Height Gauge Depth Arm

In the shop I have a 2 beam dial height gauge that I use a lot for measuring and general layout work.  As far as measuring equipment, it is my favourite tool to use, even though I would want a micrometer and a caliper before a height gauge.  Once you get one you’ll wonder how you got by without one.

Most height gauges come with a tool for measuring flat surfaces, and for scribing.  To get the most out of the gauge you need a depth arm – basically a pin in an arm, for measuring depths.  I needed one to measure up a motor face so I can get a 3 phase motor mounted on my lathe – one of those projects to complete a project sort of deals.  I decided to make one up instead of buying it:

I made most of the arm on the shaper and used a gift from Max over at the Joy of Precision to bore the hole for the pin.  The boring head Max made is the star of this show.  It is the perfect size for the mini mill.  It is one of the best designs for a small boring head I’ve seen, and used.  The adjusting dial is a tad small but once you get a feel for it adjusting it is easy.  It’s also great because you can bore small holes – saving you from buying a lot of reamers.

The pin was turned between centers and was within .0004″ over the length – something I was very happy with.  The deviation was in the centre of the pin.  The pin sprung between centres a bit when I was cutting – aside from using a traveling steady there isn’t much you can do here about that.  The beginning diameter and end diameter were essentially the same within .0001.  I probably didn’t need  that much precision but I wanted to dial in my tailstock anyway.  At the end of the pin you can screw in standard dial indicator ends using a #4-48 thread.

I made the screw out of brass because it looks nice, and doesn’t mar the pin.  I usually don’t turn that much brass so I was reminded how easy it is to work with.

Here is the drawing for the height gauge arm.  I will be sharing all the projects in Fusion at some point and I’ll post a link.

Height Gauge Arm (Revision 01)

If you are looking to get a height gauge, do yourself a favor and go a dial one instead of a digital one.  Even though the dial on mine is graduated to .001″, you can actually measure much closer in the home shop with it.  Notice I didn’t say in the shop – in a professional environment I get that you need hard numbers and ‘guessing’ at the measurement is very poor practice.  Verniers are also good but I find them slow – probably because I don’t have enough practice.

Tool Post Lock Nut and Handle

I decided to start the New Year off by making some small productivity improvements in the shop.  One of the things I find myself constantly doing is reaching for a wrench to tighten the tool post, and also the tailstock (more on this soon!).  I decided to make a tool post lock nut and handle.

From this point on I’m going to try to make drawings for all the projects that I do in Autodesk Fusion.  I’ll also share the CAD data in Fusion once I get that setup.  Below are the drawings for each of the parts:

  1. Tool Post Nut Arm
  2. Tool Post Nut

In the video I talk a little about the taps I primarily purchase and use in the shop.  YG’s spiral flute bottoming machine tap is my go to tap.  The quality on these taps is exceptional, and work well in many materials that you find in the home shop.  They are designed for tapping blind holes, but work equally well in through holes so to keep costs down I try to just purchase these.  Avoid the cheap import sets for thread cutting.  Usually these sets are made from high carbon steel (not high speed steel), and they generally do a poor job in the shop.

If anyone says you can’t tap properly by hand using machine taps, they probably aren’t using good machine taps, or need more practice I guess.  I find that the YG machine taps are easier to use and start than standard hand taps and do a much better job on the thread.  Let them pick out the broken hand tap.

Table Saw Screw

I found some time between exams, work, and recovering from a nasty cold to make a new table saw adjusting screw for a friend of mine.  It saved his table saw from the dump as he couldn’t get any parts for it anymore.  Can you image?  Trash a table saw because of one screw?  I made a quick video of it:

Max and I are working on the next podcast, I’ve been working on few improvements for my lathe and I have a VFD (variable frequency drive) project for the lathe that will be coming up next before I begin wrTie full time.

 

 

 

 

Concrete Bench for the Lathe

For my latest project, I made a concrete bench out of standard precast concrete blocks that are easily sourced.  I filled them up with cement and steel reinforcement, grouted a piece of granite countertop on (to give a nice flat surface), and anchored my import lathe to it using sleeve anchors.  I made a video of it here:

I also made a video of a quick analysis I did of the stiffness and damping properties of concrete and found concrete to be a great material to make a lathe bench out of:

It turned out well.  I originally was going to build a steel bench out of 2×2 tubing to move the lathe to as the wood bench gave significant grief when trying to get the twist out of the bed.  I then started thinking outside of the traditional box, and thought, hey what about concrete.

Now my lathe is pretty short – if you had a longer lathe you might want to support the granite countertop more with perhaps some steel bolted between the 2 supports.

I plan on making some shelves for below the lathe yet in between the 2 blocks.  It was a fun project, and I learned a fair bit about cement and concrete in my reading.  If you want to improve the damping even more, there are many studies on adding rubber pieces to the cement.  You can also add steel wool to significantly improve the strength.  Simple standard concrete alone though has the damping properties of cast iron.

Yes I can’t really move it, and I thought a lot about this, but I really don’t move my machines that often anyway.

The performance of the lathe is significantly improved, it is like day and night really.  I didn’t think it would make that much of a difference.  Some slight shimming maybe required yet to get the last small amount of taper out (or it could be another issue – I haven’t investigated any further yet as the taper at this point is way better than the .003″ over 3 inches I was getting before).

Here is a picture of the bench itself:

concretebench

And with the lathe (I previously made a drip pan the lathe is sitting on):

latheonbench

It didn’t take that long to do – not significantly longer than any other bench construction method.  Plus I didn’t’ have to deal with steel distortion and residual stresses due to welding – something that can be a significant issue.