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Author Topic: Back to basics.  (Read 3732 times)
Dr cornelius quack
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« on: March 10, 2010, 06:20:27 pm »

Here' a thread for you to set down your candidate for an essential item of maker gear that should be part of a basic toolkit for those learning the ropes.

Suggested by a little altercation elsewhere.

Please keep it to one item per post, but feel free to wax lyrical about the benefits of your chosen thingy.

I'll start by nominating the humble 'Cutting Mat.'
Those simple green plastic pads with the measurements and grid lines marked on them that sit on your bench and act as a protective surface for using a craft knife.

Why are they so good?

They stop your nice table top ending up looking like a butchers block.
They provide a degree of friction to the workpiece to stop it sliding about.
They self heal so you don't keep having to replace them.
They give a kindly surface for your knives so they don't blunt so quickly when making 'through cuts'.
You can put standard marks on the thing to speed up repetative cuts.

Right, next.

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« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2010, 06:26:52 pm »

A vice (a small one which clamps to the worktop is fine) preferably with a set of soft (e.g. lead) covers for the jaws.

If you can hold your work still it is easier to saw, dremel, carve,plane, shave,  scribe, solder, braze or glue etc.   Little ones are cheap and fit into the bottom of a small toolbox.  Indespensible but I often seem to leave mine clamped somewhere and regret not having it with me.
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Mr. Boltneck
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« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2010, 06:50:29 pm »

Jeweler's saw, and a few different sizes of blades. If you can learn the basics of using one, along with a bench pin (makable from scrap wood), you can fabricate all kinds of things in sheet metal, tubing, bone, etc. I use mine a great deal. Use beeswax or light oil or some other lubricant on the blade.
If you are skeptical of what one of these simple tools can help you accomplish, take a look at some traditional Hopi or Navajo silver work. I've seen some old showoff pieces by Hopi smiths, where silver dollars and Mercury dimes had the negative spaces minutely cut away around the main figures.
More to the point on this board, watchmakers and clockmakers used to use these a great deal.
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ironwood
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« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2010, 07:38:22 pm »

A good set of Heavy Duty Hand Needles, usally come in an assortment of 7. 

I have used these for sewing cotton cloth to leather.  I have even created an awl out of one of the broken needles and a piece of dowel (Waste not, want not), which and punch a hole in thin sheets of soft wood. 
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Gozdom
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« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2010, 09:02:59 pm »


Please keep it to one item per post, but feel free to wax lyrical about the benefits of your chosen thingy.


Good topic, but that's not exactly what emerged in the other one. I said it may be helpful to assemble a starter kit, or a list of suggestions for beginners. This will certainly be on my radar, but I'm afraid no one will post "sandpapers", because its a humble unnoticed item of a workshop, even though essential. Moreover, it'd grow 40 pages until the kit is done. So please forgive for posting more than one, by copying it over:

I'll try to enumerate what I started with (right into brass/woodworking). Many pieces were left from scale modelling, others from round-the-house repairs and general household.

- Soldering set (cheap, low watt)
- Saws: wood, metal and a small all-purpose hacksaw, this I used most
- Power drills: a battery-op screwdriver (suited for small-scale drilling too) and a larger one (this I had for drilling holes in the wall)
- Jigsaw
- Drill bits
- Set of small files, sets of sandpaper, rasps, steel wool
- Pliers, wirecutter, shears. Shears must be of quality, otherwise you're going to suffer. Expensive, unfortunately.
- Punch
- Hammers: small, large, rubber
- Screwdrivers, large and small, wrenches
- Car battery charger for etching
- Measurement tools
- Set of knives (xacto and others)
- Set of circular saws
- A really small vise. This has limited my shop's capacity until I acquired a large one. Vises are remarkably expensive. Also: clamps.
- Chemicals, these are mostly for brass
- Paints, varnishes
- Glues: wood, superglue, universal power glue

Surely I forgot some, but that's about it, without materials, raw (sheets, pipes etc) and flea market finds. Fortunately, the workshop has expanded since, but there is definitely a minimum equipment. A solution might be limiting your projects: if you focus on wood, and only use ready-made or easily cut metal parts, you can do without some.
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Dr cornelius quack
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« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2010, 09:56:36 pm »

Hmm. OK.
I was kind of intending that each item should have some pointers as to why you consider it an essential and maybe some tips on usage.
We've had lots of lists before.

