Winter Warmth – a diesel heater for the workshop

Seems I need a New Plan for Winter

We got the electric bill for last winter and there was a sharp intake of breath … maybe the fan heater had been on too much in the workshop and maybe I did forgot to switch it off once or twice when going to bed …  something had to change.

I did some research on diesel heaters as used in motor homes and commercial vehicles and the concept looked like it would meet my needs.  I did some calculations on the workshop volume I needed to heat as an empty shell.  With my insulation and window content this came to a figure of 3kW.   Searching on EBay revealed lots of kits and ready built units so my first thought was to order a ready built one.  This duly arrived and I decided to run it up to see what happened.

Actually nothing really happened.   

The fan came on ran for a few seconds and then the unit shut down.   The controller was showing a severe droop on the supply volts even thought the PSU was rated at 10A.   More web reading and comparing notes with other users revealed these units take a serious current surge at switch on while the glow plug is warming up.   If it sees a voltage droop it thinks it is in a vehicle and switches off to protect the vehicle supply.

Bigger power supply acquired and plugged in.   Still no joy.   I then realised I needed to prime the fuel line.    Quite a few clicks of the pump later I had a full pipe feeding the device and finally it ran up.   The fan was flat out and the pump was clicking like a French grenouille on heat.

And what a stink it made.   I guess it was burning off all the manufacturing oils but it was pretty acrid.   Finally the fog cleared and I could see the neighbours house and we had heat.  Quite a lot of heat.   Fiddling with the pump rate brought the heat and the fan rate down and all seemed good.   But it was noisy.

There now followed some serious navel contemplation.  Did I really want this fire breathing Smaug inside the workshop ?   Not really.   So how to solve the installation ?

Immediate thought was to mount the unit external on the side wall and feed the warm air from the unit into the workshop and take in air from the outside to warm.   The smelly exhaust inlet and outlet would also then be outside.   Not a good idea taking outside air and warming it unless I wanted a very rust rich environment. 

So air would have to circulate from the workshop, get heated and blown back inside.  This means two 80mm holes in the workshop wall plus a power and controller wiring duct of say 20mm.   A plan was forming and I could see where the two air ducts could be located.

Next problem the (I have to say very horrible) enclosure my ready made heater came in would not protect the contents nor would it last very long sat in the outside air. 

original heater enclosure as bought
Empty original enclosure after stripping components

New Enclosure

Much Fusion 360 playing later I had a design based on a 20mm angle iron frame and aluminium sheet covering.

diesel heater enclosure fusion 360 model
Original Fusion 360 model of the enclosure frame less the two top bracing steels

The angle iron and sheet were ordered from Aluminium Warehouse and came very quickly.   I was now going to have to grasp the nettle and refresh my TIG welding knowledge to create my first major TIG construction.   (I only have TIG as MIG scares the **** out of me).

Even though I say it myself I was pretty chuffed with the frame that resulted.  Some of the welds were far from ticketable but my angle grinder and Hammerite paint soon covered up my ineptitude.

diesel heater angle iron frame
TIG welded heater angle iron frame after clean up and painting

The aluminium covers also stretched my resources as I don’t have a formal metal bender but I do have some very long lengths of angle iron and a robust vice.   Two side walls, a front panel and drop on top cover resulted without any serious clangs.  Loving it.

The return air inlet needed an interface of some sort so a Fusion model was created and printed (6 hour print …).

3D printed diesel heater 80mm air inlet cowl
3D printed diesel heater 80mm air inlet cowl which took 6 hours to print

With the enclosure complete, I mounted all the components and ran it up again.   The new power supply also failed to do the biz so I decided to go with a meatier version inside the workshop rather than inside the external cabinet.

Installation day loomed.   I was very ably assisted by Dave who is a long time friend.   We are both cut from the same engineering mould and we usually end up with an interactive plan of action.

First job was to cut the hot air duct hole in the workshop wall.   We had a long pilot drill, an EBay 80mm cutter and a SDS drill.   Serious grief.   The workshop outside brickwork  seemed to have a Titanium content.   We finally broke through into the cavity and thereafter the inner Thermalite block was like cutting chocolate cake in comparison.   First hole finished and more to the point in the correct position.

