Monthly Archives: January 2013

Making a Glue Pot

I’ve been working too much lately, which is totally screwing up my shop time.  Between meetings this weekend I’m running the CNC to make parts for a customer.  I wanted to start on my saw benches, but didn’t feel like I was clear headed enough to do something that complex (and that’s just sad!)

I while I was feeding the CNC I poked around my shop looking for inspiration.  I found an old hunk of heavy industrial electrical conduit, steel plate, and some copper scraps — and decided I’d make a glue pot.  I sawed off a length of the conduit and sanded it to remove the zinc coating.  Zinc screws up the welding, and it’s toxic to breathe the zinc fumes.  I also cut out a disk of steel plate about the same thickness as the tube.

5" Electrical Conduit

5″ Electrical Conduit

I welded the disc to the tube, mostly that went OK.  I’ve been welding so much cast aluminum for the past few years that I’m out of practice on steel (and everything else).  I had a little contamination from the zinc, and I had the weld too hot.  But mostly I was doing this on auto-pilot, trying not to think about work, so it’s not my best work.  But I kept the mill fed (every 18 minutes and 30 seconds I have to take out a finished part and put in a fresh piece of material) and I didn’t think about work at all.

Welding on the Bottom

Welding on the Bottom

I laid out and drilled two holes for the handle pivots.  I bent the handle out of some 1/4″ x 1/2″ flat steel bar from the scrap pile.

Drilling for the Handle Pivots

Drilling for the Handle Pivots

I pressed in two steel pins for the pivots and welded the end on the inside of the pot to hold them in place.

Handle Installed

Handle Installed

Then I started on the copper liner.  The round tube is a 3″ copper pipe coupler.  The layout on the flat sheet is for the top, a hole for the tube, the OD of the steel jacket, and a small allowance for a turned lip to hold it in place.

Layout for the Top

Layout for the Top

I welded a copper disc on the bottom of the copper tube.  The steel block is just a weight to hold it in place.  Copper is funny to weld.  It conducts heat like crazy, the hole part gets hot before the weld will start.  It doesn’t really change color when it’s ready to  puddle either.

Welding on the Bottom

Welding on the Bottom

I ground the weld smooth after it cooled off.

Bottom Welded On

Bottom Welded On

I used a 3.25″ hole saw to cut a hole in the middle of the top sheet, then used a beverly shear to trim the part to the outside layout line.

IMG_0451

Make a Hole for the Tube

After welding on the top flange and grinding the weld smooth I hammered the edge over so it would register on the steel jacket.  The work isn’t perfect, but, again, I didn’t think about work at all so I’m pretty happy with it.

Copper Liner Finished

Copper Liner Finished

I gave the steel jacket a couple of coats of high-heat semi-gloss black engine paint.  I’ll let that dry for a day or so, but otherwise it’s ready to put to work.  I need a wood project now so I can try it out.  I’ll probably make a lid some day, but I’m done for today.  It’s a heavy glue pot, it should hold heat really well, I can’t wait to try it!

Finished Glue Pot

Finished Glue Pot

Another View

Another View

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CBG Done

So, just to confirm things…I have absolutely no idea what to do with a guitar.  Including tuning it.  It makes noise, and if I keep plucking it eventually I’ll learn how to play…or my wife will shoot me.  One or the other.  I think I’ll pass this on to a friend that plays already in the interests of self-preservation.

But it’s done!  I’m going to make something else now.

CBG Finished

CBG Finished

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What smells like a cigar and has three strings?

What smells like a cigar and has three strings? But sounds this cool?

No, of course that isn’t me playing, just my inspiration.  First, let’s get one thing straight.  I’m a decent hand with a TIG welder and I’m learning to be a decent woodworker (HEY, I heard that!), but I don’t have have a shred of musical talent in my body.  I also don’t have the right combination of genes to be able to sit for hours every day and practice to learn.  Imagine if before you could make a project in the shop you had to train with a hand plane for an hour a day for a month?

