There’s Hope For That Cheap Lathe Yet!

There may be few cases where the maxim that “you get what you pay for” rings true, than a lathe. The less you spend on a lathe, the closer you get to a lathe-shaped object and the further from, well, a lathe. [Camden Bowen] has bought a cheap lathe, and he’s not content with a lathe-shaped object, so he takes us in the video below through a set of upgrades for it. In the process he makes a much nicer lathe for an entirely reasonable sum.

First up are the bearings, in this case a set of ball races which aren’t really appropriate for taking lateral force. After a lot of effort and a tiny bit of damage he manages to remove the old bearings and get the new ones in place, though their slightly different dimensions means he has to replace a spacer with a temporary 3D printed item which he’ll turn in metal later. We learn quite a bit about cheap lathe tools and tool alignment along the way, and he ends up buying a better tool post to solve some of its problems. We were always not very good at grinding HSS edges, too.

At the end of it all he has a much better lathe, upping cost from $774 to $1062 which is still pretty good for what he has. Worth a look, if you too have a lathe-shaped object.

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Making A Guitar Go To Eleven, The Hard Way

At the end of the day, all it takes to make a guitar go to eleven is a new knob. Making the knob is another thing — that takes a shop full of machine tools, the expertise to use them, and a whole bunch of time. Then again, if you’re pressed for time, it looks like a 3D printer will do nicely too.

While the 3D printing route is clearly the easier option, it sure seems as if [Chronova Engineering] is more about the journey than the destination. In need of some knob bling for an electric guitar, he takes us through the lengthy process (nicely summarized in the video below) of crafting one from a bar of solid brass. Like all good machining projects, this one starts with making the tools necessary to start the actual build; in this case, it’s a tool to cut the splines needing to mate with the splines on the guitar’s potentiometer shaft. That side quest alone represents probably a third of the total effort on this project, and results in a tool that’s used for all of about 30 seconds.

Aside from spline cutting, there are a ton of interesting machining tidbits on display here. We particularly liked the use of a shaping technique to form the knurling on the knob, as opposed to a standard rotary method, which would have been difficult given the taper on the knob body. Also worth noting are the grinding step that puts a visually interesting pattern on the knob’s top surface, as well as the pantograph used to etch the knob’s markings.

Congrats to [Chronova Engineering] for a great-looking build, and the deep dive into the machinist’s ways. If you’re still interested in custom brass knobs but don’t have a machine shop, we can help with that.

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When Nearly Flat Isn’t Really Flat

An aerial photo of the UK city of Milton Keynes
Is Mk really flat? Thomas Nugent, CC BY-SA 2.0.

From where I am sitting, the earth is flat. The floor that runs the length of the unit my hackerspace sits in is flat, the concrete apron behind it on which we test our Hacky Racers is flat, and a few undulations in terrain notwithstanding, it remains flat as I walk up the road towards Stony Stratford.

Of course, Hackaday hasn’t lost its mind and joined the conspiracy theorists, the earth is definitely spherical as has been known and proved multiple times since antiquity. But my trivial observation made in a damp part of Buckinghamshire still holds; that for a given value of flat which disregards a few lumps and bumps in the ground, my corner of the English city of Milton Keynes is pretty flat. Which leads from a philosophical discussion to an engineering one, if I can reasonably describe a city-sized area on an Earth-sized sphere as flat, how flat does a surface have to be to be considered flat? And from that stems a fascinating story of the evolution of precision machining. Continue reading “When Nearly Flat Isn’t Really Flat”

A 1/5th scale hydraulic jack model

Miniature Hydraulic Jack Is A Scale Marvel

Most hydraulic jacks are big tools that can lift upwards of 1000 kg but [Maker B]’s is quite a bit smaller than average.

