Shutter Bug Goes Extreme with Scratch-Built Film Camera

Should a camera build start with a sand mold and molten aluminum? That’s the route [CroppedCamera] took with this thoroughly impressive camera project.

When we think of cameras these days, chances are we picture the ones that live inside the phones in our pockets. They’re the go-to image capture devices for most of us, but even for the more photographically advanced among us, when a more capable camera is called for, it’s usually an off-the-shelf DSLR from Canon, Nikon, or the like. Where do hand-built cameras fall in today’s photography world? They’re a great way to add a film option to your camera collection.

[CroppedCamera] previously built a completely custom large-format view camera, but for this build he decided that something a bit more portable might do. The body of the camera is scratch-built from aluminum, acting as the lightproof box to hold the roll film and mount the leaf-shutter lens. There’s an impressive amount of metalwork here — sand casting, bending, TIG welding, and machining all came into play, and most of them new skills to [CroppedCamera]. We were especially impressed with the shrink-fit of the lens cone to the body. It’s unconventional looking for sure, but not without its charm, and it’s sure to make a statement dangling around his neck.

It’s tough to find non-digital DIY camera builds around here — best we could do were these laser-cut plywood modular cameras. Then again, you can’t beat this wearable camera for functional style.

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Rotary Electric Gun Might Not Put Your Eye Out, Kid

This one is clearly from the “it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye” file, and it’s a bit of a departure from [Make It Extreme]’s usual focus on building tools for the shop. But what’s the point of having a well-equipped shop if you don’t build cool things, like this unique homebrew electric gun?

When we hear “electric gun” around here, we naturally think of the rail guns and coil guns we feature on a regular basis, which use stored electric charge to accelerate a projectile using electromagnetic forces. This gun is much simpler than that, using purely mechanical means to accelerate the projectiles. The heart of the unit is a machined aluminum spiral from an old scroll compressor, which uses interleaved orbiting spirals to compress gasses. This scroll was cut down to reduce its mass and fixed to a complex shaft assembly allowing it to spin up to tremendous speed with a powerful electric motor. A hopper feeds the marble-sized ammo into the eye of the scroll, which spits it out at high speed. Lacking a barrel, the gun can only spew rounds in the general direction of the target, but it makes up for inaccuracy with an impressive rate of fire — 100 rounds downrange in two seconds. It’s pretty powerful, too, judging by the divots in the sheet steel target in the video below.

Like all of [Make It Extreme]’s build, a lot of effort went into this, and it shows. Their other fun builds of dubious safety include these electromagnetic wall climbers and these “Go Go Gadget” legs.

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Touchless Shop Doors Over-Engineered to a Blissful Level

When [John Saunders] wanted an automatic door for his shop, rather than settle for a commercial unit, he designed and built a proximity-sensing opener to ease his passing. Sounds simple, right?

Fortunately for us, there are no half-measures at Saunders Machine Works, thanks to the multiple Tormach workcells and the people who know how to use them. The video below treats us to quite a build as a result; the first part is heavy on machining the many parts for the opener, so skip ahead to 8:33 if you’re more interested in the control electronics and programming.

The opener uses time-of-flight distance sensors and an Arduino to detect someone approaching, with a pneumatic cylinder to part a plastic strip curtain. [John] admits to more than a little scope creep with this one, which is understandable when you’ve got easy access to the tools needed to create specialized parts at will.

In the end, though, it works well for everyone but [Judd], the shop dog, and it certainly looks like it was a fun build to boot. [John]’s enthusiasm for mixing machining and electronics is infectious; check out his automated bowl feeder for assembly line use.

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The King of Machine Tools

The lathe is known as the King of Machine Tools for a reason. There are very few things that you can’t make with one. In fact, people love to utter the old saw that the lathe is the only machine tool that can make itself. While catchy, I think that’s a bit disingenuous. It’s more accurate to say that there are parts in all machine tools that (arguably) only a lathe can make. In that sense, the lathe is the most “fundamental” machine tool. Before you harbor dreams of self-replication, however, know that most of an early lathe would be made by hand scraping the required flat surfaces. So no, a lathe can’t make itself really, but a lathe and a skilled craftsperson with a hand-scraper sure can. In fact, if you’ve read the The Metal Lathe by David J. Gingery, you know that a lathe is instrumental in building itself while you’re still working on it.

