Project Update

Hi Folks,  

I mentioned before that the main task now is to finish insulating and covering the walls, which it is still before I start serious work on the plane.  Thankfully it looks like we’ve finally got a break in the weather, so I can get some workshop work in.

As I mentioned previously, the insulation is now quite important —cost-wise— since it has started getting hot enough that to work inside the shop comfortably requires using AC.  Again, I have been using the AC both to cool the shop and dehumidify it as well. Currently this is not the most cost effective since I have two sections of wall that are not insulated.  

I plan on working a good bit on the shop upcoming week, and to at least finish up the 9th wall section out of 10…  I also am looking to get the milling machine off the shop floor and installed as well.

I know it’s June (crazy) and all I can say is I’m continuing to work every day to get this shop operational… and I believe it’s pretty darn close.

Workshop – Rain is back

I wasn’t going to post anything about my mundane shop actions over this last week, but since the rain has started back up I thought I would submit a report.

When I moved down here to NC from northern Virginia, I brought with me the base I built for a rather decent sized “Rubbermaid” storage shed. Incidentally, at my previous house this was about the largest sized shed I was “authorized” from the Home Owner’s Association –who have more authority up there than any entity on this planet. Thankfully, common sense and self-determination are more of the rule down here and keep BS Big Brother watchdogs out of one’s hair . . . but I digress.

In a string of prerequisite tasks to get the excess pile of 2x4s out of the front corner of my shop, and thus allow me room to get to work on the last segment of wall, I decided to do a bit of work on the area in and around the carport overhang (situated at the right end of the workshop).

Moreover, to get the area cleaned up and organized for yet even more stuff to be jammed underneath, I decided to re-assemble my shed in a location on the back side of the shop, which was essentially free, unused space previously.

Thus, I cleared out some brush and then set up the (quite heavy) platform. I then leveled it.

Besides merely assembling the shed, I also cleaned off the months’ worth of spiders, webs, leaves and dirt from the respective panels.

Here I’ve set the shed floor panels into place and secured them together.

The walls and slide-opening top came next.

And finally the doors . . . and Voila! More storage to help un-encumber the carport area.

After the shed above was assembled (I still have to mount the front ramp back into place on the frame of the wood foundational base) I then uncrated and put the wheels on a decent-sized roll-around shop tool chest that I bought for the hangar. It has been sitting under my carport since early October taking up space and unused. After assembling (ie getting it out the way) I put it in my now somewhat organized garage.

I had big plans for finalizing the organization of the carport to allow all the unrequired stuff to come out of the workshop when the rain started back up. It’s been a bit sporadic, but definitely enough episodes and volume to have really gummed up any more serious work on the shop over the last number of days.

That being said, in the next day or so I plan on throwing myself wholeheartedly into getting the milling machine installed and online. If there are periods of no rain, I will also focus on getting the stack of 2x4s stored under the carport and start back in on completing the final segment of the workshop wall.

Workshop – External Lights

Part of the process of finishing up the insulation and paneling over the last set of big doors was wiring up some over-door lights, one over each set of big doors.

I do a LOT of work outside in front of the shop, whether cutting wood, grinding metal, welding, etc. and often I simply do not have enough light –or run out of light– without having external lights at the middle and far end of the shop (basically the big door areas).

I actually ran the electrical wiring months ago, but finally finished this up tonight.

As for the lights themselves, I wanted a way to cover up the junction boxes that the light bases are secured to. So I decided to cut some ovals from a scrap 2×10, with cutouts in the middle to hide the junction boxes embedded in each oval’s center.

Over the last couple of days, I painted a couple of coats of white paint on the decorative oval discs before mounting them around the J-boxes.

After getting the oval bases mounted and caulked with a final coat of paint, I then mounted the lights.

