Motorcycles, tools, and garages! A little bit of everything mechanical and technical.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Getting to the point where I can do these in my sleep... These are the "labs" I have my sheet metals students do before they can pick a project.  The first is a Joining Lab, where they get to practice measuring, marking, cutting, bending, and different joining processes.  I've thrown dozens of these out but they seem to keep showing up, usually whenever I have a metals class going on.  The boxes I tend to save- they make great organizers in all of my drawers and lockers.


Today was our last flight day for the rubber band powered airplanes.  Had maybe a little more than 1/3rd of the 14 or so airplanes make it through all of the days looking like they can still fly.  Kids can be pretty rough on a "gentle" toss.  That, and meeting a brick wall 20 feet up can cause some damage!  They tend to get excited and toss them too hard, meaning they shoot straight up in the air.  Three of the planes below are headed for a good crash landing...






Kinda hard to get pictures of them in the air.  The gym has some huge air vents in the ceiling and they create some serious turbulence.  Makes for interesting flying!  I always enjoy teaching this unit and it seems like the kids do too.  Test tomorrow and then we move on to Lego Robotics.

Still dabbling with the TIG and aluminum.  Trying to get at least 15 minutes a day in, and I've been getting at least that.  My little 1/8" sheet of aluminum is now almost 1/2" thick, and I got a darn near perfect bead on some 20 gauge.  Course, when I tried to replicate it on a fresh piece so I could take a picture, I was running too slow so the base metal got too hot giving a poor finish.  At least I'm not burning holes anymore.

Might be MIA for the next few days-  my book showed up which means I have 909 pages to get through!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

From Sketchup to 3D prints in 4 easy steps?!

Spent the day on the computer figuring and scheming... Hate days like this because it feels like I didn't get anything done.  In reallity, I think I got quite a lot figured out today in preparation for a 3D printer.  Since Sketchup is free, I teach it to my Tech and Design students.  It's not the greatest for all situations but its easy to learn and quite powerful.  Unfortunately, you can't build a model and click "Print 3D".  Theres quite a process, so with a lot of help from several other sources, here's what I came up with.

Please keep in mind if you choose to follow this information you do so at your own risk... I do NOT yet have a 3D printer so this is all *theoretical* for me at this point.  There also appear to be several places where actual printer settings would need to be set, which I can't verify yet...


First thing you need is Trimble Sketchup, available here for FREE:  http://www.sketchup.com/

You will also need an .stl exporter script.  I used one from Github, also FREE:  https://github.com/SketchUp/sketchup-stl

Once you have Sketchup installed with an .stl exporter, make something!  Here's the widget I made.  Once you have a model, simply click File/Export STL and your done.



Download and instal Netfabb, also FREE:  http://www.netfabb.com/basic.php

Open the software and open your .stl model.  Click on "Repair" (the red cross) and then save the file.



Download Slic3r, also FREE:  http://slic3r.org/download

No need to install, once you unzip the folder you just have to open it and away it goes.  Open the repaired .stl file in this program, and then click export gcode.


If you want, you can view the gcode by simply opening it with a word program like this:


Gcode!  Been a looong time since I've seen any of that!


Download and install "Printrun" or Pronterface, also FREE:  https://github.com/kliment/Printrun#readme

Open Pronterface and open the gcode file, and that's pretty much it! There appear to be several settings here and I'm assuming the "Print" button is shaded out because I don't have a printer plugged in.


Looks like it gives you all kinds of useful info- temps of nozzle and bed, estimated amount of filament used, etc..

There you go.  I would love to hear if this works for anyone or if anyone has another free easier method, lets hear that too!

Even though I didn't get anything physical done (unless you count 3 loads of laundry) I did get this figured out and sourced all of the printer parts.  Hoping to order the first set of parts next week if I can get it okayed but I'll be roughly $200 shy of having enough to get the entire thing this school year.  *Sigh*

Friday, January 11, 2013

Snow Day!

No school, which of course means some time to snuggle up with a good book.  Finished another one this morning- excellent read, but it leaves me in a bit of a bind...  Do I start another book or wait for my late Christmas present to show up and read it?! Guess I'll start another one, there's already too many on the pile!


The top shelf have been read in the last couple of months, the next two down are on the "to read" list.  If only there was just this one bookshelf...

I also went in to play around in the shop for a bit this afternoon.  Got my grades mostly done for parent teacher conferences coming up and mucked around with the TIG welder a bit more.  Spent some time trying a few different things I've read about, and am starting to get a little success!

