Adventures in Machine Land (V)

Work continues on the coffee table, however machinery woes are on-going. Time for a caterwauling session. Shaking my tiny fist was not enough it seems.

The good news is that the jointer is running nicely and it is wondrous indeed to be able to quickly produce straight and square stock. I’d like to fabricate a chip chute for the machine in the near future, but of course, that really only needs to happen when I actually have a dust collection system. Ahem!

The drill press. After a month, a local machine shop whom I had entrusted with some very simple re-machining tasks, had accomplished zero. And it would appear that they could care less that they accomplished zero. Perhaps my little bit of work wasn’t of sufficient interest to them. They didn’t avail themselves of the opportunity to let me know that however. I was told a week ago, after delivering those Norma bearings into the machinist’s hands, that it would be sometime like the “middle” or “late” part of the following week before the parts “would be ready”. I swung by late Friday afternoon to see what “ready” looked like. Had they phoned me to let me know how things were going? No. I walked in, on through past the normally empty office into the grimy pit filled with archaic machines and metal debris. When I walked up to D., one of the machinists, he said, “uh, yeah, well, we haven’t made much progress with your stuff“. The look on his face was hardly one of remorse – the foregoing statement was uttered with the verve of a weather forecast. He then added, “I talked with L. (his business partner) about how to fix the spindle, and we couldn’t really come up with much.” I had no idea that I had laid such a challenging problem on their laps!

That was it. They had had a month, and have proven to me, beyond all reasonable doubt, that they don’t deserve my business. I grabbed my box of parts, held back on my desire to do a bit of yelling, and walked out.

As I drove home, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the difficult economic times at present, and wonder how/why a business such as that one continues on, considering their atrocious customer service and apparent lack of concern for those customer’s schedules and time. Customer’s are apparently to be taken for granted it would appear – is that the secret to ‘success’?

I’m not asking to be dazzled with machinist genius, I’m simply looking for someone who takes their job seriously, acts professionally, and communicates with the customer. I don’t care if they make mistakes, so long as they own up to them. For instance, these particular machinists managed to over-ream the holes for the taper pins which hold the hinge mechanism on the jointer fence together. Perhaps that’s why they gave me the fence back in pieces….

I’m perfectly fine with a company telling me they aren’t interested in doing the work I ask, or won’t be able to get to it in a timely manner, however they need to communicate that. What’s so frickin’ hard about that? Whatever happened to the golden rule, ya know, one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself?

Ugh. Exasperating. So, the drill press spindle and quill, with bearings, are back in my shop. And what was that onerous machining task that kept the aforementioned machinists seemingly quaking in their boots with uncertainty? Pretty simple really: I needed the spindle thickened up in the two spots where it fits to the bearings.

Well, I guess I’ll do it myself then. I picked up some metal epoxy, mixed it up, and applied it to the spindle:

And here’s the area of the spindle which fits to the lower bearing, now coated with epoxy:

That work took all of three minutes. The epoxy, once cured (16 hours), can withstand 3000 lbs. of shear, so I imagine it can be machined in a lathe down to the required dimension. If not, then on to plan ‘b’ (brazing/soldering a shim onto the shaft) or plan ‘c’ (get an insert machined to fit inside the bearing race), or even ‘d’ (buy new spindle). It’s hardly rocket science.

A new issue has cropped up in my shop. Yay! Nothing like a little variety eh? I was cutting a tongue and groove for the coffee table and discovered that the tongue was fatter in the middle portion than it was on the end portions of the board, and the groove was likewise narrower in the middle and wider on the board ends. So I took a closer look at my Jessem router table and found that the top wasn’t quite flat.

When exactly this happened I can’t be certain. It’s the sort of thing that only becomes obvious when machining mating parts. The amount of sag it had is enough to render the tool suitable only for the crudest sort of work. After discovering the problem, I sent off an email to the company describing the situation, noting their promise about the phenolic top, noted that the current design for the table and router lift had changed since the one I bought (possibly in response to table sag issues?), and asked them how the issue could be resolved.

In the meantime, I need to make the table functional. I stuck a few bits of wood in there and pressed the top up until it was reasonably flat:

It’s still not perfectly flat, so this is a short-term solution at best. I’m considering changing out to a cast iron top, though they can have issues with flatness and movement as well. I’m looking at obtaining a purpose made one, or possibly the idea of converting an old shaper into a router table.

After I had the issue with the top rectified, I then discovered another issue – the lift was binding and jamming for some reason. When it rains it pours I guess. Here’s a look at the lift mechanism:

I pulled the PC 7518 out, and disassembled the lift partially. The problem lay with that large brass nut on the threaded shaft pictured above. Somehow it had a need to offload some excess brass thread material, and those brass bits had jammed the mechanism. Here’s the debris I removed:

It’s surprising how much there was! After re-assembly, the lift seems to work fine

So, that’s the current state of play in machine land. I hope to have the drill press back together in the next 4~5 days, and fingers are crossed that the router table will at least hang in there and help me get the next project done without too much fuss.

