"One Perfect Part at a Time"



I decided I should move back on topic here in the THMS Blog. One perfect part at a time is a hard challenge. I am the first to admit I am far from perfect. How boring life would be if everything was perfect. That’s why I doubt heaven or whatever that great place you want to be in the next life is as perfect as it is cracked up to be. If it is, it might be a place for a short visit but I wouldn’t want to live there forever. But then it all boils down to the definition of perfect, doesn’t it? Perfect could be just enough frustration to keep life interesting. A need to make enough bad parts to make the good parts enjoyable.

Wow! No wonder metalwork is such a perfect hobby!

Note the heading doesn’t say, “One Perfect Part EVERY time.”

…and a cast of thousands.

That’s a famous movie intro tag from when I was a kid. (Ben Hur, Moses and The Ten Commandments, etc.) In this case the “cast” is a bit different. No Charleston Heston. Yes, a pun.

The process here is casting pewter into a mold. Perhaps thousands could be made given enough time. What I find interesting is the use of a rubber mold. When I was much younger I remember toy soldiers cast in metal molds. (The metal ones are still available.)

The mold shown here looks like it was made with hot vulcanized rubber but hot metal casting process is also shown to work with RTV (Room Temperature Vulcanization) rubber. Of course metal and plaster molds can be used.

You will notice a few have short guns. The pour was a bit too cold and the flow didn’t get to the end of the rifle. Thin parts like that are tough to fill. I cast many more than shown here (just remelted them) before I got the process right.

All I did for the pictures was cut off the sprue while still hot and then file the flash from the bottom so each one would stand up. No clean up of the casting at this point.

My plan is not to make toy soldiers. This is just an inexpensive all-in-one kit I bought on sale to get the “hang” of casting pewter. I plan to make and cast my own mold designs and perhaps offer them for sale (the molds and what they make).

I choose pewter and this variety is lead free. There is so much concern about the “dangers” of lead, it is not a good idea to offer it to the public. Of course the other metals in pewter are not intended for… Continue reading


Halloween Thought

I have discovered I might have all that I need to die happily in my machine shop. Well, almost. It’s that “almost” that will keep me alive in the long run. Just one more tool then I will die happy. It may be the “just one more tool” that keeps me alive forever. What do vampires know about immortality? HA! All that awful yucky blood and stuff…

It’s bad enough when I nick my finger.  I have a cute little scar on the back of my left hand middle finger where earlier this year I let a 10,000 rpm end mill remove some flesh.  CSI (Crime Scene Investigators) would have enjoyed figuring out what happened at the scene of the accident from reading the resulting blood splatter. <’ulp…>

Ninety nine point nine percent of the time I practice safe workshop.  That’s ok as long as the last tenth remains minor. The vampires can stay in their dark places, thank you.

Small Stuff

I am still in lust for the smaller projects. I had a discussion with a caller about machine tool size. I admitted I liked some of the larger machine tools, but I have no projects that can justify them. Mostly I cannot justify the very high cost of the tools or the materials. I’m just in my comfort zone where I am.

I have been doing some recent machining so small I have to wear one of those dual lens magnifying hoods to see the work.  When I push it up or take it off, I always feel amazed at how tiny the work is that I was doing. I think it is a lot of fun doing miniature machining.

There is a trade-off between modeling something very small for display and… Continue reading

It’s The Little Things

The small bits and pieces are going to get me. All home machinists know the purchase of the major machines is the big money decision in getting started. No doubt about that. But there is something more insidious to my available funds.

What gets me after the big purchase is the constant cash flow required in getting all the little bits and pieces I need to get projects completed. It’s not really any different than any other hobby. All my other hobbies I enjoy seem to be cash eaters too. Maybe I should take up whitlin’ if I can find some free wood.

I was just sitting here at the computer ordering a few restock parts from McMaster-Carr. I am updating my starter and countersink drill bits both 60 degree and 82 degree. They generally last a long time but mine have seen better days. I’m getting a five piece set of each angle. I need a couple of #2-56 taps, two because I’ll break the first one. With two I won’t break either. That’s the way it works, I know.

OK, throw in some #2-56 flat head machine screws, only a few bucks…

What happened?  (!!) That total can’t be +$80.00! Wow, its right. My theory is correct. It’s the little things that bite me the hardest.

The Hobbyist’s Quandary

I have a decision I should make about building live steam locomotives. It’s not one I have to make but not making it is a decision in itself. In other words I am not at a stopping point where I have to make a decision to move on, but rather shall I continue where I am going or change direction. It is not a dilemma as none of the choices are truly unsatisfactory.

So I went back and read some of my own writings from around year 2003 that I posted in my The Hobbyist Machine Shop website. Hard to believe I started my publishing seven years ago. I see that most of my interests and goals have not changed in all that time.

Back then I said my plan was to design and build my workshop and machine tools to a size where I could work on live steam model locomotives in a scale size of ½ inch to ¾ inch. Mission accomplished. What has not been accomplished is actually completing any projects of that type. I do have some work done in ¾ inch scale on the Pennsy A3 Locomotive but the nearly three year layoff didn’t speed that project along.

What I noticed from seven years ago is that I said my primary interest was in ½ inch scale with ¾ inch my upper limit. I feel that is still true. So why did I start building in ¾ inch scale? There are several good reasons.

Number one is the outstanding publication of engine projects in that scale by Kozo Hiraoka. Second is the fact the parts are large enough that my PN is not much of a problem as it would be with very small parts. Third, the scale locomotives look wonderfully massive, complex and… Continue reading

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