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  • #16
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    "A machinist's (WHAP!) best friend (WHAP! WHAP!) is his hammer. (WHAP!)" - Fred Tanner, foreman, Lunenburg Foundry and Engineering machine shop, circa 1979

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    • #17
      Originally posted by mickeyf View Post
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      Ehhh - that's perfectly safe - just stay away from puddles and don't ever use two at the same time lol

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Mcgyver View Post
        the oily rag thing is for oils that polymerize, e.g. linseed etc....not oily rags from mineral oil, eg. motor, hydraulic oil etc.\

        I don't think it's quite that simple -- with tapping fluids and all their chemistry and all kinds of other factors,related fluids that get put on a typical machine shop rag, but then again im no chemist, maybe that's why I error to the side of caution on this one....

        I remember as a mechanic in a shop seeing a rag smoking, did not know why it was about to combust but can guarantee we were not thinning out oil base paint with linseed oil, it was just a combo of ingredients and that was enough for me ---- if I leave an oily rag in the shop it's in the middle of the cement floor where it can burn away and not effect anything else...

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        • #19
          Welcome to the forum Sphere1. Mcgyver's post really tells you all you need to know to get started. For the kind of machining you are interested in, there is virtually no fire risk. If your wiring is bad, that can cause a fire but - in that case - it doesn't matter whether you're plugging in a lathe or a washing machine. Sure, we can dream up a very special circumstance where something catches fire and causes all kinds of problems, but it's pretty unlikely. If you have any power tools with lithium-ion batteries, they are likely a far greater fire risk than anything you'll be doing with a little Sherline lathe.

          At some point, you may get into brazing, welding, grinding, etc. and all of those activities involve heat and/or sparks. The fire risk is still pretty low as long as you use common sense and remain aware of your surroundings.

          Spontaneous combustion is pretty rare, too. As Mcgyver said, it only happens if with oils that harden relatively quickly (i.e. polymerize). You need to start some kind of exothermic reaction that generates heat. That heat should accelerate the reaction, generating more heat, and so on until the rag ignites. Even then, it helps if the rag is crumpled so the heat can't dissipate well. A rag that is laid out flat with, even soaked in linseed oil, is unlikely to ignite or even smoke.

          Edit: As a licensed pyrotechnician with experience making flash powders, it is virtually impossible for a home machine shop to produce aluminum powder or flake in the size, quality, or quantity required for detonation. If you're going for a bang, best is German Blackhead or "dark flake", a specially prepared aluminum product. The issue is that aluminum oxidizes rapidly in the atmosphere, forming a largely unreactive barrier. That's why aluminum is naturally corrosion resistant. If you just take a piece of aluminum and start machining it and manage to produce fine dust or flakes instead of a chip, that dust oxidizes rapidly and becomes largely unreactive. Now, the story changes if that dust is put in contact with other materials or if you are producing it faster than it can oxidize and become inert. For example, I recall reading a report on a shop vac explosion caused by a combination of aluminum dust and water. A chemical reaction took place, producing hydrogen gas. When the shop vac was switched on later, a spark from the motor blew the whole thing up. Or you'll occasionally hear about aluminum dust explosions in industry but these are really unusually situations that are darn near impossible for a home shop.
          Last edited by Fasttrack; 03-16-2021, 10:28 PM.

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          • #20
            Originally posted by A.K. Boomer View Post

            I don't think it's quite that simple -- with tapping fluids and all their chemistry and all kinds of other factors,related fluids that get put on a typical machine shop rag, but then again im no chemist, maybe that's why I error to the side of caution on this one....

            I remember as a mechanic in a shop seeing a rag smoking, did not know why it was about to combust but can guarantee we were not thinning out oil base paint with linseed oil, it was just a combo of ingredients and that was enough for me ---- if I leave an oily rag in the shop it's in the middle of the cement floor where it can burn away and not effect anything else...
            Ever looked at an SDS (MSDS)? Seen that "hazardous polymerization"? Rags with paint oils (tung oil, linseed, almost ANY vegetable oil) can do the "hazardous polymerization".... in their case, the rag provides insulation, the oil plus air provides polymerization that produces heat..... heat speeds the reaction, which gets hotter.... and there you have it, spontaneous combustion.

            Mineral oils can not do that. They have no "bonding sites" that can polymerize (connect to another molecule) or easily oxidize.

            Many vegetable oils can, they have "double bonds" that are unstable and can offer bonding sites.

            Mixed oils and cutting fluids might. You never know unless they have some info, but you can look them up, and see.

