The Tinkers Tavern

Hello, gentle reader, and welcome to the Tinkers Tavern. Bring your glass and come sit beside me in front of this cosy fire while I tell you what I've been up to in the workshop this week. Be warned, though, I am often accused of not taking life seriously enough and, because you won't see my smiling countenance, will not know whether I have tongue firmly in cheek or not.

In earlier times, a Tinker was an unskilled worker who travelled and repaired broken pots and pans, along with other metal items. Over the years, it has come to mean someone who likes to experiment in a more undisciplined way - "he likes to tinker on his car" for example - and I think anyone who is drawn to the hobby of model engineering is probably a tinker at heart. You are probably the sort of person who repairs all manner of items for anyone with little or no reward - "Take it to Alf / Bert / Charlie, he can fix anything" - other than the satisfaction of seeing it perform its designed function again. You're in good company here.

While the rest of the website is about the technical and engineering aspects of my construction project, this page is a more relaxed and informal section where I will jot down anything that has happened in the workshop over the last week or so. It will also act as an aide-de-memoire for me as I approach my dotage...

Well, I have to start somewhere and now seems like a good time. Christmas is only three weeks away but I'm about to get an early visit from Santa in his specially-strengthened sleigh when he brings my new milling machine, courtesy of my good wife in exchange for building her a new kitchen. I've spent most of the past week changing the layout of the workshop to accomodate the new bench upon which said mill will reside and taking the opportunity to get rid of the awful workbench that I inherited from my late father. Whatever possessed him to purchase such a piece of junk I willl never know but it's now farewell and good riddance, the new home-made bench is far more substantial and will stay where it's put. I don't have music in the workshop and a good thing too - the old bench would probably have danced out of the door it's so flimsy! I don't plan on showing pictures in the Tavern, just links to them, so there's one HERE of the framework. Hopefully, I will get the worktop tomorrow and fit it tomorrow night. Monday or Tuesday should see the arrival of the mill and I will probably spend a couple of days polishing it and grinning stupidly while I decide whether or not to get it dirty and actually do some work. No, on second thoughts I may make that four or five days polishing...
Don't you just love delivery drivers? Written in BIG BOLD LETTERS on the side of the box - "Phone addressee half-hour before delivery". Did I get a phone call? Did I bo***cks!! Luckily, I was home when they arrived but only because my van was being repaired at my local garage. I was still getting the worktop for the new bench sorted at the time and the mill, well-crated and on a small pallet, had to be dropped outside the workshop. I got it unpackaged during the afternoon and a neighbour helped me lift it into place later in the day. HERE it is up on the new bench but not yet positioned, haven't made my mind up where it's going yet. I will be getting a DRO for it any day soon and also plan to build a table feed mechanism for it so am busy trawling the internet to see what others have done. Tonight I clocked the spindle bore just to see how accurate it was and was reading just over 0.0001" (one tenth of a thou) and am very pleased with this result. I just hope the R8 collets and the JT arbor have been made to a similar degree of accuracy.
It's Christmas eve and I have been able to arrange my workload this week so that today become the first day of the holiday. Apart from a trip into town with the Head of Household to get some last-minute goodies, I have been able to get a fair part of today in the workshop. Although I didn't manage to get any work done on Britannia, I was able to finish off the new "Milling Corner" of the workshop by hanging one of the storage cabinets and making a new shadowboard for some of those tools that were forever being moved around because they had nowhere specific to go - well, they do now! I took a picture HERE of the area as a keepsake and reminder because I doubt it will ever look so clean and tidy again. So now I am looking forward to four days of heavenly bliss! Oh, and some time indoors with a glass or two of something, or a break for food. Not too much time, though.... (happy Christmas to anyone who passes by).
With all this cold weather around, I have covered the loco and the machines with dust sheets, set up my small electric heater to keep the chill off and moved indoors to work on my model railway layout in my loft. It's a heck of a lot warmer indoors and my loft room is fully insulated so a pleasure to work in. But it's also about what jobs I want to do next on Britannia and most of them involve the new mill. However, due to a large expense getting my van back on the road just before Christmas, I have yet to buy a DRO for the mill and I don't see the point in muddling along the old-fashioned way when I fully intend to get the DRO when finances recover. Because of this, there probably won't be any updates here until about Easter unless I win the lottery. In which case I will probably go on a world cruise and Britannia can have a break for an even longer period. Oh, I forgot, I don't do the lottery, Easter it is then.
Well, it's been nice to get back in the workshop over the last couple of weekend but apart from just pottering about, the only interesting thing I did was to fit my new DRO system to the milling machine. I have described the process on the Tools & Jig page but there is an overall view of the finished article HERE and now I can get on with some of the jobs that I have held back waiting for the DRO to be fitted. The problem now is that this is the time of year when I am required to assist the Head Gardener at weekends. Maybe if I keep my head down, she won't notice me.
