Archive for category metalworking

Vanagon – one more hatch ladder/tire carrier

I’m rushing to finish this one so I took some pics while I still had the presence of mind to do so. Shooting into the sun and using the iPad, not the best formula. 

Still prototyping and fooling around. This one has more rungs. Perhaps more than you need but the request was for a tire carrier that might at some time be used just as a ladder. The tire carrier unit clamps onto a pair of the rungs, but only at one location.

That’s a stock 14″ rim on there, just to give an idea of where wheel sits.



Polish dividing head

workplace purchase from recent auction at local metal work da Tory that went out of business, Ramsey Machine Works. No keen competition on the bidding on this item, I think we got it’d for 175 bucks. It looks like a very close copy of a cincinatti dividing head. It’s heavy, I can’t easily lift it and it take two to place it on the mill without bursting a gut. 

Branded as Huta, nothing on the net about it, but the company was, or still is, an arms maker. Has the cool inner ring mechanism that I think makes 400,000 possible circle divisions. 

I’ve used it already to make product. Cut the machining time down for a particular operation by… Well what took me an hour with my cobbled together jig now takes 20 minutes.

All old school stuff but so very cool. Btw, I just cleaned it up enough to use. Still needs some spit and polish ( no pun intended) but I don’t think I will be taking it completely apart any time soon.



Vintage shaper

Got this beauty for scrap metal prices. It’s old, how old? I don’t know but I would guess early 20th century. It’s a little rusty but everything moves and I think I can get some flat belts, a sturdy electric motor and have it running. Even if it is only used to cut internal key ways it will pay for itself with the first job.



Taiwanese copy of a Kurt vise

An old rusty bit of hardware was plopped in my lap the other day. It’s a STM CH-6 milling vise. Pretty well a direct copy of a Kurt. I didn’t think to take pictures of the state it was in when i got it, but did get some pics of the guts of the beast.

The claim to fame of the Kurt vide is the little gizmo in the sliding jaw that causes that jaw to push down when tightened on the workpiece. Kurt calls this “Anglok”. Here is a link to a pdf file of a Kurt vide that shows the Anglok feature.

Now the STM I was cleaning up does not exactly copy the Kurt, but does have the “Anglok” feature. Ok, now onto the pics…

The underside, yes it is a big bugger.


Yeah, I know most of you don’t have a clue what this next pic is showing.  The underside of the sliding jaw showing the depression where the hemispherical part fits. This is the key of the “Anglok” idea.




Aforementioned hemisphere.



Movable jaw removed. Look at the casting at the end of the screw, you can kinda imagine it has an angled face on the underside. That angled face presses on the flat side of the hemisphere. Also note the rust etching on the ways, where the jaw had been parked. The vide was sitting outside, getting oh so rusty.


At the handle end of the screw there is a thrust bearing.


Oh this pic shows an allen key in the set screw that adjusts the free play on the “Anglok” system.


All cleaned up. apart from the rust, there was a lot of congealed cutting fluid and chips to get rid off. I was surprised that hit cleaned up as nicely as it did. It works smoothly, nice vise.



Vanagon – The “Swellegant” subwoofer

If your are sipping your coffee or any other beverage as you read this, please swallow what you have in your mouth and put the cup down. I’m not taking responsibility for any spit takes that might happen when you see what I made.

It started a couple of months ago when I was fooling around with some scrap aluminum and the TIG torch. I was adjusting the welding machine settings and rod size seeing what effect various changes had on welding outside corners. As I welded bits together I realized I could make a box of sorts and that would provide good practice on the seams. Well, i made the box, enclosed on 5 sides and I looked at it… what if I make it into a subwoofer enclosure?

3/16″ thick aluminum is not what springs to mind to use to make a speaker box, but what the heck eh? I had a pair of 12″ speakers in the garage, no idea what make, and I decided to use one as a sub. I added the 5th side to the box, actually pieced together from 4 bits, and cut a hole for the speaker. And why not four bits of tubing for legs? This was going to be a down firing sub. Oh and it was going to be a sub that paid very little attention to volumes, Q factors, etc, etc.

I drilled and tapped holes to screw the speaker to the box, than I made a grill from some 1/4″ square section material. The grill pleased me, stiffer than I expected. And just because I worried about how to secure the beast in the van, I welded on a couple of half moon bits to have something to attach a strap or something.

