I made a Dust Collector – Part 2

Curse you Wandel, for stealing my thunder!

Whatever. Nobody cares about your little website anyways.


So, at this stage of the project I had an impeller and a motor, and nothing in between.

I needed something in between.

Fortunately, my motor came with a pulley attached.



…Very securely attached…

I cobbled together a gear puller with some scrap metal, clamps, a magnet, and a coupling nut.



Now that I had removed the pulley from the shaft, I proceeded to remove the coupling nut from the pulley…

Impeller - Motor Pulley


Impeller - Motor Pulley


Over at the lathe, I began to cut away at the pulley to turn it into a hub.

Impeller - Hub

Impeller - Hub


Aaaaaaand, it’s a hub.

Impeller - Hub


I laid it on the center of the back of the impeller and marked the locations of the  holes I had drilled in the hub since the last picture…

Impeller - Mount

Impeller - Mount

Off camera, I drilled out the holes and attached the hub to the impeller and the motor shaft.

Impeller - Test

I hooked it up to a foot pedal switch and it was time for a test!


Holy crap! Time to change my underpants!


…to be continued.

Fixing a Fancy Bolt

When I first started using my lathe, I noticed that one of the two small bolts that secured the compound to the cross slide was stripped, and couldn’t be tightened down fully.

But since the other one worked and the compound seemed stable, I postponed the replacement of this bolt.

Recently I had been using my lathe for a lot of stainless steel parts, and the added strain of the harder metal took a toll on the remaining bolt; to the point that, when I tried to tighten it down the other day, it also stripped.
Lathe compound repair

I could procrastinate no longer, I had to fix this thing.

The problem was that the heads of these bolts was a semi-rounded T-bolt and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find a replacement part easily. Plus I wanted to use my lathe NOW, not wait for shipping.

So I decided to recycle the bolt heads.

Here’s how it went:

First I took the nuts from the bolts and dug through one of the spare parts bins to find a machine screw with the same thread size and diameter.
Lathe compound repair

After this was accomplished, I bashed my knuckle.
Lathe compound repair

Then I place the old bolt shafts in the lathe and drilled the head off after center-drilling and countersinking it.
Lathe compound repair

Lathe compound repair

Lathe compound repair

Next I worked the new screws with a file in my lathe until they fit the countersunk hole nicely.
Lathe compound repair

After I was satisfied with the fit of the heads, I brought them flush on the milling machine.
Lathe compound repair

Then I took them over to the welder and glopped a Cheerio of molten metal on top. This didn’t have to be a very strong weld, just enough to keep the machine screw head from spinning in the T-bolt head.
Lathe compound repair

I used the milling machine again for cleanup, and once I trimmed the bolts to length, I was back in business.

Lathe compound repair

lathe repaired

Lathe Boring Bar Holder

I find boring bars exciting.

I have a boring head for my milling machine, which is excellent (indispensable) for milling holes to a certain diameter in square stock. But for round stock in my lathe I’ve been messing around with various cutters with mixed results while trying to cut the inner diameter of various projects.

Boring bars are the correct tool for the job on a lathe, but I don’t have any. Even if I did, I don’t have a holder.

I decided to rectify this situation by making a holder that would accept the cutters from my boring head set.

When I made my quick-change tool post, I milled a dovetail into a large block of steel. The idea is that I can cut off chunks as needed to make various tool holders without having to mill a new dovetail.

I sliced off a chunk with my portable bandsaw, cleaned up the shavings, and then milled it down to a more appropriate size.
Boring bar holder for lathe
I drilled a starter hole  in one end and through the full length of the workpiece.