All for today. Apologies for the lack of any uplifting carpentry inspiration in today’s post, but that’s what’s up for me at this time. Next time I’ll be posting on recent progress with the coffee table and it’s about time for another post in the CNC series. Thanks for dropping by the Carpentry Way.

10 Replies to “Adventures in Machine Land (V)”

  1. (head hung low and defeated) I feel your pain. Quality “customer service” (unsure of that archaic term) is very rare. How do people expect to stay in business? I do not claim to be a carpentry genius but I have never advertised and have gotten all of my work (and repeat business) from word of mouth. Quality work is readily spread by word of mouth and so is bad work. Bad work is harder to for people to forget than good work. If you had taken your drill press to someone who “dabbled” in machining because they bought a lathe at a surplus auction, I might expect that problem. But not from someone with a shingle on their door saying it's all they do. I am currently on a job now where I am constantly having to redo what the rough-in crew did wrong – unlevel, nails missing the studs, completely wrong measurements.
    People seem to think “doing their job” is going above and beyond what is expected.
    . . . grrrrr . . . (exhale) . . .

    Love your blog!

  2. Hi Chris,

    Indeed, another sad story.

    Next time, when I'm sweating and cursing and lamenting the time its taking me to do what I do by hand, I'll remember your experience(s) with machinery and stop complaining.


  3. Sorry to hear you had such a frustrating experience. I had similar problems with my Jessem Rout-R-Lift, and Jessem's service. I eventually sold it and replaced it with a small used 40+ year old shaper that I converted to run router bits. Very nice, very quiet, and very flat! As a fellow Canadian I also felt keenly the poor service of Jessem.

    All I can say is keep your head down and keep plugging away. Cut your lossses and move on. Brighter days are ahead!

  4. Paul,

    my sentiments exactly. Possibly the roughing-in crew were themselves complaining about the foundation crews sloppy work which preceded theirs?


    you do indeed save yourself considerable frustration with sticking to hand tools, though they also can also fall short of expectations sometimes, and suffer from less-than stellar manufacturer support. Ask me about my experiences with Bridge City Tools sometime….


    jeez, you too! I thought I was one of the few, the proud, the brave, but Jessem seems to be spreading their message far and wide. Sorry to hear that. I've been considering the shaper option as well, and would want to retrofit a shaper so it can run a router head. We'll see where that quest end up – for now tough, its not an urgent problem to solve. I've been looking at Bench Dog products as well, as they offer a cast iron top and router lift. Reviews seem mostly good from what I've seen, but sometimes the defects don't become apparent for a year or two.


  5. Hi Chris –
    I recently happened upon a wonderful site via Mr. McCallum, The site is dedicated to the restoration and use of “old wood working machines”. Currently in the midst of a drill press restoration and the site has been an invaluable resource. It may not be much of a stretch to find a replacement spindle to address your woes. Hang in there.
    Best regards,

  6. Matt,

    yes, familiar with that site, and as a member there have posted on it before.

    I am seeing how the epoxy repair idea comes out before any alternate plans, including a replacement spindle, are entertained. Thanks for the suggestion though, much appreciated.


  7. Chris,
    First, a thanks for sharing your work and writing here, I've really enjoyed reading the blog.
    My comment is in regards to re-appropriating a shaper to run router bits–I'm no expert on shapers– but I remember someone saying they don't spin fast enough for router bits.
    I too am looking for a solution to the sagging router table. I think cast iron is the way to go. I'm not sure my MDF table was ever flat!
    Keep up the writing!

  8. Jeff,

    thanks for your comment and appreciation for the blog.

    In regards to shapers, yes, they run lower rpm' than a router, and that is mostly a problem with the smaller diameter bits. I noted this issue in my comment response to Dan above,

    “I've been considering the shaper option as well, and would want to retrofit a shaper so it can run a router [power] head.”

    Everything sags it seems, even granite, but at least with cast iron option the top can be re-machined flat when required. The phenolic – what can be done with that when it sags? I will make do with the temporary wood shoring for the time being I guess.


  9. If the epoxy doesn't work, and are four or five thousandths under on the shaft size, one crude but effective technique is to take a pointed punch and put rows of divots where the bearing will sit. Punching will displace the metal giving you a bunch of raised donuts that can be turned down to appropriate dimension on the lathe. Kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel of metal working techniques, but effective and quicker then brazing a sleeve and subsequent lathe work. Please don't mention that you heard it here.

  10. Dennis,

    thanks for you comment and suggestion. The size under of the shaft was more like a hundredth actually. The good news is that the epoxy worked just fine, machined up cleanly and now the drill press is back up and running. The vibration is all but gone. The bad news is that the spindle turns out to not be very straight, and that results in the stiff operation of the quill up and down (as the top end of the spindle runs through the pulley stack at the top of the head, and doesn't slide smoothly there). There is still a bit more run-out that I would like, but the press is usable for the time-being.

    Maybe in the next month or two I'll be able to afford to obtain a new spindle and get that part resolved with a bit more machine work down at Marena.

    I imagine that the spindle got bent by some drill bit catching in a metal object and jamming and torquing at some point in the past.


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