We’re taking trip through the machining world with this series of articles. In the previous article we went over the history of machine tools. Let’s cut to the modern chase now and help some interested folks get into the world of hobby machining, shall we? As we saw last time, the first machine tools were lathes, and that’s also where you should start.

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Mini Lathe Makes Tiny Hydraulic Cylinders for RC Snow Plow

You can get pretty much any part you need online these days, but some specialty parts are a little hard to come by. So if your needs are esoteric, like tiny hydraulic cylinders for RC snow plows, you might just have to roll your own.

To be honest, we never really knew that realistic working hydraulics on such a small scale were a thing, but [tintek33]’s video below opened our eyes to a new world of miniature mechanicals. You’d think a linear actuator would be a fine stand-in for the hydraulic ram on a tiny snow plow for an RC truck, but apparently no detail is too small to address in painstaking detail. And as with many things in life, the lathe is the way to get there. Every part is scratch-built from raw brass, aluminum and steel on a mini lathe, with the exception of a few operations that were sent over to the mill that could have been done with hand tools in a pinch. The video is longish, so if you’re not into machining you can skip to 16:40 or so and pick the action up at final assembly. The finely finished cylinder is impressively powerful when hooked up to [tintek33]’s hydraulic power pack, and looks great on the plow. He’s got some other videos on his site of the RC snow plow in action that are worth a look, too.

Ready to take the plunge with a lathe but don’t know where to start? We’ve covered the basics of adopting a new lathe before.

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Indexing Chuck Not Required

Becoming accomplished with a lathe is a powerful skillset, but it’s only half of the journey. Being clever comes later, and it’s the second part of the course. Patience is in there somewhere too, but let’s focus on being clever. [TimNummy] wants a knobbed bolt with critical parameters, so he makes his own. After the break, there is a sixty-second summary of the linked video.

Making stock hardware is a beginner’s tasks, so custom hardware requires ingenuity or expensive machinery. Adding finger notches to a bolthead is arbitrary with an indexing chuck, but one isn’t available. Instead, hex stock becomes a jig, and the flat sides are utilized to hold the workpiece at six intermittent angles. We can’t argue with the results which look like a part that would cost a pretty penny.

Using material found in the workshop is what being clever is all about. Hex brass stock comes with tight tolerances on the sides and angles so why not take advantage of that?

[TimNummy] can be seen on HaD for his Jeep dome light hack and an over-engineered mailbox flag. Did you miss [Quinn Dunki]’s piece on bootstrapping precision machine tools? Go check that out!

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The Precision Upon Which Civilizations Are Built

If you’re interested in making things (particularly metal things), you’re on a road that eventually leads to machine tools. Machine tools have a special place in history, because they are basically the difference between subsistence farming and modern civilization. A bold statement, I realize — but the ability to make very precise things is what gave us the industrial revolution, and everything that snowballed afterward. If you want to build a modern life filled with jet airplanes and inexpensive chocolate, start here.

Precision is more than just a desirable property. It’s a product. It has value, there is competition to create it, and our ability to create it as a species has improved over time. When your “precision product” is in the centimeter range, congratulations — you can make catapults and portcullises. Once you get into the millimeter range, guess what? You can make fine millwork in fancy houses, and indoor plumbing. Once you get sub-millimeter, now things get really interesting. It’s time for steam engines and automobiles. Once you get into the micrometer range, well, now we’re talking artificial heart valves and spaceships. Much like materials science, the ability to create precision is the unsung foundation and driving force of our standard of living.

Okay, so assuming I’ve sold you on the value of this product called “precision”, how do we make it? Machine tools are how humans currently get there, despite the dreams of the 3D printer crowd. Yes, drizzled plastic is great and the future is bright, but for right now, subtractive manufacturing is where it’s at when something has to be perfect.

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