Minions For Safety

August 24, 2015

Even though this shop does not exceed the decibel limit over time, specified by OSHA, they do require PPE for all personnel and visitors.

Minion wearing PPE including Hearing Protection

And minions!


Doldrums In the Precision Machining Industry

August 21, 2015


Becalmed saiboat. Doldrums


The Doldrums are “a belt of calms and light baffling winds north of the equator between the northern and southern trade winds.” Apparently our industry’s Sales are on a cruise…With 83 companies responding, the PMPA Business Trends Index in July declined 8 points to 120, 3 points below July 2014’s value.

Comparing year to date to 2014, we are still up 3 points over same period in 2014. The average for the year remains at 126, up 6 points and 5% over that of last calendar year. This is modestly below our forecast of finishing the year up 6.6%, but allowing for month to month variability and season, we are not gnashing our teeth.

Interestingly, sentiment for Sales outlook for next three months rose in this July report.

The Doldrums appear to have arrived early this year.

We're calling this the Doldrums.

We’re calling this the Doldrums.

Sentiment for Sales for the next three months was our only positive indicator, sentiment for Lead time remained the same, while Profitability, and Employment indicators declined.

Full report available here: July 2015 PMPA Business Trends





Heat Treat Colors Of Steel Chart

August 18, 2015

Our Temper Colors for Steel Chart Post remains very popular. So here is a chart of Heat Treat Colors for Steel.

Heat treat colors for steel Fahrenheit and Celsius temperatures

Heat treat colors for steel by Temperature


These days pyrometers are affordable. But it is the mark of a craftsman to be able to tell temperature by eye, if only to validate the instrumentation (or suspect it!)

These colors were obtained from a 0.40 wt. % carbon, alloy steel, as seen through a furnace peep hole during average daylight conditions.

Temper Colors for Steel Chart

Art of the Craft

Knowledge Retention

30 Potential Causes of Part Length Variation On Screw Machine Parts

August 14, 2015

 There are many different ways that part length can vary when using a cut-off tool on Multiple Spindle Automatic Screw Machines.

Cut off Tool and Holders for Acme Gridley Multispindle Screw Machine

Here are some of the major reasons grouped into a rough classification by where the cause exists.

The Cut-off Tool itself

  • Tool is dull
  • Tool is improperly ground (point angle too large)
  • Tool loose / improperly inserted into holder
  • Tool Blade too thin
  • Cut-off tool hitting while in high speed
  • Cut off tool being hit by die head or chasers

The Cut-off Tool Holder

  • Tool holder itself is loose
  • Tool holder is hitting work spindle
  • Tool holder is hitting tool post
  • Tool holder is warped or bent
  • Tool holder is worn

The Work Spindle

  • Spindle has end play
  • Spindle has worn bearings
  • Spindle carrier has end play
  • Index Lock Pin Spring is broken
  • Finger holder not adjusted properly
  • Broken pins or fingers in finger holder
  • Feed tubes bent or beat up
  • Wrong stock feed cam- Overfeeding stock will cause bounce back from stock stop resulting in short part
  • Incorrect collet tension

The Cross Slide

  • Cross slide play
  • Cross slide loose
  • Cam is loose
  • Cut off cam too large causes too much feed
  • Cam Drum is loose

Other Tools

  • Stock pushed back into collet by drill (dull drill pushing stock rather than cutting chip)
  • Stock pushed back into collet by reamer
  • Face-off tool is loose
  • Face-off tool is dull
  • Face-off tool holder is loose
  • Die head pulling stock out of collet making part long

Part length can occasionally go awry when using cut-off tools on automatic screw machines.

This post lists  over 30 reasons that I can think of- what did we miss?

Photo Credit- Acme Gridley Multiple Spindle Bar Machine Manual First Edition 1961 page C11.


Metalworking Fluids- Learn How Latest Trends Will Impact Your Company

August 12, 2015

The 5th International Conference on Metal Removal Fluids will explore the latest trends and advances in the Metal Removal Fluids and Lubricants industry. And it will have a session focused on Impact of Regulations.

5th International Conference on Metal Removal Fluids

Topical Tracks include

  • Health and Safety Effects/Occupational Medicine
  • Exposure Measurement and Guidelines
  • Managing Metal Removal Fluids in the Plant Best Practices
  • Impact of Regulations
  • Practitioner Focus

PMPA is a sponsor of this conference and will be participating.

The conference is presented by ilma, STLE, and UEIL

If you have someone in your shop that is responsible for managing Metal Removal Fluids, handling the regulatory impacts of Metal Removal Fluids, assuring the use of best practices for Metal Removal Fluids, this conference will provide the latest intelligence.

Here is the link: 5th International Metal Removal Fluids Conference

It’s Not One Thing

August 10, 2015

 5 Lessons I learned about our machining business.

Last month I was privileged to attend Horn Technology Days.

