A New Old Lathe for your Hackerspace or 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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DIY Pellet Fed Boiler is Hot Stuff

pelletburner

[Firewalker] has designed a great pellet burning boiler (translated). Wood and biomass pellets have gained popularity over the last few years. While freestanding stoves are the most popular method of burning the pellets, [Firewalker] went a different route. He’s converted a boiler from what we assume was oil to pellet power. An Arduino controls the show, but don’t hold it against him. [Firewalker] is just using the Arduino as an AVR carrier board.The software is all written in C using AVR studio. The controller’s user interface is pretty simple. A two-line character based LCD provides status information, while input is via buttons. Once the system is all set up, thermostats are the final human/machine interface.

Burning pellets requires a bit of prep. A cleanup of the burn chamber must be performed before each burn. The AVR is programmed to handle this. Once the chamber is clean, new pellets are fed in via an auger system. The burner is monitored with a standard flame sensor. When the fire is up the pellets feed in until the boiler gets up to temp. Then the system enters a standby mode where it feeds in just enough pellets to maintain the flame. When the thermostats stop calling for heat, the whole system shuts down, ready for the next burn.

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Automata and wooden gears

mechanism

While most animated machines we deal with every day – everything from clocks to cars to computers – are made of metal, there is an art to creating automated objects out of wood. [Dug North] is a creator of such inventions, making automata out of wooden gears, cogs, and cams.

[Dug]’s inventions are simple compared to turbine engines, but they still retain an artistry all their own. With just simple woodworking tools, he’s able to creating moving vignettes of everyday scenes, everything from a dog barking at a bird, to Santa Claus gracefully soaring over a house on Christmas Eve.

Below, you’ll find a video of [Dug]’s creation, ‘An Unwelcome Dinner Guest’ – an automated dog barking at a wooden bird. There’s also a video of him being interviewed by the awesome people at Tested last year at the World Maker Faire.

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[Frank] builds a chair from a sequoia

chair[Frank Howarth] is a very competent woodworker known on the YouTubes for his wonderful stop-motion videos of turned wood bowls. Lately, though, he’s put some effort into building furniture, this time a beautiful lawn chair made from a gigantic sequoia log.

A few years ago, [Frank] and a friend acquired a gigantic sequoia log and milled it themselves with a chainsaw. After two summers, the huge boards were finally dry enough to be used and [Frank] decided a lawn chair would be a fine project.

The sides of the chair are a single monolithic piece of wood. Of course [Frank] needed to cut the sides in half and join them together again for the decorative holes, but it’s still an impressively solid piece of woodworking. The back and seat of the chair are also made out of the same sequoia board, cut into slats held together with three very large dowel rods.

This project probably wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the awesome equipment and tools [Frank] has in his shop. He has a great tour of his shop available for your viewing. We should all be so lucky.

Foot-powered lathe is a tour de force of joinery techniques

foot-powered-lathe

Meet [Quetico Chris]. He’s a master woodworker who likes to find his own alternatives to using power tools. Most recently, he was inspired by a fly-wheel from an old factory. He used it to build this foot powered wood lathe.

It works something like a foot powered sewing machine. There’s a lever for your foot which converts the downward force from your foot into a rotating force which drives the work piece. The mechanics of the lathe are pretty common, but we think the build techniques he uses are anything but. The video after the break shows each step [Chris] went through when crafting the human-power tool. His approach was to use wood as often as possible which includes foregoing modern fasteners for older joinery. He uses mortise and tenon, wood pinning, doweling, and a lot of puzzle-like tricks to get the job done.

We lack the skill and tools to replicate this kind of craftsmanship. We’re going to stick to letting a laser cutter form our wood connections.

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Recurve bow make from wood and skis

bow-made-from-ski

A little face protection is a great idea when first testing out your homemade bow. [Austin Karls] made this recurve bow during what he calls an engineer’s Spring break.

He settled on the idea after seeing a few other projects like it on Reddit. After first drawing up a plan he headed down to the shop to cut out the wooden riser (the middle part of a bow). Unlike traditional recurve bows this is made up of three parts. Traditionally you would laminate different types of wood to achieve the flexibility and tension levels desired. But [Austin] went with a synthetic material: the tips of two skis. Each were cut to the final length and affixed to the riser with a pair of bolts.

After a few test shots he gained confidence in the design and did away with the face mask. Now if you’re in the market to take your existing bow and add some firepower to it you’ll want to look in on this shotgun enhanced compound bow.

[Thanks Schuyler]

Wooden teeth for your USB keyboard

wooden-keyboard

We just got an ergonomic keyboard for the first time and absolutely love it. But the look of this keyboard hack has us second guessing ourselves. [Will Pretend] pulled off an absolutely stunning wooden retrofit for his USB keyboard. Be warned, his project log includes 175 photos, and most of them have captions.

He started off by taking apart the original USB keyboard to see what he was working with. Before digging in to the valuable wood stock he cut test pieces using some thin MDF. But once he had a clear plan to get to the end of the project it was full stem ahead.

The keys are not simple Chicklet style overlays, they have depth like you would expect to find on low-grade plastic peripherals. This was accomplished by milling each key, then sending them through the laser cutter to each the letter on top.

Take some time to make your way through the entire project (here’s a thumbnail layout if you get frustrated). Unfortunately [Will] says he doesn’t actually use the keyboard because of grains catching and the keys move around a bit too much. But it does work.