18 November 2011

18 October 2011

Reef tank update

Moved the tank to it's final destination last week, my desk at work.

This is a closeup of the toadstool leather up top. There's a lot of detail in these guys that's hard to see without magnification.

The toadstool has also changed shape, it's stem is taller but the top is flatter.

Added a striped mushroom. These are one of my favorite corals, even though they are a "beginner" coral because they're hard to kill. Still look awesome.

If you scroll back to the old post and look at the warty mushroom, then look at this shot, you can see it's way bigger and way greener. It's tentacles have not only gotten longer, they have started to branch -- very cool. Most of the other corals have started to fill in too, especially the Green Star Polyps, blue cloves, and green zoanthids.

Also, if you look in the red circle, I have a baby! The spotted mushroom on the left is the parent. Over the course of about 3 days, it walked along the rock about 3/4" away and as it did, it tore off a piece of it's foot and left it behind. Over the last month or so, the piece has gone from a little blob to a bigger mushroom-shape and even has two stripes and some bumps like it's parent. Aw, so cute!

20 August 2011

Saltwater Coral Reef Tank, take 3

Haven't been blogging much, been busy with two things of late: Fallout: New Vegas, and my third reef tank (the other two were torn down years ago). (I'll do a review of Fallout NV later.)

Those of you not familiar with the reefkeeping hobby, skip the following technical jargon and just scroll down to the pretty pictures below.

Dymax IQ3 acrylic tank
Display about 6"L x 6"W x 8"H
Display approx. 1.5g, 1.75g total volume
Custom Cree LED light in 2" x 1"aluminum channel, 2 RB XR-E and 1 CW XM-L, 1000mA dimmable BuckPuck
Dymax Robot LED hacked as rear chamber 'fuge light
Stock Dymax powerhead relocated to left rear chamber
Mini-Jet 404 in right rear chamber
Penn-Plax Silent-Air B11 automatic battery backup air pump, plumbed through partition wall to hide airline
Finnex HMO digital titanium heater, 50W
Azoo digital heater controller
Wal-Mart indoor/outdoor min/max thermometer, probe sealed with superglue
Twin-float switch, twin-relay DIY ATO in Radio Shack enclosure
Two Little Fishies Nano-Mag
Spritz bottle of RO/DI for cleaning acrylic
Kent hydrometer
API Master Saltwater test kit
DIY airline gravel vac

Approx 2.5lb of Live Rock
1/2" of black Petco sand

Blue-leg hermit A.K.A. Mr. Lazy
Astrea snail
Cerith snail
Small orange stomatella
Large white hitchhiker stomatella
Large black hitchhiker stomatella (freakin' awesome)
Two tiny hitchhiker asterina stars
Bunch of hitchhiker brittle stars
Bunch of hitchhiker bristle worms
At least one hitchhiker peanut worm (those guys creep me out! Bristleworms never bothered me)

Green spotted 'shroom
Purple warty 'shroom
Unidentified tentacled green/brown striped 'shroom
Orange riccordia florida
Green riccordia florida (about to split)
Brown palys
Green zoas
Orange zoas
Eagle Eye zoas
Pulsing Xenia
Green Star Polyps
Blue clove polyps
Toadstool leather
Several hitchhiker aiptasias (all nuked with Lye now [I hope])

Carbon (as required, not all the time)
Filter floss (as required, not all the time)

Hikari small fish pellets, 3 per day most days
Coral Frenzy on order

1/2 gallon water change per week w/ IO Reef Crystals
Maintain 1.025SG w/ RO/DI
Maintain 80-82°F (hopefully once I move it to the office, I can reduce this to 78-80°F)

Right side

Left side

Top down

Scale shot with U.S. Quarter:

Blue Cloves

Eagle eye zoas

Green zoas and unindentified tentacled 'shroom

Orange zoas


Riccordia florida

Speckled 'shroom

Warty 'shroom



It's a nice day outside, so I'll explain the hobby in this blog some other time.

28 June 2011

Let there be light

Lemontree said I should machine something fun. So I cut off a piece of brass, drilled a hole across it in the drill press, drilled again through the middle on the lathe, then cut a 45° angle across each end. Then I cut it in half and got two lamps:

The cross-drilled hole is for the wick and oil to get in to the central hole. Tiffany supplied the wicks from her crochet kit.
You're supposed to use olive oil because it doesn't smoke like vegetable oil will. We seemed to be out of olive oil, so a quick Google search revealed that sesame oil works as well. I'm pleased to report The Internet was right, no smoke or even soot on the back of a spoon placed over the flame. The lamps do produce a faint odor of sesame, though, which is pleasant enough... as long as the neighbors don't come to our house looking for the new Mongolian Barbecue.

We just put them on a saucer, but they get kind of hot so we should probably find a little candle jar with a thick bottom to put them in.

Fenced and sharpened

Cutting off rough stock freehand with my angle grinder was a pretty crooked affair, so I splurged $6.50 on an attachment from Harbor Freight. They call it a safety guard, I call it a fence. I was able to cut pieces for the new knurler straighter this time. Still not as nice as a bandsaw, but about $143.50 cheaper. Speaking of cheaper, I spent a whopping $2.28 on the steel (!) for this knurler. With prices like that for the good stuff, why would I ever buy Home Lowes metal again...

I scribed an "A" pair and a "B" pair of arms so they are drilled together (2 at a time, not 4 at a time) for the best possible alignment of holes. I also noticed in the picture that the original author had, after drilling one hole, put a bolt through that hole so subsequent holes would be as aligned as possible... something I'd neglected to do last time and won't forget this time.

