12 March 2009

Fun, in theory: DIY projects

Yes, it is project update time!

When I last updated, I was heading towards getting a parts-complete set of parts for the Pico-ITX system.  At this point the major parts are now in and I was faced with having to all the parts mounted in the Toaster from Hell.  The big point that was holding me up on that is one that should have given me caution to just buy a standard case and be done with it: lack of tools to make parts.

Really, if I had just a few minor tools I would have been finished some time ago, even lacking bells and whistle parts.  As it is I'm still lacking some bells and whistles (like getting the on-board audio system which has a non-standard header set-up) going.  Finally I decided on the 'no frills, just get this damned thing completed' agenda.  Thus I have come down to faceplates: those pieces of metal made to hold buttons and other interface things like sockets for power and USB connections.  I had decided on a CRU Dataport housing for one of the 3.5" slots in the Toaster and will go with the 2 x 2.5" SATA notebook drives in one of the housings.  In theory I can run both of those off of the IDE output from the Pico-ITX board... which requires a notebook IDE to standard IDE adapter and then a standard IDE to dual SATA adapter... made in China that last one is... don't ask me which site I scrounged it from, I couldn't tell you.  That was good.  I also found some small fans, 1" square for circulation and those are a major plus.  I previously had a Pico power supply (requires external brick adapter) for DC-DC connections and would dearly love to get an AC-DC board for the system, but that was not available when this all started.  Beyond that I've been purchasing bits'n'pieces here and there, including aluminum sheet and shim stock and all sorts of fun drill bits to adapt over to my small driver, a nibbler to take off small sheet metal pieces, and generally wishing I had a regular machine shop/mechanics shop nearby that I could rent some time from.

That last bit points out to my first idea on all of this, which was to install a two-slot frame (one 3.5" x  1" and one 3.5" x 1.5" slot next to each other with 1/8" between them T/B) so that I could then mount regular faceplates seen on the slots at the back of normal desktop computers.  I can find those pre-punched by the truckload.  To do that, however, I would have needed to pieces of equipment I don't have:  one is a drill press, so that I could get all the lovely holes worked out and tap them, and the other is a press-brake for sheet metal for nice 90 degree bends.  Access to those two would have just had me down to parts scrounging in a week and the project done in a couple of months.  Without those two pieces of equipment, I have been having a rough time of it.

Even drilling out the holes for the I/O equipment (buttons, interfaces, etc.) had nearly made me give up on the idea and just buy a case.  Early last week I was nearly at that point and was seriously pricing out cases.  But as I had other projects going and I had been looking at other sites, I remembered what one guy did with his new Ruger Mark III pistol: he took out the chamber loaded indicator.  More than that, he had sealed up the slot for it and not by welding.  When I remembered that, all the parts fit together and I was soon looking at epoxy putty and resins that would set up to be nearly as strong as steel.  And has all the workability of steel for drilling, sanding, etc.  At the moment I remembered that, I knew that I no longer had to get all the holes perfect the first time as I could hack out as much as necessary for a 'rough fit' and then putty/resin around the rough area and would then get a nice fit for the interface parts.  Beyond that for the putty, if you put a screw in and then putty around it and screw out the screw when it is half-set, you have a pre-tapped hole for that screw.  No matter how bad it looked on first hit, I could smooth in putty or resin and that would be that.

Yes, for those of us without the necessary machining equipment (and I really could use a buffing/grinding wheel too, but that is cosmetic) there are ways to 'fake it'.  I will still bitterly curse that VIA did *not* make the holes on the Pico-ITX fit into the exact holes for a hard drive: they were within a few millimeters for that.  That would have allowed for a standard drive housing adapter and shortened this process up no end sans equipment.

Once done it will be a small home-media server, and at this point I could have done better for less money, but learned far less... which tells you how much media I utilize on a monthly basis: the project is more interesting than what I watch or listen to.


The Mossberg 16ga. and GWA/Marlin 60 are both finished, save for one E-ring off the Marlin that is indicated on no diagrams, anywhere, for any version of the Marlin 60 and derivatives.  It functions fine as-is, but should get a modern action in there if it is needed for the long term.  Both shoot very well.


