First, a big thank you for prayers on behalf of ailing Zeus the Cat. His appetite is back a bit, and between hand feeding of food, some cat kidney pills plus a gentle application of deworming meds, he’s up and about better than a week ago.
Now into the projects of this holiday screwed-up week…
Laser Lesson 101
We have been using our 12-inch Harbor Freight compound miter saw for probably eight or nine years. Got it on sale for something like $129 on a coupon deal back when. (Came without a blade at that price.)
Over time, it has gotten a lot of use because with a 12-inch blade, you can chop through a 4-by-4 in a single pass.
One thing had started to bug me in recent years, though: The laser saw guide had become nearly invisible over time.
So, with a fresh load of CR2032 and LR44 batteries, I figured I’d be set to go.
Off came the retracting blade cover. Followed by the (reverse threaded) blade nut. And now, where is that damn laser to replace the batteries in?
Oh-oh. MWDRM (Men Who Don’t Read Manuals) disease struck.
After a few minutes on the Harbor Freight manual site, care to guess what I found?
That’s right! No battery. It’s powered by the saw and not the centrifugal switch and batteries most saw lasers were “back in the day.”
Turns out the laser lives over here:
This was a dandy way to blow 20-minutes down a rat hole. I should have looked for the laser sight line and not made the “Must be a battery change due” conclusion.
Drill Lasers are Worse
Which is usually the right choice. The following hour was spent looking at how to clean up (and readjust) the laser guide on the old Craftsman drill press. Drill press lasers are a particular curse on the butt of humanity: A wander through laser alignment makes it clear why.
- You begin to line the crosshairs up by chucking up a very small drill bit.
- Now clamp a piece of scrap on the drill press.
- Adjust the drill press table height setting so the bit point is 3/4 of an inch from the scrap wood with the press quill all the way up.
- Now, drill a hole (doesn’t have to be deep, just visible) in the scrap.
- Raise the drill press bit to the resting (up p0sition).
- Align the x and y axes of the laser to cross exactly at the dot where the drill hole is.
- Move your scrap to drill a fresh hole.
- Turn on laser and mark the crossing with a pencil.
- Now drill the small hole in the new location.
If the new hole is EXACTLY where the pencil mark is, you’ve earned half a beer, though no drinking around power tools.
To use the setting, just remember to SET THE WORKPIECE point so it is EXACTLY 3/4 inch down from the sharp part of the drill bit at the top of quill travel.
The “secret sauce” part is? The laser will ONLY be aligned where the hole will land when drill up to work contact is 0.75 inch. This assumes you know a piece of scrap “one-by-six” is only 3/4 of an inch thick. Just use the same spacer when doing (what passes around here as) precision work.
We’ll skip the detailed parallax discussions.
Joys of Yeggi
A number of people have accused me of being a hopeless tool slut (guilty!) because in addition to most of the major metal and woodworking tools, we also have two 3D printers and a few CNC machines in the box.
But there’s a reason why 3D printing is a godsend in the shop. Look at this picture and see if you remember my telling you about this a long time ago?
That bright green thingy is hot glued into the dust capture area *(just ahead of the dirty laser department). It nearly encloses the 12″ blade and reduces loose shop sawdust by perhaps 80-90 percent.
I mention this because few people realize that you can go to any of the 3D printing repositories (like thingiverse.com, for example) or the Yeggi .stl file search tool.
Give it a try, sometime. Here’s a link to Yeggi.com that pulls up references to Harbor Freight and you’ll see there are enough goodies to keep your printers going with add-ons and improvements for weeks. More .STLL files than money to buy the dopamine rush with.
Oh, and since we have an aging (non-DRO) (digital read out, come on, keep up!) HF Milling machine, check out these printables!
“What’s the deal with having all these tools, George?”
Workflow, my friend. Workflow.
Go watch this marvelous video about making a solid copper sledge hammer from what is essentially shop leftovers and admirable personal recycling efforts:
What you’ll see is the graceful mix of workflows to collect old copper (and melt it down into ingots) which happened before the video.
Then you’ll see the role of 3D printing using Fusion360 (I’m more a TinkerCad guy, myself) to print up an insert for the casting process.
All rammed up in a wooden flask (cope and drag are the two halves) made of wood, and then finished with a nice assortment of dandy metal cutting and milling skills. Mighty envious of this dude’s skills.
Toss in an ability to use Fusion360 to hog out circuit boards on a CNC machine, and then throw in “assortments” of electronics components from Amazon and the world is your oyster!
I’m on a quest now to find the best (simple – where is AI when we need it, right?) PCB layout system for the hobbyist? I mean Autodesk Eagle used to be OK, but when I went to update, the update site went deaf, dumb, and blind on me. So trying Altium, but it’s a way too powerful product for what I really need.
I’ll keep an eye on TinkerCAD and see if something for PCB layout (that will output g-code for CNC) pops there…
But as always, the biggest issue in my shop isn’t finding tools or projects, it’s in getting the workflow down to something reasonable.
In the “dream projects” column, just a PCB tool that would export g-code and handle single-sided FRG copper and work up to 100 parts, or so. That would handle most of my interests.
No soap on the quest for that yet, but let us know if you have ideas.
If you don’t want to add electronics, maybe a simple visit to Melting metal in a home foundry, backyard metalcasting, will serve you well. I still have a Lionel Labs casting rig ready to set up and use. Just a matter of when to get to it. Because that will mean firing up the printers for moldmaking and the metal shop for finishing and buying propane.
There were some OK, but not GREAT prices on home melting equipment for Black Friday on Amazon. Looking for a complete kit in the 10-12 KG range but I may settle for a 6 KG rig. Something like this Gongyi USA rig with a $50 off coupon. Even so, still about $210. So, why not roll my own on the Lionel platform?
Thing to keep an eye on is the safety gear and the quality of the crucible handling tongs and such. If you’re going to be a one-man casting operation, safety is everything. Some kits come with cheap-looking tongs. Better cowardly than safe.
Write when you get rich,