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Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Bent Shaft Lathe

You may remember, my recent adventures into wood turning almost ended before it even got started good due to the bent shaft on an old lathe. In that corner, there sits three lathes now, a Ridgid, the big heavy flat bed lathe, and the bent shaft lathe. Every time I looked over at the bent shaft lathe, I've considered what to do with it. It sits on a heavy old bar and was just taking up space. While I do have a very large shop, I still don't like wasted space. I need to figure out what to do with it pretty soon before it bugged me to death.
So, I was looking into several books and catalogues at wood turning equipment. Some of the looking I must admit is only wishful thinking because of lack of funds. Something I seen though that peaked my interest was a buffing station that is sold to be mounted between centers on a lathe. I thought about this and realized that the bent shaft, and the resulting off balance turning, would not effect how a buffing pad works. However, the problem was still, I couldn't afford it. If any of you have seen much of my past work though, you know lack of funds doesn't usually stop me.
To start with, I see everything these days as an opportunity to turn something on the lathe, so I got started.
On the headstock end, I just turned a cone that would seat itself into the morse taper. The other side of the cone I drilled a hole on center slightly smaller than the three eighths all thread and force threaded the rod into the cone.
For the other end of the all thread, I turned a bushing with a force threaded hole on one side, just like on the head stock end, and on the other side I installed a bearing. The old tail stock spindle was grinded down to a cone to snugly fit inside the wooden bushing.
At first, I scratched me head on how to get the hole for the bearing on the bushing. In the past, for through hole, I have drilled undersized holes for things such as this and used a spindle sander to slowly open it up for a press fit. This couldn't be done here though because I needed a blind hole that would not allow the bearing to press all the way through when I put pressure on it from the tail stock. Then it hit me, turn the hole on the lathe. That's what I done too. As I said earlier, I see so much these days as an opportunity to turn wood. I got a better press fit by turning this on the lathe than I ever could using any method I've tried in the past.
Towards the middle of the all thread, I used a brass sleeve bushing as extra support. I don't know if I really needed this middle support or not, because I did not test it without it. I did know though that it wouldn't hurt it.
It is simply a brass sleeve bushing, sandwiched between holes in three pieces of wood, and mounted on the old tool rest base.
So here is my new buffing station. On the far left is a sanding disk. I took an old spindle sander that originally mounted on a drill chuck and made that. I haven't used those sanding disks since I purchased a dedicated spindle sander. So it needed a new home anyway. Next is a piece of wood I turned with different profile. I will load this up with emory paste. I intent to use it to touch turning tools on while turning. This ought to help me extend the life of the edge of my tools and keep me from going back to the grinder with them quite so often. Then, on the right side of the center support, I have buffing pads from course to fine.
While doing all this, I decided to just turn that whole bar into a work station to sharpen tools. The buffing station is on top. The grinder is right below it. I also now have a dedicated sharpening jig system on the grinder. I will probably blog about that one at a later date. Also, I built a new lathe tool holder. This is identical to the old one on the left side of the table. At this time it has my new bowl gouges in it, and I am currently awaiting some scrapers from Penn State Industries that will find a new home here as well.
Behind all this, on the bar top surface, I drilled various holes to hold my chucks, faceplate, knockout tools, and so forth. I have plenty of room there to add more holes for more accessories as I'm able to get them.
I completed all this and admired my work, but was unhappy. I wanted to turn something. My back was hurting though, and my boys weren't presently there to help me lift any wood to get a bowl blank. I remembered a turning exercise I had done a long time ago though and remembered it was fun to do. I thought I could do a better job of it this time since my turning skills are steadily improving.
These captured ring things are fun to turn. I don't think there is a right or wrong way to do them. They actually sell dedicated tools for making these. I just use a gouge, skew chisel, and parting tool to make them though.

