Coulter's Smithing Home

The first systems

We get a new large tank and vacuum system put together!

This should probably be titled "Bill Fain scores again" as he's the one who found this gem in a high tech junkyard for the price of the weight in iron, or about $400. It also came with a big 6" ID tee that became his vacuum tank. Thanks again, Bill. This did set back the timing a little bit, as it took some time and considerable money to make this into a useful system, but wow, what a nice one it became.

New tank as acquired Here is the new baby, as recieved and hanging from a chain on the front porch of the lab. We are grateful no one got seriously hurt getting this off the truck and onto the chain, then into the lab. It's a lot heavier than it looks, and a lot dirtier inside due to the conditions under which it was stored for all that time before we got it. Various flanges were missing, and it looked as though the junkyard guys had used it for a urinal inside. I strongly suspect the reason it got there was that some grad student left all four kilowatt heaters on overnight with air in the tank -- every single CF gasket there leaked badly and all were corroded to black. Obviously this did not happen when it was a scanning electron SEM microscope but at end of it's life. The electron gun and lens stuff were missing, and so were a lot of other things, but it was a nice place to start. That is, after two full work weeks washing this very complex dish. The large top flange was gone, and so were several others. There were the broken parts of a mass spectrometer and an optical microscope inside still, as well as a nude ion gage, all broken of course, but scavenged for the valuable parts. After a rather expensive trip to Kurt J Lesker for flanges, feedthroughs, doors and gaskets, and another very expensive one to Pfeiffer vacuum, for pumps, mass spectrometer and gages, we had a tank that would be useful indeed. Thank heavens that bottom gasket did not leak then or now! Buying a 14" flange and gasket for the top was bad enough.
bottom of new tank Here's another view of the hanging tank. As you can see we had plenty of work to do, and flanges to fill up with useful things. I wound up buying a number of feedthroughs for thermocouples and high voltages before I learned how to make my own, better than commercial for our uses by far. We still use the thermocouple ones, as they are kind of hard to make at home, even with a nice shop. We have them for type K and type C, which it another entire world (Tunsten-Rhenium isn't trivial to weld at all).

This was the stone you begin making stone soup with. I can't easily estimate the cost I've put in this since, but for an idea, the door alone cost over $1000, the turbo pump was in the range of $20,000, the upgrade to a real mass spectrometer, gages, UltraDry forepump a few grand each, add a few more thousand for feedthroughs, flanges and gaskets, and well, lets say you could have bought just about any luxury car (or two!) for what is now sitting on that cart. Worth it! Some would (and have) say I should have spent a few more years scrounging, but I'm not getting any younger -- what's the value of life you cannot get back for any amount of mere cash?, and I don't see this kind of quality stuff coming from the scroungers, anyway. This is all best of breed, top of line, and perhaps way overkill for mere fusion, but we actually do other things here as well with this that do need the UHV and pumping speed we have.
This looks a lot cleaner than it was, there must have been 10-15 grams of gritty dirt in those bellows folds alone, and it wasn't that much fun to get out of there.

But, now it's done! And it was worth it. By the way, to keep things from moving around too much we had to add what amounts to automobile valve springs to stiffen up that bellows or the turbo moved around too much going from STP to vacuum and back. Took 4 of them arranged around the outside between the flange bolt heads to keep the motion down to an inch or so.

Mini lathe
Big Lathe
little spindles
sanders and grinders
hand tools
big bench

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