“Directions are Wrong” & “Square Hole” Ray

Yessir: ShopTalk Sunday.  As we await the opening of the “crooked casino”  now part-owned by the Federal Reserve (as presumably you as a taxbleeder), we go to our Person Caves to Create.

“Directions Are Wrong”

Added a few more items to the stores this week. Which meant assembling another 48 X 14 x 80 inch wire rack unit.

I’ve done these before – and always meant to write an article about how to cut your assembly time and work.

Now see the instructions. especially this part:

See it?  Assemble 2 lower shelves.  Then go through this PITA of reaching up to get all four shelf holes lined up (overhead) and then work your way down.

Hidden Secret For Fast Assembly (HSFFA)

I’m no expert on this, but I’ve assembled enough of these racks (couple of brands) to know the manufactures must delight in making us work hard.

When you follow the MFG directions, you put in one bottom rack, then slide down units to each new position.  No, no.

Ure’s cheat on this is to put the bottom shelf together first.  Then preload all shelving onto the lower half.  Like so:

All six shelves, including the bottom one go on.  Now you put in the top poles.

The Reason:  If you put the top poles then load, especially if you have a sore shoulder, you will curse reaching 80+ inches up and stretching to make everything fit.  Too much work.

By loading all the bottom shelves and moving one UP to the very top (securing it with a squeeze-clamp, like this:

…You don’t waste time stretching and sliding.  Way faster.

BUT WAIT!  There’s more!

Now things get super easy:

Since you have a squeeze clamp, the next shelf down from the top is held in place by the clamp.  Don’t even need to squeeze.  It just works as a dandy hangar.

Just lift the shelf up and then set it onto the next set of plastic pole clamps down.

One more Hack is to assemble right next to another shelf if you’re doing more than one.  This way, you don’t need to measure.

Since the shelves are on casters,  a light kick and you’re in position to put on the next clamp set. Just line ’em up and roll:

When you’re done, everything is lined up.

This completely gets rid of (wasted) time spent measuring.  If you’re cloning?  Easy.  Fast.  Before beer warms up.  (In a well run shop, all tasks are broken down into one-beer operations, but not with machine work. Power and Beer is something to Fear.)

Last Pointer

This was going into the guest room by the weight machine and the dehumidifier.  Which was was where the staged parts went.

Down below was the cardboard box all the plastic and such was tossed in.  While the “next parts” were lined up on the wooden stool.

Not shown:  My small “secret box” – which is where all those unused plastic packing parts go.  There are enough round plastics that a checker set could be made of them.

And there were enough 3-sided plastic corners that I can imagine a new projects where they might be useful.  And above all, there were adjustable legs that were replaced with the casters.  Which is great!  All kinds of uses for them.  To be used in building jigs, and so on.

Granted, not a very exciting Project.  But, done well and very quickly with less effort that other ways.  And that’s why Ure does read the directions.  Because they are often wrong.  And any home-handy-bastard worth their salt can come up with a faster or better way to get things done.

Oh, someone will ask: 48″ L×18″ W×82″ H Wire Shelving Unit Metal Shelf with 6 Tier Casters Adjustable Layer Rack Strong Steel for Restaurant Garage Pantry Kitchen Garage?Black for $115 a throw at the Zon.

Ray’s Hole in One Story

But. this being Sunday Shop Class, (not golf, which is in the other classroom down the hall…) Ray’s got an interesting tale involving?

What else?  How to put a round peg in a square hole:

Once upon a time, when I was a wee lad, I was drilling a hole in a piece of mild 22ga(?) steel — a hole too small, and I only had one drill bit, so it needed to be wollowed out to the size I needed. It also needed to be a square hole. Dad allowed me a very limited number of tools (I’m guessing I was about 5-6 yo) but he had a flat tapered mill rasp I was permitted to use, and I had it to hand, to square off the hole once I had it to size.

{American Mill or Pattern Files come in four cut grades and two face grinds: 1st cut, 2nd cut, bastard, and rasp grades (from fine to coarse), and single or double cut faces (a single row of teeth, or two 30-75 degree offset rows of crosshatch teeth.) 1st and 2nd cut files tend to be single-cut, rasps are always double-cut, mill bastards can be either.}

ANYWAY, I started reaming this hole with the rasp. That quickly became a lot of work so I got the idea to chuck the tang into a drill and “Primitive Pete” a power reamer. (This was years before I ever saw a Primitive Pete movie short. My shop teachers couldn’t understand why I considered Pete “my hero…”)

File tangs are tapered…

It was difficult for a little boy to chuck it tightly.

However, I did, and it worked.

But then, something interesting happened.

The hole began to become triangular in shape.

