This is another project that has been on the to do list for quite awhile now. I’ve been needing a slitting saw lathe carriage stop every since I bought my first lathe and have managed to put it off by using a mag base. It was time to make a proper carriage / indicator stop for the Standard Modern 12″ Utilathe. I designed up the stop so that you didn’t have to be constantly reaching for tools to adjust it – all the items that need to be adjusted regularly have integrated handles. I’m using a 2″ indicator.
As Max Phillips would say I kinda went all watchmaker on it. I didn’t intend to get this carried away but as I was working on this project I questioned myself as to why (as a society) we seem to always want to rush though things just to get them done. Isn’t the journey where all the enjoyment comes from? Isn’t it enjoyable and satisfying to create things that you are pleased with?
Deep within all of us is a need to be creative and make things (both tangible and not) to the best of our ability. We are not robots. This not a spiritual blog but I am a reformed Christian and I believe that every single human being is created Imago Dei (in the image of God). God creates and since we are made in His image we also create.
Back to our project. I roughed out the lathe bed profile on the bandsaw:
and finished that portion up on the shaper:
The rest of the project was simple lathe and mill work.
This was made specifically for the Standard Modern 12″ Utilathe. The drawings that I made up reflect that particular lathe. But it should be very straight forward to adjust the drawings for your lathe if you wish. If anyone wants the solid model send me an email and I will get the data to you somehow.
Also I’m considering a run of 5-10 or so of each of the tools I make for myself to sell for others. If you want to purchase one of these stay tuned – I will update the store portion of the blog to reflect that.
This is a project that has been on the to do list for quite awhile now. I’ve been needing a slitting saw setup since day one and have managed to put it off by using the bandsaw or hacksaw for most of my work. It was time to make a proper slitting saw arbor.
Most of the “low end” slitting saw arbors you can buy are terrible. The spring loaded ones that can utilize multiple arbor sizes are particularly bad. I wanted a simple design for a 1″ diameter arbor size so I machined up one in less than an evening. I utilized a 3/4″ straight shank so I could use it in the milling machine or lathe. If you were running very thick saws, or horizontal milling cutters (not the greatest idea in a cantilever R8 setup?) you probably would want a keyway in the design in which case I would probably make the shank taper integral to the design.
But this one is for thin slitting saws and as such no keyway is required and being held in collet is my preferred setup.
There is nothing complicated about this at all. But to save you some time sketching or drawing here are the drawings I used: Body – Rev 01 and Cap – Rev 01. I didn’t add a flat on the arbor for removing and replacing the saws at the bench – I might do that at a later time if I find I need it. If so I’ll update the drawings.
It’s been a cold winter. In an effort to help moderate the temperature in my shop I decided to add another piece of equipment. The extra mass will help smooth out large temperature swings. What machine did I drag home this time? That’s a bit of a long story because I found out later that the machine I brought home wasn’t exactly the machine it was advertised as.
The machine is branded as a Torcam (not Tormach!) ~ 24″ x ~ 24″ x ~ 3″ (X / Y / Z) Router table. It is constructed out of aluminum extrusions and utilizes linear rails and ball screws. This was the main reason I decided to purchase the machine. Once I saw the linear rails and ball screws (and how little the machine had been used) I was sold. After loading the machine into the Sienna, (yes we did break down and buy a minivan for our family and it has been once of the best loathed decisions we ever made!) I snapped a quick picture of my purchase:
The machine did not come with a control which didn’t bother me one bit. I had full intentions of fitting a more up to date modern control anyway. The very very reasonable price I purchased the machine for left plenty of funds to put together a new motion controller.
But I was curious the whole time about this Torcam company. I had never heard of Torcam before and I didn’t do any research regarding the company beforehand. After some digging on the internet I found out that Torcam was a machine tool distributor company out of Ontario Canada who built and sold CNC machines for the educational market. It seems they rebranded machines for sale and it is doubtful that they actually designed and built full machines but I could be completely wrong. It appears the were a going concern in the 1990s to early 2000s and then they disappeared. Given the timeframe of business operations (just before the internet exploded) and what appears to be a limited market for product, very little information is easily found about Torcam and their machines today.
This machine appeared to be very well designed and assembled with care. But who actually made the machine? As soon as I purchased the machine I posted a picture on Instagram and Stefan Gotteswinter immediately commented “ISEL?”. ISEL is a German CNC machine builder who also sells various motion components. ISEL has been in business for a very long time and according to Stefan builds good components and machines for the price. I think most in the industry agree that ISEL stuff is built to a price point and does the job very well.
