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Obtaining flat bronze bar

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Bill Phinn10/04/2018 17:53:09
211 forum posts
41 photos

Hello to everyone.

I'm not really a model engineer, I'm afraid, and my experience with metal working is mostly limited to making jewellery and tools for hand bookbinding. I do however want to broaden my manufacturing horizons, and plan to get a lathe in the near future to add to the Proxxon Micro mill I've had for many years.

My question relates to some bronze gouge tools for bookbinding I want to make in the immediate future for my own use. I've pictured one of them (minus its wooden handle). Basically these gouges come in sets and I've acquired an incomplete set of 43 (see the image at the right of the b&w diagram showing the full set) that I'd like to make complete. I'd need to make ten to complete the set.

My question is twofold:

1. I can't find anywhere that can supply flat phosphor bronze bar or plate (I need it around 6mm thick). Can anyone recommend a likely source?

2. I'll be making the tools largely by hand using files, buff sticks and rotary grinding and polishing tools to create exactly the right radius of curve and line thickness for each tool. However, it's clear that the set of tools I've acquired were made largely with the aid of machinery, not by hand, and I was wondering how the knowledgeable people on this forum would approach making tools like this with the aid of the machinery typically found in a home engineering workshop. The difficult part of making these tools is getting the radius for each tool exactly right; you'll notice from the diagram that the difference in radius between one gouge and the next is very slight. If a lathe and a decent-sized milling machine could tackle the job straightforwardly then I may forget doing it by hand and wait until I've acquired the right machinery before I attempt the job in earnest.

Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Image result for 43 designer gouges bookbinding

Robin Graham10/04/2018 18:59:29
612 forum posts
132 photos

Smith's metals list PB flat bar on their website - might be worth giving them a ring. I have used them for non-ferrous stuff before - cheaper than the usual ME suppliers.

Rob.

Edit - Live Steam Models do eg1" x 1/4" PB102 flat at £62.70 + VAT  per metre (but they're happy to supply shorter lengths pro rata) - Smiths probably cheaper though.

R.

Edited By Robin Graham on 10/04/2018 19:25:07

Edited By Robin Graham on 10/04/2018 19:25:34

Brian H10/04/2018 19:31:04
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1288 forum posts
99 photos

+1 for Smiths. Do the gouges need to be the same radius all along or could you get away with just the first, say, 1/2" ?

Brian

David George 110/04/2018 21:01:31
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971 forum posts
314 photos

I don't know where you live but Nefco Sutton in Ashfield Notts will sell any non ferrous material that you will need.

David

Bill Phinn10/04/2018 21:09:55
211 forum posts
41 photos
Posted by Robin Graham on 10/04/2018 18:59:29:

Smith's metals list PB flat bar on their website - might be worth giving them a ring. I have used them for non-ferrous stuff before - cheaper than the usual ME suppliers.

Rob.

Edit - Live Steam Models do eg1" x 1/4" PB102 flat at £62.70 + VAT per metre (but they're happy to supply shorter lengths pro rata) - Smiths probably cheaper though.

Many thanks, Robin. I'll chase those leads up.

Many thanks for your contribution, Brian. I'm sorry I'm not totally sure of your question, and I apologise for the fact that the photo of a gouge I uploaded (apparently successfully) has failed to appear, which may not have helped. I'll try uploading it again. The gouges are an even radius all along (i.e. the curve doesn't meander) but each of the 43 gouges in the set is of a different radius, which needs to be very accurately reproduced.

I'm thinking that possibly a rotary table set up on a mill could be used to accurately machine these arcs into bronze stock. I've got a Soba three inch rotary table which I've used on my Proxxon in the past, but three inches is too small a diameter to mill most of the flatter arcs, and there's no way my Proxxon has enough throat to mill the approx three inch long bronze stock when it's standing up on the rotary table. In any case I don't even have edge finders (there isn't one that fits the Proxxon, afaik, and I just use feeler gauges to tram my milling vice on the table.)

If besides doing it all by hand there is another way than going out and getting a bigger mill and bigger rotary table, I'd be fascinated to hear it.

Bill Phinn10/04/2018 21:10:34
211 forum posts
41 photos
Posted by David George 1 on 10/04/2018 21:01:31:

I don't know where you live but Nefco Sutton in Ashfield Notts will sell any non ferrous material that you will need.

David

Many thanks, David.

colin hawes10/04/2018 22:15:31
502 forum posts
18 photos

Another way of doing it? What about simple press tools , a vice and thinner metal? Colin

D.A.Godley10/04/2018 22:28:01
90 forum posts
35 photos

If you have not yet sourced this material , give John Keatley Metals a call .

They are i Birmingham 33-35 Shadwell Street , B4 6HD. 0121 236 4300. , have a web site which should indicate their stock lines , and are a most helpful company from whom i and many colleagues purchase our model making materials from.

Hope this helps

David .

Bill Phinn10/04/2018 23:47:50
211 forum posts
41 photos

Many thanks for the further details, David. I do appreciate your and everyone's help with sourcing the stock.

Many thanks for your suggestion, Colin. Thinner metal would certainly be easier to work with but not really make for ideal tools. These gouges are used hot to impress gold leaf on to leather books, and there really needs to be a certain mass of metal to retain enough heat while the tool is off the stove and being impressed. The relative massiness of the metal also helps make the tools more resilient against damage. Lastly, these tools were made in the 50's by a French engraving company that no longer exists and they have some value as artefacts above and beyond their value as mere tools. They are still made in our country by an English company, not in bronze but in brass, and I believe the cost for the 43 piece set is currently about £800. There is one company left in France that makes them in bronze and I believe the cost is several times higher than the English set. What I'm trying to say is that if I make replacements for the missing ones I'd like to do my best to complement the originals, using the same metal of the same thickness and turning beech handles to match etc.

