Sunday, 31 October 2010

Drilling square holes

I'll start by clarifying that I don't actually have a need to make square holes at the moment but I am facinated by these techniques.

The maker of the above video Jacques Maurel also wrote an article for Model Engineer a couple of years back. The article outlines a home made square drill using a tool shaped as a Reuleaux rotor.

Jacques article includes how to machine the rotor, jigs for making the parts, grinding the tool and how to make the floating chuck. The floating chuck is based on an oldham coupling and can also be used for reamers and tapping. As seen the first video the solution works well and can produce blind square holes.

Model Engineer magazine issue N°4285 oct /nov 2006
Also see article by Mr Parkes in Model Engineer N°112
Applications of shapes of constant width by John Bryant and Chris Sangwin

Floating chuck and square drills
Drill Service
Vika (CH)

An alternative solution to producing a square hole is to use a broach which are good for though holes, keyways and even internal gears.

Michael Cox has written an interesting article for Model Engineer #185 (Jan 2012) where he has a free running rotary broach that works by being just a couple of degrees off of perpendicular to the lathe axis. It uses a single ball bearing as a thrust bearing based on Edgar Westbury's rotating centre design.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Sheffield Steel

A quick conversation on twitter got me wondering about Sheffield Steel

@Workshopshed The use of antique and vintage tools is a form of recycling- That and the steel is so much better at keeping a sharp edge. via @Gallopers

Gallopers @Workshopshed Just tragic the Uk steel industry has been brought to it's knees.Our old steel is as good as Japanese steel at the moment.

@Gallopers @Workshopshed A master wheelwright told me you can always smell a good piece of high C6 steel.Smells strong like fresh blood & has a luster.

Whenever I think of the UK steel industry, I think of Sheffield. There is a reminder on most of the stainless steel knives in my kitchen and also it's where I used to visit my gran when I was a lad. The other thing I remember about Sheffield is the hills and the trams. Unfortunately when I visited the trams had already departed but there was a roundabout at the end of the road with high flower beds and a slot right through the middle where the trams used to run.

Firth Park Roundabout

Steel has been in the news recently with the sale of Corus first to India then to Thailand. What was British Steel is now Tata Steel Europe and is formed of plants in UK, The Netherlands, Germany, France and Belgium. Steel is still made in the UK and there are several mills for processing steel. However the decline in the steel industry started earlier with in the 1980s when Sheffield saw 70,000 jobs lost.

The other piece of recent news is the Government's cancelling of a £80 million business development loan which Sheffield Forgemasters were offered to help with a 15,000 tonne press project to make parts for nuclear power stations. However the Forgemasters are doing their part to help with the recovery and have recently increased their intake of apprentices and has been successful in retaining and employing all of those who completed the programme over the last 10 years. The Sheffield Forge Masters also built some of the largest components of a reproduction of Titanic's Anchor for the channel 4 series "We Built Titanic"

Sheffield History Forums
Sheffield Indexers
Stainless Steel History

Sheffield Steel Timeline

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Blacksmith Supplies

Though I'd follow up on my previous blacksmith post with some suppliers of blacksmith tools.

Blacksmith tools, picture from

I've not actually purchased from any of these but I have been in contact with Vaughans ( as they also have casting equipment such as crucible tongs and crucibles. They were very helpful if a little more expensive than I was willing to pay at the time.

Glendale Forge
Lakes Forge Supplies
Arthur Cottam Horseshoes

Another potential source would be to look at Forge Magazine as I'm sure some of their advertisers will supply such tools.

I do at some point hope to get an anvil so that I can use it for forming metal before welding it. I'm not quite sure how to select an anvil and I'm not sure if the little 4Kg ones from Draper and Machine Mart etc would be sufficiently stable to tollerate me banging on them. The other issue with anvils of course is that they are quite heavy so even a complete bargain on ebay might cost a fortune in shipping.


