Wednesday, December 12, 2018


You found that old LeBlond lathe, or Clausing drill press.  Where do you find the manual that didn't come with it?   That is an important question.  I've found myself there almost everytime I've purchased a machine tool.

When it comes to digging for obscure, obsolete, or just vintage instruction manuals, Google is our friend.  I normally have other words for it, but it is an important tool.

the second mill I bought

I usually start out broad, then add pdf in the search box:  "Clausing drill press pdf"  also use the model number if possible:  "leblond regal manual pdf".  If you get a lot of hits, then start refining the terms.

These are the spot's I've found that have the most information:

Keith Rucker's Vintage Machinery.  Tons of good stuff in there. in the UK has a ton of good info as well.

Blogs sometimes do a good job of detailing work, with pictures!  My favorite example.  My Clausing drill documentation is basically the blog printed out, with a manual I found online.  I made detailed measurements and recorded the bearing sizes in the book.

Sometimes, you have to buy them.  Like from this guy.  He also sells on ebay.  He has a lot of manuals. 

Last is the manufacturer.  Most of them don't have the info any longer, sometimes they do, but their cost can be prohibitive.  Logan lathes is an exception to this.

Fortunately I got this manual before it disappeared, like Enco

If you get totally skunked, look for the patent numbers, then dig up the drawings.  Using map colors, you can identify the component lines to figure out how it goes together.

Yeah, I have a couple reams of paper just waiting to be used.

I print mine out and then bind them with a comb binding.  That way, if I discover more stuff, like a sales flier with options or accessories, then I can stick them in with the rest of my information.  It goes from being a manual to being documentation.  That's allowed me to find accessories for the old world war two LeBlond that I didn't know existed.

A wealth of info in out of print books.

But wait!  There's more!!!  Google books has lots of out of print books scanned in and ready to download.  I print those out if I need them.  I'm old school.  I like to have something in my hand I can take notes on.  These comb bound books do that for me.  I recently added a pc in the shop, but don't have all my library on it yet.

More to follow....

Monday, December 3, 2018

It's Time for a Film!

Did you get to watch 16 mm films in school?

Were you the fourth grader that figured out how to loop the film so the sound and picture were in sync?  Were you the one that knew how to focus the lens?  Were you the one the teacher called on for help?  Did she finally give up and just ask you to load it, run it, rewind it and return it to the AV room?  Did you get one of these when everyone else was getting straight A's, or never tardy, or 100% attendance awards at school?

Yup, I have one.  6th Grade awards ceremony.  For 3 years of stellar technical service.
I guess it was inevitable that I'd be interested in mechanics, electronics and anything that required tools to keep functioning.

It's time for a film.....  

I learned a lot from watching this.  I hope you find these interesting.  I sure do.  (There may be a pop quiz)

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Quickie Tool Intro

Okay, there is a Quality Assurance tool called an optical comparator.  They are usually really big and expensive.  I mean EXPEN$IVE.   Also known as a shadow graph.

Take a look, I'll wait right here.....

Optical Comparators   (Thanks,!)

As I understand them, you place a calibrated transparent chart  on the thing, put your part on a stand (the focal length is exact, so the scale of the chart is accurate), then QA the geometry and/or dimensions of the part.  The part is magnified and the chart is superimposed. Too cool, and too big for me.

Then I ran across this guy:

The Tool and Die Guy

He introduced me to a nice bunch of tools, including...........

The pocket comparator:

Oh yeah!
I didn't even know I needed one before watching him!!  But this a most useful tool.  Need to check a radius?  No sweat!  How about an angle? Yup.  And it's got a ruler,  small circles, everything I could imagine needing.

A bit shadowy, but it's all there.

Ye olde radius gage.  Is it accurate??

Yes, it is what is says it is.  Perfect.

Meet the pocket comparator.  It allows me to be more precise when I grind tool bits, and check if I'm holding my tolerances like I should.  I am definitely impressed.  Now if I can find the instruction sheet that didn't come with it....

Making Do

I mentioned Mr. Garcia, and his "milling machine".  A significant portion of commenters, like a 100%, wanted to see more of it.  I haven't uncovered it in a while...

Dang, even covered up, there isn't much protection a hundred miles from the gulf coast.  What a swamp.... Our normal weather is hot, mostly 40% to 75% humidity in the summer (March to October).  The winter is wicked for tools stored outside.  We'll get a strong south wind, with a lot of sticky humidity just before a cold front will come in.  A few days of nice cool and dry, then the front backs up as a warm front.  Anything with mass will still be cold, and start sweating like iced tea in summer.  If you haven't swabbed down the bare metal, you are in for a race against rust.  My rust proofing on this tool didn't survive the summer.   Another project for the list....

Okay, here's the mods on this old tool.