Ok, so it looked kinda bare. But I was recently given some leather so I thinks to myself “a leather pad thing on top would gussy it up some”. I cut a square of leather, a round of sleeping pad type foam, and some canvas as backing. I sewed it all together (and I found that difficult, only sewn a little bit of leather before and never saddle stitched) and attached it to the box with a leather thong.

And now it looks like some sort of industrial ottoman or commode. Go on, look at the pictures and laugh, I’m used to it now.

(Looking inside you might be able to see some dampening pads stuck on the walls)




Yes, the sides are curved. Same scrap material that I made the underbody protection plate  with.


Paper cone and still in one piece.


So how to power this thing? My head unit has 2 channel sub out jacks and I knew I had a spare amplifier in the workshop. An amp that was bridgeable so I could lead 2 channels in and have one channel (mono) out. I couldn’t find the damned amp, I searched high and low. Found all kinds of things (previous posts) but no amp. Good friend Stephen took pity on me and gave me an amp he had lying around. Nice old amp, a Blaupunkt 4 channel unit.


It was not bridgeable, but it excited me. The existing stereo set up in the van consisted of a Pioneer DEH-P5000 head unit feeding an Alphasonik PMA-2030 amp (not bad vintage amp) under the driver’s seat. That amp powered the front door speakers, Boston Acoustics Rally (model number forgotten) 6″ mid in lower part of door and tweeter up behind stock speaker grill. Oh and those are fed via some separate BA crossovers. Back in the rear overhead cabinet are a pair of 4″ pioneer speakers, powered directly from head unit.

I decided to pull the Alphasonik amp (not bridgeable) and use the Blaupunkt to power the front and the rear speakers. Was a little bit of a pain to do that, but I did manage to reduce the tangle of wires behind the dash (I can’t really fault the previous owners of the van, stereo installs seem to bring out the slipshod in all of us) and I squeezed the amp up on the crossmember behind the glove compartment.

That all worked well. When I say well I mean the stereo system still worked. But I don’t have my sub installed! Where the heck is that lost amp?

I found it the other day, not far from where it was supposed to be. It had fallen, or was placed (yeah, by me) in a box of fibreglass cloth and was covered by same. Callooh callay! I cried (no, I didn’t) when I found it. Some futzing and farting around and it was installed under the driver’s seat and finally my sub made noise. And what kind of noise? Well, a kind of thumping booming noise. It does pump out the bass, it does make things rattle, and once I fiddled with the sub woofer settings on the head unit (low pass and high pass filter adjustment) it sounded rather ok. I don’t think it is as tight or as controlled as a subwoofer should be, but considering everything about it, it is acceptable.

I have it connected to the amp via an RCA jack so it is easily disconnected and removed from the van. Right now it sits behind the passenger seat, but I can extend the cord and I might try other placements.

Oops, forgot, I made a quick sketch of the stereo system layout. Note the connections between head unit and both amps are via RCA jacked lines.

sound sysytem


Vanagon – syncro – more underbody protection update

I’m trying to keep the momentum going, really I am. Over the last couple of days I got some work done on the side plate. The last post had me with the welded up, wavy and bent,skid plate. Now i had to mount it under the van. I didn’t think long and hard, but this is what I came up with.

A bit of 1″ X 0.25″ stainless flat bar cut up into 5 pieces, nominally 2″ long. Very nominally as I used a Zip disk in an angle grinder and I am notoriously bad at cutting a straight line.


As each bit was more or less 2″ i marked out hole locations from one end. I used a blue Sharpie as lay-out dye. You can barely see the scratches of location the hole positions.


I feel presumptuous to lecture on how to do this kind of thing. I really am a ham fisted metal worker. I say that with no false modesty because I have seen what real metal workers can do.  But allow me to go through the steps I take and maybe some of you might find something I say useful.

I scratched out the hole locations using my digital callipers. Then I centre punched on location using a cheap optical centre punch purchased from Lee Valley, direct link here. Then I like to make the punch mark a little larger with a regular punch. After that I drill pilot holes using a small bit, something less than 1/8″. The reason for that is the thin bit catches and hangs on to the punch mark better than a larger sized bit. I have the workpiece on the drill press table held in my hand. Allows the workpiece to move around a bit to get aligned. With a small bit there is little chance the drill will spin the workpiece around and gash your hand. With the size of holes I am drilling here, the next drilling step is the full sized hole. I’m drilling for a 1/4″X20 tapped hole and so I would be using a #7 drill bit (or something like 5.01mm). I put the part in a drill press vice for this drilling.