We now offered the unit to the wall to match the routing of the hot air outlet pipe of the heater.   We put a car jack under the unit to keep it in position while we drilled the mounting holes.  Holes drilled, we then mounted it on the wall and drilled the cable duct and lined it with a piece of uPVC water pipe.

diesel heater enclosure mounted on the workshop outside wall
Re-boxed diesel heater enclosure mounted on the workshop outside wall.  The pumps is enclosed in some foam to deaden the clicks.

The circulating return air from the workshop was to come through the workshop wall and back to the heater from just over a meter away.    I had a suitable length of 80mm spiral metal ducting for the air return and a mating right angle joint to route this through the wall.   We marked off the duct hole position and drilled out a second 80mm hole (more grief, less dust as we damped it down, and hammer and chisel when we got fed up with the useless 80mm cutter).

The Cunning Plan

I didn’t want the metal spiral ducting exposed to the elements and also saw it as a source of heat loss.   There is no point in heating up the workshop and then send the warmer air outside to lose heat on its way back to the heater.   The solution was to buy a standard 1m length of 110mm soil pipe and a right angle joint with two mounting clips from Wickes.   We wrapped the 80mm spiral duct in bubble wrap (quite a few turns) to fill the space inside the 110mm soil pipe to make a coaxial structure.    As luck would have it the spacing to the wall of the soil pipe was pretty much ideal to use the standard pipe clips.   We did however have to cut down the right angle soil pipe connector to get it flush to the wall.  It then got a dose of squirty foam to seal it.

Finished diesel heater enclosure with coaxial inlet duct
Finished diesel heater enclosure with coaxial inlet duct using 110mm soil pipework and fittings. The 80mm internal duct is wrapped in bubble wrap.

We were both very pleased with the result.   As Dave commented it looked better than a professional install would have done.

This was the bulk of outside work done apart from mounting the exhaust inlet and outlet pipes.   Inside we had the hot in wall vent grill to fix and the controller wiring.

I still haven’t decided where to route the outward air duct but currently it sits sucking air from under the Myford Super 7 cabinet.   I am not comfortable with this (the location rather than the potential draft around my ankles) as it will tend to suck up workshop dust and particles.   Some form of filter will be needed.   As yet I haven’t mounted the new power supply on the inside wall.

We ran it up and I can describe it as toasty warm.   At least one good reason to look forward to winter, probably the only one. 

Finally thanks to Dave for helping.  Also thanks to Steve Niebel for detailing his experiences with a similar unit.

If you want to know more about the heaters then the best source I found on YouTube was Dave McK 47

Anyone wanting a very basic indoor housing for their heater components should send me a message ….. and soon …. otherwise it is going in a skip (but I might save the handles).

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Lathe Four Jaw Chuck Laser Light Centring Aid

What on earth is this weird creation ? ……..

4 jaw chuck laser centring device

One of my favourite additions to the workshop has been a laser centring tool for use on my Tormach PCNC milling machine.   The tool consists of a low cost laser diode mounted on a 3D printed disc and with a 19mm steel shaft.   The tool is held in the Tormach spindle power drawbar.   The laser is angled inwards towards the spindle axis at approximately 20 degrees.   The 3D print has facilities for a battery supply and ON/OFF switch such that when the laser disc is pulled into the power tool bar collet it switches on the diode.

In use, as the spindle is raised or lowered, the rotating diode creates a circle of light on the milling table which can be used to locate and centre the spindle on features of the item being machined.   This might be to locate the centre of a hole or the centre of a block depending on need.

A full write up of the mill related item is available here.

I recently had the need to use my four jaw centring chuck on my Myford lathe.   Usually I duck and dive to avoid having to use the 4 jaw as I find it frustrating to set up.  This recent bout of frustration lead me to wonder if I could adapt my laser centring tool for use on the lathe such that it would give me a guide ring of light to show where the material was sitting relative to chuck centre.

On the milling version the laser rotates and the job stays fixed.   On a lathe version this would be similar.  The chuck would be stationary and the laser would rotate in the tailstock.

The full write up can be downloaded here. and the Fusion 360 file is here lathe_centring_device v4

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A Lazy Cable Clamp using 3D Printing

This is nothing magic but worth a mention.   Being fundamentally lazy I don’t like to assemble and solder electronic multi-way connectors.   There is never enough room to work on the contacts and the cables never lay up how you would like them to.  This could have course be a function of my eyesight ..

