Sunday, October 12, 2014

More scaffolding uses

So, as you will know from the movie 'The great escape' one of the biggest issues in digging is where to put the spoil. Luckily we had no need to maintain secrecy and created our molehill in plain sight. As we have dug out the space under the house we have expanded the field area in terraces out front between us and the river. With the digging in 2013 I needed more stone to hold up the terraces that would be formed with all the spoil, so I built a scaffolding rail system for a little trundle to haul large stones up from the river using the electric winch again.
Sammy did a huge amount of work shifting stones up one by one and also in a bucket suspended from a rope, but I didn't want to break him, so this seemed like a good solution. There was still a lot of work involved in dragging in rocks from further afield as they grew scarce at the railhead, but the vertical shift was achieved by the railway. I had to make some special fitments at the joints to allow the rollers to ride over them smoothly. I think I used six three meter lengths of scaffolding, so the winch wire was at its limit.

The tipping bucket is separate from the carriage, there are a couple of cleats on the front face, a square bar is slotted between them, then the whole bucket is heaved over sideways to dump out the rocks while remaining on the carriage if possible. The little blue rag taped to the rail is there as a marker to show the winch operator down by the stream where to stop.
The actual digging took a while, but I seem to have neglected to take any pictures of the progress in that.
The same system came in useful for building another concrete delivery chute down to the workshop from the road when it came to forming the retaining walls for the new digging.

Friday, October 10, 2014


I had a fairly successful morning working at the forge and using the flypress. When lunchtime came around I took a quick diversion down to the greenhouse dome to check on the sole surviving cucumber plant. For future reference I am interested to see how long it can survive. As I was leaving I noticed these two monsters on the doorframe. The mantis seemed to have the advantage in size and....
also as it turned out moments later, in strategy, she (judging by size and plumpness) was clearly waiting for some sustained movement to properly assess an attack from the side and she seized the opportunity when it came. I suspect this is just general practice, not specifically spider catching behaviour. I saw a similar sized mantis chewing on a large species of bee the other day and she also had the body grasped side on. The scene of the bee struggling despite half of its body having become subsumed by the mantis did actually make me feel a little queezy as I empathised a bit too much with the victim. In this case though I didn't stick around to witness the disappearance of the body, the first spurt of inards from the back of the abdomen of the spider was sufficient to let me know that this might be a PG entertainment I would not be able to erase from memory, so I headed off for my own lunch. The mantis did seem to relish the fluids that emerged and no doubt the nutritional burst will help her see it through to autumn and the ordeal of egg laying.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

More moving

So, after several years of scrabbling about to get in and out from under the press in order to use it I finally decided to make a stand for it. I had some 100mm H beams and 90mm pipe that had been taken off of roadworks on damaged traffic mirrors which allow drivers to see what is coming around a bend. I am sure the bright orange color will be familiar to locals of Japan, especially whoever hit this one and bent it. The press is sitting quietly in the background waiting for its vertical promotion. The stand is on its back doing its impression of the Tommy Cooper 'dead one of those' while I weld in underneath.
Having had a sturdy set of stretchers fitted the stand was de-benched and shunted over to the press area. The press again found itself broken down into its major components. I don't think the beam I am using to sling the chain block from would take the weight of the whole thing without permanent compromise. I did accidentally put the weight of the whole thing on it when trying to lift the fly wheel off, it is a little stubborn and when swivelling it around to loosen it up it caught and the screw action of the press acted to lift the whole thing up until it lost friction with the ground. Interesting.
I knew I was only trying the press out for height on the stand, but I didn't realize at this point that I had slightly snookered myself several months ago when I performed a small surgery on the press screw. I got tired of having several degrees of play in the flywheel motion before the screw engaged, so I poured some molten white metal into the top and hoped for the best. This worked nicely and there is no play at all now, but it also meant that the screw would no longer travel through its full range of motion, I presume this is because the screw had worn slightly at the most used area and the ends are still their original size, I only mention this in case there is someone out there considering a similar procedure. I would suggest measuring things first to check if the screw is true all the way and maybe heating it prior to pouring in your metal so that when it shrinks down on cooling you will have a tiny bit more play. Anyway, this is not a problem for the press, because the range of motion is still fine for work, but it meant that I was left with the screw poking up and there was very little clearance above the press to raise the flywheel onto it. 
I had a rethink, cut a little off of the stand legs and made another attempt to lift the press with the chain block slung high up beside the beam. The sling on the beam slipped its moorings and dropped the whole thing back down after rising a few inches, it was slung properly, but the grips on the wire didn't like the stresses they were under. So I took this harmless accident as a warning and called it a day for that session and let the semi subconscious work on it over night. In the morning I made a U shaped steel strap with holes in the top that would hold a 16mm bolt that rode on top of the beam and clamped the U sides to the beam. This then had a loop of steel welded onto it raising the chain block body to the highest point possible in the space with its main body at the side of the beam. I raised the press a little with this and made some adjustments.

 I observed the degree of twist it was putting into the beam and realised I had over done the length of the hook loop, you can see silver where I have cut off some from the sides so that the chain block body rested snug as near to the beam as it could get. That slight difference greatly reduced the twist. I put a little slab of steel plate in under the bolt to stop that biting into the top of the beam, the cosmetic damage to the wood is from that sling slip I mentioned earlier.
There he is at a much better working height. The whole thing is a bit rough and ready as usual, perhaps one day when I have an immense swathe of free time I might put a dab of paint on it, but for the most part the rest will just be fiddling, making fitments to clamp the press to the stand and making whatever adjustments necessary to make it easier to use. The chair is just in there to indicate scale. The speaker magnets on the right side of the press are really handy for holding the spanners and whatnot for swapping out tooling, they are held up out of the way and it stops them from straying off, which is something that all my tools are prone to.