Some great resources for welding:

Adventure rider welding thread- http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=210053

Welding Web-  http://weldingweb.com/

I could spend hours on that second one.  Who'm I kidding, I could spend hours on both of them.  Below are a few of today's tungsten's.  A few people suggested I had my current set too low, so the one on the left was at about 150 amps, AC smooth, 1/16th tungsten and filler rod.  Didn't last more than 5 seconds.  The next was turned down to about 100, the next 80, and the last two are at 65.  I switched to 1/8 rod on the last tungsten and managed to keep it going for a long time, although I probably *should* have changed it because it got contaminated...


The results.  Might not look like much but it is getting better (I hope)!  It can be tough welding over top of junky welds but they are starting to smooth out.  Finally getting the dip/jump rhythm.  The thicker rod makes it a lot easier to dip/jump for me.

I'm also starting to get the hang of telling when the base metal is too cold or hot to weld.  To cold and the puddle just won't carry and the rod beads up on top.  Too hot and it sinks in and looks "filmy" after it cools.  Just right- you get a nice puddle that is easy to carry, the rod melts nicely, and the finished weld is nice and shiny with the "stacked dimes" appearance.

Three or 4 more years of practicing every day, I might just be able to weld aluminum. Then I can start trying the thin stuff.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Not quite right.

My engines class is getting their motors back together.  One of my students asked me to check a head bolt for him, and I'm glad he did!  It threaded in fine most of the way, but suddenly got harder to turn.  I pulled it out and looked at it for a bit and something didn't seem quite right...

Can you see it?


How about now!?


If you look really close, one bolt is about 1/8th of an inch longer.  If you look even closer at the long bolt, you can see where a section has necked down and the threads are stretched out.  Think that head bolt has been torqued a time or two!?  I did some quick figuring and in the 3.5 years I've been teaching here, my engines have been torn down and reassembled roughly 15 times.  Who knows HOW many times in the last 20+ years these motors have been kicking around...  These bolts

Also working on sprucing up the welding booth.  Now that I have a class that actually uses it, I needed to make it a bit easier to use.  Been re-arranging things and updating a few minor things.  Finally got the TIG welder moved  and tidied up all the  cords laying around.  Much easier to use now and no tripping hazard.  Still need to build a cage for the bottle though...


Monday, January 07, 2013


Don't you just hate it when someone reads over your shoulder?


That would be Chester... We adopted him a few months ago.  Found him in my front yard with a broken wing- think he flew into a window.  Tried to bandage it but it healed funny.  He is getting better at flying but he still can't go more than 50 feet unless he's running on adrenaline (for some reason, he is TERRIFIED of brooms).   Hoping to release him in the spring, but he's getting awfully tame.

Still trying to catch back up at school after the holidays.  Making a bit of progress- finally got the junky wire feed welder back together.  Adapted a different "standard" gas diffuser to the torch handle so I can use normal tips and hopefully avoid the last issue I had with it.  Picked up some new shields and it should be ready to go.  Little late for my class, but just in time for the scouts that will be using it tomorrow night.

So I get to teach a "Community Class"  and I'm kind of excited about it.  I really don't know what direction to take it- I would LOVE to do basically an open shop where people could come in and, with a little guidance, use the tools to create things.  I would also be willing to give instruction in different areas that interest people, but I don't have a lot of room for large groups.  We'll see how this first session goes.  Hoping to get about 15 people at a time.  There are a few people interested in welding but my welding booth is pretty small.  Still need to come up with a name for it though... Don't think dorkPunch Garage will work.

In other news: I am SOOO ready for the cold to go away.  Been getting down to around -8 degrees F lately.  Brr.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Getting there?

Been playing with the TIG welder more. I'm getting closer. I really have very little experience with these but they are soooo much fun! After reading several different (chapters from) welding books, reading about 800 different website's "tips and tricks", and watching 37 million youtube videos, it starts to make sense. I spent some time practicing the movement without any juice- just resting a finger on the table lightly, sliding the torch along, and dabbing the filler rod in. Felt like a doofus sitting there, but that's pretty much par for the course.


Not real pretty, but progress. I actually managed several long welds without gunking up the tungsten once!  Some of those welds are from a few years ago when I took a real short community class on welding. I spent an hour or two playing with a TIG and got to try welding stainless, plain old steel, and aluminum. Stainless was really fun to weld, aluminum not so much. We had some really nice welders with the foot pedal control. Makes it really easy to get into position, stomp the pedal, and then back off to a nice heat to match the speed you were moving. No such luxury on my welder- and it shows. I have a tendency to slow down as I weld, and with aluminum (from what I have read) you need to either speed up or back of on the juice because the aluminum absorbs and spreads the heat so quickly. Meaning, my longer welds, by the time I get to the end, have way to much heat and the puddle is starting to sink through the metal. I'm doing better at remembering to keep the torch darn near vertical and the rod more horizontal. Speaking of the rod- dabbing sure doesn't work well for me. I tend to just rest the rod on the base metal and slide it back and forth.