Here are some  5 6 lessons learned.

Lesson Number 1- It’s not one thing.

  • There is no magic bullet.
  • There is no miracle pill.
  • Machining is a system.
  • Understand the system, and address system weaknesses.


Stop looking for magic answers. There is seldom a single change that  you can make that will single -handedly optimize your process. You must consider the entire system. I took in every technical session while I was there. I expected to be told that “whatever it is I’m showing you” is the answer to your machining problems.

I was not told that at all. In all of the sessions the focus was on understanding and optimizing and understanding the interactions of the system and its components. Very refreshing.

Lesson Number 2- In our business, success is defined by sustainability, not lowest price.

By sustainability, I do not mean Greenwashing.

Sustainability is not about Greenwashing!

Sustainability is not about Greenwashing!

To be sustainable, a company must learn to solve problems.

Problems  unsolved have the potential to bring your company down.

How to be come more sustainable:

  • Solve problems first.
  • Solve the problem for good.
  • Understand that the lowest cost over the long term is not the lowest price over the short term.
  • Spend less time on maintenance by planning it.
  • Spend more time on production.
  • Spend more time on innovation.

This is why we have root cause analysis. We should only have to solve a problem once. Assure organizational learning takes place. And move forward.

Lesson Number 3- Pay attention to energy

Energy Quadrennial review

This one was a complete surprise. Who knew that 37% of Machine tool energy consumption is related to coolant and lubricant?

  • Through tool coolant typically runs at a rate of about 1 liter per minute (About a quart  here in the US)
  • Traditional flood coolant is typically 18 liters per minute. (That’s about a 5 gallon bucket in imperial units.)
  • And the through tool coolant is applied exactly where it is needed.

I’m not quite convinced that MQL is the answer for production machining, but I saw some demonstrations that continue to make me think.

On another note, typically utilities run from 6-10% of sales dollars in our shops.  we’ve seen estimates that shop lighting can run as much as 37% of the electrical consumption in Warehouses and light manufacturing shops. Even if you cut that in half, it is probably wise to evaluate your current shop lighting. We can talk about compressed air another time. If you hear compressed air in your shop- you are listening to dollars floating away.

Lesson Number 4- Conventional milling = Conventional rubbing

Your daddy's way of milling is no longer preferred today.

Your daddy’s way of milling is no longer preferred today.

All of the programs  on milling at Horn  showed climb milling as the preferred practice. I’m not going to pretend expertise here- just that what I thought I knew is no longer what I think I ought to know in regards to cutter rotation and material feed. Climb milling is the preferred way in modern shops today.

Lesson Number 5- Be optimistic.

HORN is expanding again. Another new building was being built just down the road.

New building on Dusslinger Way

New building on Dusslinger Way

Why be optimistic? How can you be optimistic?

  • It is easy to be optimistic if you are a private company.
  • If you believe in continuous improvement, then you want tomorrow to be better than today.
  • Today is today, but our way is the future. Our way is going forward.
  • Do it today. For tomorrow.

Can’t argue with that. That is why HORN has a full class of apprentices in development.

How about you?

Bonus Lesson Number 6- “The Best People are the Basis of the Future”

Lothar Horn

Lothar Horn

Lothar Horn shared that thought with me in a private conversation. It really fit hand in glove with HORN’s optimistic approach to the future. By training the people and making available opportunities to learn and grow, the company  is preparing their team for an anticipated, but not yet understood future.

There is a continuous demand to upgrade our tools. We can only meet that demand by upgrading the skills of our workforce and the technology they apply.”

When that future arrives, they know that they have done their best to be prepared for that day and its challenges.

That future will arrive. It arrives every day. What have you done to prepare your shop for the future that will soon arrive?




Conventional Milling


Machining for Hobbyists-Getting Started

July 29, 2015

Surprisingly complete and easy to understand book that can be used to supplement training on the job for beginners, and a nice reference for those with a year or so on the job. Machining and measurement principles and techniques clearly explained.

A nice easy to understand supplement for newcomers to machining.

A nice easy to understand supplement for newcomers to machining.

I was genuinely surprised  to find some really great nuggets like “the Basic Nomenclature of Measurement ” which clearly defines:

  • Nominal size
  • Allowance
  • Limits
  • Tolerance
  • Basic Size
  • Unilateral Tolerance
  • Bilateral Tolerance
  • Precision
  • Accuracy

…in just a little over a page.

Nice graphics, sample calculations, and well done explanations on how to read a micrometer, vernier, as well as tables with feed and speed data for various types of materials for specific machining operations. very focused coverage of the essentials of the topics.

Do not confuse this book for a hobbyist project catalog.

This is a very clear and understandable text that explains the “how, why, and what” of machining and the use of  tools of our craft.

Nice photos too.

What I like the most is how the author really distills the information down to useful essentials. And makes them understandable.



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