Me, I'd be happy to get another perspective on, if not just sandpapers, but maybe abrasives as a whole. It's a subject that puzzles newcomers, Which type to use for what material and so forth.

Like, for instance, do people know that when you use a 'wet and dry' type paper with water, the worn down grit forms a fine paste on the surface that acts as a lapping medium to give a finer surface finish?

Just a thought.

Next.
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Gozdom
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« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2010, 10:31:07 pm »


Like, for instance, do people know that when you use a 'wet and dry' type paper with water, the worn down grit forms a fine paste on the surface that acts as a lapping medium to give a finer surface finish?


Good point. However, the thread started with a newcomer calling himself "dirt poor", which probably means the low-end papers, unsuitable for wet use. Mind you, when we have the starter kit, we may look up the price tags too. I estimate about 300 $ if everything is bought new.
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greensteam
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« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2010, 10:39:23 pm »

I dont drive, which Gozdom surely must, so I have two toolkits: a heavy duty home one which lives in a massive ammo chest I bought in Cyprus in 1980. that has all the big things and powered things.

I also have a small kit for taking to events, like the Asylum, or local GUeSS nights. This contains cheap n nasty hand tools and lives in a dirt cheap n nasty plastic tool box. The main compartment contains:
Box set of scalpels (£1)
Box set of wood drill bits (£1)
Clamp (from broken anglepoise)
Hammer
Junior hacksaw and blades (£2)
Stanley knife
Snippy pliers (£1)
Long nose pliers (£1)
hand drill (£8)
Sand papers
ruler
Film cannisters with white pva glue.

Top tray contains:
small files (£1)
Small screwdriver (from cracker)
Penknife
Humbrol paints (absurdly expensive)
paintbrush (10p)
nuts, bolts, odds and ends of posible use or decorative, leds, batteries, torch in the shape of a cow, pen, pencil

I can do nearly anything I am likely to want to do with this, apart from hotglueing or soldering. Note that a lot of the items came from Poundland, so that if some meanie nicks them or I dumbly leave them somewhere, i am not heartbroken at their loss.
 Good thinbgs like planes and proper chisels etc never leave the home.
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greensteam
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« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2010, 10:42:34 pm »


Like, for instance, do people know that when you use a 'wet and dry' type paper with water, the worn down grit forms a fine paste on the surface that acts as a lapping medium to give a finer surface finish?


Good point. However, the thread started with a newcomer calling himself "dirt poor", which probably means the low-end papers, unsuitable for wet use. Mind you, when we have the starter kit, we may look up the price tags too. I estimate about 300 $ if everything is bought new.

If our putative enquirer is actually dirt poor then Poundland (or foreign equivalents) can probably set you up nicely for about £20 including a toolbag. However, it will almost certainly be necessary to go several times to find all the items as their stock varies so often.
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Dr cornelius quack
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« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2010, 10:54:36 pm »

Gozdom, I still don't think we are quite eye to eye on this one.

I'm lucky in that me dear ol' dad was a Joiner, so I had access to lots of tools from an early age and started out with most of the kinds of stuff that I use without having to build it up for myself. As my interests moved on from woodwork, I diversified the tool collection accordingly.

Thing is that many folks don't start with a 'Kit' at all. They start with an idea for a project and want to know the ins and outs of the items they will need.  Thus, a few words of wisdom from those who have some experience of particular tools may well be of use.

Also, if one is watching costs, then having enough info to ensure that you buy the most appropriate thing is surely the ideal situation.

Dr. G, Pound shops or foreign currency equivalents are indeed a good source of stuff for the beginner. (for the more experienced too, for that matter. Mind you, much of what I buy at my local one gets used for things it's designer never dreamed of.) I would always recommend hunting around for stuff, as good quality, older tools can still be had from jumble sales, car boot sales etc.
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greensteam
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« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2010, 11:03:11 pm »

While i have a captive audience of tool enthusiasts, can I promote a charity that I think does wonderful work: Tools for Self-reliance http://www.tfsr.org/
surely a steampunkers motto if ever there was one.

