Shop Class  1                  August  2015

Here are some of the projects I've made in shop class over the years.


Shop class started in 8th grade for me (junior high school), which was called 'Industrial Arts' back in 1969 and 1970. Mr. Adell, our teacher, literally opened the door to work with my hands and my mind. Little did I know at the time that I'd continue going to shop class once I was in high school the following year.

When I would come home from school with a finished project, I gave them all to my mom and being the supporting mother that she was, she told me how nice they were. As the years past between then and now, I had forgotten all about them. But as luck would have it, she saved some of my projects and gave them back to me in 2003, a couple of years before she passed away. I couldn't believe it when I first saw them and thanked her for saving most of those little bits of metal that I made back then.

There were many required projects in Junior High School which included: a wooden gun rack that held two firearms (mine was stolen the night before I was to take it home), two hand embossed projects made from thin sheet metal (one out of copper and the other aluminum), an aluminum ash tray that we formed with the aid of a sandbag along with a template and was 100% dimpled by a ball-peen hammer, a belt balancer made out of wood (this was a good coping saw project that looked like a music note when finished), a kiln or oven project, (like you would use for glazed pottery) with mine being a key ring, a plastic project (lots of choices here) and we also learned drafting (mechanical drawing).

Letter Opener

The teacher let you pick what type of plastic project that you wanted to make and I thought something that looked like a knife would be pretty cool. It's really called a 'letter opener' and for good reason, but once it was finished I really did use it to open my mail with for many years. It's funny because I still like all kinds of knives to this day.



Acetone was used to glue the plastic together and then you cut out the rough shape with a hand saw. That was the easy part, then you needed to start filing, shaping and sanding to the look that you were after. Once you sanded all the way to 600 grit, you buffed it till you could see yourself in it. Sadly this is the only project that I still have from 8th grade, which is amazing in it's own right.

Mr. Adell had very good control of his class. Horseplay was not accepted and if you were caught, you either got a noogie or a swat. A noogie was a head rub with the teachers knuckles and this is how it was done: he'd call you by your last name, you'd come over and the teacher would have his arm bent next to his side. You lowered your head down and put it through his arm and then a headlock ensued. From there the teacher would spend about 15 to 20 seconds rubbing his knuckles on top of your head. Let me tell you, once you were free from his grasp your head was on fire, your hair was a mess and your face was beet red. If this wasn't bad enough, all the kids were gathered around and laughing at you. So besides being in trouble you were humiliated as well.

A swat was just what it sounds like, a wooden paddle was used to get spanked with. Here's how that punishment went: you went to the principal's office after school, you were told to bend over and grab your ankles and then... bam, bam. Most of the time if you earned a swat, you might get kicked out of class and that was it. And yes, kids were hit by the teachers or the principal back then, no exceptions! Oh...and Mr. Adell could swat harder than most teachers (trust me). I think there should be more of this type of discipline today because it seemed to work back then.

This was a great class in more ways than one. First, you didn't have any books or homework. Most kids need some kind of break during the day and this class provided that. Second, you could get creative with whatever you were making. By using your hands and thinking through the project you were making, both of those things stimulate the mind just in a different way. A quick note about the mechanical drawing aspect of the class: some kids didn't like it at all but after I started drawing, I could see the item in my head three dimensionally. I'm not sure if everyone could do that or not but it was something that came easy to me. This class opened another door for me, reading blue prints, which is something that I do at my job as a machinist everyday.




'Metals One' 9th Grade Projects

The following year (9th grade) I signed up for metal shop in High School called 'Metals One'. The teachers name was Jack Fulks and he was a great teacher. This class had all kinds of required projects that included: oxyacetylene and stick welding, sand casting, sheet metal work, using lathes and milling machines, surface grinding and using a bandsaw. I took shop class all four years when I was in High School and had a great time while learning how to work with my hands. Little did I know then I would do this for a living later in life. Now that I think about it, Banning High School metal shop was my form of college and I didn't even know it at the time.