I am currently working on boxing and installing the Tormach USB Expansion Board which has a USB connector interface.   I wanted the cable to pass through some form of gland into the box but didn’t want to cut a standard USB cable and remake the connector at one end of the other.   

After some head scratching I came up with the following simple cable gland/cable grip.  It is nothing revolutionary but made life easy and the parts only took 20 minutes to design in Fusion 360 and then 3D print on the Sindoh 3DWOX.

It has two identical semicircular halves that hold the cable and there is a ring that pushes over these on the outside of the box.   A small flange holds these in place on the inside of the box. The hole in the box and the ring inside diameter are both 16mm to allow the USB connector largest dimension to pass through.   This is also one of the standard cut rings on a cone cut hole drill which makes cutting the hole in the box very straightforward.

The component parts (two halves and the retaining ring)
Inside view of the gland showing the retaining shoulder on the two halves
Outside view of the cable gland showing the retaining ring

Not rocket science but you never know it might come in useful and the dimensions can be tweaked to suit other cables and connectors. Similar or related subjects : –

Microset Clock Timing Instrument Upgrade

Mumford Microset Clock and Watch Timer

Some while ago I bought a Microset Timer from Bryan Mumford.   This is a lovely device that allows you to monitor all manner of parameters on clocks and watches.   It has an acoustic sensor to listen to the beat of the clock or watch and an optical sensor that creates and detects a beam of light that is chopped by the pendulum.   From these simple accessories all manner of diagnostics can be done on the clock under inspection.   If you want to know more I suggest you log into Bryan’s site.   Bryan also has some videos which you can find on YouTube.   You might also want to download and read a pdf collection of articles written by Chris McKay in the Horological Journal about using the Microset to fault find on Turret Clocks.

Microset Timer from Mumford Micro Systems

The Local Church Clock

If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that I have got involved with the local church clock which is a Cooke of York movement.   I have been working with a fellow engineer in the village to try to bring the clock to time and we are slowly getting there.   Our last major breakthrough was finding the fly was lose on the gravity escapement arbor.   Since tightening the fly the clock has been much more reliable.

There is a weight tray on the pendulum which has an assortment of coins in it where someone historically has been fine tuning the pendulum swing. Because the clock has been running fast by a few seconds per day we have been slowly removing the coins one by one to bring it closer to time.   I think it is now at a point where we need to monitor it long term with the Microset.

Microset Upgrades

Bryan offers an upgrade to the Microset that allows a temperature sensor to be added to the recorded information.   There will almost certainly be temperature changes in the clock tower so it seemed like a good idea to upgrade with the temperature option.   This was ordered and duly arrived from Bryan and is now fitted.   There is also an upgrade to allow the Microset to record data into internal storage in the Microset rather than depending on having a PC connected.   I would be more comfortable leaving just the Microset in the church pendulum cupboard rather than my portable PC so I also ordered this upgrade.

It took me about an hour to do both upgrades on the Microset.   The memory upgrade involves a chip change inside the device and the temperature monitor needs an additional 3.5mm jack socket fitting and wiring to accept the new temperature sensor.   Neither is a difficult task but clearly need to be done carefully so as not to do any damage to the Microset.   Bryan’s instructions are well written and illustrated.

Since the upgrade I have been running the Microset on the bench with a Smith’s clock movement.  (It is actually the one I stripped down, cleaned and rebuilt on my ‘Clocks 1’ course at the BHI).   The new Microset facilities seem to work well and as expected.

Microset optical sensor monitoring a Smith’s clock mechanism

A New Sensor Needed – 1st Attempt

To implement measurements on the church clock the supplied optical sensor as shown in the picture above is not totally ideal.   It has a very narrow gap between the transmit light source and the receiver detector diode which on a turret clock is not  easy to use.   

It is possible to get round this my fitting a cocktail stick or similar to the pendulum bob and using this to break the beam but it is a bit messy. I had picked up a bag of laser diodes and detectors at a local ‘ham’ radio junk sale and I decided these might form the basis of a new sensor which might be more useful to a large pendulum assembly.   Bryan is a really helpful guy and although he does offer a larger laser sensor he was more than happy to help me with the required electronic interface to the Microset.  The one proviso is that the amount of current drained from the Microset 5V power supply must be kept below 30mA.

