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GUNS Magazine August 2010 - Page 12
• HAMILTON S. BOWEN • Little ways to make life at the workbench easier. fter spending 25+ years in the trenches, like any sentient person A would, many of the little tricks and shortcuts I’ve learned can save lots of time and treasure, to say nothing of eyes and limbs. A FEw TRICkS OF THE TRADE From time to time, as my long-suffering editor permits, I’ll share those that occur and might be of value to gunsmiths, (or any kind of ’smith, for that matter) amateur and professional alike. One of the things I enjoy most about visiting fellow craftsmen in their shops is seeing how they handle simple little problems and procedures, shamelessly stealing any tricks of the trade. Useful wisdom is out there for the taking. Masking tape is among the many humble household items I use around my workbench on an hourly basis. There is a roll permanently hung on the back of my bench vise. Here are a few of the endless uses: 1.) Masking threads and polished surfaces on parts going into the bead blaster. Like when re-matting the rib on a S&W barrel. 2.) Protecting surfaces of parts I don’t want marred when in a vise. 3.) Laying out lines for rough-out filing. 4.) Wrapping fingers, which are starting to blister from filing. Plus, wadding up a piece of paper towel under a wrap of masking tape and, voila, the perfect bandage for minor wounds not requiring stitches and ought to be kept clean until day’s end. Bleeding on the floor is OK, on the gun isn’t. I also go through Q-tips like popcorn. There is always some corner or recess that needs swabbing out. They are also very handy for applying liquid solder flux in controlled fashion. Dykem is a liquid confection in a can found in machine shops all over the planet used ostensibly for temporary scribed lines and layout markings on metal. It is also a wonderful aid for fitting parts and numerous other shop procedures. When you hear of some English gunmaker in the employ of some hoary old gunmaking firm hunched over a vice nibbling away at a part with a file, then “smoking” it, then filing some more, he is simply marking a high spot on a part or trying to isolate a point of contact in the course of fitting. Much like using inletting black when stockmaking. If you don’t want to crank up the ol’ smudge pot, Dykem is a nice substitute (albeit thicker and not Officeandhouseholdwaresgetputtowork onmanyworkbenches. Thewhitespotsonthiscylinderratchetare thehighplaces,whichweredraggingand causingfunctionproblems. Maskingtapedoingsomeactualmasking.Inthiscase,preparatorytobeadblastingtherib. so precise in information yielded) for simple fitting projects. Except for one thing…. Some of us couldn’t sign our names with a fountain pen without covering ourselves in ink from head to toe. Same with Dykem. It is messy and can leave near-permanent stains if misused, which in domestic surroundings can precipitate recriminations. I attended Trinidad Junior College in the late 1970s and spilled a can of this stuff around a vice on one of the workbenches in the shop. Twenty years later, when back teaching in the NRA Summer Gunsmithing Schools program, I could still see faint signs of my inadvertence. One day, years ago, I happened to be fussing around with something and couldn’t lay hands on the Dykem and noticed a “Sharpie” magic marker on my desk and thought, “This looks like Dykem in a stick.” Tried it and have used permanent markers for such things ever since. BIC disposable lighters are also excellent sources of smoke. Albeit, slower to deploy than the sharpie and subject to disturbance in even the slightest air currents. The ultra-fine markers with indelible ink are also perfect when I need a fine work mark on a piece of finished steel and don’t want to use a scribe, which would damage finishes. Great for centering lettering stencils. The safety tip of the day: The humble bench grinder is part and parcel of the life in every machine shop, 12 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • AUGUST 2010