In my post about vernier calipers, I highlighted one rugged option for making highly accurate measurements. When building projects that involve things like sliding fits, interference fits, shafts and bearings, rotating parts, measuring sheet metal thickness (and the list goes on, and on), accurate and repeatable measurements in the range of 1/1000 of an inch become very important. In this Tool School, I look at another option: the micrometer. A standard micrometer is capable of the same 1/1000-inch accuracy as the vernier calipers, and micrometers that incorporate a vernier scale are capable of measurements an order of magnitude more accurate: 1/10,000 of an inch. In addition, the variety of forms micrometers take allow measurement of a far larger variety of things than would be possible with calipers. Here's how to use one.
Last week, we inaugurated a new challenge for you here on PopSci.com that lets you show off your deep tool knowledge and walk away with not only our abiding respect, but a less obscure tool of your own.
Here's how it works: We post a picture of a strange object from my shop, maybe a clue or two, and you guess what it is in the comments section below. The first and most precise among you to guess correctly will win the prize. This week, it's a 30-foot Stanley FatMax tape measure. Pretty sweet.
We’ve created a new challenge for you here on PopSci.com, whereby you can show off your obscure knowledge of tools and, well, win new tools!
Here's how it works: We'll post a picture of an object, maybe a clue or two, and you guess what it is in the comments section below. The first among you to guess correctly will win the prize. This week, it’s a 20 ounce Stanley FatMax hammer. Pretty sweet.
Bent tubing is key. Roll cages need it. Tube frame chassis need it. Even the storage arrangement for my welding clamps needed it. There are a number of ways to go about bending tubing. Rotary draw benders like the Hossfeld Universal bender make a tight bend at one point. Three-roll benders create more gradual curves. But none of them compare to this automated CNC tube bender that just spits out steel in any shape you want. I could watch it all day.
Whenever you run into a snag on a project, it's a pretty safe bet that somewhere there is a grizzled old man who's solved it many years before you and will be happy to tell you it. That's why I never miss the chance to chat up the old guys working at or just hanging around lumber yards, machine shops and scrapyards. I always walk away smarter.
One recent example: While helping PopSci's John Carnett with his Green Dream house, we had to make a number of bolt holes in thick structural steel. (I would have preferred that the beams had come from the steel yard properly cut and drilled, but sometimes things don't work out as we'd like.) The drill just wasn't cutting it, so I turned to the oxy-acetylene cutting torch. It would easily pierce the thick steel, but I wasn't sure it'd cut clean holes. Then I remembered a great trick for burning accurate holes that I learned from an old-timer at the structural steel yard.
At some point, every builder progresses beyond the "eyeball it" method of measurement, and as you build more complex projects, the tape measure is often not precise enough. If you're assembling an engine or machining parts, for instance, you often need to be accurate to within a few thousandths of an inch or parts fail and bad things happen. Unfortunately, most of the tools that can provide this kind of precision don't survive well in a gritty, messy, all-purpose shop. Except the vernier caliper, a device that looks intimidating (especially to those who spy it in your shirt pocket) until you crack its basic code. Here's how to be as exacting as an engineer in anything you build.
Google is reported to have spent millions of dollars on its Street View project. Roy Ragsdale, a student at West Point, has done a pretty nice job of putting together a portable panorama camera setup that includes GPS and Google Earth file output for under $300, using exclusively open source tools.
I love rebar. It's most often used in concrete as a reinforcement, but it has a ton of uses. I've made a fence, a shed, and my future dome home armatures all from rebar. And since it's often made locally from old cars, it's relatively planet-friendly, too, and not very expensive. A 20-foot-long, 3/8-inch thick stick normally costs me about $4. I've purchased more than three tons of the stuff from a metal plant near the El Paso border, about 100 miles from my home.
Who'd have guessed? The Swedes make the manliest gear around
By Mikey SklarPosted 09.15.2009 at 2:22 pm 1 Comment
Before I encountered the Blaklader shorts I had been wearing jumpsuits made by Dickies or jeans from Carhartt. Both had a limited amount of pocket space, which meants I had to wear a tool belt, which became a nuisance to take off whenever I sat down to drive a vehicle. Plus, the materials constantly failed me: Neither the jumpsuit or jeans fared well against my homemade biodiesel or splashes of sulfuric acid from the battery bank.
My welding hobby started shortly after I got a bid for a steel staircase. As with everything, the money always causes me to do the Carnett calculation:
How much is the equipment?
How much is the material?
How much did that guy say he wanted?
How much can I save?
Then I run off to buy the gear.
This of course leaves out the skill to do any of these things -- but the Carnett calculation includes the discovery phase, where I make all my mistakes, ask just about anyone for help, and somehow come out on the other side a more skilled operator. And 50 percent of the time, I really do save money.