, the wall was ready for electronics. It took a 70-amp power supply and an ESP32 to run everything, but that’s enough horsepower to make some impressive graphics and even stream live video – choppy and low-res, but still usable.

We love the look this wall and we appreciate the effort that went into it. And it’s always good to see just how much fun [bitluni] has with his builds – it’s infectious.

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Shop-Made Tools Turn Cheap Steel Into Telescoping Tubes

Beginning metalworkers are often surprised at just how cheap steel can be. It’s a commodity made by the gigaton, and there are always plenty of extra pieces and scraps left over from big projects that are available for pennies a pound. But what you’ve got is often not what you need, especially when it’s steel tubing with welded seams that prevents one tube from fitting inside another.

[Jason Marburger] from Fireball Tool has some great tips for cleaning interior welds in steel tubing. The first part of the video below details manual methods for cleaning off seam welds, including chiseling, sanding with a narrow belt sander, and grinding them down with a die grinder. Those all work well, but only for short lengths of tubing. Longer tubes need special treatment, which is where the clever tools [Jason] designed come in handy.

By attaching a chunk of high-speed steel to a slug made from the next size tube down and driving it through the tube to be cleaned with a hefty piece of threaded rod, he basically created ain internal shaper to shave the weld down. It works like a charm, as does the tool he made for round tubing by laying a bead of hard facing welding rod around the edge of a mild steel slug. Driving this tool into the seamed round tubing with a shop press cleaned up the weld nicely too.

Hats off to [Jason] for coming up with a couple of great shop tips to keep in mind. We’ve seen similar expedient tools for metalworking lately, like this homemade die-punching tool and a linear track to keep your plasma cutter in line.

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Punch Those Hole-Drilling Blues Away With A Homebrew Punching Tool

Four times the holes, four times the trouble. With the fate of repetitive motion injury looming due to the need to drill 1,200 holes, [bitluni] took matters into his own hands and built this nifty DIY hole punch for light-gauge sheet metal.

A little backstory will probably help understand why [bitluni] needs so many holes. Back in May, he built a ping pong ball LED video wall for Maker Faire Berlin. That had 300 LEDs and came out great, but at the cost of manually drilling 300 holes in sheet steel with a hand drill. Looking to expand his wall of balls to four times the original size, [bitluni] chose to spend a few days building a punch to make the job more appealing. The business end, with solid bar stock nested inside pieces of tubing, is a great example of how much you can get done without a lathe. The tool is quite complex, with a spring-loaded pilot to help guide the punching operation. When that proved impractical, [bitluni] changed the tool design and added an internal LED to project crosshairs from inside the tool.

The tool itself is mounted into a sturdy welded steel frame that allows him to cover the whole aluminum sheet that will form the panel of his LED wall. It’s pretty impressive metalwork, especially considering this isn’t exactly in his wheelhouse. And best of all, it works – nice, clean holes with no deformation, and it’s fast, too. We’re looking forward to seeing the mega-LED wall when it’s done.

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