30 Days of Creativity, Day 6: Ring Clamp






I’m posting this from the train to Chicago, from Milwaukee. I’m also posting it from my phone, so we’ll see how this goes.

First, a disclaimer: if you don’t have a desire to make a ring clamp, but need one, just buy one. It took me three hours of messing around to get this one together. That works out to around $0.07 per hour for my labor, once materials are subtracted. That said it was pretty neat to do, and in fairness, I spent some of that time trying to get my busted old band saw working.

I still have to make the wedge, and the leather pads, but I’m happy with it so far. When I do this again, ther are a few things I’ll do differently. First, the hinge should incorporate a sleeve around the middle of the bolt. This should open the jaws up a bit and allow for slightly larger materials to be held. Second, I’ll hook up the shop vac to the belt sander… holy crap that thing puts out a lot of dust! Third, the hinge should be centered, instead of shifted to one side. As it is, one side opens about 50% wider than the other. I think I’ll spend a bit more time shaping the body of the next one, and give it a nice protective finish.

Like I said, I’m pretty happy with the result, and I’ll probabaly do it again. There is something excellent about making your own tools… even when it’s cheaper to buy them.

30 Days of Creativity, Day 3: Annealing pan

Some of you know that I am slowly adding some metalworking capability to my little home workspace (Mike’s lent me his Sherline mill, Frankie dug up an old welding outfit, my dad supplied the bench grinder, etc.). As I save up for the items and services I’ll need to pay for, I’ve started to build out the tools I can. I’m not doing anything as sweet as Frankie’s most recent, but I’m starting on a ring clamp, and I managed to finish up my annealing pan this evening.To be completely honest, I just needed to fill it, as I’d done the construction a few weeks ago. Still, I’m counting it… I “finished” it today!


The pan is a square of MDF, bolted to a swivel bearing, bolted to a metal pan I’ve had for years. That, and a firebrick.

The result is actually pretty good. Eventually, I’ll have to swap out the pea gravel I have in there now for pumice, but it will work for now. I’d assumed that any small stone would work to insulate the pan and to allow stable positioning… nope. Regular gravel does little to keep the pan from heating up. I figured that one out after using my little pencil torch to dry out the gravel, and then touching the sides of the pan. I won’t make that mistake again. Here are a few more shots:

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Oh, and I added that clever little zoom effect to the images in the blog (highslide to those who know).

30 Days of Creativity, Day 2: Sweet Moleskine Cover

So, yesterday’s plan to etch some stuff didn’t really work out. The toner didn’t stick well, and so I never even got anything into the etchant. Today, however, I have.

The original plan was/is to use a special paper that allows me to print my design, transfer it to the material to be etched, and drop it into the etching solution. It’s an awesome idea, but very tricky to get right. You can get a tool to help with the transfer($300), or you can use a laminator (which I don’t have), or you can try to use a regular househol iron. I tried the iron, and it just made a mes. Ultimately, you just need to have some material that will cover whatever you don’t want etched away. After a quick look around the garage, I decided to try some left over exterior latex paint.

First, I cleaned off the old toner with acetone (thanks, Mike), and cut a small piece to use for this test. I taped this down, added a quick couple of shapes, and cut through the tape with an exacto knife.

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Pulling of the “to be discarded” bits, I’m left with a mask that reveals the shape of the finished piece. I dig this feature of this approach, as it really gives a clear picture of the final piece, where other approaches require a bit more imagination.


I grabbed my left over paint, and painted in the front and back.

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While I let that dry, I mixed up my etching solution with muriatic acid and hydrogen peroxide. Once that was done, I couldn’t resist dropping a little sliver of brass into the solution:


Neat! Once the paint was mostly dry, into the solution it goes


… and we wait


… and eventually I realize that the paint is not sticking. Crap. I pull it out of the solution and get it rinsed off.

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The thing is paper thin (the original material was only .005″ to start), but has some interesting colors and patterns from the paint. But what to do with it? A little spray adhesive later, and viola!


A sweet custom moleskin cover.

30 Days of Creativity, Day 1: Brass Bookmark

I don’t remember how I ended up at http://30daysofcreativity.com, but I remember thinking “Wow. What a neat idea. I’m going to do that.” Well, here I go…

I’m working on a project that involves etching thin sheets of brass, and I’m having a bit of trouble with the process. The result is that I have a bunch if very thin brass sheet with toner half fused to it. I can’t use it for etching (though I may look into chemically removing the toner), so it is essentially scrap.


One of the objects for the etching project is a pair of bookmarks for my kids. Simple, and a good test of the process… when it works. As it stands, It’s not really working, so I figured I’d use the scrap to whip up a little, shiny bookmark.



It is 100% effective at marking the page in the book I am reading, in spite of the crappy photo.