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

Polespear Upgrades Update

After my previous modifications resulted in a slow spear that kept maiming and releasing fish, I went back to the shop and made it better.

To increase the speed, I ordered a 1/2-inch diameter band, but that turned out to be so stiff that I could barely stretch it, and if I did it bent the spear, so, that didn’t work.

Then I tried just adding a second band to the spear.

This actually worked quite nicely. I had effectively doubled the power without making it too difficult to stretch.


Now to solve the problem of the fish wiggling off the spear.

I wanted to add barbs to the spear tips, so my first thought was to use a file. After looking at my file assortment, I realized that this would remove too much metal, and the barbs would really just be notches, they wouldn’t extend beyond the diameter of the tip, so I’m not sure how effective the would be.

So I instead cut slots at an angle with my hacksaw, and then was able to bend the metal outwards to form a proper barb.

Done, and Done.

I went out to test it later that evening.
I didn’t see many fish for a long time, which is always a limiting factor in these tests.

But then, as the sun was going down, I saw a decent sized black perch and squeezed the trigger.


The extra power made all the difference and the fish never knew what hit it… because it’s a fish.

The barbs were probably unnecessary in this case, since the polespear nearly blasted straight through the cute little fishy, but they certainly made the fish more difficult to remove from the spear, so I consider them a success as well.

Too bad I don’t like the taste of perch.

I gave the fish to the cats on the jetty and went home with a puffed chest and a bounce in my step.

I’m beginning to think of this design as a poor man’s speargun.

I like it. It’s simple and effective.

But now it has me thinking of other ways to make a cheap speargun…

Stay tuned…

Funting with a Polespear

I have recently added a new hobby to my life.

The timing couldn’t be worse, really.

I already have a 2 year-old daughter, a baby boy due any day, a full time job, a wife, and a large number of unfinished projects, but now I have to accommodate the compulsive urge to kill fish with pointy objects.

I grew up in the Seattle, Washington area and always enjoyed fishing, but somehow, since moving to San Diego 10 years ago, I haven’t found to time to go fishing.

I guess the problem is that I’m pretty busy with many other areas of my life, and it’s hard to justify spending a few hours on a weekend sitting and  waiting for a fish to commit seppuku with a hook on a string.

Then I discovered spearfishing. Spearfishing is different, it’s like snorkeling with a purpose. It’s not just sitting around waiting, or even just swimming around and looking, it is hunting. Fish hunting. Funting. 

I’ve gone twice now, and I’m mildly obsessed.

As is the case with most of my hobbies, it’s not enough for me to just participate in spearfishing, I have to improve on it, customize it, make it better, or at least make it my own.

To this end I modified the tried and true polespear to add a trigger mechanism.

The polespear design is simple: it’s a spear with a rubber band attached to the base. To kill a fish with it, you hook the rubber band with your thumb, stretch the band toward the tip of the spear, and then grab the spear shaft near the tip in order to hold the band under tension. Then you point it at a fish nearby and loosen your grip, allowing the spear to lurch forward; ideally impaling the fish in the process.

The idea to modify this weapon came to me when my friend complained about his hand getting tired from swimming around holding the polespear cocked and ready to shoot. 

I decided that the polespear would be better if it had a trigger, and came up with this design:

Then I built it…

First I took a piece of stainless steel and shaped it into a snug-fitting collar that I attached near the tip of the spear with a spring pin.

Then I glued together a few pieces of wood (something like teak that I had laying around from old patio furniture), drilled a hole through it (slightly large than the spear shaft), cut it to and arbitrary shape using the bandsaw and affixed a little latch (also made from stainless steel) to hook onto the collar.

To keep the spear from traveling too far, I added a collar at the base with some soft rubber tubing to act as a cushion when the spear is stopped (I think the piece of rubber is an in-sink garbage disposal adapter).

To use the spear, I hook the rubber band through the wooden handle, and then slide the handle up the spear till it latches onto the collar at the tip.


And then I fired it at a piece of plywood.

I will hopefully get to use this to kill a fish this weekend, if my son doesn’t disrupt my plans by being born.

Update: I used this over the weekend and probably killed a few fish. I say “probably” because I didn’t actually “catch” any fish.

