Piano Automation Continued

Over the past week I finished the lower valve manifold plate. The lower plate connects the row of holes on the piano tracker bar to the valves on the top plate. Obviously it would have been nice to just put the valves directly over each hole, but since the valves are much wider than the hole pitch I had to instead design the manifold with the valves arranged in multiple rows. Each tracker bar hole is connected to the valve above via passages that are routed into the bottom plate. The path of each passage was chosen carefully to avoid connecting to other valves/passages and to avoid running into the bolt holes that connect the manifold halves – each valve should connect to exactly one tracker bar hole. I let the CNC router do this work; it was relatively slow going with a 1.5mm end mill in aluminum but it turned out OK.

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After the passages were milled I created a gasket using wide tape. The tape covers and seals the top of the passages and a hole punched at each valve location allows each valve to connect to its passage. The tape has enough compression that any imperfections in the plates will be sealed once the plates are bolted together. I also added a lip/shelf to the back of the manifold to hold it in vertical alignment against the tracker bar.

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With the manifold ready, I connected it to the piano and tried firing the outputs. Results were not good, there was some vague correlation between outputs being on and notes being played but something was wrong. I had originally assumed the air passed all the way through the valves but closer examination revealed that they actually pass air from their stem to ports near the base of the stem. Since I had the entire stem/base of the valve mounted inside the manifold there was nowhere for air to flow when the valve opened. I re-made the top plate with smaller holes and re-installed the valves with only the stem in the manifold.

Valve Valve2

Remaking the top plate solved the valve problem but there were many dead notes due to air leaks at the tracker bar. I experimented with several materials to seal the tracker bar to the manifold and ultimately landed on thick rubber outdoor electrical tape as the best performing, though many leaks remained. I found that the tracker bar was not very flat and I was able to carefully bend it back. This helped considerably but leaks still remained. I found that the force needed to push the manifold against the tracker bar for a good seal had the effect of bowing the tracker bar away from the manifold in the middle, so I added a thin aluminum lip to the shelf on the back of the manifold. The lip is just thin enough to fit between the tracker bar and the wood cover behind it and it allows the manifold to hook over the top of the tracker bar and more positively hold the bar along the entire length of the manifold with enough preload on the tape to seal. This essentially solved the leak problem.

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Currently there are ~12-15 keys that I’m tracking down problems with, this started from ~20 and was reduced by working through electrical/alignment problems. On the remaining dead keys I’ve ruled out problems on the piano side, problems with the lower plate, and any electrical problems; so next step may be replacing the valves themselves. It’s possible that those keys need more airflow, which would require milling their passages deeper and/or modifying the valves; hopefully it doesn’t come to that. Once they’re all firing though then the mechanical work on this is basically done and I’ll be able to shift focus to the control system side.

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Piano Automation Begins

This weekend I designed and began fabrication of the parts needed for adapting the solenoid valves to the piano’s tracker bar. This adapter will consist of two 3/8″ aluminum plates. The top plate will have holes to accept the solenoid valves, and the bottom plate will have holes to interface with the piano’s tracker bar. Grooves will be machined into the bottom plate to create airs channel between the tracker bar holes and the solenoid valves above. The two plate will then be sealed together, covering the grooves; a similar construction technique as some carburetors. As long as the grooves are carefully routed, each valve should connect to exactly 1 tracker bar hole.

I cut the 3/8″x6″ plate on the band saw and then milled to final length. I used an edge finder to locate the plate edges, and then used the mill’s digital readout to position above each row/hole. For each row I took 2 passes, first spot drilling with a center drill and then drilling to size with a twist drill. 88 * 2 plates * 2 passes = 352 cycles of positioning the X axis and drilling a hole. Once all the holes were drilled I sanded sides to remove burrs from the holes and scratches from the rough plate.

Next I installed and wired the solenoid valves in the top plate. The solenoid valves are an exact fit to the hole, but I added a bit of CA glue to ensure they stay in place. Wiring consists of scrap Ethernet cord that’s been stripped back; Every ~7 solenoids each share a common wire to reduce wiring, but it’s still ~100wires.

