Saturday, April 30, 2011

Coffee Anyone? (3)

In the week or so since my last post in this thread, I've massaged out the design a bit further, and now am at the point where I have submitted 'final' drawings to the client. Previous posts may be located in the blog archive to the right of the page.

The drawings are, let's say, 95% there, though I expect I'll probably want to make a minor change or three as the construction proceeds. That's the way it always happens for me and it is a good, iterative process I do believe. It's called "design" and "build", and the points connect as if in a circle, if you know what I mean.

I've had a couple of glass samples sent to the client, so the glass tint, or lack thereof, remains an open question as of yet. The client doesn't like to see a greenish hue in glass, so both choices I have put forward thus far are low-iron glass, which have a slightly blue tinge to them.

As I mentioned last time, I was leaning towards removing the pentagonal foot pads from the legs. Well, they're gone now. Here's a look at the old leg (right) and new (left):


You can see that the 'stirrup' detail on the bottom has been slimmed and made less chunky. I was contemplating carving something there on the older design, but have decided to reduce the scope of that detail, in the interests of simplicity and clean lines.

Here's a view of the back of those legs, compared:


Now for a few views of the table. Here's a long-side perspective view:


A worm's eye 3/4 perspective:


I've added a batten to the underside of the shelf and, as you can see, the shelf frame now has a rounded outside face profile with a bead, which ties it into the upper table frame and the front face of the legs more harmoniously. The shelf frame has also been thickened up by 1/4" (6.35 mm), to 1.25" thick. The batten will connect to the shelf board with a full-length sliding dovetail, and to the surrounding frame by pegged mortise and tenon. You can also see some pegging visible in some of the pictures in the areas where the legs and shelf meet. I will be using a double-pegged floating tenon in those locations.

Another perspective:


A bird's eye view of the plan:


Finally, a short side elevation:


The shelf panel is Wenge, and in past days I received a piece of 8/4 edge grain Wenge which, due to the relative scarcity of that material at the local hardwood suppliers, had to come all the way from Ohio. I re-sawed first on my Hitachi bandsaw:


I took advantage of my jointer's recent resurrection to face and edge joint the pieces:


Of course, a machine-jointed surface is really only a rough-cut, and I finished off with hand jointing the edge until it was 'light-tight', with just the scantest hollowing in the middle (not pictured).

Then I put the two boards through my router table in several steps to form a tongue and groove joint:


I well realize that glued butt joints for the planks would plenty strong, however I prefer the mechanical wood connection of the tongue and groove to be the underlying baseline reality, and, as far as gluing goes, the tongue and groove increases the interior surface area of the connection by a considerable amount. That makes for a better connection in my view.

Time to bring out the hide glue and put those planks together:


That joint should be almost invisible by the time it is done, given the black material with its vertical grain orientation, and the dark glue line.

I also had some full-scale plots done of the principal frame sections to aid in rough cutting out the pieces from the lumber:


Another view:


I am holding off cutting into any of that stock quite yet, as I'm awaiting a final go-ahead from the client. Hopefully that will happen in the next day or so.

That's all for today - thanks for your visit. --> on to post 4

Friday, April 29, 2011

Adventures in Machine Land (IV)

In yesterday's post I detailed some of the tricky aspects to setting up the Oliver 166 jointer, and mentioned my disappointment at discovering that the middle of the bridge had a twist in it though both ends were dead level. I didn't feel that was really going to be a problem, however a reader wrote in and advised,

"The most important thing is that the base is not twisted. Any twist in the base will cause the tables to follow the twist as they are adjusted. With the tables zeroed to each other they might be correct, but as soon as you drop the infeed to cutting depth any twist will impact the new position of the table."

I greatly appreciate readers taking the time to share their thoughts on the blog, and can see why such a situation as detailed in that comment might make a lot of sense - however, I replied that I thought they were incorrect in that assertion. I was definitely open-minded about the possibility mind you. I said I'd make a test to see if the assertion about the twist in the bridge would actually concretely affect the table when it was raised or lowered. I feel the test will confirm or reject the hypothesis, and obviously, it need hardly be said that having a chassis with no twist in it at all would be the most ideal situation. If the chassis/bridge does have a twist, however, is it game over?

As a starting set up, I leveled the table as best I could- the infeed table now, as I had obtained the adjuster screws in the morning from Tim and had set it up on the machine at long last.

