Poor Man’s Belt Grinder – Mark 2

As I was saying last time, I have given my belt grinder a complete overhaul.

Since now I knew that I can do it and it will work, I was not so stingy about spending money so I bought for about 50€ a few beech wood profiles 50×50 and 50×30 mm, some new ball bearings and a few other thing.

First thing I have done after that was to remove the belt support and compeltely dismantle the idler wheels. I have rebuild them. Instead of using threaded rods throughout I used about 100 mm length of a 10 mm rod on which I cut thread on the ends – on one side just about 1 cm each side . This has provided better fit with the inner opening of the ball bearings. I also shortened the inner spacer between the  ball bearings so that I can sink in the nuts inside so it and the rod are flush with the wheel edge.

This has allowed me to to fix the wheels on the future idler on only one side, so I fixed them perpendicular to 50×30 profile and after that I got distracted.


©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The distraction was the spanning wheel, which I did not intend to rebuild. But changing belts was a bit awkward – I had to pull on the lever with left hand and change the belt with the right hand. And I got an idea on how to improve that. So I have built out of plywood a gravity latch that falls into position when the lever is pulled beyond certain point. That frees both hands to put on the belt comfortably and without hassle. When the belt is on I lift the latch, the spring spans the arm and after I let go the latch end lays on the top of the spanning arm without restraining it.


©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

With that done I returned to the idler. Whilst I did spend some money on good materials, I did not spend too much time with planning except in my head. So I was still working by mostly piling stuff on other stuff making it up as I go along. I did not bother with precision too much and relied heavily on epoxy to fill any gaps and I added dovels and sometimes screws for strength

The only thing that I actually have spent some time to make precise was the parallelity of the wheels.

On the idler I prepared two screws with wing nuts for fixing the platen, and on the other side are two screws for fixing the support table (not seen here, but the positions are the pale circles in the lower half).

With that done I have cut two platens out of an old U profile that was rusting in my garden for years. Here is the final setup with all threee options visible. Left is setting for 20 cm hardbelt, middle 12 cm hardbelt, 10 cm slackbelt and right is 24 cm slackbelt.

Belt support options

©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

After this was done and tested – which I have done by truing the platens by alternating them as support/workpiece against each other on the grinder – I gave the whole thing a new coat of paint. The machine blue and the detacheable idler arm pale grey.

Belt grinder

©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Belt grinder

©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

It is Amazing how a simple paint can improve the looks of things, isn’t it? I am glad to say that it all works as intended.

Next step is to make second detacheable arm with changeable wheels of different diameters, for hollow grind an fullers.

Making a Rondel Dagger – Part 4 – Hardening

Today, after finishing with my bonsai trees for now, I got an hour or so to use and get a shot at hardening the blade.

I was so stressed from working almost non-stop the whole weekend and trying to manage to replant all my outdoor bonsai trees that I forgot to take pictures of the process and only could take pictures afterwards. So here is a picture of my setup. I was hardening two blades.

Blade hardening setup

Blade hardening setup.

Slight  contrast with Marcus’s fully equipped workshop I guess :-). On the right is gas mini-forge where a future kitchen knife was heated up most of the time, on the left is a charcoal fire between fireclay bricks for the dagger and in the middle is quenching oil. This is the main reason why I cannot harden blades in bad weather – I have to go outside to do it.

And here are the blades after hardening and before tempering, covered in burned oil and, in the case of the dagger, slag and scale.

Blades after quench.

Blades after quench.

I am not all together sure It was a complete success. I am sure it was a 50% success. I definitively successfully hardened the kitchen knife. Which is slightly strange, because the kitchen knife is made from N690 steel that is allegedly difficult to harden in impromptu settings, whereas the dagger is simple carbon steel that should have been easy-peasy. The kitchen knife is completely without deformation, the dagger got a very slight bend that I was able to correct after tempering the blades in kitchen oven at 150°C for an hour. In fact, it was maybe too easy to correct. File skids on the kitchen blade like on glass, but it is possible to make a shallow bite with it into the dagger.

The problem might be that I tried to coat the dagger with an experimental anti-scaling solution that unfortunately did not work as intended. Back to the drawing board there I guess. So it might be that the blade is hardened, but a few tenths of a mm on the surface have slightly lowered  carbon content due to decarburization. The N690 steel blade was not covered in the solution, but was covered with stainless steel foil that burned through towards the end.

