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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Overview of my workshop

As many have asked where do I work, I thought to give a peek to my workshop. I live in an apartment building and one of our four rooms (13 m²) is reserved for me and as a general storage space. Haven't heard of any complaints about noise from neighbours yet, but I do try to make things during the sunlight and only in small amounts at a time :)

Here is a quick look from the door in to the room. Quite crowded in here, but there is enough floor space to walk around and do work, although I would like to add another shelf system like the one on the right. You can see my lathe, mill and work table in the back.

This is the mill and table for it. I made the table from scrap found in a dumpster, only had to buy few parts from a hardware store. The top is coated with thick laquer layer and provides an easy way to cleanup and it also prevents oil from penetrating to the particle board which could soften enough to break.

Here is my work table closer. This provides me table space and a place to think when designing, assembling or drawing something. The table cost 99 EUR and it can be disassembled and reassembled when needed, as it only has four bolts. The top shelf provides some storage space for miscellaneous stuff, like tape rolls, packing material, towels and such. The back board has an array of small hooks that provide a way to hang my hand tools neatly. This has proven to be very nice system and the tools are always there when not in use. It is easy to cleanup because I don't have to think where does this tool belong to or were is space for it, as there is one designated place for it. This also translates to less work finding the tool when in need for it ;) The tabletop material is MDF and I have a thick layer of laquer also on this one to prevent oil from penetrating the surface.

This table has two drawers and I'm using the left drawer for measuring equipment and notebooks, although there is some other stuff also there. A calculator is a must have and you can get a decent calculator for like 10 EUR new. I think mine cost me 19 EUR, but it has some nice functions. I do have also a Texas Instruments TI-86 graphical calculator, but it is on quite rare use at the moment.

The right hand drawer has become quite heavy as I store all my drill bits and various tool bits in there along with some other things. This is not a good example of how to store your tools, as they can bang together and that can chip or dull the delicate cutting edges. I should take some cardboard and make small boxes for everything. Most of the tools are bought from eBay along with the measuring devices, except the drill bits that are from the nearest hardware store.

Lathe sits on its own table with the drill press, although I will move the drill press to the mill table probably, as the lathe tailstock handwheel keeps bumping in to it. The table is DIY and it has a 6 mm thick rubber mat glued to it. This keeps tools on the table but it is a little harder to cleanup, as the chips tend to grab into the rubber a bit. Turpentine and a paper towel fixes that problem if needed :)

The drill press is the cheapest I could find, 44.90 EUR from a local hardware store. It had some drawbacks and poor quality, but it has proven to be a very decent machine after my modifications. I'll tell more about those in an article dedicated for this drill press alone.

I have a grinder here also that I would normally use for grinding lathe tool bits, but due to fire hazard I will not use it in here. It has a stand that I made in my welding class at school, for a total cost of 19 EUR (including a can of spray paint). The base is open at the back and I have stacked about 20-30 kilos of steel scrap in there to keep it steady.

This tool cabinet on wheels is my own design and make. I thought of buying one, but the cheapest I could find were 300 EUR and up and they were not able to be used as a workspace so i thought that it would be fun to make one. This was my final project in welding class and it was done with MIG. The whole things weighs about 65 kilos and it has 3 mm thick steel plate on top which is good for banging things on.

I quite recently bought this storage shelf system from the hardware store, cost 39.90 EUR. It is very light and handles up to 65 kilos per floor. I should bolt it to the wall so it would not trip, as it can twist quite much now. It has helped very much and it is good that it can be disassembled easily, as there is no bolts or anything, just wedge action joints.

About a week ago I also installed a small shelf on the wall to store all my machining related books, articles and my project folders. Very handy and keeps them away from dust and debris.

Here is my not so neatly organized box of materials that I use when making something. There is small kitchenware boxes labeled for different things, like aluminum, steel, HSS scrap, carbide, brass, plastic etc. Weighs something around 200 kilos. All the longer rods I have in a separate place. Most of these materials are bought from a scrap metal recycling yard (Rautasoini), but also eBay has provided materials like brass and plastic for cheap. The grey box system contains various bolts and nuts and the like, organized by their size and the most general sizes that I use are from M4 to M8.

