Friday, November 17, 2017

Professional Dabbler

Traveling Pirate left a comment in the last post about how me dabbling in the cowbell business didn't really come as a surprise since I've dabbled in many a thing over the years. After reading the comment, I thought for a few minutes about what all I've worked on over the course of my career, and yes, I've done a lot of dabbling. I've worked on most anything with wheels underneath it - cars, trucks, motorcycles, tractors, bicycles. Much of it repair work, some of it fabrication. Garbage trucks to race cars. I've worked on ocean going freighters and jon boats and a few things in between. I've built and repaired trailers from small utility trailers to steel hauling semi-trailers and the hitches to haul them with. Made and repaired a few musical instruments. Welded quite a bit of structural steel, including work on overhead cranes, and a few pieces for the mining industry. A little bit of gunsmithing and blacksmithing. And, of course, fixed chairs and desks literally by the hundreds. So yeah, I've dabbled. Pretty much everything except military vehicles and helicopters.

Now I'm back into machinery repair. While finishing up my class in the welding lab the other day, the man in charge of the Machine Tool program popped his head in and wanted me to check out one of his Bridgeport clones. Simple fix - about five minutes was all - but now I'm starting on my little Craftsman lathe and it won't be quite so easy to fix.

After taking off the compound and the cross feed, I looked everything over and decided it was going to take more than a little adjusting. I went on-line and much to my amazement found that Sears actually has parts available for this thing. The down side is that the parts aren't cheap. The screw for the cross feed is available for $188.00 and the nut it threads into is $71.19. The nut doesn't really look like a seventy dollar item, especially since it's only about 1/2"x5/8" x13/16". The screw looks to be a left hand 3/8 -10 Acme thread. I looked at MSC for Acme threaded rod and they carry 3/8" rod but 12 threads per inch. Likewise, no dice on a tap of the required size. I think I can make the cross feed screw easily enough but the nut is going to be a stretch of my ability. It might be worth my while to buy the nut and then I can machine the screw to match the nut.

The lathe is going to need some new half nuts to engage the feed rod for threading. Those are no longer available from Sears, so even if I wanted to buy them at what was probably an un-godly amount, I'm going to have to come up with the fix on my own. The guy who ran the machine shop when I first started teaching used to fix the ones on the South Bend lathes he had in the shop. I'd build up the threaded surface, he would then fasten the two halves together and bore and thread them back to size. I suppose if he could do it, I can do it. The only difference between him and me is the fact that he was a really good machinist and I'm not. If I get in a bind I can always call in Surly for a consultation. In fact, that might be the first place to start.

So now I'll be dabbling in machine repair for a bit. This one's going to be a bit of a challenge but it's the kind of work I like to do - just like when I worked as a millwright except that was on a very much larger scale. I would guess that I'm somewhat of an exception as far as my work experience goes, even for people of my generation. I learned to weld from a guy who could do pert near anything and there were always a bunch of people hanging around his shop that were of a like mind. I was definitely lucky there. I don't know if there are many young people coming along that will be able to do the variety of work that I and others like me can do. I hope so. I know there are a lot of talented young men and women out there. We're going to need them more than ever now that us old farts are starting to hang up the tools.

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