Monthly Archives: August 2012

Shinya Kamura

I got the new Mouldings In Practice book from Lost Art Press recently, and I really like it.  Of course it has instructions on making mouldings and the use of the special planes involved, but it also speaks to the craft, creation and hand skills.

I love tools in general.  I love them for their form, the skill that went into making them and especially for the abilities to create other things that they represent.  The tool by itself can’t create, although some tools lower the necessary skill level by virtue of their operation. Think table saw compared to a hand saw.  How hard is it to accurately rip a 2″ x 10″ into two equal width boards with a table saw?  Simple.  With a hand saw, not so much.  A skilled cabinetmaker can build fine furniture with a modest collection of hand tools.  Likewise, a skilled blacksmith can build tools, locks and other utensils with little more than a hammer and a hot fire.

Craftsmanship and creativity meet in many unexpected places, and we’re all the richer for it.  Shinya Kamura is a motorcycle builder, although that title sells him short by a good bit – in the same way as saying that James Krenov was a carpenter or Lance Armstrong is a cyclist.  He creates complex, beautiful works of mechanical art using simple fabrication tools, the eye of a craftsman and the soul of an artist.

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Making a Kiosk

Or, at least, part of a kiosk.

Rewinding a week or two, I was chatting with a colleague at work and he mentioned that he wanted to build a kiosk to show off some software we’ve been developing for the past couple of years at an upcoming conference.  Before my brain could interviene my mouth volunteered to help.

We kicked ideas around on the whiteboard, he drew up some mockups using a 3D drawing package called Cheetah3D on the Mac.  (side note, it looked pretty handy.  I’m partial to SolidWorks, but it only runs on Windows and is expensive.  Sketchup is the popular tool for woodworkers.)  I modeled the kiosk in SolidWorks once we had a decent idea where we wanted to go with it.  From that it was easy to generate full-scale drawings that I could print at Kinko’s so we could get a sense of the scale and proportion.

The goal was to make something that looked like this.  The blank spaces on the legs are for logos and lettering.

Rendering from Cheetah3D

The interesting bit is the case, which houses a touchscreen monitor and a embedded computer called a Beagle Board.

Exploded view of the kiosk panel

We decided to build a prototype to see what would work and what wouldn’t.  My friend did most of the work, cutting out the legs from plywood, routing recesses for the wiring, sanding and painting and assembly.  I made the aluminum case surround and internal bracketry.  And cleaned up my shop – which took more time than the fab work.

We had some “nut rings” – internal supports – laser cut form the DXF files I produced.  Honestly, laser cutting isn’t the hot setup for Aluminum.  It leaves a ragged edge, waterjet would have been better.  But we were on a tight schedule and had to work with whatever places could meet our turn-around requirements.  I cleaned up the worst of the ratty edge with a file – but we were working to close tolerances as the acrylic front we had cut needed to fit properly so I had to go easy.

Laser cut nut ring

I had to make a radius die for my brake to bend the correct .5″ radius for the corners.

Bending die

Here is the first sample bend, looks pretty good.  To be able to get the bends where you want them you need to allow for material loss in the bend.  The easiest way to do this is to make a test bend and measure it.  It this case I laid out a bend line 3″ from the edge, made the mend and measured from the end to the outside surface of the bend.  In this bend orientation I lost about .080″.  Note that the bend is a good match to the laser cut ring.

Test bend

Here are the first two real bends, looks pretty close.

First two bends

After bending all four corners I had to weld the seam.  I tacked it first, then made sure that the fit up at the weld joint as right.  The nut ring is not welded in place yet, it’s just held there by friction.  I poped it out, welded the seam solid and ground the surround smooth.

Tack welds

Completed surround

Once I’d erased all traces of welding the surround I welded in the nut ring and passed it off to my buddy.  Meanwhile he was sanding and painting the plywood base and wiring up the guts.  He decided to punt on the holes in the legs for the prototype, if we actually have a batch of these made for the conference we’ll include the holes.

Completed Kiosk

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Workbench Vise

I’ve been caught up in work lately, welcome to being OCD and manic-focused I guess.

Semi-related to making, my software engineering team at work just completed the latest update to Java, JDK 7 update 6.  And JavaFX 2.2.  I’ve always considered developing software to be a close analog to making physical things.  It’s about creation, using the tools and skills you have (which are generally never quite complete enough for the job at hand) and problem solving.  I’m probably the only guy that has that particular mental twist, so I’ll move along.

I volunteered to help build a prototype kiosk at work to show off the capabilities in the new JavaFX release, mostly because I have so much free time I guess (sarcasm alert).  More about that another time.

Before I could even make a start on the kiosk though I had to clean up my shop.  It was a disaster that had been building for years as the detritus of the chopper parts business accumulated.  Long story short, my son Kolya and I spent a good 8 hours putting tools away, cleaning and purging.  There was at least 5 pounds to grit, metal dust and polishing residue that we swept up.  And a pickup truck load of junk to go to the dump.  And we could easily spend another 5 or 6 hours cleaning to make thing nice, but at this point it’s usable.  More about that another time too.

I’ve been planning the next steps on my workbench in my mind.  It’s time to finish that project.  My plan is to mount an end vise and use the new benchtop to hold the legs for planing square as the very next step.  But I have been stuck on what to use for an end vise.  I really wanted a wagon vise, but I’m not willing to perform major surgery to install it.

I’ve been thinking I could make a wagon vise that bolts to the bottom of the bench and just requires a slot wide enough for the dog to stick through the bench.  A pair of beefy runners the support a carriage the all attached to the underside, with a strong boss that stick up in the slot to hold the dog.  I’m sure I could make something like that.

In a recent web search I came across Len Hovarter’s wagon vise setup.  I’ve seen his face vise mechanism before – although I have to confess I never thought through how it actually operates.  He’s since adapted the same locking mechanism to a wagon vise that meets my other criteria, with the additional benefit of it being a quick release.

The mechanism that enables the locking is unique, and really slick.  Other quick release vises have a threaded shaft to loosen/tighten the jaws.  The quick release mechanism involves a split nut that can be released from the threaded shaft.  The Hovarter mechanism doesn’t involve a threaded shaft.  Instead a gear rack is used to move a wedge forward.  The wedge presses against one edge of a “clutch” disk — really just a thick machined steel disk .  The disk first pinches on the shaft (it’s now canted) and then the wedge mechanism continues to push the disk and the trapped shaft forward to tighten the jaws.  Or at least the what I’ve been able to suss out.

Len Hovarter has a patent application filed for this, you can read the particulars of the patent claims and mechanism there.

I’ll need to talk to Len to see if he can make a version of this that will work with my thicker bench top, but I suspect I’m about to become a customer.

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