Cast Aluminium Becomes A Machine Tool

Shaper tools were, at one time, a necessary tool for any machine shop. With a shaper and a lathe, you can rebuild or manufacture almost anything. At the very least, you can make the tool to manufacture anything. For the last few months, [Makercise] has been working on building his own homemade shaper, and now it’s making chips. (YouTube, also embedded below.)

First off, what exactly is a metal shaper? It’s not commonly seen in machine shops these days, but at the turn of the last century, these were popular and practical machines to cut keyways into a piece of stock. Effectively, it’s kind of like a jigsaw, in that it cuts with a reciprocating action and is able to plane the entire surface of a metal plate. Today, if you want to surface a piece of stock, you would just throw it onto the Bridgeport, but there are still some use cases for a metal shaper.

The design of this shaper comes directly from the Gingery series of books, the famous series of books that are step-by-step instructions on how to build a machine shop starting from the technology of rubbing two sticks together. [Makercise] has built one of these machines before, the metal lathe, and the second in the Gingery series of books after a foundry, and the next book is instructions on how to build a mill.

Sure, [Makercise] is using modern tools and modern techniques to build this shaper. There’s a CNC machine involved, and nobody is going to Greenland to make aluminum anymore. Still, this is a flat piece of metal made from scratch, an a great example of how far you can take home machining in a post-apocalyptic scenario.

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A USB -C Soldering Iron For Weller Tips

There was a time when a decent temperature controlled soldering iron took the form of the iron itself and a box of electronics, but now it’s just as likely to be a miniaturised affair with the temperature controller built into a slim and lightweight handle. Irons such as the Miniware TS series have become firm favourites, displacing a traditional soldering station for many.

[Thomas.lepi] has combined the best of both worlds, with a TS-style microprocessor-driven handle driving the familiar Weller RT elements. Its interface is very simple, but through its USB power socket a serial port provides opportunities for adjustment. Providing control is an STM32F042G6U6 ARM Cortex M0 microcontroller, with USB power control coming from an STUSB4500QTR .

If you are used to irons such as the Miniware TS100 then this one with its smartly 3D-printed case will be very straightforward to use. Whether or not the ready availability of the TS100 or its USB-C sibling would remove the need to build this iron is up to you, but then again that’s hardly the point. The Weller tips are some of the better ones of their type, so perhaps that might make this project worth a second look.

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Byte Sized Pieces Help The KiCad Go Down

It’s no surprise that we here at Hackaday are big fans of Fritzing KiCad. But to a beginner (or a seasoned veteran!) the learning curve can be cliff-like in its severity. In 2016 we published a piece linking to project by friend-of-the-Hackaday [Chris Gammell] called Contextual Electronics, his project to produce formalized KiCad training. Since then the premier “Getting to Blinky” video series has become an easy recommendation for anyone looking to get started with Libre EDA. After a bit of a hiatus [Chris] is back with bite sized videos exploring every corner of the KiCad-o-verse.

A Happy [Chris] comes free with every video
The original Getting to Blinky series is a set of 10 videos up to 30 minutes long that walks through everything from setting up the the KiCad interface through soldering together some perfect purple PCBs. They’re exhaustive in coverage and a great learning resource, but it’s mentally and logistically difficult to sit down and watch hours of content. Lately [Chris] has taken a new tack by producing shorter 5 to 10 minute snapshots of individual KiCad features and capabilities. We’ve enjoyed the ensuing wave of learning in our Youtube recommendations ever since!

Selecting traces to rip up

Some of the videos seem simple but are extremely useful. Like this one on finding those final disconnected connections in the ratsnest. Not quite coverage of a major new feature, but a topic near and dear to any layout engineer’s heart. Here’s another great tip about pulling reference images into your schematics to make life easier. A fantastic wrapped up in a tidy three minute video. How many ways do you think you can move parts and measure distances in the layout editor? Chris covers a bunch we hadn’t seen before, even after years using KiCad! We learned just as much in his coverage of how to rip up routed tracks. You get the idea.

We could summarize the Youtube channel, but we aren’t paid by the character. Head on down to the channel and find something to learn. Make sure to send [Chris] tips on content you want him to produce!

Benchtop Lathe Gets An Electronic Leadscrew Makeover

The king of machine tools is the lathe, and if the king has a heart, it’s probably the leadscrew. That’s the bit that allows threading operations, arguably the most important job a lathe can tackle. It’s a simple concept, really – the leadscrew is mechanically linked through gears to the spindle so that the cutting tool moves along the long axis of the workpiece as it rotates, allowing it to cut threads of the desired pitch.

