View Full Version : ON TOPIC: some pics of my home shop

10-06-2008, 06:14 PM
OK, I plead guilty. I have been lurking and soaking up knowledge from the talented people on this forum, but I haven't given much back in return.

Partly because I work long hours, partly because I want to protect trade secrets, but mostly because much of my machining is routine and boring.

So I'll start a thread on some of the things going on in my shop. Nothing earth shattering, and I'll only have time to post a pic or two each day, if I'm lucky.

Here's part of today's work (actually, I usually have two or three machines running at the same time, but this is what I am allowed to show you). Milling iron. 65-45-12, to be exact. It arrives in oversize bars, as-cast or as-sawn or both, and I have to saw and mill the crap out of it to make a finished product. The piece in the vice started out about an inch thick, but must be milled down to 3/4" thick, uniform and square.

The face mill is a 2.5" Iscar, of the "hi shear" variety, with positive angles. It works great, even on the puny HF mill. Some of this iron will have a hard scale that eats up end mills and saw blades, but the Iscar shrugs it off.

Today's chips filled up a five gallon bucket. There have been days when I filled up a wheelbarrow with iron chips.

This job could be done more efficiently with a horizontal mill. Maybe someday the money tree will blossom enough to buy one (I'm way jealous of you guys back in the rust belt who can pick up old manual mills for practically nothing).

Face milling iron is not my favorite task. It's boring, noisy, dirty, and painful (hot chips everywhere, despite guards). But that's real life machining.

Tools of the trade. Sometimes I joke that I make a living measuring holes, and that's not too far from the truth. So I have a few hole mics and ring gages.

Speaking of ring gages, the best way to learn to measure ID's, is to get a ring gage and practice measuring the gage with your instrument of choice, until you can get consistent, accurate readings. You will learn very quickly what works and how repeatable -- or not -- your measurements are.

If my shop were on fire, and I only had time to grab one thing, it might be the tri mics. A three piece set runs about $2000 new, and they are sweet to use.

That's all for today. Hopefully I'll find time to post more tomorrow.

10-06-2008, 09:33 PM
Lurking is cool, as long as you share at some point.

Back in my QA days, I would have killed for those tri mics. Bar none, those are the tools that allow a fella to say that the hole is correct or wrong. The only thing better was the CMM that I could use. But even with that I could make a bore look a bit bigger. All I had to do was swing the stylus a little faster.

Anyhow, glad to have you around. And I enjoy that working table (wood stump) that you have there.


10-07-2008, 06:47 PM
Here's what I did today, not including the secret stuff that I am not allowed to show. As usual, I was running several tools at once, plus communicating with customers, including one who only speaks German so I had to use Google translate to email him, plus the neighbor stopped by, etc.. So I didn't get a lot of milling done.

The iron blocks got a slot that will eventually accept a 5/16" handle. I roughed the slot with a 1/4" roughing mill in two passes on the HF 6x20. The slot will not be finished to 5/16" until much later. Almost all of my machining is broken down into two or more passes. Rough it out, then finish cut the final few thou.

The slot is another operation that could probably be done more efficiently in a horizontal mill, if I had one.

BTW, the caliper is a 4" HF. Perhaps the most used tool in my shop. The 4" caliper actually costs more than a 6", but the size is handier to my way of thinking.

After slotting, then I took a skim cut with the Iscar face mill on the top and bottom. Sorry, no pictures of this step because I was multitasking, as usual. These edges will be used to clamp the piece in the vice at the next operation. If they are not perfectly square, then the piece tries to cock in the vice and that screws things up.

After squaring the top and bottom edges, the Iscar face mill was used to finish cut the sides. Again no picture, but it looks just like the milling picture I posted yesterday. Yesterday I was roughing the sides, today they got a finish cut. The goal is to produce a block face that is perfectly flat and 0.748" thick, +/- 0.001".

Every single piece is miked for thickness at each corner, and any piece that is out of spec is scrapped. One of two things can go wrong -- either the piece cocks in the vice because the edges are not perfectly square, or else a chip gets underneath something. Yes, it is slow and inefficient. Everything I do is slow and inefficient. I am no John Stevenson.

Normally this type of operation would be done on a surface grinder while held by a magnetic chuck but 1) Santa has yet to bring a surface grinder and 2) I more commonly make these parts out of aluminum, or sometimes brass.

Moving on to another corner of the shop, here is my heat treatment furnace.

The furnace started out as a name brand "muffin" furnace that sells for $5000 new. You can bet I didn't pay that much. It has been rebuilt and repaired several times. The original controls were zapped by lightning, and the furnace suffered from a couple of "meltdowns" while using a generic PID controller (the controller melted, too, so good riddance to that). About the only original parts are the door, the frame, the relay, and the door interlock. I recently installed some new brick, new elements, and yet another controller following the procedures at this site http://www.britishblades.com/home/articles.php?action=show&showarticle=31. I like the Omron controller it has now -- very simple interface, not much for the operator to screw up.
I am currently treating 4140 and W-1. Nothing fancy -- heat, quench, then temper.