The level is set at the end of the table, near the hand wheel:


And then the level is placed up at the cutter head end:


Next, the level is placed lengthwise in the middle of the table:


I take a step back to show the bigger picture, with the level left in the same spot:


You can see that I have the table raised a fair distance above the cutterhead, and that it is pretty darn level at both ends and down the length.

Now I'll wind the table way down, bringing it much lower than the cutter head, and I've set the level up at the table lip end near the cutterhead:


What does the level say?:


Next, with the table in the same lowered position, I'll place the level on the opposite end of the table near the hand wheel:


I step back to show the bigger picture once again, with the table lowered and the level on the end of the table:


So, as I suspected, a bit of twist in the chassis doesn't make any actual difference to the level-ness of the table when it is raised or lowered, as the wedge blocks on the sliding carriage below can be screwed in or out to compensate for a high or low spot at that location. Once those wedges are in their places, the tables travel up or down in height takes place entirely upon those blocks. So how could the chassis twist have any effect upon that?

The only way I can see chassis twist affecting anything is if the table were moved back on it's sliding chassis - then one could imagine the relative amount of twist at a given location could cause the sliding chassis to twist also with the weight of the table directly upon it. However the only time I would draw the chassis back is for purposes of working on the cutterhead, changing knives and so forth. Otherwise the sliding carriage stays in the same place all the time and the wedge blocks are adjusted to suit the situation.

Anyway, glad to have confirmed that hypothesis, at least to my own satisfaction at least. If any readers feel that my test was flawed in some way, or could be improved, please let me know.

Next on the slate was to relocate the power switch for the machine, which, for some reason, had been located right under the brake mechanism for the cutterhead. I located it a bit back from that, and shortened the length of BX cable which fed it from the junction box. The cast iron is quite easy to drill:


Then I used a Greenlee combination drill/tap to thread the hole:


That worked pretty well with the impact gun.

Some 1/4" cap screws secure the box in place:


Then it was time to connect the three wires:


And then the cover could be reinstalled:


The blanking plug had been knocked out of the wrong end of the box by the previous installer, which explains why the 'Allen-Bradley' plate is upside-down.

Once the wiring was done, I plugged the machine back in and it fired up just fine, so that's another minor 'mission accomplished'.

Then it was time to fuss the tables a bit more. I unearthed the dial indicator, and zeroed it to the table surface:


I checked few other spots on the same table for comparison's sake, and they were all 'dead nuts', so I then went to check the table in relation to the knife at T.D.C.:


I adjusted the outfeed to be 0.0015" below the knife, then slid the indicator to the other end of the knife to check that the table was parallel to the knife:


All was good. I set the outfeed table a hair below the knife's cutting arc to compensate for the slightly scalloped surface one gets from the cutting action.

Then I slid the dial indicator over to check the infeed table's height relative to the outfeed table, first at one end:


And then the other:


In between the above two photos I had to do a little bit of fine-tuning with the level. At one point I thought it would be interesting to compare the reading off the machinist's level with a quality carpenter's level, in this case a 48" Stabila:


It's funny to see the difference - the carpenter's level is looking like a crude tool all of a sudden. And of course it is perfectly fine for general carpentry work, but obviously inadequate for setting up a machine.

Next, the fence went on and I adjusted it to squareness with the table:


Checking at the middle and both ends of the fence, I had squareness in all three spots, a great improvement upon what I had previously. When I was a tender young lad, oh, 5 month's back, I had to spend several hours grinding about 1/16" of material off one corner of that fence, using a hand-held 4.5" angle grinder, just to make it serviceable. Glad those days are a distant memory.

With the table level and at exactly the same height, I could finish off the rebuild with the re-installation of the height indicator arm. For some reason, mine was about 3/4" short of the indicator gauge on the side of the table, so with some help from the jeweler upstairs, we grafted on some brass to make it longer:


You can see I've roughly lined out the trimming I need to do.

A while later, the pointer was re-done, all polished up and looking ready for bear:


It's almost too nice on the machine, however I do have some oxidation to look forward to of course.

Another view:


Well, all that remained was to actually cut some wood with the jointer - almost a novel concept after the machine has had such a lengthy period out of service. I ran a couple of pine pieces over the cutter, and was delighted with the results right away:


It felt right! I jointed that second piece, placed the two sticks edge to edge, found a slight hollow, and then made a final tweak to the beds, re-jointed, and in the end had the Oliver back where it needed to be.