I’m happy with the results so far; this is by far the most precise thing I’ve made on the mill and everything is lining up perfectly. The next step will be to 3D model the grooves and convert these to paths to run on the CNC router. I’ve done some aluminum milling with it previously so it should work out OK, especially since it’s just cutting the shallow grooves – I wouldn’t have trusted the router to drill the holes as well as the mill did.

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Kubota F2000 Snow Plow

We don’t get much snow here, but when we do it takes a lot of shoveling to get out to the road. If conditions are just right we can be stuck for several days waiting for it all to melt. As a result I’ve had a mower/atv sized plow on my watch list since last winter. Recently a new open-box plow popped up that, after factoring in their free shipping, I got for basically scrap value or less. I think the reason for the low price was that it had originally been part of a kit, but all the mounting parts were missing.  For my purposes that’s OK though – no one makes a kit specific to the F2000 anyways, so I was always going to need to fabricate the mounting parts myself.

Making the mounting bar just consisted of cutting some 1″x2″ tube to length, squaring off the cuts on the mill, drilling holes for the pins, and then welding everything together. From there the plow’s base just clamped between the mounting bar and another section of tube.I made the clamping bolts fit just inside the plow base’s big hole so the plow can be rotated by loosening the bolts. Since the push bar connects to the standard implement mounting points, the plow can be raised/lowered the same way as the mower deck. I also needed to make some stepped bushings on the lathe to fit the plow base to the plow.

Kubota doesn’t list a tow/plow rating for the F2000, but it’s 4WD with a 3 cylinder diesel and built exactly the same as a ‘normal’ compact tractor, the only difference is that its seating position is spun around 180deg. For occasional plow usage I don’t foresee any issues. I may need to tie into the plow base’s rear holes for stability and to prevent unwanted rotation, but I’ll try it out first to see if this is necessary.

As part of the plow installation project I also went through the mower’s electrics and replaced a lot of corroded connectors with solder/heatshrink splices. It turns out the glow plugs hadn’t been working all along. With the glow plugs now working it starts a lot faster and in winter this will likely be a necessity to start at all.

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Sliding Doors

The shop floor plan allows for a large opening between the ‘far’ end of the shop and the auto repair/bus area. This will allow tools to be easily shared between both spaces; during a big auto project the repair bay can become an extension of the workshop. The opening is also big enough to bring in the front or rear of a vehicle if ever needed. When auto projects aren’t underway though I’d like to have doors cover this opening to prevent dust/mess from wood/metal project leaving the shop area and to save on shop heating/cooling costs.

The size of the opening presents a problem – swinging doors would have to swing ‘out’ of the shop to avoid hitting cabinets, and the large sweep would require moving anything parked on the garage side out of the way temporarily, kind of a hassle. To avoid this problem, sliding doors made the most sense.

The shop build project is being run with the materials cost set to minimum and the end-product quality set as high as is practical. This sounds unrealistic but is actually possible with the trade-off being time; it’s not a problem though since I count this as hobby time and there’s no particular deadline. The sliding doors are a great example of this – sliding doors and hardware are outrageously expensive compared to the raw materials cost. Building my own also gives me full control, in this case I wanted to avoid the farmhouse/barndoor/rustic look in favor of cleaner traditional/modern look. Over the last few weekends I’ve built the doors and tracks below, key points:

  • Door frames from 2×6’s, planed down to standard 1 3/8″ door thickness
  • Mortise and tenon joints connect frame pieces (tenons via table saw dado stack, mortises via router and chisel)
  • Slide rail is two 3/16″ x 3″ x 10′ flat bar sections welded in the middle.
  • Door bracket pins turned and threaded on lathe then welded to brackets.
  • Aluminum rollers turned on the lathe, held to the brackets using standard 608 skate bearings.
  • Brackets recessed into door frame and secured to the doors with studs welded to back side for a completely smooth front.
  • 1/4″ Tempered glass sourced from local glass shop.
  • Groove along bottom of door and small bottom bracket keep door located against the wall and limit inward overtravel.
  • Roller to door top spacing and roller flange width prevent door from lifting/falling off rail.

