LittleBits Little Lathe

LittleBits Lathe

Do you need a practical, useful and fun project for a young hacker who is under your wing? How about letting them get a bit of electronics experience snapping together a LittleBits little lathe to customize their crayons. Truthfully, this isn’t much of an electronics hack, but it does make fun use of a LittleBits motor module and all those old crayons you might have lying around. You could make this a weekend project to share with the kids, plus you never know what will spark that first interest in a young engineer.

If you’re unfamiliar with LittleBits, they are small electronic modules that magnetically snap together to build larger circuits. The modules are color-coded by functionality with non-reversible magnetic connectors to help the little ones understand how to connect and integrate the modules. These LittleBits kits are great for the young beginner in electronics or just for fun at any age. Individually, the modules are quite expensive, but the parts are well worth the price because children will find the system intuitive to use and the modules are robust in the hands of careless kids. A more cost-effective purchase would be one of the kits from Adafruit.com.

In this Instructable, [maxnoble440] demonstrates the little lathe turning a crayon using a variety of tools from the very sharp to the “safe for all ages.” The geared LittleBits motor turns slowly and appears to have enough torque to carve crayons—and possibly clay—packed around a small dowel. To build this project you will need a “little bit” of wood-crafting skill to construct the mini-lathe bed. All the instructions are available in the Instructable as well as a short video, which you can watch after the break below.

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A New Old Lathe for your Hackerspace or Garage

lathe-in-garage

3D printers, or even small CNC routers may seem like relatively easy machine tools to obtain for your hackerspace or garage. They are both very useful, but at some point you may want to start working with round parts (or convert square-ish items into round parts). For this, there is no better tool than a lathe. You can buy a small and relatively cheap lathe off of any number of distributors, but what if you were to get a good deal on a larger lathe? Where would you even start?

In my case, I was offered a lathe by a shop that no longer had a use for it. Weighing in at 800 pounds and using 3 phase power, this South Bend Lathe might have been obtained economically, but getting it running in my garage seemed like it would be a real challenge. It definitely was, but there are a few mistakes that I’ve made that hopefully you can avoid.

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Learn machining from an old school metal master

Keith Fenner

In the depths of YouTube there are still some jewels to be found. [Keith Fenner] is one of them. [Keith] owns Turn Wright Machine Works in Cape Cod, MA. From his small shop, He works on everything from sailboats to heavy equipment.

[Keith] describes himself as “An artist, and a jobber, 36 years in the trade”. We think he could add teacher to that list, as we’ve learned quite a bit about machining from his Youtube channel.

One of the interesting things about [Keith] is his delivery on camera. He makes the viewer feel like an apprentice machinist working alongside him. Rather than carefully setup shots with graphics, [Keith] narrates as he works paying jobs. He also has no problem showing us his mistakes - and recovery from them, as well as his victories.

The main tools at Turn Wright are the lathe and mill, but [Keith] isn’t old fashioned by any means. He has a complete PlasmaCAM setup and isn’t afraid to do a little computer work.

Most of [Keith's] projects are broken up into several videos. One of our favorites is “So you broke it off in your hole”. In this series [Keith] shows what it takes to get a broken screw extractor (or EZ Out) out of a large diesel turbo. Get a feeling for what [Keith] has to offer with his “Day in the LIfe” video after the break.

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3D Printering: The Combo Machines Cometh

There’s only so many ways to squeeze hot plastic out of a nozzle, and eventually witnessing the explosion of 3D printer designs over the past few years gets just a little repetitive. What then, is someone who dreams of a technological utopia, Star Trek replicators, and making a few bucks off a Kickstarter to do?

The answer, of course, is a combo machine. Where the Repraps, Makerbots, and the very high-end Stereolithography machines can only do additive manufacturing by laying down plastic or resin layer by layer, these combo machines can also remove material, be it plastic, wood, or metals such as brass or aluminum.

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Replacing knurled thumb screws

Screw

[Pete] bought himself an old South Bend lathe, but unfortunately some of the thumb screws were missing from this fine old machine. Originally, the lathe had knurled thumbscrews, and with a thumbscrew from Ace hardware the lathe itself was functional, but by no means looking its best. With a lathe you can make just about anything, so [Pete] decided he would make his own knurled thumbscrews and bring this lathe back to life.

Knurling is a diamond or linear pattern of indentations usually found on fancy metal knobs, flashlights, and other equipment that needs a good grip. While there are knurling tools for lathes, [Pete] decided to use his knurlmaster – a handheld device that looks like a pipe cutter – to cut a few knurls into a steel bar.

As for making this knurled bar into a proper thumbscrew, [Pete] shows us two methods: the first is tapping the knurled steel, putting in the right screw for the job, and securing the parts with Loctite. The second method involves cutting the threads on the lathe, an excellent example of how a lathe can make just about anything, even parts for itself.

Putting two years into one bowl

bowl

 

Over the last few months, [Frank Howarth] has been putting a lot of effort into a gigantic sequoia log he started milling two years ago. He recently completed a wonderful chair, but in the years these gigantic blocks of lumber have been sitting around, he’s always had one project in the back of his mind: a giant wooden bowl made from this sequoia log.

The wood for this bowl came from a relatively small cutoff from the original sequoia log. [Frank] had initially cut this cutoff into a circle to let it dry for an eventual run on a lathe. The bowl blank was so big, though, that he needed to create a jig to trim off most of the excess and keep from wasting many hours with a gouge.

With a bowl this large – about 20 inches across – simply screwing it onto the lathe wasn’t an option. [Frank] had to construct a jig for his chuck, capable of holding the bowl by the rim so he could shape the bottom.

The end product, coated with linseed oil and beeswax, is a work of art. Making anything this size on a lathe takes a lot of skill, and we’re thankful for [Frank] sharing it with us.

Incredible bow lathe work in Morocco

Bow lathes are a fairly old an simple contraption. A bow is used to rotate a block of wood back and forth while tools can be used to shape it, just like a modern lathe. Despite the fact that the wood is oscillating instead of spinning in one direction, the results are very smooth.

Watch as this street vendor shows his skills with the bow lathe. I find it quite impressive how well he uses his foot. You can tell he’s been doing this for a very long time. I was also pleasantly surprised when that ring popped free, I wasn’t expecting it.

[thanks Rudolph]