Plant Engineering

I was in the Uni bookshop the other day, had a check of their small sales table (they used to have awesome sales), and the layout of one particular cover leapt out at me.  It was the Standard Handbook of Plant Engineering.

Standard Handbook of Plant Engineering

Standard Handbook of Plant Engineering

Published in the same collection as the book I call the Mechanical Engineer’s bible: the Standard Handbook of Engineering Calculations.

Intrigued, I picked it up, and checked the price.  Original price, $350.  Sale price, $15.  It is still available (current edition) through normal retailers (online) for between $100 and $300.  Be one hell of a bargain if it was of any actual interest to me.  So I started to have a look, and within just a few random page choices, it was no longer a question of whether I was interested, it was whether I was going to be able to get it to the counter before trying to read it cover to cover.  At around 1100 pages, that wasn’t really a risk!

It includes sections on in-plant prime power generation and cogeneration; heating, ventilating and air conditioning; water sources, use and disposition; mechanical power transmission; instrumentation and automatic control; pollution control and waste disposal; plant safety and sanitation; Energy conservation; and, lubricants and lubrication systems.  Well that is the official blurb.

In practice, there are sections about chains and gears, gear types, identifying wear and tear; pipes, including insulating them; corrosion control of different materials (concrete, steel, plastic, wood) and on and on. Now before I go on about it too much, I’m sure most are already bored, I’ll stop.

It was a cool find, in my opinion at least.

Pins and Tails

If you think about a joint, the intersection point of two materials, there are a number of ways they can be held together.

If the material is metal, you can weld, braze, solder, glue, bolt, screw, rivet, glue, tape, just to name a few methods!

If it is wood, obviously some of these still apply, but not all. Joints can use the strength of the glue to hold a joint together, or mechanical strength (where because of friction/fibre compression and mechanical interlock, the joint holds together), or both.

A basic mitre joint requires the strength of glue to hold it together. One with dowels, biscuits, spline or dominos start getting some mechanical benefit, along with the increased glue area. A mitre lock bit pushes up the amount of glue area. A box joint even more so.

One joint that really makes use of mechanical strength and glue area is the dovetail.

Now some people have a real passion about handcutting dovetails, and hey, more power to them.
One day I’d love to have the technique down pat to be able to do that myself, but in the meantime I’ll stick with dovetail jigs.

The are a number of jigs out there, but by far and away the easiest I have found to quickly and easily create a basic dovetail joint is the Gifkins dovetail jig. No need to reference back to a manual, relearn the steps, remember how to use it, it is that intuitive.

I’ve referenced it on a number of occasions, and hope to do a bit of a feature on it shortly.

Until then, here is the current version of the standard sized Gifkins, with the latest stops fitted.


There is a jumbo version, able to produce dovetail joints up to 480mm, and 22mm thick, which would be pretty cool too.


For more info, check out the Gifkins website.

Thread Chasing

I’ve always been interested in the mechanical uses of timber – using timber where it is more traditional for metal (or plastic) to be the material of choice.  (None of these are my creations of course…yet!) Things like cars

Wooden Car

Wooden Interior

iPods / iPhones & Steampunked items

Wooden iPod

Wooden Apple Computer

(Although in Apple’s case, that is actually where the case came from – the original Apple 1 was a kitset computer, and you either made your own wooden case, or bought one from Apple!)

Homemade Apple 1 Case

Commercial Apple 1 Case

One of these sold for over $200,000 in an auction, so not a bad investment of $500 back in 1976!

I may not be up to making anything like this (although a wood iPad storage case is tempting, especially when I get my metric Hingecrafter from PWS), but the idea of wooden devices and mechanics is certainly interesting.  Hinges, gears, threads.

I have just gotten a set of thread chasing turning gouges from Carbatec, and have been researching how it is done.  Fascinating to see how fast the project is spun while cutting the thread.  I thought it would be dead slow, but 250RPM, although not high compared to turning speeds is still a lot faster than I was expecting to see.

Researching how it is done found me the following three videos on YouTube.

Some interesting techniques demonstrated (even if the first also includes how to drink a cup of tea at the start!)

Universities are the Bomb

Headed over to the Mechanical Engineering workshops, and found someone who will be quite happy to do the minor milling job I need for my router table (that annoyingly slight curvature on the front face).    Once I can get that done, I will be on the road once again to completing the router table.

Also sounds like I will be able to get a jig together to test the compressive load capabilities of each of the clamps I’m reviewing using a load cell which can cope with up to 500kg of pressure.

Cool 🙂 Progress.

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