Then I used my boring head to bring the diameter to fit the boring bars’ 1/2-inch shanks snugly.
Boring bar holder for lathe
Boring bar holder for lathe

In order to check by progress while boring the hole, I had to move the workpiece out from under the cutter and fit some calipers into the hole. My DRO proved very helpful for this: I could set the axis to 0, move the table to get the workpiece to a measurable location, and then  move it back till the DRO read 0 again. It perfectly relocated the hole under the boring head every time.
Boring bar holder for lathe
Boring bar holder for lathe
Boring bar holder for lathe
Boring bar holder for lathe

Once I had bored out the hole to the proper depth and diameter,
Boring bar holder for lathe

I set the workpiece on its side and drilled 2 holes through to the 1/2-inch hole, which I then tapped out with 1/4-20  threads for set screws (i once again use the DRO to relocate the holes after changing the drill bit out for the thread tap)
IMAG1Boring bar holder for lathe069
Boring bar holder for lathe
Boring bar holder for lathe

In order to tap the threads perfectly straight, I like to lock the tap in the drill chuck, and then use my lathe chuck handle to turn the chuck manually.
Boring bar holder for lathe
Boring bar holder for lathe

I slapped the new boring bar holder on my lathe and bored out the inside of a couple of my lathe feed gears as an inaugural project. The boring bar performed perfectly in its new holder.
Boring bar holder for lathe

I win.

Cleanup Tip: Metal Shavings

If you notice the background of most of my pictures, you’re probably thinking “why would I take cleanup advice from that guy?”.

True, I don’t clean up as often as I should, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to do it.

I have a portable bandsaw that I got for Christmas and that I am fairly certain is the most awesome tool ever.
I use it to slice through angle iron and tubing like a hot knife through Vaseline; and through 3.5-inch thick bricks of steel like… okay, it’s not that fast with the thick metal, but it gets the job done and takes up a whole lot less space than a horizontal bandsaw.

However, as is true of all saws, it makes a mess. Which brings me to the point of this article: a neat trick to quickly clean up metal shavings.

I use this method whenever I have a fairly localized mess of shavings in an area that isn’t easy to use a broom in, such as around my vice and grinder on the workbench, or on the floor in front of the vice where I use my portable bandsaw.
What you need:

  • A strong magnet (ideally a rare earth magnet)
  • A shop cloth (I like to use pieces of old t-shirt)

Place the magnet in the cloth…

Fold the cloth around the magnet…

Wipe the area where the shavings are to collect them…

Then go over the to trash can, and unwrap the magnet and set it aside…



Now you have a handful of shavings to empty into the trash and a clean magnet.

See? I can clean if I want to.

Cheap DRO! – part 2

Continued from Part 1

With the X-axis DRO installed, I turned my attention to the Y.

The difficulty here was that there weren’t any pre-existing holes or dovetail slots to take advantage of, so it was an entirely custom installation.

The other complication was that the base of the mill flared out to a wider footprint, so the only surface to mount the DRO’s rail on was at an angle relative to the surface on the sliding table itself.

I started by taking off the handwheel on the left side if the table and moving the table all the way to the right to give me working room.

I then removed the end cap of the table to give just a little more space.

There was a flat space just under the lead screw that looked like a promising location to mount the measurement unit’s bracket, so I drilled and tapped a 1/4-20 hole in the center of it (approximately).

Just then my daughter woke up from her nap, so I put things on hold until the next day.

Since I knew I would be modifying brackets, I started working on the rail so that I would have precise references to work from.

After cutting the rail to length,

I drilled and tapped a hole near the back of the mill first. I placed it so that the mounting bracket would sit just under the line where the base began top taper outwards, this way I could use the same line near the front to visually confirm the straightness of the rail.

In order to avoid obstructing the full range of motion along the Y axis, I had to modify a couple of the mounting brackets and attach them to the front of the mill, instead of the side. The modification was essentially to attach two brackets together (using one of the spare brackets from the X-axis), so that I could reach the front of the base and still keep the rail parallel to the table.

Now that I had the rail mounted, I could get a feel for what sort of bracket I would need to fabricate to hold the measuring unit to the sliding table.

I’ll gloss over the details, since they aren’t particularly useful), but suffice it to say that I used a vice, drill, hammer, and welder to create the necessary Frankenbracket.

Since this bracket is always hidden under the table, the install looks pretty good.

The display units conveniently had magnets on the back, so while a long term setup will be a little cleaner, I was able to stick the displays on the head of the mill for immediate use.

With the installation complete, I turned my attention to re-mounting the vice on my table.
Because of the location of the travel locks and the dovetail slot, The X-axis measuring unit sits about a millimeter above the surface of the table.


