briefly broken vise
Tuesday, September 13 2011
My sets of shelves in the laboratory (I'm now working on the fourth) all follow a similar pattern: they cover as much of each triangle-shaped wall as they can, and they're attached here and there to the wall using L-shaped metal brackets. Today I was trying to make one of those L-shaped brackets using a piece of scrap iron leftover from the first solar panel glazing project, and this involved hammering it in the laboratory vise (one of several important skills I'd learned in a high school shop class). The laboratory vise is small and mounted to one of the two oak columns holding up the solar deck overhead. Being so convenient to the place where I spend most of my waking hours, I actually use it more than the vise down in the shop. I'd bought it at a yard sale a couple years ago and it had served me well, but today when I went to crank down tight on my scrap metal, the threaded axle that tightens the unfixed jaw twisted and snapped off completely. Mind you, this axle is a half inch thick and it's hard to imagine it ever having experienced forces sufficient to lead to such a failure. But no matter; the vise is now so important to me that I immediately set about fixing it.
I took the threaded axle down to the shop and used my Italian-made 240 volt wire-feed welder to fix the break (my puny Chinese-made 120 volt stick welder not being up to the job). I don't know if I was able to completely heal the break in the axle in the massive ugly knot of steel that resulted, but it probably ended up being stronger than it had been when I bought it at that yard sale. That said, in terms of fixing the vise, I was only just getting started. Now I had to grind away at that knot of metal with an angle grinder until it was down to a reasonable size so it would once more fit where it needed to in the vise. (If I were a better welder, of course, there would have been much less of a knot to grind down.) In the end, to form the metal face that would have to come in contact with existing parts of the vise, I had to file the metal by hand (first with a flat file and then with a smaller triangular one). I would have made quick work of this with a lathe, but it turns out that it's possible to make smoothly-interacting machine parts just by eyeballing the metal and filing the places that look like they're rubbing excessively.
At some point this evening, Gretchen and I watched Paul, the comedy where a stereotypical CGI alien voiced by Seth Rogen pals around with a couple of comic book nerds from the United Kingdom on a heart-warming great American road trip. I was kind of meh about the movie, but Gretchen loved it enough to make me burn a copy of it (so suck it, MPAA). As comedies go, it wasn't too surprising, though it delivered a fair number of laughs. What was surprising was the fun it poked at religious fundamentalists and creationism (a poking that, mind you, wasn't especially funny). I never see conventional American religious ideas, no matter how absurd or infantile, mocked in American comedies. And this was no low-budget indie film; in addition to the CGI (which is probably pretty cheap these days), the movie sounded like it had been scored with a real orchestra, something one rarely hears in recent cinema. (The link I provided is to christiananswers.net; check out how those Rick Perry voters handle the ridicule.)
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