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Love in the time of cholera

Don’t know about you, but I think the penguin looks worried.

In these strangest of times, I hope that you are all well.

I’m not sure where to begin really. Writing about small goings on in my tiny corner of the vast tableau of human experience seems rather pointless given what the whole of humanity is currently enduring. But in the hope that some may find these musings mildly amusing and possibly a welcome diversion from the cataclysmic car crash of out there, we humbly soldier on.

I took delivery last autumn of the bulk of the sheet metal work from a new Canadian supplier. Since then, the stainless steel covers have been sitting on the shelf waiting for the completion of the frames so that all the parts that need to be painted can go to the shop at the same time. As those of you who follow the posts on that photo site owned by the social media company with the reputation for (among other things) being extremely cavalier about their users’ privacy will know, the frames were finished some time ago. So now it’s time to put the finishing touches on the covers. A long, long time ago, (you know, in 2020BC) I discovered that the straight folds on two front flanges of the cover didn’t have quite enough relief on the interior flanges (gasp) to allow the requisite over-bend during fabrication. The upshot of this is that the front panels are only nearly, not exactly, at 90 degrees to the sides (re-gasp). Always seeking to shave off another minute source of imperfection, adding a tab that connects the front flanges to the sides will resolve this and have the additional benefit of increasing the overall stiffness.

This of course requires a new tool. One strangely reminiscent of an earwig.

As always, you get what you pay for and this thing is neither terribly expensive nor terribly good. But it will do (some of) the job. As the following test shows, it can produce a mechanically sound, if slightly less than perfect, spot weld.

Bunch o’ tabs cut from some scrap stainless.

A tab spot-welded into place.

BUT… without radical modification, the spot welder can’t be positioned to make the second weld on the front flange. So, it’s back to the old fashioned (i.e. long and slow) way – TIG welding by hand – with a simple jig to get things all orthogonal-like.

Welding thin material is really easy to get wrong. We managed to pull these off without blowing any holes (or at least ones that I will show you pictures of).

Rinse, repeat:

Drive to nearest big-box store for, well, boxes so that they can be shipped to the painters 😀

… hmmm, wonder how they turn out.

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What’s in a name?

So, what’s with the name? Lapera means the pear in Italian. It is a nod, of course, to the origins of these fabulous beasts as well as being the name of my existing design company: Pear.

To inaugurate my new home I decided to do something a little special: a coffee machine needs a name, and the name goes on the badge!

We start with a few iddy-biddy single-flute bits and a stack of aluminum blanks.

And a clean vise – you have to maintain your vises in order to maintain your vices. I really should be out-sourcing this part because there are more efficient ways to make it, but, for the first batch at least, these are gonna get made in-house.

A mist setup on the mill keeps the cutter clear of chips. Which isn’t a big deal for the large bit used for the clearing, but is vital for the smallest one which is less than a 1/16″.

The milling path generated by the CAM software is highly satisfying.

Initial machining is done.

Lots and lots of cleaning comes next: rinsing, ultrasonic de-greasing, chemical etch, more rinsing, baking to bring any residual oils to the surface, solvent bath and yet more rinsing.

I borrowed these guns from a friend who “doesn’t miss powder coating”. I completely agree – this process is a hassle to do for large or numerous parts unless you have a really good setup and do it all the time. The guns are fascinating, for a number of reasons, not least of which being that they are the first and only ‘product’ that I have used that is almost entirely manufactured with a plain-old PLA 3D printer.

The powder coat itself looks like pretty dull stuff.

But it sure shines up nice after a quick trip through the oven.

After a quick sanding to reveal the bare metal, a little bit of a trim and a clear coat, the badges are ready to join the fleet.