Square Cuts On Aluminum Extrusion, No Mill Required

If you’re looking for the perfect excuse to buy that big, beautiful Bridgeport mill, we’ve got some bad news: it’s not going to be making perfectly square end cuts on aluminum extrusion. Sadly, it’s much more cost-effective to build this DIY squaring jig, and search for your tool justification elsewhere.

There’s no doubting the utility of aluminum extrusion in both prototyping and production builds, nor that the versatile structural members often add a bit of class to projects. But without square cuts, any frames built from them can be seriously out of whack, leading to misery and frustration down the road. [Midwest Cyberpunk]’s mill-less solution uses a cheap Harbor Freight router as a spindle for a carbide endmill, riding on a laser-cut acrylic baseplate fitted with wheels that ride in the V-groove of — you guessed it — aluminum extrusions. A fence and clamping system holds the extrusion firmly, and once trammed in, the jig quickly and easily squares extrusions that have been rough cut with a miter saw, angle grinder, or even a hacksaw. Check out the video below for a peek at the build details.

We love the simplicity and utility of this jig, but can see a couple of areas for improvement. Adding some quick-throw toggle clamps would be a nice touch, as would extending the MDF bed and fence a bit for longer cuts. But even as it is, this tool gets the job done, and doesn’t break the bank like a mill purchase might. Still, if your heart is set on a mill, who are we to stand in the way?

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File testing rig

Science Vs Internet Trolls: Testing Another Kind Of File System

No matter what you do or say on the Internet, you’re always doing it wrong. Keyboard commandos are ready to pounce and tell you how it’s “ackchyually” supposed to be done. And so it was of little surprise when [Jason] of Fireball Tools was taken to task by the armchair millwright for his supposedly deficient method of filing metal.

But [Jason] chose to fight back not with words but deeds, building a system to test alternative methods of filing. His filing style is to leave the file in contact with the stock on both the front- and back-strokes, which enraged those who claim that a file must never be dragged back over the workpiece, lest the teeth become dull. The first video below shows the build of the test rig, which leveraged his enormous Cinncinatti shaper as the prime mover, as well as a pneumatic jig to hold the workpiece and imitate both styles of filing. Part two below shows the test rig in action, and [Jason] really outdoes himself with his experimental approach. He tested three different grades of Pferd files — nothing but the best, no expense spared — and did duplicates of each run using both the Internet-approved style and his lazier style.

The result? We won’t spoil that for you, but suffice it to say that the hive mind isn’t always right. And what’s more, [Jason]’s careful myth-busting yielded a few interesting and unexpected results. His channel is full of great shop tips and interesting builds, so check him out if you want to see how metalworking is done.

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Big homemade lathe

Heavy Metal Lathe Build Doesn’t Spare The Steel

It’s common wisdom that the lathe is the essential machine tool, and the only one that can make copies of itself. While we won’t argue the primacy of the lathe in the machine shop, this scratch-built, heavy-duty lathe gives the lie to the latter argument — almost.

We’re used to seeing homebrew lathes, of course, and we’ve featured more than a few of them before. But two things make [Jornt]’s build stand out: how few specialized tools were needed to build it, and the sheer size and bulk of the finished product. Where most homebrew lathes tend to be the bench top variety and feature cast aluminum parts, [Jornt] went with steel for his build, and a lot of it. The base and bed of the machine are welded from scrap steel I-beams, and the ways are made from angle iron that has been ground flat with a clever jig to hold an angle grinder. The angle grinder plays a prominent role in the build, as do simple tools like a hand drill, files, and a welder — and yes, the unfinished lathe itself, which was used to bore out the bearing blocks for the headstock.

The completed lathe, powered by a treadmill motor in a way that [Jeremy Fielding] would no doubt endorse, comes in at a beefy 450 kg. It honestly looks like something you could buy from a catalog, and has most of the features of commercial machines. One thing we’d love to see on this lathe is the electronic lead screw that [James Clough] developed for his off-the-shelf lathe.

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Gorgeous Mini-Lathe Makes The Most Out Of Wood And Metal

It’s a cliche that the only machine tool that can make copies of itself is the lathe. It’s not exactly true, but it’s a useful adage in that it points out that the ability to make big round things into smaller round things, and to make unround things into round things, is a critical process in so many precision operations. That said, making a lathe primarily out of wood presents some unique challenges in the precision department

This isn’t [Uri Tuchman]’s first foray into lathe-building. Readers may recall the quirky creator’s hybrid treadle-powered and electric lathe, also primarily an exercise in woodworking. That lathe has seen plenty of use in [Uri]’s projects, turning both wood and metal stock into parts for his builds. It wasn’t really optimal for traditional metal turning, though, so Mini-Lathe 2 was undertaken. While the bed, headstock, and tailstock “castings” are wood — gorgeously hand-detailed and finished, of course — the important bits, like the linear slides for the carriage and the bearings in the headstock, are all metal. There’s a cross-slide, a quick-change tool post, and a manual lead screw for the carriage. We love the finely detailed brass handcranks, which were made on the old lathe, and all of the lovely details [Uri] always builds into his projects.