Hopefully I'll find time to post a few more pics tomorrow.

10-07-2008, 07:08 PM
Hello cousin scrounger:

(this is when I admit I once was a Alcoholic?)
A decent heat treating unit can be made with a stock pot poured full of refractory, lit with a HF weed burner, a pilot light and solonoid tied to "your" $150 pid controller.. No, I don't pay list price either. Auctions and wholesale or no-sale..

Molten salt? ya seen them heat treaters?

10-09-2008, 09:22 PM
Ran out of studs, so I had to make more by sawing up a piece of 1/4-28 stainless allthread on the HF4x6. 24T Starrett blade, minimum blade speed, maximum down pressure, sulferized cutting oil. Sounds simple, but I toasted a lot of blades before I figured that out. http://i487.photobucket.com/albums/rr235/mountainmolds/sawing_stud.jpg

Now back to the iron blocks..... what do you suppose I am doing with this funny looking tap?http://i487.photobucket.com/albums/rr235/mountainmolds/cut_vent1.jpg

Vent lines. Yet another operation that probably could be done more efficiently with a horizontal mill, if I had one.http://i487.photobucket.com/albums/rr235/mountainmolds/cut_vent3.jpg

10-09-2008, 09:25 PM
Drilling a pair of blocks to receive alignment bushings. The chuck is a "Golden Goose", Enco house brand, ball bearing chuck. Works great.http://i487.photobucket.com/albums/rr235/mountainmolds/drill_align.jpg

Followed by a reamer. In case you are wondering, I mark the reamer sizes with a piece of masking tape because it is easier to read that way.http://i487.photobucket.com/albums/rr235/mountainmolds/ream_align.jpg

10-09-2008, 09:37 PM
Starting to look like bullet molds..............
Keep posting pics. Very interesting.


10-09-2008, 09:48 PM
A decent heat treating unit can be made with a stock pot poured full of refractory, lit with a HF weed burner, a pilot light and solonoid tied to "your" $150 pid controller.. No, I don't pay list price either. Auctions and wholesale or no-sale..

I thought about going that route..... but a gas furnace would have to be outside or in a well ventilated area ....... that's a problem when you live in the great white north. Or at least, it seems like the great white north, for months at a time.

The Omron PID controller was purchased used on ebay for $34 delivered. I chose it because it had a KISS simple interface.

You can buy generic PID controllers on ebay for $40 bucks, but I don't recommend them. They work, but they have too many features crammed into a tiny interface. My klutzy fingers push the wrong buttons and cause meltdowns.

'Bout the time I was in 5th grade, I saved up enough money to buy my first watch. In those days, watches were sold in jewelry stores, so I went to the local jewelry store and gazed at the display of watches. I asked for a watch that displayed the date, but the jeweler, who was also a watch repairman, gave me some advice that I have never forgotten: "the more features a watch has, the more things there are to go wrong, and the harder it is to repair."

The original furnace was purchased used on ebay for about $170 delivered. I can't remember the brand name (the label was lost during one of the rebuilds) but it sells for $5000 new.

Auctions, craig's list, HF, dumpster diving ...... you bet. There are some things where it is worth buying quality -- like bandsaw blades, firearms, and chainsaws -- but most of the time, I don't care if it is fancy, as long as it works.

10-09-2008, 10:57 PM
Starting to look like bullet molds..............
Keep posting pics. Very interesting.

I'm waiting to see the cherries.....
Very nice work!

10-10-2008, 10:53 AM
Thank you for posting the interesting pix, MtnGun. I like your clever idea of using the tap for cutting grooves.

In a way, we are neighbors. I can see the Snake from my living room. We are about 30 miles downstream from the L-C Valley.


10-10-2008, 11:56 AM
OK, throw enough clues at me and I'll come up with an answer! Mtngun, you've got a pretty good reputation in the cast bullet community, and I admit (cheerfully!) to using your online bullet design a lot to come up with ideas and suggestions for folks on the ASSRA forum. Sure do wish you could come up with tooling for smaller meplats, though! For those who want to check out his website, look at http://www.mountainmolds.com/.

Montezuma, IA

10-10-2008, 12:06 PM
I don't think you will see any cherries, I think M.M. moulds are lathe bored.

10-10-2008, 12:27 PM
I can really see why you are hankering after a horizontal mill or two. I can just see you holding down long pieces that are almost the table in length with finger clamps in holes drill in the ends and slab milling 4 sides, swap arbors and do main slot in one pass, swap arbors and do the vents, Then swap arbors for a 1/8" saw or move over to Horizontal mill Nr 2, mount in a vice and cut them off.

10-10-2008, 01:18 PM
Doing secret stuff for Germans?

Does the OSS know about this?

Or are these our Germans? Is there a young fella named Von Braun involved?


10-10-2008, 01:52 PM
Thanks for showing what you doing. It is interesting! Those horizontal mills have their places but if you need or like using a vise or doing angled milling the verticle can't be beat. Verticles are quickier set up too I think. I do use both regularly. Nice compact universal K&T does just about everything!