Attachment point:

Set at the perfect angle to be sqare to the axis of the chuck.

So, Mr. G fabbed up this square tube, and made angle iron brackets for it.  This is set square to the axis of the quill.

Quill support:
I wonder if those are skateboard bearings?

This beauty is a square tube that nests inside the one above.  It has a plate attached, loaded with bearings.  This supports the quill from lateral forces when you use it as a mill.  Brilliant.

Bearing ring installed:

Looking from the front.
And from the left

These bearings fit right on the chuck.  In spite of this, there is significant wear on the quill.  It's a bit floppy.  It could be, he added this to fix the floppy quill.  But I'm sure he used it as a mill as well.  There used to be an X Y table on it.

Table lift:

He added this bracket, with a crank handle.  That is a bike chain attached to the table, and has a small counterweight to keep the chain from jumping off the sprocket.  Very neat.

Quick belt changer:

He engineered a pivot for the motor.  This allowed quick belt / pulley changes for different speeds.  Normally, this would be a solid rod.  The weight of the motor pulls it tight.  The pulleys are off square a little, but the vee belt doesn't care.  It works perfectly.

Here is what it looked like stock:

I'll start taking it apart next spring for a de-rust and freshen it up a bit.  Provided I get all my winter projects done.  Winter comes on a Tuesday and lasts most of a whole week.  Not much time to get a long list of to-dos, to-done..

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Upcoming projects

I've been whipped after getting home after work.  Not sure if it is the constant swings between 80 and 40 degrees this winter, or I'm just outta gas.

Preview of coming attractions:

I need a 2 inch spacer for the power feed on the mill:

I love a fly cutter finish!

This is Mr. Garcia's drill press, details to follow:

When I took off the tarp, my heart sank...

A new tool!!!!!  Yes, Mr. Pete, 3 new tools a week is 300% better than 1 new tool a week....  And Mr. Tool and Die Guy, I didn't even know I needed one of these:

Oh baby!!

My pillow is calling my name.... 

Friday, November 23, 2018

Milling Machines

When I grabbed the Logan lathe, the old Craftsman drill press I got too had been modified a bit.  There is a square tube along one side, and a corresponding square rod with a circular array of bearings....  Cheap mill.  It was fitted with an X - Y table.  Mr. Garcia was resourceful.

I found a Big Joe mill (Taiwanese clone of the Bridgeport circa 1970's) on Craigslist.  Only $2500 asking price.  That's just over a dollar a pound.  Not too bad, only thing listed for a couple weeks.  I went by and looked at it.  Parked under a tarp, a leaky tarp.  Been in the wind for a few months.  Surface rust, not under power.  Nope, 2500 is a bit tall for me.  "What would you offer?"  This is the red zone.  I was dancing on the edge of a cliff.....  Rusty, not sure if it even works...  How bad could it be?  I wasn't too cued in on prices for one, so I shot low: 1400, if you have a forklift.... Sold.

....oh crap.....

Disclaimer:  This blog post outlines how I tackled some projects, while doing my best to be safe, legal, and all-around sensible. Just because I could do these things without crushing any limbs, burning down the house, letting the dogs out, destroying my car, annoying the locals, or running afoul of Town Hall, does not guarantee that you will be able to do the same. While I hope that the material here will prove helpful, you emulate my procedures entirely at your own risk.*

The following are my personal thoughts, for academic study only.

Loaner trailer, and a couple days later, I had it home.  Unloading it was..... a learning experience.  Dragging it through 50 feet of blow sand was a learning experience.  Yes, his dolly works a treat on 3/4 plywood cut into 4x4 sheets, but I had to use a leverPutting the ram and head back on alone was a learning experience I very nearly messed up.  Those engine hoists are fine and all, but the wide foot of a mill tends to step on top of the arms of the hoist, and then tipping is next.  Not a happy place to wind up..... alone.

And then Milling for Dummies 201 class began...

Meet Big Joe

aka Rusty

Impulse buy or decent learning tool?

Needless to say, lots of issues.  Sticky spot in the bed ways, head problems resulting in noise.  I paid a bit for tuition that time.  Good, unbeatable experience.  Most of it what not to do.

Did not get a lot of milling done with that, but I learned a ton with it.  Found out how to go online and dig for manuals, how to bind them, blow up the exploded diagrams on ledger size paper, and using map colors to differentiate assemblies.

Now, I have a different mill, and am in process of retrofitting the DRO...  Life keeps getting in the way but it'll get done.

The New Mill!!  Oh baby!

Old red is a good trailer but I don't recommend it.  A drop deck trailer like this to move with is better.  It's a beauty.  It's worth the rental price not to lift the weight of a machine tool.

Remember Small Tools Inc.?  Excellent bunch of folks there.  They let me find my own shipper, small fee for palletizing, and a classy experience all around.