The most important thing to remember is to have a small trash can and some sort of brush to get all the swarf and chips away from the floor. This reduces the probability for an accident and also it is nice to work in a clean place.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Safety first

In my opinion the best way to start these articles is to talk about safety and precautions first, as there will be lots of power and flying metal chips present in the projects to come. I will discuss machine specific precautions and things not to do in the articles where I introduce a machine and talk about their capabilities and basic usage.

The most basic protection consist of eye and ear protection and proper clothing. I personally don't use ear protection that much, as the noise levels from mill and lathe are usually quite low and the amount of time I work is also quite low, but when using some very noisy equipment I'll grab earplugs. But eye protection is something I will not drop off for any reasons because you can machine even if deaf, but without vision it is pretty damn hard! And it is not even close to fun to have to go quickly to emergency reception at your hospital because you have a metal chip sticking out of your eye. And the worst case is that it is steel: It starts to rust immediately in the eye fluids and that will cause you a nice infection! If it isn't steel, but brass for example, the doctor won't get it out with a magnet.

My own protection set consist of a cheap set of earplugs or earcups, these cost me about 5 EUR. The eye protection goggles (not the one in picture) cost 19 EUR, as I wanted ones that fit nicely to my head without giving me headaches and that they really protect my eyes. If working with a grinder, a dust mask is bare minimum addition to keep your lungs working the next day. Some metal dusts are toxic and can cause all kinds of nasty things.

The most common illness you will get is metal fume fever which most commonly comes from welding or heating zinc plated (galvanized) steel. I have had this a couple of times after turning galvanized bolts in a lathe and I had flu like symptoms and felt like my hands were in fire inside and they were quite ichy for a couple of days. Not fun, trust me.

I also have an apron made of some very slippery fabric (thanks to my mother) which protects my jeans and T-shirt from chips sticking. This one also has couple of pockets, the long one holds a digital caliber nicely, one pocket for calculator and what ever I'm using at the moment and the neck pocket can hold a small micrometer. The neck pocket swiwels so that if I reach to the floor, the pocket stays vertical and this prevents dropping a micrometer to the floor :) Only thing to remember is to just keep away from reaching anything over a spinning lathe or there is a risk of hurting very badly if that pocket graps the lathe chuck.

It is also good to have some sort of shoes on when working, it is easier to walk around the shop room and to stand in front of the machine as you don't have to think of the stinging in your feet because of all those chips on the floor. I prefer shoes that have a reinforced toe areas, this prevents broken toes if you happen to drop something on it. Some old shoes work just fine as workshop shoes, just don't walk around the house with them as they are probably full of oil and debris after a while ;) At home I just use regular flipflops, they are comfortable and breath nicely and almost always the parts that I'm handling are small and thus light in weight.

Hand protection is not that necessary, but it is handy to have a set of knife proof gloves that prevents getting sliced with sharp metal edges that might be prsent in tools and workpieces from time to time. My own gloves cost about 5 EUR for a pair and they have saved my hands multiple times from small injuries. I suggest not using gloves when machining because the gloves might get caught in a spinning work or tool and they will pull your whole hand with them. Also the ability to sense things like small vibration decrease when wearing gloves.

What is proper clothing then, I hear you ask. Proper clothing means that they are comfortable, won't hang and if possible, made of natural fibers so that they won't burn. Nylon and other artificial subtances burn like hell when given a spark or a flame and some artficial fabrics will first melt and then burn. Imagine molten plastic (burning) on your ain't easy to take off, is it? Even if you don't do anything regarding high heat, flames or sparks, Murphy's law says that you will get yourself in fire some day.

My own preferable clothing is some old T-shirt that can get dirty (it will, trust me) and jeans. This provides some pockets if in need and are comfortable.