But what’s simple in concept can be complicated in reality. As [Clough42] points out, most lathes couple the lead screw to the spindle drive through a complex series of gears that need to be swapped in and out to accommodate different thread pitches, and makes going from imperial to metric a whole ball of wax by itself. So he set about building an electronic leadscrew for his lathe. The idea is to forgo the gear train and drive the leadscrew directly with a high-quality stepper motor. That sounds easy enough, but bear in mind that the translation of the tool needs to be perfectly synchronized with the rotation of the spindle to make threading possible. That will be accomplished with an industrial-grade quadrature encoder coupled to the spindle, which will tell software running on a TI LaunchPad how fast to turn the stepper – and in which direction, to control thread handedness. The video below has some great detail on real-time operating systems on microcontrollers as well as tests on all the hardware to be used.

This is only a proof of concept at this point, but we’re looking forward to the rest of this series. In the meantime, [Quinn Dunki]’s excellent series on choosing a lathe should keep you going.

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This Air Compressor Sucks

Vacuum is something most people learn about as children, when they’re first tasked with chores around the home. The humble vacuum cleaner is a useful home appliance and a great way to lose an eye as an inquisitive child. When it comes to common workshop tasks though, they can be a bit of a let down. When you need to pull some serious vacuum, you might wanna turn to something a little more serious – like this converted air compressor.

The build starts with a cheap off-the-shelf tyre inflator. These can be had for under $20 from the right places. They’re prone to overheating if used at too high a duty cycle, but with care they can last just long enough to be useful. The hack consists of fitting a hose barb connection over the intake of the pump, to allow air to be sucked out of whatever you’re trying to pull vacuum on. This is achieved with some hardware store parts and a healthy dose of JB-Weld. It’s then a simple matter of removing the valve adapter on the tyre inflator’s outlet so it can flow freely.

You might also consider adding a check valve, but overall this remains a cheap and easy way to get an electric vacuum pump for your workshop up and running. If that’s not quite your jam, you can always go down the handpump route instead.

Casting CNC Parts In Aluminium

When it comes to machining, particularly in metal, rigidity is everything. [Tailortech] had a homebuilt CNC machine with a spindle held in place by a plastic bracket. This just wasn’t up to the job, so the decision was made to cast a replacement.

[Tailortech] decided to use the lost PLA process – a popular choice amongst the maker crowd. The spindle holder was first sketched out, then modeled in Fusion 3D 360. This was then printed in PLA slightly oversized to account for shrinkage in the casting process.

The PLA part was then used to make a plaster mold. [Tailortech] explains the process, and how to avoid common pitfalls that can lead to problems. It’s important to properly heat the mold once the plaster has set to remove moisture, but care must be taken to avoid cracking or wall calcination. It’s then necessary to slowly heat the mold to even higher temperatures to melt out the PLA prior to casting. With the mold completed, it can be filled with molten aluminium to produce the final part. When it’s cooled off, it’s then machined to final tolerances and installed on the machine.

Lost PLA casting is a versatile process, and goes to show that not everything has to be CNC machined out of billet to do the job. It’s also readily accessible to any maker with a furnace and a 3D printer. If you’ve got a casting project of your own, be sure to let us know. Video after the break.

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Only 90s Kids Want Heelys Made From Pallet Wood

The kids are simply cooler than you. While you’re walking around using your feet like an animal, kids have shoes with wheels in their heels. These are called Heelys, and here’s how you make wooden clogs, with wheels in the heels, out of pallet wood. If you have to ask why, you’ll never know.

This build started off with a fairly large maple log, which would be the traditional way to build clogs. After taking this log to the bandsaw and looking inside, [Jackman] found a bit of spalting, or arguably aesthetically pleasing fungal growth. Whether the spalting would look good or not is a matter for debate, but either way [Jackman] decided to change plans and moved over to creating pallet wood clogs. A word of warning about pallet wood: you shouldn’t make anything out of wood from discarded pallets unless you know what you’re doing, and even if you do know what you’re doing there will be someone in the comments telling you that you shouldn’t use wood from discarded pallets. You can check out the comments to this article to verify this fact.

The construction of the clogs started with a few pieces of one inch stock glued up into a gigantic block, then several pieces of half inch stock resawn into quarter inch stock and laminated onto the sole of the clog. This was then shaped using a variety of tools from Arbortech; of note, we have the Turbo Plane, a wood shaping tool for a grinder that sounds more dangerous than it is, the Turbo Shaft, a plunge router or mortiser-sort-of-thing for a grinder that’s much cooler than it sounds, and the Power Chisel, something we can’t even believe exists and hold on here’s all our money.

These tools couldn’t get all the way into the toe of the clog, which meant [Jackman] had to saw down the middle and hollow everything out that way, but this did give him a nice flat surface on the inside to install the Heely wheels. This turns the clogs into something nine-year-olds simultaneously desire and don’t appreciate, because they’re kids.

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