Lessons Learned About Turning Bowls

Learning to turn bowls is becoming quite an adventure. It seems sometimes that the more I learn, the more I have to learn. It is a fun adventure though, so I think I'll keep at it for a long time to come. Actually, the amount of knowledge and skill required I think is what makes turning even more interesting to me. A lot of wood working skills come easy to me. Sometimes, it seems they come too easy and there just isn't much of a challenge to it. Therefore, something like turning, that challenges me every step of the way, holds my interest much better. It has gotten to where some other skills I rely on for working wood become a bore. They are just going through the motions. Each time I turn on that lathe though I feel a sense of excitement of what I might learn today.
I started out trying to turn bowls in end grain. I don't know why. Looking back on it, I think it just made more sense to me. It seemed to me, round tree, round bowl. It isn't that simple though. Through research and the help of some good friends guiding me towards some good video where I could see proper techniques, I've come a long way since turning the bowl in this photo.
Along the way, I learned that there is a place for end grain turning. However, after turning that end grain, I placed it on my work bench as a reminder of why you don't turn deep bowl in green end grain wood. All that cracking wood would just never do.
This next bowl was never meant to be complete. It was just a practice piece to test some of what I'd been learning. Looking at it on my bench now though, I sort of wish I had turned a tenon on the bottom of it so it would be easier to go back and actually finish it.
It was along this same time that I started realizing the dangers of using spindle gouges for bowl turning. The gouge on top of this photo is a spindle gouge. The one on bottom is a bowl gouge. That's a lot of different in tool size. I found out it is more than just size though. Tool weight and balance, and strength, makes the bowl gouge just handle better for the over reaching past the tool rest that you do with bowl turning.
In this photo, you see the bowl gouges I ordered. These are Benjamin's Best gouges from Penn State Industries. You can order these gouges here if you'd like. Through my inexperience, these seem to be some great tools here, and if you research the prices of bowl gouges around the internet, they are also very reasonably priced.
My next trial in bowl turning turned into another disaster, but another lesson. I learned to start researching woods that I try to turn with. This is a hunk chopped off a cypress log. I tried turning it after mounting it with an reverse tenon. I'm not sure if that's the proper terminology, but I turned a recess in the bottom, reversed it, and then tried mounting it on my chuck with the jaws pushing outwards into that recess. I couldn't then understand why, not long after I started hogging the material out of the inside of the bowl, it slung off the lathe at high speed. 
I done what I've started doing anytime I don't understand something turning related. I stopped and got on the internet to try and learn. I learned that cypress is not a good wood to be turning bowls with anyway.
That brings me to my latest bowl, and my first successful bowl. I know it doesn't look like much, but it is a huge accomplishment for me.
The bowl is only two inches deep. It started out as about a five inch deep bowl. I messed it up several times though, and when I did, would part off the top of the mistake and keep going. This was after all supposed to be a learning exercise. I'm afraid I won't be using the bowl. It is still green and I turned it thin, as a finished bowl, just for practice sake. In the future, I need to leave them thicker, unfinished, to be able to turn them down to a finished state after they've dried. That is for the future though. For, now, I'm happy enough turning green finished bowls that I know won't be usable just for the experience. I'll have usable bowls soon enough that I'll look back on these and laugh at them.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Projects Are Now Easier To Find

I wish I had some new project to show, but I don't. I have dabbled a bit with my wood turning in the last week, but not enough to make worth posting. I have, unfortunately, been sick. I have a some kind of crud that has kept me out of the shop much. I have been to the doctor. I am on medication for it. However, between the crud, and the medicine, I can't stand long without the room spinning. I feel like I've got a bad hangover, but I don't remember the party.
Since I've been stuck at the house though, I figured I'd work on something else I've been wanting to get done.
I have had numerous emails asking about this project or that someone had seen, or told someone about. Then I have to go search for that project posting. I've also had a few messages that some other people have had to do extensive searching for projects on their own. I decided to do something about that.
So, you can go here. Or, if you'll look at the top of the page, right under the photo of the motorcycle display, is a heading that says, " Find Select Projects Easier". Under that heading you'll find a link that is easy to find any time you visit my page. That link will carry you to another page with a categorized list of every post I've ever posted since starting this blog back in 2009.
Under each category, except for a couple that I felt were best kept chronological, everything is listed in alphabetical order.
I hope this helps some people. If there is any other way I could make viewing my work easier for anyone, please do not hesitate to send me an email or comment on any of my blog posts. I always try to help my readers any way I can.
As a side note, I also wanted to thank each and everyone of you who have taken the time to visit my little blog. I ramble on a lot and I never thought I'd get even a hundred visitors to my site, ever. I happened to notice today though in my history section for this blog that, since starting it, there has been a total of 32,111 visitors from all over the world. Thank you, each and every one of you, for taking the time out of your day to read my ramblings. I hope you all continue to do so.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Marble Tower

