nerbie question

Hi Everyone. Let me start by saying I have no idea what I'm doing or what I'm talking about. Having said that, I've been a woodworker for a
number of years and have some experience around large dangerous machines. I've also used pan and box brakes and large shears in the past.
I'm considering the idea of maybe getting into some simple metal work. Some things I have already like the drill press and band saw could be used with metal aready with the right blades and bits. But I'm thinking it would be really useful to be able to fabricate or modify parts from time to time. I'm thinking copper, brass, steel, and aluminum. I'd like to be able to make parts for the woodworking machines. Maybe if a part breaks, or if I can think up a better design, I'd like to be able to form the parts. I also have some ideas for some machines I'd like to make myself. It would be nice if I could do things like machining flats on threaded rod or a channel for a woodruf (sp?) key. Maybe turn some drawer pulls or other accent pieces for furniture.
So my question is, where do I start? If I had no advice, I would probably go to grizzly and buy smaller mill/drill and maybe a lathe or something. But I really have no idea what I'm doing. When I started with woodworking, I felt like I could pick up some machines and wing it. But with metal work, I'm more worried about breaking the machine or getting hurt. Then after watching "trade school" on tv, the one where the guy made a rifle, I really got intimidated.
So which machine would be a good starting point?
I'm planning to eventually take a welding course at the local community college. But it didn't look like they had the sort of metalwork course that would teach this stuff.
Is there a school in the chicago area where I could get some experience, preferably on the weekends?
brian
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lol, what's a nerbie? Is that like a nerd-newbie?
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brianlanning wrote:

Pretty self explanatory then huh...
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If you take a metal working class at a community college you'll:
A. learn what you're doing B. Learn what you like
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C. Save yourself a bundle in burnt up and broken tooling.
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Congratulations! You are about to embark on a wonderful hobby. The first thing to do is subscribe to "The Home Shop Machinist" and it's sister magazine who's name excapes me just now. Something like, "Projects in Metal."
It sounds like you have exhausted all options for community college courses, which are the best and fastest way to get familiar with metal working. But don't be intimidated. If you have survived being a woodworker for a number of years, you have proven that you can be safe around metal working tools. Frankly, I think the typical woodworking shop is MUCH more of a threat to life and limb than a metal working shop (but I'm biased - I took two years of metal shop in Jr. high school and did not take wood shop due to scheduling glitches). I think things happen more slowly and under more control in the typical metal shop. I've never heard of a kickback from a metal working bandsaw, and in a metal shop you rarely run your fingers within inches of a 10" carbide tipped blade spinning at 3600 RPM with teeth shaped perfectly to pull flesh into the blade. I've seen many a carpenter with missing fingers, but I don't remember seeing a metal worker in that condition.
Regarding tools to start with: It's hard for someone other than you to advise on what to buy. Only you know what you would like to make. If you don't already have them for woodworking, a drill press and a bandsaw are pretty far up on the list of useful machine tools. The problem is that you want to have slower speeds available for metal work than for woodwork because you will dull drills and blades quickly by running them at woodworking speeds. Your average craftsman drill press can probably run slowly enough for drilling with small drills, but not large (say, 1/2" and up) drills.One thing that people who already have a home shop drill press do is fabricate a jackshaft carrying an intermediate pulley pair to reduce minimum spindle speed. Another alternative is to install a VFD (Variable Frequency Drive) and three-phase motors to get infinite speed control. I highly recommend this approach, having had a VFD in my garage for sseveral decades. This has the side advantage of allowing you to bid on machines with 3-phase motors at auctions - machines that other bidders may have to pass on.
The bandsaw should ideally be equipped with a gearbox to give metal cutting speeds. Your average belt-driven woodworking bandsaw is much too fast for cutting steel. You can reduce bandwaw speed with a VFD also, but you lose power by going to a blade speed suitable for metal. Most guys start with a 14" bandsaw, which will do most of your work.
Sooner or later you will want a vertical milling machine. It will greatly expand your capabilities. Most guys start with a benchtop "Drill-Mill," which is basically a sturdy benchtop drill press with table motion controlled by lead screws allowing you to move the workpiece laterally relative to the rotating cutter. It will also have more controlled vertical motion of the spindle.
I HIGHLY recommend buying (carefully) from auctions and excess materiel outlets of corporations and universities. Register at "Public Surplus," (www.publicsurplus.com)to get on the distribution lost of notices of auctions at public agencies and universities. An amazing array of stuff comes out of these places, some of it in excellent condition and some of it useless junk. Caveat emptor! I equipped almost my entire shop from excess materiel sales from local universities and industries, including two lathes, three milling machines (Rockwell, Bridgeport, Tree), a 14" Rockwell bandsaw, 26" Doall bandsaw, a hydraulic press, a Wilton geared head drilling machine, a Delta variable speed 16" drill press, and altogether too much other stuff. The ONLY machine I got new was a Jet benchtop drill press my girlfriend gave me for my birthday many decades ago. Recently got a Lincoln WeldPak 155 wire feed wleder in brand new condition for $215.
Got to go to dinner. You're going to enjoy this hobby. Don't be afraid. Jump in.
awright

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Thanks for replying.
Anne Irving wrote:

I picked up a copy of home shop machinist. I haven't had a chance to really look at it yet though.

