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Metal Working Tools

by adminpower

Have you ever gone to a metal fabrication shop? It is fascinating to see how they work the various pieces of metal. Bending, cutting, welding for a variety of purposes and a variety of different metals, although steel is the most common.

There are huge machines called brakes that bend thick sheets of metal. There are small hand versions that HVAC people use to create the ducts for HVAC systems. (By the way, if you didn’t know, HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning.) That is fine for the thin metal sheets they work with. But for thicker metal sheets or even plates, these larger machines are able to use a lot of pressure and force to bend them.

Then they have torches that they use to cut metal as well as various types of saws, particularly band saws. Some even use lasers to do the cutting. There are also shears to make rough cuts.

Then there ways to fasten the metal together. There are drill presses to make holes in the metal that you can put rivets or bolts through. Of course if you are using bolts, you need to have taps and dies to make the threads in the hole if you want that. Or you can have a smooth bore and the nut and bolt hold things together.

Besides that, to join things, you can weld them. There is arc welding and TIG and MIG welding and many more. Different types of welding are used for different purposes and for different types of metals. You have to handle aluminum differently than you do steel.

Then you need to be able to finish things off as well. So there are a variety of grinders such as belt grinders to smooth off rough spots. Then there are tumblers for deburring and polishing. And of course lathes to be able to turn rods of metal into different shapes.

If you ever get a chance to go to a metal fabrication shop while they are working, it is very interesting. Even just the machines they use to move the heavy pieces of metal around.

Window Glazing Tool

by adminpower

Tenants are a Pain with Panes

My tenants have broken out a couple of panes in the storm door yet again. This is the third time they have done this. They are a pain with the panes. This is an older style storm door made out of wood with small 12×13 panes. So I got the two panes and put them back in. Usually I scrape out the old window glazing with a flat screw driver and a chisel. The points are still there and I just bend them down, put the new piece of glass in and then bend them back up and put the glazing compound in.

Glazing Points

This time however, the points had come out with scraping or I did something wrong. So the glass was held in by just the new soft glazing compound which of course hadn’t hardened yet. So a day or two later the tenant called and said one of the panes had fallen out and broken.

I wasn’t sure where my glazing points were. Originally they were little flat triangles of metal that you shoved into the door frame to hold the glass in place. They were a pain to deal with. In the past, I think I broke a pane trying to get a glazing point in with a screwdriver or chisel when I was trying to push it into the wood. I must have pushed too hard the wrong way.

So, off to Home Depot to get more glass, glazing points and more glazing compound because my old little can had run out. Decided to get Plexiglas instead of glass. They don’t sell small cans of glazing compound anymore, at least at Home Depot they don’t. What I had to get will last me the rest of my lifetime and probably part of my kid’s lifetime.

Glazing Tool

OK, so this blog is supposed to be about tools. I am finally getting around to that. It turns out the guy at the store showed me a glazing tool. I didn’t know they existed. One end is flat and much stiffer than a putty knife so you can use it to push in the glazing points. The other end is bent in a 90 degree angle like a V so you can hold one side against the pain and have a nice steady angle for the glazing compound. A chisel and putty knife work just fine so I didn’t buy it.

Modern Glazing Points

When I went to put the new pane in, I was pleasantly surprised to see what glazing points look like these days. I have probably seen it before but had forgotten  about it since it isn’t something I do every day. They now have two little tabs bent out so that you can push the point in much more easily instead of trying to push in a thin little piece of metal.

So I put in the Plexiglas. On the piece of glass that hadn’t fallen out, I dug out a bit of the new soft compound and put in a point and put the compound back in place. Did that all the way around the pane. Neither one should be going anywhere anytime soon. If the Plexiglas one does, at least it won’t break.

Lumberjack Tools

by adminpower

You could say you have two forms of lumberjacks. The ones who log trees for paper and lumber companies and the ones who work for tree services companies and do tree removal and tree pruning.

Historical Lumberjacking

A hundred years ago, no one except the very wealthy would have thought about pruning trees. It was hard laborious work because it was all done with hand tools. Not that it is that easy now, but in comparison it is easy now. Or maybe, it is just as hard work, but they get more done in the same time because of the power tools.

Some of the hand tools you needed were a long handles falling axe and a crosscut falling saw. These saws had a handle on each end and a lumberjack stood on either side of the tree and pushed and pulled the saw. They had huge teeth an inch or two long.

They also used a sledge hammer and wedges. Once the saw was in a ways, they would use the sledge hammer to drive the wedge into the cut behind the saw to keep the cut open, so the saw wouldn’t get pinched by the tree which would make it impossible to move the saw or remove it.