I always keep my milling vice installed on the table, so I needed a way to avoid the top of the measuring unit.

I could shim up my vice, but that would introduce instability and inaccuracy.
So I marked the bottom of the vice where it crossed the edge of the table.

Then I clamped a large aluminum bar to the table, parallel to the Y-axis (front/back),

and then clamped this bar in the upside-down vice (I had to space the vice from the bar with a 3-2-1 block to clear the clamping bolts).

Then I milled out a swath 1.5 millimeters deep and 1.5 inches wide, starting from the mark I made and cutting towards the back of the vice(away from the jaws).

This was sufficient to clear the measuring unit.

I re-aligned the vice and now I’m back in business (figuratively.. I don’t actually have a machining business…)

So there you have it. $60 and 4 hours later, I have DRO on all 3 axis of my milling machine.
I’ll let you know at some later point in time if it lives up to expectations.

Cheap DRO! – part 1

Cheap DRO!

I bet you never thought you’d read THAT statement!

If you don’t know what a “DRO” is, then you must have REALLY not expected to read it.

A DRO, or Digital ReadOut, is a measurement tool and a display that attaches to each axis of a milling machine or metal lathe and clearly shows the distance traveled during milling operations.

The alternative to a DRO is to count the number of turns and markers on the hand wheel as you make your cuts, but I’m not a very good counter and longer cuts require a lot of turning the wheel (10 turns per inch on my machine). There is very little dispute around the assertion that you should use a DRO if you can.

The problem with DROs is that they are very expensive. It’s not unusual for decent DROs to cost several hundred dollars, and the nice ones are often over $2000. Now, if you’re running a production machine shop, this isn’t a lot more money to add to your capital investments; in fact, your $13000 milling machine probably already has it. But if you’re running machines in your garage as a pass time, it can be tough to justify the extra expense to your wife (unless you commit to an equivalent investment in her pass time, so really the DRO costs double the list price… plus tax).

Enter the Grizzly T23012/T23013 DRO:

T23012 12

I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me to look on Grizzly for a cheap DRO; I stumbled across them by accident, browsing the sale items on the Grizzly website.

I had been planning to make my own DRO by modifying a couple cheap digital calipers, but by the time I would have purchased and customize the necessary parts, I would have spent more than the cost of these new.

What’s the catch? These are basically pre-modified cheap digital calipers: they have aluminum slides, plastic housings, and an accuracy certification of +/- .004-inches per 12-inches traveled.

If you can live with this (you can live with this), then these are an amazing deal.

I bought them.

I ordered a 12-inch one for the Y axis and a 24-inch one for the X. This weekend I installed them.

My mill is the G0704, a BF20 type milling machine. I bought it almost exactly 1 year ago, and I love it.

The first thing I did after taking the DRO out of the package was to install the battery and make sure the thing worked. I started removing the screws around the housing and then realized that the battery could be opened by hand.
Right… good start.

I installed the batteries (it takes two, and comes with two spares), and turned it on:

Numbers! okay, on with the rest.

The X axis would be the easier to install, so I started there. I removed the handwheel to get it out of the way for now.

My mill has a dovetail along the length of the front of the table to set stops for left/right cuts.

I’ve never used the stops, so I re-purposed the slot to mount the brackets for the DRO’s rail and used the threaded holes from the stop itself to mount the actual measuring unit.

I had to cut the rails for the DRO to the proper length, but this was easy with a hacksaw.


I had to drill out the rail brackets to fit the screws in the dovetail, but that was also easy enough.

The difficult part here was mounting the measuring unit.

The bracket that came with it was inexplicably designed to hold the unit much further away from the mounting surface than the rail brackets.

In order to use the bracket, I had to flatten it in my vice, and then shorten it to remove the unnecessary bent metal.


As Murphy would have it, I cut the bracket too short, so I had to file a notch in it and clamp it in place using one of the extra stops from the dovetail as a sort of washer.




The washer behind the bracket is my spacer, it keeps the measuring unit perfectly aligned with the rail.

The end result looks cleaner than it is and is actually quite sturdy.


I ran a the table back and forth a few times to verify that the DRO agreed with my handwheel counting and it did.