Brian H11/04/2018 06:54:02
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1288 forum posts
99 photos

(Quote:Many thanks for your contribution, Brian. I'm sorry I'm not totally sure of your question (unquote)

Bill, I can see from your previous answers that I have misunderstood the method of use.

Brian

Brian Wood11/04/2018 08:53:21
2008 forum posts
37 photos

And another supplier for you Bill,

M-Machine in Darlington stock Phosphor Bronze in flats 1/4 x 1 inch; 1/2 x 1 inch; 3/8 x 2 inch; 1/2 x 1.5 inch; and 1/2 x 2 inch

They quote those in 1 inch lengths but if you ask they can supply as needed

www.m-machine-metals,co.uk 01325-381300. They do mail order and welcome visitors to collect if you live within a reasonable distance

Regards

Brian

Bill Phinn11/04/2018 12:20:58
211 forum posts
41 photos

Posted by BDH on 11/04/2018 06:54:02:

(Quote:Many thanks for your contribution, Brian. I'm sorry I'm not totally sure of your question (unquote)

Bill, I can see from your previous answers that I have misunderstood the method of use.

Brian

Many thanks anyway for your contribution, Brian.

Brian W., many thanks for providing another source. I'm in Manchester.

Bazyle11/04/2018 13:27:12
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4791 forum posts
187 photos

You may also have a problem obtaining the same specification of bronze to give a matching colour.

For machining a radius larger than your rotary table research the making of 'expansion links' for model steam engines.
Another way of cutting a concave curve of larger radius is to is to tilt the cutter relative to the work although the resulting curve is possibly an ellipse.
You might look into finding a hobby bronze caster to provide blanks with the required curve which might allow making composition that matches the original tin/copper ratio. (to get this find a friendly metallurgy student with access to a scanning electron microscope with EDAX).
Having recently had a demo of the SMEE joint project wire EDM I think this would be an ideal way of making the forging dies for use in a fly press.

Bill Phinn11/04/2018 17:33:48
211 forum posts
41 photos

Thanks a lot for the advice, Bazyle. I take it the technique for machining expansion links discussed in the following thread is what you're referring to.

http://www.model-engineer.co.uk/forums/postings.asp?th=129088

Yes, the bronze composition is a bit of an unknown. I was planning to go for PB102 and hope for a passable match. What's on my side is that after a bit of use, sets of these sorts of tools, whether in brass or bronze, do present a varied appearance anyway because of the varying degrees to which they have been used and repeatedly heated and cooled (on a wet pad).

Casting was an option I considered, and the only thing that deterred me was a perhaps perverse insistence on wanting to do every bit of the job myself.

Robin Graham13/04/2018 00:18:20
612 forum posts
132 photos
Posted by Bill Phinn on 10/04/2018 23:47:50:

Thinner metal would certainly be easier to work with but not really make for ideal tools. These gouges are used hot to impress gold leaf on to leather books, and there really needs to be a certain mass of metal to retain enough heat while the tool is off the stove and being impressed.

This is obviously quite quite specialised work - and interesting!  I won't be alone in thinking of a 'gouge' as a cutting tool, but perhaps not? Pics or links would be good.

I quite understand you wanting to do every bit yourself - not perverse at all, at least not on this forum I reckon!

Robin.

Edited By Robin Graham on 13/04/2018 00:18:58

Bill Phinn13/04/2018 17:40:46
211 forum posts
41 photos
Posted by Robin Graham on 13/04/2018 00:18:20:I won't be alone in thinking of a 'gouge' as a cutting tool, but perhaps not? Pics or links would be good.

Thanks for your message, Robin.

Yes, a gouge for bookbinding is a little different from a woodturner's gouge. The goal is to impress the leather with a curved line of even thickness and depth, either in gold or "blind" (i.e. without gold). Good sighting along the inside of the curve is vital, as is a slightly convex profile to the leading edge, particularly on curves longer than about 1/4 inch.

There's a link below with pictures of someone employing gouges in the traditional way to build up a pattern on a book:

http://aboutthebinding.blogspot.co.uk/

Edit: I'm unable again to view the photo of a gouge I uploaded in an earlier post. I apologize if others aren't seeing it either. I can't explain the anomaly.

Edited By Bill Phinn on 13/04/2018 17:43:11

Michael Gilligan13/04/2018 18:39:46
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14244 forum posts
627 photos
Posted by Bill Phinn on 13/04/2018 17:40:46:

There's a link below with pictures of someone employing gouges in the traditional way to build up a pattern on a book:

http://aboutthebinding.blogspot.co.uk/

.

Thanks for that **LINK** Bill

Absolutely fascinating; and very impressive !!

MichaelG.

Clive Foster13/04/2018 18:46:03
1886 forum posts
59 photos

Bill

If my experiences are typical you will need to take account of the stresses locked into the phosphor bronze bar when it was made. If there are significant locked in stresses and substantial amounts of metal are removed in a non-symmetric manner the part may twist considerably when released from the clamps after cutting to shape. Getting it back to the desired shape generally requires perseverance, creativity and verbal encouragement. Problem is best avoided in the first place by appropriate technique.

Hopefully someone here with more experience than I can advise as to best technique.

Used off the shelf PB bar to make a rack like "quarter nut" about 12" long for the Y travel on a Victoria milling machine. Twisted considerably in about 6 different directions when unclamped. Think demented banana with serious tummy ache! Straightening without destroying the screw thread accuracy was an adventure! Seems to me that your basic shapes, albeit without the thread to complicate matters, will be somewhat similar so there may be a risk of the same sort of issue.

Clive.

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