Adding the hopper, Step 6 of a DIY record

I built a homemade brake to bend sheet metal and it works OK, not great.  The corners are really radius’s and fairly large ones at that.  The second and main issue I have with it, is the inconsistency that comes from the bends.  I find that even though I try to align things perfectly it does not work that way.  Some of the parts I have made lately I have cut some slits with the CNC to weaken the folded edge making it more consistent and I wish I had done this for this part of the project….Anyway, a quick reminder of last years effort.

Last years hopper, auger and burner combination



As you can see the hopper is quite small and I ended up adding an extension later.  The burner is integral to the hopper and auger, making it very difficult to make any changes to the burner. Lastly the legs are welded on and have no adjustment and seriously two wheels what was I thinking?  So while the principal is the same there are some major differences.


New hopper with tabbed gussets


It’s pretty challenging to align four pieces of steel of such odd shapes and weights, so in this iteration I cut some gussets with tabs to fit into a slot in the end pieces of the hopper. This keeps the end pieces fixed from side to side because of the slot and plumb as it is butted up to the square the gusset forms.  All from welding a gusset plumb. So that was an aid to success, of course as soon as I finished I tossed some ideas around with a friend and we thought up a perhaps better way by making two peices instead of four and doing a different bending technique. Next time. In the meantime this is straight, level and functional. Almost done with the hopper/auger assembly, The last task is to mount the electrical box and paint the entire assembly while it is still apart and then assemble it into a working machine and test the auger drive.

Adding wheels, Step five of a DIY Record.

I often have to cut multiple parts, so when I do, I take the opportunity to experiment a bit.  In this series of cuts I changed the amperage of the Plasma cutter, a Hypertherm 45.  Hypertherm plasma cutters are American made, designed and built, only about a 45 minute drive away from me.  I still haven’t gotten my free T shirt for buying and registering the machine but I guess that’s another story…  anyway, amazingly enough there really is not a lot of difference in the dross or slag between the three different amp settings I tried.  I’ll keep experimenting to try to optimize the cut quality and speed of the CNC machine, plasma cutter combination.

The auger pipe connects the burn plate which attaches to the boiler and forms the interface between the auger feed and the boiler/burner units.  I took a piece of 6″ pipe and welded it to the boiler plate and this attaches the plate to the auger feed via screws that tighten. With this assembly I can detach the auger and hopper and test a different burner simply by loosening 6 screws. Modular design for ease of design changes and maintenance.

Burn plate attached to auger via screws tightened 120° apart

I attached the hopper plate first because this determines the wheel height required. I slotted the holes in the saddle plates so that there is about 3/8″, or about a centimeter of adjustment up or down adjustment.  Then after careful alignment I assembled the entire assembly with clamps and threaded rods. I did cut and weld in some cross pieces with gussets

Cross bars with CNC cut gussets and CNC cut caster plates

Close up of carriage assembly welded to auger tube

This will make maintenance of the boiler, ash removal, scraping of the burner holes, boiler tube cleaning very easy by simply rolling the auger/hopper assembly out of the way.

Mounting the auger drive motor. Step four of a DIY record.

In this step I mount the auger drive motor, it has a built in right angle drive and speed reducer which adds torque.  The motor comes complete ready for wiring and mounting using four screws.  Again I drew up the parts in SketchUp and then cut them out on the CNC plasma cutter, it was almost too easy.   The further I get down this path the more I take advantage of the CNC’s capabilities.  Note the rounded corners, I also added an extra hole on top of the motor mount plate to make adding a wire routing clip easier in the future.  I remade the worm drive plate to improve some of the adjustment capabilities and added at the same time some decoration, rounded corners and used less material.

I used a Lovejoy type shaft connector to connect the motor to the worm shaft with a Buna-N spider in between to minimize any vibration or backlash to the motor, although with the worm and worm gear combination there should be none.

Adding the worm gear and worm. Step three of a DIY record.