They collect hand tools, renovate them and send them to developing countries in full kits for trades workers to set up shop and do something useful. I think this is so wonderful. I used to collect and renovate for them when I was at uni some 25 years ago and they are still at it. So anyone with surplus handtools or who is clearing out a late relative's house should bear them in mind.
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JingleJoe
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« Reply #11 on: March 11, 2010, 12:14:51 am »

Pliers, pliers and more pliers.
Holy Cthulhu I love pliers!

They are just great for everything; Bolt tightening, wire bending, metal holding, picking up tiny screws (thinking of needle nose pliers there)

I have four or five pairs; Two very old pairs, square end with wire cutters, very used but still rather good. One pair with a pointed end and grips (not handle grips, grips on the surface you grip with!) and wire cutters. A needle nose pair (seriously needle-like in thinness) made of really good steel that bends but allways springs right back, almost no grips. A weird pair that I could swear are custom made from some square metal bar stock, they have no grips, long and square ended with this funny little pointy doohickey that sticks out sidewards attached to the end by a screw, they are ridiculously useful Smiley
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Gozdom
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« Reply #12 on: March 11, 2010, 01:46:35 am »

Gozdom, I still don't think we are quite eye to eye on this one.


Yes, I noticed, but I'm excited to sort it out, and open to discussion. Starter kits are not evil, in fact, they spare you a lot of trouble and wasted time. You want to create things out of wood and brass? Great. Just don't forget to have a set of files and this and that. Because if you don't, and you also have a regular job and family life, then you know that having a few hours or a night at the workshop is a treasure, and when you have to stop because you just realized that cut must be sanded, then it hurts. Think of the Swiss army knife: it is a kind of essential toolkit.

When I started scale modelling or model rocketry, I knew I needed some tools. I also knew that sky is the limit, you can always dream of better equipment. The drill press revolutionized my hobby, and so did the dremel (in fact, a chinese copy of it). But I could do without them; yet not without shears that can cut brass where I want it.

Having craftsmen in the family is an immense help, I agree.
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Captain Shipton Bellinger
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« Reply #13 on: March 11, 2010, 07:22:05 am »

A single item for an absolute beginner's starter kit? For me that's fairly difficult to decide; starting what? Leather? Wood? Metal?

I think if I had to choose just one thing that gets used for all three it would be a good steel rule of decent length (18" plus). You can measure accurately (really important), you can cut a straight line against it without carving chunks out of its edge, you can fold light materials around it, and perhaps most importantly you can make terrific 'Boooiiiiiiinnnggg!' noises on the edge of your work bench with it.

It's also useful for back-scratching, fly-swatting, and dissuading cats that are overly interested in your current work.

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Dr cornelius quack
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« Reply #14 on: March 11, 2010, 09:06:24 am »

Yes, it's beginning to feel more like toe to toe, however, let's continue.
I don't disagree with the point about it being a pain when lack of stuff holds you up. Been there.
Also, the leap forward that gaining some new item gives you is a great boost.
But, these are both aspects of the same process. The ongoing one of developing ones hobby/interest/job.
You are right, kits aren't evil (unless you buy Dr. Evil's special evil one). That being said, kits are made up from individual items and it is with this in mind that I started this thread so as to get the input of those folks who have some experience to share.
Captain Bellinger tells us that it is difficult to decide. Good! I'm glad about that. It means that he's given it some thought rather than just dashing off the name of the first random do-dad that springs to mind.

On the subject of steel rules, I use one of the triangular 'scale rules' as a cutting edge. It has the advantage of keeping your fingers above the level of the blade when you cut.

