Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Broken Record

Unfortunately work and weather has limited my shop time. No more work on chain stays or the Path Racer - no more pictures for the moment - sorry.

But, my new Sapim spokes came in and I was able to finish lacing and truing the light-rando wheels. They look pretty good. With the weight coming in so low, I'm considering using velo-plugs instead of rim tape. They're supposed to reduce weight a bit. But, I'm wondering if a light tape (not rim tape) might accomplish the same thing. The low pressure tires don't work so hard on the spoke holes, and the spokes are sized so that they don't stick out past the nipples. So, I guess that its time to experiment and weigh (literally) the options.

The other big news is Craig's List. I've been watching it and eBay looking for a lathe and a drill press - not thinking that I could possibly buy both. I have a small counter-top drill press, but it isn't heavy enough for the table to hold an angle while I miter a tube (using Joe Bringheli's miter jig). I know that the jig works, because I used one in his shop on one of his drill presses. So that's want #1. Everywhere I look, anything that looks adequate is outside of my budget, considering I can continue mitering with a hacksaw, grinder & files. But, I have a good space for it in the shop.

A lathe is a beautiful thing. That's a famous saying (started by Darrell Llewllyn - a great frame-builder in Australia). Ultimately, what we need is like a 12-13" swing and 24-30" between centers. This allows one to mount a fork, and cut the crown race seat on the lathe, which is more accurate than using a hand seat cutter. But that's just one thing the lathe can do. It can be used to cut miters, with the right fittings it can be used as a small milling machine, one can turn down tubes, and make a variety of parts and tools.

A big lathe like that needs a lot of space, often takes a 240v circuit or even 3 phase 240v - which would mean rewiring the shop and getting a whole new feed & panel installed for the house. It'd probably cost a grand for an old one with a little life left for frame building - but $3,000 would probably be a better amount to invest. And, it'd be hard to move around or ship. Right now, that's not in the cards for me.

However, somebody right here in town, had a 6" and a 9" lathe for sale on Craig's List. The first is a Sears/Dunlap, the second is a Central Machinery (Chinese - not the best brand of same, IMHO). The prices seemed attractive, so I called and visited 'Otto' (his Craigslist name). Otto takes me down to the basement, and it turns out that he likes to 'putter'. In his shop he has a beautiful Southbend Heavy 10. Very nice!!!! But, he has a variety of tools he's collected and tuned up - for sale. In fact, we haven't even made it down the stairs and he asks if I'm interested in a drill press?

Now, aside from not being able to fit or afford a big lathe, I have no experience with a metal lathe and will have to learn to use one. My first goal is to turn down (thin or reduce the gauge) some tubing - maybe 6" long. The small lathe is plenty big for that. Plus to learn on and make some small fittings, maybe even some tools etc.

It's got a new motor, probably over-powered by the size. The beds look nice, and there doesn't appear to be any lash in the cross slide. No center for the tailstock, but two sizes of jacobs chucks (one may work on the headstock). No face plate or 3 jaw chuck, but a nice 4 jaw chuck. Not a lot of change gears, but I can fill them out over time from eBay. A few other little bits and such. All tuned up, fresh paint, mounted on a nice board. It's low speed isn't very low, but I can probably come up with countershaft and slow it down a bit - plus with the small swing, the speed of the face is already sorta low. Small enough for the garage shop or basement. Asking $350 - let's me know it's negotiable.

So we talk, and look at stuff and I ask about the drill press. It's out in the garage, we go back up stairs and its tucked in tightly between a big Buick and the wall. It's from Taiwan. I don't recognize the brand (which is Taiwanese), but it's a nice, heavy sturdy piece of iron. Not new, but obviously well cared for. Looks like the best I could find for much under a Grand (I see a big jump up from what is available for $300 and what's available for a grand - lots in between with very incremental improvement - but I may be proved wrong). Anyhow, this looks very cool.

I ask him how much for both the lathe and the drill press, he thinks and says how about $300? I was figuring he'd want $500 or more and I'd be stuck. But... for this price, how can I go wrong? The drill press obviously won't fit in my car, but he has a mini-van. So tomorrow, I'll become the owner of a nice drill press and a good small engine lathe. How cool is that? Well, unless you're a bike building geek like me, it might not seem all that hot. But believe me, in my world, this is a grand slam. Yipee!

Anyhow, I'll be busy but try to keep you all updated and get the Path Racer pictures up here soon. Cheers

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