Home made tools.

MoldyJim

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After seeing the interest in home made engraving tools I thought I would show my DIY engraving vises.
Here is the first one I made, it has a body/ball made from a stainless steel garden shop gazing ball.
I made a spindle on the lathe from tubing with two ball bearings to support the top plate.
Filled around the spindle with lead and scrap solder, and used shot blasting media.
If you ask nicely you might be able to pick some up free at your neighborhood shot blaster.
Probably have $50 in bearings, the ball and misc parts.
If you have access to a lathe, you can make a nice heavy ball vise base this way.
I also take the top of my old Rex vise and drop it into this body.
Couldn't help myself from engraving the top for reference scrolls.

The one in the middle is simpler, the ball is a stainless steel Ikea bowl. Mostly spherical, just a small flat on the bottom.
Filled it with old solder, lead etc and capped it with a steel plate. Mounted a lazy Susan bearing on top with another plate on that.
No need for a lathe, maybe $25 in materials.
Not as smooth, but if you carefully squeeze the bearing plates to tighten the it will tighten up pretty nicely.
Some dry lube might help too.
The vise on it was made from a HF. Wood clamp screw.
 

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MoldyJim

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Now I think things will get interesting.
My next one is going to be a turntable, low profile vise with the top of the jaws close to the center of the spherical radius.
I plan on getting a microscope at some point.
 

MoldyJim

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The vise is just set in for the pictures.
The base is a brand new truck hubcap. Cost $5.30
It has about a 6" radius sphere.
Just about perfect for a ball vise base.
I have a brake rotor/hub that will fill up most of it and give me a nice top surface. Fill the rest up with lead and it should be a good base.
Ill make a nice vise or use a grinding vise for workholding.
 

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MoldyJim

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So, knowing how we all are twisted, what tools have you cobbled together to get started?
Bowling ball and duct tape?
Done it.
Hot melt glue on a brick?
Why not?
A well known knifemaker wrote an article on using a chunk of pink granite as an anvil and forged a knife on it.
 

dogcatcher

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#6
My homemade stuff consists of 2 bowling ball vises, one with a drill press vise on it. The other has a 4" Sherline lathe chuck mounted that uses 2 jaws The other is my sharpening jig and homemade gravers. There are pics somewhere in the archives of the Café, but I have no clue as to where. I guess I better add my homemade gravers that I made out of concrete nails I bummed from a construction site.
 

Roger Bleile

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I came up with the tools pictured below for all those folks who write in to the hand engraving forums to say something like "I'm a noooob and want to get into engraving but I want to make my own tools and not spend more than about $20."

I found just the right rock and sharpened a concrete nail. You can actually engrave this way if the workpiece is not too hard.
 

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monk

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many moan and groan about prices just starting out. why ? here's proof lotsa genius can eliminate needing lotsa cash. i'm not doing much work by hand now, but still have many of the goodies i made to start out with.
 

MoldyJim

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Concrete nails are actually some pretty good steel.
I have a friend that makes a fair bit of change making small carving tools from them and selling online.
They would work good for soft steel and nonferrous metals, stainless, maybe not.

One of my knifemaking mentors, Wayne Goddard, wrote For Blade magazine, hall of fame inductee, author of "The $50 knife shop" among others.
Made most of his equipment, supported his family, and made world class knives by using his ingenuity to make whatever he had work.

Harbor freight sells extended length screwdriver bits for around $1.25 a piece,
A little grinding, re heat treat with a torch and temper and you have a decent chisel for even steel.

I would love to learn to play guitar on a 1957 Gibson with mother of pearl inlay, and a body made from the finest quilted maple.
But reality means if I want to learn, it would be a Wal-Mart off brand at first, then maybe after a few years get a better one, learn more, and on and on.
 

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MoldyJim

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I think if we encourage noobs to make their own tools, build up skills and interest it will help all in the long run.
More creativity, new styles, unique perspectives.

If I could justify it, I could be driving around in a fancy car instead of a 10 year old pickup.
I make decent money in my day job, I just don't go into debt buying expensive toys for my hobby.

Because for many of us it is just a hobby.
If we could afford the perfect GRS system, vise, microscope, bench and lighting, how long would it take to get a return on that big of an investment?
I know when starting out your product quality and quantity start pretty low on the income side of the ledger.

When the Swatch came out, Rolex didn't sweat it. Even though they both do the exact same job.
 
