Burning Grass

No-not what you think! Got inspired with my little welding job, and the latest “The Shed” magazine to practice welding some more.

I have a large piece of 1/2″ steel plate, that I was using as a reflective plate in the fireplace of our last house. (The concept being a steel plate in the back of the fireplace heats up, then radiates that heat into the room instead of heating up the bricks behind the fire, then dissipating it to the outside).

It was originally someone’s BBQ plate, and had a few holes drilled in it. Someone had also tried cutting a couple of slots in it, about 5″ long and 3/8″ deep, so I used these as the aim – try to get these to disappear by welding – filling in the voids.

Set up a bit of a metal corner in the shed (which consists of nothing more than the Triton steel cutter and the welder



That is the limit of metalworking tools I currently have – bit discraceful.) Laid the steel plate on the ground outside (thus the burnt grass) and ground a corner to remove the rust, so the MagEarth would attach with good conductivity.


Went through a 1/2 dozen rods, and was seeing some real improvement between the first and the last. Do enjoy welding, so will leave this setup so I can keep practicing. Shame we can’t weld wood! There again, wood is a lot easier to cut and shape.

Perhaps one day I’ll be able to add a small metal lathe and mill – would have proven useful on many occasions already.

Damascus steel

There are not a lot of swords around these days, and the original techniques for producing Damascus steel have been lost to the ages.  Modern Damascus steel is typically created by a technique called billet welding.  This is where a billet of steel is hammered out, folded over, then hammered together again which causes the steel to weld together.  Hammered out again, folded, hammered together.  Rinse and repeat.

Japanese forgers used to use a similar technique, throwing a layer of carbon over the steel before folding it.  This creates layers of ferrite and cementite – soft and hard microlayers.

The result of whatever method is used, is steel with a distinctive organic wavy pattern across the surface.

Despite Damascus steel swords no longer being a household item (well in the household of a knight, or Samurai), you can still buy products that benefit from the tough, durable, yet razor-sharp edge that Damascus steel provides.  These are kitchen knives, with the incredible distinctive surface that layers upon layers of folded, billet welded steel creates.

So you may be wondering where this is leading? Well, you remember the steak knife project I did recently, creating wooden handles on a set of four knives?  (These kits are still available by the way).  How would you like to have a kitchen knife made from Damascus steel for which you have created the handle?

Professional Woodworkers Supplies have Damascus steel kitchen knife blanks that you can handle with a distinctive timber of your choice.  I do a great deal of cooking, and like having good knives.  So having one made from Damascus steel is something I have wanted for a while, and even better as a shed project.

Damascus steel Zhen Nakiri knife blank

They make great gifts as well.

Creating a handle for this knife blank will be featured in an upcoming article (just as soon as I make it!)

This particular blank is a Zhen Nakiri blade, which is particularly suited to cutting vegetables.  It has a blade length of 170mm, and a Rockwell C hardness of 60-62, and has 67 layers. Check out the range available here.

Dust, Welding and Dovetails

Had a look at the router table today. It has been quite a while. I was thinking of actually getting out the video camera and doing something else that hasn’t happened in a long, long time- actually produce a podcast. But before doing that, thought the router table deserved to have the intended dust extraction finished.

Outside the router table, there is a 4″ dust tube, connected to a blast gate and from there to the extraction system, ready to go. The other end- well, that is what needed to be connected up.

Inside the router table, directly below the router there is a dust port (tablesaw dust hood) built in that has been emptying dust into the lower storage compartment, because it hadn’t been connected up.


The lower compartment is storage, not dust extraction. The original intention is for a tube to be connected to the extractor, providing negative pressure in the router compartment, drawing air (and dust) in from the routing area, and in through any other gaps, such as around the door that leads to the router compartment. The door is a necessary evil- I still need access to the router itself for speed changes, and router bit changes (I prefer that over using a router bit extender).

So with a large holesaw drill bit, I cut an opening large enough for the dust hose, and hose clamp.

Some 4″ hose was connected to the underside of the port extracting from the router bit compartment, and left sticking out.


Now I planned to use a spare tablesaw dust hood I had on the side of the table to connect the extracton system to (it is a bit overkill, but it is what it is), but how do I connect the hose on the inside?

So I took a second hood (a smaller one that I had originally cut down to make a bit of a vac sweep), trimmed off the remaining 3 sides so it could fit to the inside of the large hood. To join the two together, I chose (not glue, super or otherwise, not screws or bolts, nor tape, double sided carpet tape or duct tape, but) to plastic weld the two together. This is pretty easily done, so long as it is thermo-plastic, and not thermo-set plastic. The difference? One melts with heat, the other doesn’t. Seeing as the most common form of welding is to create a molten boundary between two materials so they fuse together, this can be equally applied to plastic as metal.

The heat source doesn’t have to be achieved by shorting out a high-amp power supply when welding plastic (unlike welding metal), you only need a heat torch – hot air is more than sufficient. This isn’t of course your run of the mill hair dryer – 600 C might create a bit of an undesirable hair style! These are similar to paint strippers, and in this case that is what I used.

