An All-Billet, Single-Piece, Flexure-Based Nutcracker

Typical nutcrackers rely on simple pin hinges to join two handles for the cracking task. However, [adam the machinist] has demonstrated that a single-piece nutcracker is possible by using the flexural properties of the right grade of steel.

The nutcracker is manufactured out of 17-4 PH stainless steel, heat treated to the H900 condition. A flexural spring section at the top of the nutcracker takes the place of the usual hinge, allowing the handles to be squeezed together and the teeth of the cracker to open the nut. Machining the flexural section is first achieved with a series of CNC drill operations on the billet stock, before regular milling is used to shape the rest of the spring section and tool. The video dives deep into the finer points of the CNC operations that produce such a great finish on the final part. It even covers the use of a tiny scissor jack to help hold the handles still during machining.

The result is a highly attractive and desirable nutcracker that looks far more special than the regular fare you might pick up at Walgreens. The all-billet tool is a nutcracker very much fit for a sci-fi set. We’ve seen some other kitchen tools around here before, too, albeit of more questionable utility.

[Thanks to Sebastian for the tip!]

22 thoughts on “An All-Billet, Single-Piece, Flexure-Based Nutcracker

  1. Is it just me, or is anyone else kinda annoyed by the word billet being used to describe parts machiened from stock? Like the word refers to the shape of the stock, not really anything about the material.

    And once it’s been machiened, it’s no longer billet. It’s machined (insert alloy here). Like “all billet” is about the least descriptive way to refer to what the thing is made from, and it just seems like the word gets thrown arround just for the cool factor by people who don’t have experience in the metalworking world.

    Only reason I bother to say this is that I keep coming accrosss this, a few times in person. It’s kinda silly, but I feel like the word is kinda making rounds in this way, so I might as well say something.

    Like just say:
    “Single piece steel”
    “Solid 17-4 stainless”
    Or just “solid metal” if you want to be vague.
    If you really want to specify the type of stock used, I guess you could say “hot rolled” or “cold rolled” (afik stainless isn’t extruded, aluminum is though).

    1. All that said though, great looking nutcracker. Stainless is hard to machiene, and the feature size on the hinge is small enough that I’m sure it took some thought. As long as you don’t Overstreet that hinge, it should last pretty much indefinitely.

    2. Think it describes the process well enough as it’s used to differentiate machined parts from stamped or cast parts. This comes mostly from automotive I think where machined parts are considered superior to cast or stamped parts due to having better tolerances and generally being made from higher grade materials.

      If you say “solid metal” it could be machined, cast, stamped, bent sheet metal or anything else, all of these result in a single piece of solid metal.

      1. Yeah, in the high end bicycle parts world, “machined from billet” is a big differentiator from “machined from castings” because of the higher strength of rolled material. There were lots of “CNC machined!” parts that were a finishing operation on a cast piece, so “machined from billet” has definite meaning and value.

    3. “Billet” for me means that it was machined from a single original stock piece of material, as opposed to:

      – Fabricated/welded (which “single piece steel” or “solid 17-4 stainless” would still be an accurate description of, since the parts would be fused together)

      – Cast (again, both “single piece” and “solid” would apply) with optional machining

      – Multiple pieces bolted together (which, if the fasteners were still 17-4 stainless, could still be described by some as “solid 17-4 stainless”)

      – Forged, with optional machining

      With “billet” it means the grain’s all going to be running in the same direction, it comes from a single piece of stock, and the starting material is something that’s almost certainly available off-the-shelf. It’s a piece of stock which could theoretically be purchased and be machined by anyone with a suitable machine shop without requiring any other processes. So at least to me, it does clarify things.

    4. Geeze, I’ll bet you don’t remember the 90’s/2000’s automotive aftermarket then. EVERYTHING was advertised as “Billet Aluminium” something or another, for some awful reason.

      1. The reason was that it wasn’t cast aluminum with a skim cut by a cnc mill.
        It was in fact better, as measured by specific strength, than the cheap and easy fabrication method that produced a similar looking product.
        When machine shops coming out of the end of the cold war needed extra work they started using their machines to mill out consumer products, and their competition was castings. Once the high end market was established as profitable, bigger companies with presses moved in with die forgings, which are both cheaper and have even higher specific strength than billet-machined, and the easy “machined from billet” market evaporated, as well as all the excess cnc machinery wearing out and not being replaced as the machining market responded to the slowdown.

    5. “100% Billet” originally used to fleece the guys who really like to put brightly anodized EVERYTHING in their engine compartment, starting with the radiator cap.. because saying anodized aluminum is too pretentious (see also “Nookyaler”) and obviously that dipstick handle couldn’t be made out of the same thing as a can of Budweiser, just saying.

  2. The nutcracker has already been perfected.
    Look up the 40s-patented ‘Crackerjack’.
    Ratchet, compact, breaks all nuts cleanly without effort.
    Found one in a charity shop and now don’t understand why they’re not the completely standard form over all the other useless/fiddly/weak forms.
    Flexible joints may be clever, but don’t improve the actual tool.

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