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We receive at least 20 emails a week from folks asking us where they can find replacement parts for a tool. So we thought it might be worth a post to explain how we go about finding this information for our own personal needs. This might seem a bit simple to some of you, but the volume of mail we receive indicates that it’s a topic we should address. If you’re already very comfortable finding this information yourself, we’d love it if you’d add your own recommendations in comments for future readers who find the post and can benefit from your experience.

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A few days ago, I heard an interesting little tip from an old racer while discussing the best way to put a riveted assembly together. In response to my concerns about high vibration loosening the fasteners, he said the answer was simply dipping the rivet shanks in epoxy prior to installation. While blind rivets are already a pain to remove (and this wouldn’t make life any easier), it does provide an excellent backup. No dead space means less fatigue, and the epoxy would provide secondary retention for the leftover stem.

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Gordon’s recent post about the strange and elusive numbering scheme for machine screws brought another one to mind, gleaned from Carroll Smith’s Nuts, Bolts, Fasteners and Plumbing Handbook. 37° AN lines are a pretty common sight for lots of high-performance and show vehicles these days, courtesy of their excellent sealing performance and reusability. But how do you plan line sizes without really knowing the dimensions of a given fitting and its hoses?

Turns out, it’s pretty simple. The lines are sized with labels like -3AN up to around -20AN (standards up to -32AN exist, but the fittings are very rare). To determine the hose inner diameter for a specific AN size, just multiply the prefix by 1/16″. For instance, -10AN:

10(1/16″) = 10/16″ = 5/8″ inner diameter.

Thread sizes and hex dimensions are also standardized, as Wikipedia and Powerhouse’s AN wrench selection show us.

AN Thread Specs [Wikipedia]
AN Hex Wrenches [Powerhouse]

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Wayne State University’s Warrior Racing recently needed to machine a sheet of Nomex-honeycomb carbon fiber, a piece of a scratch-built custom steering wheel. It’s a bit of a challenge machining the stuff since it’s an extremely hard fiber suspended in a soft synthetic. After a few experiments, we ran everything at very low feed rates and ridiculous spindle speeds, which is a bit contrary to popular wisdom when machining hard materials.

Carbide is the cutter of choice, in the four-flute flavor, just like machining steel. The same goes for feed rates — right around 2.4 inches per minute seemed to be a sweet spot with a 5/8 in. end mill and maxed-out 3000 RPM spindle speed. Without a CNC system, the feed rate will be hard to match precisely, and there aren’t any chips whose colors can tell you to speed up or slow down.

Speaking of chips, the leftovers from machining carbon are nasty. Fiberglass and carbon weave are nasty enough, but this stuff is coated in epoxy and comes off in unbelievably thin spear-like flakes. The latex gloves the machinists wear are a must, as is a respirator and a vacuum to remove as much dust and as many flakes as possible. Even so, I managed to get a few wicked splinters when cleaning up the part edges. Oh — wash your hands before you use the bathroom afterward.

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In response to our recent router post, reader Eli posted another great example of powerful tools wreaking havoc in shop class, and he points us to an excellent article containing safety tips for burgeoning woodworkers.

My shop teacher (Mr. Green, had all his fingers) showed us the effects of table-saw kickback by removing a safety poster from the cinder block wall ten feet behind the saw. The poster was covering a one-foot-diameter hole made by a piece of hard maple. I immediately developed a habit of standing to the side of the blade when cutting.

Below is as good a place as any to start for routers. Pay particular att’n to rule#9, as that’s how you’ll screw up most of your work. The best bit/most useful bit for someone new to routing is probably a simple roundover bit. Also make sure there’s nothing in the path of the router after it leaves the work. It helps to have someone who’s used one intelligently help you set it up and take first passes.

I wonder if the “on the ball” type of instructor would’ve put the poster and router near the hole in the wall to make a point without having to actually go through with it. That definitely sounds like something a shop teacher would do.

Don’t Fear The Router [Do It Yourself]


When we posted about Great Stuff Spray Foam, readers commented on the difficulty of cleanup and the “single-use” nature of the cans.  One workaround is the “Pro” version, but it requires applicator guns and cleaner, which you don’t want to shell out for if you’re not getting paid for the job.  Reader Joe offers a cheaper solution: “Here’s what Dow tech support suggested about keeping a can reusable:

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As we mentioned in the Tool Talk podcast 43 last week, we had some issues pulling the power-steering pump out of the shop truck we’re fixing up.  Actually, “trouble” doesn’t really cover it –- we had a hell of a time.  Reader AggieMike clued us in on a sweet technique that might’ve worked.

I’m not sure if y’all have managed to pull that power steering pulley or not now, but if you aren’t going to re-use it, why not drill and tap some holes in it and use a steering-wheel puller on it. My buddy and I did this on a stubborn pulley once and it worked like a charm.

This sounds promising — we also could’ve drilled the holes and positioned nuts behind the pulley and hooked the bolts into the steering-wheel puller.  We didn’t think of these ideas at the time, but either of ’em would’ve been worth a shot.  At least our solution involved Chuck hacking things up, which is a favorite of his.

Street pricing for a basic steering-wheel puller is around $8.

Steering-Wheel Puller [Street Pricing]
Podcast #43 [Tool Talk]


I’ve seen a lot of comments about the Utili-Key from Swiss-Tech; imagine my surprise, when I went searching through Toolmonger archives for our post on it, to discover that we haven’t written one. So if you’re one of the readers who has suggested the Utili-Key, bear with me — for anyone who hasn’t seen this tool, you might want to take a closer look.

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Many thanks to Toolmonger reader blurdo for suggesting the Wolfcraft drill guide when I was looking at a model from another manufacturer. When I finally checked out the Wolfcraft in detail, I found that in addition to the sturdy all-metal construction and the stop that he mentioned, this drill guide will also handle centered-edge drilling.

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Many thanks to tmib_seattle for recommending Giles Puckett’s Tubemiter freeware — it allows you to print out cut templates from a computer, simplifying the task of cutting weird angles in round tube. The site seems to be broken, but the download works. Just enter the diameters of the tubes being joined, the wall thickness of the tube being cut, and the angle of the joint — then print, wrap, and cut.

Happily, while searching for the software download I uncovered some really interesting sites on human-powered vehicles, including airships. And so we present you with a cool video that only tangentially relates to the subject at hand — screen shots of the software aren’t visually stimulating, anyway.

If this sparks your interest, check out the International Human Powered Vehicle Association site where I found the video, because there’s lots more cool stuff on there.

Human-Powered Airship [IHPVA]