Mr. Fulks had complete control over his class and if you crossed the line you were kicked out. Safety was of the utmost concern because the potential for getting hurt had been greatly increased from the previous year (junior high). Horseplay was again not accepted and if you were caught, you would write 'safety rules'. Safety rules consisted of a very long paragraph of safety conscious information. You were to write this paragraph 10 times and there was no way to finish it while you were in class, it just took too long (yes I've been down this road before). That meant you would have to turn in your safety rules the next day (took more than one piece of paper) and then and only then, you could go back into the shop.

Another thing the teacher believed in was treating the class as one. Here's what I mean: there was a locked cabinet that had measuring tools along with other machine shop related equipment that was opened after attendance was taken. Every item was outlined in black felt marker, like a stencil, to easily show if the tool was in place or not. Once the class was over and everyone did their cleanup duties, the teacher would check to make sure all the items were back in the cabinet. If something was missing, say a 6" scale, he'd tell the class "there's a scale missing, find it" and the whole class was on the lookout right that second.

Now if that item wasn't found by the end of class, the cabinet was locked and no one was allowed to work in the shop until it was found. Sometimes things would just get misplaced or maybe the next class would find it. In that case we'd be back in the shop the next day. On the other hand it might be days or weeks till we were able to work depending on the circumstances. And to make matters worse, we would have to do book work in a classroom for our punishment in the meantime. This classroom deal didn't settle well with anyone and we would work extra hard at finding that lost item. Being honest, one of the reasons people take a shop class in the first place is to get away from doing bookwork. One time I saw a guy buy a new scale with his own money so everyone could go back to work. Yes, the classroom was really that bad.


The Hammer

My first project was making a hammer. Half the class worked on the handle and the other half worked on the head. While working on this first year project I didn't realize that each little thing I did was teaching me different aspects of the machining world. For instance, the hammer handle taught us how to use a lathe which consisted of center-drilling, turning outside diameters to a dimension and to a length, knurling and threading. Lucky for us the handle was made out of aluminum, which is easy to machine and very easy to knurl a diamond pattern into.



The hammer head required the class to first square three sides with a hand file. Once the teacher approved the sides were actually square (much harder than it seems), we machined the remaining sides with a milling machine.

This reminds me of a story while I was in class (one of many). Metal shop had about eight work benches that were four feet square with a vise on each corner. Now any one could take shop class, regardless of your age or sex. That meant freshmen (me), sophomores, juniors and seniors might be in the same class together. This could be terrifying, depending on who you were and for good reason because most freshmen were pretty thin (like myself) but some of the juniors and seniors were much bigger. Plus being the new guy on campus didn't help matters either.

With a large group of students working on their hammer heads so close together, the sound of hand files could be heard all around. Everyone was working very hard trying to get that piece of metal nice and square and to be done with it. Then all of a sudden this well known junior that was working at a bench right next to me (real badass that no one messed with) decided to do something totally random. Without saying a word he jumped up on top of his bench, bent his legs slightly, turned his file around holding the metal end, pulled his hair back and started singing into the handle like it was a microphone. I mean if you didn't know better you'd swear he did this for a living on a stage somewhere. And the song he sang went something like this: "I've got a 409 with a four speed clutch, four wooded gears you just can't touch." I think there was another verse in there somewhere but I was so taken back that I don't remember. The whole time he was singing he would turn his head here and there, adjust his stance, I mean this guy got into the moment!

Once he was finished he slowly got down off the bench, turned his file back around, calmly got back to work and never once looked around the room at anyone. At this point everyone was trip'n big time but no one, and I mean nobody said a thing because Mr. Badass could take you apart. All anyone did was shake there head from side-to-side in disbelief. Now if you're wondering if drugs had anything to do with it, you'd be correct!!

Anyways back to the hammer project, the large angled end was done on a shaper machine (very outdated) but it taught us what the machine was about and how to use it. This knowledge came in handy when I hired into my current place of work (back in 1983) because they had a shaper machine but nobody knew how to use it. Good ol' metal shop...I!!!