Maybe I can do some woodworking again in the near future - imagine that! How does that work again?

Thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way Today. Comments always welcome.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Adventures in Machine Land (III)

The fun, thrills and spills, continues with my various machine diversions and challenges.

First off was my truck, which suddenly died on the highway, then started again just as the tow truck was on its way, then died another few miles down the highway, necessitating a reacquaintance with the tow truck driver. I had it towed to my house, and left out in the street at front.

The following morning, I felt the familiar fog that seems to come over me whenever I have to work on a vehicle. For some reason, I enter an Alzheimer's like state, where I seem to know nothing, remember nothing, and am easily flummoxed by challenges. I don't know what it is about vehicles that brings this out, but I have to fight against the inertia and insecurity, the "I'm not going to be able to figure this out" mental soundtrack. This, even though I rebuilt my truck from the ground up and know every single nook, cranny, and idiosyncrasy. Go figure.

I sought refuge in my Toyota factory manual, where I looked through the sections dealing with diagnosing non-starting issues. For my truck's condition, which was "Engine turns over but does not start", all indicators pointed to a fuel-system related problem. The few electrical causes listed I could already rule out. So, that morning, I ripped out the entire fuel system from fuel tank to injector pump, cleaning and checking, hoping to find the smoking gun of debris which was clogging the system. However, nothing turned up, though I did get to ingest a small quantity of diesel fuel. Yum!. It was fine - the fuel system, not the taste of the fuel itself. I can't say I recommend it actually. With each check and re-starting attempt, my battery grew weaker and weaker until it simply wouldn't turn over the engine at all.

I felt that the manual had in fact not been much help, as it led me down a path which did not serve to rectify the problem in the slightest. That's the trap of manuals sometimes, if you rely upon them too much.

I was growing frustrated by this point. I had some tea and phoned a friend more experienced with diesel engines than I, and after some discussion, we both agreed that the problem had to lie somewhere in the electrical system. I then spent another hour or so in a fruitless attempt to track down the problem, to no avail. I was pretty sure though that it involved an engine shut-down module, the only piece of electronics on my truck. It's a little gray box which functions as a device to read the oil pressure - if the pressure suddenly drops off to zero (at it would if you ran the crankcase into a rock, smashing it open and all the oil suddenly gushed out), the box sends a signal which shuts the engine off immediately to prevent damage.

That module had four lights on it but none of them were coming on. Still, I couldn't quite figure it out, and couldn't test anything too well as the battery was too dead to turn the engine over. Not a jolly good time at all. And lying under a truck and getting crud in your eyes loses its appeal soon enough.

I basically gave up at that point, and called a local diesel shop - a specialist converter of diesels to run on waste veggie oil actually - and eventually made contact with the proprietor. He was taking the day off, but said he would try to swing by and take a look.

An hour later he said he had some time and was coming by. Great!

I was down at the truck waiting for him and having a last stare at the engine bay, checking wiring connections to the engine for old times' sake, as it were, and then noticed something funny about a little green wire connected to the negative terminal on the battery. Upon closer inspection I discovered that the wire had broken off internally, and was pretty much hanging by a thread. Enough of a thread that if the battery or wire was bumped in the right direction, the connection would be working, and if bumped in the other direction, the connection would be cut off. I then realized that that particular green wire was the ground wire for that module I just mentioned earlier. A-ha! While I had wired that gizmo in myself, it was three years ago and I had forgotten what that green wire was for.

As soon as I saw the broken wire I realized that it was at least 99% likely that it was the problem in regards to the engine non-starting. The diesel mechanic showed up a few minutes later, I told him I thought I had the problem solved, and, "by the way, do you happen to have some wire and crimps kicking around?" He helped me out with those bits, no charge, and we talked about the WVO scene for cars and trucks, and a few minutes later I had the wire repaired and with a boost from my new mechanic friend, the truck fired right up. Problem solved, whew!

I wish I could say I arrived at the solution by rational deduction, but in fact I had reached a point where I had had enough, and it was really a matter of luck to have spotted that faulty wire. Still, sometimes ya gotta take your victories where you can get 'em.