Here's a set of welding videos I found pretty usefull-

LOTS more that have a lot of good info.  The interwebs is an amazing tool.

Thought I'd also post a pic of the painted parts for my truck motor. I think it turned out swell! Now if only I had the money for all the internals, I could start stuffing it back together. Hoping to have this "quick summer project" (that's going on 2 years now...) done THIS SUMMER. Expect pigs to fly.



Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Not a clue.

Well, maybe a little bit... Just enough to get me in trouble.  Sure is fun to play with though!  Scrounged up a large-ish DC/AC welder with a high frequency arc stabilizer a couple of years ago that was "broken".  Got the welder part fixed easily enough and it worked great as a stick welder.  Then I discovered that it could be converted fairly easily to a scratch-start TIG welder.  Got that all figured out and it worked okay.  Little too hard for my students to use, but I'm still hoping to at least give them a chance to mess around with it.  I have always wanted to be able to weld thin metal- especially aluminum.  I don' think I'm a real great welder but I do okay for someone who has had no "formal" training.  Did some research and figured out how to wire up the Hi-freq box (good grief, there are wires going EVERYWHERE in the welding booth), and it works!  I don't have to scratch start it anymore, and switching over to AC I can theoretically now weld aluminum.


Still experimenting with it.  Only aluminum I had available was some 20 gauge 5052, and the welder only goes down to about 30 amps.  If I'm lucky, I can get about an inch of decent weld in before I dab the tungsten with the filler rod and bung it up.  Just keep trying...

In other news, the jigs for the airplanes work great.  About 5 minutes of set up, then let them dry overnight and they are done.  No more waiting 3 days for different parts to dry!

New year is off to a good start.  Spoke with my administrator today and it seems like I just might be able to finangle a 3D printer into my classroom this year.  If not, I'm definitely budgeting my money for that next year.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ford Blue

One of my all time favorite colors.  In fact, I once painted an entire motorcycle that color.  Plugging away on the "big" project.  I had cleaned up the block a few weeks ago, and am hoping to hone it over the Christmas break.  I had a few minutes and the garage was warm, so I used up the rest of a can of engine paint on one side of the block.

Had to get it nice and warm first...


"Finished", except it needs another coat or two and I didnt do the edges real well because nothing is masked yet.


Santa brought me a little money to put towards this project, but I'm still a tad short to order the rebuild kit.  Hoping to get a few customers projects out of the way, that will give me some money and time to hopefully get the motor back together before school gets out for summer. 

Christmas was great- spent some good time with family both near and sorta-far, played lots of games, cleaned the house a bazillion times, and reach a book or two.  Managed to scrounge up a nice big chunk of brass and a few other things as well as play with my TIG welder a bit, but more on that later.  Still have a few days to play a few more games, do another puzzle (or, watch my wife do it anyways...) and who know what else.  Back to school on Wednesday, see y'all next year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Just happened to see this over on mendlemax.com - they released a new version of their 3d printer.

Just think of all of the cool things I could do in my classroom with a 3d printer!  Sure would be cool to send my students home with a physical model of the cars they design and build in Sketchup.  Some day...

More info here:  http://www.mendelmax.com/

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Infinite Loop...

Sometimes it feels like I start one thing, only to realize I need to do something else to get that thing done.  So I start on that job, only to discover that in order to get it done, I need to do something else.  If I want to get that thing done- you guessed it, I have to get the original project finished.

I'm stuck in an infinite loop right now...  I'm trying to build some radius fingers for my box and pan brake.  Got it all figured out, cut a bunch of pieces of metal out, and decided that if I wanted to be really accurate drilling the holes for the clamp bolts, I oughta build a fixture for the drill press.  No problem- I have a decent size piece of channel to use as a base plate and a few chunks of half in. bar stock to use as a fence.

Radius finger parts:


Parts to make a drilling / welding fixture:


Heck, while I'm at it, why not make it adjustable?  One fence should be able to swing so I can use it as a fixture for welding pieces together at angles... That'd be handy, right?

Turns out my band saw isn't quite big enough to cut the channel.  No problem, just modify it a bit with a grinder.  After several fine "adjustments" with the grinder, it *just* barely cuts without the guide wheels snagging on the metal.  I've been meaning to do this for a while- seems like the saw is just barely too small more often than not.


