Saturday, September 21, 2013

Why One Can Never Be Too Careful

I'm restoring an elderly 6" bench grinder, and I wanted to confirm the rotation direction of the 1/3 hp motor I have for it. When I switched on the motor, it started up, let out a huge CRACK!! and flash of light and tripped the breaker. Hmmm.

The motor had been checked out long ago by someone of my acquaintance, and should have been ok. I opened up the motor to inspect the internal wiring and found this.

Note the red wire at the centre of the photograph. Its insulation is gone in a spot right down to bare copper. The wire had been getting whacked by the nearby fins of the rotor until its insulation had worn through. I think I know how this came about, and what caused it.

First off, there is no such thing as a limp copper wire -- they all have some 'springiness' to them. When the motor was last opened up and reassembled, the red wire had not been absolutely, positively tucked away where it couldn't possibly come in contact with the rotor's fins. The red wire had been tucked away alright, but not away enough. On first testing the motor, all had seemed well but, in time, the wire's springiness caused the wire to move toward the rotor, eventually contacting it and resulting in the incident I experienced.

Anyway, I cut and spliced and insulated the damaged wire. Here's a view of that.

When I reassemble the motor, I'll make good and sure that that wire is tucked away safely and 'tamed' -- I don't need any repeat performances of the arcing, breaker-tripping incident.

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I ended up adding a ty-wrap, just to be safe. The other wires all lie away from the rotor nicely, but the red wire wants to travel. The ty-wrap takes care of that tendency.

And here's a view of the motor completed and running, happily turning in the direction I need it to.

That was a great illustration of how a tiny oversight can have dire consequences. It pays to pay attention, and leave nothing to chance.

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Spray Paint Can Nozzle Maintenance

On a can of Tremclad yellow in my possession, it says, "Clean valve immediately after use by inverting can and pressing valve until free of material."

I've never had much faith in that procedure. For some weeks now, I've been using a different method to keep nozzles clear, and it's been working reliably. Here's what I do:

  • Immediately upon completion of spray painting, take off the can's nozzle and immerse it in lacquer thinner. Leave it there awhile while other things are attended to.
  • On returning to the immersed nozzle, take it out and blow compressed air in its face, so the nozzle gets a backwards burst of air through it.
Doing the above has put an end to clogged nozzles around here.

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I save known-good nozzles, so as to have spares right at hand.

I've occasionally had the experience of having a good nozzle clog on me while painting something, and it's a real nuisance. (I imagine that paint cans sometimes have particulate contaminants in them that can clog a nozzle.) With a good, spare nozzle handy, such an incident is easily gotten past.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Furnace Chain Chuck Key Leash

I have an old Craftsman portable drill whose plastic chuck key leash took retirement long ago. The leash had been retaining the style of chuck key shown below.

Ever since, I've been carefully keeping track of the loose chuck key. I got tired of doing that, and decided it was high time that the drill and the chuck key were reattached to one another; hence, this post.

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While casting about for a way to fabricate a chuck key leash, it dawned on me that furnace chain might be a good thing to make a 'leash' from. Here's the method of making a chuck key leash I came up with:

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First off, the key's T-bar is an interference fit in the key's shank; hammer it out.

Next up is to fashion a short sleeve that will fit over the key's shank, and provide an anchoring point for one end of a short length of furnace chain.

I happened to have on hand some 3/8" O.D. steel tubing with a 5/16" I.D. A 13/16" length of that is what I needed.

The tubing was a little too snug-fitting on the key's shank, so I bored out the tube to 21/64" diameter for a depth of 7/16" at one end. Six millimetres from the bored end of the tube, I drilled the tube through 11/64" diameter. That hole is for the T-bar to go through to retain the tube.

Five millimetres from the other end of the tube, I drilled through No. 43, then drilled through one side only 7/64".[1] I tapped the remaining No. 43 hole 4-40. Here's what I have so far, along with what's needed for completion.

