Sometimes when I’m working on a project, I just can’t seem to get the right parts at the right time. I got all the Kee clamps [sb] to build the first (welding) table, but I kept ordering the wrong size connectors for the grinder/assembly table.
Finally, I got it all together. Assembling stuff with Kee clamps is interesting – you cut your parts then sort of tinker-toy everything together, then rap it into balance with a few blows from a hammer, and tighten it all down with a hex-wrench in a ratchet. It sounds easier than it is; the pipes don’t have a lot of “give” in them so you have to hold the cross-members in place while you’re assembling risers – it’d be easy with two people.
I used galvanized steel conduit, 1 1/2″ (which is nominally 1 1/4″ clamp size, because – ARRGH!) the whole frame weighs about 150lb and it ought to be able to support several tons. The cross-brace is for two purposes: 1) to tie-wrap power wires to, to keep them out of the way 2) to keep the table from vibrating at all. Since I’m going to have grinders bolted to the table-top, I don’t want anything to move.
So the top wouldn’t ride on the edges of the clamps, I routed back the wood so the weight will rest on the tubes not the clamps. This is the plywood layer; on the top I added an entire bottle of gorilla glue, then a 3/4″ oak veneer plywood sheet, weighted it down with lead bricks, clamped it, and let it cure.
Trim! Because, why not? I’m probably going to be rubbing up against that edge a lot and I don’t want raw plywood.
My grandfather had a great trick for finishing a workbench: you melt a bunch of beeswax with some turpentine (about 50/50) then just paint it on while it’s hot. It instantly soaks in and seals the top. That’s the recipe for “butcher’s wax” by the way – that smell is immediately familiar. If you buy it in the can, you’re looking at two cans to finish a workbench, or you can use $4 worth of beeswax and a paintbrush.
One thing to remember: when you’re melting beeswax (fuel) in turpentine, you’re vaporizing flammable stuff into a little cloud around you. You don’t want to have open flames while you’re doing this. So, I turned the reddi-heater off so it wasn’t blasting a great jet of flame right at where I was about to start pouring hot turpentine.
Yeah, if you figured out what was going to happen, you’re smarter than I am. I poured the molten wax/turpentine mixture on the below-freezing surface of nearly two inches of wooden thermal mass, and it instantly set up into goop. Not a lot of soaking in going on there. But, actually, that’s OK. It’ll get up to about 80 in the summer, and I’ll have the forge burning, so eventually it’ll melt in. In the meantime, I just don’t care.
The thing that’s neat about this finishing technique is that anything – paint, glue, blood, whatever – just scrapes off with a scraper. Once you’ve got the finish done you can touch up any spots with canned butchers’ wax if you care – or scrape the surface down every couple years and re-wax it.
Hit it with a scraper, and it’s glassy smooth. All the pores and grain are sealed.
The welding bench is taller than the grinder bench; I’ll probably be working with stuff that I want a bit closer to my chest. Then I dragged the 4′ x 4′ 3/8″ steel plate bench-top across the building and somehow levered it up onto the bench. Because I added the trim, it doesn’t fit flush, which is fine – I want a slight overhang on two side so I can clamp under it, if I want to, or if I’m cutting I’m away from the wood. I’m not sure where the plate is going to wind up, exactly. It’s not as though I have to bolt it down.
The box in the middle of the bench is a 4-outlet electrical box. I haven’t hooked up the power, yet, but I’m going to run a conduit up to another box in the ceiling, and drop power down to it. There’s a hole in the bottom of the box, through the top of the bench, and I’m going to have a power bar hard-mounted to the underside of the bench. I don’t expect I’ll be drawing a lot of power, but I want to have plenty of outlets and I want them protected from whatever comes their way.
The grinder bench has a 4′ x 4′ 1/2″ polypropylene butcher’s block on half of it, for assembly/clean work/stuff I don’t want to get scratched. The other half will have the grinder (mocked up in position) and vice (on the corner at camera right) I am not sure yet what else is going to go where. Since everything is going to be bolted down I want to think pretty hard about not blocking any of my work-angles.
Next week the propane company is dropping off the tank, and by then I ought to have the grinder rigged up. It’s going to take some wiring; I have a foot-switch I aim to mount on the floor and I’m going to have to wire that and make a dust deflector to keep grind-matter from falling into the switch – worst case scenario, I may just zip tie plastic bags over the switch.
There’s really not much more to do; hook up the electric to the bench, bolt down and wire the grinder, hook up the propane, and set up and aim the ceiling spotlights.
Oh, right: safety gear. I need to make myself a shop apron; I’ve got some nice leather and I’m trying to decide if I should back it with kevlar or not. I’ve got a breath mask, a couple face shields, gloves, etc. One trick I learned working in darkrooms a lot: have safety gear by each work station. That way, it’s always right there and you don’t ever have the temptation to go “screw it, I’m not walking across the room just to get gloves, I’ll just pour this concentrated nitric acid really carefully … oops.” (by the way, the Kimble/Contes polyurethane-coated glass reagent bottles: they are great)
First projects in the queue: get the welder set up and in operation. I have some steel plate and an I-beam that I want to make into a grinder-stand for my old sanding drum that I use to shape handles. Then, I want to make a welded iron picture frame for a painting Caine gave me. I have plans in my head for a sharpening/polishing bench for my wet-stones (that I can take home and set up on the porch in the summer, so I can spend an hour or so every evening polishing blades and scaring the deer)
I have also been designing a rolling press, which I’m trying to get the guys at the machine shop in Clearfield to help me with. If I can make a working rolling press, that’ll be a game-changer for small-lot damascus forging. Some of the work-arounds I’ve come up with make me absurdly happy – I just hope they work!