There’s a good bit of finishing work still left, but I’m happy with the results so far.

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The Bridgeport has landed

I’ve had my eye out for the last few years for a milling machine to expand on machine shop capabilities. Finally this weekend I was in the right place at the right time to see the right listing come up and jump on it. As Bridgeport-style milling machines go it’s on the smaller side, but for my purposes this will be ideal. It was built in 1942 and is one of the early the “round ram” style machines with an “M” head. The previous owner has a makeshift rotary phase converter installed; consisting of a larger 3phase motor and a rope to pull-start it. This works fine for now but I may eventually replace it with a variable frequency drive.

How to move a mill had always been a concern when considering getting one. It weights in at ~1800lbs (the bus is ~2300lbs for comparison), which is exactly at my trailer and tow vehicle’s listed rating after adding the weight of the trailer itself. I think the rating has more to due with structural limits though and it did fine with plenty of power/brakes on the ~30mi trip. Loading was a breeze since the seller had an overhead crane.

The mill’s weight is concentrated in a small footprint with a lot of the weight being relatively high-up; 2×6’s were used to distribute the load across the trailer structure rather than the weak mesh floor. I had not considered the height and got lucky that the top of the mill while on the trailer cleared the garage door by about 1/2″. It wouldn’t have been a problem really, but this made the difference between unloading inside vs outside. During unloading the trailer and ramp were supported with wood cribbing and the mill was inched along using ratchet straps and a long metal bar. As long as you don’t get in a hurry with moving heavy stuff the worst that can happen is that it takes forever.

(Also shop is in-progress in the background, walls starting to go up)

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VW Bus Adjustable Front Beam

During the original bus rebuild I had ‘flipped’ the front spindles to lower it some. Stock height on buses was alarmingly high, lowering allowed for better handling and gave the possibility of the bus fitting in the garage with a roof rack. The spindle flip, however, lowers by a fixed 4-5″; just low enough that the front wheels would rub the wheel wells during bumps or heavy braking/cornering. Cornering was particularly exciting since the outside wheel would rub, slowing down that wheel with the tendency to make the turn tighter – or “positive feedback” for those of us that are into control systems (not a good thing).

To remedy this, a way was needed to raise the front back up an inch or two. Old VW’s use a very unique front suspension design with two sets of torsion leaf springs inside of a beam with two tubes. The leaf spring packs are held fixed in the center of each tube and are capped at both ends with the four trailing arms. Minor raising and lowering can be accomplished by changing the angle the springs are held at the fixed center point. The center spring holder is held by divots crimped into the tube which engage with holes in the spring holder; these divots were drilled out which freed the holder. Toothed sections were then welded to the tubes; when the center is bolted in place a nut is tightened against a toothed plate that engages the teeth, holding the torsion spring pack at the new angle.

Lots of things had to be disconnected and then reconnected to get the beam in/out. This made it a greasy, awkward, and tedious job but overall it went well. The only hiccup was that after the beam was re-installed the shift linkage interfered with the adjuster bolts, though I had read this could happen. To solve this problem I welded a chunk of plate steel to the bottom of the linkage to hold the geometry and then ground out a strategic section of the linkage tube. The plate is as strong or stronger than the tube, and it’s in just the right spot to clear everything above/below it. After everything was back together the bus is level and no longer rubs the front wheels!

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Atlas/Craftsman Lathe Reversing Switch – Finished

Tonight I finished up the lathe reversing switch linkage by stamping and painting the cover plate and making a knurled knob that roughly matches the others on the lathe. The lathe allowed the inside diameter of the knob to be bored precisely enough to get a good interference fit on the shaft – no need for any fasteners.