I set to and made the most elegant and over engineered solution for my laser sensor.   This is shown below.   The black mountings were designed in Fusion 360 and 3D printed on the Sindoh 3DWOX.

First ‘elegant’ laser detector for Microset timing instrument

The spacing between the emitter and detector is adjustable by sliding the transmitter along the steel rods.   The power to the laser is also carried down the steel rods.   A small DTC transistor provides the interface to the Microset and the 5V supply provided by the Microset is dropped via two diodes to power the laser.    It works really well ….. but … when I went round to the church to install it I realised I should have checked one or two things first.    The rating nut at the bottom end of the pendulum (used to make course adjustments to the pendulum length) was almost touching the floor of the pendulum cupboard.   My wonderfully elegant laser detector would not fit under the pendulum to monitor the swing.  A serious re-think was needed. The gap was so narrow that at best I will only be able to get a piece of 16 SWG aluminium sheet or PCB underneath the rating nut.

A New Sensor Needed – 2nd Attempt

I did say I had a bag of laser diodes and detectors so a new version would be possible and I could then save the posh one for more public facing activity.

As mentioned above I decided to use PCB as the base board.   This is shown below.

Mk11 Laser Detector Specific to local church clock with little clearance from rating nut to floor

This has the advantage that I can use the copper surface to mill tracking into it to aid the wiring.   The downside is that it is quite flexible and therefore possibly not stable enough to keep the laser aligned with the detector diode.    To resolve this I soldered strips of nickel silver (could have been more PCB) either side of the centre line as shown but leaving a gap for the pendulum swing.

I designed a common holder for the laser and detector diode in Fusion 360 and 3D printed two of these on the Sindoh 3DWOX.

The finished detector assembly still had a tendency to flex so I stuck some old pieces of credit card on the lower surface, one at each end before the mount and a large piece in the middle.   This seemed to cure the problem without adding significantly to the base thickness.

Microset Display

When plugged into the Microset all seemed to work well.   Here is a typical PC display of the Microset data.

Microset Data Display showing the data from a Smiths clock mechanism and also the green line showing the temperature

I now need to get it installed in the church tower.

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Golf Caddy Locks and Ring Lights

Golf Caddy Locks

We have a couple of rigid golf caddy cases that take a full golf bag plus whatever else you can squeeze in when going on a holiday trip.   Last trip to Hawaii this included lots of shoes, snorkels, flippers etc.   These have or at least had two cabinet style locks on them but not anymore.  Customs / security at Seattle decided they wanted to have a look inside and took the easy option and smashed the locks off, had a look inside and then Gaffa taped the case back up.  Lovely.

Everything arrived home safely with nothing missing but now the debate on how to replace the locks.  Clearly the idea of locking them does not go down well with baggage security teams.   I have knocked up a design in Fusion that only needs a single cable tie to make it secure.  I have 3D printed a concept model from the Fusion design and I have now run the finished items in aluminium using the Tormach CNC.   I used a combination of CNC and manual milling to get the results and this highlighted once again that the combination of a CNC and manual is incredibly useful.

Gold caddy with 3D printed trial lock in place

 

Close up of the prototype lock without the peripheral shaping

 

Fusion 360 representation of the lock design without the locating pins and hinge pin.

Replacement latches for golf caddy security

 

Ring Lights

have been receiving requests for my machine spindle illumination lights using car headlight ring light clusters and have got the process fairly slick. 

 I first of all edit the centre clearance hole in the boss in Fusion in preparation for printing.  I then 3D print the power supply box and lid and while putting this together I get the boss print underway.  The boss takes around 7 hours to print on standard quality.  .   Given the amount of interest being shown I think a formal write up would be useful for others with perhaps the Fusion file as a download.  Working on it and more to follow. 

New ring light off the production line. Note that the baking foil reflector is getting easier to do.

Update – the ring lights are available on Amazon at around GBP14 per pair and you can select diameter (and colour).  Buy the largest diameter you can so that there is reduced shadowing around the tool point in the mill or drill press.  They are cheaper to buy on EBay from China but there is a longer delivery time.

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