Making Swarf, sometimes…

Posted on Sunday, January 23rd, 2011 at 8:49 pm

We’ve all heard the cliché “One door closes, another door opens.” The door closing was that of Sony in Rancho Bernardo, CA. Sony had a liquidation sale of machinery, tools, metals, and the kitchen sink. My friend Alan picked up just a “few” items.
One such item Alan acquired was a “newer” Bridgeport type vertical knee milling machine.

I have known Alan Schmidt for about ten years. Alan and his wife Beth own Horseless Carriage Restorations and Restoration Supply Company; where Alan keeps the automotive past alive. He’s had me work on a few of his client’s projects; the wooden parts of course.

I love metals though, always have. Clamping a dull piece of metal to a milling machine’s table, flipping a switch, watching the swarf flying off to expose a new and bright surface — I love it.

Over the last ten years I have visited Alan’s shop many times, it’s just down the road. Under his watchful eye, he’s allowed me to use his milling machine. There have been enough times over the years where I had to, or wanted to, make something that I couldn’t create with my drill press, I required a mill.

Surfacing 4340 steel with a fly cutter.

Alan would periodically encourage me to get a milling machine and retire my drill press. He would tell me of all the things that I could accomplish on a mill, and I knew it. My response was always the same: “I don’t have the room.” This went on for years, then Sony closed their doors here in Rancho Bernardo.

Alan owned two milling machines and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse on the one he was replacing. Moving this 3200 pound beast into place took some doing, and ruined my back for six weeks; it was all worth
it to be sure.

The main reason for getting this machine running was to turn cow horn into veneer, it makes the job much easier than what I’ve done in the past. However, making veneer from cow horn plates is still a smelly, dirty and laborious job. I may have some horn veneer on the website as a product, ready for antique restorers and furniture makers to use. More on this later…

My new machine has seen better days and I didn’t expect to achieve excellent results. I surfaced a piece of 4340 steel with a fly cutter over a twelve inch length by three inches wide. To my amazement, surface deviation was only about +0.0001” from one end to the other. So it’s safe to say it does an awesome job on cow horn.

You may be wondering what the heck swarf is. Swarf is the chips, shavings, turnings, or filings produced by the process of machining metal, as seen above. Swarf is metal debris, and only metal.

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