If your work involves working with flame, sparks or high heat (welding, cutting with torch), I suggest you to wear a thick leather apron, leather gloves (pig skin works fine) and other necessary protection. The leather provides shield from sparks and hot metal blobs that can and will jump around the workarea when welding or cutting. In my leg is four months old wound that was caused by a glowing bright red metal blob dropping from the plasma cutting work on to my lap. I was not wearing a leather apron at that time and after getting that on my leg, I spent 10 minutes searching one ;)

So what I wanted to say is use protection at all times or when in doubt and work safely :)


Hello and welcome to my new blog!

My name is Jaakko Fagerlund and I'm a Finnish locksport enthusiast, who loves to machine things. With things I mean lock cutaways, lockpick tools, small parts and pieces and new tools to help me machine more things :) I also have a blog called Haittalevy ("Detainer disc") which is about locks and lockpicking in Finnish, but it has lots of pictures.

My own interest in machining grew up with the locksport around 2006-2007 and I acquired a Dremel tool to make things. I did a couple of cutaway locks with it, but it was quite a difficult task to do, so I tried to find better machines. I quickly found out about mini lathe from and my view of world changed. After intensive search, a couple of lucky strikes and with the help of my father, I got a new mini lathe from a Finnish supplier in January 2008. About the same time I ordered over 200 EUR worth of tooling for the mini lathe from to begin with.

I had been two years in the Technical University of Tampere prior to 2008, but lack of interest and boredom led me to find some other form of education. The mini lathe and things learned with it had grown an interest in machining inside me, so I searched for a trade school near me that would teach machining. Sure enough, I found one 600 meters away from my apartment and sent an application with necessary attachments. In the summer 2008 I got a note saying that I have been accepted and school starts in the fall.

Fall arrived and on the first day in school all with a prior college degree were assigned to one class. This was because we didn't have to go common classes like english, mathematics and what else, because we had those in college already. This simplified things and the first year was days full of trade related subjects, like welding, hydraulics/pneumatics/mechanics, technical drawing, manual machining, material science, work safety, fire safety and first aid training. At the end of the first year, spring 2009, two months were dedicated for work experience. I got a place from TH-Tools Oy and operated wire EDM (and some sinker EDM) machines the whole time. Just prior to summer vacation we gathered at the school, shared thoughts about the work experience and got our first years papers. The grading scale is from 0-5, 0 being failed and five is the best. I got every trade subject five, except arc welding which was a four. This got me a nice 60 EUR cash envelope from our teachers for being the best of the class :)

During the work experience I got my father to support me financially a mini mill which I had thought about from the moment of getting the mini lathe. A little over year of waiting was finally over and I ordered the mini mill from a Finnish supplier. It took 1.5 months to arrive because the European supplier had their warehouse empty and the chinese probably had a busy time making these machines. The mill arrived 01.06.2009, just as my summer vacation started :)

So here I am, waiting to finish up the build of my new work table for the mini mill so that I can finally put it in to proper use. I have already tried it a little and most of the time tweaked it and designed minor modifications to it and spent about 300 EUR in eBay buying tools and things for my shop :)

A little note to all readers about dates, numbers etc. I live in Finland and we use the SI system here, so all measurements are metric (mostly expressed in millimeters, mm, 1/1000 of one meter) unless otherwise noted. All dates are expressed in DD.MM.YYYY format and times are by a 24 hour clock. Officially all decimals should be separated with a comma, but I use dot as sometimes the comma makes things look nasty and especially in written text, most particularly in lists (thing one, thing two, thing three). We don't usually use separators for thousands, and neither do I. It is very rare to have big numbers and if there is need for them, I usually express them with standard multipliers like kilo, mega, giga, milli, nano, pico.

This introduction might have been a little boring as there is no pictures, but don't worry, all my future articles will be peppered with lots of pictures and explanations of different things, tools and projects. When I write about some project I'll try to teach some basic knowledge of machining which should help any other aspiring machinist souls to get those chips flying :)

I have included a PayPal donation button to the top of my blog. If you like my projects, articles or otherwise would like to support this hobby of mine, please do donate. The amount is up to you and every cent donated will fund me new tools and materials when in need.

Thank you for reading and again, welcome to my blog!