But I really like the raw, basic sound of “Cigar Box Guitars”.  I’ve made two previously, this is my third.  The first one was a C-minus effort.  The frets were wonky and the strings had to sit too high for the think to play.  The second one was pretty nice, definitely a B-plus effort.  It looked nice and sounded pretty good, although one of the strings was a little buzzy if you weren’t fingering it.  I gave that to my nephew for Christmas in 2011.  I had enough flotsam left over to make another, so here goes.

Bits and Pieces for a CBG

Bits and Pieces for a CBG

The neck is a piece of 1″ x 3″ Walnut from the local hardware store.  I think they sell this stuff as trim, I had to dig through a pile of it to find a piece that was straight.  I laminated a thin slice of East Indian Rosewood on for the fingerboard.  I did this on the last one I made too.  It is a nice approach because then the fingerboard comes up level with (or slightly above) the lid of the guitar.  Otherwise you have to notch the top of the neck blank where it goes into the box.

Most of the work is in making the neck.  I laid out the fret locations using a fret ruler, which you can get from Stewart Macdonald, along with a gazillion other supplier for your budding luthier.  They also have an online fret calculator.  I used a gibson scale that was about 24″ long to lay out the location of the frets.

Mark the location of the frets

Mark the location of the frets

I knifed in the frets, then laid out the location for the scale markers.

Scale Markers

Scale Markers

And sawed in the kerfs for the frets.

Saw grooves for the frets

Saw grooves for the frets

I drilled holes for the scale markers and glued in pearl dots.  It’s a pretty simple dress-up operation.

Scale Markers

Scale Markers

I made the nut – the gizmo that supports the strings at the top of the neck – from a piece of bone.  I made a tiny saw kerf for each string, I’ll use a tiny file to make then the right size and depth when I put the strings on.  I wrapped the clamping caul with plastic tape to keep it from sticking.  I’ve got the frets installed now too.  You can buy fretwire online cheaply, just tap it into your grooves, snip off the extra and file the ends.  Don’t hit it directly with a hammer, it will bend and never stay in place.  Use a small piece of wood to spread the blow across the whole fret.

Glue on the nut

Glue on the nut

I had glued on an extra thickness at the top of the neck so that I could angle it back.  The tuners (string adjusters) need to sit below the nut for this to work correctly.

Basic neck

Basic neck

I cut a square hole in one side of the box for the neck, and cut the neck to it’s final length.  It is as long as the box and glues to the inside of the lid.  I took care to make the holes just the right size so there aren’t any gaps.  The box has a couple of coats of shellac already.

Test fitting the neck to the box

Test fitting the neck to the box

I glued another block onto the bottom of the neck where it enters the cigar box, then shaped the back of the neck so it felt good in my hand.

Neck shaping complete

Neck shaping complete

Gluing up is a little angst-inducing.  The box is fragile and finished, and the neck is unwieldy.

Glue up

Glue up

I let the glue dry for a couple of hours and then slathered on a coat of Tried & True varnish oil on the neck.  I’m having mixed feelings about this finish.  I put a drip on top of the can a week ago and it hasn’t dried AT ALL.  I suspect this is just oil, no varnish and no drier.  It smells nice, and the wood looks nice with it applied, but will it ever actually dry?  I have a pepper mill I made in December that probably has 12 coats of this product with no apparent buildup.  Does it really have varnish in it, or is this just marketing?

Finish (perhaps) drying

Finish (perhaps) drying

I have to wire the pickups, make a holder for the end of the strings, install the tuners, adjust the nut grooves…and deal with the non-drying finish before I can call this complete.  It’s a fun project, not a lot of woodworking, but loads of little details to chase down.  Time to get a cup of coffee and head out to the shop.

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Carbide Burnisher

Chris Schwarz was praising his Arno carbide burnisher in a recent blog article.  Burnishers aren’t expensive, or rare or even particularly interesting tools, but they are necessary for setting up a scraper.  Reading the article I had the idea to make a burnisher using a worn out carbide end mill from my milling machine.  The cutters wear out, I used to save them, and had probably 2 pounds of chipped and dulled cutters at one time.  I threw them out months ago, and of course immediately thought of a half dozen things they would be good for.  Whoops.

