I have seen a number of articles where enterprising mill owners have fitted LED lighting to improve workspace visibility. Often these utilise LED ring lights that are intended for automotive use and a smaller number using flat panels also used as replacements inside vehicles. I couldn′t find a suitable ring light but came across some very cheap LED flat panel lights on Amazon. I ordered a few to play with and at £1.25 each including postage from Hong Kong it wouldn′t be much of a loss even if I couldn′t make something useful.
I used bits and pieces that I had in the workshop to make a suitable cover and frame to protect the panel but you could probably just cover it in clear tape to provide a bit of protection. The panels come with a foam sticky pad on the back so they can be fixed to any flat surface. Unfortunately there is no such surface on the mill where I wanted to put the light, just a large recess on the underside of the head. I made the panel to be a tight fit into this recess. A small piece of 6mm clear polycarbonate sheet made the front cover with a similarly sized bit of styrene sheet for the back. The frame was from some left over plastic soffit trim but any U shaped plastic moulding would do
The panels come with a selection of “ends” to suit various vehicle lamp styles, these were not needed as I soldered the power lead directly to the board. Just to really confuse me the original red wire was the negative and the black positive, fortunately the boards seem to have a degree of protection built in! The parts are simply the black styrene back the clear polycarbonate front (it still has the protective paper on in the photo) some spacers also from polycarbonate and the frame. I cut the frame just using a tenon saw and a mitre box so they don′t join up too well. Basically just stick the spacers round the edge of the back sheet leaving a gap for the wire, stick the LED panel in the middle. The frame just clips on and holds everything together. Drill a hole in the edge of one of the frame pieces and thread the power lead through it before soldering the supply to the board.
With a bit of adjustment to the width of the light it was a tight fit in the recess under the mill head and at the moment it is just wedged in. It may need some better fixing method if the vibration works it loose. The power is from a 12v plug in supply (Wall Wart) it needs to be DC so I couldn′t use the existing 12v light supply. As can be seen it gives quite a bright light, it is supposed to be warm white but it′s definitely on the blue side.
I was recently marking out a part to be machined using my version of a surface plate namely an old piece of plate glass. I have had this for ages and it normally sits unused in a dusty corner of the workshop (actually all the corners are probably dusty and some with added cobwebs). I was having particular difficulty seeing the the surface due to reflected light and the transparency and once I had finished decided to look at buying a new surface plate. I was surprised to find that small granite surface plates can be obtained at quite reasonable prices. For example Axminster provide a 300mm x 200mm granite plate for about £40.00. If however you want a real precision job a Mitutoyo plate the same size can be had for £234.00.
However as this would probably end up sitting in the same corner of the workshop and only be used on rare occasions I decided to investigate alternatives. I have read in a few places that bits of granite kitchen worktop can be used to good effect and also that Tesco, Argos and the like, sell small granite worktop savers at reasonable prices.
As I happened to be passing Argos I went in and found a 400mm x 300mm granite worktop saver for £8.00. At that price it had to be worth a go and if nothing else would be big enough to tape a sheet of abrasive paper to for flatening plane irons and similar jobs. Once home and unpacked I cleaned it up and checked it with a couple of straight edges. There appear to be no obvious highs or lows and the surface appears evenly ground and polished. I think with my limited ability to test for flatness it will suit my skill level and suffice until I need something more accurate. The only minor downside is that it is very shiny, I think a matt finish is normal on surface plate. I may be able to cut the glare with some abrasive cleaner but that could make it less flat.
The leadscrew gearbox was getting a bit low on oil and as the oil was still the original I decided an oil change was in order. Nothing too complicated but it led on to another small mod to the lathe which I wrote up for anyone who needs new oil.
Maurice Duckworth contacted me from Cumbria with an interesting modification to the four bolt clamp plate for the WM250 lathe. The main benefit of which is an easily readable protractor scale for setting over the topslide. Maurice engraved the scale on the lathe without using a rotary table or dividing plate and his method could readily be used in the production of any type of dial or scale.
Also included in Maurice’s e-mail was an ingenious method to disengage and thereby silence the leadscrew change gear train. Included in this project was a description of how to make professional looking labels.
Without further ado I contacted Maurice and he sent me the necessary photos, text and permission to publish .
I wanted a smaller toolmakers clamp so made a couple. Not so much a project more of a “projette”. I thought I would document the making and add it to the site. I think it took longer to write the web page than it did to make the clamps.
Anyway these clamps are always useful and easy to make. I made some at school – about 50 years ago – and they are still going strong.
This is a modification I should have made years ago. At long last I have relegated the spanner to the drawer with it’s companions.
I have detailed how to modify the lathe tailstock to get rid of the old nut and bolt and replace it with a lever and cam – much better. This mod involves milling a pocket and drilling holes in the tailstock, so probably not something to do if the lathe is still under warranty. Of course lucky owners of the latest model WM250 already have this as standard. I have included some drawings which of are based on my lathe but could be easily adapted to other similar Chinese lathes, probably even the multitude of mini-lathes out there.