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Forget figuring out how to secure your workpiece with cumbersome hold-downs. Mount a magnetic chuck to your machine and all you have to do is flip a switch and start working.

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Of course you’re limited to working with materials that are attracted to a magnet. In reality that will probably be some sort of steel — does anybody machine nickel? Plus you’ll have to have a flat base for the magnetic chuck to grab.

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The folks at Miller dropped us a line today to tell us they’re releasing a new DVD aimed at “hobbyists and home fabricators looking to become more proficient with the TIG welding process.” Substitute “become” for “become more” and that pretty much describes me to a T. I’ve spent plenty of time with my Millermatic MIG rig, but I’ve never tried TIG welding.

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Ever need to drill through the middle of round stock? Sure, you can use a center finder to find the center at the edge of the stock, but how do you accurately find the center in the middle of the stock? One cool solution would be to use a round bar center finder, like the one from Grizzly pictured above.

To use the tool, you need to chuck the center finder’s 3/8″ shank into a drill press. Then when both of the legs of the Y are resting on the bar stock and the two notches line up, the drill press chuck is directly over the center of the stock.

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We have long been believers of the Dremel multi-tool here at Toolmonger. It is both rugged and multi-functional, and we get that same feeling from the new Dremel Trio combo kit. It’s a mini-router, drum sander and spiral jigsaw rolled into one, for $99.

Tool elitists will immediately point to its multi-functionality and tell you it’s not as good as regular stand-alone units — and they are correct; it’s not. Any well-designed shop tool of single purpose will likely beat it in a straight-out fight of features and versatility. However, that’s not what the Trio was designed to do. It was built to give DIYers a single tool for $100 and let them do all the things around the house they’ve been meaning to get around to with no hassle — and it’s going to work.

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Step bits can be handy for cutting sheet metal and plastic, but what if you don’t need a standard size hole? These conical “stepless” bits can create holes of any size from 1/8″ to 3/4″. The obvious limitation is if the material is thicker the hole will be tapered, but then again in some situations that might be desirable.

The pictured bits use a two flute design which supposedly cuts faster and smoother.  The 1/4″ hex shanked high-speed steel bits are coated with titanium-nitride to keep them cool.

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Speaking of saddle cuts (e.g., TM drum smoker post on 1/18/2010), Instructables has a new posting on making perfect pipe saddle cuts with a bandsaw or chopsaw. For same diameter pipes, the author, samson3000, uses two cuts at approx. 35° close to, but not through, the center of the pipe so there’s a flat spot (as shown above), not a sharp point. An end view of the cut, pictured below, shows a pretty tight saddle.

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I don’t do much work with steel studs at home (okay, I’ve never worked with steel studs anywhere, but I’ve seen them and think they’re neat) so I have not used the Wedjji from J&J Industries. It’s a door and window framing tool that allows one person to center a stud in a metal door or window frame. Based on videos on the Wedjji web site, commercial construction crews would formerly use pieces of sheetrock for this, and it was a PITA. The Wedjji, which comes in four sizes, depending on sheetrock thickness and stud dimensions, costs between $27.99 and $29.49. Each unit has 3 or 4 built-in magnets to hold it to the door or window frame. It looks like the Wedjji is a reasonable widget, and it does have a cool name.

Have any Toolmongers used this tool? Is it a good alternative to a few scrap pieces of sheetrock?

Wedjji [Manufacturer's Site]

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I doubt that many Toolmongers have an electron microscope — much less the tiny tin beads used to calibrate their astigmatism — and a focused ion beam in their garage or shop. However, if they did, I’m sure one of them would have created something similar to the 10µm wide (1/5 the width of a typical human hair) “snowman” shown above. The UK’s National Physics Laboratory (NPL) used platinum deposition to weld the beads together to create the nose, and milled the eyes and smile with a focused ion beam.

I first saw this snowman on Fred Langa’s blog (What Comes Next?). Fred lists a New Scientist link that includes the original snowman in black and white plus another image of a microscopic Christmas tree.

One more thing: most Toolmongers and their kids will be building macroscopic snowmen this year. Got any cool/interesting/tool-wielding snowmen in your yard this season? Drop the pics in the Flickr pool!

Season’s Greetings [NPL]

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Tapping threads straight can sometimes be a challenge. A lathe, drill press, or a lot of practice help the process — or you could use a tool like Big Gator Tools’ V-Tap Guide. A series of graduated holes in the V-Tap Guide keep the tap aligned perpendicular to the surface.

Big Gator Tools makes the V-Tap Guide from nickel alloyed steel, heat treats it, grinds the bottom flat, and chrome plates it. They also cut a V-groove into the bottom, which both gives the tool its name and allows you tap perpendicular holes on corners and round stock in addition to flat surfaces.

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Will lasers make wigglers obsolete? There’s a case to be made that you can set up your mill faster and with less fuss with a tool like the pictured laser edge/center finder. Move the laser beam to the edge of the workpiece and zero your scale. You can just as easily locate the mill over scribed lines or center-punch divots by aligning the laser dot over them.

The finder is accurate to 0.001″ and the dot size is adjustable with a polarizing attachment. The finder uses SR44 batteries that last for over three hours of continuous operation; of course you’ll probably only turn on the finder for short sessions, so the batteries should last a while.

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