As an aside, the simple truth is that the original builder of my workshop didn’t build enough pitch into it, so with the rain being so intense as it’s been over the last few weeks it has overwhelmed the grommeted screw fasteners to the point that my ceiling insulation was, over time, soaking up water. I decided that I would have to treat literally each screw with added water-proofing, but in the mean time I simply covered a big section of the roof with a 9 mil thick tarp to keep this onslaught of rain at bay. Since the tarp went up it has eliminated any damp/wet shop ceiling insulation.

With the “tarp story” explained, here is some more pics of the new exterior over-door workshop lights.

Finally, here is a shot showing the lights in action. I can tell you that these lights will be a huge benefit in providing added visibility –and thus added capability– during a myriad of work tasks.

Again, I’m pressing forward to finish up the shop to get back on the plane, and I’m getting pretty darn close . . .

Workshop – 9th Wall Section Completed

Over the last couple of days, with good weather in hand, I was able to reframe the upper front corner of the shop from damage it had apparently incurred during Hurricane Florence.

The end portion of the main beam along the top front of the shop had been cracked and needed some TLC. I cut out the cracked portion, spliced in a new custom fit 2×10 piece, then covered that with even another segment of 2×10 to give the beam repair some surface area to bolt to both the existing beam and the corner support pole.

As you can see, there is quite a hodgepodge of 1/2″ galvanized bolts protruding into the upper corner to secure and buttress everything together.

The result of all the lag bolts on the outside corner made it look as if I had taken a shotgun to the workshop. It may not look fancy, but it definitely worked in making the corner secure.

As I worked to secure the end of the front roof support crossbeam, I also filled in the upper portion of the front wall above the big doors (that I reported finished in my last post) with insulation and then covered with OSB.

The last major step completed tonight was that of finishing the hanging shelf over the last set of big doors, pretty much as I had done for the middle set of big doors. This completes the front wall of the workshop, leaving only the front side wall (a bit of it shown on the right side below) to be insulated and covered.

Again, the last two (2) major tasks to be completed before I call the shop open for business regarding airplane construction is 1) the remaining wall segment insulated and covered, and 2) the milling machine installed and operational.

Workshop – A big step closer

Today I worked the entire day on insulating the last set of big doors.

I took this shot below to show that the first layer of insulation to go in is the 2″ thick blue-green foam, then a final top 1″ layer of white foam with a shiny aluminum foil-like surface.

Below is the final shot of the last set of big doors insulated.

I took this pic at more of an angle than above so you can see a bit more of the final wall segment –to the left– that needs to be completed. The foam panels for that wall are leaning up against the fuselage.

There is a another strip that needs to insulated, that I’ve already started, and that’s about 2/3rds of the cross strip immediately above these big doors from opening to ceiling.

Pressing forward.

Tooling Up – Lathed Mill Socket

Today I started out by flipping the engine back upright, reinstalling the desiccant plugs and tying in the desiccant dry air lines to be pumped into the engine. I had flipped the engine upside down last week to let the camshaft soak in oil for a few days.

I then set about to finish creating a unique socket for my Mill’s power draw bar, to allow for quick change outs of the milling machine tools. As I mentioned previously, the mill’s power draw bar uses a 12mm square nut that I mistakenly thought I could use a 12mm 12-point socket on to drive with a 3/8″-drive impact wrench.

I was wrong. The 12-point 12mm socket simply did NOT fit on the 12mm square draw bar nut. Since I had the 12-point 12mm 3/8″ drive on hand, I simply spent a few bucks more to buy a 1/2″ drive socket, cut the business end of the sockets off which left me with the 3/8″ square drive side on one, and the 1/2″ square drive on the other.

I then just needed to join them together to make one tool. That’s where this pic below comes into play . . .

I determined the diameter of the small socket and subtracted it from the bigger socket, I then used the remaining value (halved, not as in my quick first swag below which was not correct) to scribe an alignment mark on the face of the larger socket.

After spending a good little chunk of time aligning the two sockets, I then ensured they were securely clamped together.

And then –with surprisingly even more Argon/CO2 mix left in my MIG welder gas tank– I welded the 2 socket pieces together.