The four smaller angles on the left were done in a milling machine. To make sure the handle didn't come loose once it was threaded on, the hole was countersunk with a 90 degree tool. Once the handle was screwed on tight, the end sticking out was cutoff near the head and then pounded down into-and-around the countersink with a hammer. A file was used to clean up the mashed handle area until it was nice and flat again. By doing it this way the handle won't come loose and this taught everyone how to use all kinds of tools without even realizing it. Note how well used the hammer head is, it's been a great tool for me and my family for all these years.



The Foundry

Another required project was making a solid aluminum plaque using the foundry. That's right, we poured molten aluminum into a sand casting and it was awesome. And yes, I use to ride dirt bikes back then and as you might have guessed, it was a Yamaha.

We were told to come up with a phrase or some words for our plaque and once you figured that out, you glued special letters onto a piece of wood making sure they were in a straight line and evenly spaced. When you were finished with your template, you were ready to start working on the casting process. It's funny how the letters IBM ended up in alignment....hmmmm.



Making the Mold

This wasn't too hard for the most part: place your wooden template at the bottom of the mold and center it. One mold half was about 18" X 18" X 3" thick. Using a screen, you shook sand (think clay) through this screen onto the wooden template till it was thickly covered. The screen filtered out most of the burnt sand leftover from previous projects, so the finer the sand the better the casting results.

Using a wooden mallet you would compact the sand as tight as you could. Once you had the sand compressed and overflowing the mold, you would scrape off the excess with a straight edge till it was flush with the top. Now you would flip over the mold and remove the wooden template being very careful not to disturb any sand in the process. Note: If you look close you'll see I had trouble with some of the letters above. This was common and very hard to fix once you removed the template. The only real way to fix something like this would be to start the process all over again.

There are two halves to this mold process and the other half had sand only, which was much easier to do compared to the first one. The last step was to use a piece of steel tubing to core-out an entry and exit path (or vent hole) for the hot liquid to enter into. After you had the two holes all the way through the mold, you dug a trench from each hole into the area to be molded. Again, being very careful not to disturb the molded area.


Melting the Metal

We had a small furnace to melt the metal with, which took about 45 minutes to get it hot enough to become liquid. Once it was ready to pour, the teacher used a tool that resembled a post-hole digger to remove the crucible (a container that can withstand very high temperatures). The crucible was placed into a steel device that was about four to five feet long with small T-handles on each end. This device was made out of small diameter tubing and it held the crucible in the center like a cup holder in a car. With the teacher at one end and the student at the other, it was lifted from the floor and poured into the mold. And if you were the one with the foundry project then you were the one that helped pour the molten aluminum. His only instructions were, take your time and go slow. At this point the whole class is checking this out because it isn't everyday that you get to see aluminum poured into a sand casting. But before that happened, two things had to be done but only by the teacher.


Time to Pour

The teacher used a special thermometer placed into the molten metal and once it was at the desired temp he removed the slag. Slag are impurities that rise to the top of liquid metal and it needs to be skimmed off. To do this he used what looked like a long metal spoon. The second thing he did was drop in what looked like a piece of a sweet tart candy. We were told that it added something to the metal to help with the casting process. But all we knew is that it made for some great fireworks when it hit that hot molten metal.

At this point everyone was waiting to see if any of those sparks landed on top of his nearly bald head, and It did happen once in awhile. When it did, the class would laugh and carry on because the teacher would go into a wild looking dance patting his head with his hands and then started running around trying to get away from the hot metal. The reason that he got hurt at all was because of the great safety program that we had, or the lack there of. Our line of protection consisted of a plastic face shield with nothing on top (the kind you would use for grinding) and some thin leather gloves to protect our hands and that was it. We thought we were well protected with these things, but then again we were just kids. And in the four years that I was in shop class, nobody ever got hurt during this procedure.


Note the taper on the sides of the plaque and the letters below. This is to aid in removing the template after compacting the sand.