One down, one to go…

How to Make a Quick-Change Tool Post – Part 1

I have a metal lathe.

I’ll just let that fact sink in for a minute


It’s a relatively small Chinese lathe sold by Harbor Freight long ago and purchased by me from Craigslist a while back.

I’ve had a lot of fun learning how to use it, and now it’s time to start putting my little machine shop to work: that’s right, it’s time to start making parts and tools to use in my machine shop.

The biggest shortcoming of my lathe is the tool post (the part that holds the cutters).
Tool Post

It’s a standard design, with four sides that can each hold a cutter, and in theory you can rotate the holder to bring each of those cutters to the workpiece as needed. The problem is that cutters have different thicknesses, and they must be shimmed by various amounts to place the cutting tip at the correct height (exactly aligned with the center axis of the workpiece).

Finding and placing the shims is a pain, and I am rarely able to get the height just right.

So I decided to make a new tool post that could be quickly and easily adjusted.

I decided the best approach would be to start with the concept of a sliding/locking dovetail, and figure out the rest as I went.

First order of business: a big chunk of metal…

IMAG0269Tool Post

Tool Post

Tool Post

Then I drilled a hole through the center to accommodate the locking bolt and roughed out the cylindrical hub on the bottom.
Quick-Change Tool post

I significantly misused my boring head to bring the cylinder to its final diameter and smoothness.
Quick-Change Tool post

I marked, drilled, and bored out a hole horizontally through the block to fit a piston that would lock the dovetail.



Then I went over the the lathe to make the piston itself.

Then I drilled a smaller hole near the back of the tool holder (the opposite end from where the dovetail and piston would be). This is where I would place the cam that would move the piston and lock the dovetail.

To make the cam, I started with a shaft that fit in the newly drilled hole and marked it where it crossed the hole for the piston.

Then I placed a piece of a washer between the shaft and one of the teeth of the lathe chuck to set it off-center and turned on the lath and cut passes between the marks on the shaft until the cutter was removing material all the way around the shaft.


Now I had a shaft with a cam (a camshaft) to move the piston.
I put the camshaft into place and them set the piston in the hole.
I rotated the camshaft until the piston was at its lowest point and then scribed a line.

Then I shortened the piston to this line so that it would be flush with the surface with the cam in its low position and protruding slightly with the cam in the opposite position.



Coming soon: Part 2 – The dovetail, the tool holders, and the camshaft handle

Granite Surface Plate – Part 2

Continued from Part 1

So, to set the scene:

I’ve got a 1200-pound slab of granite resting on a metal cart with wheels… in the back of my truck.

I also have an ingenious system of ramps and winches to load the granite into the truck.

The problem now is how to get it out.

…in a controlled manner.

As I thought this through, I broke the operation down into 3 steps.

Step 1: Use pulleys to pull the granite towards the tailgate.
Step 2: Re-configure the cable to pull from outside the cart’s legs.

Step 3: Once the granite is ready to role down the ramps, move the winch cable back to the “loading” position, and slowly let the cable out.

In practice, it went very similarly to this, at first.
Step 1:
Granite Surface plate

Step 2:
(I clamped a 2×4 onto the stand and against the back of truck cab to keep the granite from rolling back into place while I moved the cable to the other side of the leg)
Granite Surface plate

Step 3:
… here’s where I hit a snag.
Instead of rolling smoothly onto the ramps, the wheels of the granite were simply pushing the ramps off the end of the tailgate.

I tried running a rope around the end of the ramps, but that didn’t work, since I needed the keep the ramps separated to align with the cart wheels and the rope kept pulling the ramps together and askew.

So I did something a little more involved.

First I secured the granite back into place, wanting to avoid a bad situation while I worked behind the truck.

I drilled holes and then cut slots in the plywood on top of the metal ramps with my jigsaw (cutting just the wood, not the metal).
Granite Surface plate

Granite Surface plate

Then I ran one strap through each of the ramps,Granite Surface plate

and secured them to the bumper.
Granite Surface plate

Then I went back through steps 1 and 2, and this time the granite rolled effortlessly onto the edge of the ramps.