I have no way to measure the hardness of the steel, and I am probably not going and try to re-harden the blade. I will proceed and we will see what comes out of it.

Making a Rondel Dagger – Part 1

When the weather is not suitable for work outside, I will make use of my belt grinder, now  Mark 2. So today I took another old file and I decided to make a dagger out of it. The inspiration is dagger used by Vesemir and Ciri in the game Witcher 3, but there will be some design changes even for the blade (less daggery, more knifey). I will post my progress, but beware that I am no expert, just a self-taught hobbyist goofing around. Risk of concussions from facepalming for any expert. You have been warned.

I started with an old file that I threw in the stove fire last year to soften the steel. I cleaned some of the rust on the belt grinder when I was testing the new design. But before proceeding I needed to make the tang slightly longer. So today I just made the tang more pointy and chamfered the edges. Then I took an old piece of round stock of structural steel, cut it lengthwise for a few cm and fitted it onto the file tang.


Old rusty file

Old rusty file

Chamfered file tang

Chamfered file tang

Fitted tang extension

Fitted tang extension

After that there came the trial by fire, or more precisely, electric arc. My first real welding. I admit I should have tried to simply weld scraps together a few more times before I try for something real. I should have. But learning skill on something that is subsequently thrown away simply is not me. I always try to learn on the real thing. Not smart, I know, but that is just me. I have already forced my self to try it once on scraps.

I must admit, I could not have done a better job. That is to say, the job is crap, but I lack the skill to do better. But it holds together even after grinding off the slag and rust from the whole thing. There are some visible slag inclusions in the weld, but it is definitively welded together and since it will all be hidden in the handle, I will not lose sleep over it. Hopefully no rampaging rhino will stamp on it and ruin it all.

Welded tang extension

Welded tang extension with slag.

File cleaned.

Cleaned and the tang ground to rough shape.

With that done I finally could do some work on the belt grinder. Since I do not have machinist’s blue, I used 1 cm thick blue marker to cover one side of the file. Then I have drawn the center line  and quarter marks using a steel ruler and a self-made steel marking needle. After that I ground the file into a symmetrical leaf shape. With that I was done for the evening and I will resume the work at some other random date.

ground basic blade outline

©Charly, all rights reserved.

Poor Man’s Belt Grinder – Mark 1

Belt Grinder

©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

This was the first iteration of my belt grinder. I built the whole thing out of scraps and it was completely ad-hoc process – piling stuff upon other stuff as it seemed appropriate at the moment. The base is a piece of thick particle board – specifically the piece I had cut out of new kitchen counter for the sink. Further I used a few other cuts of particle board I had lying around and an old 1,5 kW motor from old pump. The tracking wheel, the drive wheel and the platen I got from a cheapo 60,-€ belt grinder that I bought specifically for those – I expected it to be useless and I was correct. The guiding wheels I have built each out of two ball-bearings, a piece of threaded rod, a piece of metal tube as a spacer between those bearings and a stainless steel furniture leg as a shell. The furniture leg did not pass tightly over the ball bearings but I was lucky enough to find for 10,-€ a plastic tube that filled the difference perfectly. The guiding wheels were then fixed between two scraps of plywood together with the platen in hard belt + slack belt configuration.


©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The tracking wheel was a major headache for me. I had everything done but I still did not know how to do that part. As I was mulling it over in my head I got the idea one day whilst driving home from work. I have used a garden gate hinge (a new one, because there was no suitable one in my scrap pile) on which the wheel is fixed to the short wing and the longer wing can rotate. The angle between the hinge wings can be adjusted by a screw going through the long part and pushing against the part that holds the tracking wheel. The force for tension was supplied by a spring from an old bed. The spring ws too long so I had to bend it around a strange wheel of unknown origin.

It has worked reasonably well, after all I made two knives on it and I ground the basic shape of a machete. But mainly it was a proof that I can do this and that it will work. The machine as seen on these pictures does not exist anymore. I have completely rebuilt it and only the base and frame have stayed unchanged.

Roentgenizdat: Bone Music.

Example of an x-ray record (all photos courtesy X-Ray Audio Project/Paul Heartfield).

Example of an x-ray record (all photos courtesy X-Ray Audio Project/Paul Heartfield).

Several years ago, while poking around a flea market in St. Petersburg, musician Stephen Coates came across a record unlike any other he had ever seen. Rather than etched on vinyl, its tiny grooves were cut onto a medical X-ray, tracing shallow circles over the ghostly shapes of bones.

