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Griphos

source for steel bar stock?

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Recent posts showing clamps made with 4mm steel bar stock and regular screws have me itching to try to make some for myself.  But Google is failing me.  I'm having a hard time finding small size steel bar stock, particularly F1 steel.  Anyone have a US source for such stuff?  I probably have a tap and die for the size screw I'll be using, and plenty of grooved dowels.  

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Google is your friend:   https://www.google.com/search?q=4mm+steel+bar&rlz=1C1ZCEB_enUS832US832&oq=4mm+steel+bar&aqs=chrome..69i57.7156j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

 

Where I live there's a metal supplier who carries much of what I need at a very reasonable price and no shipping (a big plus).  You might check the phone book or again... some Googling.  I note that the big home improvement stores show up in the Google link above.

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Yes, like I said in my post, Google is failing me.  I searched, as you did, but I actually clicked on dozens of the results and none of those links actually offer small steel bar stock, particularly 4mm size bar, or in F1 form.  Most of them are about round rod, as indicated in the link titles.  I tried a Google search with "-round" and didn't find anything that way either.  I live out in the sticks, some distance from the nearest city, which is why I was trying to find an online source.  

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That looks like a very good source. Thanks. 

 

As I said, I’m fairly ignorant about metals. The reference I have (here on the forum) mentioned F1 steel. I’m not finding that. But if I’m understanding correctly, it’s a special type of low-alloy tool steel, so I’m thinking the more common A- and O- grade steels, like the readily available A1, should work just fine for making clamps. I know they can be drilled and tapped. I’m assuming that bending is the issue. 

 

I think I’ll buy a short bar and try. 

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Hmmm...shipping from these places is brutal!  Twice the cost of the steel in some cases. 

 

Question for for those who know more: is there any reason not to use the cheapest square steel for these clamps?  Does it have to be low carbon tool steel?  Would cold rolled 1018 or 304 stainless work just as well, meaning as easily bent and drilled and tapped?  I can find these steels on eBay for reasonable prices. 

 

I found 1/4” cold rolled plain steel bar listed cheap at a big box store not too far from me. No idea what grade. I may just take a Sunday drive to get it and experiment. 

Edited by Griphos

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Hi Griphos,

Have you tried contacting any local engineering firms? They may have F1 or a suitable alternative sitting on their shelves. If you want modest amounts you might find them able to help instantly.

 

HTH

Bruce

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I see no reason not to use “mild steel” from a big box store.  I believe that the previous discussions about tool steels had to do with making edge tools where heat treating to maintain an edge was required.  This is not your situation.  You only need sufficient strength to withstand clamping forces.

 

Another source of small sized square steel bar is “key stock,” used in keyways of rotating shafts.  You should be able to find this at any industrial supply business. One such company that has retail outlets, at least here in the Midwest is Grangier Supply.  You can also find them online.

 

Roger

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Thanks for the advice.  I'd noticed "key stock" a couple of places, including Amazon.  I wasn't sure whether that was annealed or hardened.  If hardened, I wondered whether it would bend and drill easily enough.  

Edited by Griphos

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I don't think you need tool steel for the bar stock. Mild steel is pretty cheap and available at any hardware store o bigbox  - 1/8"  or 3/16" should do fine.  You'll have a chance to hone your grinding, filing, and thread tapping skills.  I'd use socket head screws.  A drill press with a vise will make things simpler.  

 

If you want to see the entire process of making fine tools as was done before modern machinery see below.  Be warned that you'll be fascinated with the videos and might spend an entire evening watching all of them: 

 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCworsKCR-Sx6R6-BnIjS2MA 

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Griphos,

 

Would brass or aluminum work?  Aluminum would be cheaper for shipping (weight). Brass is easier to work than steel.  Aluminum is a grey area depending on the "hardness".

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Last week I made a dozen of these small clamps out of 1/4" brass. I drilled and tapped the brass for a 6-32 X1 1/4 machine screw. I then cut small wooden blocks and drilled them to loosely fit the screw head and glued fine sandpaper to the other side.

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Those look pretty darned good.  Do they flex much under clamping pressure?  These might be a good way to go.  

 

I was thinking about aluminum, Mark.  I was wondering if it would work.  If I could get the right hardness, it would certainly drill easily enough, and probably would be stiff enough.  I'm liking the brass idea, though.  

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Griphos

I have been using these clamps and I have had no problems with them flexing.  I tighten them as much as I can turn the knurled nut by hand and they hold the deck planks to the beams with no flex.

Mike

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4 hours ago, mtaylor said:

Griphos,

 

Would brass or aluminum work?  Aluminum would be cheaper for shipping (weight). Brass is easier to work than steel.  Aluminum is a grey area depending on the "hardness".

T5 or T6 (hardness) 2024 (alloy) aluminum should work fine in a small clamp, as does brass as Mike has shown.

 

My only suggestion with Mike's clamps is to cross-drill the knurled knob so you can slide a 3/16 steel rod through for extra torque when needed.

Edited by vossiewulf

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Most big box home improvement stores have a rack of handyman steel.  If you can find some small channel (u shaped stock) it would be perfect for your purposes.

 

Making sharp bends in Aluminum can be iffy.  Aluminum and it’s alloys is subject to age hardening.  As Aluminum sits around at room temperature it hardens over time and loses ductility.  It can, therefore, crack during bending.

 

 

Roger

 

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Roger is right about aluminum, if you want to use that you have to machine the U, which means removing a fair amount of metal, although with aluminum it goes quickly. I made some very small ones once that got lost in a move and haven't had call to remake them yet, but I did machine the U on the mill into a bar, and then used a slitting saw to split them off into four clamps. If you just have a lathe, you can put the end mill in the chuck and clamp the bar to the cross slide and machine the U that way.

 

But I think Mike's solution is probably best combo of cost + difficulty of making the clamps.

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I visited our  Menards store, our local big box Home Improvement/ Hardware store.  While there I checked out their metals rack.  They stock Aluminum 

Channel in small sizes, for example 1/2”x1/2”.  Wall thickness looked sufficient to thread.

 

Roger

 

 

 

 

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I went into town Sunday and looked at the big box store.  The smallest they had was 1/4"x1/4".  It was pretty heavy.  I think the brass bar is the best bet.  Now to find some!  🙂  I can order it online, but if I can find it nearby and save shipping, I'll try to do that.  

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