----------------

Back to those devilish machines in my shop. While waiting for Tim, the machinist just around the corner from the shop, to re-do those double adjuster rods for me, I realized I could take a couple of the adjusters off of the infeed table and instead use them on the outfeed. With all four corners fitted with rods, I could then place the outfeed table in place. The outfeed table is the one which provides the reference surface for the joint. The infeed table aligns the wood for delivery to the cutterhead.

Tim loaned me a precision machinist's level, which is much more accurate than a conventional carpenter's level. With that tool, I was able to set up the chassis of the Oliver properly - or so I thought. I used the level on each end of the chassis, directly above the support pedestals on each end of the machine:


I used a pallet jack to tilt the machine up and then I could adjust the shims I had on the floor underneath each pedestal, then down again, repeating until I had the surface leveled on each end of the machine:


Once the machine base was level, I could place, with some help, the outfeed table on the four double-wedged support points, using wood as temporary support:


Once I had the table attached again to the wedge pairs, i removed the wood and brought the table down to level with the cutterhead. Then I borrowed the 6' straightedge from upstairs to use as a means of leveling the table to the cutterhead. I placed the level on the table, and right away noticed light in the middle. No way that those fanatics who re-ground my table could have goofed up that badly, so I immediately took a closer look at the straightedge:


That's a thick steel bar, formerly a knife used in a paper mill, and I hope it is clear enough from the picture for the reader to see that it is bowed about 1/2" over its length. I've no idea what could have caused that bow, however it renders the bar useless as a straightedge. I was a little chagrined to realize I had set up the jointer previously based upon that very same straightedge....

Well, on to plan 'B'.

Plan 'B' involved using the machinist's level to set up the table. I figured I would get it pretty close, and really it is the jointing of two boards and fitting them edge to edge which will truly tell you if the table alignment is correct. So I proceeded along, and in no time had the outfeed table adjusted level on both ends and length-wise. Then I placed the level on the cutterhead, and discovered it was not level.

But...but! The cutterhead had to be level as it is held in a cast iron carriage bolted to the main 'bridge', or chassis of the machine, and I had just gone to great lengths to level the chassis out. I took the level and checked the bridge on both sides of the cutterhead assembly. I discovered that the chassis was not level there - which meant that the chassis is in fact slightly twisted in the middle. Nothing I can do about that, short of removing the bridge, which must weigh close to 1000 pounds, and get it re-ground, along with the associated table carriages. Not this time my friends.

I thought about it some more, and realized that I could work around the problem. I got some brass shim stock, removed the drive belts to the cutterhead, unbolted the cutterhead, and then shimmed it with the brass until it was level. I reasoned that once the lower table wedges were adjusted to give a level table, the table moves up and down independently of the relative position of the bridge. The table moves relative to the wedges, so it should be fine.

I could proceed no further in the rebuild though without those three adjuster rods. There still was the outstanding issue of the one adjuster, mentioned in the previous post, which wasn't aligned properly. I had obtained a left hand thread 1/2" UNC tap to clean the thread out on the sliding wedge's hole, but it made no difference to the alignment. The rod still did not match up to the other hole on the chassis' tab.

I was puzzling over this some more and decided to see how well aligned a transfer punch would be if slid through the threaded holes at once. I was surprised to find that it slid through both holes quite nicely. So the holes themselves were well enough aligned - the problem must lay in the threads.

As a bit of a last-ditch try, I tried using the LH thread tap again, this time bearing downward firmly so as to see if I could make a slight clearance to the thread. I was pleased to feel the tap scraping out some gunge and cleaning a little bit of metal out of the hole:


When I re-tried the rod, it now aligned properly, to my considerable relief. Yay! Tomorrow I should have the 3 missing rods back and can get the jointer back together.

Then there's the drill press. I got a package in the mail today containing two of these:


Feast your eyes my friends on NOS Norma-Hoffmann bearings for the quill!! These pups are at least 40 years old, and it was almost a remake of The Hunt for Red October to obtain them.