Sadly, at the end of the video below we see that the lathe suffers from a fair amount of chatter when turning brass. That’s probably not unexpected — there’s not much substitute for sheer mass whenit comes to dampening vibration. We expect that [Uri] will be making improvements to the lathe in the coming months — he’s not exactly one to leave a job unfinished.

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Hackaday Links Column Banner

Hackaday Links: October 25, 2020

Siglent has been making pretty big inroads into the mid-range test equipment market, with the manufacturers instruments popping up on benches all over the place. Saulius Lukse, of Kurokesu fame, found himself in possession of a Siglent SPD3303X programmable power supply, which looks like a really nice unit, at least from the hardware side. The software it came with didn’t exactly light his fire, though, so Saulius came up with a Python library to control the power supply. The library lets him control pretty much every aspect of the power supply over its Ethernet port. There are still a few functions that don’t quite work, and he’s only tested it with his specific power supply so far, but chances are pretty good that there’s at least some crossover in the command sets for other Siglent instruments. We’re keen to see others pick this up and run with it.

From the “everyone needs a hobby” department, we found this ultra-detailed miniature of an IBM 1401 mainframe system to be completely enthralling. We may have written this up at an earlier point in its development, but it now appears that the model maker, 6502b, is done with the whole set, so it bears another look. The level of detail is eye-popping — the smallest features of every piece of equipment, from the operator’s console to the line printer, is reproduced . Even the three-ring binders with system documentation are there. And don’t get us started about those tape drives, or the wee chair in period-correct Harvest Gold.

Speaking of diversions, have you ever wondered how many people are in space right now? Or how many humans have had the privilege to hitch a ride upstairs? There’s a database for that: the Astronauts Database over on Supercluster. It lists pretty much everything — human and non-human — that has been intentionally launched into space, starting with Yuri Gagarin in 1961 and up to the newest member of the club, Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, who took off got the ISS just last week from his hometown of Baikonur. Everyone and everything is there, including “some tardigrades” that crashed into the Moon. They even included this guy, which makes us wonder why they didn’t include the infamous manhole cover.

And finally, for the machinists out there, if you’ve ever wondered what chatter looks like, wonder no more. Breaking Taps has done an interesting slow-motion analysis of endmill chatter, and the results are a bit unexpected. The footage is really cool — watching the four-flute endmill peel mild steel off and fling the tiny curlicues aside is very satisfying. The value of the high-speed shots is evident when he induces chatter; the spindle, workpiece, vise, and just about everything starts oscillating, resulting in a poor-quality cut and eventually, when pushed beyond its limits, the dramatic end of the endmill’s life. Interesting stuff — reminds us a bit of Ben Krasnow’s up close and personal look at chip formation in his electron microscope.

Simple Plasma Cutter Collision Detection System

Machine tools often have powerful drive motors, allowing them to work quickly and accurately to get the job done fast. However, this can cause major damage if the tool head collides with an unexpected object. To protect against such occurances, [Xnaron] developed a simple system to shut down his plasma cutter in the event of a crash.

The system consists of a 3D printed collar that fits around the plasma cutting torch. The collar has two mating parts, which are held together with three magnets and three ball bearings to act as a key, maintaining the correct orientation. Three limit switches are then fitted, held closed by the two mating halves. When the torch collides with an object, this causes the magnetic coupling to seperate, triggering one or more of the limit switches, and shutting down the machine safely.

Video of an unplanned collision shows the device working well. It’s a neat solution that could probably be adapted to other types of machine tool that don’t experience high lateral forces. Of course, if you don’t yet have a plasma cutter, you can always make your own. Video after the break.

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Linux In The Machine Shop Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, July 8 at noon Pacific for the Linux in the Machine Shop Hack Chat with Andy Pugh!

From the time that numeric control started making inroads into machine shops in the middle of the last century until relatively recently, the power of being able to control machine tools with something other than a skilled human hand was evident. Unfortunately, the equipment to do so was expensive, and so NC technology remained firmly in the big shops, where a decent return on investment could be realized.

Fast forward a few decades, and everything that makes the computerized version of NC possible is cheap and easily available. Servos, steppers, drivers, and motion control components can be plugged together into CNC machines that can move a tool to a fixed point in space with incredible accuracy and repeatability. But without CNC software, none of it means a thing.

Enter Linux CNC, the free and open-source CNC package. With support for realtime operation, one-step installations, and a huge range of capabilities provided by a team of volunteer developers and supported by an active community, Linux CNC has democratized the world of CNC machines.

Andy Pugh is a frequent contributor to the Linux CNC codebase and a moderator on the forum. He knows a thing or two about Linux CNC in particular and Linux in the machine shop in general. He’ll stop by the Hack Chat to share his experiences with the Linux CNC project, tell us how Linux can revolutionize the machine shop, and maybe share a few stories from the world of CAD, CAM, and using Linux to make a few chips.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, July 8 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

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