Thursday, January 29, 2009

Weldors and machinists - Part 1

I have mainly learned everything about metal work from trial and error, and the web. I am a member of a welding site, machining site, and horizontal band saw site. When you work in metal you need to cut it. For several years I used a chop saw which uses a big, thin, movable grinding wheel that grinds through the metal. Works just fine but it throws metal sparks, dust, and grit everywhere. Worse, it is not very precise -- especially when cutting angles that have to fit together.

A nicer way to cut metal is with a horizontal band saw which is quiet, much more accurate, and makes very little mess. They come in two flavors; small, really cheap, and poorly made or big and expensive. I did my research by lurking on the horizontal saw site which is devoted to methods to make poorly made saws work well and to improve them.

This is rambling background coming to the point that both welders and machinists use band saws. However their approaches to modifying and improving their band saws could not be more different.

Welders are to the point; make something that works and be done with it. It may be because many of the welding site members are professional weldors, and in many cases, time is money.
Oddly enough, their solutions, usually involve welding!

You might think this unremarkable, however machinists rarely think of welding anything! If they have to put two things together they mill them so they fit within a few thousandths of an inch, drill precise holes and tap them so they can be screwed or bolted together. Machining is a hobby for almost all the site members and many are retired. Designing, machining, and assembling an elegant modification that takes hours or even days strikes them as the natural way to do things.

That is why I was struck by a welder's elegant, simple solution to the problem of holding pieces of metal that are too small for the band saw vise. The machinists have at least three different solutions to this problem but none of them of come close to the weldor's solution. (to be continued)

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