Had two pick-ups at a gun shop down in Manassas, which was quite amazing as both were on my long-term buy list: one for immediate and one for future needs.  One was an LW Seecamp .32 which is not for CCW but for close-quarters use for various reasons.  Shooting the LWS .32 is an interesting experience as the hammer is external and it functions a bit more like a revolver than a semi-auto.  As you pull the trigger back you can see the hammer come back and can judge just when it is you will fire.  The action on it, for being such a small pistol, is tight... and it has a recommended ammo list that now has the Speer Gold Dot at the top, with the Winchester Silvertip and Federal Hydra-Shok as the second tier preferred rounds.  As the slide has such a short travel on it, there is the distinct ability to stovepipe or jam a round when firing, and any problems with magazine feed are noticeable in that regard.  I tested a factory LWS magazine and TripleK magazine, and the TripleK had feed problems... plus the spring wasn't arranged right on the inside so that rounds tended to jam in the magazine.  It needs a better spring, really.  I suffered a total of one stovepipe and one jam off of 24 rounds and would have to give a lot of testing to say which is best as I still don't have any of the Winchester rounds in.  For a 'point in the right direction' pistol, it does its job and that is all I ask of it.

The second was a gift for my niece as she had been lusting off of the Titanium Carbon Nitride Desert Eagle from Magnum Research.  Can't say that I blame her, although it is not my color of choice... still, finding that in 50AE for hundreds less than it goes for used is a major find.  Ammo isn't cheap and she doesn't have a range to get used to it, so it sits with her until she can get back here for our new range that will take up to 50 BMG.  Came with a cheap Tasco Red Dot on it, so it should have decent accuracy for most hunting purposes.

The Thompson is in Hatfields for a bit of cutting down on the mag catch so I can use old FA mags with it.  I can't get an answer from any of the top-line Pros or shops to work on it, and Hatfields comes highly recommended... and I have no idea if the local best, Mr. Garrett, would even look at it.  So a few more weeks until that is back.  Must have for old magazine madness...

In-between the Pico-ITX and what is going on now, the concept of 'put your own gun together from parts' seemed like a great waste of time for some fun.  At the low end of that is converting a Vz. 61 Skorpion from its de-milled full auto into a semi-auto after ditching the full auto parts and getting a semi-auto frame.  I went to Military Gun Supply for the old parts kit, and Czechpoint USA for the new frame and other parts that went missing in the de-milled kit.  The former came quickly, within a few days of ordering, but the frame and parts have taken awhile to finally process through and I should be able to pick them up next week (if all goes well, etc.).  More on that in a bit.

After that is the new 'hobby' of older guns I've decided to spend some time with.  As I am a late-comer to the firearms field, and we have an administration that is causing a run on some of the more popular calibers, I looked at some of the good, old weapons from wars past and put a bit down for two Russian Mosin-Nagant 91/30's.  With the demise of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc there is a large number of these guns and ammo on the market for those willing to take the time to clean one up.  They are relatively accurate, and if I could afford a Finn 39 I would have gotten one for the highest accuracy you can get from the line, but I couldn't justify that and could two of the Russian ones on the theory of:  buy two to have one reliable.

Actually, if it weren't for the economic downturn, this would become my spare time time eater.  In my family genetic make-up is latent 'packrat syndrome' which I have been able to semi-successfully fight off for years.  It will surface, now and again, with various items, but finally die out.  By restricting the scope of each resurgence and being able to part with older stuff I've gotten, I am able to keep a relatively clutter-free home.  Older arms, however, are just fascinating to me, what with my interest in warfare and such.  If I was well and able and in normal retirement, I could spend a wonderful time heading all the way back to the beginnings of armed warfare, all the way down to flintknapping.  But such is not the case, and economics now becomes a major restriction on old arms. 

How arms are designed, why they were designed and the methodologies used, and how those evolved is a study of man's creativity applied to the martial arts.  Firearms are, themselves, an examination of how mankind has evolved chemistry, metallurgy and machining to address climate, skills and field conditions for equipment.  Each improvement in any one area required an examination of all other areas involved with the equipment type and would change the methodology of warfare.  And as our modern times makes the older equipment now readily available, one can get a feel for how and why things were done the way they were.  Beyond the social area of arms, such as Cowboy Action Shooting or the Re-enactor communities, an interest in the industrial changes in mankind (in the older sense of one's industry used to produce something and not the factory/modern sense) allows for how knowledge is garnered, used and adapted to changing times.  How those things changed would have an impact on society and Nations over centuries and are part of an interlocking driving force within mankind.  To remove the martial side is to deny our origins in Nature and make us prone to the vicissitudes of those willing to become barbaric.  To remove society makes us revert to that primitive state and need to start afresh.  To remove the organs of society brings disorder and to over-apply them brings stagnation, both of which cause conflict as the natural need of mankind to ask more of himself unfettered by government is equal to the side red of tooth and claw we must restrain within our hearts.