            Here is an example of an SDS that shows very clearly the risks.

            https://gamblincolors.com/wp-content...inseed-Oil.pdf

            Note "slowly polymerizes" on top of page 3, top of page 4 , and look at section 10.

            By the way, the idea of leaving burnables far away from anything only goes so far..... a fire in a closed area, if there is enough material to burn, can heat the space and cause a "flash-over" where any other flammables in the heated area can suddenly literally "burst into flame". That might just be at the ceiling over the small fire, or a larger area for a bigger one.

            But, plain SAE 30 or the like has no such potential. Only oils that will actually "dry" and become gummy after a week or so are a risk.

            That does nt mean you should keep a pile of oily rags..... I don't recommend it.

            I like to spread any suspicious rags over something large and cold, like a vise.... they are unlikely to reach ignition temp with cold cast iron in contact with them. The typical spontaneous combustion is a folded or wadded-up rag in among paper towels, other rags, etc. Somewhere it can get hot and stay hot.

            Another thing to do is toss into water. If you have detergent in the water, then you have a head stat on washing them!
            CNC machines only go through the motions

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            • #21
              Over 60 years of machine shop experience. Only ever seen 2 fires...
              The first was a machinist turning Magnesium in a Lathe that had a had huge pile of chips !
              The second was welding when sparks landed on a polyethylene Tarp that was covering a Lathe to " prevent " damage.
              The first fire destroyed the Lathe
              The Second was immediately put out by a VERY nearby Fire extinguisher , no damage.
              Personally, I never,ever, leave oily or solvent soaked rags in the shop, they go outside and are tossed into a metal 5 gallon bucket;

              The biggest hazard in a basement shop, is metal chips in the carpet upstairs.

              Rich
              PS and I had one in the basement for 5 years
              Green Bay, WI

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              • #22
                Originally posted by A.K. Boomer View Post

                Ehhh - that's perfectly safe - just stay away from puddles and don't ever use two at the same time lol
                That picture was me at 5 years old, except it was a bobby pin instead of a butter knife. My mom was always after me about trying to stick things inot electrical outlets. When she wasn’t looking I was able to complete the circuit. After I got bit she turned around and said “I told you so!” and went back to fixing dinner. Needless to say I learned my lesson.
                Sole proprietor of Acme Buggy Whips Ltd.
                Specialty products for beating dead horses.

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                • #23
                  In the basement sheetrock will help a lot with spread also smoke detectors and havng a fire extinguisher handy.
                  jeff.

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by A.K. Boomer View Post

                    I don't think it's quite that simple -- with tapping fluids and all their chemistry and all kinds of other factors,related fluids that get put on a typical machine shop rag, but then again im no chemist, maybe that's why I error to the side of caution on this one....

                    I remember as a mechanic in a shop seeing a rag smoking, did not know why it was about to combust but can guarantee we were not thinning out oil base paint with linseed oil, it was just a combo of ingredients and that was enough for me ---- if I leave an oily rag in the shop it's in the middle of the cement floor where it can burn away and not effect anything else...
                    So you have ONE example of one rag burning for UNKNOWN reasons,
                    so now you are afraid of all rags. Ridiculous.
                    Ever see a car wreck ? Maybe you should be afraid to drive cars.
                    Makes sense when you apply your evaluation criteria.

                    -Doozer
                    DZER

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                    • #25
                      My only fire concern with my garage shop is grinding and welding sparks. Be smart with oily rags, especially linseed oil as mentioned above. I let my BLO rags dry out completely outside before tossing them. I try not to do any welding or grinding late at night right before I go to bed. Keep the floors and corners clean of combustibles. I have zero concerns about machining starting a fire.

                      I've only ever seen 2 fires in a machine shop. First was a start cap blew up on the air compressor and caught fire. We were just shutting down for the day and were going to let the comp run all night because we were running an overnight finishing program in the mill. 10 more minutes and it would have been a bad scene for sure as above the compressor sat a wooden shelf for the air dryer.

                      2nd fire was more just smouldering sawdust in the big disc sander from somebody sanding wood, then steel. I walked past and it was smoking pretty good. 3 guys working about 10 feet away and none of them noticed lol.

                      Have fun, and welcome to the hobby!

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                      • #26
                        I had a close call a few years ago from an oxy acetylene torch, which obviously is a major fire hazard. (I no longer use it as a torch, my shop is too crowded)

                        Several things to please really think about

                        1) it happens fast. that not a cliche. From first noticing a smell, looking over and seeing a small amount smoke....to almost losing the house (and possibly life as the smoke was unbearably thick as I tried to extinguish it) it was maybe a minute.

