As I mentioned in an earlier post, I keep at least one Variac around at all times as a prop, should a sci-fi / horror movie erupt without warning in my shop. The Variac, besides looking like an electronic torture device, is a specialized type of autotransformer. An automotive ignition coil, the part under your hood that generates the super high voltage needed to fire the spark in a spark plug, is another. I cut one in half with a bandsaw to see how it works.
Forging steel is significant for several reasons. It's one of the oldest metal-forming operations in existence. Blacksmiths throughout history have (and continue to) forge steel to create things ranging from practical to beautiful and everywhere in between. Industrial processes often involve forging not only for the efficiency with which it forms metal, but also for the way in which it strengthens the part by aligning the grains in the steel along the lines of its shape. Did you know that you could be doing this same time-tested technique at home? Here is how I built my own propane forge.
Hi. My name is Vin and I'm an addict. I can't stop buying electronic junk. I know it's only filling up bins in my shop and taking money I could be pouring into more productive hobbies, like drinking and shooting guns. But what if the completion of some future project, some really crucial bit of hijinks, hinges entirely on my having a switch designed to discharge massive capacitors? Then what, huh?
Am I supposed to just assume my local Radio Shack will have my back? Not likely.
This is a weld-on tank bung; a means of attaching pipe threads to a vessel. It is intended to be welded onto the wall of a tank or pressure vessel, providing solid pipe threads in a material typically too thin to be tapped for pipe threads. On some occasions I've used them for that purpose. On others, I've found that they make a great component in pneumatic cannons. More on this obscure part after the jump.
Steel just as it comes from the steel yard looks undeniably cool. If you leave it that way though, you'll be treated to a rusty piece of metal in short order, as the iron in the steel inevitably oxidizes from the moisture in the air. To keep it clean, you need some kind of coating that seals off the surface. You can paint it and you can coat it with a clear polyurethane, but my favorite finish is simple bowling alley wax.
Building things from metal can seem intimidating—metal just feels so much more permanent than, say, wood, and with the all the sparks and pressurized cylinders, it seems like just a matter of time before you blow up your shop. But once you know your way around a few key tools, you'll be amazed at how simple metalwork can be. Case in point: the plasma cutter. This small, relatively inexpensive machine has one dial, no cumbersome gas tanks, and can zip through any conductive material faster than a jigsaw through pine. It's also basically a sci-fi machine made real (c'mon, it slices through steel with hafnium and air!). And since they're for sale in most big-box home stores, you can even put one on your X-mas list. Master this, and your metal creations can take on just about any shape you want.
Take a piece of tissue paper. Support the edges and press down on the center to form a bowl. The ripples that will form are extra material with nowhere to go. Now imagine the tissue was metal and you see one of the essential difficulties of putting compound curves (as opposed to a simple curve, aka a fold) into sheet metal when you need a little impression and don't have a stamping machine handy. But if you know exactly where and how to hit, you can do it with nothing more than a mallet and a tree stump.
You've almost certainly seen a pressure gauge somewhere: on an air compressor, a steam boiler or perhaps an automotive vacuum gauge. Have you thought much about how that gauge works? Magic? Elves? We'll rip one open to find out.
Yesterday's mystery tool is officially known as the Monitor model 107 "Patented Wire Stitcher" manufactured by the Latham Machinery Company of Chicago, IL. Bookbinding operations like the one that gave the machine to me used it to place those big staples in thick stacks of pages to be bound. I'm sure you've always wondered what kind of stapler it takes to make that staple. This is it.