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Today's todo list [Feb. 19th, 2011|10:38 pm]
Doug Ayen
I started this morning by writing down some things I wanted to get done. Accomplishments today:

*Measured and bought wood for a bar top and backer for the pot rack

Since the kitchen remodel last year, I've been wanting to do two things: top off the half-wall in the kitchen with something to turn it more into a bar/extra countertop, and remount the pot rack on something to move it a bit farther away from the wall. There's a store that opened up about a year ago just around the corner that specializes in local woods, and I paid them a visit today. After looking at their selection, and reluctantly passing on the natural-edged walnut (wouldn't match anything, and I didn't see anything I really liked enough for the price) and selected a nice chunk of 2" x 14" soft maple for the countertop. I had them plane it down for me to remove the saw marks, but there's still some cleanup work needed. I also picked up a nice 4" piece of 4/4 maple for the pot rack, which I'm thinking of using in two sections -- one to back the rack, and another a few inches below to keep the pots/pans from damaging the wall. It all fit in the Mini, much to the surprise of the shop's assistant. I found out the store also keeps scraps and interesting cuts of wood in a loft, some of which (figured and crotch walnut, wormy chestnut, osage orange) might be handy for knifemaking.

*Setup bandsaw

Last week, I received the metal-cutting bandsaw I ordered a while ago. Nothing special, just a generic made-in-China bit of shop equipment, handles 4" x 6" in theory. I went with this model as it claimed a 3/4hp, 4.5 amp motor, whereas most other saws in its price range were 1/3" hp. While I take horsepower claims from anyone other than Baldor with a grain of salt, since I want to cut some pretty significant chunks of steel (wootz cakes, 2.5" diameter bars of tool steel, 1" dia. pattern welded bars, etc) I thought the extra horsepower might come in handy.

The instructions were pretty bare -- after 2 pages of warnings, safety notices, and so on, there were two lines on assembly: attach the legs and adjust the blade tension. Sadly, in addition to the legs that needed attaching, there was also about 30 more parts, including a bunch of bolts, screws, nuts, washers, and lock washers. The exploded diagram was sufficient for me to figure out where all but 5 washers, a screw and matching nut, and a bracket went. I suppose I'll eventually figure out those as well. After oiling and greasing all the moving parts, I plugged it in and turned it on. It seems to work. Onward!

*Spark test and section/etch wootz

First, I selected from the scrap pile a piece of wrought iron (0 carbon), cast iron (~3-5% carbon) and 1095 (~.95% carbon), and did a spark test of the (hopefully) wootz cake I made a few weeks ago. Using the other iron alloys as benchmarks, I loaded in a 36 grit belt and fired up the grinder, comparing the sparks. Judging by the spark patterns and intensity, it was very close to the 1095, perhaps a bit brighter and with more intense bursts -- just about right, I think.

Since I finally had the saw up and running, I clamped the wootz cake into the vice, changed the blade on the saw to the coarse (6-10) blade, and let it rip. It cut a bit, but slowly, and after about half an inch, the blade broke. I'd heard that the blades that came with these imports were crap, but I'd bought an additional bi-metallic blade when I'd bought the saw. It also broke. On inspection, they both broke at the weld.

Now, I consider myself a craftsman. Craftsmen, I have heard, don't blame their tools when things go wrong. That said, these blades, as far as I can tell, shouldn't have broken. So, I just ordered some Lenox blades from MSC. Hopefully, with those, I'll be able to section this, polish, and etch, and see if I have wootz, or just some very-expensive-to-make high carbon steel. Still, I can't say I didn't try, and only stopped once I ran out of options.

Change out pulley on grinder
When last I used the grinder, I tried to change out the small drive pulley for the larger, faster one, only to discover the set screw that held it in had frozen in place. A coupe of weeks ago, I hit it with some Kroil, which seems to have done the trick -- the screw loosened, the pulley came off, and the larger one installed. Everything got a good coat of anti-sieze, just for good measure. A bit of adjustment, and I was set to go on the grinder.

*Finish rough grinding on titanium kitchen knife #1

After trying to get a bit more mileage out of the old belt by using a belt cleaner, a bit of abrasive to clean the titanium out of the pores of the belt, and not having much luck, I switched in a new belt. It made an amazing difference. After spending a good half hour earlier on the old belt without making much progress, 15 minutes with the new belt finished the rough grinding. With the cold shuts and forging marks removed, the knife still seems workable, so I will proceed and finish off the blade, hopefully before the "Fire and Brimstone" hammer-in next month. I think it needs to go back into the forge one last time -- removing the metal and oxidation on the surface allowed the internal stresses in the blade to cause a bit of warping and twisting, which I'd like to take out before finishing the grinding, and I think I made the handle too long, and I want to adjust that as well. Still, it's coming along nicely, and even if it's not perfect, I didn't really expect perfection out of a first attempt at working a new material.

Overall, a nicely productive day. Now to deal with the sore muscles. I'm thinking hot bath and some nice whiskey.