I'll keep looking. iirc, the community colleges here in the chicago area suck. You basically have to go to the one that's across the street from your house, or the tuition starts to look like out of state fees. Also, the local one didn't have much in the catalog last time I looked. Maybe a vocational school or something like that would be better.

The grizzly catalog talks about the difference between metal working operations and woodworking operations. It says all the metalwork is done with the workpiece clamped down where as woodworking procedures require you to move the piece through the blade by hand. I have a lot of jigs and other contraptions designed to keep my hands away from the blade, even though I'm the power feeder. :-)

I can think of some things off hand, but once I get my mind around all the operations, I'll probably think of a lot more. There are a lot of woodworking jigs and other tools that I can dream up, but wouldn't work very well made from plywood. I'd rather machine the parts out of aluminum to get smoother operation and more wear.

I have them both. The drill press is a delta variable speed DP that goes down to 500 rpm iirc. I also have a smaller benchtop delta DP with the normal pullies. I can't remember what the slowest speed on that one is.
The band saw is way too fast. Besides, the horizontal metal cutting band saws look like they're better tools for the job and not a lot of money.

I've been considering this for woodworking machines anyway. You hear stories all the time about the 20" jointer that went for a ridiculously low price at auction simply because it had a 3-phase motor.

I have a 14" saw now with a riser block. For metal cutting, most woodoworkers just put a bi-metal blade on that saw. For aluminum, some people are suggesting to cut it on the table saw or miter saw with a carbide blade. This scares the hell ot of me.

Grizzly has some small machines that are mill/drills with a lathe also. I thought I'd probably start with one of those. But in woodworking circles, benchtop machines are famous for sucking. I know metalwork requires vastly tighter tolerances so the machines have to be better. I'm just not sure what the minimum cost of entry is for a decent machine.

I'll have a look.

Thanks for the help.
brian
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Actually, Anne is my wife. She and her daughter set up this internet access computer after I had it sitting on the desk for months, afraid to open up a wormhole into the alternative universe that I knew was out there. She never uses it and wishes she had never set it up, as I spend entirely too much time on it, as I knew I would.
Cutting aluminum on a circular saw is scary, but is feasible with extreme care. On the advice of my saw sharpening shop, I started doing it many years ago using a special non-ferrous metal cutting carbide blade ground especially for the purpose. I do it on a radial arm saw with quite snug roller adjustment on the arm carriage. I don't think I would ever have the courage (or be foolish enough) to try cutting aluminum on a table saw. (You think a kickback is bad with wood? Try one with an aluminum billet.)
The advantage of the radial arm saw is that the work can be clamped solidly to the table and the saw can be restrained with a stiff arm and tight rollers to prevent self-feeding. Actually, it makes a very clean cut that requires almost no finishing except for slight deburring. Much cleaner and straighter cut than a bandsaw and pretty accurate if you set up carefully.
This is one metal working operation that I would say is as dangerous as woodworking.
Oh, yeah. Use a lubricant stick on the blade often when cutting aluminum.
awright

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I used to cut aluminum extrusions for sign frames on a radial arm saw. We used steel and carbide woodworking blades. There was no guard on the blade and before each pass I would dip a small paint brush in motor oil, apply to both sides of blade and PUSH the blade thru the well clamped down stock. Some parts were about 7 inches wide with ribs others were mostly flat or L shaped. Sometimes this would go on for days to cut enough stock for a big order. It was deafening even with ear plugs and earmuffs. Sometimes I did it at night when nobody was there. There is a local company that makes aluminum landing gear and they cut 1/2" aluminum with a worm drive saw and cheap woodworking blades. It is some soft alloy that is tempered after shaping
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It works fine. I've done a fair amount of .250" sheet and have had no problems. Last time I cut up a 4' by 8' sheet of 6061 into small pieces ranging from 2" by 2" to 8" by 10". It took about 10 hours and I used a fair amount of WD40, but the process was trouble free. As others have said. it's noisy and makes a sh*tload of chips.
Peter
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On 6 Nov 2006 19:21:59 -0800, "brianlanning"