“I immediately knew I had to find out who made it, why they made it, and how they made it,” Coates told Hyperallergic in a recent phone interview. He soon realized that the 78 RPM he had purchased — a single of “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets — was just one of many strange, makeshift records created in the Cold War years of the Soviet Union. Produced and disseminated on an underground market to circumvent government control of culture, these flimsy sheets were known as roentgenizdat, or “bone music.”

Installation view of ‘Forbidden Music: X-Ray Audio in the USSR, 1946 – 1964’ at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

Installation view of ‘Forbidden Music: X-Ray Audio in the USSR, 1946 – 1964’ at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

Working with photographer Paul Heartfield, Coates has since established the X-Ray Audio Project, a multi-faceted endeavor to chronicle and share the history of roentgenizdat. The pair has released a book and documentary on their extensive research and have also organized a traveling exhibition. It is currently at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, where examples of the decades-old transparencies are on view along with documents and other ephemera that together tell the technical, cultural, and human stories of this particular form of audio. Visitors can also listen to digitized recordings of the bone music, which, like homemade mixtapes, are far from crystal clear.

An absolutely fascinating subject! Humans are utterly amazing in their ability to circumvent control, and there’s nothing like declaring something forbidden to bring out the creative rebellion in people. You can read and see much more at Hyperallergic. I would love to be able to see this show, if you have the chance, don’t miss it!

Adeline Harris Sears.

In 1856, a seventeen-year-old girl from Rhode Island embarked on a unique and brilliant quiltmaking project. The girl’s name was Adeline Harris and her project was to make a quilt incorporating hundreds of celebrity autographs. While signature quilts were nothing new, the contributions were typically sourced from within a small community, such as a church, and functioned to commemorate a single event, such as a birth or marriage — Adeline, however, had bigger ideas, her community as the notable figures of her day, her event the phenomenon of nineteenth-century celebrity. Although one might imagine Adeline dutifully lugging a quilt to all corners of the globe for the famous to adorn with their scrawl, her process was much more ingenious (and practical). She sent a small diamond of white silk in the post with an explanation of her project and a request that they send it back to her signed. The returned and now autographed fragments were then worked into the quilt as the “top” planes in a wonderful trompe l’oeil tumbling block design. The response she got to her unusual request was nothing short of phenomenal — she ended up incorporating 360 signed pieces in total, including those from such luminaries as Jacob Grimm, Alexander von Humboldt, Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Abraham Lincoln (one of eight American presidents represented). According to her grand-daughter the Lincoln signature was, due to a family connection, actually acquired in person, and Adeline was meant to have even danced with Lincoln at his inauguration ball. Many of the pieces included a short message in addition to the signature. The diamond from the poet and editor N. P. Willis includes the following (suggestive?) rhyme: “Dream what thou willst / beneath this quilt, / My blessing still is — Yours.”

You can read and see more of this quilt, and the brilliant Ms. Sears at The Public Domain.

Quilts: Tools For Resistance.

Yaneli Martinez, “Inequality 4 All”.

Yaneli Martinez, “Inequality 4 All”.

Jaquie Gering, “Veer”.

Jaquie Gering, “Veer”.

PASADENA, Calif. — “SHUT UP and Listen,” proclaims a quilt in bold, red letters. It shows a muted American flag, hung upside down on its phantom flagpole. The aggressive “SHUT UP” is rendered in darker red fabric, like oxidized blood. But the message softens with the word “Listen,” looped in beautiful script, using sweeter reds and an assemblage of floral, plaid, and paisley fabrics. The quilt is willing to have a conversation if I’m willing to hold my tongue.

Jessica Wohl’s quilt was just one of many beckoning calls to action at QuiltCon 2018, the Modern Quilt Guild’s annual convention, held at the Pasadena Convention Center late February. The guild launched in 2009, after quilters making innovative, nontraditional works began forming connections online and realized they weren’t alone in their experimentation. The guild has established chapters internationally, in which quilters come together and show their work, workshop new techniques, and build a community.

Embedded in this year’s quilt show, which featured over 350 works, were acts of protest. They carried messages like “strong women taught us to quilt…and to fight,” “rise up, resist,” and simply, “oh no.” Others depicted difficult, but insightful, interpretations of mass incarceration, police brutality, school shootings, and acts of terror. The need quilters have felt to channel their frustrations into their craft during Trump’s America was palpable. But the members of the Modern Quilt Guild are also continuing a very old tradition of using the quilt as a tool for resistance.

