CNC Calculator Does What You Can’t

The Hackaday community — and the greater hacker community — can do absolutely anything. Readers of Hackaday regularly pilot spaceships. The transmutation of the elements is a simple science project here, one easily attainable by a high school student. Hackaday readers have solved international crises, climbed Everest, and one day we’re going to have readers accessing Hackaday from an IP address on Mars. There is almost no limit to what our community can do.

This project does the one thing Hackaday readers are utterly incapable of doing. As a cool little bonus, the enclosure for this device is a beautiful work of milled aluminum, anodized in a deep, beautiful black and engraved with exacting precision.

The guts of this build are in essence an Arduino loaded up with some special code that does what no human is capable of doing. Added onto that is a small lithium battery, charging circuit, character display, and a small keypad. There’s really nothing here that can’t be sourced from your favorite AliDXExtremeDeal shop.

The real show here is the beautiful milled aluminum enclosure. This was designed in Fusion360 and milled away on a Tormach CNC loaded up with a slightly worn endmill. The engraving was done with a Lakeshore carbide engraver. The first prototype was finished with a powder coat because that’s the easiest way for someone in a home shop to put a great finish on a milled enclosure. The production versions of this amazing device (available here, although it’s sold out at the time of this writing) are anodized and look fantastic.

If this is the sort of project that appeals to your desire for logic with just a touch of anti-Americanism, be sure to check out the number one most commented post on Hackaday ever. There are a lot of great opinions in the comments section there, even if the topic being discussed is obtuse and weird to the entire Hackaday community.

67 thoughts on “CNC Calculator Does What You Can’t

    1. Multiply by 0.03937? Only if you a) are working with measures referenced prior to 1960, or b) want to be of by about 2 parts per million.


      The actual product uses the correct 25.5mm/inch (since 1960) for both directions.

    2. Yes, it is. But I totally want one. It’s going to be permanently mounted on the side of my machine, and I will no longer have to inevitably hunt down the calculator to do the math, or crud up my phone screen doing it either.

      Yes, my calipers do the math, but not at the push of a button, and only after measuring something (or roughly dialing in the measurement that I want/need), as does my DRO.

      I think it’s an awesome little gizmo that I’m certainly going to get use out of.

      1. The rate of heat transfer that results in the melting of 1 short ton (2,000 lb; 907 kg) of pure ice at 0 °C (32 °F) in 24 hours. A refrigeration ton is approximately equivalent to 12,000 BTU/h or 3.5 kW. \wiki

  1. Fractions in that device might be useful… while you can memorise some like ⅝ = 0.625, it would be a time saver to do arbitrary fractions. Not that I can’t handle them, I can, but converting fractions to a common denominator is an additional arithmetic step that can be avoided if decimal quantities are used.

    Or people could just drop the imperial nonsense and use metric to begin with. ;-) I think the French have a point!

          1. Actually the French have a pretty good historical military record. At least they turned up for WW2 from the beginning, even if they were runners-up in the final.

          1. @ Gareth: You are so wrong! It’s ketchup that has to go on fries to make them edible.
            Why should I smear something containing 80% oil on something that is too fat from the beginning? :-)

      1. Croissants, don’t forget the croissants.

        And mail, and the postcard, and PVC, and pasteurization, and the Cartesian coordinate system. and Fourier analysis and Fourier transform, and blood transfusion, and braille, and binoculars, and the stethoscope, and codeine, and the Incubator, and bicycles and maybe a few more things like antibiotics and the insulin pump and such.

  2. This is pretty neat. I like the fraction assist idea as well. Neat side project.

    So far as units go, just use what you are comfortable with and shut the fuck up. Why do we all have to be the same? Shut up. Just shut up. Go measure something and be happy people will know what you are talking about. Children.

    1. but then brian wouldnt be able to write such sensational articles which continue to fuel the argument rather than have people talk about the merits of the actual hack being reported on.

      Personally i watch NYCNC from time to time not necessarily for the machining but the thought process that goes into a product or running a small business. He does do some cool shop tours as well.

    1. Never bothered me too much that there are two layouts, although I can understand you would want a standard one for computers/calculators.

      I wonder if there are phones with an alternate layout as option, or an app as you say. Would be odd if there still isn’t.

  3. Canadian here…. in the 6th grade (1975) we went through METRIC INDOCTRINATION… literally imagine communist doctrine, except it’s the Metric System…. jeebus there was even a fricking metric system song we had to sing….
    Anyways… Canada – half metric, half imperial…. we sell deli meat by the 100 gram, but go across the street to buy 2×4’s and 1/4″ bolts at the lumber store… I program my thermostat in Fahrenheit but 0° C is freezing….
    Use metric where it’s useful ( CAD – decimals are easier to type ) and Imperial if you want…..
    ( Also still cook by cups and ounces….)

    1. 2×4 is universal. We treat it like lego blocks “two nubs, four nubs, ten nubs long…” and nobody asks how many centimeters is that – except the people who have to fit the cabinets.

      Also, cooking in metric, if you use a conversion ratio of 2 dl per cup (which is intentionally wrong), you can use those handy measuring spoons and your protions turn out 20% smaller, so you get slimmer!

    2. Yeah, but they have to make songs for almost everything for grade schoolers. You wouldn’t say we got “indoctrinated” into conjugating French verbs, or knowing the states and capitals. Maybe we did.

  4. I don’t see how powder coating should be more reachable than anodizing? The latter I have done already. The worst part was melting down some scrap sewer pipe for a lead cathode. :-) The rest is a 12V DC supply, some diluted battery acid, some ice for cooling, some boiling water and some dye. We got the special dye, but I have read that you can use dye for easter eggs.
    While powder coating AFAIK requires a special oven and powder spray.

  5. 0.03937 … seriously?!?! Even more tragic than the project on tap here is are the multiple conversion factors being thrown around as if it’s so difficult to multiply OR divide by the precise figure of 25.4

    1. He didn’t say how many!

      (And for the record, I know one. Although “regular” is a funny phrase, because the probe actually pilots itself most of the time. Human interaction is fairly irregular, but that’s just the nature of the job. Space is big. Like, really really big…)


    Wow, I wonder what it does?

    “This project does the one thing Hackaday readers are utterly incapable of doing.”

    Really?? That’s crazy. What does it do though?

    “…special code that does what no human is capable of doing.”

    OMG WTF does it do?!


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