Sunday, January 3, 2016

The McMaster-Car

Sadly, I scrapped my 1994 Ford Taurus station wagon some months ago.  This is a tribute showing how I pimped my ride, its demise, and how I abused it before it finally got crushed.

Rolling in style

At its inception it was a pretty luxurious car that included stuff like a console mobile phone.  I looked into hooking it up and, unfortunately, analog cell service had been discontinued by 2013 when I got it.

My mom proudly displayed her country-western line dancing enthusiasm on her license plate cover.  However, she forgot to remove it when she gave me the car.  While I wouldn't put it on, I wasn't going to take it off.  People loved it and gave me lots of funny comments.

One day I was eating lunch with my boss and mentioned that what my car really needed were some flames.  He thought for a second and mentioned that he has some kicking around somewhere.

I came out to lunch a few months later and discovered my car now had some sweet flames!

But we can do much better.

Laugh at the station wagon all you want, but it still sports a 3.0L V6.  Flames are good, but what a muscle car really needs...

Is a skull shifter for its automatic transmission.  This actually was a bit of work to install as the original shifter was pressed on.  I still get Jeggs magazines to this day.  Trivia: I now use the skull to test satellite cameras.

But more flames wouldn't hurt.  How about a flaming Rat Fink antenna ornament?  It was a close call between him and a flaming eyeball.  This was the most expensive upgrade I did, running me about $20.

And wouldn't those hubcaps be better with some bling?  Nothing a little gold spray paint can't fix.

Of course, I'm only referring to the hub caps it still had.  Maybe I should have sprayed the rim gold?

Not that the emergency brake release was doing much better.  Nothing a little bicycle wire couldn't fix.

But the fuzzy dice didn't care.  I originally had them on the rear view mirror (per tradition) but found them too distracting.  I relocated them to the dashboard where they occasionally fell apart.

There were quite a few other upgrades I considered but never got to.  For example:
  • Piston door locks (like this
  • Nitrous (more on that)
  • McMaster-Carr bumper sticker.  Someone actually contacted them for me trying to get one to no avail (could make one easily though)
  • Racing stripe
  • Hood shaker
  • Spoiler

Its time to go

With over 200,000 miles, the car was worth maybe $800.  I was constantly working on it and, for example, recently replaced nearly the entire coolant system (hoses, radiator, water pump...).

I got rear ended and their insurance gave me $1100 but didn't total the car!  The car is a bit of a tank and really only sustained minor damage to the rear bumper.

At about the same time the government offered me $1000 to get the car off the road.  Now with $2100 for an $800 car, it was time to move on.

But not before I have some fun.  I looked over the gov program and more or less as long as the car barely worked I'd still get the money.

I went out to a large open area with a bud from work and started with some donuts.  Then I set the emergency brake and drove around for a bit.  I also slammed on the brakes as hard as I could (regular and e-brake).  Unfortunately the e-brake doesn't have much stopping power and so it only gently brought the car to a stop.

My favorite though was doing a burnout by revving the engine up in neutral and shifting it to drive.  The engine suddenly engaged and spun the tires so fast that smoke shot out.

There's a supermarket near me with a low dip into the parking lot.  The car has really low clearance so I have to go really slowly to avoid scraping it.  Of course, this time I went up there and floored it out of the parking lot, probably showering sparks with the impact.  I was somewhat surprised that the car still worked.

The steering wheel wiring harness had already fallen off and I really wanted to hotwire the car.  However, I wasn't confident I could do it without damaging the car so ultimately passed.

I really wanted to do NOS but everyone warned me that, with the engine's age, it would very likely destroy the engine on the first go.  Too bad as this would have been great for Wednesday Night Drags.

I also looked into demolition derby which actually wouldn't have been too much work (fuel cell + minimal cage).  I also wanted to shoot out some of the windows but didn't make time for it.


Ultimately though it found its way to the scrapper.  I wanted to drain the engine oil and see if it could make it there (10 miles) but my dad pleaded with me not to try it.

I seriously considered getting a hearse to replace it ("Last Ride" style) but ultimately decided on a 2006 RAV4.  By a hilarious twist of fate, it also had a dance themed license plate cover that was even stronger than the Taurus' (that my mom had also taken back by this point).

I still dream about getting a rat rod or a tank.  I actually found a really good local deal on a Warthog APC but unfortunately don't have a place to put one. Along with the SBX-1 and Sea Shadow (RIP) of course.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Machining K2 microscope Z adapter

A short post on installing a crank wheel onto my confocal microscope.

Problem: my K2 IND system Z axis is painful to move (ie focus on chips).  The original servo drive relies on a computer controlled rotary switch for user focusing.  This would take a bit of work to setup and I had problems getting the servo working reliably.  I'm fairly certain I just need to buffer the encoder signals, but at this point I just want to KISS.

My first solution was to use a power drill but that was a bit messy.

Lets do something a bit more proper.  I selected a handwheel off of Amazon to replace the motor and bought some 1" aluminum stock to make an adapter.  The stock needs two critical cuts:
  • Outside diameter 0.472" to fit the wheel
  • Inside diameter 0.5" to fit the microscope
I made some rough length calculations and cut the aluminum to length.

Microscope diameter

I put the stock into my lathe and quickly re-discovered why I don't use the three jaw chuck: it has trouble holding material even when tightly clamped.

So I switched to a four jaw chuck and centered it using a dial indicator (sort of visible at right).

Its generally easier to clamp large parts, so lets make the inner diameter cut first so that, when its flipped around, its easier to hold.

First I center drilled the stock

Then drilled it out as large as I could.  This is quicker than using a lathe tool and allows the lathe tool to actually fit inside.

Now I switched to a tool bit to set the final diameter.  I cut it to about 0.505" so that it slides on easily but is still pretty well centered.

I used calipers to check the size as I went.  After some cutting the hole is correctly sized.

Microscope set screw

The microscope side has a large flat, so a set screw is a good choice to hold it in place.

I started by clamping it in my milling machine and milling a flat so that I could drill a hole more precisely.

Next I used a center drill to start the hole.

10-32 seemed a good size so I selected a #21 drill bit and had at it

And tapping (carefully!)

Crank wheel diameter

Although the crank wheel has a key, I figured it would be simpler to press fit it on.  So my plan was to machine it to very close tolerance and press it on.

Re-attaching to the lathe and centering.

Starting to cut

Lots of cutting!

Due to a measurement error (maybe overshot during finishing?) it was a close fit but not snug.  Do I need to scrap the part or can I recover?

Its pretty close.  Maybe I can squeeze it in my vice?  Hmm no...wasn't enough.

Lets get something with a little more oomph.

Seems to have done the trick.

Tried to press it directly but it was clear it was going to go off center.

So I added some supports.

Which did the job.

Viola!  Everything fit together as expected and the crank turns smoothly.  Now I can easily focus on ICs and not have to use frustrating hacks to use the microscope.