Sunday, 2 November 2014

New Machines, at last!

Summer has a habit of overtaking one in various ways, and this summer was no exception. Here, in the south West I'm looking out the window at the first wet day ( in the sense of it raining continually all day) since the middle of April. It's been the finest, and driest summer for many, many years.
The up shot of all this is that I spent a lot more time in the garden and doing outside work in general than would normally be the case. We also had the problem of four large trees which were blown down on Stephen's day last year, and which brought down a large garden wall with them when they went.
 The dry summer allowed us to bring in the necessary machinery to clear all this and replace the wall.

Other things, getting around to flutemaking, also conspired to hold things back, and possibly explains the absence of any post since the middle of July.
Major among these was the replacement of the two major machines in the workshop.
At some stage, early in the year, I came to the realisation that my old workhorse of an engineering lathe, the Colchester Chipmaster, was going to have to go sooner rather than later. Working with tools over a long period, it's really hard to see the gradual deterioration in accuracy and efficiency that occurs little by little day by day. It wasn't until I used my neighbour's Harrison M300, for a reason that I now can't remember, that I saw the degree of deterioration in my own machine.
Around the same time I was increasingly frustrated with the performance of the small mill/drill, and also the fact that my large mill, although wonderful in every other way, had no quill, and therefore couldn't be used for the accurate drilling that the small machine wouldn't do.

Buying second hand machinery, and I can only speak of the Irish experience, can be a bit of a dose to be honest. There's lots available, but mainly through auction and on-line selling sites sites. This usually means that you have to buy sight unseen, and very often are not able to see a machine running. The other problem, this time particular to flutemakers, or at least those working on the same scale as I am, is that most of the machinery available is too big, if not for the type of work, then for the workshop space available. By means of an inquiry to one of the on-line buying/selling sites, I came across a place in Longford which had exactly what I was looking for in terms of a large selection of second hand machines that could be seen, many in operation.
As it happened I was scheduled to go to Leitrim for the launch of the John McKenna project, so I took the opportunity to call to the village of Kenagh on my way, it not being a place on the way to anywhere really, or at least not any where that I'd normally be going. To my delight, I discovered that they were expecting to get in the two exact machines that I had been looking for. These were the Excell Pinnacle Top Aid Turret mill, and the Harrison M300 lathe.
Cutting a long story short, I managed to sell my own machines, and buy the two "new" ones and get them installed in the workshop by late August.
Here they are... the mill

 and the lathe...

and that's my Harrison Union Graduate wood lathe in the background. You can't beat Harrison!
By coincidence the people I bought the machines from were the Harrison brothers whose company is Kenequip.
I couldn't recommend these guys highly enough, they were a delight to deal with, sourcing the machines, delivering them, and even helping with the installation.
I don't know myself.

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