A Three Axis Mill For The End Of The World

A mill is one of those things that many hackers want, but unfortunately few get their hands on. Even a low-end mill that can barely rattle its way through a straight cut in a piece of aluminum is likely to cost more than all the other gear on your bench. A good one? Don’t even ask. So if something halfway decent is out of your price range, you might as well throw caution to the wind and build one.

That’s more or less the goal behind this extremely basic three axis mill built by [Michael Langeder]. Designed around a cheap rotary tool, it’s hard to imagine a more simplistic mill. Almost all the components are stuff you could pick up from the local hardware store, or probably even the junk pile if you were really in a pinch. It won’t be the best looking piece of gear in your shop, but it’s good enough to learn the basics on and just might be able to bootstrap a second-generation mill RepRap-style.

Made out of scrap blocks of aluminum and some threaded rod, the Z axis itself represents the bulk of the work on this project. It gives the user fine control over the height of the rotary tool by way of a large knob on the top. It’s held over the work piece with some flat steel bars and corner brackets rather hastily cut out of aluminum sheet.

While the tool holder is 3D printed, you could probably hack something up out of a block of wood if you didn’t have access to a printer. The only part of the mill that’s really “cheating” is the cross slide table, but at least they can be had for relatively cheap. If you really wanted to do this with junk bin finds, you could always replicate the Z axis design for X and Y.

If you’re not looking for something quite so¬†austere, we’ve covered slightly more advanced DIY mills in the past. You could always go in the opposite direction and put a cross slide vise on your drill press, but do so at your own risk.

Tips For Basic Machining On A Drill Press

It’s safe to say most Hackaday readers would love to have a mill at home, or a nice lathe, but such equipment isn’t always practical for the hobbyist. The expense and amount of room they take up is a hard sell unless you’re building things on them regularly, so we’re often forced to improvise. In his latest video, [Eric Strebel] gives some practical advice on using a standard drill press to perform tasks you would normally need a mill or lathe for; and while his tips probably won’t come as a surprise to the old-hands out there, they might just help some of the newer players get the most out of what they have access to.

[Eric] explains the concept of the cross slide vice, which is the piece of equipment that makes machining on a drill press possible. Essentially it’s a standard vice, but with screws that allow you to move the clamped piece in the X and Y dimensions under the drill which can already move in the Z dimension. For those counting along at home, that puts us up to the full three dimensions; in other words, you can not only make cuts of varying depths, but move the cut along the surface of the work piece in any direction.

You can even turn down a (small) piece of round stock by placing it in the chuck of the drill press, and putting a good chisel in the cross slide vice. The chisel can then be moved up against the spinning piece to make your cuts. We don’t suggest doing anything too heavy, but if you need to turn down something soft like a piece of plastic or wood to a certain diameter, it can do in a pinch.

[Eric Strebel] is quickly becoming a favorite around these parts. His well-produced videos show viewers the practical side of product design and in-house manufacturing. We recently covered his video on doing small-scale production, and there’s plenty more invaluable info to be had browsing back through his older videos.

The quest to do machining without actually having a machine shop is certainly not new to Hackaday. There have been many different approaches to solving the issue, but picking up a decent drill press and cross slide is a first step down the rabbit hole for most people.

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