Resingrave: Speeds and Feeds

Machining Resingrave


When engraving printing blocks for relief printing, it is often laborious to cut out large, unused areas of blocks. Some artists have turned to Dremels (or equivalent) for expedience. This carries some risk, as a single slip can send the cutting tool skidding across a whole block, ruining it.

I wanted to help my better half out and clear some large areas of a block she was carving. She carves using a material called Resingrave. This material was developed by Richard Woodman as wood engraving medium intended to replace expensive and increasingly depleted end-grain hardwoods, traditionally used for woodblock printing. After corresponding with the helpful folks at McClain’s Printmaking Supplies, I had enough information to try machining the material.

Our goal was to mill away large unused areas of the block to save significant hand-carving time. The picture to the right shows the block in the vise, before we set the cut depth and started machining. There are parallels supporting the block in the vise. Note that the design outline  has already been hand-carved, and the rest will be hand-carved once the larger, unused areas are milled down.



I used a 1/4″ two flute HHS endmill a geometry typically used to cut aluminum. HSS is probably preferable to carbide, as it will hold a better edge.

Note the compressed air

I used a Sharp LMV mill at my employer’s extensive machine shop (with permission, of course).

I machined the resingrave at a .055 inch depth, 1000 RPMs, feeding about 12 inches per minute (.006 inches per tooth). We took a .1″ cut with each pass, except for initial full-width cuts into sections of the block, as seen at right. This was a conservative and slower method, but there was no reason to rush. Those familiar with Bridgeports, clones, and many manual domestic mills will recognize that distance as a half turn of the crank, making the math easy on me.


The block turned out well, and made quite the mess of small, louse-like, clingy chips. The uniformity of these chips was important, as it indicated that my milling was fairly consistent. I took advantage of the X-axis power feed for the long cuts along the bottom of the block. One of the critical things was keeping the cutter and block free of chips. I used light compressed air, and occasionally brushed the cutter off.

Best of all, the artist was happy. The block suffered no damage, and hours of removing unused material was saved. Her take on the process is here. For those who want more machining details, read on.

More Numbers:

Taking my speeds and feeds, I could reverse the usual calculations and find the surface feet per minute.
You can try it here, or use the widget below:
Milling Speed and Feed Calculator

Calculating this out, my SFM is about 65…I assume the theoretical maximum SFM of the material is significantly higher, but I didn’t want to recklessly hog out something that was on it’s way to becoming a really cool piece of art.

There was no difference between climb milling and conventional milling. I took passes in both directions without worry. Given the softness of the material, the slow feed, the shallow cuts, and the relatively tiny end mill, I felt climb milling was safe.

The Final Result

Coming soon: An actual print pulled from the block. See it at Folio CIII.

Taleo Sucks

Last year, I transitioned from freelancing to a full-time job. This involved some amount of job hunting, and thus some interaction with the worst web interface I have ever seen.

Taleo is a company that makes talent management and recruitment software. Their backend, I’m sure, is a cleanly written system to manage personnel/HR needs. I’m sure. Peachy, for anyone working in HR. It’s a good thing HR doesn’t have to struggle through the pile of s— their applicants do. The Taleo internet-facing interface is sad…Perhaps ‘make’ was too strong a word at the start of the paragraph. “Cobbles together like 3rd graders mixing farts” is more apt.

Months ago, I didn’t save screencaps of the worst interface offenses, but they are so plentiful that a mere minute yielded this simple issue:

Notice something wrong? Taleo serves jobs for Memphis when the criteria specified Vancouver, WA. Now, perhaps this company isn’t entering locations in the correct field when posting jobs. OK. Maybe HR just messed up. So why does the software have cities listed where the company doesn’t even have operations? I mean, Joseph, OR is a beautiful place with some cool bronze foundries, but the Fortune 100 IT company I grabbed that from isn’t going to be hiring there. Unless they have a secret division doing artistic bronze work.

Next, we get to the horrible javascript mess of Taleo. Click on a job on page 2+ of results, then select a job. When you click “Return to Previous Page”, you get sent back to page 1. Nice. Do I have to keep a sticky note of pages I’ve been through? Or maybe I could just open a bunch of job posts in new tabs as I go through the multiple pages of postings, right? Not so much. Every job is opened via a script, meaning tabs are effectively disabled.

I could spend hours ranting beyond the small sampling of above problems, which range from the sad search interface to the actual application process. The fundamental problem with Taleo is simple: The front end sucks, and given the application process, it saps qualities from an individual and transforms the individual into a set of quantities that give little indication of real potential.