Before I pulled the front wheels of the granite onto the downward slope of the ramp, I clamped a 2×4 across the bed of the truck, in a position that would stop the granite just after it started pulling itself down the ramps (but before it started to gain any significant momentum)
IMAG0386Granite Surface plate

With the granite resting against this 2×4, I walked around the FRONT of the truck to get to the cable on the other side of the truck bed and move the cable into the “pulling” position to use the winch to slowly let the granite down the ramp.
Granite Surface plate

Granite Surface plate

…I need a nap.
…and a change of pants.

NOTE: at all points during this process, unless the granite was fully secured, I only walked in FRONT of the truck, not behind it in the path of the granite should something fail. Keep in mind, 1200-pounds is a lot of pounds… Significantly more pounds than my one-rep max for bench press.


Granite Surface Plate – Part 1

I’ve been trawling Craigslist lately for… pretty much anything. I used to just click “for sale” and then “tools” and see if I needed anything; but the last few weeks I’ve done slightly more targeted searches.

I would type something generic in the search (“router”, “lathe”, “mill”, etc…), just to limit the number of floor scrapers and tile saws I had to sift through.

However, it turns out that even this limited filtering was excessive: I had been completely missing out on granite surface plates!

What is a surface plate? Google it.

In the unlikely event that Google brings you back here:

A surface plate is a certified flat surface with very tight tolerances for precision. It is used to check or verify the flatness of a tool or work piece. They are typically made of granite because it can be ground very flat and is stable enough to resist flexing and warping with pressure and temperature changes. It is also hard enough to come into frequent contact with metal surfaces without being worn out of true.

I stumbled across a small surface plate for $275 dollars, and it was a bit a expensive for my purposes, but I knew my father-in-law had been eyeing them too, so I sent him the link.

He replied with a counter-link: a huge 24-inch by 36-inch slab, 6-inches thick on a rolling metal stand for only $80! It weighed around 1200lbs… but only $80!

I called up my friend with a small flatbed trailer, and he was willing to lend it to the cause.

I contacted the seller, he still had it.

Game on.

I borrowed the trailer from my friend the next morning, threw some plywood in my truck to use as a ramp, and headed off to pick up my new flat surface.

I arrived at the location, got out of my truck, and it promptly started pouring down rain.

The seller came outside and we began a long process of looking back and forth between the trailer, the plywood “ramp”, and the granite, with our hands in our pockets, in the rain.

“Will the trailer hold it?”

“According to the manual, it should…”

“Should we try to get a running start?”

“…how would we stop the granite?”


<head scratch>

<other scratch>

“will the plywood ramp hold it?”



“well… it’s not going anywhere, if you want to come back and try another day…”

“that’s probably a good idea.”

I forgot to take a picture of this process, but it looked something like this:
And so I returned home, empty-handed and damp.

After a few sleepless nights and un-productive days at work, I came up with a plan. I had a small ATV winch with a 2000lb capacity, and a pair of loading ramps from Harbor Freight that can hold 1000lbs that I used in the past to load my motorcycle.

Loading winch

I bought one more ramp set with a coupon for $50, for a total of 2000lbs of loading capacity, and a pair of 16-foot jumper cables to power the winch for $17. With proper ramps I no longer saw any advantage to using the small trailer, so I returned it to my friend and started working on a setup to use the winch to load the granite directly into my pickup truck.

First I welded together a frame to mount the winch in the bed of the truck, up against the cab. it has extension arms held together with bolts and installed in the truck with clamps and straps so I can easily remove and store it.

Then I covered the ramps with  1/2-inch plywood secured with carriage bolts to give the wheels a smaller step up onto the ramp and a smoother ascension into the truck.

This took about a week and a half to finish (interlaced with life in general), but I was finally ready to go get the granite last week.

The sun was shining and I arrived to be greeted with complements on my welding job and general optimism that we may succeed.

We were all impressed with how well the whole thing worked and in 10 minutes I was on my way home with my acquisition.
Granite Surface plate

I drove very slowly and arrived without incident and started the simple process of reversing the loading procedure.

Right… how exactly do you get a 1200lb piece of granite out of a truck?

<To Be Continued>