This is my latest marble machine, The Marble Tower. It stands around thirty inches tall with the marble storage unit installed on top. It is unique from the others in that it uses one inch marbles. You load twenty six marbles into the marble storage unit on top. Then you push a start button to begin one marble down it's path. Once that marble reach bottom, it activates a trigger that releases the next marble, that goes on a track that is opposite the first track and runs a different course. This continues until all twenty six marbles have run their course.
It is made of cottonwood for the boxes and supports, sapelle for the tracks and ramps, and sycamore for the base and feet.
This was built closely to a design by a man named Richard Brown. I usually link to plans anytime I use plans at all in the construction of a project. From a past bad experience though, I have stopped doing that unless I feel confident that the plans are good enough for anyone to use. While this project was a blast to build, and I had fun with it, due to issues I had with the plans, I can see where some people would have some issues building this from the plans. Therefore, if you want to build this, send me an email. I will tell you where to purchase the plans if you can't find them on your own. I will not be responsible though for any aggravation you may suffer from them. Do not get angry with me if you have problems. I enjoyed it. If you do not enjoy problem solving, redesigning, and figuring things out on your own though, then these plans are not for you.
All that being said, please watch my video and leave a comment on You Tube if you like it.

As The Lathe Turns

The wood turning saga continues.
I have been working on a project. In the meantime though, my newly found wood turning fascination is still in full swing. What you see here is the corner of my shop over behind the table saws where the lathe always sat. I use the word sat, as in past tense, because you may notice there are three lathes now.
The one closest to the camera is the old one that I recently discovered had a bent shaft. I thought of carrying it out back and putting it out of it's misery, but I think it can still be of use.
I am going to use it if I need to rough out something that is extremely out of balance. This will safe from having to worry about tearing up either of the other ones.
Also I'm thinking, at the advice of an experienced wood turner I've been talking to, of setting up a polishing center for my turning projects that mounts between the centers on this lathe. The out of true condition the shaft presents will not effect a polishing set up.
Next, closest to the window, is the Ridgid lathe. It is actually very similar to the first lathe. Most of these pipe bed lathes made these days, besides some cosmetic and quality differences, are direct copies of an old Craftsman lathe I've seen from the eighties.
The Ridgid lathe was given to me by a good friend. I talked about it in my last post. It is a good lathe. The shaft is made of thicker material, which makes me a little more confident. The accessory controls, such as handles for tightening up the tool rest for example, are better made. I believe it is going to be a decent lathe.
The newest addition to the line up is the purpose of this post though. My lovely wife wanted to get me something nice for the upcoming Valentine's day, and this is what she got me. I have been wanting this lathe for some time and just have never been able to afford it. She has been putting in overtime at work and, while I don't think she will tell me that it was still hard on her to afford it, she used some of that extra cash to buy me the lathe I've been wanting.
This lathe is from Harbor Freight. I can almost hear the groans from my computer screen when I typed that. I know Harbor Freight sells some pretty cheaply made stuff. If you do your research though, you can find some diamonds in the rough at that place. I believe this to be just one of those precious gems.
For starters, I have read in numerous places that the lathe I have now is the exact same lathe as this one in the Jet lineup. The major differences between the two are the paint color, the supplied legs that are shipped with each of them, and the price. The color means nothing. I know for a fact that many items are made in the same factories, in the same assembly lines, and shot with different colors for different stores. I think most of us are aware of that. As for the legs, I don't know. From what I can see in the website photos, they look the same to me. It doesn't matter too much in my opinion though. For what I want, a machine that weighs as much as this one doesn't need heavier legs, and if it does eventually, I'll build a heavy stand for it.
So let us start with the weight of the machine. This thing, as listed on the box when I got it back to my shop, weighs in at 187.85 pounds. I couldn't even get it out of the box, much less set it up. While my wife and I usually handle most things ourselves, I had to call for backup just to get this thing on it's stand.
