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Your Shop Machines Have No Idea If They

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Shop machines don’t have a clue that your tooling is dull, bent, nicked, burred, or the wrong size. It does exactly what you direct it to do, and if your tooling isn’t up to spec you’ll surely junk out a work piece in record time.

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Let’s start with tooling made from carbide. Carbide tooling comes in a variety of forms, including counterbore cutters, valve guide pilots, core drills, core reamers, ID reamers, single and multi-angle cutters. Carbide is the most affordable material that provides long life, holds size and can be formed and ground into a variety of shapes and it is readily available for manufactured tooling. It does, however, need tender loving care. Carbide by its very nature is more brittle than high-speed steel.

Let’s talk about carbide tooling, starting with pilots. You probably have quite an investment in pilots since you need to have one in every size in increments of .001? or less.

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Carbide Pilots

Since automobile manufacturers put as many five valves into each cylinder, making them extremely small (some as small as 4.0 mm), the only way to have any chance of concentricity is to use a solid carbide pilot. Let’s face it, with multiple angles being machined simultaneously the weak link in the equation is the pilot. High-speed pilots are actually flexed by the cutting pressure, sometimes by as much .002?. To hold concentricity, the automotive aftermarket started making pilots out of solid carbide.

As I stated earlier, carbide is very brittle and it will break before it bends. If you drop a carbide pilot onto a concrete floor you will have many smaller, totally useless carbide pilots. As you know, carbide pilots can cost anywhere between $100 and $200 each. Treat them with the utmost care!

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At the very least you should put a fatigue mat in front of the work area for two reasons. First, it’s more comfortable for your operator, and second, it provides a somewhat softer landing for your tooling if you become club-fingered, like me. Store your pilots away from each other when not in use. That’s what all the little vertical holes in your tool board are for. Don’t let them bang away at each other in a drawer.

Organize your pilots according to size; mark your tool board so you know when one is missing. Always wipe down the pilots when you’re done using them to clean off the machining dust and prevent that dust from transmitting into the next job. Remember, carbide pilots wear over time so periodically check the top and bottom sizes to insure they are the correct size. Replace as necessary.

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Multi-Angle Cutter Tips

These little guys are the real worker bees when it comes to cutting seats on multi-valve overhead cam cylinder heads as well as performance and diesel cylinder heads. Although they are pretty affordable at $24 to $39, they are not free.

Before every use, take a magnifying glass and inspect the cutting edge, looking for nicks, burrs and burn marks. If you find any, there is a fixture that holds these cutters at the correct position to resharpen the cutting edge. Because it holds the cutter in the correct position, it won’t reshape the degree of angle it just sharpens the cutting edge.

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As recommended for carbide pilots, it’s best to keep your tips in a protected environment to prevent them from banging away at each other. Get a tip tool board to store and organize these cutters. Over time you will have a complete and well-organized set of cutters all readily available. Another tip to prolong the life and improve the cutting action of your tips is to be sure to use a cutting fluid. I found some stuff that really works well.

Counter-Bore Cutters

Counter-bore cutters are generally fixed on size and the carbide tips are either indexable and replaceable or brazed. They are available in a variety of fixed sizes or you can also get a fully adjustable type of cutter. Again, don’t let them come in contact with each other, and periodically inspect for chips or burrs. They can be re-sharpened or rebuilt by a quality supplier. Always test bore or measure them prior to using them on a customer’s cylinder head to ensure the counter-bore size is correct. Remember a dull counter-bore tool will cut larger than the stated size.

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Core Drills and Reamers

The core drill is a tool for cutting out integral valve guides. These core drills are made from mostly high-speed steel but you can get them in carbide as well. Your core reamers are made from the same material and again you can’t just toss them into a drawer. Organize them according to size on your tool board. Periodically inspect the cutting flutes for nicks and burrs. Also look for overheating; this will create a blue color change in the flute area. These core drills and reamers can be re-sharpened by a quality supply house or take them to a professional sharpening service close to your shop.

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Finish Reamers

Finish reamers are used to size the ID of the valve guide to its correct dimension. This sets the amount of oil clearance you choose for that application. They are made from high speed steel, carbide or steel coated with Titanium Nitride. You will probably have one for each guide size known to man in .001? increments. 

Carbide is fast becoming the material of choice for finish reamers. Take extra care of these by storing them separately and never drop one on the concrete floor. This is another justification for fatigue mats by each machine. Fatigue mats will provide a softer landing when the tool is accidentally dropped.

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Resharpening Tools

Core drill, core reamers, finish reamers, multi-angle seat cutters, and brazed counter-bore cutters can all be re-sharpened. When re-sharpened properly they will reduce your overall tooling costs. Make sure they are re-sharpened by a qualified sharpening service, and always measure to ensure the size is correct before you use them.

Tool Terms Revealed

Drill Press: A power driven machine for drilling holes in metal. Can also be used as a projectile launcher for the project you are working by sending it flying across the room. Eye protection is required.

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Belt Resurfacer: An electric machine designed to quickly and easily remove minor surface imperfections on cylinder heads or manifolds. Generally results in major resurfacing of component in traditional grinder or CBN machine.

Hacksaw: A fine-toothed saw for cutting metal. This tool is not designed to a cut a straight line. It is designed to create a crooked and unpredictable motion thereby causing you to attempt to influence its cutting direction resulting in a botched job.

Oxyacetylene Torch: Used almost entirely for lighting various flammable items in your shop. Also handy for igniting wheel-hub grease when attempting to remove a bearing race.

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Engine hoist: Designed for removing the engine from engine compartments. Is also designed to actually lift entire front end of car off ground due to forgetting to remove that last bolt.

Pry bar: a tool generally used to crumple the flange ends of timing covers and oil pans. Can also be used to distort valve covers.

Hammer: Originally designed as a tool of war, generally used for hitting all objects next to the object you originally wanted to hit (particularly fingers). Great for testing rubber tires for air.

Straight Screwdriver: can be used for driving screws into various materials. Is also known to convert regular slotted type screws into non-removable type screws. Can then be used to open beer.

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Phillips Screwdriver: can be used for stabbing liquid containers so contents splash on shirt. This tool is a favorite for stripping out Phillips screws. Also known to be driven into one’s palm when least expected.

S.O.B Tool: This tool represents any tool that you grab and throw across the room while yelling S.O.B. 

Three laws we all must learn:

Law of the machinist: After your hands are covered with grease or assembly lube your nose will begin to itch.

Law of the machine shop: Any tool dropped will either break or roll into the least accessible area of the shop.

Law of laws: When you try to prove that the machine was at fault and now cannot get said machine to do it again when the boss is watching.  

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Remember, your tools are your machines’ best friends. Take care of them! They will take care of you so you can take care of your customers.

See ya in the shop!

Dave Monyhan is national sales manager with Goodson Shop Supplies, located in Winona, MN. You can reach Dave at: [email protected]. multi-angle cutter tips are the worker bees when it comes to cutting seats on multi-valve overhead cam cylinder heads as well as performance and diesel cylinder heads. Counter-bore cutters are generally fixed on size and the carbide tips are either indexable and replaceable  or brazed.

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