Machining A Skeleton Clock In 10,000 Easy Steps

Another day, another interesting YouTube channel. [Chris]’ Clickspring channel and blog is something you don’t really see much these days: machining parts with a lathe, a mill, and no CNC. The project [Chris] is working on now is a clock based on a design by [John Wilding]. It’s very large, and all the parts are constructed out of raw brass and steel stock.

Of course making a clock isn’t just about cutting out some parts on a lathe and turning them on a mill. No, you’re going to need to make the parts to make those parts. [Chris] has already made a tailstock die holder for his lathe, a clamping tool to drill holes in rods, and a beautiful lathe carrier to hold small parts.

All of this is top-notch work, with custom tin lapping tools to put a mirror finish on the parts, and far more effort than should be necessary going into absolute perfection. The clock project is turning out great, although there are several more months until it will tick its first second.

Selected videos below.

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Machining A Yo-Yo With Speed Holes

A while ago, [Gord] received a notice from his daughter’s school looking for silent auction donations for a fundraiser. It’s pretty much a bake sale, only [Gord] gets to build something. He has a pretty nice machine shop, and eventually settled on building a pair of beautiful vacillating vertical pendulums. They’re yo-yos, in case you were wondering what that meant.

Each half is cut out of a 2.5″, with both sides of each half faced off and tapped. From there, eighteen speed holes shave off 22 grams of weight. The sides of the yo-yo are shaved down to a thickness of half an inch, a 14° bevel is put on each face, the edges are chamfered at 30°, and everything is polished up.

Sending a bare metal yo-yo to a raffle is apparently a little uncouth, so [Gord] anodized each half of the yo-yos in a bath of sulfuric acid, then applied dye to the surface. With everything assembled, a fancy glass and metal case was constructed and a certificate of authenticity printed out. It’s a brilliant final touch to a great project, we just wish we knew how the yo-yo performed.

Thanks [Chris] for sending this in.

Excuse me, Sir. Do you know how fast your Lathe was traveling back there?

When machining metal, it is important to know how fast the cutting tool is traveling in relation to the surface of the part being machined. This amount is called the ‘Surface Speed’. There are Surface Speed standards for cutting different types of materials and it is good practice to stick with those standards in order to end up with a good surface finish as well as maximizing tool life. On a lathe, for example, having a known target Surface Speed in mind as well as a part finish diameter, it is possible to calculate the necessary spindle speed.

Hobbyist [Paul] wanted a method of measuring his lathe’s spindle speed. Since spindle speed is measured in RPM, it made complete sense to install a tachometer. After browsing eBay for a bit he found one for about $20. His purchase came with the numeric LED display, a mounting bezel and the all important hall effect sensor. The Hall effect sensor measures changes in a magnetic field and in turn varies its output voltage. [Paul] fabbed up an aluminum bracket that supports the sensor just off of the rear of the lathe spindle. A magnet was then glued to the outside diameter of the spindle below the sensor. The once per revolution signal is generated every time the magnet passes the sensor while the lathe is running. The display was mounted to the lathe near eye height by means of another aluminum bracket and case.

After a little work, [Paul] can now keep a close eye on his spindle speed with a quick glance over at his new tachometer display while he’s turning those perfect parts! If this project tickles your fancy, you may want to check out this fantastic DIY tachometer or this one that uses a soundcard.

Adding a Steady Rest to a Lathe

A steady rest is a tool for a lathe, enabling a machinist to make deep cuts in long, slender stock, bore out thin pieces of metal, and generally keeps thin stuff straight. Unlike a tool that follows the cutter, a steady rest is firmly attached to the bed of a lathe. [Josh]’s lathe didn’t come with a steady rest, and he can’t just get parts for it. No problem, then: he already has a lathe, mill, and some metal, so why not make the base for one from scratch?

[Josh] was able to find the actual steady rest from an online dealer, but it wasn’t made for his lathe. This presented a problem when attaching it to his machine: because each steady rest must fit into the bed of the lathe, he would need a custom bracket. With the help of a rather large mill, [Josh] faced off all the sides of a piece of steel and cut a 45 degree groove. To make this base level, [Josh] put one side of the base on the lathe, put a dial micrometer on the tool post, and got an accurate reading of how much metal to take off the uncut side.