Well, that didn't work but things are getting a bit quieter in the garden now and I've been able to get a few hours in the workshop. I'm getting ready to make the con rods but needed a means to hold them to mill them flat. Some low-profile clamps would be useful but a pair of vices would be better. A quick look through some catalogues and I found Toolstation had drill press vices for £12.90, they were cast iron rather than some crappy alloy and my local store had two in stock, so I treated myself to the pair. In all honesty, they really are rubbish but I've just spent the weekend turning them into a matched pair of vices and am well pleased with the result. I've written the process up over on the Tools and Jigs page for anyone who's interested. If I get some time during the week, I shall make a few sets of interchangeable jaws for them and a pair of hard jaws from some gauge plate.
Most of this past weekend has been devoted to modifying the lathe. Whilst trying to turn an accurate diameter over a 2.1/2" length, I was getting a taper of about two thou which was totally unacceptable. Trying a five thou depth of cut using a really sharp HSS tool and a piece of 1.1/2" diameter EN1A was giving the same result so it had to be the lathe. Something has changed and it's probably a slight twist in the bed. I've undone the tailstock end from the table and shimmed one side but this only resulted in a fraction of a thou difference so I decided to adjust the headstock instead. The headstock casting sits on a raising block which is located in the headstock mounting channel in the bedway casting, and there are two screws that pull the headstock tightly up to the raising block. There are also two large front bolts and two large rear bolts that clamp everything down. First I set up a 9" length of 1" dia bar and free turned this (i.e. no centre support) to just clean up, then measured the difference at each end - about fourteen thou the first time. Setting a clock on the bar at the tailstock end, I loosened all the bolts around the headstock and tried to turn the headstock slightly but everytime I started to retighten the clamp bolts (but not the two that pull the headstock to the raising block, of course) it kept returning to it's former position. I decided to add some adjusters to the headstock casting so this meant stripping all the ancillaries off and then drilling and tapping a pair of M5 holes (circled in red in the pictures HERE   HERE and HERE) in the abuttment strip next to the two pull-up screws. Fitting these with a pair of M5 cap screws now gave me the means to adjust the headstock position and I have been able to get it aligned to an acceptable level. After quite a few test cuts, taking the final free cut along the 9" long test bar gave me one thou difference over the whole length, and no significant reading at all over the 3" nearest to the headstock. Although this has taken up most of my workshop time this weekend, it's been worth it. I turned the O/D of some valve sleeves on a mandrel and over their 2.1/2" length, I measured less than a tenth of a thou difference end to end.
Today, my good lady and I enjoyed a day out at the Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition and a really good show it was, too. I had a nice chat with Adam Cro of Cro Fittings and enjoyed seeing his superb miniature castings up really close. I shall be using a number of these as super-detail when I get further along the build. If you haven't seen Adam's work then I thoroughly recommend that you do, there is a link to his website on my "Links" page. Also had a quick chat with John Baguley, or Baggo as he is sometimes known, and admired the items on the 2.1/2" gauge stand. John and I have similar Denham lathes. More importantly, I was able to come home with a rather large bag of goodies including a couple of angle plates, a boxed set of carbide insert lathe tools and a good selection of milling cutters, along with all the usual bits and bobs that one buys at these exhibitions. If you live within range of Warwickshire, this is a must-visit exhibition for the model engineer.
I sometimes think that "disaster" should be my middle name. It was time to put my cylinder valve liners into the cylinder castings and there is a one and a half thou interference fit to work around. No problem, thinks I, liners into the freezer for a couple of hours, heat up the cylinder casting with the hot air gun until expanded and just push them in. No, not enough heat. OK, out with the propane and blast away with that for five minutes. That worked so I pushed two liners in one from each end, rotating them to line up the exhaust port holes with the cast-in ports and accidently touched the casting and burnt my finger, not much but enough to utter a choice word or two and suck said finger. Quickly put the gloves back on and went to finish the positioning of the liners - too late! The damn things had equalised enough in temperature to lock up solid and a whack with a rubber mallet wasn't able to move them. Time to retire for the night and consider the alternatives. Favourite was to kick the things from one end of the workshop to the other or whack them with a fourteen pound hammer but, in the end, I decided to take them to the local garage in the morning and get them to press them to the correct depth using their 30-ton press. Luckily, this worked and the second cylinder was done as well. A narrow escape, I could have ended up having to bore the liners out and remaking them.
Not workshop related but I have revamped the code on the website to fix the issue of slow loading. There is now a separate folder with all the pictures reduced to thumbnail-size for fast access, each picture being about 7k-8k only. Clicking the thumbnails still loads the original 1600 x 1200 pictures which are typically 250k each
Coming next....