Reply by FeralVermonter

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Posted on Metalworking for woodworkers

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100 posts in 2941 days

#1 posted 01-04-2013 12:34 AM

Love the topic!

OK, first off, you want to get the old Army manuals. It’s an absolutely AMAZING resource, these manuals—tons of them out there, and they belong to you, citizen, so you should avail yourself. (Here’s a sort of double-link: to a short list of army manuals, free to download, and to the Multimachine project, which is a neat example of DIY machining in and of itself: Dig deeper and you find all sorts of stuff: masonry manuals, carpentry manuals, navigation manuals… amazing. A truly amazing resource. (I should add that the guys in the multimachine forum have a lot of great advice re: metalworking with commonly available tools.)

I’ve noticed, researching various topics for crazy design/build schemes over the years, that there’s a sort of balkanization of knowledge–metalworkers think in metal, woodworkers in wood, and electronics guys can make a CNC plasma cutter, but don’t seem to know which end of the handsaw to grab. Which is a shame, because I think a lot of projects could benefit from a hybrid of materials and approaches.

Sometimes, not knowing that something can’t be done is the best way to do it. I popped a normal drill bit in my drill press, not even thinking about rpm, and easily drilled a bunch of 1/4” holes in 1/8” angle iron. When I went up to 1/2”, though… I blunted my bits, and never did make it through. So not knowing will only get you so far…

So far as metalworking on common tools goes… obviously a bench grinder can be useful, sanders (belt, orbital). I managed to take a metal shaft down from 1/2” to 31/64” by loading it into my drill press and (ever so slowly) grinding it down with a file and sandpaper (though I’m told that drill presses really aren’t designed to take sideways pressure like that–think the technical term is “radial loading”). I have this dirt-cheap “chop-saw” (just a saw mounted on big plastic circle that rides in a plastic base) that I loaded with a $8 metal cutoff blade. It cuts angle iron just fine, and it’s not a bad way to clean up those cut ends either. I’ve read that you can cut aluminum just fine with a steel chisel (yet to try it, though).

I’ve read a bit about the “build your own metalworking shop from scrap” series by david gingery, borrowed them from a friend for a bit… pretty interesting stuff in there. More than I’d want to take on, right now, but certainly helped me understand some basic principles of metal, metal working…

Then there’s elbow-greased solutions. Tap and die is pretty useful, and a basic set doesn’t cost that much. Files… have actually turned out to be some of my most-used tools. A hacksaw is a slow way to get exactly the cut you want. And on hiking trips, I’ve sharpened my knives on rocks found along the way–there’s more than one way to work with metal.

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