I mentioned how these bearings are an odd hybrid of metric and imperial measurements - now you can see the equally odd configuration of the bearings:


I dropped in to the machine shop a few days back to see the bearings from the quill, which had at last been removed. It turned out that the bottom bearing, nearest the drill chuck, was 0.625" bore, instead of the 0.6355" bore of the Norma bearing on top. Now, the spindle slides into the quill from the bottom, and thus the lower bearing is a 'gatekeeper' of sorts. In order for the spindle to get by, the bearing surfaces on the spindle needed to fit into its smaller bore. So, can you guess what the genius (excuse the sarcasm) who last repaired this assembly did? That's right, he had the bearing points on the spindle, top and bottom, turned down to fit a 0.625" bore. Now, if he had also replaced the upper bearing with one having a 0.625" bore, all would have been fine, but instead, inexplicably, they left the Norma XH-179 in place, which has a bore some 0.0105" larger than the thinned-down spindle. In machinery land, that's pretty much a crevasse. An appropriate slide-fit clearance between the inner race of the bearing and the spindle would be on the order of half a thousandth of an inch or so. The gap in this case is some 200 times larger, and probably is the largest contributor to the spindle vibration I had with the machine. I just can't believe that the previous person to do the repair hadn't realized that 'little issue' with the bearing clearance, going to the trouble of re-machining the spindle for the lower replacement bearing, and not taking the step of spending another $10 to swap out the upper bearing. Jeez. Still, I enjoy the reverse detective work to determine what caused what and why.

I'll take these new Normas to the machine shop tomorrow and hopefully they can re-do the spindle (which needs to be built back up to dimension at the bearing locations) and get it back together with the quill by week's end. It feels good to be on the homeward trek with these two machine rebuild projects. I might have to start cutting some wood again soon. Imagine that!

Thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way Today, soon to be renamed The Wannabe Machinist's Haunt.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Adventures in Machine Land (II)

Boy I've been having some entertainment recently in the world of machinery!

I'll start with the good news: the jointer tables are all done. I took them down to Connecticut to have the grinding work undertaken, on the advice of one of the larger sharpening shops in the area. The company in Connecticut, Marena Industries, has been in business for about 45 years and specializes in grinding and machinery re-building. I received a call last week saying that my jointer tables and fence were all done, and that the total machining bill, at $100/hour, amounted to $1130. I had told them to let me know if the bill was heading over the $1000 line, and John, the shop foreman had forgotten to call me. So he said the bill was a $1000 even, no worries. That was most decent of them.

I got there and met the owner, Mr. Marena himself, and boy was he keen to talk about machinery. He gave me an impromptu tour of the factory and in rapid bursts of speech, told me all kinds of stories about how they rebuild machines. Not only were my jointer tables tidily strapped to a pallet with corrosion-inhibiting paper wrapped around, but they gave me gifts of a clock and a measuring tape! I really like to meet people who are totally into what they do, and it is a bit of a rare experience, sad to say.

Imagine that! Not only did they do the work professionally to a high standard, and did the work on the schedule agreed upon, but they gave me some gifts! I was astounded, yet there was once a day, I think (I hope), when such things were more commonplace occurrences. I highly recommend this company to anyone in the New England area needing to get a machine re-conditioned. The tables look awesomely flat and clean, so I was pleased.

Here's the loading of the tables back into my truck:


I got the tables back to the shop, and with a little help unloaded them off the truck. I didn't get a chance to do any more work on the jointer though until Sunday, as the bookcase project was requiring my undivided attention.

On Sunday, while I was waiting for shellac to dry, I thought I would re-fit the new double-threaded rods to their related cast iron wedge blocks. All was going well until I noticed that one of the newly-made threaded adjusters didn't fit my spanner:


As you can see, the adjuster rod has a pair of machined flats in the middle, each pair at 90˚out of (rotational) phase to one another. In the above case, neither pair of flats was the correct size. On another two rods, one of the pairs of flats was at the correct dimension, while the other pair was too fat. That was a bit annoying, and I wondered if the local machinist I had make the rods was plagued by moments of inattentiveness at times. No big deal - at least the flats are over-width and thus easy enough to correct.

I was grumbling though because this sort of minor thing slows down the rebuild process by at least a day. And with three adjusters needed re-working, I couldn't place either table back on the machine. They look nice on the floor at this time, and I can push some wood over them and make little jointing sounds while imagining those nice straight boards....

It got worse though: on one corner I discovered a problem with the height of the holes between the cast sliding wedge (to the right of the picture) and the mounting tab on the sliding chassis:


I'll zoom on in to the spot where the rod meets the tab so you can see what I mean:


The rod is about 1/16" too high where it meets the tab. So, either the tab hole is too low, or the wedge's corresponding hole is too high, or each is out by some intermediate amount, or the sliding block is too thick on the bottom. I considered that it was possible that the wedges had gotten mixed up with one another at some point in the past, so I tried swapping in the one with an identical configuration from the diagonally opposite corner, to no avail.