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#12
My Somewhat Homemade Engraving Set Up

Jim,
I have attached a few photos of the current set up that I use for hammer and chisel engraving. My engraving system is pieced together using both commercially available items and from scraps and odds and ends from around the shop – and I suppose it could be considered homemade. While it would be nice to have a dedicated space for engraving, my shop space is limited in size and is multi- functional so it has to be quickly adaptable to whatever I am working on. It only takes me a few minutes to set the bench up for engraving and it can be quickly cleared for woodworking or other projects. The system has worked well for me and the type of engraving that I do. The first picture is my vise which is a common and inexpensive vise type that can be rotated 360 degrees. I have some aluminum jaw inserts that make clamping irregular pieces a bit easier. I have attached a wooden T- shaped cleat to the base of the vise so that I can clamp it in the tail vise of my work bench. Picture 2 is an adjustable support that I use when engraving and carving long rifles. It is used in conjunction with the vise and supports the gun when I need to carve or engrave pieces out on either end of the gun. It also allows me to raise the work up to a comfortable level – and allows me to isolate the work so that I can walk around it better. Picture 3 illustrates how it is used. Picture 4 is a vise support pieced together from scrap lumber. It fits the cleat on the bottom of my vise which I clamp to the support with C – clamps. The support is then clamped in the tail vise on my bench with the leg resting firmly on the floor. This support raises the vise up to a comfortable level for standing and using the hammer and chisel. It also brings the work up into the focal range of my Optivisor without having to bend over or strain my neck. It also isolates the work and allows me to walk around it while engraving. It can be tilted (as in the picture) to provide a more comfortable working angle. This set up is great for smaller stuff like tomahawk heads, knives or anything small enough to easily be held in the vise. Picture 5 shows a few of my home-made engraving tools. I forged the three tools to the left of the hammers from an old hay rake tine (I believe these are usually made of 1095 steel and they have held up remarkably well). They are a 90 degree V chisel, a round, and a flat chisel. I use these three chisels for 90% of my work. I made the other three chisel handles out of an aluminum rod and drilled them out to accept Momax and M-42 square lathe bits that I sharpen to whatever profile I need. If I ever get around to making a second generation of aluminum handles, they will be made of square or hexagonal stock to keep them from rolling off the bench! I made the small chasing hammer on the lathe but I am much more comfortable using the ball peen hammer. I also have a number of old commercial push gravers that I have picked up at garage sales over the years. I use one or two of these to push in fine lines and I occasionally re – handle some of them for chisel work. Picture 6 is a slow speed grinder that I pieced together from spare parts. I rough grind graver blanks on my high speed grinder and refine the shape and sharpen them on this one before going to hand stones. It’s hard to over-heat tools on this grinder. The wooden tool rest is simply clamped to the table with spring clamps and can be easily removed to provide full access to the wheel. The 45 degree wood block in the picture has a V shaped groove which fits a square graver and I sometimes use this on the side of the wheel to quickly refine the face angle of the graver. I mostly sharpen by hand and eye often using a hardened rod placed along the edge of my whetstones to keep angles consistent. The last picture is my one-brick forge. This is a handy tool for forging, hardening and tempering gravers and other small tools. It’s powered by a propane torch which is directed into the hole in the side, while the forging is inserted into the cavity in the front. The insulated brick holds the heat and you can quickly reach forging temperatures with very little gas. For drawing on metal I often use a fine Sharpie pen. I also use a homemade 50/50 bee’s wax/bacon grease mixture that allows me to draw more easily with a pencil. And that pretty much does it for my engraving set up – except for my homemade pneumatic engraving machine – which is covered in my previous post. After messing around with it, I can clearly see that I need a good rotary/ball vise that can keep the work somewhat centered. I would like to thank all the forum members for posting all the great info and tips on vises – awful lot of good ideas out there– and there is certainly no reason to re- invent the wheel. Hopefully I will be building one shortly – and will try to post pictures of it here. Elvis
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MoldyJim

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Elvis, this is great!
So many ways to do things. Nice carving on the stock.
I tried wood carving with my handpiece the other day.
It works a little, but sharp tools in wood don't seem to really need the extra power. Maybe in African Blackwood, or really hard stabilized wood.
One brick forge, they are a good tool for knives and such.
 
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#14
I am a nooby to engraving. I am a tooloholic and appreciate innovative tools. I normally just buy the tools. However after seeing a few videos done by a Mr. Hughes. I decided to build My own. My first foray into this art will be an air engraver. One that does not require a compressor. I researched many designs, and have set upon a variable displacement cylinder design. I can always just buy a grs, if all else fails. To Me the fun is building tools from the dump. As for hardware, in a small town in Alaska that is limited. Today I just buy what I need online. Thanks for an interesting web site. As Arnold would say " Ill be back" Bill
 
