Kennedy Box Rescue

Lately I’ve kinda dived into the world of tool making, milling, and tool rescue. Ever since I got a real collet chuck for my Taig lathe things sort of clicked for me.

So I got my collet chucks and its amazing to run my lathe now. Things are actually running true and rigid. So I hop onto Craigslist. I do this from time to time and look at larger lathes, mills, and tooling. Just to see whats out there.

I find; “I’m selling my dad’s old toolbox made by Kennedy.” Ok, I’ll bite. I read further; “I don’t know what any of these drill bits are for, looking for $2.00 per pound.”

The picture shows a 12″ Mitatoyo combination square with circle center. well. How much does he want? I went ahead and sent him an email. Like clockwork, I got a phone call within 15 minutes. I’d never done a craigslist deal before, but it seemed legit. I drove over to the house to check it out. It turns out his father was a union machinist for like 30 years after he came home from the war.

He had just moved his parents into an assisted living facility and was getting their house ready to sell. He just wanted the box gone. But, he also seemed like he wanted to see it go to someone who’d use it too. So I quickly opened the box up and scanned the drawers. It was the apprentice’s size box so not huge, however, jammed full. So, that was an easy $300 sale for him.

I got it home and then the fun really began.

The box itself, while a Kennedy, its in rough, rough shape. It sat on the floor of a leaky garage for 20 years. The bottom is mostly just rust. It would be interesting to try and save it, but I’m just not the welder for the job.

Well I decided to take one drawer at a time. Here’s what I found:

This is the top section. Mitatoyo square, Brown & Sharpe square, Mitatoyo 0-1 mic, B&S depth mic with extensions, Industrial Pipe and Steel caliper. Those were the bigger ticket tools. Theres a Fowler dial indicator but its pretty crusty.

The first drawer on the left hand side was all lathe tooling.

This is pulled out and organized. Its for the most part 3/8ths brazed carbide insert tooling.

The next was the top right drawer.

This was the marking and measuring drawer. Edge finders, thickness gauges, thread gauges, thread transfer points, shims, scribes, pin vises, and some really great small rules.

Next we have some end mills.

There was a bunch of some nice solid carbide drill bits, and some larger diameter end mills in here.

Turns out there was good deal of ball end mills and flat faced mills. Mostly 3/8ths shank, 4 flute spiral.

Next was the boring drawer.

Home made thread gauge plate, a few deburring tools, fly cutter, boring bars. Lots of very specific process stuff that I’ve still got to learn about.

Its fun to go through and organize each drawer as I go.

The first of the full width drawers had a few 0-1 and 1-2 inch mics. a few were broken. There was some more misc lathe tooling and some carbide inserts. Its clear that this was sort of a catch all.

And then finally the bottom drawer.

There were a few more end mills and some nice solid carbide drill bits. But this was mostly inside and outside calipers, 3-4 and 4-5 inch mics. lots of pliers and screw drivers. A few different gauge blocks. Some misc dial and test indicators.

All in all it was an amazing score. I’m so happy I was able to get this. I’ve already started using the end mills on my lathe. I used them to make a quick change tool post so far.

Hopefully in time all of the tools will be transplanted into a new box and have some life breathed back into them.

Steam Gun

Upon completion of my steam lamp and my Halloween steampunk costume I really set out to stretch my legs.

First stop when I’m getting in the mood to make is the antique store. A bit of mantiquing always gets me pumped to make. I love looking through the rust and dirt to find the mechanics of yester-year. I usually come home with some sort of new idea of how something used to work. Which as a side note I have relied on this knowledge for some time, and it has proven to solve many problems that I face daily at work. It really is surprising how useful playing with old contraptions is!

On this particular day out I found an old radio display. whats more, I found an old radio tube grab bag. Only a few buck and a I got myself a ton of 7 and 9 pin full size through mini tubes.  This is a good start!


So where should I start with this gun? Lets tackle the handle. Everybody always starts with a nerf gun. I’d like something that feels functional as much as fictional.

Starting with a design I drew up from my brainporium, with a hint of design element from the tesla guns of warehouse 13. (some day I’ll do a build of one as a replica prop)

Clamp and glue onto a piece of 1/4″ walnut. What a marvelous wood.

rough glue and cut out of both sides sandwiching the walnut.

Nice polished handle in my hand. What a great start.

Ok, now what? What should I put onto the gun?

The Barrel!

So lets custom cut some tubing! but how should we make it even?

Yep you guessed (and dreaded it), I cut the 1 1/4″ pipe I had and opened it up, applied my pattern and cut it out. I used a series of hand files and my belt grinder to shape.