This step was made simple by the use of the CNC  plasma cutter to make a part which I then bent up on both ends using my homemade brake.  But first let’s revisit the old configuration for comparison.

Chain drive transmission of the auger drive, used on the last configuration

I had to rob the motor and some parts from this transmission so it is in disarray but you get the idea of the complexity.  It  requires four sprockets, two chains, a motor and two chain tensioners. Here is a picture of the newly implemented and untested solution for mounting the worm and worm gear.

Worm gear keyed to shaft, worm gear mounted on cross shaft.

The CNC made it easy to slot the holes for adjustment, so the vertical adjustment comes from the plate to plate mounting screws, and the bearing mounting holes are slotted to get correct in and out adjustment to the keyed worm. After cutting the part and mounting it I decided what to change in the next iteration.   I modified the part to round all the corners so that there are no sharp edges and extended the plate to pick up a second set of holes so the plates are attached with four screws instead of two.   I think this part is perfectly functional so I won’t implement the changes but at least the SketchUp drawing has been updated.

Adding the Auger. Step two of a DIY record.

It may seem like a small bite but step two actually requires some machining and tweaking to get correct.  In this step I am going to add the auger to the pipe assembly I have already built.  To do this I need to support the auger with bearings so the shaft will be cantilevered in the pipe.  The auger should not touch the pipe and needs to be centered in the pipe, at least within a reasonable distance.  To do this I cut some 1 x 2 square tubing and then drilled holes on the Bridgeport using the Digital Readout to measure the distance so that the bearings would fit perfectly.  These particular bearings are an oil impregnated bronze bushing in a pillow block configuration.  The pillow block configuration is aluminum which makes machining the pillow block easy.  Here’s a picture of the key way which I machined into a piece of  1″ cold rolled.  If you have the choice cold rolled is much easier to work with then hot rolled for shafts.  Of course this is really not shaft stock it is round stock but it works just fine and is inexpensive.

Shaft with key way machined and auger ready to weld onto shaft

After welding the auger onto the shaft I do the calculations to center the shaft in the pipe. To make the shaft centered I have to mill some of the pillow block bearing, as you can see in the picture I had to use a circular shim to get the auger centered in the pipe.

End view showing the machine pillow block bearings mounted onto 1 x 2 square tubing

Finally after some adjustment you can see the end result of the auger centered in the feed pipe.

Auger centered in pipe, cantilevered with two pillow block bearings

Auger Feed Rebuilding, Step one a DIY Record

After last winter’s experience,  I  decided to start from scratch on the auger/hopper assembly.  I varied the height several times through different burner designs.  Now it looks  like it was modified once too many times.  The other main reason to rebuild the hopper assembly is the difficulty removing the burner from the boiler because it must stay balanced.  I don’t remember exactly my thoughts at that point, I probably just had two wheels around the shop and was in a hurry.

2011 Hopper and Auger Assembly

2011 Hopper and Auger Assembly

So this fall I am rebuilding the hopper with a different auger drive system, and additional wheels and supports to make it much more robust and simple.  The foundation of  improvement in the new assembly  is the ability to draw the parts in SketchUp as well as cut the parts with the CNC. Here’s a view of the cut out parts.

The parts laid out I call the saddle, angle iron, and side alignment plate.

The parts below are the angle iron plate with the side alignment plate. The angle iron plate is tabbed to fit into the slots of the side alignment plate, this way the parts are self aligning and jigging. Adding strength and ease of assembly. This makes the welding so much easier.

Finally here is the assembly on the welding table ready to weld, note the threaded rod, which also aids in the rigidity and ease of adjustment to make sure all the pieces are square and parallel prior to welding.

Unwelded auger drive weldment ready to be welded

And finally the partially finished welded assembly, this assembly will be the foundation to cantilever the auger in the feed pipe as well as support the auger drive motor and gears.

End view of the welded assembly

The CAD designed parts combined with the CNC, combined with self jigging design for success make a nice finished assembly with light material for cost savings combined with good strength.