The ty-wrap is 3 3/4" long. The furnace chain is longer than it needs to be; I'll shorten it to about 4 1/4". The 4-40 screw is just over 3/8" long.

And here it all is fully assembled and installed.

I installed the 4-40 screw using CA adhesive as a threadlocker. This should be a durable chuck key leash.

Anyway, I have a leashed chuck key again. Chuck keys, I discovered, like to wander and play hide 'n' seek. It gets annoying. That's why chuck keys are kept leashed.

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A Fly In The Ointment -- WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2013

I noticed something that I didn't care for about the behaviour of the chain. (I should have seen it coming.)

One twists the chuck key in order to tighten a chuck. That, in turn, twists the chain. Furnace chain has very little twist in it before it does this.

It;s no big deal. It really doesn't detract from the chain's fitness for its job, but it irritates me. (Note that the same effect is operative for a plastic or rubber leash, but a plastic or rubber leash will untwist itself -- a chain won't.)

So, here's a little refinement to eliminate the problem.

I've added a snap swivel right at the cord. That lets me use a more substantial ty-wrap, and it should do away with the twisty/kinky nonsense

I'll see how this works out as I continue to.use the drill.

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Addendum -- WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2013

The snap swivel works nicely; it renders the leash completely nuisance-free, so I ended up liking that leash for the Craftsman drill so much that I made one for my Bosch hammer drill.

Fastening the chain to the chuck key was much easier here. I filed a flat on the end of the T-bar, and drilled and tapped it M3 .

With CA adhesive applied as a threadlocker, I ran in an m3x8mm screw until it would just allow the chain link to pivot freely.[2]

The snap swivel makes the key easily detachable, and that could be a good thing at times

Years ago, while building some furniture, I noticed that a dangling, swinging chuck key can strike a work's surface and leave a tiny dent. Were one to be working on something that oughtn't be struck, one could detach the key until the delicate work was over with.

Anyway, I'm back to having conveniently leashed chuck keys, on leashes that will never stiffen and crack with age.


[1] 7/64" is not quite clearance diameter for a No. 4 screw -- it's sort of an Interference/clearance diameter. 1/8" is clearance diameter. I went with 7/64'" to obtain the strongest possible screw/clearance-hole interface.

[2] M3 is a little too large to fit freely through the eye of a furnace chain link. Use a taper punch to widen the eye's opening, and an M3 screw then fits fine.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013


In the picture below, the glue bottle at the left is an old, obsolete type; the one at the right succeeded it.

The glue bottle at the left is excellent; the one at the right is a piece of doggy doo-doo.

'Change' is not a synonym for 'progress'.

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Novel Shelf Material

I have need of a single, small shelf in my storage room to hold the house's networking gear. I also have a remnant of a slab door that was shortened to fit a small attic doorway. Hmmm.

Here's a view of the door remnant.

I'll need to cap both ends of the door remnant with solid material. I've had to cap the ends of shortened slab doors before, and I've always done it by inserting material in the opening to close it up. In this case, I need a little more shelf depth than the pictured piece will provide, so I'll cap it by simply gluing material on. Structurally, that will leave a bit to be desired, but the shelf will never be heavily loaded, so there should be no problem.

To make this easy on myself, I'll cut the cap material well oversize, so I needn't fuss with precise alignment of a glue up. It will be relatively easy to saw/plane/sand the caps flush afterward.

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Here's a view of the first cap's glue-up.

That went pretty smoothly. I'll leave it like that overnight, then tomorrow I can add the second cap.

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Caps Ready For Trimming -- MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2013

Here's a view of the shelf blank unclamped and ready to be trimmed.

Yikes! Is that a wretched-looking thing or what? We'll see if I and some tools can make something decent out of it.

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Here's a view of the effect of the rip and cross-cut trimming.

The ripping and cross-cutting went remarkably smoothly to good effect. You'd think I knew what I was doing.

On with the planing and sanding.

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Here's a close view of one corner after the basic planing and sanding, meant to get the caps flush.