Moving the mill

I learned a lot about moving heavy equipment through sand.  Rollers, levers, plywood, strategic trees, come-alongs, proper ratchet straps, blocking, dunnage, jack stands to hold up the loose end of the trailer, trailer house pier pads.  All of those are mandatory in soft sand.

Parking brake set, wheels chocked, pad under trailer jack, check.
Pier pads down, and jack stands under the rear trailer lip, check.
Roller sections set to match slope of trailer, check.
2 Safety straps to hold mill to front of trailer, check.  Runaways not allowed!
Slack off one, then the other, alternately to let the mill down the roller deck.
Lever it on the dolly, then lever it down the plywood path, a come along attached to a strategic tree for additional motivation.

Once on the shop floor, solid bar for rollers into it's final position.
It's also useful to mark the center of gravity on the side of the foot.  Push till the front roller is close to C of G, then position the next roller in just behind the front of the foot.  Then push a bit more, tip, roll, tip, roll.  Just be careful with it wanting to tip and spit out a roller.  Wooden wedges can be worth their weight in gold to hold a roller in place.  Two people is best, front and back.  You need lots of run away room, too.  If it's going over, it isn't worth the potential death sentence to try and stop it.  (Imagine where it will fall, and don't be there, ever.  I can't even reach under the mill on it's feet when I drop something there.  I have to get a coat hanger or a magnet to fish it out.  I get goose bumps just thinking about it.) Go over your egress routes till your partner knows without asking how to escape.  Leave yourself an out.  I moved out Big Joe by myself with the rollers and C of G method.  No danger at all.... that time.  I learned to take off the table, lower the knee, and invert the head to lower the C of G to avoid tipping.  Worked a treat.


Study up on current prices for tools and tooling.
Know your subject well.
Develop a strategy.
            Not under power = my offer is 50% off asking right then!
            Obvious rust or damage =  25% minimum off the remainder
Moving is a head scratcher.  Until you have done it a couple times.
I'm not a machine rebuilder, but I don't mind getting dirty.  I don't mind fixing things.  I get to understand how they work that way.  And I pay my "less than 20% list price" rule when some rehab is needed.

Up next..... where to find manuals, old training docs, and how I use them.

*shamelessly stolen from this man.... who I admire and emulate.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Quality Drill Press (on the cheap)

Phil, over at Busted Nuckles recently got a drill press.  An old Jet.   That reminded me, I picked up one from CL a few years back.  It went through a restoration of sorts.  It had been in a squirrel-possum outhouse, and they used the open top as a urinal.  The old machinist had passed on, and the shop sat unused and neglected for 10 years or so.  The smell was so bad, that parts of the shop were 30 seconds of holding your breath and dash or you'd be sick and dizzy.  That drill press was the nastiest thing I'd worked on in years. I don't have a picture in the condition I got it in, but this is close....  It came from the same shop.
Everything in that shop looked like this.  Or worse.

I used the electrolysis method of de-rusting the foot, and hooked up the power supply backwards.  I had a beautiful, smooth sacrificial anode, and the foot was looking pretty rough.  Swapped out the leads, and let it run.  It's a reminder when I look at it, that double checking is not an option.

I took the column off, and used flap wheels on the 4 inch grinder to clean it up.  It rang like a bell, and hearing protection was the order of the day.  Car wax keeps it relatively rust free in my un-conditioned shop.

3 years and still pretty.

Custom clamp hole, and a gob of derusting

The table had been drilled in the usual, "not my shop, not my tools" arc of shame.  One was a through hole near the edge, so I embiggened it and threw in a vise grip type clamp.

way prettier than I found it.

If you can find one, a neglected one that hasn't seen too much abuse, they are well worth the efffort. 

New bearings for the spindle, cleaned up the head casting, and repainted. It really needed a lot of work.  New reversing switch, and wiring, new bearings in the motor.  New chuck (it's a goose from China with a Rohm in the wings).  Runout is acceptable (.002 to .003).  
top of the head, looks like I need to do the top of the column again

Check out this guy.  I printed off his posts (in color!!), printed out the manual, and bound them.  That was my reference material for the rebuild / restore.  Took a couple months (like posting on this blog!!)  I figured he'd done an excellent job with pictures and was very detailed on his restoration, why not leverage that on my resto?  It worked a treat.

The reference file on the Clausing Variable

It runs too fast though.  I really need to slow it down.  500 rpm minimum is whipping for a big drill, and this press has some power and flexibility.  Just needs to calm down....

Next project is an overarm for the table to tap with.  Soon...... maybe....


Not healthy dust at all....

This was my arm after I cleaned the column.  I just found the pic.  I remember taking back to back soaks to clean all that...... residue off.