Retrotechtacular: The Art Of The Foundry

Mention the term “heavy industry” and the first thing to come to mind might well be the metal foundry. With immense machines and cauldrons of molten metal being shuttled about by crane and rail, the image of the foundry is like a scene from Dante’s Inferno, with fumes filling a vast impersonal factory, and sparks flying through the air. It looks like a dangerous place, as much to the soul as to the body, as workers file in each day to suffer mindlessly at the hearths and ladles, consumed in dirty, exhausting work even as it consumes them.

Things are not always as they appear, of course. While there’s no doubting the risks associated with working in a foundry such as the sprawling Renfrew works of Babcock and Wilcox Ltd. in the middle of the previous century, as the video below shows the work there was anything but mindless, and the products churned out by the millions from this factory and places like it throughout the world were critical to today’s technology.

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Solve Your Precision Woes With A Sliding Angle Grinder

Angle grinders are among the most useful tools for anyone who’s ever had to cut metal. They’re ergonomic, compact, and get the job done. Unfortunately, one of the tradeoffs you usually make when using them is precision.

But thankfully, there’s a DIY solution. YouTuber [workshop from scratch] demonstrated the build process for a sliding angle grinder in a recent video, welding steel beams into a flat frame and attaching fitted beams on top to slide across the rows. Where necessary, spacers are used to ensure that the slider is perfectly fitted to the beam. The contraption holding the angle grinder – a welded piece of steel bolted to the sliding mechanism – has a grip for the user to seamlessly slide the tool across the table.

The operation is like a more versatile and robust chop saw, not to mention the customized angle references you can make to cut virtually anything you like. The build video shows the entire process, from drill pressing and turning holes to welding pieces of the frame together to artfully spray painting the surface a classy black, with familiarity enough to make the project look like a piece of cake.

As the name implies, [workshop from scratch] is all about building your own shop tools, and we’ve previously taken a look at their impressive hydraulic vise and mobile crane builds. These tools, largely hacked together from scraps, prove that setting up your own shop doesn’t necessarily mean you need to break the bank.

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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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Turning A Single Bolt Into A Combination Lock

In our search for big-box convenience, we tend to forget that locksmiths once not only copied keys but also created complex locks and other intricate mechanisms from scratch. [my mechanics] hasn’t forgotten, and building a lock is his way of celebrating of the locksmith’s skill. Building a combination lock from a single stainless bolt is probably also showing off just a little, and we’re completely fine with that.

Granted, the bolt is a rather large one – an M20x70 – and a few other materials such as brass rod and spring wire were needed to complete the lock. But being able to look at a single bolt and slice it up into most of the stock needed for the lock is simply amazing. The head became the two endplates, while the shank was split in half lengthwise and crosswise after the threads were turned off; those pieces were later turned down into the tubes and pins needed to create the lock mechanism. The combination wheels probably could have come from another – or longer – bolt, but we like the look of the brass against the polished stainless, as well as the etched numbers and subtle knurling. The whole thing is a locksmithing tour de force, and the video below captures all of it without any fluff or nonsense.

If working in steel and brass isn’t your thing, fear not – a 3D-printed combination lock is probably within your reach. Or laser cut wood. Or even plain paper, if you’re not into the whole security thing.

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Blacksmithing For The Uninitiated: Curves And Rings

You know the funny looking side of the anvil? That’s where the best curves come from. It’s called the anvil horn and is the blacksmith’s friend when bending steel and shaping it into curves.

The principle of bending a piece of steel stock is very easy to understand. Heat it up to temperature, and hammer it over a curved profile to the intended shape. A gentler touch is required than when you are shaping metal. That’s because the intent is to bend the metal rather than deform. Let’s take a look!

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Automatic Cut-Off Saw Takes The Tedium Out Of A Twenty-Minute Job

For [Turbo Conquering Mega Eagle], the question was simple: Do I spend 20 minutes slaving away in front of a bandsaw to cut a bunch of short brass rods into even shorter pieces of brass rod? Or do I spend days designing and building an automatic cutoff saw to do the same job? The answer is obvious.

It’s only at the end of the video below that [TCME] reveals the need for these brass bits: they’re for riveting together the handles of knives he makes and sells. That makes the effort that went into his “Auto Mega Cut-O-Matic” a little easier to swallow, although we still think he ran afoul of this relevant XKCD. The saw is built out of scraps and odd bits using angle iron as a base and an electric die grinder to spin a cut-off wheel. A small gear motor feeds the brass rod down a guide tube until it hits a microswitch stop, which starts the cut cycle. Another motor swivels the saw to make the cut then moves it out of the way so the stock can advance. The impressive thing is that the only control mechanism is a series of microswitches, cams, levers, and springs  – no Arduino needed. Heck, there’s not even a 555, which we find a refreshing change.

Yes, it’s overkill, but he had fun and made something pretty ingenious. [Turbo Conquering Mega Eagle] always has something interesting going on in the shop, and we couldn’t help but notice him using his aluminum-melting tea kettle to make some parts for this build.

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Blacksmithing For The Uninitiated: Your First Time At The Anvil

For the past few months we’ve been running this series of Blacksmithing For The Uninitiated posts, exploring the art of forge work for a novice. It’s based upon my experience growing up around a working blacksmith’s business and becoming an enthusiastic if somewhat inexpert smith, and so far we’ve spent our time looking at the equipment you might expect to need were you embarking on your own blacksmith work. Having assembled by now a basic forge of our own it’s now time to fire it up and take to the anvil for our first bit of smithing.

Lighting a forge is easy enough. Some people do it with a gas torch, but I break a piece of firewood into sticks using a hammer with the fuller set in the hardy hole on the anvil as an impromptu splitter. Making a small fire by lighting some paper under my pile of sticks placed on the hearth next to the tuyere I start the blower and then pile coke on top of the resulting conflagration. After about ten minutes I will have a satisfying roar and a heap of glowing coals, and as they burn there will be some slag collecting in the bottom of the fire that I will eventually need to rake out. Continue reading “Blacksmithing For The Uninitiated: Your First Time At The Anvil”