The rubber band I used is the standard light-duty polespear band, and the added weight/drag of the collar seems to have slowed the spear down just enough to really damage a fish but not actually skewer it. The result is that there are an number of disabled fish hobbling around the waters off the San Diego coast, if they are lucky. The unlucky ones died slowly Saturday morning, trying to figure out why I feebly stabbed them with a dull piece of metal.

The trigger itself worked beautifully, and I’ve ordered a more powerful band that should many little fish fatherless when I next enter the waters.

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.

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

Mobile Metalworking Station

Aside installing sprinklers and a new lawn in my front and back yard, one of the major obstacles to getting a lot of use out of my metal lathe has been the fact that it’s sitting on the floor in my garage, rather than being kept at a reasonable height on a workbench or stand.
Metal Lathe Belts - Installed

My intention was to build a rolling workstation that held both my milling machine and the metal lathe together.

There were a few problems to solve with this idea:

  1. How would I make a rolling platform stable enough to be very top-heavy without risk of tipping over?
  2. With a 32″ wide lathe and a 30″ wide milling table that moves 18″ left and right, how could I create a shared space that wouldn’t be too big for my garage?
  3. How should I construct a platform strong enough to support 600+ pounds of equipment?

My initial thought was to build a long, narrow, freestanding workstation that would have the milling machine on one end and the lathe on the other; both aligned so that they could be used from the same of the workstation.

The problem with this is that the milling table when moved towards the lathe, would hit the tailstock on the lathe, and if I made the workbench long enough to accommodate the length of the lathe combined with the full movement of the milling table, the overall construction would be around 6 feet long.

Another problem is that the workbench would have to be fairly deep (at least 24 inches) to make sure it would not tip over during use or movement. So the overall footprint would be 6 feet by 2 feet, which is really just too big for the space I have

After a few mental gymnastics routines (one floor and two balance beam), I had an idea:

Since the workstation will be freestanding and I can access both sides, I may as well take advantage of that fact.

I decided to place the lathe on the back of the workbench and put the milling machine on the front.

So I took some measurements and figured that a 3 foot by 3 foot platform, about 30 inches tall, would fit both machines very well, be wide enough to eliminate the risk of tipping, and provide some good opportunity for storage.

The design was simple: plywood case and a bottom frame of 2x4s, held together with screws, and supported on four casters. I was confident that the structure would be strong enough to support the heavy tools, and the casters had a combined capacity rating of over 1000 pounds.
Platform Frame

I cut all the pieces out roughly on the floor with a circular saw and then trimmed them to their final dimensions on the table saw.

I ordered casters from mcmaster.com; one pair of fixed casters and one pair of locking swivel casters. Both of these had a listed mount height of 3 1/2 inches, but when they arrived there was about an inch of difference in height that I would have to account for in order for the platform to sit flat.
Different Caster Heights

After building the bottom frame and platform, I started working on mounting the casters. I traced the casters on paper to compare the sizes, and found the difference in height was pretty close to 1 inch. Since my daughter was already asleep for the night, I had to find a quiet way to make a 1 inch spacer.
Different Caster Heights - Quantified

My solution was to put a 2×4 in the milling machine (which runs very quietly), and run it at a high speed to remove about half of an inch off the top of the board. This ended up working perfectly.
Making a spacer to extend the smaller caster
Making a spacer to extend the smaller caster
Making a spacer to extend the smaller caster
Casters... close enough
Small Caster installed

After installing the casters on the base I started working on the walls. Since I had already attached the 2×4 frame to the bottom, I could not run screws from the bottom into the edge of the plywood, so I had to figure out a different way to attached the walls to the base.

I briefly experimented with pocket holes, but quickly abandoned the idea, since I don’t have any of the bits or jigs to do this properly.

Instead I decided to make brackets out of short sections of angle iron that I quickly cut to length with my hacksaw and punched holes in on the drill press.
Attaching walls to the base

Once I attached the wall pieces to the base and each other, I attached the top, using Clamp-Its from Rockler and F-Clamps from Harbor Freight to hold everything square while I pre-drilled and attached the top with 1 1/4 inch deck screws.
Keeping it square during assembly
Keeping it square during assembly

I probably should have also used glue… but I didn’t, and everything seems very sturdy without it.

To answer your question: No I will not be using these pictures as part of my portfolio if I ever apply to work at a cabinet shop.

One corner of the work station has a 17 inch by 17 inch alcove in it, designed to house the base of my milling machine.
Installing the milling machine

Since one side of the installed milling machine would be up against a plywood wall, I needed a way to install and tighten bolts without being able to reach the top of them.