After the new welded oddball socket cooled, I chucked it up in the lathe to clean it up. Being a newb on the lathe, I was curious how much nicer I could actually make this thing look.

Not too shabby IMO. Not a superior part, but definitely good enough to get the job done and also not look hideous while doing it. I have to say I’m loving this lathe, and can’t believe I’ve gone so long without using it!

The pics show the different sides of the new mill power draw bar socket.

I then painted it black. Here it is a few hours later after the paint was dry.

Here’s the new mill power draw bar socket attached to the 3/8″ drive impact wrench that will drive the quick tool change process for my mill. Lying next to the impact wrench is the mill’s draw bar, as you can the square 12mm nut on top.

Here we have a quick mock-up of how this new socket will interface on both sides… to allow loosening and tightening the draw bar to release one tool and then tighten up the next tool during the milling process.

I’m very happy with this new lathe capability in the shop, and how this socket came out. With mini-projects like this it will help get me in the saddle quicker to tackle parts for the actual airplane.

As a point of note, as the new power draw bar socket was drying after having been painted, I worked on insulating the last big set of shop doors for a couple of hours. So just another couple of hours more and the insulation on those big doors should be complete.

Tooling Up – Lathe Mods

The weather finally broke and we got a rain free day for the first time in a while…. granted we’ve had some partial days of no rain to be certain, but of course with the ever-present threat and eventual outburst of rain.

I got some work done in the shop before I spent the good portion of the day hanging out with a friend’s daughter —my little buddy— mainly down by, and in, the water. It was nice to take a break, but after I was done I spent the rest of the evening finishing up the final tasks of installing the lathe tachometer mod I had made for the mini-lathe.

So besides actually converting it to CNC —can’t be done until the mill is operational— the lathe is installed, up running and fully operational by my standards.

It was a string of while doing A it’s a great opportunity to get B done steps in this scenario that helped lead me to complete this mod now… perfect while paint was drying:
The bolts that held the lathe to the bench top were too short so needed swapping out…
with the lathe off the bench again I decided to tackle a decent amount of rust and paint peeling off of the right rail support….
-while painting the bottom rail to have a quasi-uniform color I needed to remove the electronics control box….
-with the front electronics control box opened up it was a good time to install the tachometer mount….

The lathe is now virtually rust free (remember, it survived 2 hurricanes and a tornado!) and with no ugly chunks of paint half-peeling off. It now has a new tachometer as well, so I can document in a much more detailed/granular method my feeds and speeds as I dial in the lathe’s cutting of various materials, thicknesses, etc.

Moreover, I am done with mods on the lathe (until I convert it to CNC at some future point) and can simply use it now.

For any of you interested in the lathe tachometer mod (I know, I know… NOT airplane building) I documented the process in the following video:

The last two big tasks to getting the workshop online and airplane-building ready are
A) finishing up the last two sections of wall with insulation and top paneling, and B) getting the milling machine installed.

Back to work!

Tooling Up – Lathe Initial Cuts

The rain continues. And its continuing onslaught is quite out of character for a typical May in NC I’m being told… Moreover, it has now officially crossed into the really annoying stage (again, it’s raining as I’m writing this post).

Moving on . . .

Of course to do initial cuts on the lathe denotes that the lathe has been, in fact, installed. But instead of an attention grabbing post title listing yet another tool install, I figured I would highlight that some work is actually being done with these tools!

This install detour was in part due to the air filter and light you see hanging above the lathe station. I had cleaned up the big Delta shop air filter (no pic yet) that I pulled out of the garage and installed it on the other side of the shop. Since I had my ladder at the ready and drill set up for drilling the bigger holes in the joists to hang these filters, I pulled this one pictured below out from under the carport and cleaned up the ton of dust, dirt and pollen that it had accumulated.

I wanted to hang the air filter/light before I installed the lathe so the lathe wouldn’t be in the way nor get damaged while hanging the air filter.