'Not too shabby, all things considered. Next up -- I have to cut a small notch in the shelf's rear edge to accommodate a little vertical run of cabling raceway that's on the wall.

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Here's the notch cut.

At first, I thought of doing that with a router. Then, the thought came to me, "Why the bleep would I do such a thing, when the old way, with saw and chisel, will work quite adequately, and with almost zero setup time?"

I applied saw and chisel, and obtained a serviceable notch. On with the 'final' trial installation.

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Here's a view of the trial installation. I'm quite pleased with it.

I'll leave that right where it is until I've completed the construction of the equipment rack, and done its trial installation. Then, I'll dismantle everything, do the final finishing and the final installation.

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A Network Equipment Rack To Accompany The Shelf

I'm assembling a simple rack-mount frame to accommodate our household's networking gear. Here's a view of it ready to be glued up.

That's some salvaged, melamine-clad, 17mm thick particle board. The joinery is just three No. 0 biscuits per side.

The frame's width is 19"; useable height is 6". That's all I need to tidy up our network gear installation.

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All Done, But With A Change In Plan -- WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2013

My original thought here had been to perch the network rack on top of the shelf. My son looked things over and suggested that I attach the rack to the underside of the shelf, then I'd still have the entire shelf available for other things. Hmmm. Great idea.

So, that's how I installed the rack, slung underneath the shelf, like so.

Much better than my original idea.

There's still some tidying up of cabling to be done, but the installation is functionally complete and doing its job. (The entire storage room that it's in needs some tidying up -- it's in what's called a 'state of flux'.)

Anyway, the shelf is a success. I do enjoy taking what looks like an utter piece of trash, and making something decent and useful out of it.

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Hinges For A Corkboard

[This is not my best work. I had no love for this project, but it is useful, so I thought I'd share the idea.]

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My 300 sq. ft. workshop has gained an annex just recently of about 96 sq. ft. That's required some serious rearranging and shuffling about of stuff in the basement of our home, and that exercise claimed a victim -- my corkboard. The 2' x 3' corkboard got evicted from the wall it was installed on in the storage room, and is currently homeless.

Meanwhile, there's a 6' tall by 3' wide resin shelving unit in the new annex that may be able to accommodate the corkboard, provided that the corkboard doesn't object to the indignity of being hinged. You're welcome to follow along with me as I get the corkboard a new home. Following are the steps I took to get it done.

1) Rearrange the shelf a bit so nothing on the uppermost 2' of the shelf is protruding at the front.

2) Find suitable hinges. Done. Here's a view of them

They're loose pin hinges, 1" x 1". The flathead screws are No.2 x 1/2".[1]

3) Apply masking tape along the front lip of the top shelf. Mark on it the locations of some ribs that are at the rear of the lip that must be avoided when selecting hinge locations. Also, mark the horizontal centre of the lip.

4) Find and mark the horizontal centre of the top edge of the corkboard.

5) Select hinge locations on the corkboard, minding the shelf's rib locations.

6) Install hinges on upper edge of corkboard.

7) As a layout aid, apply masking tape to top shelf lip in the areas where the hinges will attach.

8) Get the board perched/clamped in position so hinge screw locations can be empirically spotted on the shelf lip. (Easier said than done. It's good to have help with this step.)

9) Install the shelf lip's hinge halves. Position the board and install the hinge pins. Here's a close-up view of a hinge installation.

Here's a view of what I ended up with.

(The resin shelves sag a bit when loaded, so it's difficult to get anything true and straight on a construction like this.)

Note the short length of chain dangling from the bottom edge of the board, about 1/3 of the way from the right.[2] Here's a view of what that's for.

When access is needed to the shelf in behind the corkboard, the board can be held up by the chain.

Anyway, the corkboard has a home once again.

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[1] The No. 2 screws were unsuitable here because of the relatively long unthreaded portion of their shanks. I ended up using No.4 x 3/8" wood screws that had no unthreaded shank length. The slightly larger heads of the No. 4 screws did not pose a problem.

