Plans, projects and how-to's for home machinists

How To Square Up Stock On A Mill


This is the best video I’ve ever seen on squaring up a piece of stock on a mill.  You’ll also see how a pro deburrs edges and see how quickly and smoothly he can turn the hand wheels (I don’t think he’s using a power feed).  He also says you should start with a piece of stock that’s been cut  so you’ll only need to make one rough cut and one finish cut on the mill.  That sounds like a good advice if you have a Bridgeport but it’s probably not doable if you have a hobbyist-type mill because you may only be able take off .020 to .050-inches in those two passes.  So your saw cuts (hacksaw, bandsaw, cold saw, etc.) would have to be very precise and square.

Made by Hand No 2 – The Knife Maker

This well made video is about Joel Bukiewicz, the owner of Cut Brooklyn, who started out wanting to be a writer but found he loves making things and being part of a community that makes things by hand.  Joel explains why, how he came to make knives for home and professional cooks and what it takes to get really good at something.

I enjoy videos like this and I’ve posted similar ones.  But for reasons I’m not sure I understand this one resonates with me much more than the others.  It might be because I also enjoy making things, but I make my living with computers so I don’t have anything tangible that I can see and hold at the end of my workday.

The Making of a Soulcraft


Here’s another video I really like because it shows a skilled craftsman doing machining, metal fabrication and welding.  Those are skills that I’m trying to get better at so I’m always interested in seeing how someone with much more experience does it and the tools they use.  This beautifully shot and well edited video has almost no dialog.  It just shows Sean Walling, the owner of Soulcraft Bikes, building a custom handcrafted bicycle frame.

Shop Light Upgrade & T12 Phase Out


I have about a dozen 4-foot fluorescent shop lights in my basement and garage.  They’re all hanging from chains and plugged into ceiling-mounted electrical outlets that are controlled by wall-mounted switches.  They frequently have to be replaced because the cheap magnetic T12 ballasts in them go bad.  On my last trip to buy a replacement I learned something I didn’t know and you may not either.  T12 ballasts and some fluorescent bulbs are being phased out in the U.S. next year (2012) because of higher energy efficiency standards, although some exceptions are being made for residential use.

I don’t know if the residential exceptions will allow you to continue buying cheap ($10) shop light fixtures.   I won’t be sorry to see them go because I’m tired of replacing them every 2 to 4 years.   I’d already seen the video above and had decided that I was going to start repairing my shop lights with T8 electronic ballasts.  So I came home from Home Depot with an $18 replacement ballast, a box of ten 32 watt T8 “daylight” bulbs and a new $30 T8 shop light fixture in case my repair failed.

Repair and upgrade was not that difficult

It wasn’t hard to repair my old shop light by replacing its T12 ballast.  But I’m not going to describe how to do it because if you don’t do it right you can turn your shop light into an electrical or fire hazard.  If you want to learn how then do a search for “T12 to T8 conversion” (without the quotes) and you’ll find many helpful web pages and videos.  But I will give you this advice:

  • Make certain you use the proper size wire nuts so there’s no chance your new connections will come apart.  Vibrations and temperature changes can cause poor connections to become loose.
  • Your new ballast will have to be attached and grounded to your light fixture using sheet metal or self-tapping screws.  Make certain they won’t come loose and you scrape the paint off the ballast underneath your screws so they will make a good electrical connection.
  • Make certain your power cord’s ground wire is also properly attached to the fixture.
  • And make certain you unplug your light before you start working on it 🙂

T8  Advantages

  • A 32 watt T8 bulb is slightly brighter than a 40 watt T12 bulb of the same kind.  I’ve begun buying “”Daylight” bulbs because they are much brighter than “standard” fluorescent bulbs and they also seem to make colors appear more accurate.  And because they use less power T8 bulbs also produce less heat.  Which can be an advantage in air conditioned environments.
  • Florescent bulbs dim over time and a T8 bulb won’t lose as much of its brightness as a T12 bulb will.    A T12 bulb will lose about 20% of its initial brightness and a T8 will only lose about 10%.
  • T12 lamps can flicker, hum and sometimes create a stroboscopic effect because they operate at low frequencies (120 or 100 Hz).  T8 lamps won’t because their electronic ballasts operate at much higher frequencies (20,000 Hz).
  • T8 ballasts can work at much lower temperatures than most T12 ballasts.

T8 Disadvantages

The only disadvantage I’ve seen so far is cost.  I don’t remember there being much of a difference (if any) in cost between T12 and T8 bulbs.  But T8 light fixtures seem to cost at least twice as much as T12 fixtures.  [Might still be true at Home Depot but Lowes sells a really nice T8 shop light for $15.]  I’m also concerned about how long their ballasts will last.

Random Quote

If you aren’t willing to work for it, don’t complain about not having it.

— Toby McKeekan