Like this,
http://www.flickr.com/photos/25319679@N05/4423747595/#

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TimeTinker
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« Reply #15 on: March 11, 2010, 09:35:40 am »

Gozdom with all due respect you seemed to have both derailed and hijacked  this thread.  The good Doctor started a new thread with a set of parameters you chose to ignore and you merely transferred over from another thread.  If we wished to post about that original thread then we would be posting there not here.  Please can we return to Dr Q's thread as he intended it?
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Otto Von Pifka
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« Reply #16 on: March 11, 2010, 10:33:38 am »

sanding materials, be it sanding sponges (the little blocks covered in grit) or sanding cloth roll.

you can wrap a bit of the cloth around a scrap of wood to make a sanding block, to flatten irregular areas. you can wrap it around any odd shape to sand profiles and curves nicely. as it wears out you can tuck it off to a corner to be used later to buff and polish out scratches and dings in any old metal bits.
sanding blocks like to follow contours and shapes and not ruin them much.
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MalContent
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« Reply #17 on: March 11, 2010, 04:30:54 pm »

drill bits...all shapes and sizes..okay not shapes because they are roughly the same....I can't tell how many projects I have started thinking I had everything I needed only to find I was missing the exact right size bit.  Of course my workspace resemblece something out of a Lovecraft nightmare..chaotic and disorganized, something the human eye was never meant to see....I am constantly buying new drill bits more than any other tool...a good started pack of bits with various sizes is a must....now I am off to the home improvement store to buy me self more drill bits.
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« Reply #18 on: March 11, 2010, 10:23:48 pm »

A hammer,in my case: a ball pein one.Great for what it is meant to do but equally great for other purposes....
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Gozdom
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« Reply #19 on: March 12, 2010, 12:07:23 am »

I'm so sorry, never meant to hurt anyone, let alone derail and hijack anything. I love this forum for their friendly nature, let's try to keep it so.

Here's a simple tool I made. It is for making fake rivets. Sometimes I have to cover something (like a flaw in wood) with thin brass sheet, and need some texture for it, but don't want to etch. I take the sheet, face down on a piece of soft wood, and punch it in a row with this. It creates little bumps on the other side. Made from a part of a defunct wristwatch, this was used to fasten the strap to the watch. It has a spring inside, so the little rod slips back when hit, thus it won't penetrate the brass.


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Reckless Engineer
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« Reply #20 on: March 12, 2010, 12:44:15 am »

A pencil Period! I have hundreds upon hundreds of tools and i couldnt live without a pencil!
Ok a real tool? A dremel, Cut,sand,polish,drill,grind, although you can buy or make attacments and make this thing do almost anything!
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Dr cornelius quack
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« Reply #21 on: March 12, 2010, 01:31:25 am »

No one is hurt and the thing is not derailed, plus I've quite enjoyed this little debate over the way to put a collection of stuff together.
It's made me think about how it comes about that one acquires tools and skills. We shouldn't take these things for granted.
That item of yours looks like the result of some fair old consideration in itself. What sort of gauge of sheet will it deal with? It's sort of in the same vein as the recent thread about doming punches, but on a much smaller scale. I do like a neat solution the challenges of that sort and that looks like a good one.
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Gozdom
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« Reply #22 on: March 12, 2010, 02:34:34 am »

For this function I normally use the thinnest sheet I have, which is 0,15 mm, don't know the Imperial equivalent. But the blueish thing you see on the left of the photo is 0,4 mm brass, and it worked, although the bumps are a bit less defined.
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Captain Shipton Bellinger
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« Reply #23 on: March 12, 2010, 07:59:58 am »

Am I allowed more than one go?

I find that a good sharp knife is pretty much essential in almost all projects. I've lost count of the specialist knives that I have, but the most universally useful is the ubiquitous Stanley knife (sorry, I've no idea what this might called in other lands).

Equally happy with fine or coarse cutting, whittling, shaping, bevelling and large area removal of just about anything except metal (and even then I've used one to cut fairly heavy foil), the Stanley knife and a few replacement blades is incredibly useful.

To misquote Archimedes "Give me a Stanley knife and I shall reshape the Earth".


By the way, Doctor; is that triangular rule steel or aluminium? I'd dearly love a steel one as I have a sort of cordial loathing of aluminium rules. I'll use one if I must, but find them far too soft and easily damaged to be of any lasting use.

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Dr cornelius quack
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« Reply #24 on: March 12, 2010, 08:33:48 am »

It's an aluminium one. I take your point about them getting sliced up quickly,  I tend to use it for small size cutting jobs when I'm using an
 x-acto type knife rather than the Stanley. So far that one is in one piece, the shape of the thing seems to make it less liable to catching the blade and getting nicked.

Cor! the things you start thinking about when discussing such fundamentals.
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