Lathe Reversing Switch Handle Lathe Reversing Switch Handle Lathe Reversing Switch Handle Lathe Reversing Switch Handle

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Atlas/Craftsman Lathe Reversing Switch

Originally the Atlas/Craftsman lathes spun in only one direction; because of this they came with only an On/Off switch integrated into the lathe’s headstock. At some point in my lathe’s past the On/Off switch was removed and a reversing ‘drum switch’ added. The drum switch gives the flexibility to spin either directions for special uses (cutting metric threads, power tapping, etc) however it’s it’s too big to fit in the lathe’s headstock.

The previous owner had the switch mounted on a wooden arm extending up from the lathe’s workbench; re-using this idea would work but since I’ve moved the lathe to the shop countertop the arm would need to be rebuilt and I also don’t like the aesthetics or the need to reach over the spinning work to turn it on/off. Another option would have been to mount the switch under the lathe base, however for the carriage to clear the switch would require raising the lathe – it was already at a good working height and raising would effect stability/rigidity as well as being susceptible to dripping oil. Lastly, it could have been mounted just anywhere on the ‘outside’ of the lathe (on a guard door, past the tailstock, etc) – none of these locations seemed great and overall this just seemed like giving up.

So what I ended up doing over the past few nights was locating the switch in the only volume of space just big enough for it, under the motor. This location has the added benefit of making the wiring short and simple. As-is, this is of course very inconvenient, but I chose it with creating a linkage in mind. The addition of the linkage allows the original On/Off switch hole to be utilized (previously this was just an open hole), puts the control in a convenient place, and makes it look like it was designed this way. The linkage was a challenge and took a few iterations to get right. It consists of a 1/2″ OD steel tube that runs through the headstock, supported by two metal plates I fabricated. At the end of the tube I welded on a nut to accept a bolt that bolts on another arm I fabricated. The arm has a bolt welded through it that engages with a slotted lever welded to the drum switch’s lever. The resulting contraption actually works very smoothly: pushing IN runs the spindle forward, pulling OUT runs it reverse, and returning to center is Off. All that’s left to do is create a matching knob and mark/paint the switch plate.

Reverse Forward Off

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Atlas/Craftsman Lathe Carriage Hand Wheel Fix

The hand wheel for the carriage (longitudinal/Z axis) of the lathe had a bit more up/down slop than I liked. To remedy this I used the lathe to fix itself. First the ‘apron’ (front plate) was removed from the carriage and mounted in the milling attachment, the smallest boring bar that came with the lathe was used to widen and true to the hand wheel hole. Similarly, I skimmed the surface of the hand wheel shaft to ensure it was perfectly round. With the larger apron hole and slightly smaller shaft I was able to create and fit a brass bushing to take up the space between. The outside diameter is a press fit into the apron and the ID has about 0.002″ of clearance to allow it to turn but without the slop previously seen. I only took pictures of the first step, I’ll take more for future lathe projects.

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Atlas/Craftsman Metal Lathe

This winter I’ve done some much needed cleaning and painting of the garage; it’s survived the bus restoration and countless other small projects. This has put the jet engine project and bus transmission on hold, but I’m in no particular hurry with either.

Also, recently I picked up an old Atlas (Craftsman) lathe I found on Craigslist with lots of tooling. This style of late was made by Atlas from the late 1930’s through the late 1950’s; based on the numbers engraved in this one’s bearings it seems to have been made around 1956. The manual that came with it was published in 1967; but I later found a receipt for the manual, proving that it was a replacement and explaining why the lathe in the manual looks like the late 1950’s through mid 1970’s version – both machines have all the same features and function the same though. For the most part it was in good shape and only needed some heavy cleaning, repainting, and a new motor capacitor; there are a few mechanical areas for repair/improvement that I will tackle, but nothing that prevents it from operating now. The original motor used a flat capacitor that’s no longer made in it’s motor base, so I had to get a little creative with mounting the replacement on the side of the motor.

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No particular project in mind for this, but no doubt it will come in handy with other projects especially since it has the milling attachment allowing it to serve as a small mill as well.

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