My only other complaint on this machine is the plastic used in some of the handles, such as the tool rest. That is usually expected in everything we buy these days though, and I am always good at working around these things by remaking them out of better material should anything ever go wrong with them. A fact of life these days is that products have too much plastic in them.
I also want to address other things about this lathe though. Through research of it, I came across items of concern to me, and I just generally want to show off my new toy.
Let's start with price. If you buy the Jet version of this lathe, you will pay considerably more than Harbor Freight. That is to be expected. When I went and looked at the difference though, I was shocked.
This lathe, on sale for $269.99 at Harbor Freight, was already in a reasonably price range for what it is. Then there are taxes added. However, we had a 25% off coupon. That brought the price down even considerably more. Then we added back a two year extended warranty to it. I have used Harbor Freight's warranties before and know for a fact that, if you pay for the warranty, they will take it back with no questions asked and give you a new one in the box. That brought the price back to about where it was. So for around $270, taxes included, we got the lathe and a two year extended warranty. I think that is a good deal.
Now, the Jet lathe. I went to the Rockler site to price it. It is available online only in my area. I did not check twenty sites for the cheapest one. I just wanted to give a general idea. Here, on the Rockler site, before any possible taxes or shipping, the lathe sells for $919.
Next up is the tool rest. I did not even notice this feature when looking at this lathe, but it is nice. Both my other lathes have a bar that slides along the bed, then the extension bar swivels and the tool rest swivels. That works, but it limited. This one has more movement to it. I am sure this may be standard for flat bed lathes and no big deal to most experienced turners. This is my first flat bed lathe though, and for me, it is a whole world better than what I am used to.
Some of you who have never turned probably have no idea why a tool rest would be so important to me to even mention it. Well, besides just being more versatile, in addition to the swiveling head on this lathe, you can see just above the orientation I can put a bowl while working on the inside of it. This is a huge advantage to me. In the past, on the pipe bed lathes I've used, I eight had to walk around the back of the lathe. This put me on the opposite side of the lathe from the controls. That is something that has always made me uncomfortable. The other option was to lean over the bed, and work back towards me, into the downward turning bowl. This was not just uncomfortable to me, but downright painful if I done it for more than a couple of minutes at a time. This lathe's features will eliminate these issues all together. Once roughed out, I can just turn the whole headstock around towards me, adjust the tools rest accordingly, and be able to work much more comfortable than I have ever been able to while turning bowls.
The single most complaint I have read in reviews of this lathe stemmed from this, the Reeve's variable speed system. I have read so many times, if you do not keep this oiled, it will fail, and the pulleys will literally fall apart in your hand. So I was a little apprehensive, when I pulled the cover off to oil it for the first time and to snap this photo, what horror I would find.
Let me start by saying I would love to have electronic variable speed. There may come a point in time that electronic variable speed is obtainable to the common man. Most people cannot afford that luxury though. So, just having the ten speeds that this Reeve's system affords me is a blessing. On this machine, I will not have to remove a cover and change belts on a set of pulleys every time I change speeds.
I have seen this system, and worked on this system, in many uses. It is very similar to the system on my old Total Shop. That motor now powered my shop made band saw and works flawlessly. The Total Shop was one of the cheaper made Shop Smith clones, and yes, it too was problematic if not oiled and maintained properly. Amazingly, I've also seen this system on variable speed PTO drives on tractors made decades ago.
Yes, the pulleys do seem to be made out of less than premium material. However, the look to be of the same material I see on 99% of stock pulleys on any brand these days. It's pot metal. No it is not the strongest material known to man, but it has always, from my experience, worked well for pulleys as long as it's taken care of.
The bottom line on this matter, to me, is this. This system involves moving parts that slide back and forth on a fixed shaft. Anything with moving parts, that move against unmoving parts, requires maintenance. If not, it will fail. That is a plain and simple truth no matter how you look at it. So, unless some other problem crops up in the future, this whole issue is a non-issue to me. For the torque the Reeve's system provide, in addition to the larger three quarter horse motor I have on this lathe compared to my others, I like this system.
So that's my new toy.
You will see many more turning projects in my future, and I'll keep you all posted if any problems arise with the new lathe. I look for it to work very nicely for me.