I hope you are all well. Look's like the worst part of this "interesting" winter is behind us; torrential rain will be a pleasant relief compared to the cold, snow and ice we've had. Such bad weather is a great excuse to stay in and play in the workshop... by mine is too darn cold!
In Regional news: George has been doing a great job working with Christine Palmer to get the details of our July Regional nailed down, including a re-designed registration form. This took a fair amount of back and forth, but Christine has been very helpful and together we have made good progress.
It's not too soon to be thinking about how you may want to participate in our July Regional. Aside from buying a table for those of you buying and selling, we can always use volunteers for our Chapter 31 booth. Bring along an interesting clock or tool; demo some aspect of clock repair/maintenance; or just be there in the booth to engage with the public and help us draw in potential new members.
I believe we will also have space for those wanting to give a 30 Minute University session; please consider this option. There are a lot of very knowledgeable folks in our group, with experience across a wide array of horological topics. Why not share that knowledge with others?
Around the shop: I did say it was too darn cold in our basement, but I still got down there to do a little work. Mostly finishing up my big "roto-root" of the shop -- getting rid of junk and reorganizing things. I ended up with room for several more shelves, so I now have "enough" storage space again. Which will of course fill quickly... I did take advantage of my two month work hiatus to take a four hour course at ADX (a "maker space" in SE Portland) on welding; specifically GMAW (aka MIG) welding.
I had wanted to add a welding capability to my shop for some time, and a few years back I did the research into what type (stick welding, torch, TIG, MIG, etc.) I wanted to use. I settled on GMAW/MIG as requiring equipment within my budget, and being able to weld a range of materials. I didn't really just want to read the manual and dive in, since there are a lot of parameters and subtleties to making good welds. This ADX course worked for me: short and to the point, I got some hands on to get a feel for when the weld is going right, and when it is not. My welds at home look pretty rocky now, but with practice I expect to get better. I have welded up some stands to use for hanging tarps to create a wind and rain shield; my wife "encouraged" me to weld outside rather than in the garage, and I can't really blame her. To get this back to some slim connection to horology: most welding technologies work with steel or aluminum, but nothing seemed to be claiming it would work with brass. I finally read why: welding tends to be a high temperature operation, around 6000 F, and this causes the zinc in brass to almost instantly vaporize. Melting is what you want; if one half of your brass vaporizes and you're left with just the copper, that just won't work. However, it looks like bronze is possible to weld. Sounds like an experiment for the future...
Speaking of metal: a new tool for the shop is on order. I have resisted buying a 3D printer for some years, but a couple of things recently made me decide that It's Time: I read about a new type of filament (that's the generic term for the rolls of plastic wire that these printers use as feed stock; usually PLA or ABS plastic) that is now available that bears a high concentration of metal: brass, copper, aluminum, even stainless steel. Enough metal that after printing, the matte/grooved surface left by the printer can be sanded down and polished, leaving a very metallic looking surface. That, and reading in Make magazine their evaluation and review of the Prusa Mk 2 printer... well, I couldn't resist any longer. Prices have come way down from when I was first looking at printers, and the quality has apparently gotten better. Of course I have been avidly following Henry Casson's work with 3D printing, but now that I can perhaps make pseudo-metallic parts for my clocks, I am very interested in getting into this mode of machining. I can see a real use for this in making dials, and perhaps even gears, at least for the motion work or other lightly powered parts of a clock. I wonder what a bell made of a plastic/metal mixture would sound like? More fun ahead.
Speaking of Time Out content: if you get tired of reading (or skipping) my ruminations, why not send in something else? Perhaps a reference to an interesting article you read, or a link to something cool on-line, and of course if you wish to put pen to paper... great! Just a thought.