Machine Tool Build is Anything But Boring

“So just like every other great story in history, ours is going to start at the lathe.” Truer words were never spoken, and thus begins the saga of turning a bar of chrome-moly steel into a shop-built boring head.

You may have a few questions regarding [ThisOldTony]’s effort. First, unless you’re familiar with machine tooling, you may wonder what exactly a boring head is. The video below makes it plain, but the short answer is that it’s a tool to make holes. A boring head spins a boring bar with a cutting tool, and the head can be offset to spin the bar through an adjustable diameter. They’re great for making large holes of precise diameters – skip to around 25:30 to see it in action.

The other question might be: why does he spend so much time and effort building something he can just buy off the shelf? If you have to ask that question, we think you may be missing the point. [Tony] seems mainly interested in building tools; using them to make non-tool things is merely a happy accident. We totally respect that, and besides, just look at the quality of the tool he makes. We find his videos very entertaining, too – he’s got a great sense of humor and the video production quality is top-notch. Just watch out for banana peels and space-time continuum issues.

We love tools, and we really love tools that are custom made with this level of craftsmanship. For more quality toolmaking, check out this guitar-fretting jig or this belt grinder.

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CNC Drag Knife Upgrade with Off-the-Shelf Blades

Drag Knives seem to be the overshadowed awkward kid on the playground of CNC equipment, but they have a definitive niche making stencils, vinyl stickers, and paper cuts. Unfortunately, the drag knife blades for CNC routers are pricey — over $100 for a single blade. [Brian] at the Grunblau Design Studio took the price point as a challenge to build his own end-effector. A few iterations later, he’s created his very own drag knife blade tool that accepts replaceable steel blades for cutting.

From constraint-driven concept, to a 3D printed proof-of-concept, to a fully machined aluminum prototype, [Brian’s] efforts hit all the highlights of a well-engineered project. At the end of the day, dull blades can be swapped for a few dollars, rather than shelling out another $150 for the off-the-shelf variant. We’ve seen bootstrapped CNC vinyl cutters before, but nothing that takes an original re-envisioning of the tool itself.

Trash Can CNC Gets a Stepper Upgrade

[HomoFaciens] is back at the bench again and working on improvements to his cheap and simple CNC machine.

The video below will no doubt remind you about previous versions of [HomoFaciens]’ CNC builds, which we’ve covered in depth. With an eye to spending as little as possible on his builds, most parts are recovered from e-waste, with a fair amount of Dumpster diving thrown in. For this upgrade, the salvaged brushed DC motors with their signature gap-toothed encoder disks are replaced with genuine bipolar steppers. The primary intention of his build is to learn (and teach) as much as possible, so he spends a good amount of time going over steppers and their control – how to determine phase wiring, how to wire up the not-salvaged-but-still-cheap drivers, directional control, and half-stepping. The mechanics are decidedly dodgy, but there are clever expedients aplenty – we especially like the oil cup fabricated from a brass tube and a bolt with a hole drilled in it. Everything just works, and the results to expense ratio is hard to beat.

While we appreciate the upgrades here, we’re still keen to see how junky his other trash can CNC can get. And we’re still waiting on the paper clip and cardboard challenge.

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Garbage can CNC Machine Build

Forget sourcing parts for your next project from some fancy neighborhood hardware store. If you really want to show your hacker chops, be like [HomoFaciens] and try a Dumpster dive for parts for a CNC machine build.

OK, we exaggerate a little – but only a little. Apart from the control electronics, almost everything in [HomoFacien]’s build could be found by the curb on bulk-waste pickup day. Particle board from a cast-off piece of flat-pack furniture, motors and gears from an old printer, and bits of steel strapping are all that’s needed for the frame of a serviceable CNC machine. This machine is even junkier than [HomoFacien]’s earlier build, which had a lot more store-bought parts. But the videos below show pretty impressive performance nonetheless.

Sure, this is a giant leap backwards for the state of the art in DIY CNC builds. but that’s the point – to show what can be accomplished with almost nothing, and that imagination and perseverance are more important for acceptable results than an expensive BOM.

With that in mind, we’re throwing down the gauntlet: can anyone build a CNC machine from cardboard and paperclips?

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Frank Makes A CNC Table

[Frank Howarth] is one of the big guns when it comes to woodworking on YouTube, and now he’s doing something completely unlike his other builds. He’s building a gigantic CNC machine. Yes, we’ve seen dozens of CNC router builds, but this one adds a few nifty features we’ve never seen before.

The plans for [Frank]’s CNC machine call for a 4 foot by 8 foot table, over which a router on a gantry gnaws away at wood. This is the standard size for shop-sized CNC router, but [Frank] is adding in his own twist: he’s building a 12 foot long table, by way of a four foot extension. This one small addition allows [Frank] to put tenons in tree trunks, engravings on the side of furniture, or just to make one part of a very large piece flat.

Right now, the build is just about the base, constructed out of 2″ square steel tube. While the welding is by all accounts an amateur job, everything is square, straight, and true. Now, with a metal base scooting around on hockey puck feet, [Frank] is ready to start on the robotic part of the build, something we’re all interested to see.

It’s going to be really big, but still not the biggest.

Hardware Store CNC Machine is Remarkably Precise

A vise, a hacksaw and file, some wrenches – the fanciest tools [HomoFaciens] uses while building his DIY hardware store CNC machine (YouTube link) are a drill press and some taps. And the bill of materials for this surprisingly precise build is similarly modest: the X- and Y-axes ride on cheap bearings that roll on steel tube stock and aluminum angles; drives are threaded rods with homemade encoders and powered by small brushed DC gear motors; and the base plate appears to be a scrap of ping-pong table. The whole thing is controlled by an Arduino and four H-bridges.

The first accuracy tests using a ball point pen for tooling are quite impressive. [HomoFaciens] was able to draw concentric circles eyeball-accurate to within a few tenths of a millimeter, and was able to show good repeatability in returning to a point from both directions on both the X- and Y-axis. After the pen tests, he shows off a couple of other hardware store tooling options for the Z-axis – a Proxxon rotary tool with a burr for engraving glass; a soldering iron for cutting styrofoam; and a mini-router that works well enough to cut some acrylic gears.

We’re impressed by this build, which demonstrates that you don’t need a fancy shop to build a CNC machine. If you’re getting the itch to jump into the shallow end of the CNC pool, check out some of the builds we’ve featured before, like this PVC CNC machine, or this $250 build.

[Thanks, ThunderSqueak]

DIY MDF CNC Machine Is Small And Solid

In the world of hobby-level CNC cost and simplicity are usually the name of the game. Using inexpensive and easily found materials makes a big difference in the feasibility of a project. [FreeRider] had built a CNC router before but it was big, flexible and not as accurate as he wanted. He set off to design his own table top router, influenced from other designs found on the ‘net, but also keeping the costs down and ease of build up.

The machine frame is made from 3/4″ MDF and was cut on [FreeRider’s] first router, the JGRO. Notice how all the holes are counterbored for the many bolt heads. It is clear that much attention to detail went into the design of this machine. Aluminum angle act as linear rails on which v-wheel bearings travel. Skate bearings support 5/16″ threaded rod used as lead screws. Lead nuts are tapped HDPE blocks and seem to be doing a satisfactory job with minimal backlash.

[FreeRider] says his new machine is capable of 60 inches per minute travel, double that of his old machine. Since the new machine is stiffer, he’s able to route aluminum and has successfully made some brackets out of 1/8″ plate. He reports the dimensional accurate to be about 0.002-0.003 inches. For more inexpensive MDF-based CNC machines, check out this drawer slide bearing one or this one that uses a drill for a spindle.