I made a pepper grinder

So, as some of my longtime friends know, I’m hard on my personal effects, be they the string of watches I wear, the cameras I carry, my bikes, my tools, my phone, laptops, everything. This extends to the kitchen, where the average life of a glass is about a year. Pots and pans tend to be a little banged up, before I switched to aeropress I was always needing a new glass carafe for my french press coffee. Damn I miss french press sometimes. Anyway.

I’ve also been through a number of pepper grinders, the last of which was both really nice (consistent, ground pepper quickly, needed no batteries) and not so nice (plastic) and broke after only a few months. I took it apart and looked at it, and saw that I could replace all the plastic parts with aluminum, quickly mocked up a design in my head, and bought some material to turn the parts on the lathe. I also did a repair on the plastic, to keep us in fresh ground pepper in the mean time.

Fast forward a month. I’ve got all the tooling I think I need, and I’m in the shower, thinking through the kinda complex design I came up with initially. It had two flanges, a main body, and a cap, and I didn’t know exactly how the shaft that connected the burrs to the top would connect. The flanges would have required cutting a bunch of internal and external threads, and just a lot more work in general. And then, there in the shower, I realize: I can just weld a little threaded rod to the end of the shaft, and then not need all the complicated extra flanges; the cap could just spin on the main body and be held in place with nuts above and below.

So, even if you can’t understand my description, you can kinda see that the second one is a lot simpler. It was simple enough I was confident I could make it. That same day, I started cutting material. I cut the main body out, drilling and then boring out to 1.5” about half way down my work piece. I also cut the little shoulder on the top that the cap rides on. Then, I parted off at the right length, flipped the part with a soda can shim over the finished surface, and started boring the bottom.

Innuendo aside, it was a pretty straightforward process. I had to cut a succession of steps, one to hold the outside of the steel burrs I had, and one to hold the little adjuster bar that was from the bottom of the old mill. In the middle of all this, I ordered a better boring bar from littlemachineshop.com (which I love, because they always have good quality import tools), which made the second side and the cap a lot easier.

Then, a minor disaster: I wanted to hurry up and finish, so I was rushing through cutting the cap out. Got the initial work done, but my parting blade wasn’t cooperating, so I decided to cut it with my band saw and then face it. My parting is pretty bad, I usually have to face the parts after anyway. Facing means making a cut perpendicular to the axis of rotation, on the end of the spinning part, often to clean up a cut made some other way.

So I take it out of the lathe, put it in the vice, and start cutting it with the saw. The band saw is balky and doesn’t like the 2” round. Rushing, not getting things in position, etc. Also, at this point, it’s midnight, so I’m tired and making dumb mistakes. The blade pops out, I put it back in, keep sawing. finally, the part comes off.

I take it back over to the lathe and start to cut. It’s really rough; almost immediately, the part snags, and because I’m only holding the thin side, it’s ripped out of the jaws, and ends up in the chip tray (the metal that comes off from machining operations is called chips; the chip tray collects some of them; much of machining is dealing with chips). The part is bent, ruined. I give up for the night.

The next day, on lunch, I start cutting on a new lid. I have just enough material, and at least the drilling parts of the work only take maybe 20 minutes. That evening, I get the boring and parting done, flip it, carefully true it up, and face it off without incident.

Then, finally, I was ready to assemble it. I was a little surprised that it went together on the first try. Everything fit; all my measurements had been within tolerance, and after a quick washing, I loaded it up with pepper. Works great, doubles as a bludgeon. Very tough.

The next day (today, the day I’m writing this, I looked at the simple nut on the top, and decided it would be better if it were a bigger sort of knob (the technical term is “thumb nut”), that could be operated without tools. So I went back down to the lathe and made one in about 25 miuntes. And that’s the grinder we have now. Hopefully I won’t break this one, but if I do, I can fix it.

Posted on 2021-03-13 21:06:12Z GMT

just a walk around the block

So, I was having a cigar, screwing around on twitter, and I tweeted:

And well, I was sitting there and I realized that there was nothing stopping me from going on a little walk right then and there, so I did. Grabbed my camera and went on a little stroll. My left ankle and knee complained most of the way, but overall I’m really glad I went somewhere and did something. Vaccination and a bit more personal freedom and leeway can’t come soon enough.

In other news, I launched the bag website recently, to almost no fanfare at all. I don’t really know what to do to drum up customers… not my area really. I should talk to other people that make niche goods maybe.

Anyway. There are a lot of RVs parked in the hood now. I hope they’re OK, whoever might be living in them. Going to push publish and go to sleep.

Posted on 2021-02-21 10:36:52Z GMT

left the house today, took some pics

I was going to stay home and nap today, but fate threw a good excuse to go walk around the mission for an hour today (double masked and keeping my distance from everyone, naturally). It’s been a while since I was out in the world. Five thousand steps according to my watch. Maybe the longest I’ve walked in a year? It’s been a while. I kinda wish I’d gone further. I used to do 10 or 15 miles in a day, no problem. Solvitur Ambulando, I’ve always thought.

The Mission was much as it always was; rumors of a dead san francisco are greatly exaggerated. Valencia had a couple blocks closed off, and a lot of the restaurants had ‘outdoor seating’ with varying degrees of ‘outdoor’ for each of them in the unused parking spaces. None were the fully enclosed spots like I’ve seen in photos from other cities, but I’m still not about to sit down that close to other people. I kept walking.