Also to improve drilling accuracy, I sharpened my first drill bit today. Wasn't as dramatic as I would have thought, though it did take me three tries to get it looking somewhat like an unused bit. I drilled a test hole and noticed: 1. I didn't have to pull down on the drill press handle nearly as hard as I used to, 2. I got less of a raised lip of smushed metal around the top of the hole, and 3. I actually got a long continuous string of swarf instead of little chunks.

Drill bits have to be sharpened... who'd a thunk?!

I have high hopes for the rest of the build now.

27 June 2011

Cold steel

I decided to remake the knurler with cold rolled steel. Above, you can see the dark scale and rounded edges of the Home Lowes crap steel. What you can't see is that it also varies in thickness several thousandths over the length. Below it is the bright finish cold rolled Gem State steel with nice sharp corners and consistent size within .001". This should make for a smoother and more accurate tool.

Now I need to learn Google Sketchup so I can make my design changes without ending up with a knurler that doesn't work after I've made it...

25 June 2011

Knurler Part II

The pivots still needed holes in them. I could do this on the drill press, but the lathe is more accurate. It does take a while to dial the part in to center though.

There were two parts to tap (create threads in). This is where I discovered that cheap tap & die sets (purchased pretty much anywhere retail) are for cleaning up damaged threads only. Using them to create threads where there were no threads before is merely an exercise in frustration. I destroyed both of my tap handles, utterly destroyed one die, and boogered up one tap by ultimately using Vice Grips on it. Ugh. But I got it done. I will have to buy real "machinists" taps and dies online if I want to do this again.

I also got the hardware (including the spring, did you know Ace sells springs?) and bolted it all together. The result?

Well, it knurls. Unfortunately, because my drill wandered when I drilled the stack of 4 arms all at once, one knurling wheel is slanted so I get an incomplete impression on one side. Bummer. I have to decide now if I want to remake just that arm or do it all from scratch again using real steel and a further modified plan.

24 June 2011

Knurler Part I

Since most flashlights are knurled, one thing I'm going to need is a knurler. Like many machine tools, you can go out and buy one. Or, for about 1/10th the cost in materials, you can make one. If you've read this blog before, you know I generally prefer the cheaper option. And, it's good machining practice.

Normally, parts are cut from rough stock on a bandsaw. I don't have one of those, so out comes the angle grinder with a cutoff wheel.

This is steel flatstock from Home Lowes. The only reason I'm using Home Lowes metal is I already had this from some forgotten project like 8 years ago before I knew how poor quality Home Lowes steel is. There are at least two real metal suppliers here in Boise, like lumberyards only for machinists and welders. One of them was closed without warning the first time I wanted metal, and I never bothered to go back. Gem State Metals is where I go now, and even though most metal suppliers like to deal in $1,000+ orders from real shops, they are so tolerant of individuals buying $50 at a time that the guy actually gave me a tour of the place today. Thumbs up.

Once I have my parts rough cut, I clamped them together and ground the ends so they're all about the same length. Tolerance is not critical here.

Then I begin layout. I'm following some plans that someone posted online. I'm making some minor alterations, however.

The stock surface is coated with a blue dye, then I set my calipers to the dimensions specified in the plan and then use the jaws of the caliper to scratch lines. Places for holes to be drilled are dented with a centerpunch so the drill bit starts on center and doesn't skate around.

This hole has been started with a spotting drill, a short stubby stiff drill that will start a straight hole for the normal drill bit to follow.

The plans said to stack and drill, but I think it was a mistake in my case. The first one was drilled perfectly but the deeper I went, the more my drill bit wandered -- my drill press vise isn't the best and my drill table flexes a little. The locations of the holes were not critical, however, so everything should still work ok.

This part was fun. The plans call for half-rounds in the edges of the pieces, so I just clamped them side-by-side and drilled one hole in the middle where they met. Each piece got half a hole.

Swarf mountain.

Then I deviated from the plans. I don't like how many bolts are holding the thing together. There are 2 extra bolts top and bottom that I assume the author added to stiffen the assembly. My scrap steel is already thicker and wider than the plans, so needs less stiffening. Still, just to be safe, I decided to give ears to the upper and lower pivot points to keep the arms from bowing out under pressure.

Here's one ear ready for a trial fit...

Yep, fits nice. A close fit so there is no slop but not so tight it binds.
Finished pivot point.

I used 12L14 "leaded" steel for these pivot points. Man, that stuff cuts so nice and easy. No drama. It costs a little more than regular mild steel, but the extra money is worth it for a newbie. If you're curious, here are some of the prices I've paid for metal. These are all per inch of 1/2" round stock:

6061-T6 aluminum: $0.08 (mild steel is about the same)
12L14 Steel: $0.12
303 Stainless Steel: $0.33
Tool steel: $0.36
416 Stainless Steel: $0.50
C360 Brass: $0.67 (spendy!!)

Of course, the price goes up with diameter. The 3" aluminum I made the Jetta alternator pulley with is $3/inch! So as you can imagine, 3 feet of metal stock (depending on the metal and the diameter) probably costs more than 8 board feet of nice lumber for woodworking. I still think metalworking is way cooler though. ;)

Here you can see how the arms fit into the grooves, with the ears securing the sides of the arms.

This is as far as I got as it got late and I need to buy some bolts from the hardware store. But wait, you say, you have a threadcutting lathe, you can make your own bolts! Well, yes, I can, but hardware store bolts are actually cheaper than the metal stock I'd use to make my own! The whole "economy of scale" thing.