Pictures and Wise cracks.

The Shop
Before and After
Tools and Machines
Command Central

Video Tour of the workshop (625 kb)

In the beginning there was a garage -  This picture shows what I am starting out with. A basic work area with a small bench and stool. I already have an air compressor and a couple of loading presses (which will need to be moved I'm sure). I'll post new pictures as the garage is slowly transformed into a state-of-the-art home smithing shop. (haha). My wife is gonna have a cow when she sees the where am I gonna put it? hmmmm

Below is a series of photos taken throughout the transformation process. I'll post em as the work progresses. (It's not going to be easy, since my wife insists that we absolutely must be able to pull both cars into the garage. We both own full sized SUV's......geez)

One    - (Day 1) what a mess
Two   - (Day 2) cleaning and making room
Three - (Day 4) More cleaning almost ready to rebuild

Four   - (Day 13) I installed my new Cyclone PBH1000 Bead Blast cabinet today. I didn't like the way the on/off air valve worked (too flimsy) so I added my own brass ball valve and while I was at it I added a small regulator to limit the maximum pressure to the cabinet. Here is a detail photo of the blast cabinet so you can see what I'm talking about. The little shop-vac on the right side is to pull out the airborne particles so that the interior doesn't get "Smokey" while I'm working.

Five - (Day 37) I have a big order of  parts coming in on Friday. The milling machine is also scheduled to arrive on Friday so I need to get the workshop ready to receive these new toys. The way I had everything arranged was no good. There is no way I could have fit a whole new bench in here with the space I have to work with, so I decided to move some things around. You may have noticed that I also have a rather large generator that has to fit in here somehow. I was using the generator as a stand for the Beadblaster so that it takes up less room. Today I moved the generator to the side wall and built a nice wooden enclosure for it. The enclosure also acts as the blast table. Here is a picture of what I'm talking about. And this is what it looks like with the blaster in place and plumbed up. Notice the metal bracket on the front edge. This will keep the blaster from tipping off onto the floor (I had to cut the top real close so my car would still fit in)
    I also need to make room for a new workbench for the milling machine. I decided to build a new sturdy bench against the back wall (where the blaster used to be). The problem is that my air delivery system is in the way. My storage tanks were located on a shelf beside where I want the bench, and my air manifold was right at about bench level. I had to lower the manifold and move the storage tanks down to the floor (where the generator and beadblaster used to be). The tanks and compressor will now fit under the new bench. This picture shows the new setup. Also notice that I have penciled in some lines where the new bench will go and the new electrical outlet to feed the mill. I need to run some electricity to the spot marked in the picture. My good friend Dave is coming by tonight after work to help me with the electrical system.

Six - (Day 37 and 1/2) Ok tonight I'm burning the midnight oil trying to build an entire workshop from scratch. I only have a few days until the machines arrive and I am frantically working to get the workshop into shape for their arrival. Tonight I am building cabinets to mount over the little bench. Here is a picture of one of the cabinets. I am building two cabinets and mounting a nice bright worklight on the underside of them so it will light up the bench like the fourth of July. This picture shows the two finished cabinets ready to mount on the wall. Notice the light sitting on top, this is the one that will be mounted to the bottom after they are hung. My friend Dave came by and looked at the electrical panel and we now have a plan. I have already gone to Home Depot and purchased all the stuff on his list.....we may be able to run the wires and get the juice flowing after work tomorrow night. Stay tuned........more to come......but for now it looks like I'll be painting til morning. I want to get a fresh coat of paint on everything that doesn't move. (hey if you're gonna do it, then do it right huh?) 

Seven - (Day 39) Almost Done.... I am still frantically trying to get the shop ready for the machines, but it is beginning to look like I'm going to make it. Last night my friend Dave came over after work and he worked until after 10:00 getting the new electrical outlets and overhead lighting in place. It looked like a tornado hit the place. We had to unload about half of the crap in the attic so I could have room to crawl around up there. Here is a picture of the mess. We also got the new cabinets hung and leveled up. I sure like the way it's shaping up. The extra light makes a BIG difference. Only thing left to do is build and install the new milling bench.

Eight - (Day 40-41) This weekend Dave and I built, installed, leveled and adjusted the new Milling bench and Mini-Mill. It was quite a job too. We built the benchtop out of 2 pieces of 3/4" plywood that we glued and screwed together. By screwing it from the bottom side, it allows for a benchtop that has no bolt or screw heads (totally smooth). It also means I end up with a very strong bench. The top is 1 1/2" thick and the legs are bolted to the concrete floor. I bought the legs at Wholesale Tool for 46.00 and they are real strong metal workbench legs.  We then made a small riser by cutting two rectangular pieces of 3/4 " plywood to mount the mill onto. The riser helps to keep me from scraping my knuckles when I crank the Y-Axis handwheel on the mill. (it's too close to the table top on the down swing). Look closely at the picture and you will see what I mean. 