                        2) its easy to panic and there is no time to combat panic with rational thought. I had an extinguisher 5 feet from the fire. Hadn't thought about it in ages and didn't think about then. instead I raced to get buckets of water. Now I say to myself, each time I darken the doorstep, what are you going to do if there's a fire - reach for the extinguisher (which of course has to be full, right kind etc). Its like training, the brain will hopefully leap to the correct course of action because its recently program to

                        anyway those two points are probably motherhood for anyone knowledgeable with fires and emergencies. I wasn't and not until I was there did I realize how critical they are...hopefully you are brighter and better prepared
                        Last edited by Mcgyver; 03-17-2021, 10:50 AM.
                        in Toronto Ontario - where are you?

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                        • #27
                          Take care with solvent based degreasers. Although it would not be wise to have a degreasing tank in a basement, ever, I have noticed people using them without realising that the strut which has a frangible link in it to allow the lid to shut if the temperature rises won't work if there is an obstruction stopping the lid from falling at any time.

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Doozer View Post

                            So you have ONE example of one rag burning for UNKNOWN reasons,
                            your an idiot, one example is all it takes to loose everything and possibly get people killed including firefighters,,, and again it's not just about what type of "oil" is on said rags, im sure it can be a chemistry thing with what Iv used in both my basement shop and auto shops to cut through oils and clean surface of parts to then apply sealant or whatever, from brake clean to diesel to carb clean to penetrating oil, iv got combinations that would make the worlds best chemists head spin,,, couple this to sulfur cutting fluids and a barrage of other variables and the very fact that some of the more "knowledgeable" chemistry guys are NOT asking questions as to all the ingredients im using speaks volumes to me about how much they really know....
                            Their advise? "watch out for linseed oil" or oils that can polymerize, all other chemical combinations are ok,,, again no chemist here but can absolutely tell you --- wrong answer....
                            it's not just things like bio-diesel that can be a total game changer that people would not normally think about... there's also chemical reactions between two normally non-threatening fluids that would even be ok with each other or a third or fourth combo --- until you add cotton and bunch it all up and let it sit there,

                            but again --- if all your doing in your shop with all the variables and all the procedures is somehow just mopping up some 10W30 motor oil for some strange reason then please disregard lol




                            so now you are afraid of all rags. Ridiculous.
                            again - your an idiot,,, --- i exercise caution with the vast combinations of oils and cleaners solvents that I use rags for - because of seeing them do what iv seen them do in the past (smoke to the point that they would have caught fire) don't blame me because im not dense in the head and don't leave them on top of my wooden work bench -- if they are saturated - used up they hit the wood stove with a match,,, if they are half used up they end up in the middle of the cement floor.. that actually saves me a few seconds instead of having to gather them up and put them on the flammable wooden workbench, that in fact does make you look pretty stupid --- your taking extra time to have more risk, not to bright buddy...

                            I cannot for the life of me imagine what it would be like to have a thought process like yours,,, I mean im done for the day heading up the steps to crack a cold IPA and here's the Dooze thinking "I guess I'll gather up these oil/solvent soaked rags off the open concrete where their safe and toss them onto the flammable workbench just in case they ignite I want them to be able to proliferate" I mean you would almost have to follow this statement with another one of "then I can finally get upstairs to get my gun and shoot myself in my own foot with it"

                            that's how hell bent you get when you hear the word "safety" lol your just as out of touch as the people who take it to such extremes that they are freaks about it and even create more hazards with their anti-hazards lol --- frankly I find you both equally annoying...





                            Ever see a car wreck ? Maybe you should be afraid to drive cars.
                            Makes sense when you apply your evaluation criteria.

                            -Doozer
                            I have seen car wrecks --- love driving though so just try to look for things like stop signs and red lights... I definitely try to understand why they are there --- and don't get upset about them to the point that it makes me want to run them on purpose lol
                            Last edited by A.K. Boomer; 03-17-2021, 12:55 PM.

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                            • #29
                              I believe there was mention recently of storing things like propane tanks OUTSIDE, in particular for insurance reasons. If you have one and it decides to leak, you don't want that gas accumulating indoors, but rather dissipating outdoors. it was mentioned that if your house/shop burned down, even if it was an electrical issue the insurance probably wouldn't cover it, and of course the fire fighters aren't going to want to enter the building if they know/believe there is potentially explosive compressed gas inside.