With the steady rest bolted onto the lathe, [Josh] turned a rod and found he was off by about 0.002″. To machinists, that’s not great, but for a quick project it’s fantastic. Either way, [Josh] really needed a steady rest, and if it works, you really can’t complain.

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Hand-Machined Companion Cube Can Be Destroyed and Rebuilt

[Michael Gainer] is a big fan of Portal, and it shows in the Weighted Companion Cube he made. [Michael] hand-machined the many pieces that comprise the Cube’s body and medallions out of 6061 aluminum. Dykem was used to transfer the marks for accurate machining, and the color is powder-coated to a heat tolerance of 400F. A CNC was used to make the distinctive hearts. [Michael] notes the irony was “very Portal” in having them cut by a heartless machine when everything else was done manually. The attention to detail is striking, the level of design more so when [Michael] proceeds to incinerate the poor Companion Cube with a brush burner. In the video shown at the link above, the Cube falls apart as the glue holding it together melts. When all is said and done, just grab more glue to bring that Cube back to its six-sided glory. Repeat to your heart’s content. Huge success! We have to be honest, after seeing all those pieces, we aren’t sure we’d want to do this very often. Companion Cubes have been featured in various iterations on Hackaday before, but they were never built with the idea of repeatedly destroying and rebuilding them. This novel take would make GlaDOS proud.

[Michael] has plans to put an Android device inside it with some light and temperature sensors. He wants to give it a voice resembling Portal’s turrets so it can whine when it needs to be charged or scream when it’s too hot or cold. He dubs this next project the “Overly Attached Weighted Companion Cube.” It wouldn’t be a good idea to incinerate this upcoming version, though we’d probably be inclined to if it demanded so much of our attention!


[Peter] and the Amazing Technicolor Phone Wire Bracelet

When a job left him with some extra phone wire, [Peter] didn’t toss it in the scrap pile. He broke out the casting resin and made an awesome bracelet (Imgur link). [Peter] is becoming quite an accomplished jeweler! When we last checked in on him, he was making rings out of colored pencils.

Casting the wire in resin was as simple as building a square form, placing the wires, then filling the form with appropriate amounts of epoxy and hardener. Once the epoxy cured, [Peter] drilled out the center with a sharp Forstner bit. A band saw brought the corners of the block closer to a cylinder.

From there it was over to the lathe, where [Peter] used a jam chuck to hold the bracelet in place. Once he shaped the bracelet [Peter] started wet sanding. It took Lots and lots of sanding both inside and out to finish the bracelet. The result is a mirror smooth finish, with bits of insulation bright copper just popping out of the resin.

One might think that the bracelet would be rough with all that copper, but [Peter] mentions on his Reddit Thread that it feels like plastic, though the bits of copper were “very pokey” before sanding. We’d recommend tossing on a clear coating to protect the exposed copper. Worn on a wrist, all that exposed metal would start oxidizing in no time.

This hack gives us lots of ideas for casting wearable circuits. Some WS2812’s and a teensy would make for a pretty flashy setup! Got an idea for a project? Tell us about in the comments, or post it up on!

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Digital Caliper Sacrificed For DRO Project

In general, machining metal on a lathe or mill takes skill and patience as the accuracy of the cuts are important. To make those accurate cuts, it is important to know where the tool is located and how far it moves. For manual machines, the most basic method of determining position is by using graduated dials mounted on the hand cranks. Although these graduated dials can certainly be accurate, they may be difficult to see and they also require the operator to do math in their head on the fly with every full revolution of the dial. Another option would be a digital read out (DRO) which has an encoder mounted to the moving axes of the machine. This setup displays the exact position of the tool on an easy to read numeric display.

Professional DRO kits for mills and lathes can cost between a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.  [Robert] has a lathe, wanted a DRO but didn’t want to shell out serious cash to get it. He built his own for super cheap in an extremely resourceful way…. using a Harbor Freight Digital Caliper. A housing was first fabricated so that the added equipment would not hinder the axis travel of the lathe. The caliper was then cut to length, installed in the housing and the entire assembly was then mounted to the lathe.

DIY Lathe DROIt is totally reasonable to use the stock caliper display to read the positional information, however, even these cheap digital calipers have connections for the encoder output data, which can easily be read by a microcontroller. That means it is super simple to hook these low-cost digital calipers up to a display remotely located in a more convenient position.