I think the Arno burnisher that Chris loves is less than $30, so don’t rush out and buy stuff to make a burnisher.  I had a dull 1/4″ carbide end mill, scrap of wood and some weird copper plumbing fitting.  It’s thicker than other fittings I’ve seen, but anything could work for a ferrule.

This is all you need

This is all you need

I started by drilling a 1/4″ hole for the working end of the end mill, then chucked it up in my little lathe using a live center in the hole. I rounded the stock and then turned one end down so it would fit into the ferrule.  I took the handle off the lathe at this point and epoxied the copper ferrule on to the handle.

Turn a tenon to fit

Turn a tenon to fit

Then I turned the handle shape and sanded it through 400 grit.  I probably could have turned a taper into the ferrule, there was enough thickness to do that.  Instead, I just sanded it along with the wood.

Turn the handle shape and sand it

Turn the handle shape and sand it

Saw off the waste from the handle, hand sand it, epoxy the end mill in and slather on a coat of oil.  Simple stuff.  I’m still waiting for the epoxy to cure, and I’ll probably add more finish, but that’s pretty much it.  I’m sure it will work great, I’m eager to try it.  I know the carbide is hard, and it’a a mirror finish, so it ought to be just perfect.

Finished (just needs 10 more coats of oil)

Finished (just needs 10 more coats of oil)

If not, well I’m out just a little shop time and some junk from my scrap pile.

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Three Legged Stool – Finished!

The stool is finished, long live the stool.

In the midst of a giant work crisis yesterday and continuing this morning I managed to “steal” a few hours away and finish my little stool project.  At the same time I think I set some kind of world record for the number of conference calls attended in a 36 hour period.  It was surreal.  I was dialed into a meeting roughly every hour from 8 am Saturday morning through 1 am Sunday morning.  And two more already today.  This is, in fact, part of why I like to make things.  It is a great antidote for work stresses.

So, on the stool then.  I sanded it through 320, sprayed it with water and wiped it down to raise the grain.  I left it to dry for an hour and then lightly re-sanded it with 320 to remove any fuzz.  The “recipe” I’m following is generally what is suggested in Glen D. Huey’s “Finishes that Pop” video, although I skipped the glaze and took a few small shortcuts.

Raise the Grain

Raise the Grain

After raising the grain I slathered on a coat of Dark Red Mahogany water dye that I mixed up.  I wet the surface and kept it wet for a minute or two, then wiped it dry.  Glen Huey, in his “Finishes that Pop” video recommends 5 minutes, but I believe his justification is for highly figured woods.  This isn’t, and I was in a hurry.  I tend to rush finishing, I need to slow down at this stage but I’m always eager to see the final product.

This is the same dye I used on my Winding Sticks, but I diluted it slightly more.

Dye Stain Applied

Dye Stain Applied

I let that dry for an hour or so, and applied a coat of boiled linseed oil.  Just plain hardware store stuff.  The idea behind the oil is twofold as I understand it.  First, it helps accentuate the figure – in this cast there isn’t any.  Second it helps prevent the shellac pulling the dye back out of the wood and lubricates the brush or pad while applying the shellac.

Plain Boiled Linseed Oil Applied

Plain Boiled Linseed Oil Applied

The oil coat should probably dry for at least 24-36 hours.  I googled “drying time for boiled linseed oil”, and found a thread on the SAPFM that talked about being being to overcoat it with shellac immediately…so I after an hour or two I applied the first coat of orange shellac.  In the end I applied two coats on the legs and underside, and an extra coat on the seat itself.  I didn’t dilute the shellac, but I de-nibbed with a white synthetic pad between coats.  I sanded the seat lightly with 320 before the final third coat.

Second Coat of Shellac Going On

Second Coat of Shellac Going On

I left the stool to dry overnight (I had to get to the 1:00 am meeting, after all).  After my 8 am meeting today I rubbed it out with 0000 steel wool, then rubbed in a coat of wax with the same steel wool.  I like it.  It’s comfortable and the finish has a nice warm glow.

Finished

Finished

My Stool Collection

My Stool Collection

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Three Legged Stool – Part 4

There is an ongoing emergency at work this weekend, so I’m not getting as much shop time as I’d like.  It’s 1:30 in the afternoon and I’ve been on four conference calls already.  I did the last one while I was sanding though.