I have to conclude that the machine came out of the factory this way in 1943 unless the cast wedge block on that corner is some sort of replacement from a later machine. I think this is unlikely, as the wedge blocks are not typically a part that would fail. So, Oliver's quality control was not exactly awe-inspiring at that juncture of history at least. How did they manage to drill 7 of the 8 perfectly, but get one of them so wrong?

I am also realizing that the sliding wedge, rod and tab had been connected before I took the tables off...the only way they can connect at all to one another is if the adjuster screw goes in a bit atilt, which has the effect that, as the adjuster is turned, the wedge block becomes cranked up slightly at an angle and the adjuster begins to bind. While a fixing bolt can torque that wedge block back down onto the sub-chassis, it creates an area of stress and makes the adjuster itself extremely difficult to turn. I seem to remember that rod being tighter than the other ones, and now I know why. Damn!

And come to think of it - how did the person who last took this machine apart (I can tell by the bolts which were newer replacements) not notice this issue? Or did they notice and chose just to crank it all together, onward and upward? Jeez...

The only good solution, as far as I can see, will be to take the cast wedge to a machine shop, have the threaded hole for the adjuster rod plugged, and a new hole drilled and tapped at the correct height. So, there we go: more delay to getting the jointer back together.

I was feeling a bit frustrated, partly at the delay, and partly at the problems with the adjuster rods machined incorrectly by the local shop, and the factory piece on the machine being misaligned. Does anyone give a shit about the work they do? I could go on a bit of a rant here, but I'll curb my enthusiasm for the time being.

On to the Rockwell Delta 15-127 Radial Ram drill press. More entertainment to be had there folks. I took the quill and spindle down to another local machine shop ( a different one than had made the adjuster rods mentioned above) and asked them to pull the bearings out of the quill, clean up the spindle which had some obvious worn areas and told them I would meanwhile work on obtaining new bearings for the quill. In the three weeks (!) since, the shop has accomplished precisely zero work on my parts. This morning they finally pulled the bearings out after I made a phone call asking what was going on. So, they're not quite dazzling me so far with prompt attention to my stuff. I remain patient and hopeful of good outcomes.

On the bearing front, I have been on the equivalent of an Icelandic saga in trying to track down bearings for that quill. A reader gave me a tip on a company located in Illinois who are apparently the go-to choice for some of the folks on the Old Woodworking Machines Forum. They are called Accurate Bearings, the contact person there for these sorts of matters is Lynn. She was pleasant to deal with but got absolutely nowhere in trying to locate the bearings for the quill, which are Norma XH 179 bearings.

From the Stamford Historical Society:

"The Norma-Hoffman Bearings Corp. grew from its small beginnings in 1911 in the Bronx to become an important manufacturing firm after relocating in Stamford in 1924. At its facility on Hamilton Avenue, Norma-Hoffman turned out bearings for airplane engines, instruments, battle-ships, cruisers, submarine chasers, and for anti-aircraft guns. It had contracts to supply such large companies as Boeing, Lockheed, and Pratt & Whitney. The company pioneered the development of many distinctive types of bearings and was one of the top firms in its field. By 1941 Norma-Hoffman employed some 1,200 people in its factory and research lab. In 1969 Norma-Hoffman was bought by the German company FAG (Fischer Aktien Gesellschaft, translated Fisher Joint Stock Company) which ten years later moved the production of bearings elsewhere." (emphasis mine)

So, given the 1969 absorption of the firm into the German conglomerate, I can date my drill press as likely being pre-1969 in manufacture, though it's hard to know how long the stock of those bearings lasted at Rockwell.

I gave the part number to Lynn at Accurate, and she couldn't find a thing. Nada. When I told her the approximate measurements I had jotted down of the bearing's dimensions, she was slightly incredulous, as they were so odd in comparison to other bearings. She checked with a friend of hers in the industry who had an old Norma bearing catalog, and nothing turned up there either. A mystery of significant bearing on my situation, if you'll excuse the word play.

So, I elected to order the 'factory' bearings from Delta, which were a tad pricey at $70.91/each (and I needed two of them), but I figured they were unusual little gippers and perhaps I had no other option. I also ordered a bearing for the top drive pulley, which was priced at a scintillating $151. Again, this bearing was an oddity, so I figured I had little choice.