The machine does look suspiciously German and like something ISEL would manufacture so I decided to find out. After taking a few covers off I noticed this:
It was confirmed. This machine was made with ISEL components and I also now had an approximate date of manufacture. All the components say made in West Germany. That gives you a good idea when this machine was made: early 1990s. I suspect Torcam started importing these machines and selling them. I don’t know what control they shipped with it (did they make their own?) but the hardware was ISEL made.
I made a video and posted it on Youtube (see below). Shortly after posting John commented on the video: “What you have is a Techno Isel router table. Originally released in the late 80’s and early 90’s I can with what was called a machine 100 MS cos controller. Back in the day a new on would be about $ 8000 or so. I have the same machine from the 80’s it ran model and prototype production 24-7 for about two years. I mothballed it for some while then had a new controller built and I still use it today. I made a mount for. 3 h.p. Ryobi router when I first got it in 1987 and it still works like a charm. I run V carve desktop and Mach 3 on it making sings and doing woodwork. My table is 52 by 52 . By the way the stepper can get warm but they seem to convey the heat well. Never any problems running it for 10 to 12 hour runs. Just stay inside the feeds and speeds. The ball screws are a big plus but keep them clean. Like yours mine had no goers on the x and y rails.” Thanks John!!!!
The first step in getting the machine working was building a stand. I took a Saturday morning and put together a quick wood stand. I would have liked to have a welded or concrete stand for it but the weather didn’t permit me working outside so I settled for wood. Maybe in the future I might make a more substantial stand.
I also took some time to make up some leveling feet that would screw onto the legs of the stand:
Once the stand was built it was time to decide upon the motion controller. I looked at a few options like the Centroid Acorn and Mach 4 but I decided upon LinuxCNC. Lot’s of folks are scare of Linux but let me tell you that this was a very straight forward process to get going. I used the Mesa5i25 and 7i76 LinuxCNC plug and go kit. It was pricey but is a proper motion control interface that utilizes a FPGA in the 5i25. If you purchase the plug and go kit it has the proper firmware flashed on it already that saves you from having to re-flash the Mesa board. Even that though isn’t as hard as it sounds!
For motors and drives I used some stuff sitting around in the shop for a few years. I purchased 3 motors and drives used a number of years back. The motors were 60BYGH303-13 425 ounce inch dual shaft steppers that were almost a drop replacement for the small steppers that the machine came with. The drives were knock offs of knock offs drives. Very little information is available for the CW230 stepper driver but I did some comparing and it appears that they are copies of the Keling KL4030 drive which seems to be based on an older Leadshine or Gecko drive. I set them up to run at 36 volts (using a linear power supply which will probably burn out) and used 1/8 micro stepping – the highest you probably should go. I built up a panel and put all the bits inside. Here you can see it in progress:
Setting up LinuxCNC was a simple as wiring up the Mesa interface board, installing LinuxCNC on an older computer and running the configuration wizard. You need to be careful to enter the information into the wizard properly. I entered everything carefully and once done I ran LinuxCNC and moved the table around. I used stock drive timings for the KL4030 that were directly out of the wizard.
I wired up the homing switches and tried to tidy up the wiring as best I could with some cable chain and wire loom. Now I need to mount a spindle and start cutting out parts! I may spend some more time tuning the drives and getting the system dialed in but so far I’m very pleased. I’m hoping to post some more information regarding setting up LinuxCNC soon so stay tuned!
Over 6 months ago now I finally finished a pair of yo-yos I made for family friends who gave us a wagon for our kids. The wagon was a very well made wagon and I wanted to make a special gift for the family in return. I remembered how much I enjoyed yo-yos when I was a kid so I decided to make up one for each of their 2 girls.
The design is very straightforward. Essentially it is 2 aluminum halves with a tool steel axle. I chose to make the bearing / bushing out of some Teflon I had in the shop. You could easily modify the design to use the very common rolling element bearings that so many yo-yos utilize these days. The trickiest part of the design is sizing the o-ring that sits in each of the halves. The size and cross sectional area of the o-ring used determines how easily (if at all) the yo-you will return to your hand. If you remove the o-ring completely the yo-yo may never return to your hand and probably will require what is called a “binding” trick which causes the yo-yo to recoil its string. Since I wanted these yo-yos to be easy to use for beginners I sized the o-ring so the yo-yo will return with a easy flick of the wrist.