==================The Machinist's Work Shop see http://www.homeshopmachinist.net /
See following for your library: http://lindsaybks.com/bks/milne/index.html [general overview] and then Ford Shop Theory     20064     $19.95
Get their catalog -- lots of good information in the reprints for home shop machinists missing in the newer books.
at a little higher level consider http://www.use-enco.com/CGI/INSRIT?PMAKA 5-1005 http://www.use-enco.com/CGI/INSRIT?PMAKA 5-1006 http://www.use-enco.com/CGI/INSRIT?PMAKAP5-3535 http://www.use-enco.com/CGI/INSRIT?PMAKAP5-3536
for hints and kinks consider http://www.use-enco.com/CGI/INSRIT?PMAKA26-1874 This assume you have a fair degree of machining "smarts." Unka' George (George McDuffee) .............................. Only in Britain could it be thought a defect to be "too clever by half." The probability is that too many people are too stupid by three-quarters.
John Major (b. 1943), British Conservative politician, prime minister. Quoted in: Observer (London, 7 July 1991).
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Subscribe. And, at first, a lot of what you read will be uninteresting or incomprehensable. Do not worry - this is a normal part of the learning curve. Save all the issues . Sooner or later it will all start to make sense. Bewilderment is not the exception - it is the rule (right ig?). Read this group constantly. Same thing applies. Hanging out here for a year is the equivelent of a university-level semister in metalworking technology (and a bunch of other related stuff - Nick Muller eat your heart out <BG>). What to buy in the way of metal-chewing stuff is the subject of endless thoughtful debate. A good start would be a good solid lathe (look around and when you find something ask here for further advice about how to determine whether or not it is worth the freight. A mill-drill is also an essential beginning machine. They have many limitations but as you learn you will undrstand how to work around these short-comings to produce remarkably complex and precise parts. Understand this well - tooling will be your major expense - not the basic machine! You WILL end up with some (relatively) useless machines/tools but eventually you will have put together a shop that works for you. Don't overlook hand tools. Tim-The-Toolman-Taylor not withstanding, "more power" is not the ultimate solution. And always keep in mind the first-principle of tools. "A good tool (read expensive/high quality) will be a joy for life. A cheap tool will be a total piss-off for the same length of time".
Regards. Ken.
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Ken Davey wrote:

We're getting ready to move. I haven't renewed any of my woodworking subscriptions either. :-)
(snip)

Woodworking is similar. Good saw blades and bits cost money. It sounds like this is more the case with metalworking though.

This is true for woodworking as well.

The term on the woodworking group is "cry once". It's better to spend money on a good machine up front rather than cosntantly replace poor tools.
I looked again at the community college course catalog and found an ideal course. It's one night a week from 6 to 10:30. I'll probably sign up for that and make something before buying any machines.
brian
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<snip>
1. How much room do you have? 2. How much money do you have? 3. What kind of power do you have? 4. How much time do you have?
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Tom Gardner (nospam) wrote:

For the moment, not enough. I could easily find space for several bench top tools or maybe one more large floor-standing machine. But the majority of space is taken up by large woodworking machines. We're planning to move soon. In the new place, I should have enough space to build a separate shop building. When that happens, I could probably have as much space as I want.

Not a vast amount, but enough. I could easily spend $2500-$3000 on a machine if I thought I would use it enough. As a first machine, I probably want as much flexability as possible for under $1000.

Subpanel with 60 amp and 220 volt service. In the separate shop I want to build, I'm aiming for 100 amp service. I probably can't get 3-phase without a converter.

Not a lot for now. This, along with the woodworking, would be a long-term hobby. So I'd like a machine that will last. I can easilt spend several hours every weekend, and a couple hours a couple nights a week. I probably have enough time for a class (one at a time) assuming I can find the right class locally. No luck with that so far.
brian
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Keep your eye open for older iron. You should find great deals if you look a bit. Get three phase stuff and a VFD. Once you have a lathe and mill, you can do almost anything. A surface grinder will come in handy especially for the wood working machines. We build our woodworking machines and cutters here, if you need any advice.
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Tom Gardner (nospam) wrote:

So what would I use a surface grinder for? It looks to me like a grinding wheel that can be moved around (or the table moves under the wheel). And the name sounds obvious. I suppose if I had a cast iron table top that was warped or fairly rusted, I could take off 1/32" or something from the top and flatten/clean up the table. Does this sound right? What else could I use it for?
brian
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I don't know what other uses you might have. For me, it would be perfect for removing that last half-a-ten-thousanth from a gauge block. It would be useful for profiling injection moulds. It would be useful for achieving a near-polished finish on flat tablet punch ends. It would be useful for many jobs requiring the removal of _tiny_ amounts of metal in linear patterns (grooves or flats) with extremely high precision.
It would NOT be useful for stroking off 1/32" of iron, unless you had a lot of time and grinding wheel money to spend. That is what big fly cutters and planers are for. You remove the stock with a mill or a planer, depending upon the job's size, then you grind to a finish.
Only, I ain't got one, either <sigh>.
LLoyd
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No, probably not. That's a mighty tight tollerance even for a very good surface grinder. If you get within a couple of tenths, it's time to start lapping.
It would be

Not really. Molds have cavities. It's tough to grind inside a hole.
It would be useful for achieving a

many
Yep. Especially if that material is too hard to machine conventionally. For instance a surface grinder is great for sharpening planner blades.

lot
and
I've often ground 1/32 or even more from a surface. It really depends on the hardness of the material, and the size of the part. I can grind 1/32 off a 4" square block before you get your mill set up to fly cut it (well, almost). Then, you've still got to come back and grind too.
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You mean I have to stop hogging off eighths?
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