Vertical Mill Completes Scrapyard Lathe Build

One thing’s for sure: after seeing [Roland Van Roy] build a vertical mill from industrial scrap, we’ve got to find a better quality industrial scrapyard to hang around.

The story of this build started, as many good shop stories do, at the lathe, which in this case was also a scrapyard build that we somehow managed to miss when it first posted. This lathe is decidedly different from the common “Gingery method” we’ve seen a few times, which relies on aluminum castings. Instead, [Roland] built his machine from plate stock, linear slides, and various cast-off bits of industrial machines.

To make his lathe yet more useful, [Roland] undertook this build, which consists of a gantry mounted over the bed of the lathe. The carriage translates left and right along the bed while the spindle, whose axis lines up perfectly with the center axis of the lathe, moves up and down. [Roland] added a platform and a clever vise to the lathe carriage; the lathe tool post and the tailstock are removed to make room for these mods, but can be added back quickly when needed. Digital calipers stand in for digital read-outs (DROs), with custom software running on a Picaxe and a homebrew controller taking care of spindle speed control.

[Roland] reports that the machine, weighing in at about 100 kg, exhibits a fair amount of vibration, which limits him to lighter cuts and softer materials. But it’s still an impressive build, and what really grabbed us was the wealth of tips and tricks we picked up. [Roland] used a ton of interesting methods to make sure everything stayed neat and square, such as the special jig he built for drilling holes in the T-slot extrusions to the use of cyanoacrylate glue for temporary fixturing.

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A Bit Of DIY Helps Cut Straight And Happy Threads

A cheap and effective ratcheting tap.

Need to cut threads into a hole? A tool called a tap is what you need, and a hand-operated one like the one shown here to the side is both economical and effective. A tap’s cutting bit works by going into a pre-drilled hole, and it’s important to keep the tool straight as it does so. It’s one thing to tap a few holes with steady hands and a finely calibrated eyeball, but when a large number of holes need to be tapped it can be worth getting a little help.

The usual tool to help keep a tap straight and pressed gently downwards is called a tap follower, but [Tony] had a lot of M4 holes to tap and no time to order one and wait for it to arrive. Instead, he converted a cheap tap into a tool that could be held in the chuck of his mill, with the freedom to slide up and down as needed. The result? A tap that’s hand-operated but certain to be orthogonal to the work piece, making the job of cutting a lot of threads much more pleasant.

Tapping isn’t just for metal, either. Cutting threads into wood is also done, and be sure to check out this simple method for making your own surprisingly effective wood taps in the shop with a threaded rod, or a lag screw. Of course, the need to tap a hole can be sidestepped by using threaded inserts in the right material, instead.

Making PCBs The Easy Way

Building a PCB at home can be fraught. If you’re etching, there are chemicals and the nuances of toner transfer. If you’re milling, getting the surface height just right, and not breaking those pointy little v-cutters is always a challenge. [Robin] has tips for both of these cases, and solves a lot of the common hassles by using a milling machine.

Whether he’s scraping away etch resist or entire copper isolation lines, [Robin] uses a non-spinning scratching tool instead of a v-bit: they’re more robust and cut every bit as well. He’s got tips for using FlatCam and KiCAD to make scratched-out traces. His registration system allows him to get double-sided boards with a minimum of hassle. And as a bonus, he’s doing some experimentation with embedding SMT parts inside the boards as well. Be sure that you check out his whole guide, or just watch the video embedded below.

We’re pretty sure you’ll pick up a trick or two, and maybe you’ll be convinced to bite the bullet and invest in a nice mill. If you’d like a more traditional take on PCB milling, try out our own [Adil Malik]’s guide.

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A Boring Tale With Six Sides

Making a hole in a piece of material is a straightforward process, after all most of us will have some form of drill. If we need a hole that isn’t round though, after the inevitable joke about bad drill control leading to oval holes, what do we do? Get busy with a file perhaps? Or shell out for a shaped punch?  [Skunkworks] has taken a different tack, using LinuxCNC and a vertical mill to machine near-perfect hexagonal and other polygonal holes.

The tool path appears to be more star-shaped than polygon shaped, the reason for which becomes apparent on watching the videos below the break as the rotation of the tool puts its cutting edge in a polygonal path. Anyone who has laboured with a file on a round hole in the past will be impressed with this piece of work.

The latest in the saga takes the work from simple hexes into other shapes like stars, and even tapered polygonal holes. These in particular would be a significantly difficult task by other means, so we look forward to what other developments come from this direction.