My immediate goal is to trim the legs where they stick through the seat, and clean up the shaping of the top side of the seat.  In retrospect, I should have trimmed the leg tips a little before gluing and wedging.  It would have been easier to clean them up, and I would have had a better fit with the wedges.  Lesson learned.

Leg Protrusion

Leg Protrusion

I tried sawing the protrusions off with a pad saw, but it was more trouble than was worth.  I used a gouge to trim the end and clean up the shape.  I’m not convinced that I actually have my gouges properly sharpened.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I don’t.  They don’t cut as well as a sharp chisel.

Gouge Cleanup

Gouge Cleanup

I used a scraper after the gouge to flatten out the marks, then sanded with 120.  Lots of sanding.  I penciled in some guidelines for rounding over the edge of seat and leg notches.

Seat Bowl Finished, Edge Details Remain Undone

Seat Bowl Finished, Edge Details Remain Undone

I used the spokeshave to round over the edge, then blended all the facets with some 120 grit paper.  I used a rasp followed by 120 grit sandpaper to round over the concave leg notches since my spokeshave won’t reach there.  Then I sanded the whole thing with 220 and gave it a quick once over with 320.  I sprayed it with water and wiped it down to raise the grain.  I’ll go over it with 320 lightly and start applying finish this afternoon.

Shaping and Sanding Done

Shaping and Sanding Done

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Three Legged Stool, Part 3

Crazy week at work, but I got a few hours in this week on my stool project.  I had the parts all roughed in last weekend, but they needed fine tuning.

The first problem was the fit of the legs into the holes – from the top side – wasn’t great.  My plan was to carefully shave the legs down so they stuck through further and hopefully end up with a better fit.

Tips of Legs Slightly Too Small - Gaps

Tips of Legs Slightly Too Small – Gaps

The second problem was the shape of the sides of the seat itself.  Not so much a mistake, as something I just hadn’t addressed yet.  Too klunky.

Sides are Too Flat and Square

Sides are Too Flat and Square

And finally, the ends of the legs are all slightly different shapes.  Time to get to work.

IMG_0388

Mis-Matched Leg Ends

I started with the ends of the legs.  I penciled in some fresh guidelines and went to work with the spokeshave.  I really like the LN spokeshave.  It puts the Record 151 that I previously had to shame.

Adjusting the Shape

Adjusting the Shape

It took some back and forth, shaving, sanding and shaving a little more here and there, but eventually I got all three legs passably close to the same shape.  I also shaved off the high spots where the legs fit into the seat, and sanded them through 220.

Do They Match?  More or Less...

Do They Match? More or Less…

Next I drew in guidelines to help shape the seat.  I decided that the final shaping on the top of the seat will wait until after the glue-up as I have to chisel off the leg protrusions anyway.  So I’m focused on smoothing the underside and visually lightening the shape.

Areas to be Shaped After Glue-Up

Areas to be Shaped After Glue-Up

Areas to be Shaped Now

Areas to be Shaped Now

I clamped the seat in my vise and went to work with the spokeshave.  I worked all around the seat, rough shaping first, then worked around it again to fine tune the shape.   I really need to prioritize finishing my new workbench, this one is terrible.

Roughing In

Roughing In

Finished - Spokeshave Only

Finished – Spokeshave Only

I lightly went over the edge with a fine rasp just to smooth out any weird spots, and also to get into concave areas like the leg notches.  I guess I need to get the round bottom spokeshave now.

Here is the bottom of the stool with the legs and seat sanded through 220 and dry fit.  Ready to glue.

Dry Fit

Dry Fit

I decided to try liquid hide glue, I ordered some “Old Brown Glue“.  I read the instructions (!) and heated it to about 140 degrees.  I don’t have enough experience with the product to say how well it works, but I like the company.  I ordered a 20oz bottle and a pound of dry hide glue flakes.  The shipping was slightly less than the website calculated, so they sent me an extra 5oz bottle.

Focus the Camera Joe!

Focus the Camera Joe!