Modern Lumberjacks

Modern lumberjacks still have axes but they primarily use large chain saws. There are even machines that will come along and grasp the tree, snip it like it was cutting a flower stem, then tilt it over and pull it through the grippers to take all the branches off and in just a few minutes you have a log readied to be carried out of the forest. It is very impressive to see. Kind of scary too.

Tree Service Companies

With the tree services companies, the requirements are a bit different. With modern lumberjacks, they can pretty much fell a tree any direction they want. They will try to avoid knocking down other trees, but they generally don’t have to worry much about damaging anything. Not true for tree services companies. If they drop a tree on a house or prize flower garden, the clients are not going to be happy.

Rather than just felling the tree, they normally have to take them down piece meal. They will climb the tree, and rope off so that if they fall, the rope will catch them. They will attach other ropes to limbs they are cutting and lower them to the ground instead of letting them fall. This way they can use the ropes to guide where and how they are going to come down to the ground. So bit by bit, they deconstruct the tree until it is just a stump.

Once that is done, they will probably use a stump grinder to take the stump down below ground level so you can put dirt over it and it will look better. Lumberjacks will just leave the stumps there to rot. They have no reason to do stump grinding.

So the tree service companies will use chain saws but smaller ones than lumberjacks who are typically cutting down larger trees, although not necessarily. They also use the ropes and possible tackle up in the trees whereas a lumberjack might use them to move a tree once it is on the ground but that is about it.

ReThinking Guns

by adminpower

We are doing a mix of odd and interesting new tools and devices in this post. Hope you enjoy.

Battelle DroneDefender

This looks like some sort of crazy gun out of a scifi movie. It would fit in with Men in Black or Star Wars. It is designed to take down drones. There are so many drones these days that you never know where one is going to show up, possibly peaking in a bedroom window or spying on a company and trying to steal trade secrets, or perhaps spying on a government installation. It uses radio frequency disruption technology. Amazingly, it can disrupt the signal going to a drone from over 1,000 feet away. Without the signal going to it, the drone will drop to the ground. This is much better than trying to shoot it down. Shooting at drones is not a solution in most circumstances and you would need to be an awfully good shot on top of the other obvious problems.


OK, not table salt, this is a new type of gun. Hmm, this blog seems to be turning into a post about guns. Salt is interesting. The company’s website is saltsupply.com. They decided to rethink what a gun is and what it is needed for. You are not going to go hunting with this gun. It was designed to both protect you in your home, but also to protect whoever you use it against. It is designed to incapacitate but not kill any intruders.

The nice thing about this is that there are so many deaths where kids find a gun and shoot somebody thinking it is a toy and not realizing what they are doing. Or someone hears something, thinks it is an intruder and shoots the person who got up in the middle of the night for a glass of milk. This sort of thing happens all too often.

Salt fires a pellet that is mostly made of salt. It explodes on impact and immediately forms a cloud around the person that temporarily blinds them and constricts their airways making it difficult to breath. The great thing is that even if you miss the person and it hits a wall, it is still just as effective.

This is very important because when people are nervous, they tend to be lousy shots. So if you do have an intruder, you are likely to miss with a real gun and then they are on you and can take the gun and use it on you. With Salt, you can even fire and create the cloud before they open the door so they are incapacitated as soon as they walk through the door.

Old Tools

by adminpower

As one of the contributors to this blog, I thought I would tell you about some of the tools I grew up with. What is really freaky is that now I sometimes go to museums and see tools that I grew up working with. Although, that probably isn’t too surprising because until the explosion of power tools, your basic tools hadn’t changed all that much over the last couple hundred years. Even now, a hammer is a hammer.

Granted, there are a lot of variations on the basic tools, back then and now as well. Plus, people have always made tools for specific purposes. In archeological sites from only 100 or 150 years ago,  they find tools they recognize but also tools that they have no idea what their purpose was.

To give an idea of how things have changed I will tell this story on myself. A few years back someone gave me an intelligence test for entrance into the army in World War I. I figured it would be easy because I am well educated. Well, I came out at the level of imbecile. The reason was that many of the questions had to do with horses or current events. Things that most people knew then but not now. I did an online search and found some tests but not the same one. Apparently there were a number of variations that were used. The ones I just found weren’t that difficult although some had current events from that time era. Click here for an example. If you search, you can find many more variations.

I remember enjoying using a bit and auger with my father when I was little. You never see these anymore. People just use power drills. Another one you don’t see much of anymore are planes. They had a blade sticking a bit out of the bottom and you could take layers of wood off. Much faster than sanding. Once again, people now just use power sanders or planes and other tools that are powered.