The more I reamed it, the sharper and more-pronounced the edges.

I thought “This is pretty neat. I wonder what would happen if I chucked up a triangular file.”

Dad didn’t have one handy, but one of my brothers did.

The triangular file made a square hole!!

Dad DID have a square file, which made a pentagonal hole…!!!

See the pattern, yet?

To make a flat-side opening, you can “bastard-ize” a “bit” with flat sides, using the simple formula:

n(sides)=n-1 flats on a bit,


n(flats) will create a flatted hole in material, of n+1 sides (which is how my young self saw the formula.)

The flats are slightly radiused, but distinct, and much easier to clean than a round hole.

I never shared this with my Dad (which is kinda how I’m dating this tool-abusing adventure) because I was afraid he’d ground me from his tools. I have also never shared it with any one else, until now. I don’t know if the cutting action comes just from the edge teeth of the file, or if the play caused by the taper of the tang in a chuck causes an abrasion. I just know it works, and a tricorn file is a whole lot cheaper than a set of Greenlee punches…

Why now? Because I’m hanging gates next week. I’m using carriage bolts through 16ga strap hinges to hold everybody together and in-place, and I remembered this process when I decided the best way to do the install would be to make square holes in those hinges and have the washers & nuts on the backside of the framing. The older I get, the more I detest doing a job twice…”

Well, Ray, I am already older so I detest the first time, too.  But maybe I’m just a nature-born grouser!

Thanks for the class, Ray and have a wonderful “What’s Left of It…”


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George Ure
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/George-Ure/e/B0098M3VY8%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share UrbanSurvival Bio: https://urbansurvival.com/about-george-ure/

8 thoughts on ““Directions are Wrong” & “Square Hole” Ray”

  1. I have also noticed that if you attack soft metal with a large (say 1/2″) bit with two flutes, that the bit will wobble in a triangular depression while it scrapes it’s way thru the metal. This presumes one did NOT drill a smaller pilot hole first.
    But being a lazy working bum, I bought the Greenlee punches for what I needed if I ever thought it might be handy again. Wonderfully useful collection now.

    • Even lazier? Fire up the plasma cutter which just rocks aluminum, lol
      Ugly freehand, but you can make a hole jig once and be done with it

  2. Yea – what you are doing with those bits is really hard on your wrist though. In the drill bit world, we term this bit whirl. and the normal pattern a bit makes when whirling is # of blades + 1. Millions of dollars spent designing bits that DO NOT WHIRL because it destroys the bits, the drill pipe and makes for some really bad hole quality. I personally had a software program written to enable design software to position blades so as to AVOID whirl….

    But there is a lot of concentrated energy in a whirling drill bit – so watch your wrists buddy…

  3. Well, I did tell you to do with it what you will…

    ‘Gonna test out an old 8″ tapered Nicholson here in a little while. I need to determine bolt positions and whether factory holes in the hinges will need to be welded-up. When I bore the holes, I will dimple the posts in the proper locations, then use a doweling jig as a drill guide, so my holes go through the post from front-to-rear, and not front-to-side.

    Gate frames get the same treatment. They’re currently joined with deck screws in rabbeted joints (why yes, I did get to exercise my radial arm saw last week) and bolts will go in before screws come out. I also ordered stainless carriage bolts online from Bolt Depot. Cost was roughly the same as zinc chromate bolts from the box stores (cheaper than hot-dip) and the stainless will be naturally hard — I figure even if the product is Chinese, it’ll be comparable to what I’d get at a box store, if I could, which I can’t, because the big-boxes only carry “hobby sizes” of stainless carriage bolts. The bolts won’t have a shear load, so possible brittleness from Chinese manufacture won’t come into play.

    • The last time I bought galvanized carriage bolts from the big box store, the galvanizing was laid on so thick that the nuts wouldn’t even go onto the bolts. Of course, they are made in China. I switched to stainless and everything went together well.

      • Living in a tropical rainforest environment, even galvanizing doesn’t seem to last long. My ham antenna projects were held up until I could get stainless EVERYTHING for parts and anchors. Even stainless lag bolts for the wood attachments.

  4. The “triangular drill” hack still works well…

    I’m not sure I could even buy a Greenlee punch for 3/8 carriage bolts. The square is, like ~13/32. (Just checked — can’t.) A piece of tape on the file at the proper place makes things easy. Besides, I’m not just a tool slut, I’m also a cheap bastard. I’ve a maximum of 36 holes to make, and a bunch of files lying around. If I need a tool forever, I’ll spring for the highest-quality there is. If I need it once every 10yrs or less, cheaper is better and free is best…

    OM2 You ain’ta kidding. I’ve had spade bits grab in wood. Not fun with a high-torque drill…

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