OK so here was the real challenge..... My garage floor is not exactly level. I mean it's not bad but like any garage, the builder didn't loose any sleep over a slight difference. They just pour the concrete and gravity does the rest. Close enough if all you want is a garage. However.....If the floor is not level and the benchtop is not level, then how can the milling table be level. Glad you asked..... I need the flat surface of the milling table to be 100% PERFECTLY level with the horizon. Why? because I want to use a special "machinists level" during the setup process when I'm getting ready to do cuts on the slide. Now in theory, if your mill head and your mill table are at a perfect 90 degree angle to each other then it really doesn't matter (as long as the workpiece is also at whatever angle the others are everything will work out fine). But I want to be able to use a machinist level to double check everything.( besides, I'm a perfectionist with an attitude) This level I'm talking about is a super duper uprageously precise level baby. It makes a normal 24" carpenters level look like a toy. The machine level I have reads in .005 x 12. In simple terms that means that it will detect a variation of 5 thousandths of an inch in a foot long run. (about the thickness of a sheet of paper !!!) So, how do you level a mill to that precision if your base (bench and floor) are not level. Easy. You make yourself some "RyanRods" hahaha  my new term. We used 3/8" threaded rod to bolt all the way through the bottom of the bench from the mounting holes on the mill. But we added a pair of additional nuts and lock washers below the machine and above the benchtop. Here is a picture to help you visualize it. One washer and nut are countersunk below the surface of the wood (they just hold everything down). Then another set of nuts and washers are located directly below the mill base. By adjusting these nuts up or down you can achieve perfect level. You have a "RyanRod" on each of the 4 corners and can get real precise. Once it all reads level, carefully torque all four corners down the same and it's all set and locked down tight baby!! Works great. 

Well we did it. It's all pretty much done, I certainly couldn't have done this with out all the help I received from Dave, it just goes to show you, we all need help some times. Thanks Dave ole buddy !!!

Nine - ( Day 63) I think I'm finally starting to get a handle on the's been a lot of work and frustration trying to make sure that everything fits in the small space I have to work with. Like I said, my wife insists that we be able to park both trucks inside the garage. I added a new full sized Campbell Hausfeld 6.25 HP upright compressor to help augment the airflow of my contractor model. I found that the beadblaster was overrunning the CFM capacity of my poor little compressor. With the addition of the new upright.....I now have over 11 CFM @ 90 PSI. I haven't been able to overrun it yet, even when holding the blaster full throttle. Here is a detail picture of the new compressor installed and plumbed into my air system.

I will probably add to the workshop as new things pop up, but this is a pretty comfortable setup I have now. Here are a few detail pictures of the various areas of the shop. This picture shows the Milling Table now that I have it set up and covered with a nice "oil-proof" rubber surface. The oils and fluid wipe right off with a paper towel and some 409 cleaner. I also added a wooden backsplash to keep from destroying my walls. And here is a detail picture of the main work area where I do about 85% of my gunsmithing. I have enclosed the water heater so that it doesn't get dinged or damaged. It also allows me to hang tools and parts bins. I have a hinge on the small section of wall so that I still have full access to the water heater if I need to work on it. (just pull the bench away from the wall and swing the whole section out).

Ten - (Day ?) I'm getting ready for the Second project now....and a few minor upgrades needed to be made to the workshop. This project will be a bit more "in-depth" than the last one and so I'll need access to a few new tools. For one thing....I'll need to fit the barrel to the slide, and I'll be using a match grade bushing, so I figured I'd install a new mini-lathe to help.

It was challenging to figure out where to put the new Lathe...I wanted to have it in the "dirty area" of the shop near the Mill so that I could help to contain the metal shavings and cutting fluid to a small area and not contaminate the whole shop by spreading things out all over. While I was at it...I came up with a neat way to add a pedestal extension thingee that could hold my Electro-Chem etching rig (ready to go at any time) and my new Welding/Brazing rig. I also needed a welding table to hold items while brazing and silver this is what I came up with. You can see in picture that the top shelf will hold the chem-etcher and will allow the cord to reach the bench top of the main milling bench. I can leave it plugged in a ready to go, so that's kinda nice. The bottom shelf holds the small Oxygen and Mapp gas rig that I will use for silver solder work. I also have a fold-out welding table made out of 3/4" Box steel and flat bar. ** Side Note ** I built the welding table as a project to allow me to "practice" with the welding rig.....I figured if I was going to practice I might as well build something useful  Here are a few pictures of the making of the welding table....Picture1 Picture2 Picture3The welding table folds flat against the side of the Pedestal when not in use and the legs stash flat inside the rest of the frame. This picture shows the welding table in "storage" mode flat against the pedestal. The whole set-up only takes up 11 square INCHES of floor space.....hahaha now that's compact.( and I can still pull the cars in at night)

While I was at it I added a grinder/buffer combo.....we'll need it for this next project. 