Trying to work on the backlog of tasks, but these pictures were fresh, and I kinda like them. Getting out the superwide was a good choice; something to break up the monotony of the 50mm which I love, and won’t ever really be done with, but/and I definitely needed to take the wide view today.

The pandemic is about to enter its second year here. The early days were hard; not knowing what was safe and what wasn’t; it was maybe a month into things before the CDC was recommending mask wearing? We were worried enough that we wiped down our groceries, because nobody knew if fomite transmission was a thing (and we all suddenly knew that word). People figured out new things to do; I figured out recipes to try to relieve the boredom, we had movie sundays, where several households would start a movie at the same time, and we’d chat on discord.

Then, people started figuring out ways to see each other somewhat safely. Abstinence is a bad model for public health, and the good news is we could meet outside, in a park, with six feet between households. Lots of people picked up new hobbies; bread baking, cooking, netflix watching. I re-did this web site, kept fucking up my ankle, my knee, and finding myself unable to walk for periods of days, and hobbling around a lot. I guess that’s what happens when you cut off physical therapy too soon after surgery, but what was I going to do? Go, and breathe someone else’s air for an hour twice a week? No thank you.

anyway, at this point, we’ve figured out what’s permissible and what isn’t. Stuff outside, with the six feet rule, is fine (ish). Avoid crowds, though; the more people in an area, the more likely someone is there, spreading the virus but asymptomatic. Don’t go inside someone else’s building, unless they’re in your pod; pods are less than six people. This last is broken a lot, because people have to eat, and grocery stores are full of other people. Even with restricted occupancy, you’re definitely sharing air. If you do ‘break the rules’, self-isolate for two weeks, do not pass go, don’t collect $200.

It was a nice day after a load of crappy ones. Winter has been especially harsh this year. I always get a bit down in January. The holidays aren’t as bad, buoyed as they are (normally) by family and food and giving and receiving presents. It’s not yet spring, but it’s getting warmer.

Posted on 2021-02-07 09:27:24Z GMT

talk about bags; unrelated pictures from 2019

First photo is a ringer; it’s my friend’s dog Cherry. Been doing a lot of sewing work lately. I’ve got a new smaller EDC bag mostly ready for trials, as soon as I’m allowed to leave the house and take pictures. Just big enough for my leica, a couple of lenses, and maybe a snack and water bottle. I sort of have felt mildly embarrassed when I’m out somewhere, tell people I make bags, and the one I’m carrying isn’t one of mine. “No, this is just an old Domke,” isn’t a very fun answer, so I’m making one to fit that bag-shaped space. Scratching my own itch, so to speak.

Another thing that just happened: I acquired the cheapest walking foot sewing machine, a TuffSew Super Deluxe. I didn’t buy new, but got it for $100 on craigslist. The foot only lifts about 1/4”, the maximum stitch length is about 6mm, and if that mixing of units didn’t put you off, the noise from the machine just might. It’s a machine that lets the whole house know, SOMEONE IS SEWING SOMETHING. It did punch through 9 layers of 1000 denier nylon canvas without issue, once I got the threading right, and oiled it in all the spots that move. Oh and corrected the belt tension and fucked up one of the cams that times the feed dogs, and then fixed that. I may have to move some things around to make room for it, but that’s later today.

Oh, and: the stitch length lever on it doesn’t have like, markings or a way to set and hold a stitch length, so I need to devise something for that; I may see if I can get some Sailrite parts for it, since they’re the same OEM they share the same casting and a lot of parts. The Sailrite machines are at least finished here in the US, and are probably a lot smoother. Like any offset manufacturing, there are quality and finish specifications; the degree to which fit and finish affects the final product is pretty drastic. Part of why I screwed up that cam is I was trying to add a tiny bit of play in the machine, as it was adjusted so tightly that it was almost binding up from internal forces.

Anyway. As soon as I finish this bag, I’m going to start work on the web site for the three bags I intend to sell. There are three base designs, and basically those are a jumping off point. Customizable fabric, size, accessories, all made to order. The little one I’m making for myself will be the cheapest, probably in the $750 range. I haven’t decided yet. The Dyneema isn’t cheap, and neither is anything else I put into these, including my time. That’ll be at mills.studio which is a working domain that displays “…” and nothing else. A work in progress.

Speaking of, it’s time to cook breakfast.

Posted on 2020-12-20 19:00:44Z GMT

unwritten rules (how not to blog)

These are a little random, but they’re what’s next on the queue. I’ve always had a couple rules, unwritten, that I find myself following without thinking. One of them is that the things stay in chronological order, whatever I have in what passes for a stack to be published, and I put out the oldest first.

Another unwritten rule: Never publish the same picture twice. This is probably the worst idea from like a self-promotion or advertising angle; good thing I’m doing neither of those. I don’t know why I do this, other than the fact that I’m constantly producing images; less so the last nine months, but I still have enough of a work backlog that I’m good for images till… sometime next year. or until things start happening again and I start generating new stuff I care about more.rr

The last one: no drafts, no timed posts. This is more a function of the barebones software I use. I technically can do draft posts now, and have occasionally, but more often than not I look at what I’ve written, say fuck it, and push publish. life is too short to worry about what’s in a little personal blog that nobody really reads.

Posted on 2020-12-09 08:18:43Z GMT