To get around this, I used relatively long bolts and taped washers to the top of them (to keep the washer from falling to the bottom of the bolt). I placed the bolts halfway into the pre-measured and pre-drilled holes so that I could slide the machine into place with the slots properly aligned with the bolts (if you look closely you can see the bolts in the back of the alcove in the above picture).

I got the machine most of the way up the ramp when things shifted a bit I was stuck needing an extra hand while balancing the machine. So I called my wife with my cellphone

  • first call: no answer
  • second call:
    • Me: “Hi, can you give me a hand?”
    • Wife: “Right now?”
    • Me: “Yes.”
    • Wife: “I’m trying to send a text, just a minute.”
    • Me: “I’m holding up a 300-pound milling machine, and I really need a hand right now, can the text wait?”

…and she helped re-position the ramp and keep the newly constructed workstation from rolling away while I scooted the milling machine into position.

Fortunately, the bolts I placed in the pre-drill mounting holes lined up properly with the slots in the base of the machine, and I was able to use a pair of Vice-Grips on the end of the relatively long bolt to hold it in place while I tightened down the nut (laying on the ground and working blindly to tighten these bolts reminded me I really need to do some maintenance work on my truck…).
Milling machine installed

It was then a simple matter to put bolts in the other pair of mounting holes and make everything nice and secure.
Milling machine secured

One milling machine done, one lathe to go.
Surface for the lathe

Although my lathe is not very big, it is heavy, about 250 pounds. And since my wife presents less of an obstacle to gravity than myself, I had to move it without her help (sure I could have called a friend, but I wanted to install it now).

I started by working back and forth between the two ends of the lathe, moving each side onto and incrementally taller stack of materials.

  1. Cinder block
  2. Cinder block on end
  3. Cinder block + a piece of wood
  4. Cinder block +  a bucket
  5. Little decorative end table + cinder block + 2 pieces of wood

…and then finally lifting the heavy end into place on the workstation.

bringing the lathe close to the height of the work surface

Almost there...

I was concerned that the stack of items supporting the opposite end would shift while I moved the heavy end onto the work station, so I had propped it up with a 2×4 clamped to the wall cabinet.
keeping the lathe from falling while one side is lifted into place

And it’s a good thing I did. You can see in this picture where the lathe shifted off the top of its pile and was resting against the propped up 2×4 rather than the pile I had built.
dents in the rig that prevented the lathe from falling while the other end was lifted

But all’s well that ends well, I supposed, and I now have a metal working station on wheels that houses my milling machine and metal lathe in a relatively compact space with lots of extra room to add shelves and drawers… someday.
Lathe and milling machine installed

Lathe Carriage Lock

I haven’t done much with my lathe yet, since I’ve been busy with life and other projects (I finally finished the sprinkler system in my front yard – after 3 weekends of “it’s too hot to work outside”), but I have managed to find time to make a necessary improvement: a carriage lock.

The problem was that the manual gear-driven movement of the carriage when the auto-feed was not engaged was too free, so that when I cranked the cross-slide across the face of a workpiece, the carriage shifted left and right, making it difficult to create a perfectly flat surface.

I assumed I wasn’t the only person encountering this issue, and did a quick Google search to find out how others had addressed it.

Basically, the solution was to make a low-profile clamp that pulls the carriage down against the rails, much the same way the tailstock is held in place.

Since I was planning to copy the effect of the tailstock locking mechanism, I used the clamping piece from it as a template to create the parts.


After milling out pieces for the top of the carriage and the bottom of the rails I drilled and tapped holes to allow a 5/16″ bolt to apply clamping pressure.

I tested this out and found that it effectively locked the carriage, but it also tended to pivot too much underneath the rails and would jam up and prevent the carriage from moving even when the bolt was loosened.

Luckily I had made the pieces out of thick enough metal to re-cut the bottom piece on the other side, this time with a much tighter fit between the rails so that it would have minimal ability to twist.





This solved the problem. I can tighten down the bolt to lock the carriage and loosen the bolt while leaving the lock installed without worrying about the movement of the carriage being impacted.

I may re-visit this design in the future, to see if there is a better way to design the clamp, but as it is I can fairly quickly lock and unlock the carriage using 1/2″ socket wrench.