Eleven - (Day #? Lost track) I'm almost finished with the workshop design finally. It's a slow process and requires a lot of time to decide what to bring in and where to put it, but I'm almost done. I finally got rid of the old bookshelf that I have had since the very first day. I've painted it, modified it, re-enforced it but it finally has reached it's limit. Here is a picture of the new "crash cart" I bought as a replacement for the tired old bookshelf. I am in desperate need of tool space, and after I looked around the shop I realized.....Hey, I don't have one single solitary "drawer" in the whole I bought a crash cart that has a nice large drawer with a sliding insert. I can keep all my files, jigs, fixtures, stones and other small specialty tools in the new drawer and make it easier to find everything. Here is a picture of the sliding insert inside the drawer. It holds all my files and stones. And this picture shows the other tools that are in the same drawer under the sliding insert. The new cart also allows me to arrange and hang some of my most commonly used hand tools on the inside of the doors. I can close everything up at the end of the day which is also nice.

The other thing I did was to build an enclosure around the air handling unit. This will protect the unit from dings and dents, but it will also give me several square yards of additional space for hanging tools...(kinda like adding some much needed wall space). This picture shows the new enclosure. Last but not least I added a removable bench top to the welding table, so that I can use it as additional bench space when I'm doing lathe work. The welding table folds up flat when not it use. It can be opened up for welding or it can be used as a bench....very versatile item. Here is a picture of the welding table ready for welding. And this picture shows the welding table with the new 3/4" bench top installed.

You may have also noticed a new rug on the floor in front of the milling table. It has been getting really cold at night (when I do most of my work) and the floor is freezing. I have a "Shop Assistant" that refuses to be away from my side. He sits at my feet for hours while I'm working and I had to give him a little extra comfort.....he's an Irish Wolfhound/Terrier mix puppy......and he just can't stand to be more than 2 feet here's my boy. (he'll sit just like that for HOURS at a time......)


Twelve - I'm trying to get ready for the "Next Level" of adventures. I want to try to tackle some really hard projects in the near future and as such, the Garage needs a major overhaul. The problem ain't getting any bigger hahahaha. I still have the same amount of space that I had in the beginning, but now I'm adding more equipment. I found an old Heat-treating Kiln, a 4 1/2" metal cutting bandsaw and other assorted luxuries. Now I have to make room for everything. I moved the blaster and the big compressor down toward the garage door. I enclosed my push mower with a plywood cover so I can stack stuff on it and I made a new wooden "cubical rack" to hold my parts and pieces. 

So now I should have the room I need to add the new milling machine when it gets here on Tuesday. The place is starting to shape up nicely.


Thirteen - I picked up the new mill on Tuesday, and I've been getting it all set up and ready ever since then. I had to remove the main workbench to have a place for the new mill. I rented a pallet jack to move the new mill into its spot. This thing is a beast.....just under 1000 Lbs.

 It took me 2 days just to get the new DRO's mounted. I had to make custom mounts in order to get everything to work. These are really fantastic DRO units too. Very easy to operate and with .0005 resolution.

 I had to move the power switch on the mill (it was in the way of the Y-Axis DRO mounting. This picture shows the new location of the power switch. I made a cutom bracket to hold both the power switch and the new DRO display panel. While I was at it I thought it would be nice to make the mount large enough to use it as a shelf too (serves a couple functions that way).....I gave up a lot of table top space and so I'm trying to do everything I can to make little nooks and crannies to set things down on while I'm working. The new shelf works great for safety glasses, spray cans, notes and pencil...stuff like that. This picture shows the right side of the machine and you can see the new mounts pretty clearly....also notice the 1-shot lubricator is mounted on the side. I still have a lot more to do to get ready, but thought someone might be interested in seeing the new machine as it takes shape. Here is a close-up of the beast.

Cost of Workshop Renovations 
I bought a few odds and ends from Home Depot to renovate the workshop. I bought a pair of overhead cabinet kits for 2 @ 56.65 each, a 4 foot overhead florescent light for 54.29 and a bunch of assorted odds and ends like electrical boxes, wire, wallplates and breakers. The new air compressor was a floor model from Home Depot for 225.00 the TOTAL = $ 448.99



Command Central - I have gotten a number of inquiries asking about "Behind the Scenes" of my little project so I thought I might share a peek at the brains behind the website. I own and operate my own web servers for this project. Of course I don't keep them in the workshop, so I have converted one of the bedrooms into an Internet computer center. Here is a picture of the Computer rack that serves as my web, e-mail and forum host. Whenever you visit the website or forums this is where you are really visiting (so it's a true statement when I say I am welcoming you into my home). And here is a picture of the main controller workstation that allows me to control the array of computers, and where I spend hours writing all the details for each new section. Just thought you might be interested......



Tool and Machine Details

Below you will find details about some of the tools and machines that I use in the Workshop as well as discussions about how well they work (or don't work). I'll be adding to this section as time permits. If you see anything in the workshop that you would like additional information about. Please post your question in the "Tools" forum and I'll do a detailed write-up on it.

Air Delivery System - Tanks, Lines, valves and original design hahaha.

Grizzly Mini-Mill - Milling, Measuring and my meandering hahaha. Everything you could ever want to know about my mini-mill.