DIY Tiny Dovetail Cube Needs DIY Dovetail Cutter

Dovetail cutter, made from a 5 mm drill rod.

There’s a trinket called a dovetail cube, and [mitxela] thought it would make a fine birthday present. As you can see from the image, he was successful in creating a tiny version out of aluminum and brass. That’s not to say there weren’t challenges in the process, and doing it [mitxela] style means:

  • Make it tiny! 15 mm sides ought to do it.
  • Don’t have a tiny dovetail bit on hand, so make that as well.
  • Of course, do it all without CNC in free-machining style.
  • Whoops the brass stock is smaller than expected, so find a clever solution.
  • That birthday? It’s tomorrow, by the way.

The project was a success, and a few small learning experiences presented themselves. One is that the shape of a dovetail plays tricks on the human eye. Geometrically speaking, the two halves are even but it seems as though one side is slightly larger than the other. [mitxela] says that if he were to do it again, he’d make the aluminum side slightly larger to compensate for this visual effect. Also, deburring with a knife edge on such a small piece flattened the edges ever so slightly, causing the fit to appear less precise than it actually is.

Still, it was a success and a learning experience. Need more evidence that [mitxela] thrives on challenge? Take a look at his incredible vector game console project.

Stepper-Controlled Chop Saw Automates A Tedious Job

We’re not going to question why [Absorber Of Light] needs to cut a bazillion little fragments of aluminum stock. We assume his reasoning is sound, so all we’re interested in is the automated chop saw he built to make the job less tedious, and potentially less finger-choppy.

There are probably many ways to go about this job, but  [Absorber] leaves few clues as to why he chose this particular setup. Whatever the reason, the build looks like fun, with a long, stepper-driven threaded rod pushing a follower down a track to a standard chop saw. The aluminum stock rides in the track and gets pushed out a set amount before being lopped off cleanly as the running saw is lowered by a linear actuator. The cycle then repeats until the stock is gone.

An Arduino controls the stock-advance stepper in the usual way, but the control method for the linear actuator is somewhat unconventional. A second stepper motor has two cams offset by 180° on the shaft. The cams actuate four microswitches which are set up in an H-bridge configuration. The stepper swivels back and forth to run the linear actuator first in one direction then the other, with a neutral position in between. It’s an interesting approach using mechanical rather than the typical optical isolation. Check it out in action in the video below.

We’ll admit to some curiosity as to the use of the coupons this rig produces, so maybe we’ll get lucky with some details from [Absorber Of Light] in the comment section. After all, we knew exactly what the brass tubes being cut by the similar “Auto Mega Cut-O-Matic”  were being used for.

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Punch Those Hole-Drilling Blues Away With A Homebrew Punching Tool

Four times the holes, four times the trouble. With the fate of repetitive motion injury looming due to the need to drill 1,200 holes, [bitluni] took matters into his own hands and built this nifty DIY hole punch for light-gauge sheet metal.

A little backstory will probably help understand why [bitluni] needs so many holes. Back in May, he built a ping pong ball LED video wall for Maker Faire Berlin. That had 300 LEDs and came out great, but at the cost of manually drilling 300 holes in sheet steel with a hand drill. Looking to expand his wall of balls to four times the original size, [bitluni] chose to spend a few days building a punch to make the job more appealing. The business end, with solid bar stock nested inside pieces of tubing, is a great example of how much you can get done without a lathe. The tool is quite complex, with a spring-loaded pilot to help guide the punching operation. When that proved impractical, [bitluni] changed the tool design and added an internal LED to project crosshairs from inside the tool.

The tool itself is mounted into a sturdy welded steel frame that allows him to cover the whole aluminum sheet that will form the panel of his LED wall. It’s pretty impressive metalwork, especially considering this isn’t exactly in his wheelhouse. And best of all, it works – nice, clean holes with no deformation, and it’s fast, too. We’re looking forward to seeing the mega-LED wall when it’s done.

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Project Egress: Casting The Hatch Handle

Every door needs a handle, even – especially – the door of a spaceship. And [Paul] from “Paul’s Garage” got the nod to fabricate the handle for the Apollo 11 Command Module hatch being built as part of Project Egress.