The expensive single bearing was not in stock, and is not scheduled to be in stock until July. Great. The other two bearings were in stock, just two of them, and were shipped out relatively promptly. I got them in the mail yesterday. I was surprised to open the package though and discover that what I had received were a couple of fairly standard looking bearings, nothing at all like the ones in the quill. Worse, they were made in China, which tells me something about the price I paid. Let's see, what cost, I would guess, $2.50 in China morphs into $70.91 here in the US. Hmmm.

I scoped out the bearing number on the rubber seals, and googled it, finding that these exact bearings were available for, oh, about $10.00. There I was thinking I was supporting a domestic company, figuring I was obtaining some dusty old stock off the warehouse shelves, and instead I get hosed by 700%. I was outraged.

I called the company that sold me the bearings and said I would be sending them back, unopened in the original packages. I also canceled the order for the other bearing. They are charging me a 25% re-stocking fee. Okay, whatever. I then called Delta to complain about the price gouging and customer service duly recorded my comments. The customer service guy also told me, somewhat helpfully, that the mark up on some of the parts is 300% within the company, from the supply end. A package of drill spindle, quill, and bearings for my drill press, which retails at $954, is costing Delta a bit over $300 to buy. Thought I'd share that with the world, as some small measure of recompense. I have learned since that such info is considered, how did the area service center manger put it, 'internal and confidential information'. I can see there will be a meeting at headquarters and staff that need to be chastised I guess. I'm not a fan of Delta at this point, to say the least.

The Chinese bearings were not exactly top quality sort of things, ABEC 7's or that sorta kit - just ordinary bearings, 5202RS's. So I started looking to see what was available in a higher quality bearing, preferably not made in China. Nothing against the Chinese, and after all they are a nation fully capable of putting satellites in orbit and building stealth fighters, but the relationship between manufacturers here who outsource to China, and the producers there seems to mean, for some reason, that we have a market now flooded with total crap for the most part. Perhaps the Chinese keep the good stuff for themselves and sell us crap - I wouldn't blame them for that I suppose. The white man was happy to trade plastic beads to the Native Americans for valuable furs and things like that. What goes around comes around perhaps.

People here seem happy to buy cheap stuff, and don't often complain if that $9.99 item craps out shortly after they get it out of the package, so surprise, surprise, that's now the bulk of what we have in the stores. While many appear to harbor suspicion about high prices, it is in fact usually the cheap stuff that has the highest profit margins, though in the case of that Chinese-made bearing, retailing here at $70.91, some sort of insane greed or disconnected pricing policy is at work. I blame Delta for this, not the Chinese. Delta - actually part of the Porter Cable group, now owned by Stanley/Black and Decker, soon to be part of Death Star Inc. ®. It's hard to keep up with the shell game frankly.

Anyway, my search continued. It's a heavy burden to bear I suppose. I connected with a fellow named Larry at Action Bearing, based in Boston. I asked him to, uh, bear with me, and told him my sob story and then gave him the 5202 part number off the Chinese bearing. He wanted to know the original bearing number to see if he could find it's replacement. I told him it appeared to be unobtainuim, that others had tried and failed, but he insisted he had the resources to find it. I didn't have the number at hand so I had to call the machine shop and get the machinist to look at the quill and see what the bearing number was.

With the stock part info, Norma XH 179 in hand, I called Larry back a few hours later. To my astonishment, he knew something about that bearing right away and said he would do some digging to see what he could locate. To my surprise once again, he got back to me the same afternoon. He had located some of these bearings in Pennsylvania somewhere. $66/each. I said "two please". I'll have them in my hands in about a week or so.

These are really odd bearings, being a hybrid of metric and imperial inch measures. The outer diameter of the bearing is 35mm, while the the inner race is 0.6355". The outer race of the bearing is 10mm wide, and the inner race is extended, measuring a curious 1.102". Why the race is extended is a mystery. Why the mix of size standards? Basically the bearing is a special creature of a company which wants to produce a unique bearing for no other reason than to compel the purchase of future bearing replacements from the same company. Not a novel trick in the game of business, but annoying all the same. Whether this is the bearing company's doing or Rockwells', I have no idea. In the end, with the company long out of business, these sort of 'minor' parts, without which the machine is not going to function, can make it almost impossible, or very expensive, to maintain/repair/rebuild a machine properly. It's a strategy of short term thinking once again on the company's part, and I shake my tiny fist!!