Some tips on selecting an anvil

Monday, 18 October 2010

Train to be a blacksmith in milton keynes

The great thing about having Analytics setup on your blog is that you can see what keywords people have used to find your articles. One I found today was...

"train to be a blacksmith in milton keynes"

I don't know if the searcher found their course but I did find some courses on Floodlight that are a bit further afield.

Artistic Blacksmithing and Wrought Ironwork Certificate
Hadlow College, Tonbridge, TN11 0AL

A selection of courses at Warwickshire College including Blacksmithing Introduction Taster Moreton Morrell Campus, Warwick, CV35 9BL

Chichester College also has a selection starting with Blacksmith Level 1 Foundation Certificate

For those wanting a weekend course, there is Irons in the Fire at Weald And Downland Open Air Museum, Chichester, PO18 0EU

also helped me source a few courses

Make Your Own Tools in Stockton-on-Tees at Peat Oberon's School of Blacksmithing

Part time Blacksmithing Craft AG021 in Dorchester Kingston Maurward College

Basic Blacksmithing in Lockerbie with Stan Pike

A three year degree course, BA (Hons) Artist Blacksmithing Hereford College of Arts

Part Time Introduction to Blacksmithing in Skipton Craven College

NPTC Level 2 Certificate in Forgework Myerscough College

Blacksmithing Day Near Blandford Forum at Dorset Centre for Rural Skills

If you know of others then let me know.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

The Balloon Factory

The Story of the Men who built Britain's First Flying Machines by Alexander Frater

My knowledge of aeroplanes was previously limited to the Wright Brothers, Louis Blériot, Frank Whittle and Amy Johnson. I now can add to this list Sam Cody the man who flew the first plane in Britain in 1908. Cody was an American at the time but gained later British citizenship, met with King George and died a British hero.

The book describes the development of early powered flight in the UK from early gliders, kites, balloons and airships through to 80mph monoplanes. It focuses on the people rather than the technology and is centred around Cody and the people at the Farnborough Airfield which at the time was known as the "Balloon Factory".

Frater's style is a little unusual in that it looks at his personal journey discovering the facts for the book and the people he meets on the way. This style is not to everyone's taste and has resulted in some quite critical reviews. I feel it's a nice alternative to a dull list of facts and found the book a most enjoyable read.

The Balloon Factory - The Story of the Men who built Britain's First Flying Machines by Alexander Frater
The Balloon Factory

You can see more about Sam Cody and his machines at The Museum of Army Flying Middle Wallop, Stockbridge, Hampshire SO20 8DY

You also see some of Cody's rivals and also Concorde at Brooklands Brooklands Road, Weybridge,
Surrey KT13 0QN

The Science Museum also has plenty on early flight as well as modern planes and flight simulators.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Workshop Practice Series New Titles

There are three new titles in the Workshop Practice Series, to be released 29th November 2010.

Given that there are a large number of books in this range it's a little surprising that there is not much for complete beginners so the latest in the Workshop Practice Series are a real plus. No. 45 Basic Lathework should be great for beginners working with a new lathe and is nicely complemented by Alex Weiss' title, 46 Workshop Machinery which looks at selection of new machinery and the different tools and accessories that go with them. Given that lots of ex-industrial equipment is provided as three phase, Graham Astbury's book on three-phase conversion will be useful for those looking to use such equipment in their workshop to take advantage of the greater torque and speed control that these electric motors bring.

No. 45 Basic Lathework by Stan Brey
No. 46 Workshop Machinery by Alex Weiss
No. 47 Three-Phase Conversion by Graham Astbury

You can pre-order these from MyHobby store and they should be available in time for Christmas.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

James Watt's Workshop

Just a quick update on James Watt's Workshop at the Science Museum.

The science museum curators are currently working out how to move it across and set it up and it's planned to open early next year.

More on the science museum blog

Also spotted on the science museum site was this Orrery from Robert Fidler and Willian Pearson.

Workshop Practice Series