Then its back into a pipe shape. Not surprisingly, this was the most complicated part of it all. I ended up turning a brass insert that was of proper inner diameter. Combine that with a 2oz hammer I got it back round. The fun part is that copper work hardens, like crazy fast. This piece took 3 or 4 heats to get back round without breaking.

The brass inserts were then bored out to accept a mini-tube on one side and a 5mm LED on the other. I’m just getting into electronics on this level. (basic circuitry really…) but I love the look of green LEDs in steampunk gear. If I had done anything different I would have waited and used a slow color changing RGB diode. but theres always the next gun…

So next step was a second photonic plasma transducer. (I just made that up). Blue didn’t look bad for the pair of them.

Well with two barrels built its starting to take shape!

About this time, Christmas was in full swing. I was off of work for several days, amazing time to sit and think in my workshop. I must have made a dozen drawings, and tried 1000 ways to fit these barrels. But I’m not a fabricator in a traditional sense, I don’t have industrial tools or materials either.

So after an intense internal struggle…. Enter the nerf gun.

This is probably the most heavily modified and steampunked nerf out there, the Maverick.

I want my gun to look and feel like I did a thorough facelift. So Bondo!

This was actually my first experience with Bondo. I stupidly bought the wrong one too. I went to the home center. and bought the blue can, all purpose filler. It seems to feel and act like Bondo but it takes WAY longer to set up. (well at least in my shop’s environmental settings) I found it wouldn’t grab the plastic, even though I had heavily sanded rough. Do notice I also cut the frame of the gun too. Opening the trigger guard made it feel more rounded and whimsical to me.

So after I sanded and scraped and sanded and sanded and sanded and the applied more Bondo, and then sanded. I was finally ready for some paint.

I first did about 3 coats of a flat gray filler primer. Then after it dried for not nearly long enough I did a coat of a bronze/antiqued copper primer. I could have probably started here. I’m still not in love with this color.

While that was drying I took out my spare Maverick, because if you can get two of everything it speeds up recovery of your mistakes….

I started fitting and drilling up the barrel ports. I already had a hole from the original barrel, but I needed to add one for the longer tube. not easy to do without measuring many times. I totally butchered the spare. lesson learned I guess.

With the holes properly drilled for the barrel I placed and epoxied in the copper fitting that I had bought for a totally different part. This acted as a great base. It also finally bonded the nerf plastic together. so I closed the open holes with some more Bondo. finished and painted. At this point I went all in with model paints in brass, copper, rust, silver, black. I am real happy with this look. Its the first model painting that I’ve ever done… fumbled through it but it turned out nice.

 Here’s the barrel placed with the painted gun next to the original.

And, shit. The gun is Bondo’d shut. where the hell am I putting the electronics?

Ok the second barrel is now a battery pack. Or, a plasma compression chamber…

I fished the green LED from its holder all the way down and out one of the holes in the copper fitting. I’m using Cat5E UTP wire here. So 24AWG copper strand. Its probably not heavy enough, but I figure its powering a single 1/4w LED so I figure its like less than single milliamp at 3.4V. I don’t really know the maths side of this yet. but why not live a little!

I capped of the battery tube and put an inline switch to turn it on and off. similar to the cane built. No, actually identical….

Once again, I used some 4-40 screws, and drilled and tapped my fittings. It looks more industrial I think. It also comes back apart if I need it to.

Additionally, I added some 1/4″ copper pipe that I heated and bent to contour the gun frame. I think it really adds to have a plasma charging port on one side and a photonic chamber pressure gauge readout.

At this point I could have stopped. But, in the words of Sherlock’s Moriarty, ‘I’m so changeable’.

I have been also playing a ton of Fallout 4, which probably has fueled my steampunkery as well. (unhealthily most likely) I’ve fallen in love with the Gauss Rifle’s design. I love the exposed field windings on the side. So I set out to steampunk them and add them. The biggest hurtle of all of this was finding solid core copper wire.

I want to scrimp and save where I can. I have a bad, bad, habit of blowing money on builds. At this point I’ve gotten 2 nerf guns, 10ft of 1/4 copper, 5ft 1 1/4 copper, 5ft 1 copper, about 10 various fittings, a pressure gauge, switches, LEDs, 3 spray paints, 9 colors of model paints, brushes, some acrylic paints… Yes, a ton of this will get used in future builds. but this gun probably has about $75 in it already. So I started looking for copper. literally impossible to find. It could also be from me not willing to drive around the neighborhood on trash night and try and scrap it out of other people’s old TVs and such.

Well I broke down, I bought 25ft of solid 18AWG copper and went to town on a transformer casing.

Its a walnut box re-enforced with brass plating.  There are 2 field windings. I had not anticipated it getting crowded so quickly so it is what it is.  I made some brass L brackets and attached them to the bottom rail of the gun.