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A DIY Bench-Sized Milling Machine

Hanging around the machining community online, you’d be more than familiar with clapped out Bridgeport mills, which are practically a meme at this point. But mills come in all shapes and sizes, from the stout old iron from the days of yore, to smaller, compact builds. [Honus] decided to build the latter, and shared the details of the project.

The aim of [Honus’s] build is to create a small benchtop mill, capable of handling the smaller tasks. The frame of the mill is built out of 80/20 extrusion, with plenty of aluminium plate to go along with it. Igus linear slides handle the X, Y and Z axes. An old brushed Makita drill motor serves as the spindle drive, controlled by an old R/C speed controller hooked up to an Arduino. [Honus] then fabbed up various bits and pieces as neccessary to bring it all together.

The mill is neat and tidy, and looks to do a good job machining aluminium. We imagine it should prove highly useful in [Honus’s] workshop. If you’re contemplating getting yourself some desk-sized tools, perhaps consider an engraver as well! Video after the break.

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Scrapyard Milling Machine Gets Work Done On A Budget

Which to buy first, a lathe or a mill? It’s a tough question for the aspiring home machinist with limited funds to spend on machine tools, but of course the correct answer is a lathe. With a lathe, we are told, all other machine tools can be built, including a milling machine. Granted that might be a slight  exaggeration, but [Maximum DIY] was still able to use his budget-blowing lathe to make a decent milling machine mostly from scrap.

Details are a bit sparse in the forum post, but there’s enough there and in the video after the break to be mightily impressed with the build. Unlike many DIY mills that are basically modified drill presses, [Maximum DIY] started with things like a scrapped bench grinder pedestal and surplus steel tubing. The spindle motor is from a paint sprayer and the Z-axis power feed is a treadmill incline motor. The compound table was a little too hard to make, so the purchased table was fitted with windshield wiper motor power feeds.

Therein lies perhaps the most clever hack in this build: the use of a plain old deep 19mm socket as a clutch for the power feeds. The 12-point socket slides on the square shaft of the wiper motor to engage the drive screw for the compound table – simple and bulletproof.

To be sure, the finished mill is far from perfect. It looks like it needs more mass to quell vibration, and those open drive pulleys are a little nerve wracking. But it seems to work well, and really, any mill is better than no mill. Of course, if you’re flush with cash and want to buy a mill instead of making one, this buyer’s guide should help.

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How Much Wood Can A Woodpecker Chuck?

It’s probably clear to a Hackaday reader that we live in a golden era for hobbyist tool accessibility. Cheap single board computers can be bought at any neighborhood RadioShack or Maplin. 3D printers sell fully assembled and ready to run for less than $200. Even the humble CNC mill has come down the price curve, though as you might expect at the low end things can get pretty rough. Like a cheap 3D printer, a cheap mill tends to be missing some basic features you’d expect any reasonable machine to have. If you get your hands on one of these little wonders, [Shahada Abubakar] has a pair of great blog posts on the basic set of upgrades you’ll probably want to perform right out of the box.

Which cheap CNC mills are we talking about? They go by a few names. Last year our own [Kristina Panos] put together a review of a shockingly inexpensive “1610” type sold by Linksprite (go take a read if you’re already considering a purchase!). The “1610” class, so named for it’s 16 cm x 10 cm bed size, is pretty common under a wide variety of manufacturer names. You can find them in this size made of 8020 like [Kristina] did or as “upgraded” versions cut from 1/4″ mystery plastic (often referred to in the listings as Bakelite, but your guess is as good as ours as to the true material). 1610 is the smallest size but basically the same machine exists as an 1810, 2418, or 3018. Each has a 775 size spindle and a single PCBA that handles stepper drive and runs grbl.

So what’s the problem? Well for one none of these machines have limit switches, though the controllers support them. [Shahada]’s guide has handy instructions for what kind to buy, how to wire them, and where they can be attached. Plus an overview of the G-code instructions to send the controller in order to home and configure everything properly. The controllers also like to be driven continuously over serial (though some sellers seem to offer a separate board to drive them). This is fine if you have a computer handy, but like a 3D printer it can be nice to bolt a Pi Zero or similar onto the unit and control it over the network. [Shahada]’s second post has a link to a mounting plate you can print for exactly that setup, as well as some suggestions for configuring CNC.js to drive everything.

Do you have one of these machines? Done any upgrades? Tell us in the comments! We’re always looking for ways to upgrade our home shop.