For those not familiar with Project Egress, it’s a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing that aims to recreate an important artifact from the mission: the Unified Crew Hatch, or UCH, from the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia. Forty-four makers from various disciplines have been tasked with making the various pieces of the UCH, and each one is free to use whatever materials and methods he or she wants. [Paul] chose what will probably turn out to be the consensus material – aluminum – and decided to play to his strengths by casting the part.

The handle itself is a chunky affair, as one would expect from something designed to be handled by an astronaut. [Paul] started with a 3D-printed version of the handle and created a two-piece mold in casting sand. The original part was probably machined, which meant that it didn’t have the draft angle that cast parts are supposed to have to make removal from the molding medium easier. [Paul] lucked out and got a perfect mold, and a perfect pour from silicon aluminum to boot. All the casting needed was a little cleanup and some holes to bolt it to the door.

[Paul]’s handle will get shipped to the Smithsonian along with the other parts, like [Fran Blanche]’s latch assembly, so that [Adam] can assemble the hatch live during the 50th-anniversary celebration later this month. Stay tuned for more Project Egress coverage as the parts keep rolling in.

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Engine Turning Aluminum The Easy Way

Engine turning, or jeweling, or guilloché, or a whole host of other names, is the art of polishing a pattern of circles on a piece of metal. You see it on fine watches, and you’ll see it on art-deco metal enclosures. [Ariel] decided to explore this technique and ended up getting good results with a pencil eraser and toothpaste.

The process begins with a piece of aluminum, in this case an aluminum Open Source Hardware logo. The only other required components are a number 2 pencil, some toothpaste, and any sort of rotary tool, in this case a drill press. Toothpaste is spread over the piece to be turned, and a pencil is put in the chuck. It’s just a matter of putting circles on the aluminum after that.

This is, incidentally, exactly how engine turning and jeweling are done in the real world. Yes, the tools are a bit more expensive, but you’re still looking at a somewhat soft tool scraping a fine abrasive into a piece of metal. The trick to engine turning comes in getting a consistent pattern on the piece, something that could easily be done with a CNC machine. If anyone out there feels like putting a pencil in the collet of a CNC router, we’d love to see the results.

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Anodize Aluminum Easily

We’ve all seen brightly-colored pieces of aluminum and can identify them as anodized. But what does that mean, exactly? A recent video from [Ariel Yahni] starring [Wawa] — a four-legged assistant — shows how to create pieces like this yourself. You can see [Wawa’s] new dog tag, below.

[Ariel] found a lot of how to information on using sulphuric acid, but that’s dangerous stuff. One web page we covered years ago, though, discussed a safer chemistry. The process requires lye and a common pool chemical used to decrease pH. Sodium hydroxide isn’t super safe, but it is much less problem to buy, store, and use than battery acid.

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Art Deco Control Panel Looks Out Of Metropolis

Bakelite, hammertone gray finish, big chunky toggle switches, jeweled pilot lights – these are a few of [Wesley Treat]’s favorite retro electronics things. And he’ll get no argument from us, as old gear is one of our many weak spots. So when he was tasked by a friend to come up with some chaser lights for an Art Deco-themed bar, [Wesley] jumped at the chance to go overboard with this retro-style control panel.

Granted, the video below pays short shrift to the electronics side of this build in favor of concentrating on the woodworking and metalworking aspects of making the control panel. We’re OK with that, too, as we picked up a ton of design tips along the way. The control panel is all custom, with a chassis bent from sheet aluminum. The sides of the console are laminated walnut and brushed aluminum, which looks very chic. We really like the recessed labels for the switches and indicators on the front panel, although we’d have preferred them to be backlighted. And that bent aluminum badge really lends a Chrysler Building flair that ties the whole project together.

All in all, a really nice job, and another in a long string of retro cool projects from [Wesley]. We recently featured his cloning of vintage knobs for an old Philo tube tester, and we’ll be looking for more great projects from him in the future.

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