Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Getting into bed

So, I can't remember if I've said this or not yet, but I scrapped the steel I-beam as a bed, it was too bowed, and wasn't going to deal with the torsional strain. I've changed to a metre-long piece of 75mm box-steel. This will deal much better with the torsional forces, and also I can fill it with concrete to add to the lathe's mass, always a good thing.

The problem with it is that it's not very flat. The biggest milling machine I could get my hands on had a maximum pass of 700mm, not long enough. So I have to do it by hand. I filed it back to get the longitudinal bow so common in box-section out, but it's still way off flat. I started scraping as per Gingery's instructions, but soon realised that it would take years to do it that way because of the amount of material that needed removing.

Then a thought occurred to me: why not use an angle-grinder? Just for roughing-in of course. I had a lot of material to remove, and wanted to get it close to flat, as close as possible. So, here's my method of roughing in. It's not finished yet, but I've done enough to see that the method has legs.

Lay your surface plate out (mine is the cold rolled steel that will one day be my ways). spread a thick layer of oil paint onto it, keeping it as even as possible.

Clean your steel and remove any burrs. Place the steel upside-down, very carefully, on the painted surface plate.

Do not apply pressure! It's cheating. Instead, gently push the steel forward a few centimetres, then pull is back again. Remove the steel and place it on your workbench. (Your workbench should be a good distance away from the surface plate to prevent grit landing on it.

Get out your angle grinder and make sure it has a grinding wheel in it. Now gently grind the spots with paint on them.

Rinse and repeat, taking a break every three or four passes.

A few important warnings:

Make sure your surface plate is well supported - mine wasn't, so I spent a good amount of time diligently ruining my own hard work. I fixed the problem, but am still trying fix the results of the problem.

Make sure you take those breaks - they're not for you, they're for the steel. You don't want the steel heating up too much, otherwise it will deform. Then you will be wasting effort on a bent piece of steel that will cool back to a different shape.

Make sure you clean the steel thoroughly before you put it on the painted surface plate - if there is any grit or burrs, it will render your markings meaningless.

Repeat this process until you have a pretty even spread of dots on the steel, reasonably close together. Once you have that, you can start scraping and it should be a lot faster.

1 comment:

  1. This is embarrassing...I just want to doubly stress the importance of making sure your surface plate is absolutely flat...