The world’s smallest hydraulic jack is a tiny hand-machined model made out of tiny pieces of iron, brass and copper. But here’s the kicker: It’s a real hydraulic jack with real hydraulic fluid! At 1/5th scale, it obviously isn’t as strong as a full-size jack, but it can still easily lift an impressive 24 soda cans! Switching between the lathe and mill, [Maker B] shows how all the parts of the jack are made from stock metal in detail, and even explains in simple terms how a hydraulic jack works in this masterpiece of a video.

Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of tiny objects cranked out from stock pieces of metal — often bolts. But the fact that the end result here is a working tool, puts it into a decidedly less common niche. Of course, given what we’ve seen from [Maker B] in the past, it’s hardly a surprise.
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Making An Injection Mold For Yourself

Injection molding is the obvious onward step from 3D printing when the making of a few plastic parts becomes their series manufacture. The problem with injection molding is though, that making a mold can be prohibitively expensive. Has the advent of affordable CNC machining changed that? [Teaching Tech] takes a look, and machines a mold for part of a bicycle bracket.

With a diversion into home-made silicone seals for the injection molding machine, he proceeds to machine the mold itself from a block of aluminium. It’s a basic introduction to mold construction for those of us who’ve never ventured in this direction before, and it provides some interesting lessons. As we’d expect he does a rough machining pass before returning with a ball-end tool to smooth off those curves, but there’s a lesson in measuring rather than believing the paperwork. The tool he used was a bit smaller then the spec, so his path left some rough edges that had to be returned to. Otherwise the use of a removable pair of bolts to form holes in the finished part is we guess obvious after watching the video, but it’s something we learned as injection molding newbies.

This video follows on from a previous one we also covered, in which we’re introduced to the machine itself.

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Hackaday Prize 2023: Machining Metals With Sparks

Working with metals can present a lot of unique challenges even for those with a fairly well-equipped shop. Metals like aluminum and some types of steel can be cut readily with grinders and saws, but for thick materials or some hardened steels, or when more complex cuts need to be made, mechanical cutting needs to be reconsidered in favor of something electric like electrical discharge machining (EDM) or a plasma cutter. [Norbert] has been on the path of building his own EDM machine and walks us through the process of generating a spark and its effects on some test materials.

Armed with a microscope, a homemade high-voltage generator, drill bit, and a razor blade to act as the workpiece, [Norbert] begins by experimenting with electrical discharges by bringing the energized drill bit close to the razor to determine the distance needed for effective electrical machining. Eventually the voltage is turned up a bit to dive into the effects of higher voltage discharges on the workpiece. He also develops a flushing system using de-ionized water, and then finally a system to automate the discharges and the movement of the tool.

While not a complete system yet, the videos [Norbert] has created so far show a thorough investigation of this metalworking method as well as some of the tricks for getting a setup like this working. EDM can be a challenging method for cutting metal as we’ve seen before with this similar machine which uses wire as the cutting tool, but some other builds we’ve seen with more robust electrodes have shown some more promise.

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Learning 3D Printing Best Practices From A Pro

It might seem like 3D printing is a thoroughly modern technology, but the fact is, it’s been used in the industry for decades. The only thing that’s really new is that the printers have become cheap and small enough for folks like us to buy one and plop it on our workbench. So why not take advantage of all that knowledge accumulated by those who’ve been working in the 3D printing field, more accurately referred to as additive manufacturing, since before MakerBot stopped making wooden printers?

That’s why we asked Eric Utley, an applications engineer with Protolabs, to stop by the Hack Chat this week. With over 15 years of experience in additive manufacturing, it’s fair to say he’s seen the technology go through some pretty big changes. Hes worked on everything from the classic stereolithography (SLA) to the newer Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) printers, with a recent focus on printing in metals such as Inconel and aluminum. Compared to the sort of 3D printers he’s worked with, we’re basically playing with hot, semi-melted, LEGOs — but that doesn’t mean some of the lessons he’s learned can’t be applied at the hobbyist level. Continue reading “Learning 3D Printing Best Practices From A Pro”