A Lazy Afternoon and Soft Brass

by Mar 20, 2022Modeling Techniques, The Modeling Conversation

A lazy rainy Saturday afternoon presented the opportunity to practice with scraps of brass.

My purpose is to develop my machining skills. To refine my set up procedures, strengthen my awareness of what the tool is doing and how the material is responding. This is where I can build good working habits and experience.

The first piece is nothing more than a series of slots cut with an 0.032” end mill. The material is a section of 0.250″ rectangular tubing and I’m just getting a feel for using such a small tool. I’m taking note of the spindle speeds, the depth of cut and the feed rate for the mill. I also used a lightweight oil to keep the mill cool and to enhance the cutting action. The cuts are just randomly spaced. I pushed the limits several times to see what would happen. I’m surprised at how thin some of the remaining ridges are.

This section was an exercise in locating cuts more precisely to a series of layout lines. I blackened one face of the tubing with a marker, then scribed the lines.

I gave myself two points to hit. While the lines are hard to see in the photo, on the outer two cuts I wanted to bring the edge of the cut to the inside edge of the layout line. On the middle cut, I wanted to center the layout line in the middle of the cut. On all three I wanted to stop the cuts at the perpendicular line. The things to watch here are positioning the cutter where I wanted and cleaning the chips away to see the progress while cutting.

While the middle slot is off center by a few thousandths, the others are good and all three stop at the line. A good outcome for a manual operation.

In each case the critical thing is being able to clearly see what you’re doing, where the cutter is positioned and so on. With the machine off, I used a magnifying glass to position the work before making each cut. I will also need a better light source than what I’m currently using. There is never enough light for my taste.

In the creative world I’m familiar with, the fear of messing up can be paralyzing for many people. Practice pieces like these relieve that fear through repetition and internalizing the knowledge and physical movements. It’s similar to learning to ride a bike. Once you get used to the motions and maintaining your balance, it becomes second nature.

It this case it’s learning how to focus and pay attention. It’s learning what to watch for and ways of knowing what’s happening in the moment via sight, sound and feel. The fact that it’s practice relieves the tension of making a mistake. There’ s nothing critical at stake, so no big deal, just do it again.

Craftsmanship is one of those concepts that people (including me) make a big deal over. There’s an idea that it’s something outside of yourself that you go looking for. I’m discovering that craftsmanship is found in the hundreds of individual decisions we make while working. It’s more of an internal mindset than anything else. I’ll keep doing these exercises because I enjoy the learning that’s happening with them. I enjoy the successful outcomes too, but it’s the process that’s truly important.