During my rethinking phase with the press back on the ground I used it to bend some shaped dogs to bolt on the stand at each corner, they stop the press from twisting itself off of its perch. This reactive torque as the press bears down is what you have to consider most when fixing these instruments, the force of the blows is contained within the body of the press, so there is no significant stress beyond the weight of the machine applied to the floor. Obviously, having secured the press to its stand it will now try and twist that as one body, so I will anchor it to the floor using the foot plates attached to bottom of the legs.
On the web I saw a couple of people had retractable wheels on their stand units, and I was going to do the same, but on thinking it over I realised I would be leaving a set of wheels idle for almost their whole lives as the press will hardly ever be moved. I think I will invest in one of those low hand lift trolleys instead, that will serve to move this and whatever other heavy object finds itself in need of spacial readjustment. That and the need to prevent torsion within the framework is the reason for the overkill on the stretchers, I put the H beams on their sides to act as little trays for the most used press tooling and I might put a shelf between them one day. It should be possible to slide the forks of the lift in under the stretchers, lift the thing a smidgen and wheel it away.

Movingly heavy objects

Some years ago I bought a battered old fly press and built a kind of shed around it. In 2013 I decided to dig the final section of my workshop out from below the house, this involved shovelling about 20 cubic meters of rock and earth and is a separate story, but before digging I wanted to move the press down into the workshop using the slope that I would be digging out. We erected this scaffolding structure to await the arrival of the press body and the large flywheel, which we shifted along the path in front of the house. Then used rollers to get the press body in under the tripod and hoisted it onto a scaffolding pipe slope down to the shop.
This is the view back up the slope showing the structure, we used two sheets of 25mm plywood interchanging them along the way as we lowered the press body down on pipe rollers using an electric winch.
I made a truss to allow the flywheel to stand up on its own and also to allow it to be tethered to the winch while rolling down the hill. Again the sheets were swapped along the way. You can see some slats screwed into their undersides to stop them marring too much against the scaffolding clamps and also to butt against them and prevent slippage. I screwed them only in the center so that they could be knocked diagonal where they happened to fall where a clamp was.
Again the view from below.
There was a bit of luck with how the sheets of plywood landed and we were able to get the press body  nicely seated on rollers when it arrived, you can see the flywheel still on the slope.
With the two parts down I disassembled the scaffolding and used a chain block slung from the ceiling beams to reunite the parts of the press. With it sat on timber with stoppers screwed in to stop it skewing in use it delivered some hours of service like this until a few days ago.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Further drifting

I had a go at making tongs to grip the little sections of bar as they were being worked hot. The tongs on the left were made from pieces like those two on the right. They are what is left of a grate I made for the wood stove, the fire eventually ate the central portion and left tapered bars that I kept for later use. The three bars in the middle are marked out ready to be slotted and drifted two have been drawn down slightly in the press, it has sufficient power to do that with the bar cold, which is convenient.
I made a few rings of different sizes to slip on to the reins of the tongs so that they hold their grip, one fully slotted bar and the one in the tongs is just over half done. The three drifts I used to widen the slots are on the swage block at top right.

Monday, September 22, 2014


I do seem to get myself into a tizzy submitting designs. Anyway, I got to the stage of drawing up a chalk version of my plan on a sheet of steel so that I can try parts against it as I make them and also tack weld some "walls" onto it to get the final fit OK. 

Having done that I contacted the client with some sketches and photos of my ideas and have now got the go ahead for the first two grilles. But I changed the top intersection of bars after doing another experiment to try out a split and expanded tenon at the part where the vertical bars intersect with the horizontals. A hole is punched and drifted into a rectangle shape in the horizontal bar. I stamped a shoulder into the vertical bar and then drew it down into a straight section the right size to fit through the hole and then slit it into two forks and drew those down further leaving some meat on the end to make into little flats. After straightening the two lobes of the forked tongue to fit through the mortice hole I then bent them back on the bar to hold the set firmly in place.
I am not sure of my skill set as yet, so I may end up making the verticals in sections to be welded into one piece for the final assembly, but I would like to keep these joints as physical connections, not just welds.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


I am working on ideas for a series of iron window grilles to be mounted on the interior of five windows. The client seemed interested in having glass incorporated in the design and when I saw pictures of some work done by a friend starting out with art adventures I thought the marbles he was using might provide a solution.
I have been practicing slitting and drifting bar to house the marbles. The bar below is 25mmx9mm and I drew it down in some sections to about 17mm and 21 so that the different sized holes I wanted to drift would have similar sized walls.
I watched some videos on you tube and made some slitting punches and drifts.
This bar is my second go.

Here are the two slitting punches and one of the drifts with the bar after having the slits drifted out to three different sizes.

With the marbles laid in the holes on the bench it didn't look very impressive, so I used a few blobs of hot glue to hold them in place so that I could hold the thing up to the light as seen below. I expect I will be able to weld this test section into the finished piece somehow once I have done a bit more testing and finalised the design a bit more.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Slow arch

I used the jig for the big chainsaw to make some planks and this billet for a window lintel. I also made a new jig for the small chainsaw to make it cut perpendicular to a surface. It worked well to cut the straight edge and the arc. I recessed the area at the top on both sides with a series of cuts with a groove cutting tool.