Posts Tagged With: Metal

Repetition, Relaxation and Learning

Pleasure and action make the hours seem short, William Shakespeare

I’ve found a certain relaxation in repetition.  I think I first experienced this while block-sanding the primer coat on my 1973 Firebird (in 1980) while I was getting it ready for a coat of eye-searing red paint.  Some music on the stereo, the essential tools for the job at hand, and letting myself go with the rhythm of the job.

I’ve had the same experience many time since while working in the shop.  Perhaps 8 years ago I started a hobby business to manufacture some motorcycle-related items.  I found that there is a certain pleasure in working at a steady pace on a repetitive job.  I’ve also found that there is a limit to the number of times I can repeat something in one sitting before it becomes a grind.  It’s important to know the difference.

I had to TIG weld a batch of parts tonight, 40 to 50 is a good amount for one sitting for me.  Any more and I get uncomfortable.  Too few and I’m  not able to get into the rhythm.  Sometimes I put some music on and enjoy the process, tonight I had a quiet shop and counted off a cadence in my head and worked on making sure I kept a steady pace.  In the groove it’s about 45 seconds for each one of these little brackets.

I’ve also learned that this is the best possible sort of practice.  What I mean is that practicing an operation on a part that matters teaches skill faster and better – for me at least – than just doing practice parts.  When I was learning how to weld I bought an oxy-acetylene rig at the local store, a pre-bent roll cage “kit” and after making a few practice joints I lept into cutting, fitting and welding the tubing into my 1973 Firebird.  Any bad joints I ground out and re-welded – but that was a rare occurrence.  My focus was better and I developed the basic welding skills I needed on the go.

I’m writing primarily about learning hand tool woodworking these days.  The basics begin with dimensioning and truing rough lumber using hand planes, and learning basic joinery.  I’m building my bench, beginning with rough doug fir timbers, and the experience getting a 6 inch by 6 foot face flat and true was invaluable.  I’ve made a half dozen practice dovetail joints. They still look bad, but I think I’m going to need to work them into a project soon.

I think this boils down to “perfect practice makes perfect”, and discovering how to make sure you have your focus  (and not your blood) on the job at hand.

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Ron Covell’s Soapbox Racer

In an earlier post on the Artist’s Soapbox Derby that was held in San Francisco in 1975 I mentioned my buddy Ron Covell.  Ron helped Don Potts build his car for the first derby in 1975, and then in 1978 when they held the event a second time he built this car for himself.  He still has it, suspended from the ceiling of his workshop.  The pictures don’t really do it justice.  The framework is all stainless steel round bar, the steering is brass and wood.  Ron build the giant rear wheel himself, laminating the rim from strips of wood and lacing it up to the hub.

Ron’s a pretty amazing craftsman, he just produced a DVD on making a buck — a wooden framework that represents all of the shapes in a car body — for a Model T Roadster.  I’m looking forward to putting my feet up with a bowl of popcorn and watching that one soon!  Meanwhile I’m working my way up to painting trolls.

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The Studley Caliper

This is a short story about the Studley Caliper.  No, this isn’t a caliper for “men regarded as virile and sexually active”, it is a small caliper contained in the elaborate tool chest that belonged to H.O. Studley.  Christopher Schwarz blogged about this in “My Favorite Tool from the H.O. Studley Tool Chest“.

First, the tool in-situ, look just to the right of the middle hinge.  Kind of a tool-addict’s “Where’s Waldo”.  The tool in question has bowed legs and a fan shaped top.

Here is the little devil:

  For whatever reason, this caught my eye.  Generally this leads to problems.

A normal person would have thought “interesting” and moved on with their life.  Hell, a normal person would have probably not given it a second thought.  Instead I decided I had to recreate it.  I imported a photograph into my CAD software, SolidWorks, and scaled the image so that the part was the correct size.  Then using straight lines, arcs and splines I traced around the part and created my own digital version.

Finally, I created a CNC program to cut out and engrave the parts.  The original tool appears to have been stamped out of steel and nickel plated.  I made these from brass, starting with .125″ thick material I machined the finished parts to a .100″ thickness.  I added small embellishment on the legs and outfitted them with a brass thumbscrew and sex bolt from McMaster-Carr.  After machining I hand sanded the face to remove the milling marks.

These came out nicely.  Of course I couldn’t just make one or two, so I made a double dozen.  A few have been given away as gifts, but I have plenty left.  If you have to have one and don’t want to make it yourself I can help you out with that problem.  If you have to have one, and have to make it yourself I can’t help you, I’m struggling with that one myself.

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