After doing some mock lathe ops and figuring out a good front-to-back position that would allow acceptable access to the lathe CNC control box (black tool box), I determined my final lathe position with the chip tray set back 1-3/8″ from the work top edge.

I removed the lathe (pic above) and then marked the 4 bolt mounting points through the holes in the chip tray.

I then drilled out the 4 mounting position holes and mounted the lathe in its new official home atop its own work cabinet.

Now, I would say that I am technically in the midst of my milling machine install (again, these installs occurring now as brought to you by the insane amount of rain we’ve been having…).

As it turns out though, I both wanted to get a quick kill knocked out regarding the lathe install, plus get a part made for the mill…. and get that darn air filter/light from outside and installed where it could do some good.

You see, the mill’s draw bar (that holds the milling tool/collet in place) has a 12mm square nut on the top. I mistakenly assumed that a 12-point 12mm socket could fit on this square nut to then be driven by the small air impact wrench (3/8″ drive) –the heart of my new power drawbar solution.

Well, the 12-point 12mm socket does NOT fit the square 12mm draw bar top nut.

But an inverted 1/2″-drive socket, the square drive part–not the hex socket side, works a treat for driving the 12mm square draw bar nut. However, the glitch is that they don’t make (not that I’ve found anyway) 3/8″-drive-to-1/2″-drive “sockets”.

Well, good thing I have STUFF to make that myself!

I started by using a Dremel tool to cut off the 12-point 12mm socket side on the 3/8″ drive socket. Any 3/8″ drive socket would do, but since this was a single socket that I purchased specifically for this power draw bar, I used it.

With the socket end cut off, leaving me with the 3/8″ drive part of the socket, I then chucked it up in the lathe [in the stock 3″ chuck that was opened and “available”] and faced the ground off end to clean it up and square it for subsequent welding to the 1/2″ drive socket piece.

BTW, this pic was shot after the first of two passes…

Here it is after the second and final facing cut.

I was in a hurry and didn’t get a pic of the before state of the 3/8″ drive socket… but here is the final result for 3/8″ drive socket and a good before of the 1/2″ drive socket.

Actually this shot –although blurry– really gives you a sense of how irregular the ground surface is on 1/2″ drive socket. Of course the 3/8″ looked about like that as well before I put it on the lathe.

One last before pic, in the lathe chuck, of the 1/2″ drive socket before I faced it.

And after a couple of cut passes, the 1/2″ drive socket came out just as nice as the 3/8″ drive.

I normally like to show the end result of making a part before I post anything on it, just to make sure it went as planned and not waste time posting on a failed effort. But I wanted to show the lathe installation primarily, and I’m optimistic that the welding up of these two parts shouldn’t be too challenging for my Neanderthal skills!

Tooling Up – Big Tools

Over the last few days I’ve been able to make some progress on the shop. Although I did finish painting the frames of the last big set of doors that will get insulating, the rain came once again forcing me to close the doors earlier then planned.

[it’s raining now as I write this blog post]

Since getting the plasma cutting table installed and operational, I have been focusing on the next round of big tools that I’ve had planned for the shop for quite some time (AKA: years).

First off, I was able to finish making (and painting) the 4 mounting brackets for the Harbor Freight Horizontal Band Saw which then allowed me to mount it to the top of my mobile work bench.

I mounted the saw on a couple of 2x4s to raise it up higher, and thus allow a few things:

  • The chip tray to be slid into place underneath the saw (and removed to dump)
  • The saw to be rotated into the vertical position for blade changing and use as a traditional band saw
  • Most importantly, to rotate the left side wheel to clamp work into position

Here we have the back view of the band saw mounting.

I then got to work un-crating my Precision Matthews PM-30MV Milling Machine.

Here we have the crate sides removed, and a lot of cleaning up to do on the mill!

(for a point of reference, the mill’s table is about 3′ wide . . . btw, not the blue “table” to the left, but the gold-looking surface in the middle area of the mill)

This gold shipping gel was not that bad to remove, except in the following pics you can see where it stained the white paint on whatever mill components it was in contact with.