I think it really turned out nice, and totally unique. I’m very happy with my first steamgun, and my first model paint job. It was a crazy hard build. I should start planning these more!

And the final reveal, with the stand that I built for it to display in my office:


Steampunk Wrist-Gauge

Whats the most important part of exploring? In any time? Boy Scouting taught me to be prepared. So when I’m out of the 33rd century I need to carry some tools to be ready to fix my gear.

I hadn’t consciously planned on using screws for everything but by this point, I thought it was a good idea to have a screwdriver.

I also needed a time distortion gauge. you know, to measure the amount of affect you’ve had on the past. Trust me, you don’t want to red-line that one!!!

The problem is that time travel can be hard on you, especially if you’re trying to carry a toolbox, so why not build it into your arm?

I started with a free hand pattern for an arm bracer. I used once again, some 5-6oz veg-tan leather, cut and dyed. I used Fiebang’s British Tan if anyone’s wondering… I bought a full pint of it for the apron project and used very little, but since have fallen in love with the color.

Well, anyway, with a few straps and snaps I got the thing attached to my arm.


I used a 1/2 inch strapping for a buckle connection at the forearm. I have a muscular arm and didn’t want it sliding off. I used snaps at the wrist for ease though.

Next up was the copper circuitry and application of my actual antique screw driver set. Its one that holds 3 smaller sizes inside itself. Super old school, super useful, absolutely beautiful.


Now I’m looking at this thinking, I need to be able to measure my time distortion!


The time gauge was then  constructed using a very inexpensive pressure gauge from harbor freight, a brass fitting kit too. I then put some of the fittings on my lathe and turned the openings up to 1/4inch to accept my copper tubing. I finished by attaching it again with a strap and some rivets. The screw driver also got a closure strap, but its got a snap so I can pull it out on the fly. and my connection wire came from some CAT6 cable. The twisted pairs are nice and colorful.


Ok, so this might be a bit weird. Maybe even off-putting to some people. Rope. I know, what am I thinking, rope is a cheap and readily available item, why would I make my own rope. Well that gets into a long answer. So the short version, I went to go do a photo shoot for a girl a while back and one of the things she had requested was to use rope. Yes. You read that correctly. I went to the store, picked up some clean new rope, went to the shoot and gave it a try. It was interesting. A lot of fun to shoot, cool patterns and colors and detail. I got home and my images looked, well, just OK. As with anyone who does any skill for their work, I wanted to see how to make my shots look better, which opened into a huge world of weird. The biggest issue that I had was that I had the wrong kind of rope in the wrong size. Well, It must be a maker thing. The pursuit of crafting an item is often times more interesting to me than actually having the item. So I got on the good old youtube and found some great sources for rope making.

This is just one of the many, many videos available:


So, ok, damn, I need a machine, with gears.

My main crank gear
My main crank gear
The whole machine with motor
The whole machine with motor

This was my first attempt at making gears, or even working with gears. It worked great, except, for the fact that I had no axles for the gears to ride on and thus they basically ate themselves.

If you’re looking for a good place to make wooden gears check out It was a super helpful gear template tool. and He’s got some amazing tools that he’s built.

Alright, so I’ve got the rope machine built, both sides.

Back side single hook
Back side single hook
Front side
Front side

Just a note, the hooks were turned down on my lathe from some cheap soft aluminum stock and bent by hand, the backs were drilled and tapped to fit on the “axles” of the gears. Its a terrible design…

But non-the-less, I made rope!


Which I’m sure you can see some of the crazy imperfections and uneven lays of the twine. So I had a problem, and I’d already invested too much time and a little bit of money into this to let it beat me. So I tracked down some new gears:

Hobby store gears
Hobby store gears
New steel hooks with bearings.
New steel hooks with bearings.

I also went and tracked down some better fibers to work with. I found that the “Eco-Jute”, which was just jute dyed green, at home depot was slightly better quality and didn’t have as much of a processed smell to it.

Which reminds me, there’s actually a lot of discussions on the safety of jute with JBO or jute batching oil. (Yes there are rope making forums and discussion circles) JBO is the oil that is used when the raw jute grass is first batched and processed to be turned into twine. It sort of smells like a petroleum jelly. It is a Petroleum based so be careful. apparently rats grew tumors from it, however conclusive that is…

This is the raw ‘eco’ Jute

And finally, the finished rope.

Finished Rope
Finished Rope

Which you can see is much better twisted and much better looking. Not to mention its super strong. Apparently the natural fiber rope is much stronger than any of the man made stuff so it can actually be used for suspension, or hanging of things and people.

All in all, this was a fun build, and really requires two or even three people to get it right. Also understanding of gears helps. And lastly, even though I made rope, sadly I haven’t ever scheduled a shoot to use it again.