Building something on your own usually carries with it certain benefits, such as being in full control over what it is you are building and what it will accomplish, as well as a sense of pride when you create something that finally works just the way you want it. If you continue down that path, you may eventually start making your own tools to help build your other creations, and if you also have some CAD software you can make some very high quality tools like this belt grinder.
This build comes to us from [Emiel] aka [The Practical Engineer] who is known for his high quality solenoid engines. His metal work is above and beyond, and one thing he needed was a belt grinder. He decided to make a 3D model of one in CAD and then build it from scratch. The build video goes through his design process in Fusion 360 and then the actual build of this beast of a machine. The motor is 3.5 horsepower which, when paired with a variable frequency drive, can provide all of his belt grinding needs.
[Emiel]’s videos are always high quality, and his design process is easy to follow as well. We’re always envious of his shop as well, and it reminds us a lot of [Eric Strebel] and his famous designs.
Chain sprockets are a key drivetrain component in a lot of builds. Unfortunately they can be difficult to source, particularly for those outside the reach of retailers like McMaster-Carr. In such situations, you might consider making your own.
The toothed profile on a chain sprocket can be produced in a simple manner by drawing a base circle, along with a series of circles spaced appropriately for the chain in question. This involves measuring the pitch and roller diameter of the chain. With these measurements in hand, a template can be created to produce the sprocket.
From there a series of holes are drilled to rough out the basic shape of the teeth, before the sprocket is then cut down to its appropriate outer diameter. The finishing work consists of chamfering the sprocket’s thickness, as well as the filing the sharp edges of the teeth for smooth engagement.
The ability to look at a pile of trash, and see the for treasure is a skill we hold in high regard around here. [Meanwhile in the Garage] apparently has this skill in spades and built himself a metal bar bending machine using an old flywheel and starter pinion gear.
To bend metal using muscle power alone requires some sort of mechanical advantage. Usually this involves a bending tool with a long lever, but [Meanwhile in the Garage] decided to make use of the large gear ratio between a car’s starter motor and the flywheel it drives. This does away with the need for a long lever and allows bending to almost 270° with a larger radius. Lathe and milling work features quite prominently, including to make the bend formers, drive shaft and bushings and to modify the flywheel to include a clamp. The belt sander that is used to finish a number of the parts is also his creation. While the machine tools definitely helped, a large amount of creativity and thinking outside the box made this project possible and worth the watch.
Metal fabrication is a useful skill to have. There’s plenty you can achieve in your workshop at home, given the right tools. There’s lathes for turning, mills for milling, and bandsaws and dropsaws for chopping it all to pieces. But what do you do if you need to make hoops and bends and round sections? You build a metal roller, of course – and that’s precisely what [James Bruton] did.
The main body of the tool is built out of box section, chosen largely as it’s what [James] had lying around. Bearings are of the familiar pillow block variety, with 20 mm bright steel serving as the rollers due to its better tolerance than mild steel stock. Set screws hold the shafts in place to avoid everything sliding around the place. A 10-ton bottle jack then provides the force to gently bend the workpiece as it passes through the rollers.
Initial tests were positive, with the roller producing smooth curves in 4 mm thick steel bar. There were some issues with runout, which were easily fixed with some attention to the parallelism of the shafts. It’s a tidy build, and can serve as a basis for further upgrades in future if necessary.
It’s becoming abundantly clear that [Colin Merkel] doesn’t know the definition of “good enough”. Not only has he recently completed his third (and most impressive) wristwatch build, but he also managed to put together one of the most ridiculously romantic gifts ever conceived. While some of us are giving our significant others a gift card to Starbucks, he made his girlfriend a watch with a chart on the face representing the position of the stars at the time and place of their first meeting.
As per his usual style, the documentation on this build is phenomenal. If paging through his gallery of build images doesn’t make you want to get a lathe and start learning metal working, nothing will. A chunk of stainless steel rod miraculously becomes a gorgeous wrist watch over the course of a few dozen images, perfectly encapsulating that old adage of “making it look easy”.