Now I try, in this blog at least, to avoid absolutes. But I am telling you now something you should heed. When drilling in stainless steel your drill bits have to be sharp and of good quality. Really, any other bits are just the road to perdition. What ever country of origin you like your bits to be from, buy the best you can. I think at one time nothing could beat US made made twist drill bits. But there are excellent bits from Australia, the UK, and Europe. Price is the discriminating factor, buy the most expensive you can find. It really is false economy to buy cheap bits (unless all you drill is wood).

A good resource for basic and advanced metalworking is Mrpete222 on YouTube, here is the link. And learn to sharpen your bits, might take some time, and god knows it took a good time for me to learn, but you can freehand sharpen bit larger than 1/8″ with good results. When drilling stainless a sharp bit is mandatory. If you see the bit is not cutting stop immediately and change out bits or sharpen. I use cutting oil, the sulphated kind, when machining stainless, I’d say it was mandatory to use cutting oil unless your only going through thin stock and then heading right over to the TIG welder and don’t want any contaminants.

Enough of the lecture, back to the project. The holes drilled then on to tapping. Same advice for taps, buy the best you can, cheaper taps work ok in soft metal, but in stainless and the like you need the best quality.


Poor pic of tap starting in hole.


Then i held the parts in the vice and wailed on them with hammer to make a slight bend.


The threaded stainless tabs connect the new plate to the existing propshaft plate. I had to make the holes in both plates elongated to give me wiggle room to get things in place. And remember the new plate is curved and needed a bit of persuasion to get in place. I snapped this pic tonight, in the dark. The vertical part of the plate has not been fixed to the frame rail, it needs to be pushed up about an inch. but believe it or not, as is, it is quite secure and stiff.



I’ll get better pics tomorrow when i fix the outboard side to the frame rail.





Vanagon – more underbody protection

What am I doing screwing around with another project when I have a couple of unfinished ones on my plate? Well it’s just that yesterday’s propshaft protection plate build got me all hot and bothered to add at least one extension to the side. To the right hand side of the propshaft, between the skid rail and the frame rail, the coolant lines, the heater lines, and most importantly the shift linkage are exposed. You all know, but I’ll repeat, the shift linkage is protected by a tube on 16″ syncros, regular syncros with the bad road package, and ’91 (maybe ’90 too?) syncros in North America at least. The tube protects a couple of the joints in the linkage and I think that is a very good thing. In the winter I have had slush and ice build up on the linkage such that the van becomes hard to shift. Rather than try and reproduce the stock protection tube I thought that a plate over that entire section would be the ticket.

I needed a bit of stock roughly 11″ X 53″. I couldn’t find anything in the scrap pile that size so I had to do it the long way. Got these cut offs, bent, 3/16″ 5052 aluminum.

Photo 10-31-2013, 10 28 38 AM

I cut them up.

Photo 10-31-2013, 10 44 17 AM

Then tacked them together. I welded a length of 1/4″ X 2″ 6061 along one side, welded out full on the concave side, then back gouged the convex side.

Photo 10-31-2013, 12 35 00 PM

Welded out those grooves and ground the welds flush. The welded up assembly, and no points for guessing this, did take a curve. I laid a little beatin’ on it but accepted the wow. I think I can make it work for me and pull it out somewhat in the install. Is that my thumb in shot? I was using the iPad to take the pics, left my point and shoot camera at home.

Photo 10-31-2013, 3 37 01 PM

Clamped it in place on the van, to see what’s what. BTW, my welding was shit today. I had a lot of oxides bubbling up, never did get in my groove. Maybe it was the old stock I was using or maybe I was not on the ball.

Photo 10-31-2013, 4 43 25 PM (HDR)

Photo 10-31-2013, 4 43 45 PM

The outboard edge will sit a little higher on the frame rail, I just couldn’t clamp it that way. You know, the curves in the beast makes it stiffer than you’d expect. Now I have to make a few tabs to mount the inside edge to the propshaft protection plate, and I’ll bolt the outside vertical section to the frame rail (there are holes already in the frame that I can use).