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Don’t blindly order from Amazon

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We buy a lot from Amazon. Like 2-300 orders per year. Mainly because Amazon tends to be the least expensive.

But not always …

As part of the shop expansion, I’m finishing the interior of what used to be the garage section. Since I’d like to retain access to the attic area, I decided to install a folding attic ladder.

I found one I like on Amazon for $298, but I just couldn’t see spending that much. Also, it was going to take 7-10 days to arrive, even though I’m a Prime member. So I decided to check what my local Home Depot had in stock.

Lo and behold, Home Depot had the exact same ladder, in stock and ready to pick up today. Even better? It was only $195 …

Wall’s finally gone

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It took a while, but I finally got the entire divider wall removed from the shop.  Feels soooo roomy now!  Next step is to take the OSB I removed from the wall and use it to sheath the two walls that have just insulation.



Finding the right vise

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One major decision I’m facing is what milling vise I want to buy.  Right now, I’m leaning towards a Glacern vise.  They get really good reviews and seem to be high quality.  Other companies like Shars sell vises that look the same, but you have to ask: how can their $100 vise possibly be as good as a Glacern $400 vise?  On the other hand, I can certainly see where name brand and reputation drives the price of a roughly equivalent Kurt vise $75-100 more than a Glacern.

Glacern is also having their “summer” sale right now, with the vises $30-120 off.  Only through the end of September, so it would be nice if I can make a decision soon.

One thing that I’ve found very useful is to make paper mockups of the vises to give an idea of how they fit on the mill.  For example, by using a mockup I found that the Glacern Reversed Premium vise simply wouldn’t work.  Even with the vise all the way back to the column, the centerline of the spindle doesn’t reach the outside fixed jaw.

And don’t forget to check the vertical size of the vise, also.  I realized that the vises can’t even come close to the column because the bellows would be in the way.  And even with the bellows off, the dovetails protrude forward of the column face an inch or so, so a simple paper test helped me avoid a $500 mistake!

As for what vise I’m getting, right now the Glacern 6″ standard is what I’m leaning towards.  Probably more than I need, but the 5″ model’s fixed jaw can only get 1/2″ closer to the column  and the 6″ has almost 80% more capacity between the jaws.  The 6″ model is also more heavily discounted during the sale, plus it’s over $300 which qualifies it for an additional discount code, so the 6″ ends up only being $53 more than the 5″, even with the additional shipping.

Variable speed belt drive (one day)

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I had heard so many people complain about the noise of the gears in a RF45-class mill that I planned immediately on converting to a 3-phase motor with a belt drive, even before I had gotten the mill.  Of course, there are lots of other benefits, like variable speed and reverse, all controlled by the CNC computer.

After starting up the mill, however, I was very surprised.  Maybe I’m accustomed to a different definition of noisy from being around woodworking machines for so long, but my first impression was how quiet the mill was, even at full speed.

So, even though my plans for a belt drive are on hold now, I went ahead and picked up this used Baldor motor off eBay for $75 and paired it with this Teco sensorless vector VFD.  I want to learn about motor control anyway, plus I want to do a 3ph conversion on my drill press.  Even the cheapest decent variable speed drill press is horribly expensive, but I can convert my Delta 18″ drill press to variable speed and still stay under $1000.

So, here it is, all hooked up!  While it works OK, it’s really slow to start up and shut down.  Also having problems reversing.  I think I need to do some reprogramming of the drive.  Note that the drive setting is actually 30.06 Hz, but I had my shutter speed too high to pick up the LED display properly.

Oh, and one other thing:  The wiring is somewhat confusing because the drive is intended for multiple markets.  The drive has inputs marked L1, L2, and L3.  This drive has a 240V input, but the manual says to hook your incoming hot line L1 to the L1 terminal and your neutral to L3.  Huh?  240V power uses L1 and L2, but not a neutral.  They seem to be describing 120V service …

Well, the explanation is that the drive is intended for multiple markets and the documentation is incorrect for the US.  Here in the US, L1 or L2 plus neutral gives you 120 volt, while L1 plus L2 (no neutral) is 240V.  However, in other countries they only have 240V and they use an L1 and a neutral.

For the US, hook L1 to the L1 input and L2 to the L3 input, L2 is unused.  Makes perfect sense, right?

I give up on Tormek

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The Tormek is going back. After doing lots of reading and experimenting, I’ve concluded that the Tormek simply isn’t as accurate as they imply. Yes, you can get an almost perfectly square edge, but it’s neither as simple nor as easy as it appears. Put simply, the Square Edge Jig is finicky. By itself, it will get the tool almost square to the wheel, but just slight changes on the tightness of the knobs will throw it out of whack.

I’ve now tried Scary Sharp, Work Sharp, and Tormek. Scary Sharp gives great results, but it’s messy, hard on the arms, and all that sandpaper can get expensive. Work Sharp was the pits. And the Tormek is way too expensive to be “almost”.

I think I’m going to go old-school and try some waterstones.

Review of 18V Lithium-ion Drills

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Just finished up a review of seven lithium-ion drills: Ryobi, Makita, Milwaukee, Porter-Cable, Dewalt, Rigid, and Bosch. Check it out!

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