I didn’t have any filler rod, but it seemed to work out anyway.


So with a scraper to push the material together as it melted, the blower set to 550 – 600C I welded all round. The result seemed plenty strong enough although I did get a bit of distortion in the dust hood where I got it a bit warm!


Once done, the tube sticking out of the router table was shortened to final length, then another hose clamp put on to attach it to the new attachment point on the inside of the hood.


This was then screwed to the side of the router table, and connected to the dust extraction system. A Y section was added so I could draw some pickup from the router fence, or the free-routing mount.



I used my standard trick of a plumbing connector to connect the 2.5″ hose to the 4″ system. I used duct tape to hold it together. Well actually in this case it was Gorilla Tape. First time I’d used it. And I thought standard duct tape was strong and sticky. Gorilla tape is quite amazing!

So now the router table is connected in, and another long standing job is finally out of the way.

As far as dovetails are concerned you’ll have to wait to my next post or so!

SSYTC006 Welding

Very bad example of MMAW 😉

A New Approach to an Aussie Icon

You can tell a company’s Australian, when it brings out a product which is a reinvention of a very traditional tool – the Boomerang.  And yes, the boomerang was a tool, and not just a kid’s novelty.  It was also used for hunting, and the benefit was if you didn’t hit your target, it would generally return in the direction it was thrown.  Imagine that tech in the modern arena – fire a missile, and if it missed, it came back ready to be used for another shot!  I will also acknowledge that the boomerang is not unique to Australia, but that is enough of the history lesson!

What we have however is not designed to be thrown, but to hold, and it’s application is welding.  Being able to clamp two pieces of ferrous material at a set angle to each other, so the welder can then do the tacking up of the project.

MagSwitch Boomer Angle

MagSwitch Boomer Angle

Comes from MagSwitch, so again it is utilising the ingenious switchable magnets (in this case it is the 30mm ones), and each can be rotated through 180 degrees so you can bring the two pieces together at whatever angle is required.  I haven’t actually used it for a project as yet, so don’t have any photos of it in use, but you can get the general idea here.

MagSwitch Welding Clamp

Finding something to clamp the earth to can often be a tricky proposition when welding, along with needing to ensure it is a good contact, and actually finding something the right size for the clamp’s jaws.

MagSwitch have in their product range a number of different sized Welding Clamps, and I have fitted the 300A welding clamp onto my little GMC Welder, as much to prove the concept as it is to make my life easier!

Welder and MagSwitch Welding Clamp

Welder and MagSwitch Welding Clamp

Here is my modest welding set, including the GMC Welder, Auto darkening helmet and my existing clamps.

Original Clamp Max Opening

Original Clamp Max Opening

The original clamp has a typical sort of opening capacity, but that makes it difficult to clamp onto even a modest bar, and obviously impossible on flat plate, or a 1″ round section (or larger) pipe.

Clamp removed and ready for attaching to the MagSwitch

Clamp removed and ready for attaching to the MagSwitch

The GMC earth is simply a bare multistrand wire wrapped around the bolt, so after removing the original clamp, I stripped the insulation back a bit to give more bare wire to use with the MagSwitch. The bolt and nut on the MagSwitch Welding Clamp is substantial, and has two good sized washers and a spring washer. This means you can really clamp down on the earth wire, ensuring good contact.

MagSwitch Welding Clamp fitted

MagSwitch Welding Clamp fitted

The upgrade took only a few minutes – a very easy adaption.  In some instances, where welding non-ferrous material, a clamp is obviously more beneficial, so in those cases (not that I will personally be welding non-ferrous materials!) simply MagSwitch the magnetic earth clamp onto the original clamp and use it as it was originally intended.  Once I grind some of the rust off my extremely rusty welding skills, I’ll weld a larger flat plate onto the back of the clamp just for this purpose (ie to provide a good contact area to be able to MagSwitch for those few occasions when having a clamp would actually be more beneficial than the MagSwitch.  I can’t think of any for myself, but again, it is a proof of concept rather than addressing a particular need I have…..I need to prove the concept! 🙂 )

Clamping where a traditional clamp fails

Clamping where a traditional clamp fails

I’m sure there are other solutions for clamping in preparation to welding onto something like this 1″ diameter round stock.  However the speed, convenience, and contact area achieved with the MagSwitch will be hard to beat.

There have been some discussions that the last thing you’d want to do is have magnets in close proximity to welding, but in reality this is not a problem for the MagSwitch.  Don’t weld right next to the clamp, ensure there is good contact between the clamp and workpiece (this is not hard to achieve), and above all else, don’t use the practice of striking an arc off the welding clamp to test the circuit, preheat the rod etc.  That will cause significant damage to the clamp. The only reason I mention what should be pretty common sense is I have heard there have been a few clamps returned as being faulty (such as the clamp no longer being able to turn off) and there is an obvious large arc strike on the clamp and it has effectively being welded on!

So an easy upgrade, and more importantly makes earthing your work in preparation for welding a breeze.

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