The Big Moment

You knew things went well if the molten metal came out the vent hole while you were pouring. If nothing came out then that was a bad sign because it was possible something collapsed during the casting process. Lucky for me I never had that problem but a few students did. Either way, you needed to let the mold cool overnight and wouldn't know if things went well until you pulled the mold apart the following day.

If things looked good you cut off the excess material with a saw and then started to sand all the letters flat. Once that was done, you spray painted it the color of your choice (spray can) and let it dry. The next day you sanded the paint off the tops of the letters and that was it. Now there's no way you could get away with doing this type of project in today's world because of safety reasons, but we all survived and we had a great time in the process. Note: The picture below is the back of the plaque just to show you the rough surface.

Painting in shop class reminds me of another story: one of the first things the teacher told us regarding a spray can was never use a scribe to clean the nozzle. A scribe is a sharp pointed tool for making layout lines on metal. If the spray can didn't spray correctly, let him know and he would either fix it or give you another nozzle. And here's another thing he told the class, "it never fails, every year someone tries to mess with a spray can or the nozzle and they get sprayed in the face with paint so don't let this happen to you". You could hear the class laugh and joke for a minute with this new information while everyone thought about it.

As the months went by all was going well and then out of the blue someone would yell, "Mr. Fulks, Mr. Fulks, helpppp!!. That was the second thing this person did wrong, yelling for help, because now the whole class knows who the dummy is. The first thing they did wrong was...yeah you guessed it...they painted their face. By now this person was running towards the sink to clean up, and most of the class was right behind him laughing!! In the four years I was in metal shop, this happened at least once a year despite the teachers warning.



The Chisel

This chisel was fun to make and I've used it many times over the years. You started with hexagon material and hammer forged one end till it was nice and wide. To do this you heated the steel red hot and then hit it using a hammer and anvil. After the shape was close to what you needed, it was then heat treated.



After heat treating, you started filing the wide area till it was nice and flat. When the filing was finished you sanded the whole thing working your way down to fine paper, which took many hours but was worth the wait when you were finished.

Speaking of sanding, all of the projects that you'll see here could use some sanding because they've collected rust over the years. But I thought I'd leave them as is. Now some people might see them as being ugly, on the other hand, I call it 'Patina'. Look it up.

Sadly I don't have anymore projects from 'metals one' class but I can share something about the required welding projects. We had two welding projects that consisted of three pieces of metal welded together using three different types of weld joints. Like I mentioned before, we learned oxyacetylene (gas welding) and arc welding. Once I understood the basics of gas welding, TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding came very easy later in life. The reason for this is because with gas welding you feed welding rod into a puddle of molten metal with one hand and keep the torch very close but not touching your work with the other. TIG welding is exactly like this but you have one foot involved as well. The foot part is where you adjust how much heat you want. Many people have asked me about leaning to TIG weld and the first question I ask them is, have you ever done any gas welding? If they have then teaching them to TIG weld is so much easier.




'Metals Two' 10th thru 12th Grade Projects


Bottle Opener

After taking metals one you were eligible to take 'Metals two' or vocational metal shop, which was two hours long now. This was great news because you were able to make much more progress each day on whatever you were making. One other thing that was required in metals two was for each student to enter a project into the 'Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival'. The Date Festival was held in Indio Ca. which was 40 miles east of Banning. They had thousands of exhibits and all the schools for miles around entered projects from both metal shop and wood shop. It didn't matter how easy or complicated these projects were because the bottom line was simple, make something during the first semester of the year and it had to be entered in by February. That meant you'd better get busy or be kicked out of shop class. However, I don't remember which projects of mine were entered back then but I'm sure some of these were.

After being in metal shop for a year, I got to know the teacher a little better, his likes, his dislikes and so on. Come to find out Mr. Fulks had a good sense of humor. And it's a good thing he did because he resembled the fictional character Barney Fife, from The Andy Griffith Show. With that said, every now and then someone would write 'Barney's Bullet' on the chalk board but you'd pay for it if you got caught. Just thinking about this again put a big smile on my face!

