Friday, September 6, 2013

Zen and the art of not running your booger hooks thru a Baliegh english wheel

There are few things I enjoy more than raw fabrication. Solving a problem by my own rules and guided by the laws physics. Job stuff gives a sense of fulfillment but nothing work related even comes close to the satisfaction of making something artsy with my bare hands and a few tools.

The title of this blog hints at this satisfaction, Sticks and Stones. While the familiar phrase "sticks and stone may break my bones" has a bit to do with it but not much.

The title has more to do with tools. Some of the first tools ever made were hammers and axes, STONE hammers and axes, with WOODEN handles. Sticks and Stones.

These tools have seen some remarkable upgrades over the thousands of years of use but are still nothing more than space age sticks and stones.

I use these space age rocks and fiberglass twigs to create some very cool things:


There are a few other tools used in some of these things, bead roller, welder, drill and such but its always followed up with a hammer.

As you can see I love the artsy side of my skills. No rules, no time limit and no customers breathing down my neck. These things are made as gifts for family and close friends and the occasional charity auction. I've never sold any of these for personal profit and I never will so don't ask.

Doing projects like this helps devise new techniques and really helps with learning to control the hammer. Another positive is that if I make a mistake nobody will know but me. They are also very relaxing, Zen moments if you will. Once I get started time becomes irrelevant, everyday problems melt away and I can concentrate only on the project at hand.

Few work related jobs give me the same satisfaction.

So all that leads to the current project. Its a belly tanker for land speed racing. The rear portion of the cage has to be fully enclosed to protect the driver in case of fire from the drivetrain.

The upper most portion has to have a compound curve and while it can be done with my favorite magic hammer there is a better way.

I've had this Baleigh wheel for a while now, having won it during a tech week on the Hamb, with this thread on making a brake bleeder from an oil pump.
I haven't used it much and its about time it got a workout. Its not the super heady duty version but under normal circumstances its perfect for the type of work I do. This project however would put it to the test.
(I didn't take pix as I went along so you'll have to bear with me)
This the shape I was looking for.

 I made a wire skeleton over the hole that I had to fill and made a flexible pattern on the frame. I then split the pattern and used it to cut a piece of 22 gauge (.030") steel to size, cut some reliefs in it and welded them up. After that a few minutes in  the wheel got it to shape, took less than an hour. (no pix of the process sorry)

Doing a prototype like this gets me used to what has to happen, how its gonna happen and why. It also gets me something to make a much better flexible pattern off of.

Once I have that in hand its time to move on to the real thing. The final product has to be made of 14 gauge (.080") after some quick figuring I realized that it takes almost 6 times the force to move. (Oh that's just great...)

This is gonna put some strain on me and that new machine for sure. I really wasn't looking forward to it. (STRESS!)

I followed the same procedure for splitting and laying out on the thicker material and unlike the thin stuff that cuts with snips, I cut it with a cutoff wheel and a profanity stream. (Sparks and STRESS!)

Pulling the reliefs closed to weld them up was a lot more interesting as well, it involved welding stubs off the part in order have something to clamp and pull on. (This better work.....)

Once they were welded up and the welds knocked down its time to put that wheel to the test. Lots of force and lots of motion. (This is probably gonna suck.)

 Since the machine isn't designed to work with the added thickness I had to crank on it till it started to flex and then start wheeling. (Yep the suckage is strong with this one...)

Since the machine was maxed out on pressure it took a lot more wheeling to get it to come around. (Suckage and a workout, perfect.)

I wasn't sure that I and the machine were up to the task, but soon things started coming around and I started to relax and focus on the work. (Hey, this isn't an art project why are you getting into it?)

A little more here, knock a bit more off that weld, jam it back in the wheel and go more here. Check it against the pattern, back in the wheel and so on. Don't run your finger into the machine. (Was that actually fun??)

 After a while I looked up at the clock and wow, I been at this a while now, haven't had a smoke in over an hour and I really need to pee.

Took a break and for the first time in a long while was looking forward to getting back after it. (No way, this is work dumbass..)

 Once I got back after it things came around pretty fast. (I can't believe you enjoyed that.)

Then it was time to trim the thing to size, back to the cutoff wheel and some profanity. I cut it close to the lines with the wheel and since I have used tinsnips a lot over the years my forearms are a bit overdeveloped the final trimming was done with snips.

After a final pass with a DA sander I was really happy with the results. The seams have disappeared and its pretty close to what I need so it got tacked into place and checked against the pattern for the last time.  (Everything's shiny Cap'n, not to fret.)

Now for the really fun part, the other side. Its not enough to make one side nearly perfect, now I have to make a mirror image of the first one. Same process just reversed. (This could go badly, best to pay attention.)

Flip the pattern over and layout another blank, cut/bash/weld and jam it back into the wheel. (Here we go, I bet you screw this up...)

This one went a bit faster at the start as I had some idea of what has to happen, grind, wheel, check pattern, no finger through the wheel. This time the focus came about right at the onset, no worries but whats in front of me.

Monkey motion, check pattern, no fingers in the wheel. Got it. Lather, rinse, repeat. (Still having fun? Are you sick or something??)

After  what seemed like a few minutes but was a lot longer I had it done, not perfectly matching the other side but close enough to clamp and check against the pattern. (Twice,,, you got it right twice?)

It changes shape slightly when clamped into place so the final checks have to be made on the chassis and then adjusted accordingly.

All in all a good couple days and for the first time in a long while I left the shop beat up and sore as usual but more relaxed than I have in a long time. Its not artsy but it is just as satisfying.

I still have to trim and tack the mirror side on but that'll wait for another day.

Edit: Other than a set screw coming loose and the tensioner knob unscrewing and falling off the wheel did pretty smurfily and shows no ill effects of the abuse.

(Parts of this may sound like a plug for Baleigh, so what if it is. My Blog, my rulez and they are a great asset to those of us in the biz.)

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