Archive | May, 2014

Ace Is The Place

28 May

Kids these days; they don’t know.  Knowledge used to be hard to get.  Lots of other stuff was too.

Back in the day, we had Norm Abram to tell us about woodworking.  He was it.  He was the man.  He was what a normal guy in a garage could find out bout woodworking.  When Norm made dovetails he had a dovetail jig – several even – but anyway, that’s how he did it.  That was the way.  That was how it was done.  Today you go on youtube and find half a dozen techniques produced at least as well as NYW.

Years ago I was very interested in growing plants in an aquarium.  That was at the very dawn of the internet revolution.  We had UseNet, which allowed people to build communities, and it was a really powerful thing, if you could find your way around it.  I learned from that community that water with a large amount of dissolved calcium carbonate was terrible for growing plants, unless you could nudge the ratio of CO2 to CO4 somehow, in which case it could be absolutely terrific.  The way you nudge it is to slowly dissolve CO2 into your water.  Where do you get that CO2?  Well, you can pay through the nose from a fish store for teeny little cylinders that required expensive refills every two jerks, or you could find a welding supply store and a few other odd bits from hydraulic equipment suppliers.

I got the welding stuff really easily – I got a bigass tank of CO2 and a regulator.  Then I got the drip valve from a specialty hydraulic supply.  I was missing just the adapters to hook them all up.  I was pointed at another hydraulic supply vendor and equipment rental company.  I brought all these parts down there and said I needed adapters for all that.  They looked at me like I was from another planet.  “Whatchaneedthisferr?”  Anyway, got nowhere.  Absolutely stoned.

Then I asked Usenet and somebody said “Ya gotta know the lingo…”  I went back to the place and inquired about a male-to-male 1/4” NPT to 1/8” Hose Barb adapter and bam, I was supplied.


I was looking forward to an experience like that again with this band saw:  Showing up at some glass door in row upon row of light industrial buildings with corrugated sides and loading docks.  But it didn’t work out like that.  I suppose it’s all just the modern experience.  I was just too lazy to go driving around and ordered the rod from SpeedyMetals and the bearings from VXB.

By the way, if you care, these are the parts I chose.  I don’t know if they’re good or bad, overkill or what.  They were just the right size, really, and looked not too cheap and not too expensive.  If you are building one of these saws and you want a recommendation, I suppose I can spew these.  They spin smoothly and haven’t failed yet.  That’s what I know.

6205-2RS-16 Sealed Bearing 1"x52x15 Ball Bearings
1606-2RS Sealed Bearing 3/8"x29/32"x5/16" inch Miniature Ball Bearings

The big surprise in sourcing parts for this thing was my neighborhood Ace Hardware.  They had, in-store, almost all the parts needed to build this band saw plus they had people who were capable of helping me find some of the weirder bits.

Ace has become, over the course of this thing, my go-to place for stray parts.  I still hit Home Depot, but honestly, I wonder why anymore.  There are better places for most stuff I want, and closer.


But for how much longer will it matter?  I think making stuff out of wood will always have a place, because 3D printers are a ways off from making things that will be as appealing as wood.  People will always be drawn to natural things.  But for a 6” carriage bolt?  If the 3D printer makes it strong enough, I think the 3D printer will own that space.  On the band saw, there are quite a number of fiddly parts (particularly around the riser block assemblies) that would have been better off of a 3D printer than out of wood.

Funny.  I have no longing for the good old days of hard to get knowledge, and I really like it that I can count on getting any weird old thing delivered to my door.  Sometimes being connected to a world of smart people makes me feel small, but I can get over it.  I wonder if I’ll find the coming 3D printing revolution as easy to take.


Building The Bandsaw

1 May

So, if some sunlight-deprived, Moosehead drinking Hoser from the Great White North can build a bandsaw, surely I could do it.  How hard could it be?

Well, let’s not kid ourselves.  It’s going to be pretty hard.  Matthias Wandell is making engineering and woodworking a full-time job; he’s a skilled engineer and a veteran woodworker.  In contrast, I’m in the shop a few hours a week and I’ve got another full time job.

So why build a bandsaw?  Why not use the proceeds from my job to just buy one?  Maybe scrounge a good used one off Craigslist?  Well, Henry David Thorough left a perfectly good house to live in the woods:  “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

In Matthias’ videos, he goes through all kinds of experiments to figure out just how much of this thing he can make out of scrounged parts or whatever to make it for next to nothing.  For Matthias, building a bandsaw is really not that striking an achievement.  Compared to some of his other projects, this one really isn’t that hard.  I suspect I know one of the reasons why he’s building it on the cheap – he’s trying to inject a little challenge in there for himself.  I respect that, but I’ve got challenge enough just in replicating his design.  Although I’m a cheapskate, I’m not going to spend a lot of time dumpster-diving to build this thing.

I’m doing this for the sense of accomplishment I expect to feel every time I flip the switch on.

When I was learning to fly, I remember flying with a flight instructor who had, among other things, flown F-104 Starfighters in the 1960’s near the edge of space.  We were taking off in a Cessna 172.  This was hardly my first flight, but still, when the wheels went up, well, I don’t know exactly what I said, but I remember what he said.  He looked over and saw that thrill go through me as we went wheels up and he said “I get that thrill too.  Every time we lift off.  When I stop feeling that way is when I’ll stop flying.”

While lifting off is an amazing feeling, it’s way, way more amazing when you command it yourself.  Lifting off in a commercial airplane is exciting – the first few times.  But after those first flights, if you extract the thought of crashing from it, there isn’t much thrill left.

You see, it’s not about the flying; it’s about you flying.

I haven’t been flying in a long time, and I don’t think it’s in the cards for me to fly again for a while.  It’s a choice I made when I had kids and chose where we’ll live.  But things change.   Kids grow up.  When they do, I’ll choose to live somewhere else and do other things; if I can, I’ll go flying again.  Meanwhile, I’ll be building my band saw.