Questions for Independent Study

What considerations go into selecting the following, and what systems exist to classify these things?

  • Greases (& lubricating oils, etc.)
  • Bearings
  • Metals
  • Filler rods (welding/brazing/soldering)
  • Fluxes

Sub-question: How did these systems come to be? How are they administered and updated? How and why have they evolved?

What considerations would one need to take into account in setting up a small-scale fabrication shop, especially in a less-developed area? What would be the ideal scenario?

Taking into considerations such as:

  • Ergonomic (lighting, sound)
  • Air quality and treatment
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
    • What PPE are necessary for what kinds of work? (specifically respirators)
  • Space
  • Location
  • Structural
  • Architectural & interior (e.g. paint, windows)
  • Electrical (1-phase vs. 3-phase, 220v vs. 110v)

How about I research these things over the course of the next year, in part by interviewing people and reading in the following disciplines:

  • mechanical engineering
  • production/operations management
  • architecture
  • industrial hygiene
  • ergonomics

Then I make a concise manual that tries to condense this academic/engineering knowledge into practical terms. Sort of a Machinery’s Handbook for folks who find the actual Machinery’s Handbook rather dry and over-involved.

Then I make this manual available for free over the Web, in a form that allows it to be improved upon by others.


Women and welding…again

Continuing the theme of women and welding…
The wonderful Sweetpea blog on welding stores.

Shop Class Journalism

In last month’s WIRED magazine, Clive Thompson reminds us why shop class is important, especially for “my” generation.

Shop Class as Soulcraft is the tentative title of a forthcoming book by Matthew B. Crawford.
In the article upon which it is based, published in The New Atlantis two years ago, Crawford brings together a lot of the themes I’ve been blogging about here for the past year.

[A]n engineering culture has developed in recent years in which the object is to “hide the works,” rendering the artifacts we use unintelligible to direct inspection. Lift the hood on some cars now (especially German ones), and the engine appears a bit like the shimmering, featureless obelisk that so enthralled the cavemen in the opening scene of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Essentially, there is another hood under the hood. This creeping concealedness takes various forms. The fasteners holding small appliances together now often require esoteric screwdrivers not commonly available, apparently to prevent the curious or the angry from interrogating the innards. By way of contrast, older readers will recall that until recent decades, Sears catalogues included blown-up parts diagrams and conceptual schematics for all appliances and many other mechanical goods. It was simply taken for granted that such information would be demanded by the consumer.

This guy gets it!

Bonus points awarded because Crawford used to run a motorcycle shop here in Richmond, VA–and because he turned me on to local machine tool dealer Dempsey and Co.

While driving down I-95 today…

…I thought this:

“Design” and “fabrication” are not nearly as discrete as they are made to seem in college courses.

In real life, a design changes while a thing is being fabricated, and a good design is in turn based on fabrication experience.

Even tiny changes can affect materials in ways that can make a big difference. Sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit is the universal standard for mechanical drawings. That is, a part should have the specified dimensions when it’s at 68°. But most shops are closer to 72°, so the actual part will be slightly larger than the drawn one even when it’s at room temperature. Then there’s wood, which is also subject to temperature changes, and is affected by humidity as well.

So an effective design must take into account these kinds of intricacies, while integrating the perspective of the person doing the fabricating. A good example of how NOT to do this is to educate designers in all kinds of theoretical stress/strain analysis, but deprive them of hands-on fabrication experience.

Fabrication must take into account the intricacies of design, including the intended purpose and the necessary tolerances. Design must likewise take into account the intricacies of fabrication, first and foremost “What is it possible to make?”, but also including “What design will allow the part to be made fastest?”.

Isolating design from fabrication is akin to isolating thinking from speaking. Your thoughts change depending on what has already been said in a conversation. Your choice of your next words in turn depends on what thoughts have occurred to you. The two processes are happening essentially simultaneously; it’s silly to try and ignore one or the other.

These blurry lines are the reason I cannot offer a one- or two-word answer to the oft-repeated question, “What are you studying?”.

I’m studying all of this, both designing and fabbing. In part I’m still trying to figure out where the boundaries are: What is possible with today’s technology? What is possible with just these three tools, one of which is dull?
And then there’s: What’s it sound like when an end mill is dull or bent? How do I choose a space in which to set up a shop? What kinds of lighting are best for this kind of work? What type of respirator should I use? How do I draw a part so someone else will understand how to make it on the other side of the world?

More cultural relevancy

They just don’t make pinups like they used to…

courtesy of Lugged Steel

Brazing mentioned in an Oscar-winning film

This scene is great…just icing on the cake.

Carson Wells: [Wells sits back and studies Moss] What do you do?
Llewelyn Moss: I’m retired.
Carson Wells: What did you do?
Llewelyn Moss: Welder.
Carson Wells: Acetylene? Mig? Tig?
Llewelyn Moss: Any of it. If it can be welded I can weld it.
Carson Wells: Cast iron?
Llewelyn Moss: Yeah.
Carson Wells: I don’t mean braze.
Llewelyn Moss: I didn’t say braze.
Carson Wells: Pot metal?
Llewelyn Moss: [annoyed] What did I say?

Bought a crank puller the other day

…so I figured I pop the cranks of the bike I’ve been riding and commuting on for most of three years. It’s an 05 Bianchi San José with the stock cartridge BB.

The cranks were a giant pain to remove…took a cheater bar and a lot of yanking. Finally got them off and discovered that the BB is absolutely shot. Like it’s difficult to move the spindle, and when it does move it’s crunchy and indexed like hell.

The retaining cup (the plastic thingy in the non-drive-side) took a lot more yanking but also finally came loose. Then I attacked the BB cartridge itself, then with a cheater bar on the ratchet handle.

Flummoxed, I decided to soak the BB in anything I had on hand that was close to penetrating oil: hot sauce (saw it recommended on the BOB list), chain lube, and frame saver. I figure I can’t damage the BB any further, and all this stuff should be pretty harmless to the steel frame.

Well, that saucy mixture didn’t do much to loosen the BB, so I strapped the frame to my back and let the local bike shop take care of it. They didn’t even charge me, and the guy who fixed it admired my newly-built-up Peugeot, which was on its maiden voyage.

Today I went out and got some Liquid Wrench for next time. Thanks, Cory.