How hard does Taleo want to make it to search jobs? Taleo was such a tremendous waste of time that companies using Taleo fell to the bottom of the pile. I would apply only if time permitted, because Taleo applications could take ten times longer than an emailed cover letter and resume.

Many companies are losing talented applicants to the rancid fart that is Taleo’s web-facing interface. The competition probably thanks you. I do, because Taleo served as a good way to judge the quality of management decisionmaking I would have to live with at a company.


The Singer 401(a)

I feel guilty. Kind of. Because of this:

Browsing Goodwill recently, I bought the above sewing machine for $20…They typically show up for ten times that price on eBay. I feel like I absconded with a treasure. At any rate, this Singer 401a (1956 vintage, made in South Carolina) is mine, and after a tune-up, it will be ready for another 50 years of use. The machine is in remarkably good condition, with a clean looking cam stack:

The underside even looked clean and lint-free, which is rare for a 1956 machine. It had been maintained well.

As tempting as it was, I wasn’t going to sew a single stitch without getting the machine looked over. See, the 401a is a special machine…The proverbial Bentley of sewing machines. That machine originally sold for hundreds of (1950s) dollars, or thousands of 2011 dollars. Price-wise, that puts the 401a on par with industrial machines from Juki or Brother. I daresay on par quality-wise as well, though without the power of the bifurcated head-motor arrangement, which allows for a multiple-horsepower motor.

Singer Sewing quality went significantly downhill in the 1970s, as they started building machines largely of plastic. In the 1980s, they started outsourcing. Singer didn’t design good machines and contract manufacturers didn’t maintain quality. With Singer, older is (much) better. New machines are disappointing and lack the rigidity or power to work well with many fabrics. Another legend destroyed for short-term profit.

I again digress. The 401a was one of the last slant needle aluminum-bodied Singer models, and has a very large metal cam stack enabling a variety of stitches. The slant-needle machines were special in that they allow much more visibility when sewing than a vertical needle machine. It is also a direct drive machine with no belts, and gorgeously cut beveled helical involute gears. Those expensive gears are why the machine purrs, instead of grinds. Take a look:

The timing, adjustment, greasing and oiling of this machine is something that I will leave to a professional, so I know it is well-tuned when I do minor maintenance myself in the future. In Portland, Rooster Roc Sewco (3427 NE 72nd Ave) came highly recommended, and when I visited last year, the owner was nice enough to chat with me about some industrial machines when I was contemplating tooling up for some freelance work. When I get this machine back, I will post pictures of the first project I use it on, probably a set of gaiters (patterns to be drafted in February).

As a last piece of trivia, the Singer 400 class (401, 402, 403) sewing machines use a double-contact bayonet base lightbulb in a short T7 formfactor. The recommended bulb is typically known as a 15T7DC. As incandescent bulbs are being phased out, stocking up might not be a bad idea. Just don’t pay over $5/bulb.


It is with much excitement and some (well, maybe a tiny bit) trepidation that I’m moving from freelancing to a full-time position. This is a completely self-indulgent couple paragraphs on the vagaries of the past couple years.

After freelancing in audio and video production (and tech support and web development, and etc.) for the past 7 years (amongst school), I’m looking forward to the break from the complexities of self-employment and the constant drive to expand one’s client list. The economy didn’t bode well for the latter, and the former became downright tiring. Between health insurance, equipment and other overhead, the numbers were looking OK, but not great.

A rough economy means taking clients one wouldn’t usually touch. That leads to fun (in a profoundly sarcastic way) situations like maintaining media production computers that doubled as the client’s surfing platform for his prurient interests, or trying to explain simple waveform edits to someone who is too insecure to accept help. My favorite though, was a client who told me he needed a wife, because his competitors all had wives who did the ‘other stuff’ (bookkeeping, shipping, etc.).

I also took on some wonderful jobs, including some work for large multi-continent traveling exhibits, and some touching documentary production work. As those projects see circulation and distribution, I will try and share.

Now, I’m at an engineering consulting firm with a world-class client list that yields a constant stream of fascinating work. What do I do? Well, I work in the company lab. I make stuff that makes stuff. I don’t know what the position will grow into, but I do know I will enjoy it.

So long, freelancing. I might be back someday far away, but thanks for all the stories.

A Shure Thanksgiving

It first appeared last year. Time to show it again:

The -55, -57, and -58 in all their cooking glory.

Not a bad wrench position.