[2] Normally, I would have centred that chain, but there was alreaady a hole in the lower frame member of the board, so I used it.

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Parking A Shop-Vac's Hose

I have an elderly Shop-Vac with an obnoxious, springy 8' hose on it. The hose has a mind of its own. Wherever I might park the Shop-Vac, the hose has a way of springing itself underfoot and making a nuisance of itself.

I had on hand an extra one of these hooks that I'd just put to use in a previous post:

I installed the hook low down on an overhead joist, and that gave me an excellent way to park the Shop-Vac's hose so it can't aggravate me.

If I install a hook above all the Shop-Vac's usual parking spots, I'll never be tripping over the hose again.

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The Mark III -- An Improved Masking Tape Hanger

Masking tape is exceptionally useful stuff. I keep it hanging on a dowel attached to a ceiling joist that's right above my workbench, like so.

Note that there are two rolls of tape -- a narrow one and a wide one. What you see in that photo is my Mark II tape hanger.

The Mark I tape hanger was shorter, and would only accommodate a single roll of tape; I kept a narrow roll on it. The hanger did what I needed it to, but I often needed wider tape, and would have to trek to the other end of the workshop to fetch it. That led me to create the Mark II tape hanger that you see in the above photograph.

Now, wouldn't you know it, it seems like every time I need the narrow tape, it's behind the wide roll, and every time I need the wide tape, it's behind the narrow roll. The solution is obvious -- a longer tape hanger that straddles the joist, so neither roll of tape need ever be behind the other; i.e. the Mark III.

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Here's the Mark III ready for installation.

And here it is doing its job.

There. No more fumbling about for the appropriate width of tape.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

A 'Nut' For A Wood Screw Thread

I have a hook that I want to install on a sheet metal leg of a shelving unit; it will give me a place to hang a vacuum cleaner accessory when it's not in use.

The threaded stud of the hook is No. 12  x 1 3/16". Here's a view of it.

(I cut back the vinyl cladding a bit from the screw to expose the 'shoulder' of the hook.)

What I need is for the wood screw thread to install much like a machine screw thread with a nut. A small block of hardwood and some spacer washers ought to give me what I need. Here goes.

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Here are all the components rounded up and ready for installation. That little block of hardwood is, for all practical purposes, nothing other than a 'nut'. (The hex nut on the hook's shank is there as a spacer washer.)

And here's the hook installed and doing its duty.

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New Belt Loops For An Old Hatchet Holster

This leather hatchet holster is so old that one of its two belt loops got brittle and tore off. I'll make it two new loops; the main part of the holster is still in reasonably good condition.

The fasteners that were used to attach the belt loops introduce a slight complication -- from the outside, they look like they might be peened rivets, but they're not. They're split rivets --  a sortuva two-pronged, outward-clinching 'staple'. When one is removed, it leaves behind two holes. I'm not entirely sure yet how I'm going to deal with that,

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I managed to figure out the original belt loop material dimensions (3/4" x 4"), and cut two new belt loop blanks from salvaged leather. Here's a view of what I now have to work with:

Two belt loop blanks, and a hatchet sheath with twice as many holes as I need in it.

I'll have to do this with 1/8" hollow rivets and small backup washers -- I can see no other way.

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Here's a view of the first two rivets in place and fully peened.

There I used two of the small backup washers.

And here's the head end of the rivets inside the sheath.

Note the complication; the close proximity of the rivets, and the size of one the holes in the sheath led me to have to mix backup washer sizes, and clip one rivet head and washer.

All things considered, that's not a bad outcome. Now I just have to do much the same at three more places, and I'll have a renewed holster.

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As it turned out, the three remaining joins managed to turn into something of an ordeal. Having to work partly inside of the sheath made for added difficulties.

Anyway, it's done. Here's a view of the two completed belt loops.

It turned out that I was mistaken about the loop blanks being equal in length -- I had to make a longer one for the second loop, else the hatchet's hang on a belt would be askew.