 This is where it gets interesting.  I have a (what I thought to be) decent little mill / lathe in the shop.  I figured I could chuck that piece of metal up in there and cut an arc for the adjustable part of the fence.  Before I started teaching the mill was next door in the woods shop because the previous teacher had no interest in it.  Needless to say there was NO tooling for it.   I've picked up some ultra cheap (read:  cheap Harbor Freight crap) to experiment with over the years as I had a little extra money.

Promise not to laugh?

 There's a decent Smithy vice barely bolted to a H.F. turntable, held precariously to the cross feed with another set of H.F. clamping blocks.  Lets just say this little experiment had less than satisfactory results.  The mill has a LOT of backlash and tends to shake itself out of position in all three axis.  PLUS- turns out the channel I am trying to use for the fixture is WARPED?!

Wait, where was I? Oh yeah, building radius fingers for the brake...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dance a little Jig.

When I was maybe 13, my parents got me a rubber band powered airplane kit for Christmas.  It wasn't the one I wanted, but it turned out to be even better.  I wanted a fancy big one that looked like a real airplane.  This thing was a decent size, but only a "silhouette" plane.  Turns out that was a good thing- easy to build, and it flew great!  My friend was jealous of how well it flew compared to his (which, as I recall, he built using contact cement meant for concrete flooring...)

Fast forward 20 years.  My Tech and Design 2 class, according to the class description, builds rubber band powered airplanes.  The kits that were left over were the "Super Delta Dart", so I gave them a shot.  They. Sucked.  Very easy to build, but on average maybe 2 out of 18-20 in a class flew WELL.  They were very flimsy and were always breaking too.  Last year I decided to give that old kit a try, as it is STILL in production!  Made by SIG- called the Parasol.

It worked out great!  Most of the planes flew well, the build is easy, and they are fairly sturdy.  Little more spendy, but well worth it in my opinion.  One problem though-  Gluing the wings together took about 5 minutes and then a full day to set up.  Gluing the tail- same thing.  Gluing the tail to the fuselage- another day.  Annddd... one more day for the wings and struts.  That is a LOT of wasted time.  We used it to our advantage though, studied a bit more on flight, etc, but I wanted to cut the time of this unit way down because of changes to schedules and switching to trimesters.

The OLD way of doing it:

The solution:  Build a jig that will hold all of the completed parts- tail, fuselage, wings, and struts, all at the same time, so they can be glued at once and dry overnight.




 To top it all off, I had my Metals and Engines 2 class build me a truckload of them as a review of metal working.  Now I have 12 jigs, should make things go pretty quick!

Pattern for the jigs:

Gobs done, just need some planes to glue up!
Photobucket z

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cranken 'em out.

Don't think my poor cheap band saw has had this much use in, well, ever.


Cutting parts for the air engine we're making in my Metals and Engines 2 class.  Showed the kids how to use it and they are keeping it busy while tearing this thing apart:


Give 'em some tools and stand back!  It was an old Riso photocopier the school was going to haul to the dump.  I'm scavenging some parts out of it and scrapping the rest.  Have a couple of stepper motors, misc. belts and shafts, gears, switches, wire, and about 20 lbs of screws.


Hoping to eventually turn it into a 3D printer, although if (when) I make the printer, I'll probably end up getting the right (new) parts.  If only I had the $$$.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

FIRST Lego League 2012- Senior Solutions

Today was the Pocatello Qualifier for our FLL robotics teams.  I had two teams again this year- one of 7th and one of 8th graders.  It's been a looonnnggg couple of months prepping for this- most of which felt like I was talking to myself, but as usual, the teams managed to really pull it together in the last week.

This years challenge was centered around Senior Citizens and problems they may have as they get older.  The competition has four parts- Core Values (teamwork), Research Project, Robot Design, and everyones favorite, the Robot Competition.  Neither team did well in the Robot competition- the 8th Grade team "The Old Farts" could have gotten a boatload of points if everything had gone perfectly, but they had some sensor and battery issues that kept them in about the middle of the pack.  The 7th grade team (S.L.O.- Senior Lego Organization) didn't have any working programs at game time, but over the course of the day managed to get a few working between rounds.

The Old Farts even managed to win one of the Core Values awards, and are going to the State Tournament in Twin Falls!  Hopefully the extra month will give them time to work out the bugs in their programs.

Some pics from the day.

Setting up in the pit.


Furiously writing and testing programs...


In the ring.


Final score, Old Farts:  135.


Final Score, Team SLO: 85.


Best run of the day:  325 points!!!


Old Farts receiving their award.


Long day, glad its over and everyone had fun.