On a more personal nature today:

For the past week, I’d been neglecting my car. The driver’s side lock cylinder was loose, and I wasn’t looking forward to disassembling all the interior body paneling and removing the window mechanism and glass to fix it. Unfortunately, it all came to a head last night, as the bolt holding the lock cylinder in place made a resonant clanging as it fell into the depths of the door.

Fortunately, I drive a moderately antediluvian Subaru Impreza. Upon removing three retaining screws, the interior paneling came off easily. Then, when I recovered the bolt and rolled down the window in anticipation of removing it, I realized something neat: The window comes down it’s tracks and moves slightly towards the front of the door, uncovering the interior side of the door handle/lock cylinder. 10 minutes later, I had the lock mechanism tight, the interior paneling back on, and an operating lock.

Some mechanics say that there isn’t a bad wrench position on a Subaru. I would tend to agree.

30 feet, 50 feet…100 feet? Does it stop?

So, the first prototype pictures of the Supertechno 100 are in the wild…Dollygrippery has them.

A 100 foot telescoping camera crane…This in and of itself is an amazing feat, given the relatively recent development of even 20 foot telescoping cranes.

The whip, vibration and movement on a non cable-stayed arm of that length with 3 (or more?) sections will be tricky to handle though. I bet the engineering is absolutely top-notch though. It’s an inspirational sight! The technology has come so far in a relatively short time…Louma, Techno, the Hydrascope…There are a ton of good options out there. Anyway…

I will be curious to see the thing in use, or at least at a trade show. The Strada trick of just lifting the operator, steadicam rig and all probably is impossible, though would be a wild ride for the operator. My money is on a stabilized head like the Scorpio or Chapman G-3 over the Techno Z head or other standard heads for most uses, given the inherent flexing.

And how many operators to effect a movement? Or are they going to motorize the base in addition to the crane and head? That’s a lot of weight to get around. Sounds like a 3-4 person job now…

Anyway, Dollygrippery has the goods. It’s worth a look, because really neat things come from Plzeň…

Data management and the CIA

Since 2003, I’ve worked for a number of media companies, ranging from a company with 16 networked HD edit suites, two online suites, audio suites and an archive going back decades, to individuals working on a single computer. One thing that most of them understood was the need for robust backups: The equity is in the intellectual property. It must be protected. There must be a process to protect it.

Legal issues aside, the CIA procedurally screwed up, and mistakes are things beast learned from.

The CIA:

The CIA has tapes of 9/11 plotter Ramzi Binalshibh being interrogated in a secret overseas prison. Discovered under a desk, the recordings could provide an unparalleled look at how foreign governments aided the U.S. in holding and questioning suspected terrorists.

Well then. I guess they missed some of the tapes that they had intended to destroy in 2005. Oops.

How is it that virtually every media company I’ve ever seen can do a better job of data management than the CIA? Even the sole proprietorships. There is a lesson to be learned from this: The brief version is don’t be like the CIA. The long version is procedural:

Multiple Backups: Many companies use a 3 tier concept at a minimum: Aside from the working dataset, On-line backups and offline backups create a decent system. In the case of something like an Avid Unity, the working dataset and online backup are the same thing, and contained in a networked RAID (The ISIS uses RAID 6). Individual hard-drives can fail, RAID cards can fail, but there are multiple copies of the data.

Backup offsite: Facilities get damaged. The offline backup isn’t enough. The offline backups could theoretically be moved offsite, but if not, a separate facility with it’s own extant dataset might be prudent. The Universal Studios fire in 2008 comes to mind as an example of why this is important.

Love the WORM: Write Once, Read Many. A DVD-ROM can only be burned once…or for the people who can afford it: AIT cartridges can set up for write-once operation. This removes the temptation to recycle, and forces the creation of physical media with a single purpose: backups. I’ve seen people lay off media to DVD-ROMs, D5s, Any number of other HD tape formats…They all work, and one will fit your needs well.

Access/Metadata: Who gets to access the backups? How is that logged? Are there check-out procedures? Is the location of all media known? This is where the CIA messed up. They didn’t have decent records of the location, access, or use of their backups.

A little bit of thought can go a long way towards preventing major problems…The CIA gives us a teachable moment. Again, legal issues aren’t my point here. My point is data management. Had they practiced good backup procedures, they would have known where all the copies of the tapes were, and would have succeeded in their end goal:

The destruction of the tapes and suppression evidence potentially relevant to the Binalshibh case.

Backups. With Procedures. It’s good for you. It’s even Lean (for those into that sort of thing…)