You can read and see much more at Hyperallergic. I wish I could have seen this show.

The Beauty and Art of Cells.

The Pancreatic Milky Way. By Jürgen Mayer, Centre for Genomic Regulation, Barcelona.

The Pancreatic Milky Way. By Jürgen Mayer, Centre for Genomic Regulation, Barcelona.

I’m a bit obsessed with cells at the moment, living in Cancerland will do that to a person. That said, our bodies are a wonder of microcosms, a universe we rarely think about or delve into with any true interest. Cell Picture Show has an astonishing range of cell images, from humans to plants to ocean to invertebrates. You can stay happily busy there for hours! And for all the textile artists out there, there’s a wealth of inspiration in the ‘Art Under The Microscope‘ section, where a textile artist has tackled various cell imagery:

Fire In Her Eyes, Rebecca Bernardos, University of Michigan Art Quilt by Judy Busby, Fiber Artists@Loose Ends.

Fire In Her Eyes, Rebecca Bernardos, University of Michigan
Art Quilt by Judy Busby, Fiber Artists@Loose Ends.

In this Picture Show, we continue the theme of beauty in science with artistic interpretations of scientific images. We partnered with the University of Michigan Health System to showcase a selection from the traveling exhibit Art Under the Microscope. Special thanks go to Fiber Artists@Loose Ends, UM Center of Organogenesis Bioartography Program, UMHS Gifts of Art Program, and Global Alliance for Arts and Health.

The zebrafish retina, unlike its human equivalent, is capable of regenerating in response to injury. Learning how zebrafish produce new photoreceptors, which are the light-detecting cells in the eye, may provide clues for designing therapies to reverse retinal degeneration in humans as a treatment for blindness.

Image: (Left) A section of the zebrafish retina is shown. The red feather-like cells are the photoreceptors, and the nuclei are marked in blue. (Right) Artist’s rendering using hand-sewn sequins to represent the bands of nuclei and red fabrics and handmade paper to depict the photoreceptors.

So, if you’re an artist, take some inspiration from ourselves, and the world around us, on a cellular level. If you just like looking at amazing and beautiful things, this is a place for you!

Cell Picture Show.

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber (1420).

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber,  Book of warfare devices, is a fascinating and absorbing inventor’s notebook. The title was bestowed by someone else, and it’s misleading as to the contents, which cover a very wide range of ideas.

Sometimes we try to invent something new by exploring within the bounds of what is known to be possible, and sometimes we invent by expanding those limits. For an imaginative engineer in the early fifteenth century — working more than two hundred years before the discoveries of Newton — the process of invention would be often a curious mix of the two. You would know so little about mechanical force that you could conjure up almost anything and believe it to be practical. Of course, attempts to bring the designs to reality would often fail, but they might, on occasion, also succeed.

Suppose for a moment that you were such a person possessing a talent for gadgets in the early fifteenth century, or an engineer hoping to build marvelous machines and clever structures no one else had yet dreamed of — how would you go about showing your talents? And what if you were someone who wanted to own wonderful and mysterious devices, such as a prince — how would you find the person who could make these things? A remarkable testimony to this meeting of engineering skill, technological ignorance, individual initiative, and public demand can be found in the Bavarian State Library, in the sketchbook of an Italian inventor of the early fifteenth century. It is a volume of sixty-eight drawings advertising the inventions that Johannes (or Giovanni) de Fontana (ca. 1395–1455), who was both the engineer and the artist, hoped to sell to patrons. Thought to have been created sometime between 1415 and 1420, the work has no title by Fontana that has survived, but a later owner gave it the title Bellicorum instrumentorum liber — the Book of Warfare Devices — despite the fact that most of it does not concern military matters.

This is an absorbing insight into thought, knowledge, and the desire to create, and you can see the whole thing here, or see selected bits along with text at The Public Domain.

Diabolus artificiosus, artificial devil.

Diabolus artificiosus, artificial devil.

Heilender Baum, Healing Tree.

Heilender Baum, Healing Tree.

Dollar Bill Origami: Multiple Bill Folds.

From Kestrel: These need at least six dollar bills to find. The first two need 8 dollar bills, the last ones need 6. I did the third one with the bills facing one way for one, and with the bills facing the other way for the other one. That one is called an “umulius”.  Click for full size!

© Kestrel, all rights reserved.