So, the stool is glued and drying as I type this.  Tomorrow I’ll chisel off the tips of the legs, clean up the shape of the seat and sand everything through 220.  I’m going to wet it to raise the grain and re-sand it.  My plan for finishing is dye stain, oil and then shellac.  It’s very bland looking at this point, although it is “genuine mahogany”.

Glued, Wedged and Drying

Glued, Wedged and Drying

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Three Legged Stool, Part 2

I took a break from hauling junk to the dump today and spent some time working on my stool.  I’d hoped to get everything fabricated and glued up, but the legs took longer than I’d expected.  It would have been faster to turn them on the lathe of course, but the point of this exercise is to develop my hand tool skills.

I started with a rough sawn plank of Mahogany I pulled from the off-cut bin at Global Wood in Santa Clara.  It has a crack at the other end, but there was plenty of material for making three legs.  I marked out the cuts with a red pen.

8/4+ Mahogany

8/4+ Mahogany

And band-sawed them out.  I need to replace the blade in my saw, it got a kink in it and now leaves a really jagged cut.  But it’s fast.

Lag Blanks Sawn Out

Leg Blanks Sawn Out

Next I laid out a 2″ diameter circle on one end and a 1″ diameter circle on the other.  I’m taking a few liberties with Paul Sellers’ dimensions, but I’m never been good about following the rules.

2" Circle

2″ Circle

Then I laid out taper guidelines on two sides of each piece, and planed down to the line.

Taper Guidelines

Taper Guidelines

Then repeat the same tapering process on the other two sides of each piece.  Clamping them was a little dodgy given the sad state of vise affairs on my workbench.  I should really build a new bench.  Oh, wait…

After planing all three legs into tapered squares, layout more guidelines to turn them into octagons, and plane off the excess.

Layout to Make Hexagons

Layout to Make Hexagons

Finally, finish them off with a spokeshave.  There are still some facets left from the spokeshave, but at this point I started working on fitting the legs into the holes.  I pushed a leg into a hole, then pulled it out to see where it was bruised.  I spokeshaved off these high spots and repeated until I got a reasonable fit.  I took a little too much off the tip of one of the legs, so that might be a problem with the finished stool.  Water putty?

Take off the Corners with a Spokeshave

Take off the Corners with a Spokeshave

Then I penciled in some guidelines on the fat end, and spokeshaved the ends round (ish).  Once this was done I sanded the legs with 120 grit paper to remove the facets and smooth everything out.  I avoided sanding the small end so I wouldn’t mess up the fit.

Round the Ends

Round the Ends

Legs Sanded

Legs Sanded with 120 Grit

I have some more detail work to do before I can glue the legs in.  Sanding the bottom of the stool, cutting chamfers around the edges with the spokeshave and just generally double checking everything.  The leg tenons get a saw kerf and are wedged at glue up time.  I’m going to pick up a bottle of liquid hide glue for this project.  For the finish I’m thinking of using a water-based dye, followed by oil and then shellac.

Mock Up

Mock Up

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The “New” Shop

OK, wow.  I don’t even really believe it.

About 8 years ago I had an Idea.  (to be clear, I have ideas all the time, luckily not Ideas with a capital “I” as often)  Usually this is when my friends, or more generally, anyone that knows me, realizes it’s time to duck and cover.

I had an idea to make and sell some motorcycle parts.  Custom stuff for Harleys.  Flash forward to the present, I’ve designed and built 30-odd products, manufactured thousands of parts and sold parts all over the world.  The parts have been on several TV shows like “American Chopper”, featured in magazines and used on custom bikes that won big, important shows.

And I’m “over it”, tired of running a very elaborate and complex “hobby business”.  The only thing I want to do less than helping my middle-school son write a term paper for school is weld and grind aluminum castings in my spare time.  Polishing stainless parts would be right up there too.  My operations manager bought out the business and has been hauling truckloads of parts, fixtures, products, shipping supplies and trade show materials away to their new home.  I took two very large truckloads of junk to the dump already this weekend, and I’d bet there are another two or three loads to go before it’s all said and done.