Certainly the highlight of this build is the star chart on the face. To make it, he used PyEphem to plot the position of the brightest stars that were visible at the time and place of their first meeting. He then wrote a script to take those stars and convert their positions to G-Code the CNC could use to drill holes in the appropriate locations. The depth of the hole even corresponds to the magnitude (brightness) of each star, giving the chart a subtle 3D effect.
Unfortunately, [Colin] made a couple of mistakes during this build, to the point that he’s not exactly sure how to proceed. He mentions he might even be forced to start over from scratch. It’s hard to imagine how something that looks this good could ever end up being a failure, but the world of watch making is unkind.
To start with, he used 304 stainless instead of 303. This made machining the case much more difficult, and from his very first cut he realized it was going to be a problem. While it was an annoyance he mentions a couple times during the build log, he was at least was able to work through it.
The real problem came at the end, when he put the watch together. He originally made his designs assuming a front glass which was 0.5 mm thick, but in actuality used a piece that is 0.8 mm thick. This slight difference is just enough to cause the seconds hand to rub up on the glass, putting drag on the movement. The end result is that the battery dies extremely quickly, effectively rendering the watch useless.
We can’t imagine the heartbreak [Colin] felt when he realized what happened; we felt bad just reading about it. But given his track record, we have no doubt he’ll get the issue sorted out. It would be a shame to start over completely, but there’s some consolation in knowing it’s part of the learning process: you don’t become a master of your craft without making a couple mistakes along the way.
In an increasingly paperless society, writing implements are becoming an obsolete technology for many of us. Certainly not the kind of thing the average person would think to spend more than a couple bucks on, to say nothing of machining one out of a solid piece of aluminum bar stock. But clearly [Bob] is not most people. He recently dropped us a line about a video he uploaded to his aptly-named YouTube channel “Making Stuff”, where he goes through the steps required to turn raw materials into a writing instrument worthy of a Jedi.
Starting with a piece of aluminum chucked up in the lathe, [Bob] cuts out the iconic ribbed profile of Luke’s saber and fills in the gaps with nothing more exotic than a black Sharpie. He then moves on to the more complex shape of the emitter, and then flips the handle over in the lathe and hollows it out so a brass tube can be inserted.
Somewhat surprisingly, it seems more effort ends up being put into the acrylic “blade” than the aluminum handle itself. A chunk of acrylic is drilled and tapped so that it can be mounted in the chuck, and then turned down into a long cylinder. A tip is then cut in the end, the length of the blade is hollowed out, and finally it gets polished up to a nice shine.
The build is completed by inserting a standard ink pen cartridge down the center of the now completed saber. Surely the pen aficionados will lament that he didn’t attempt to build his own ink cartridge as well, but we think he gets a pass considering the rest of it was made from scratch.
If even a glorious writing instrument such as this isn’t enough to get you to re-learn how to write your name, fear not. Whether you’re making music or capturing flags, we’ve played home to numerous other saber projects; eye-safe or otherwise.
To start the process, he hits both sides of the circular saw blade with a grinder to smooth out the surface. He then traces the desired star shapes onto the blade, and cuts the blade into pieces so it’s easier to manage. The rough shape of the stars is cut out with an angle grinder, and a belt sander lets him sharpen the edges.
At this point the stars are effectively finished, but if you want something that’s going to look good on the shelf next to the katana you bought online, you need to do some more finish work. He sands both sides of the stars by hand, starting at 80 grit and working all the way up to 1200 grit wet paper. Once sanded, paste wax is rubbed in with a cloth to give it a protective coating.
With the finish work done, all that’s left to do is throw your new shuriken at cans of soda and watermelons as a demonstration of their power. To this end, he has come prepared with a 1,000 FPS camera; so if you’ve ever wanted to see cans of off-brand soda getting exploded with a throwing star, your Mall Ninja friend isn’t the only one about to get a gift.