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#15
Another Homemade Vise

After messing around with my homemade pneumatic engraver, it quickly became apparent that I needed a different type of vise to help me engrave smooth curved lines. The vise that I had been using for hammer and chisel work could be turned 360 degrees but the offset jaws meant the work could never be centered over the pivot – and its size and irregular shape made it hard to handle with one hand. Clearly, I needed a rotary style ball vise where my work could be centered and easily turned. I would love a good commercial vise but I just don’t engrave enough to justify the cost – and I am only experimenting with pneumatic engraving at this point. So I turned to this forum for insight on what others have done. There are an awful lot of good designs out there and there is no reason to re-invent the wheel. I also wanted to try and use what I had around the shop as I sure don’t need to accumulate any more stuff at my age! Realizing that I had a number of lathe chucks (which are in fact small precision vises for centering and holding metal), I begin scanning the archives and files for previous designs that utilized lathe chucks. And I did find a few references to what I had in mind. Based on these, I drew up two options of things that I could slap together with parts that I already had lying around the shop. I have included images of my rough drawings below. I opted to make a proto type based on the first drawing just because it could be done quickly with a little less lathe work. Basically it involved press fitting a ¾ inch shaft about halfway into a 16 pound bowling ball and turning, threading and center drilling a chuck adapter that would fit the back of my chucks. I put a single ball bearing on top of the shaft to reduce friction (see attached pictures and drawings). I have 4 lathe chucks that will fit this adapter (see attached pictures): a four jaw chuck, a three jaw chuck, a large drill chuck and a chuck with inter changeable jaws. The drill chuck would be great for holding small round objects such as engraving screw heads. The four jaw chuck is probably the most versatile as the jaws can be independently adjusted so even irregular shapes can be centered. It will hold a piece up to 6 inches square with 4 jaws, or by removing two of the jaws, 6 inches wide and of indefinite length. The interchangeable jaw chuck (I have removed one of the jaws in the photo) has the potential to be customized to just about any configuration – and I may well make a set of more conventional “peg type†jaws to fit this chuck. The prototype works well as far as easily centering the work and it spins like a greased wheel – I haven’t yet put a lock screw in chuck adapter to slow or lock the chuck. The bowling ball allows an infinite range of angles but, in hind sight, I should have used a cannon ball! I don’t yet have a suitable base for the bowling ball but it’s going to require some pretty serious friction to hold it steady as the weight of the chuck make the set up top heavy. A tight fitting bucket with tapering sides would probably do the trick. You could also lower the chuck down a bit closer to the ball by shortening the shaft or building the second design. Regardless, this should make it a little easier to practice scrolls or curves with the home made pneumatic engraver. Elvis
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MoldyJim

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Thread starter #16
Nice!
I really like your ideas.
A drill chuck for screws, that's a winner.
I bet you could make a finger stop to index off the drill chuck gear teeth for spacing and layout.
The woodworking chuck has some real possibilities too.
The jaws are pretty cheap, you could cut to fit a particular knife for making multiples.
Or holding cups and bowls etc.
 

dogcatcher

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#17
I made something similar to the bearing in a bowling ball, but only used half of the bowling ball. Instead of the ball bearing in the bottom I used a thrust bearing in the bottom along with 2 skateboard bearings on the shaft. I got the thrust bearing idea from a homemade live center http://www.rocky-roost-woodturnings.com/wood-turning-blog/home-made-live-center.html With the skateboard bearings the chuck on top spins real easily, well it did until I spilled CA glue on it. It now is locked up waiting for me to pour some acetone in the hole.
 

MoldyJim

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I worked on the lowboy vise bowl last night.
I put it on a propane turkey cooker, tinned the inside with solder and melted all the old solder, lead and tin I could find.
Only had enough to fill about halfway.
I took a handful of round steel plates and submerged them in the molten lead to fill up to close to the rim.
I'll fill the rest with bondo and place a 1/4" x 7" steel circle to cap it off.
Weighs 30.4 lbs without any vise or holder on it.
I think I'll throw another thicker steel plate on the top and cut Tee slots in it to hold the vise jaws.
Should be around 40lbs when it's done.
So far, $20 worth of steel scrap, $5.00 for the hubcap, and maybe $10? worth of scrap lead solder from garage sales.

The vise section will be a bit more expensive due to the machine work.
But I can do that myself in the shop.

But if you want to make your own cheaply, and since it doesn't have to be self centering on a turntable, you could modify and use a cheap drill press vise.

A friend is looking at a used B&L Stereozoom 5 microscope for me, if it's worth it, I'll be seeing things much better than my Optivisor.
I'll need the lower vise ball and a turntable to use it.
 

John B.

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#19
Most trap and skeet ranges sell reclaimed lead shot at a decent price.
Mix the shot with a little Epoxy or Bondo to fill a bowl or hollowed out half bowling ball for the bottom of a homemade vise.
Easy, quick and no molten lead hazard or fumes.
 

MoldyJim

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John, that's a good idea.
I was able to pick up some used steel shotblasting media for free on one of the bowls.
Ran out on the last one.
You are probably right about the lead fumes. Lock it in with the bondo and you don't have to worry.
I live on a farm, did the melting outside in the air.
But better, not making the fumes in the first place.
I'll do that on my next one...
 

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