                              Also, be very careful about exposing any buttons (such as "safety") you may have. Doozer will push those buttons, and you will find yourself ranting on Internet forums. This is a well known hazard.
                              "A machinist's (WHAP!) best friend (WHAP! WHAP!) is his hammer. (WHAP!)" - Fred Tanner, foreman, Lunenburg Foundry and Engineering machine shop, circa 1979

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                              • #30
                                Hi Sphere, welcome aboard.

                                As someone that personally saw a fire from a bag full of boiled linseed soaked paper towels I'll echo the reason for caution there (story at end). But also I'll echo the call for common sense about the mineral oil thing too. Only oils that dry/cure/polymerize over time are a direct self igniting risk. The other types CAN burn but need an ignition source. And to be fair some cutting oils use organic makeups which could be a risk if they are exposed to some manner of oxidizing agent. For myself I don't give rags or paper with common lubricating oils a second thought. They go in the regular trash unless massively soaked where I put them in the container with used oil filters (do all my own motorcycle work). But any veg or nut based oils or unknowns in the metal area go outside and into a simple mesh waste basket (office type) to air dry safely with lots of cooling airflow and without risk of blowing away and littering the whole area.

                                Fire extinguishers are intended to be placed such that you can fight your way OUT of the fire and call the fire department. But obviously they can also be used to put out a small spot fire if caught early enough. In my case my two shops (metal and wood) each have a small'ish size extinguisher located in an open area that is central to each shop. If it needs more than that it's 911 and drag in a hose while waiting for the fire department. The point here being that they should not be right next to the possible points of ignition where you'd need a second fire extinguisher to reach the first one.


                                On a more general setup note....

                                Use some care in setting up a small area so the machine tools are not directly exposed to grinding dust. And that any sparks are kept within that same confined area. Obviously keep any flammable solvents out of that area. In my metal shop (2 car garage) the solvent paint and oil shelf is at the opposite corner from the combined grinding and welding corner. And while there is no wall the nearest machine tool is a fair ways from the grinding. If I'm doing more of a big job with lots of disc grinding this way and that the milling machine, which is closest, gets a cover of an old bed sheet to stop the grit from falling on the table

                                For your basement I'd also suggest some manner of fume control via some sort of exhaust fan. We don't need to be a nanny about it though. A decent bathroom fan can quietly draw away any fumes from solvents being used and any cutting oil whisps of smoke that you might get from your table top machining efforts. And you'll make big points by not allowing those smells to migrate up and into the rest of the house. And even for you in the shop it's not nice to be soaking in such fumes.

                                Other than that if you're like many of us and advancing in years be sure to install LOTS of lights that are well located over the actual machines and bench area. No need to make the whole shop look like noon on a summer's day. But be sure you have good lighting over the actual bench.

                                If you set up a little forge/welding/soldering/heat treating spot it would be a good idea to have a second bathroom fan or set things up so the one fan forms a natural flow to aid with removing the fumes from that as well. If you're getting into horology side of things you'll certainly end up making a lot of your own cutters at least to some extent and that means heat treating and oil quenching. And the oil produces a lot (for the size of part) of not so nice smoke when the hot metal is dunked.

                                OK, now that story... I built a cowboy gun cart for a buddy and he and his wife came over to apply the finish of BLO. He's an overly tidy sort and at the end cleaned up all the foam sponges used to apply the oil and the bundle of oily paper towels used to remove the excess and put them into a shopping bag with the top tied neatly. I was doing something else that day and didn't even think to ask him what he'd done. It was out in the basement entry well. We all had dinner together and after that I got up for something and smelled smoke. We checked the upper living area, the BBQ and down in the shops then moved outside to find the bag had burst into flame and as it was near the wheel of a wheelbarrow I'd put there a couple of days prior it was doing a number on the rubber... which is mostly what we smelled.

                                It wasn't far from the house though and it could have easily ended up badly. It was also the first time I'd seen such an oil based fire. So yes. it can happen. And my buddy that had always poo-poo'ed the warnings in the past was gob struck.

                                You mentioned watches. That's a pretty intense small machining pursuit to get into. I can see clocks for sure. But watches? You're a braver fella than I. I hope you stick around and post here as it would be fun to see your shop area take shape and watch and small clock size jigs and tooling take form.

                                I imagine that the Sherline is the "Big Stuff" and that you're on the prowl for a full watchmaker's lathe? And of course the other stuff that goes with it?
                                Last edited by BCRider; 03-17-2021, 01:49 PM.
                                Chilliwack BC, Canada

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