This bottle opener was a good lathe project and taught us how to cut a taper and grooves. The slot was cut with a milling machine and then one leg was cut shorter than the other along with putting a slight edge and angle on that same leg.



It's about three inches long and fits on your key ring through that hole. I used to carry it everyday back then and used it many times...on sodas of course :-]  For the younger people reading this, bottles didn't have screw off tops in those days. That meant you had to use something other than your hands to open them (which is one of the reasons I chose this project).

Side note: In 2003, I went to the dentist with what turned out to be a cracked tooth. When the dentist asked me how I did this I answered, "could this have been done many years ago"? His answer was yes, to which I said "I use to open bottles with my teeth"! You should've seen his face cringe when I told him that. And in case you wanted to know, soda bottles were a bitch to open with your teeth...compared to beer bottles that is. If nothing else it would impress the crowd.



Shifter Knob

This is a shifter knob that is an aluminum casting of an original Hurst shifter knob. The original Hurst shifter knob had their name in the middle of it but the letters were so small that it didn't work out for me. I tried a few times and then decided to remove it and leave it like you see it. Now you would think I'd make something to use in a car back then but unfortunately I didn't own one the whole time I went to High School. And yes that meant I walked to school now and then but walked home most of the time...boy did that suck!

This casting required the template to be in the middle of the two mold halves because of its round shape. This was much more challenging to make but it worked out. Talking about casting sparked another story because it was right next to the welding area.

The welding area where we did gas welding was large enough to sit four people. Three seats were already taken but we all knew a certain guy was getting ready to do some welding. So we did what anyone else would do, we heated up his seat. The seats were made out of round steel about 1/4” thick and swiveled under the bench. Once my buddy and I got his seat nice and warm, well actually it was pretty hot, our lookout let us know our victim was on his way. By the time he was in the room we were all back to work welding on our projects. Our victim sat down, just started to place his metal on the bench and then it hit’m, YEEHAA….he jumped up and started yelling and patting his backside. The rest of us couldn’t take it any longer and rolled with laughter. He was not amused...but we were. Good times baby!!!



Ok back to the shifter knob. If you look close you can see what's called a 'parting line' that runs through the center of the handle (right side) which is where the to halves of the mold came together. I had this handle sitting around for many years and I finally used it for the first time on my 33 Ford when I changed transmissions in 2012. I drilled and tapped the 1/2-13 threads for the temporary shift lever that I used and it worked out great.



Hand Vise

This small vise was a fun project and works pretty good. I forgot I even made it till I started looking through the box my mom gave me. The size is 4" long X 1" wide and 1 1/4" tall. The screw and knob are all one piece and has a groove at the end of it that's inside the movable jaw. Underneath the movable jaw is a 10-32 screw that has a matching radius that keeps the jaw from going anywhere.



It's made out of steel and it took a while to machine back then. I used a medium diamond knurl on the knob which makes it easy to grip and put a small thread relief at the end of the thread. The movable jaw has been machined with a piece sticking out 1/8" that rides in that slot so it doesn't move side to side.

All this reminds me of another good story: one of the fads during the early 70's was playing with Yoyo's. A bunch of kids could be seen doing all kinds of tricks during lunch and between classes. Metal shop was no exception and kids brought them to class, but the teacher didn't want any part of it and warned everyone to leave them in your locker or in your pocket. In other words, don't play with them in class.

Well you know kids, they think they can get away with anything so it wasn't unusual to see someone playing with one in class when the teacher had his back turned. But when Mr. Fulks caught somebody playing with one, he'd call them over and tell them to hand it over. Once he had it in his hand he'd calmly walk over to a bench, slowly open the vise, place it between the jaws and crushed it. The only thing left were small plastic pieces that he'd make the student clean up. Once we all knew the outcome of playing with a Yoyo in class, everyone was more careful. And the next time somebody got caught, everyone gathered around to see the show. Gotta love a good vise!!



Anyways back to my vise, here you can see the slot and the screw that keeps the jaw from going anywhere. This is the same screw that has the radius at the end of it.


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