One of the most unusual was a type of plane. Unfortunately it was stolen so I no longer have it. It was my grandfather’s. It was used for planing an edge, say perhaps a picture frame. But it would plane two edges or sides at once. Rather than being flat, the plane’s bottom was shaped in a right angle. The blade also had a right angle in it. So when you planed something, you would get a perfect right angle and two sides would be planed at once. Wish I still had it.

Household Appliances as Tools

by adminpower

This entry is a little offbeat. You may not think of a refrigerator, a stove, a washing machine or a dryer as a tool but ask the person who uses them the most. Even if people can’t afford new appliances, they consider them a useful enough tool to buy a used refrigerator, or a used washing machine and dryer or whatever they need.

Can you imagine not having them? A washing machine and a dryer is one thing, but a refrigerator and a stove? What would you do, start collecting wood to build a fire and cook over the fire? Or, the next step up, a wood stove that you would have to cut or buy the wood and then get the fire lit whenever you needed to use it. Can you imagine the heat that would generate in the summer.

Without a fridge, what would you do? Only buy canned goods and dried goods so the food wouldn’t spoil without a refrigerator? Or go to the food store every day to buy just what you need. Having a modern refrigerator is not only a time saver but also a money saver. A lot less food goes bad, so less has to be thrown out. Plus, you don’t need to be going to the store which takes time that you could be doing something else.

In many third world countries, people can spend up to a half a day each day going to get water and even then, frequently the water isn’t very good and makes them sick. Rather than spending lots of time getting food and water, we just open the fridge and turn on the tap. (Granted we do have to go shopping once in a while for the food) Then you pop the food in the microwave and a minute or two later you are eating. Or take a bit longer and put it on the stove or in the oven. The difference is staggering.

And now, in some cities you can just pick up your cell phone and order dinner and a hot meal made to order is delivered in half an hour. You have taken all of a minute to place the order. (Although, this may mean that you don’t need a fridge and a stove. Just get all the meals delivered.)

Leatherman Tread

by adminpower

Leatherman Tread

Leatherman has come out with a new tool that doubles as jewelry. It is a bracelet that looks kind of like a tank tread. But each link in the tread has various types of tools. There are screw driver heads of all sorts, flat, Phillips, square and a variety of others. There are two or three on each link. And each link has a hole in it that can be used as a box wrench on bolt heads.

Of course you can’t get as much leverage as with traditional tools, but all told there can be around 25 different tools on the bracelet. It is made of high strength, corrosion resistant stainless steel. The clasp is even functional with perhaps one of the most important tools, a bottle opener.


It is also customizable. You can take links out to make it fit your wrist, or move them around in any order you like. Because each link has a lot of flexibility, you don’t need to take the bracelet apart to use the tool. Just fold the bracelet and go to work. (It would be kind of depressing to need a separate screwdriver to undo the bracelet to be able to use the tools. Luckily Leatherman didn’t make a dumb design decision like that. Not surprising given their history in designing tools.) To see a picture of it, see the article in ToolGuyd.

If you travel a lot, you don’t need to worry about getting through airport security. The bracelet tool passes TSA regulations.

The tool has 10 parts. There are 7 regular links, 2 clasp components and one smaller link to help with size adjustment for different wrist sizes. On the underside of each link are size markings. It will be possible to buy individual links. There will also be a version that includes a wrist watch.

The price will be $150 for the Tread and $500 with the watch.

Oliver Evans, American Genius

Oliver Evans was born in 1755 and died in 1819. I guess you could say he was British since the American Revolution hadn’t happened when he was born, but everyone considers him American, even the Encyclopedia Britannica. (Although, the Britannica was sold to Americans around 1900 and then to the owner of Sears Roebuck in 1920 and the headquarters moved to Chicago where they still are. Even so, they still use British spellings such as colour. The Brits still resent the sale to Americans, but I digress.)

His major accomplishments were the development of the high pressure steam engine and long before Henry Ford, the first continuous production line. But these were only two of many inventions he came up with. He seemed to be constantly looking for ways to automate processes and make them easier.


He started out at the age of 16 as an apprentice to a wheelwright. He became interested in steam and the possibilities of it powering things. But he got diverted by another problem before he got far with steam. To card wool and other fibers, you needed brushes to untangle the fibers. This had to be done before spinning. Spinning and other processes in the textile industry were beginning to be automated. Carding was a bottleneck. Evans invented a system to cut metal hooks or teeth and attach them to a leather belt at a rate of 1,000 per minute. These were better for carding and helped speed up the process.