So the Mosin-Nagant rifle starts with lovely 19th century engineering and then gets modified and used past that because of the sound thinking that went into them.  Even after their military utility had reached a minimum, and there are still some deployed by a few forces just like the Lee-Enfield, they hold a reserve for those interested in sport and history.  They lose none of their utility, and the sound design work shows through as it does with any weapon well made and cared for.  That last part is the one to deal with next which is cosmoline.  I've dealt with that for small parts, but for something like this requires a larger heating arrangement.  Thus the 'Rifle EZ-Bake Oven' made from a trashcan and other parts is what is directly next on the agenda along with finishing the Pico-ITX system.  I spent about a week trying to think of something better and more reliable: even in VA we don't get the very hot days for more than a short part of the year, and suburbia trees keep things cool and semi-shaded so no 'trashbags and rags' in the car deal would do.

If you have to do it via the 'net, like I do for most purchases, then Ron's Home & Hardware is where you will want to end up.  It became a one-stop shop for the necessities of aluminum garbage can, racks, cord, socket, etc. plus some cleaning supplies like 0000 steel wool and sand paper.  Yes, getting an aluminum garbage can shipped to you is costly, but if you need to get it all at one place and not spend time hunting around for parts, then Ron's is the place to go.  I have zero complaints on the prices as, even with shipping, they came out to less than I could buy the stuff for locally.  Of course once you get a set-up like that, for moderate heat, the question of putting a finish on other parts, say a Vz. 61 Skorpion frame, comes into the fore-front.  Being able to maintain a steady 120-185 degrees F for an hour or so puts you just in the realm of all the lower to middle cost means of blueing and coating metal.

I had thought I was going to send the major parts (frame, receiver and barrel) to a gunsmith to do.  Still might, really.

But here's the thing: have you ever looked at the mod end of the finishing/plating/painting end of the world?

I wound up at Caswell Plating and got into a quandary over what to do.  Yes the Black Oxide (blueing) kit is cheap... the Cobalt electroless not so cheap, nor the Black Krome... and that got me to thinking about exactly what I was trying to achieve with what I was doing.  I had thought of something gaudy like a Black Oxide frame and Chromed receiver to make it look like a really trashy piece of junk that just happens to fire bullets.  Also heat wouldn't effect them much.  But, exactly what is going to get hot in the gun itself?  The barrel, of course, the chamber, and maybe about the last inch or so on the receiver where the barrel comes out, ditto the frame and chamber area, plus very front of the bolt.  And as that will only be semi-auto 'shooting for fun and accuracy' (such as it may be) that leaves only 10% or so of the exterior reaching high temps.  And that leads, naturally, to paint... high temperature paint, which is also available at Caswell's in the paint area.

Someone appears to have gone wild with paint technology since I last looked at it some decades ago.  The car and cycle modders have just taken things to places where there is money in putting out truly stunning (and often truly gaudy) paints.  The Dupli-Color folks, alone, have more in shiny, liquid, color-shifting and temperature shifting paint than I can easily shake a stick at.  And here I am not having a decade and more of adjustment trying to figure out just what it all means.  Just at the high temp end, alone, I can find enough good looking car colors to keep me busy.  But for godawful gaudy I could do a Metalcast job on the receiver (presumably with basecoat if I Black Oxided it...or just anyways...) and, yes, it would become a gun not hard to miss and that no one, in their right mind, would want to steal.  Yeah, that shiny anodized look in red immediately lets you know that whoever has that gun is not entirely well.  Of course I do want the interior to get a Black Oxide treatment, at least on the frame, as that is what the old chopped-up frame had done to it and I would assume with good reason.

Now if I could figure out the temperature range of the Mirage multi-coat or Alsa Corp. Prizmacoat, then I would be in dangerous territory.  Not to speak of the Alsa Eclipse heat sensitive paint... which would let me see just which parts of the gun got hot as I use it.  Yes, add all this plus standard surface stuff like Black Oxide together and, really, it doesn't matter how 'good' the Black Oxide looks if you are going to be covering it over with something far worse and eye catching.  Really, doing that means that the cheapest Black Oxide work only serves as an adhesion layer to the paint.  Throw in a high temp enamel suitable for use where you aren't using a high output firearm, and you only leave the barrel as something that you will want to leave with a standard coating.  And as this stuff tends not to like oil and such, the baking comes first as my ability to clean cosmoline out of the trashcan once I use it for that purpose is minimal, save for disassembling the electrical parts and filling it with a degreaser after plugging holes.

If you wonder why I'm not posting: I'm busy.

I leave commentary here and there and am also cleaning up my two fictional works: my Star Trek story and Terminator cross-over story.  Those are personal projects that I am posting so that folks know I'm still alive.  I do leave commentary here and there, but it is infrequent and scattered.  I am getting ready for the months ahead... when I'm not talking, I'm doing.  And I do mean what I do.  You can see what I've talked about so you can know what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.

Thanks for dropping by!

More time once I'm done having fun with DIY projects....

No comments: