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I just lost.

Shipped In, Shaping Up

So I broke down and bought an old Atlas 7B Shaper to match the lathe. I got tired of working on the floor with it still bolted to the shipping pallet, but the thing weighs over 300 pounds, so I went ahead and built up a nice metal stand. I really like the way it turned out and matches the art deco curves of the machine, so I will eventually be redoing the crappy 2x4 tables for the lathe and milling machine to match. I got the inspiration from here, and have been killing myself trying to find some nice legs, but then I found some nice decorative railing at the steel yard that was MUCH cheaper than the cast iron legs I've seen on eBay, as well as being in regular stock and easily cut to length.

As for the shaper, its in really great shape, and for being "antiquated" it is quickly turning out to be my favorite machine tool. It cuts incredibly flat planes with a beautiful smooth finish, and at $1.60 for tool bits I can grind to whatever profile its a hell of a lot cheaper to run than using end mills. I'm learning all about slotting and dovetails and have a few precision toolmaking projects planned for it, including some vises, a line boring jig for the lathe, and even a sine plate. I've already made a mini tool post grinder that holds a Dremel tool in the lathe, and this thing takes regular lathe bits, so I'm going to try some light surface grinding on it for all the precision parts.

And obviously I've dusted off the old vidya cam, and I'm actually super impressed with the latest version of iMovie, so I think I'll be doing a lot more project videos down the pipeline.

Long overdue Shop update

Sooooooo, this happened:

That's right, after all that hemming and hawing from my previous post, I broke down and bought me a little old Atlas 618 benchtop lathe. And some other fun toys. But more about that later, but soonish, I promise. I've spent the past few months learning how to use this bad boy, did a bit of restoration, and now I've got some serious upgrade projects in the pipeline. But this post is all about how I went about turning out my first legit project on it, the whole reason I got it in the first place, a proper replacement for that nasty crank/cam for my pruner that was giving me so much ass-burn last season.

I started off marking up a blank slug of 2 1/2" cold roll to position the centers of both the driving cam and the mating shaft to the motor spline. The spline was the hardest part and I came up with a pretty slick solution of making a broach out of an old drill but I shattered a while back, but it still required roughing out so I just laid out a 0.5" 9-hole circle...

drilled out the center pilot holes...

pressed an arbor into each of them...

and turned them offset between the tailstock and my collet chuck. After all the pathetic attempts I had made to adapt that 4-jaw to fit my lathe spindle nose, set up, align, and hold the workpiece on such small surfaces so close to both the chuck and the tool holder with even a hint of safety, accuracy, or repeatability (it took more than one shot to turn the piece out, as expected), turning on a mandrel was simple and elegant.

Double eccentrics. Like a boss.

But I had yet to finish the splined keyhole for the shaft mating. I had this whole big plan to make a proper broach, which would have required a custom hobbing cutter, a horizontal mill, and a dividing head, of which I have no working solution as of yet. What I did have was a cut off gear from the old gearbox I salvaged the hydraulic motors off of, so it at least had the correct profile, as well as a busted 5/8" drill bit that fit the outer dimensions of the spline. I was afraid I was going to have to heat the thing to forging temp and form it into the spline hole like a die. As it turns out the gear was so hard and the edge so sharp from cutting it with an abrasive disc that it acted quite nicely as an external broach and I cut the spline profile into the drill shank with just a 1-ton arbor press, cut relief into the teeth on the lathe, heat treated it, and used it to cut out the internal profile on the new cam. No, it didn't have rows of progressively deeper teeth; yes, I did have to do some extra work at the beginning to rough out clearance holes; no, it didn't go through smoothly in a single pass on my press; yes, I did have to beat the shit out of it against an anvil like a damn cold chisel. But it worked, and I didn't even bust a single tooth in the process.

Clockwise from top-left: 1) the original gear I had cut the boss off for my first horrible mess; 2) the new internal broach made from a prior drilling disaster, now hardened and tempered to a purdy cobalt blue; 3) the finished cam v2.0; 4) v1.5.7, the horrible mess -- notice how the boss finally cracked the full circumference of the weld = total fail. The new and improved version is a single piece of case-hardened 1018 mild steel -- no welds, no stress risers, no rough oblong bearing surfaces. Where the old one would wear flat on the inner surface every other day and need to have a new "hard face" welded on, this guy lasted the entire job with no surface wear at all (all my original machining marks were still there when I took it apart for the post-game), although the inner surface did deform because the material underneath the case hardening was still very ductile. Next year I will try a different alloy and invest in a proper kiln, but overall I think this season was a big success.

Here it is in action.

I had to install it on the Deere because some jerk exploded the transmission on the Kubota, so I had a late start after redoing the whole hydraulic and mounting setup. Normally I should have had the pruning done long before any new buds started to push, let alone have a full canopy, but at least this way you can see how the pruner head undercuts the canopy at an angle so everything stays off the ground and out of the shade. Even with all the problems I had last year, by properly pruning for the first time, well, ever in this field, I was able to bring harvested yield from a historic high of 420 tons to 600 tons for a 50-acre block in just one season. I've still got a ton of work to do on upgrading the trellis system, which unfortunately can't be mechanized and has to wait until after next pruning, but at least now I've got a good solid baseline to work off of.

How much steel could a wood chuck chuck...

Ok, so I've set up my milling station to hold eccentric workpieces in a turntable (I'm not going to mistake calling it a true "rotary table" since it doesn't have a crank or any kind of indexing functionality), so now I can start reworking my oscillator cam in my sickle pruner described in my previous post. First, the mill:

That's a 4-jaw independent chuck for a Harbor Freight wood lathe. I originally had big plans for making a digital dividing head with it, but that was a bit too ambitious and I needed something to work right away, and don't really need to index anything, just turn around an offset axis. It mounts with a 3/4" 10 thread, so I just drilled a hole into one side of some scrap square tubing and bolted it down with some machine bushings to let it rotate stiffly by hand. Slap it in my 2-axis vise and now I have a crude 4-axis mill. Yes, it's a HF drill press; yes, it's a drill chuck; but I managed to rig a perpendicular draw pin to slide into the 2MT tang removal slot, so it self-tightens and the runout is low enough so that I can use a larger-diameter end mill without problem and get a fairly decent finish. For prototyping purposes, it's accurate enough to get the job done.

And now, the job...

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Metalworking project updates

Ok, so here it is after a bit longer of a delay than I had anticipated, but I have finally made enough progress on my base metalworking project that I can start work, and soliciting feedback, on all the daughter projects. Last fall I built this:

No, not the tractor, the pointy bits attached to the front of it. That, dear readers, is a Concord grape pre-pruner. The business end is a repurposed hay sickle, made to run off a salvaged hydraulic motor with a homemade crankshaft/gearbox to make the blades reciprocate. It's attached to the front frame of my Kubota with a 3-axis (X, Y, Tilt) tool carrier I also built as my first-time welding/fabrication project. I used it this spring to prune 50 acres of Concord grapes on my family farm in a fraction of the time it used to take doing it by hand. There were quite a few bugs I had to deal with along the way, making it slower-going than it would have been error-free, but either way it's a major improvement from the previous prototype:

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Cross-posted to a fistful of farming, metalworking, and engineering communities, by way of introduction.

Hi! My name is Ben. My family owns a small vineyard in eastern Washington State. I am in charge of several projects, including the daily operation and ongoing upgrades/rehabilitation of a 50-acre Concord grape block that we are in the process of getting organic certification. Three years ago, I was severely burned when I fell into a concealed hazardous waste dump site the previous owners had illegally buried on the property, so I am also interested in developing new waste recycling technologies and projects. I haven't posted regularly to LJ for quite a long time now, and although I've found a few more specialized message boards off-site, my needs and interests now overlap with so many different fields, so I've decided to knock the dust off my account and send out some feelers in all directions.

Last year I came to the conclusion that from here out all of my equipment needs to be custom-made, and my local shops aren't quite up to the task of doing any kind of R&D, so I broke down and bought the Harbor Fright starter kit, and have been rallying hard since last September to churn out my first big project -- a hydraulic sickle mower mounted to a custom 3-axis vertical tool carrier on the front of my Kubota -- to get a leap on pruning earlier this year. I never took shop in high school, and considering my total lack of experience I'd say it was an overall success (I got the entire field pruned nearly 2 1/2 months earlier than previous years of using sucky hedging shears), although there are some considerable alterations I need to make to both the pruner and my workshop.

So, now that I'm not quite so under the gun with that particular project, I figured I'd take the time to join some new communities, introduce myself, and solicit some help finding some good machinist groups that have nothing to do with Christian Bale. I've got several other ongoing builds and field projects I'm going to post some entires on in the next few weeks as I have some downtime when the vines start to bud out. In the meantime, the biggest problem I've had with my pruner is the kludgey reciprocator crankshaft I welded together literally out of scrap gears and bolts -- I desperately need advice on turning and heat hardening, and can't find any active lathe-working communities. My next shop project is to build an Arduino-driven dividing head to turn out a new crank in my drill/mill, but I already let the blue smoke out of my first Uno, so some computer and electrical engineering help would be, well, helpful. Finally, since I'm trying to find a use for all this dead vine material I'm chipping and bagging (another post) and I have both a need for medium-sized metal casting and a growing pile of scrap metal, I think I'd really like to build a wood-gasifier forge slash meat cookerizer so I can throw some of the most metal BBQs in town. Unfortunately, most of the metal casting communities I've found are for jewelry making, so if anyone can point me towards something a little more industrial, that'd be great.

Anyways, I'll be posting more entries later or sooner to introduce some of the individual projects I've got lined up. I'll try my best to keep them organized separately, although they do all converge together on a common larger purpose, which hopefully will make sense as I go along. Thanks for reading!


Prosser man charged after injuries on farm

Published: May 11, 2013

By Tyler Richardson, Tri-City Herald

PROSSER -- A Prosser farmer could face up to a year in jail after prosecutors say he failed to properly store hazardous waste that severely burned three men on a farm in Benton County.

Philip Andrew Whitney, 79, recently was charged with violating the Hazardous Waste Management Act, which is a felony. He is set to be arraigned May 30 in Benton County Superior Court.

Whitney could not be reached for comment by the Herald. A woman who identified herself as Whitney's wife said he was out of town.

The charge results from a lengthy investigation by the criminal investigation division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with help from the Benton Franklin Health District and the Benton County Prosecutor's Office.

Prosecutors allege Whitney improperly stored and disposed of tons of fruit pomace -- the remains of fruit after it has been pressed -- in large pits on his property, according to court documents.

The pits also contained earth with spent material collected during the juice filtering process, documents said.

The pits deprived the waste of oxygen, causing temperatures inside to rise above 500 degrees. They were covered with soil, which blended in with the surrounding terrain and concealed the decomposing waste smoldering below.

Benton Fire District 3 described the pits as an "eternal burning pulp."

Whitney was contracted by Seneca Foods Corporation and Milne Fruit Products Inc. to haul away and dispose of industrial quantities of waste from their businesses, documents said. Seneca paid Whitney $15 per ton to manage the waste rather than pay $84 per "16 yard load" to dump it at a licensed industrial landfill.

Amputations, severe burns

In 1996, 16-year-old Phillip Hickle had to have his legs amputated after falling into one of the pits while he was out quail hunting on Whitney's property, documents said.

That same year, Jon LeClaire fell into one of the pits and received second- and third-degree burns.

In 2011, Benjamin Fox fell into one of the pits and had to have 11 skin grafts for third-degree burns, documents said.

Whitney had sold the property in 2010 to Volpe Vineyards LLC, which included members of the Fox family. Benjamin Fox, in a lawsuit, claimed Whitney did not disclose the existence of the waste pits.

All three of the injured men sued Whitney. Hickle and LeClaire also sued the juice producers who contracted with him.

Hickle, who died in 2006, settled with Whitney for $1 million and both fruit producers for an undisclosed amount in 2003.

LeClaire had his case dismissed because it was determined he was trespassing on Whitney's property when he fell into the pit. It is unclear if Fox's lawsuit has been settled.

The EPA investigation began shortly after Fox was injured, said Benton County prosecutor Terry Bloor.

"His injuries got the ball rolling," Bloor said.

Long history of violations

Bloor outlined Whitney's history with the Benton Franklin Health District in court documents that show complaints and violations spanning almost two decades.

The health district filed at least three complaints against Whitney in the early 1990s, when he operated the waste pits without a permit, documents said.

Officials received at least two other complaints about illegal dumping in a two-year span from 1991-93. In 1994, he was charged with illegally dumping waste and eventually acquitted by a jury.

After Hickle and LeClaire were injured in 1996, the health district reluctantly granted Whitney a permit that allowed him to dump pomace and apply it to his land, documents said. Officials were worried about the injuries and his record of noncompliance.

"We had reservations," said Rick Dawson, supervisor of the health district's Land Use, Sewage and Water section. "Anytime you have someone with a history of noncompliance, you have to have reservations about issuing a permit."

The health district cited Whitney multiple times between 1997 and 2001 for storage issues and delays in applying the waste to his land, Dawson said. They revoked the permit in September 2001, when an inspection found waste was not being correctly stored.

Whitney applied for a permit again in 2005, documents said. It was granted when the health district saw no signs of illegal waste on his property, though officials remained concerned.

"He met all the conditions for a permit," Dawson said. "If you meet the conditions it's pretty difficult for us as an agency to say you can't have one because you were a bad actor in the past."

That permit lasted only a month. The health district found that pomace had been stored improperly and one pile was emitting smoke, documents said.

The district suspended the permit and instructed a representative of Whitney Farms to put out signs warning of possible injury. Subsequent inspections found piles that were smoking and above the regulated temperature.

The health district didn't renew Whitney's permit in 2006, but he illegally continued to dump waste on his property, Dawson said.

Benton County prosecutors charged Whitney in 2007 for violating the Hazardous Waste Management Act, but the charge was dismissed before it went to trial.

Three weeks after Fox was burned in March 2011, a contractor hired to develop a plan to clean up the waste on Whitney's old property recorded a temperature of more than 400 degrees from the pit where Fox was injured, documents said.

A PVC pipe with a melting point of exactly 380 degrees melted within five minutes when inserted into the pit, documents said.

Officials determined there were three different pits allegedly used for dumping on the property, documents said. Two pits were about 20 feet deep and the third was about four feet deep.

The EPA found that the two deeper pits contained a "fine dust-like material" with temperatures ranging from 800 to 1,100 degrees, documents said. The agency also removed tires and furniture from the pits during the cleanup.

Read more here: http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2013/05/11/2391651/prosser-man-charged-after-injuries.html#storylink=cpy

WANTED: Programmer/Developer

Looking for someone with good C/C++ skills. Experience with embedded systems and/or DSP is a definite plus, but what I really need is someone to help me with the fundamentals. I'm able to plunk away at higher-level scripting languages and come up with something that gets by, but right now I'm working on a sensor network project that needs direct hardware interfacing and compact code optimized to run a wireless node for years off a watch battery (or less). I've got the hardware side of things largely figured out, but I haven't touched a compiler since I was like 12, so I'm pretty rusty.

This is for a network of tiny ground-penetrating radar stations to measure soil moisture for precision agriculture. I'm hoping to have a dozen or so prototypes to test at my farm come springtime next year, and hopefully get some funding to do a full field test over a 50-acre working plot. The goal is to make these things cheap and ubiquitous enough to use even for small farmers in developing countries to dramatically reduce water usage. So, if you've got the juice for it, or know someone who does, this could go from curiosity to hobby to gig to job, and one that could really help people, if you're into that kind of thing.


US Environmental Protection Agency's public website documenting the cleanup of concealed hazardous waste pits discovered on my family's farm after purchase.

By Victoria Walker

Reposted from http://www.recordbulletin.com/ with permission from Victoria Walker, Prosser Record Bulletin, Prosser, WA.

Washington Department of Ecology’s (WDOE), Brian Dixon said “this is not representative of the agricultural industry. I am appalled. It is a tragedy. We in no way intend to start regulating hay bails and compost. They are not listed as dangerous waste.” According to Rick Dawson of Benton Franklin Health Department (BFHD), “99.9 percent of people follow the rules.”

In a letter dated Sept. 21, 2011 from the WDOE to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), a formal request was made asking for assistance in addressing the site condition at the Whitney Farms pomace site on District Line Rd. Specifically, the assistance needed would focus on the implementation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Federal Superfund Act. The request was made due to limited resources locally to “address the near-term and long term cleanup needed at the site.”

In the letter, the Fox family/Volpe Vineyards are considered to be “innocent purchasers” by provisions of the Model Toxic Control Act,” which states a potentially liable person can be: A current or past facility owner or operator. Anyone who arranged for disposal or treatment of hazardous substances at the site. Anyone who transported hazardous substances for disposal or treatment at a contaminated site, unless the facility could legally receive the hazardous materials at the time of transport. Anyone who sells a hazardous substance with written instructions for its use, and abiding by the instructions results in contamination. In situations where there is more than one potentially liable person, each person is jointly and severally liable for cleanup at the site. That means each person can be held liable for the entire cost of cleanup as stated in Model Toxic Control Act Statute and Regulation document on the USEPA website.

In an effort to avoid the confusion and delays associated with the federal Superfund program, the Model Toxics Control Act is designed to be streamlined. It sets strict cleanup standards to ensure that the quality of cleanup and protection of human health and the environment are not compromised. At the same time, the rules that guide cleanup under the Act have built-in flexibility to allow cleanups to be addressed on a site-specific basis.

The Model Toxics Control Act funds hazardous waste cleanup through a tax on the wholesale value of hazardous substances. The tax is imposed on the first in-state possessor of hazardous substances at the rate of 0.7 percent, or $7 per $1,000.

WDOE has also begun a Recommendation for Enforcement Hazardous Waste and Toxic Reduction Program against Whitney Farms Inc. et al. This action would result in a penalty totaling $300,000. This enforcement was put on hold at the request of the EPA Criminal Investigative Division.

The USEPA/CID is a fully authorized law enforcement agency empowered to enforce the nation’s environmental laws as well as any other federal law in accordance with the guidelines established by the Attorney General of the United States (18 U.S.C. 3063). Criminal Enforcement Program focuses investigative resources on cases that involve negligent, knowing or willful violations of federal environmental law. Knowing violations are those that are deliberate and not the product of accident or mistake. Knowledge of the specific statutes or regulations that prohibit the wrongful conduct is not required. When a violator is aware that the wrongful conduct is prohibited by law, the violation is said to be "willful.”

According to Mark Macintyre, with Public Affairs at USEPA, “What I can tell you is that we have recently concluded discussions with key parties in the Prosser Pomace Pits situation and we are scheduled to be at the site, conducting a "removal" of the material in the pits by mid-October. USEPA response staff, familiar with the situation, believes it should take approximately two weeks from the actual removal start date to finish.”

As of the writing of this article the property on North District Line Road has been cleaned up by the USEPA. They will return to the site in three weeks, continuing to evaluate the site.