A notable surprise feature on this mill is a drain in the table for flood coolant, if I choose to employ that option in the future.

Analogous to the clear plastic guard on a table saw that rarely get used and is usually the first component dispensed with, my first official mod was to remove the clear plastic safety shield that rotates in front of the spindle before cutting. Unlike a table saw however, this guard is actually wired into the system via a microswitch that must be closed to allow the machine to turn on.

I removed the guard (below left in pic) and spliced the wires together with a butt connector.

I then spent a few hours cleaning the mill, primarily with WD-40. Albeit faint yellow blotches are still visible on some of the painted surfaces from the gold protective gel. I even tried acetone on those spots with seemingly little effect to remove the stains.

Oh, well.

Some of those stained components (hand wheel blocks) will be removed when I convert this machine to CNC, while other areas will be covered up in large part by aluminum angle stock that will make up the homing switch mounts. So I suspect the stains will be minimally noticeable when the machine is up and running. And let’s be honest, clearly it’s a cosmetic thing and doesn’t affect machine functionality in any way.

Although not as impressive in the pic vs seeing it in the shop, I was trying to show just how far out the table can extend both to one side on the X axis (here, to the right) and all the way forward on the Y axis.

This provides a sense of the Y axis spindle alignment with the back of the table when the table is full forward.

Finally, I moved the mill head all the way up to get a sense of the height achievable on the Z axis. Not bad…

I will continue to work installing both the mill and the lathe and their respective CNC systems, while also insulating the remaining walls when the weather allows it.

Tooling Up – Horizontal Band Saw

I recently ordered a horizontal/vertical band saw for cutting metal stock to then be either milled or lathed. Buying long stock of metal is typically cheaper and it’s always good to have extra on hand for an unexpected part that needs to be made impromptu.

I was researching which saw to buy, shying away from the cheapest, smallest model that was offered at Harbor Freight –4×6 inch– when I noted there was a $60 sale online. Being cheap, I started investigating the use of this specific saw, which is sold under a myriad of different brand names: WEN, Hobart, Eastwood, etc.

I found it to be quite the prolific little saw that could… with what is akin to a cult following in many respects.

As with many Harbor Freight tools, the mods and upgrades are countless… again, one starts with a baseline Harbor Freight tool that isn’t that great coming out of the box, does a few tweaks and upgrades that typical results in a very capable machine.

Having just visited a Harbor Freight store for other stuff, I knew that this saw was mounted on very short base… which meant two important things to me: A) a lot of bending over to use it and, B) finding a spot to put this thing in my shop.

Nonetheless, having checked the local used market (Ebay, Craigslist, etc.) the price was just too good to pass up (under $200) and I pulled the trigger to have one delivered.

Having had it in the box for a good week while I assembled the plasma cutter and got it online, when it came to unboxing this small but heavy beast I discovered that somewhere along the supply chain it had been obviously dropped… hard. The entire lower end of the motor was crushed.

So after a few calls to local Harbor Freights I found the store in New Bern had one on hand, so I loaded up the smashed-up one and ran up to New Bern to swap it out for one in good condition . . .

You’ll note in the video (below) that I decided to mount it up higher on my mobile work bench in the spot just recently vacated by my lathe. My mounting choice resulted in ZERO added footprint in my shop for this new capability!

Testing out the saw as I had it temporarily clamped to the workbench it made quick work of slicing through 2″ x 2″ x 1/8″ angle iron. Call me impressed! I’m actually using the 4 pieces I cut to make brackets to mount the saw to the top of my mobile work bench.

Moreover, I have to note that this saw was dialed-in pert near dead on right out of the box!

Enough banter. Here it is:

In other news, I received my new Z-axis Ball Screw that I spec’d out and then special ordered for the lathe CNC conversion. This is the last externally supplied component that I’ll need to convert the lathe to CNC as I’ll still need to machine parts for it in house.

So the push continues to get the shop insulated, equipped, outfitted, tooled, up and running to finish this protracted airplane build.