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By The Way

Here's a view of the hatchet that the holster belongs to.

I've cleaned up and sharpened the hatchet -- 'figured I may as well do the whole job while I was at the holster.

And renewing the belt loops gave me an idea for a further enhancement to this hatchet. That will be forthcoming shortly.

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A Hatchet Hanger

A suitably formed length of steel flat gave me a hanger that the belt loops can slip over. The door the hatchet is hanging on leads out to the patio where there's a fire pit. Whenever a firewood hatchet is called for, there'll be one right there at the ready.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Broken Plastic Snap-Buckle Repair

These things work well, and I've seen them last a long, long time.

Now and then, though, they break -- like so.

And then there's no repairing them, or is there? Hmmm. I think I hear a hank of 0.031" diameter steel wire calling my name.

That looks like it may work. Only service on the luggage the strap belongs to will tell for sure.

I cut shallow grooves with a 32tpi hacksaw blade to retain the wire from side-to-side. I had to file four small grooves at the mouth of the receptacle to accommodate the wires. The buckle closes and locks exactly as it's supposed to. I'll be interested to hear how this holds up.

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Countersunk Washers

I was installing a small wall cabinet in my workshop today. The cabinet has a sheet metal back through which the fasteners go to attach it to the wall.

My first thought was to use round head screws with flat washers; then it dawned on me that there's a much more attractive alternative -- flat head screws with countersunk washers, like so.

As with virtually everything, there are endless varieties of countersunk washers. Pictured below are No.10 washers in brass, steel and stainless steel.

Those washers are of the configuration that seems to be most readily available, and that I'm familiar with. Other materials/finishes/configurations can no doubt be had.

Countersunk washers can really enhance the versatility of flat head screws. A basic supply of them is a good thing to have on hand.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Polarizing An Old Two-Prong Cube Tap

I have a bunch of old two-prong cube taps that are perfectly good, but they're not polarized (one opening wider than the other), and won't accept modern, polarized plugs. There's an easy way to polarize them, though, which I'll illustrate shortly, but a little background information is in order first.

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Operationally, an AC (alternating current) appliance/device is polarity insensitive -- the current is reversing direction sixty times per second, so the notion of a positive/negative polarity as you have with a car battery is meaningless; whichever way the AC supply is connected, the appliance/device will work normally. However, there is a safety consideration.

A two-conductor AC power cord has a neutral and a line (hot) conductor. The neutral wire is safe to touch -- it's ultimately connected to earth ground. The line wire is the dangerous one -- that's the energized conductor. A device such as an incandescent lamp can be wired with 'polarity', so that the likelihood of a user contacting a 'hot' surface is minimized[1]. For such a scheme to be effective, the device's plug must be polarized so that line and neutral are always and only present where they're supposed to be. That's the reason for the modern, 'polarized', two-prong plugs and receptacles.

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Ok. With that out of the way, let's return to the matter of polarizing an old, unpolarized cube tap.

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Pictured below is one of my cube taps, along with a polarized plug.

Note the wider one of the plug's two prongs -- that's the neutral. Note the equal-width openings on the cube tap -- the tap won't accept that modern plug.

The cube tap is made of a hard plastic that machines easily. Here's how to go about polarizing such a tap:

a) With a Sharpie marker, label the tap's prongs 'L' and 'N'; the one labelled 'N' you'll treat as the wide prong when you plug in the tap.

b) With an ohmmeter, find which of the tap's openings are common to your 'N' prong. Label those 'N', like so.

With a suitable diamond burr in a Dremel tool, widen the three 'N' openings so they'll accept the wide prong of a plug. Blow out the dust and you're done.

As long as you mind how you plug the tap in at first, you'll have a perfectly correct polarized cube tap.

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[1] A light bulb receptacle has a deeply recessed centre contact, and a large, easily accessible threaded sleeve portion.

Needless to say, any lighting fixture will be factory-wired such that the centre contact connects only to the line (hot) conductor of the power cord, and the threaded sleeve connects to the neutral.

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