The net-net is that I’m reclaiming a 2.5 car garage on my property that has been used for inventory and shipping/receiving for the chopper parts business.  It will also free up space in my main shop that is cluttered with materials and fixtures and tooling specifically related to making motorcycle parts.  I’m going to clean out and update the detached garage just for woodworking, leaving the other shop space for metal fabrication.  I’m undecided as to where my blacksmithing tools will go.  It’s not a good fit for either space really, but I just this weekend uncovered my blacksmithing workbench, leg vise and power hammer from behind a pile of trade show and shipping supplies.  Wow.

Here are some pictures of how the space looks now.  Still loads of clearing out to do.  I’m debating whether to keep the old built-in cabinets and workbenches.  I’m inclined to get rid of most or all of them.  The upper cabinet without the door could be outfitted as a plane till for the time being.  The Avacado green paint really has to go.

Old Kitchen Cabinets - Stay or Go?

Old Kitchen Cabinets – Stay or Go?

The plywood bookcase and grey trade show trunks will go away this week.  The folding tables belong to a friend, they need to be returned.  There is junk in the rafters from the previous home owner.  Once I finish clearing out the junk I should have plenty of space to set up shop.

Facing South

Facing South

The air compressor needs to stay of course, but maybe I can build a simple enclosure around it to cut down on the noise when I’m working in here.  Hiding in that pile of junk is a motorcycle frame welding jig (helloooo-ebay!), bandsaw blade welder, engine hoist, motorcycle parts, vibratory finishing system and god-know-what-else.

IMG_0365

Facing North

Pssst…hey buddy, wanna buy a forging power hammer?

Pneumatic power hammer for Blacksmithing I built in the early-90's

Pneumatic power hammer for Blacksmithing I built in the early-90’s

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Three Legged Stool

So, I should be working on my workbench project.  But I’m putting off dimensioning the stretchers, which is the next step.  I really like working with hand tools, but when it comes to mundane stock dimensioning I think I might like to go power.  Scandalous, I know.

I have some odds and ends of wood that I’ve collected with a few specific projects in mind.  In particular I have two short pieces of 8/4 mahogany from the off-cuts bin at the local wood store.  My plan is to make a small three-legged “milk stool” as shown in Paul Sellers’ book.  This has a couple of good things that I need to practice.  First, using a gouge to hollow out the seat.  Second, using a plane or spokeshave to make round tapered legs.

First things first, I cross cut, edge planed and glued up one of the scraps to make the seat.

Glue Up The Seat Blank

Glue Up The Seat Blank

Flattening the first side was easy, but for some reason I really struggled with getting the second side flat after I’d thicknessed it.  I did just what you’d expect – scribed a thickness line and planed down to it.  That took about two minutes.  Then I spent another ten minutes chasing out highs and lows so it would lay flat on the bench.

Scribe a Thickness Line to Plane To

Scribe a Thickness Line to Plane To

...And Then Chase "Flat" Until it Gives Up

…And Then Chase “Flat” Until it Gives Up

Then I made a fancy pattern for the seat shape.  I have using corrugated cardboard for patterns, but it was all I had on hand.

Make a Pattern

Make a Pattern

I cut off the excess with my band saw.  I don’t have a good hand tool for cutting curves, I want to make a turning saw one day soon.  Maybe I’ll do that before my workbench stretchers…

IMG_0352

Bandsawed, Spokeshaved and Sanded into Submission

I laid out and drilled three angled 1″ holes (using my bit and brace, thank you very much).  Kolya was using it to make his tool rack, and it turned out my bit was really dull.  I sharpened the spurs and cutters with a small file and it cuts like gangbusters now.  Then I got out my gouges and started hogging off material.

Using My Deepest Gouge

Using My Deepest Gouge

I had some problems with tear out in the deepest section, where the curve is the tightest.  Lighter cuts, and rolling the gouge through the cuts seemed to help with that.

Both Sides Roughed In

Both Sides Roughed In

I switched to a flatter gouge and used lighter cuts to clean things up.

Flatter Gouge

Flatter Gouge

And then a flatter gouge still, followed by 120 grit sandpaper.  The contour is OK, but it’s not as even as it should be around the periphery.  I’ll work more on “even” next time I get into the shop.  And make some legs for it.

And Then Sandpaper

And Then Sandpaper

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