Automated Production Line

Then when he was 29 he invented the continuous production line. He took a flour mill and created machines that took the grain once it was loaded in at the beginning would move everything along until flour came out at the end of the process. He had to figure out a system of feedbacks and methods so that everything self regulated and kept pace with everything else. By his estimate, it reduced the cost of milling by 50% and was later widely copied around the US. He applied for a patent in several states in 1787. There was no US patent law yet so he couldn’t apply for a US patent.

He applied for a US patent in 1790 when the Patent Office was formed. At this time he also applied for a patent on the high pressure steam engine. He received third patent ever issued by the Patent Office.

High Pressure Steam Engine

The steam engine he saw being used in two models. One would be stationary and be used in factories and other locations. The other could be used for moving land or water vehicles. He wanted to test it out but wasn’t allowed to try it on the Pennsylvania Turnpike for fear of scaring the horses. A few years later he had created versions to do a variety of tasks from sowing seed to running saw mills and boring machines. Evans changed how the beam, cylinder and crankshaft were positioned and linked. He created a very ingenious straight line linkage which was widely copied because of it superior performance.

Dredge and Vehicle

He also created a dredge which was used to dredge and deepen the port of Philadelphia. It took ideas from his mill automation by using a chain of buckets. Interestingly it could not only float but had wheels and could be driven on land making it the first powered vehicle to be used in the United States.

Steam Warship

He wanted to make a steam warship with a large gun for the War of 1812 but couldn’t get anyone in government to OK the idea. If given the go ahead, he would have beaten Ericssons Monitor by 50 years. He was obviously a man ahead of his times. Interestingly, in 1805, he said that there was a need for the government to support and subsidize technological development. Wonder what the right wing of the Republican Party would say about that?

Mills as Giant Tools

by adminpower

Have you ever been to a mill? There were saw mills and woolen mills and grain mills and more. They were basically huge tools or machines. Nowadays they have been shrunk and a combine going along the field basically does most of what a mill originally did.

At first, they were all water powered and then later many switched motors. Some later used turbines powered by the water flow instead of the water wheels. The water wheels always had a direct mechanical linkage. The turbines which were more efficient than the water wheels could be also set up with a direct mechanical linkage. Or they could be used to generate electricity to drive motors to drive the machinery.

If you have never been to a mill, you should. They were a marvel of 1700s and 1800s engineering. And you wouldn’t believe how many there were. On the US East Coast there were thousands of them. In Pennsylvania alone there were almost 2,000 of them. Possibly more.

Interestingly many were on fairly small streams and creeks leading into larger rivers. It took a bit to get the water wheel turning, but once started, it didn’t take much water to keep it going.

When a farmer would come to the mill with a wagon of grain to be milled, it would be typically be hoisted to the top floor. That is why with most mills you will see a large beam extending out from the peak of the roof with a pulley that was used to hoist the grain and any equipment and supplies they needed on upper floors.

They then made use of gravity and as the grain was processed it normally moved down through the mill. One of the first things that would be done was to put it in a separator. The amazing thing is that these have changed little in design over the last 150 years. In fact, one company said they still use the same size screens as they did in the 1850s. So if you have an antique separator, you can buy a screen from them and it will fit fine.

The separator has shafts that are rotated by whatever power source is currently used. The shafts spin a blower and also a shaker. The grain goes on top of a larger screen. The grain and smaller contaminants drop through and the chaff and larger particles are blown away. Typically they would be blown down a tube and out one end of the mill, usually over the river. A biologist said that that this practice significantly changed the ecology of the river around the mill.

Then the grain lands on a smaller screen that is too small for the grain to fall through but dirt and weed seeds fall through and are carried away, leaving just the grain.

Then the grain would be taken down to the mill wheels to be ground into flour. Then the flour would be bagged or boxed and moved down to be shipped out.

Over time different devices were invented to make the mill work less labor intensive. A major inventor in this regard was Oliver Evans. His mill, Greenbank Mill in Delaware still operating as a museum. Besides revolutionizing how mills worked, he also other important inventions, in particular the high pressure steam engine.

Going to one of these mills and seeing what they did with wood and iron is rather incredible. Today it looks clunky and antiquated but at one time it was cutting edge technology.

Hello Tool Lovers!

by adminpower

All Power Jack welcomes you. This blog will be all about tools that are useful. Some will be every day kinds of tools and some will be oddball ones that are kind of interesting. Probably will toss in some things about construction as well. Check back soon to find some interesting tidbits.