Then today, while driving to the shop, my truck suddenly quit on me and wouldn't start, necessitating a tow back home. Possibly a problem in the fuel system. Me and machines are having some special moments in recent weeks. I laugh. I cry.

Thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way today.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Building Up My Library (V)

We've reached the end of the line here with the bookcase project. A short thread with all of 5 posts, not too detailed but hopefully enough information about how I made my way through what has been a quick li'l project. Previous installments are located in the blog archive to the right of the page. Lotsa pics today, but really just skimming through the final few days of the build.

With the carcase and shelves glued together and cleaned up, the remaining work involved the detachable back panel. The unit is a typical sort of frame and panel affair with two central stiles:


Due to their width, a necessity due to the slim panels I had to work with, the central stiles are connected to the end rails with two 1/4" (6.35mm) pegs:


Once I had done a trial assembly of the pieces, and made necessary adjustments, the joins could be finalized:


The corner joints are haunched mortise and tenons with a wedge to secure them, and a mitered abutment on the front face:


The stiles are left long for assembly to help protect the end of the stick from any potential fracturing for a tight fit. The 'horns' are trimmed off afterward. I assembled the entire back panel only with pegs and wedges, deciding to forgo the glue altogether. I'm interested to see how it does over the years.

Here's a view of the front face of the completed back panel after some shellac was wiped on:


The carcase also received a couple of coats of shellac, which dries fast. I just didn't have the time for an oil-rubbed finish this time:


A detail shot of one of the sword tip connections - sorry for the slightly blurry pic:


The curly Cherry takes the light in a pleasing way:


I feel that the combination of woods used here, the Canary wood, the Black Cherry, and the Bubinga, all work very well together.

Now then, in a previous post I mentioned that the back of the panel would be joined to the carcase in an unconventional manner. most of the time what you see for back panels or plywood, or tongue and grooved boards. Usually these are fitted to the carcase at the time of assembly, which definitely adds some stress to that process. Typically the back panel is held captive in a dado and once it is in there, it's in there for good.

A few years ago I came across picture of a Ming Dynasty demountable Chinese chest which had a different approach to construction - the back panel was a separate frame and panel unit held to the rest of the piece by clips. I really thought that was a good method, and I've been waiting for an opportunity to make use of the technique. And here we are!:


First off, notice that the central stiles have a portion of their tenons protruding right through the lower rail. These fit into corresponding blind mortises on the lower carcase board.The back panel it therefore tipped in bottom end first, the tenon/clips seated, and then the panel can be swung into place in the carcase rebate provided for it.

You will also notice the Canary wood clips. Here's a closer view of one of them:


You can see I have mortised the outer stile so that the clip goes clean on through. Then I transfer location of the clip to the carcase and mortise the carcase for the clip.

A while later, it's time to fit the panel in with the clip, which requires a few hammer taps to drive through:


Once fully in, it is a matter of trimming off the excess wood from the clip:


The result:


And here's how it looks after trimming on the inside of the frame:


The end grain of those clips was then cleaned up and some finish put on. All in all, there were two clips on each side along with one on the top, fixing the back panel into place. Add to that the two built-in clips on the bottom, which gives a total of 7 clips altogether. Makes for a secure assembly, and if I need to repair it at some point, it will be easy to do. Even for cleaning the bookcase, it would be a simple matter to remove the panel to facilitate the process. I like this Chinese method and plan to employ it on future cabinet pieces. It's a lot less of a stress to put the panel on afterwards, instead of during carcase assembly, which is absolutely an added bonus.

Here's a few final shots of the bookcase now serving duty in my apartment:


Another one:


Last:


That, my friends, is that. A 2-week bookcase build - I hope ya liked it. I'm okay with how the piece came out, though the finish is hardly what I would wish for under normal circumstances. I left my maker's mark off it. I may drag the bookcase back to the shop at some future date and finish it a bit more thoroughly, but for the time being it's nice to have a place to stick some books. We could use yet another bookcase actually, so at some point I'll need to do another one. I guess if the right sort of leftovers pile up, I'll do just that. This was a great way to use up the Canary Wood and curly Cherry, which I've been dragging around for more than 2 years, and a bit of bubinga left over from the Ming table job which had warped badly.

Thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way today.