Yet another complete waste of time... (long, and no 56k allowed)

by Doc Nickel

Perfect illustration of yesterday's post, just a few lines down.

I'm at a point where I have so many things going on, that I have to complete- or at least advance- two or three or even five other things before I can complete whatever it is I'm working on.

Last week it was a stand for the drill grinder. I literally didn't have anywhere in the entire shop, that I could set the grinder in order to use it. Workbenches are piled feet-deep, I have heavy tools on the welding bench, etc. I'd been meaning to make a dedicated stand, and even though that was the "long way" to a solution, it was a project that I both wanted to do, and which needed to be done.

Which ended up a couple days work in order to use a grinder to sharpen some drills I needed to get a customer project done properly and shipped.

Here's another one.

Last February, as most of you recall, I bought a couple truckloads of some new-to-me tools; among them was a small shaper and a brake lathe. At the time I brought them home, about the only place for them was on the welding table... and that's where they've been for the last eight months.

Both need dedicated stands- the shaper came with a usable stand, but it was shaky and weak. I have plans to make an enclosed base/stand, much like many smaller machine tools came with back in the forties and fifties. I also plan to install the motor and jackshaft inside the base, which will shortedn up the front-to-back distance by almost a foot, which will be very helpful when trying to cram it into my already-overstuffed machine shop.

I have the base and a "tray" broken (as in a shetemetal 'brake') but just like the grinder stand, I wished to have something more "finished" and professional looking, than a simple sheet tray with square corners. That's the sort of thing you guys pay me for, after all.

To that end, I notched the tray corners, and had the edges bent to about 45 degrees or so. The corners are to be fitted with rounded slices, that will make the tray look stamped, not bent- also the rounded corners will be safer on one's body parts.

Now, I can fab the pieces easy enough, but I had the try bent out of 10-gauge; that's nominally eighth-inch. It's tough to bend those corner pieces cold, and have them come out the way I want, since they're only about 2-1/2" square.

Of course, what'd be perfect for this is if I had a forge- you know, one to go with the anvil, hammers and tongs I also got with those machine tools. Early last spring, I whipped together a custom version of an atmospheric burner, and tried it in a plain stack of firebrick. It worked, but not well, and wasn't very portable.

I bought some Kao-Wool last summer, intending to eventually build a proper forge... but here it is many months later, and I'm still wondering where the hell June went.

So, to summarize: Right now, I need my welding table. Said table is occupied by a 300-pound shaper and a 250-pound brake lathe. A temporary stand has been arranged for the lathe, since it'll see minimal use. But I have definite plans for a stand for the shaper, and would like to start using it. To progress on the stand, however, I need- or at least would be greatly helped by- a forge.

So I need to build a forge so I can build a stand so I can move the shaper so I can use my welding bench.

I've been running like this almost all year.

I was seriously pissed off this morning, and decided what I needed was some "me time". The following took place in a little more than four hours, and used only scrap I already had or parts I'd already built (like the burner.)

Step one:

Quick tray of 1" angle, some scrap esxpanded metal, and a couple of tabs.

The tabs hold a dense yellow firebrick, hard up against one edge and with about 2" clearance on the other three sides. The firebrick is the "floor" of the forge- it's not as good a refractory as the wool, but it's a lot more durable when you rest hot steel on it.

The clearance gives room to wrap two layers of 1" Kao-Wool ceramic insulation.

An old chunk of galvanized sheetmetal makes a protective cover over the wool. It's not a very smooth bend, but it was dinged-up scrap metal anyway.

This is the same burner I made last March or April, but cut down two inches and with a freshly-fitted stainless steel nozzle. Which should last longer than a plain steel nozzle, which gets hot, carburizes and erodes over time.

This is the now-cut-down gas nozzle. The old setup I'd left long, as I didn't know how I was going to plumb it. I cut it down, gave it a bend, and refitted the shutoff valve.

The actual gas-nozzle orifice is an .024" MIG tip- I can't claim that idea, it's pretty common in homebrew forges. It's easier to buy a MIG tip than it is to buy a tiny .020 or .025" drill bit and successfully drill a hole in something. I could do it, but not everyone has rigid mills and nice lathes. (A lot of forge plans specifically state you don't need much more than a hacksaw and some files to build it.)

Anyway, I threaded the end of the 1/4" stainless tubing for 10-32, and rethreaded the MIG tip the same, for a very streamlined gas nozzle. Probably unnecessary, but I thought it was rather elegant.

The now-modded burner and new gas jet, installed on a quickie bracket and poking through a carefully-Exacto-ed hole in the wool.

So after less than three hours, it's time for a test! The badboy fired right up, and started producing copious heat... but not really all that great heat.

I played with the gas pressure, to little effect, and then started playing with throttling the burner, simply by placing my hand over the air intake. Blocking a big portion of my apparently-way-oversize inlet bell made a huge and immediate difference in the apparent burn temperature.

The quickie fix, as you can see, was a few strips of masking tape to choke the inlet a tad. I probably blocked 2/3rds of the inlet before it started to "sputter", and by that point, the forge was yellow-hot and the test bars were ready to whang on.

MUCH better than the earlier "stacked firebrick" version- I'll have to make some flappers or something so the inlet can be adjusted on the fly, but right now, it makes as good a heat as I could hope for. I can't get to "welding" heat yet, but that's irrelevant at the moment- I have MIGs and TIGs for that. A bar kept in there for 20-plus minutes never got to sparking or burning, so that's a good thing.

The corner pieces were easy and quick to bend, especially thanks to one of the hollow hardy tools that came with the anvil. They're rough-bent, but should need little more than some grinding and fitting before they're ready to weld into place.

And, while I had it hot, I did a little fooling around, since I had a stack of 3/8" rods handy. I tried more of the same curls and hooks I did last time, and then these- I squared the rod, then rolled the eyes. The first one (on the right) didn't cooperate well, and was too small to fix over the horn of the anvil. The second, on the left, was much better.

Anyway, yes, I know it's the roundabout way to get things done, but it makes me feel considerably better. I'll have the corners of the shaper tray "fitted" by the time I close down for the night, and I now have a pretty decently functional small forge for the next time I feel the need to beat the s**t out of something.

Of course, now I need to make some more hardy tools.


Posted on Oct 29, 2007, 9:23 PM

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  1. ...Aaaand some more pics.... Doc Nickel, Oct 30, 2007
    1. Man your THE SHIT with tools... and i mean this... n/t. FireFrenzy, Oct 30, 2007
    2. let us know how th kaowool holds up. dsergison, Oct 30, 2007
      1. For those who want to build a miniforge[link]. HTRN, Oct 30, 2007


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