New Lathe Day is Best Day

As [Quinn Dunki] rightly points out, modern industrial civilization was probably conceived on the bed of a lathe. Turning is an essential step in building every machine tool, including lathes, and [Quinn] decided it was time to invite one into her shop. But she discovered a dearth of information to guide the lathe newbie through that first purchase, and thus was born the first installment in her series on choosing and using a new lathe.

As for the specifics of the purchase, [Quinn]’s article goes into some depth on the “old US iron” versus “new Asian manufacture” conundrum. Most of us would love an old South Bend or Cincinnati lathe, but it may raise practical questions about space planning, electrical requirements, and how much work is needed to get the old timer working again. In the end, [Quinn] took the path of least resistance and ordered a new lathe of Chinese heritage. She goes into some detail as to what led to that decision, which should help other first-timers too, and provides a complete account of everything from uncrating to first chips.

Nothing beats the advice of a grizzled vet, but there’s a lot to be learned from someone who’s only a few steps ahead of her intended audience. And once she’s got the lathe squared away, we trust she’ll find our tips for buying a mill helpful getting that next big shipment delivered.

“All the best things in life arrive on a pallet.” Have truer words ever been spoken? Sure, when the UPS truck pulls up with your latest Amazon or eBay treasure, it can be exciting. But a lift-gate truck rolling up to the curb? That’s a good day.

Machinist Magic: Gauge Block Wringing

In this age of patent trolls and multi-billion dollar companies that make intellectual property claims on plant genes and photographing objects against a white background, you’d be forgiven for thinking that a patent on a plain steel block would be yet another recent absurdity. But no – [Carl Edvard Johansson] got a patent for his “Gauge Block Sets for Precision Measurement” in 1901. As [AvE] shows us with a video on how gauge blocks can be “wrung” together, there’s more to these little blocks than meets the eye.

Gauge block wringing is probably nothing new to experienced machinists, but for the rest of us, it’s a pretty neat trick. To start the show, [AvE] gives us a little rundown on “Jo blocks” and what they’re good for. Basically, each block is a piece of tool steel or ceramic that’s ground and lapped to a specific length. Available in sets of various lengths, the blocks can be stacked end to end to make up a very precise measuring stick. But blocks aren’t merely placed adjacent to each other – they physically adhere to each other via their lapped surfaces after being wrung together. [AvE] demonstrates the wringing technique and offers a few ideas on how this somewhat mysterious adhesion occurs. It’s pretty fascinating stuff and puts us in the mood to get a gauge block set to try it ourselves.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen [AvE] around Hackaday – last time out he was making carbon foam from a slice of bread. Rest assured his channel has been going strong since then, with his unique blend of laughs and insight into the secret lives of tools. Definitely worth checking out, and still skookum as frig.

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Hackaday Hackerspace Henchmen == Free Stuff for You

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Are you a member of your local Hackerspace? Do you want some free stuff? Then you need to become one of the Hackaday Hackerspace Henchmen.

Hackerspaces are amazing places full of smart people pulling off delightful hacks. But often the outside world doesn’t hear about them. When a member completes a project they show it to the other members, quenching the need to share the awesomeness and ridding them of the drive which normally prompts someone to publish a post about it. We want to see what you’ve been up to at your Hackerspace, and making it public will help in sharing ideas between Hackerspaces. Send us the details and we’ll thank you with some swag in return, and with a few special rewards for the most exception hacks. Keep reading for prize details and how this is all going to work.

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Converting a mill to CNC

For most of the past year, [Joel] has been working on converting a manual mill to a CNC mill with the addition of a computer, brackets and stepper motors. He’s put an amazing amount of effort into his project, and the result is awesome and much less expensive than buying and shipping an old Bridgeport mill.

The project started with this mill from Grizzly. It’s a step above the small ‘hobby mills,’ but still very affordable at $1200 shipped to [Joel]’s driveway. The work began by fabricating an enclosure for the PC and motor drivers out of an electrical panel box. The controller box includes a touch screen, keyboard and computer running Mach3 CNC software. The computer connects to a breakout board with a trio of motor drivers providing power for the stepper motors on each axis.

After a few months (good things take time), [Joel] was ready to attach the stepper motors to the axes of the mill. He’s just put up a few videos of milling copper-clad board for PCBs and surface machining ABS, viewable after the break. For a total investment that is less than finding, buying, and repairing an old industrial mill, we’ll call [Joel]’s project a success.

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They may be for developing countries, but we want a concrete lathe

At the 2009 Ghana Maker Faire, [Pat Delany] met a young carpentry student that saved for three months to buy a cheap Chinese wood plane. He was confounded by this distribution of resources, so [Pat] created the Concrete Lathe project that aims to get useful machine tools out to where they’re needed most.

The idea for concrete machine tools came out of the US involvement in World War I. America had been staunchly isolationist before committing to the war, and production of arms did not match the needed output. A man named L.I. Yeomans came up with the idea of building concrete lathes to produce artillery shells for the war effort.

Of course, the concrete lathe project is a bit more peaceful in its intentions. The concrete lathe is meant to be a cheap machine tool for developing nations. Both the concrete lathe and the Multimachine are meant to be built cheaply using scrap materials, reduce training time for machinists, and create other machine tools in a Reprap-like biological distribution.

There’s a ton of documentation on the concrete lathe wiki like the bed instructions torn from the pages of Ikea instructions, and the thread follower. While they’re still a lot of work and testing to be done, giving some manufacturing capability to those who need it most is a pretty noble cause.

Thanks [Rob] for sending this one in.