The project made heavy use of the 5C collet chuck that I previously reviewed. The chuck worked out very well and the soft 5C collets that I used made the job much easier and quicker than it would have taken using the old 4 jaw standby.
I chose to press in 12 pieces of brass on the outer rim for added mass where it is needed most. Besides making up 48 pieces of brass for 2 yo-yos the process was very easy. After the brass was pressed in I cut the outside radii with a custom form tool I made up in the shop. I also made a video of making the form tool. You can watch that video here:
Besides the custom form tool for the radii, there were a number of other tools I ground up to make this yo-yo. The project once again highlights the basic home shop need of being able to grind high speed steel tools. If I had to purchase all the cutting tools I needed for this project the cost would have been significant.
I also did a full build video of the process. Many thanks to Megan for recording music for the introduction.
If you are interested in the drawings you can download them here:
A few months ago I purchased one of the popular import 5C collet chucks for my home shop. I’ve been investigating different ways to employ a proper collet setup in the home shop for awhile. At first I was considering going the ER collet route and purchasing, or making, an ER collet backplate for my lathe due to the large grip range of ER collets and that they are very plentiful. From a manufacturing engineering standpoint ER collets are not considered proper work holding collet, being designed specifically for tooling, but they actually do a good job in the home shop for work holding provided you are aware of the short comings:
ER collets are generally not available in square or hexagon. This isn’t as big of deal as it may seem – many folks use ER collets and simply grip on the the edges of non round stock.
ER collets require more grip length than almost all work holding collets. This is probably the biggest downfall to using ER collets in the home shop. Holding onto a very short part in an ER collet in most cases is asking for trouble. Even more sketchy would be holding onto just the edges of short square or hexagonal parts in an ER collet.
ER collets require relatively high tightening torques. This isn’t a big deal with the smaller sizes, but once you get into the larger sizes (greater than ER20) it becomes a pain. For example ER32 is recommended to be torqued at 100 foot pounds!
No emergency or soft collets available. I suppose you could make up some soft ER collets fairly quickly though.
No ER pot chucks, clutch collets, step collets, oversize collets, or whatever you want to call them.
Most of the above reasons are relativity minor when comparing ER to standard work holding collets. Many of the above downfalls of ER collets are offset, especially when you are starting out, by the fact that you can use ER collets and collet chucks for both work holding and tool holding. ER collets also have a very large grip range – meaning you need fewer collets to cover a range of sizes. This can save money on tooling, which can be a big deal in the home shop and was precisely why I was seriously considering using ER as I already had a some collets in the shop. When you consider you can purchase the ER collet backplates for less than $100 or make them easily in your home shop it’s a logical choice.
But I decided to go with a standard work holding collet, mainly for reasons 2 and 5. I chose 5C as it is by far the most popular work holding collet available. There is a plentiful used market and new collets are inexpensive. Soft and clutch collets are inexpensive and I can get them next day from a local tooling supplier.
There are a few options for the actual collet chuck. Import ones are available from numerous suppliers for below $200 and this is the route I went. I actually ordered it off Amazon Canada. If you are looking for something of higher reputation (note generally most of the import one are actually decent) you can purchase a standard accuracy Bison ones for around $500 with a stated .0008″ TIR. A super precision one is available for $900 with a stated .0004″ TIR.
My import 5C collet chuck has less than .0008″ TIR, which is less than the stated accuracy of the standard Bison one at less than half the cost. It is very well finished and so far works exceptionally well. I have ordered inexpensive $12 emergency collets for it, and also I have been using it with a custom bored 3″ pot chuck recently for a repetitive job. With careful loading I was indicating less than .0005″ runout on this job.
A few weeks ago now I also made a video of the chuck, including some of the mounting of it on the 2 lathes in the shop. I recommend people to get a standard backplate one and either make up your own backplate or buy one. By mounting the chuck on a backplate it gives you an interface to adjust the TIR to zero – if the mounting system is directly manufactured into the chuck your options are probably limited to regrinding the taper in situ to improve accuracy of the chuck.
If you are a more of your make your own tools type Andy Lofquist over at Metal Lathe Accessories has an interesting 5C collet chuck kit that you can machine yourself.
For Christmas a few months ago I made a diamond dressing tool for my brother in law. He is a woodworker and uses his bench grinder for the initial sharpening of various wood working tools.
The tool is made up of 4 parts. The body is a piece of steel with an angled lip (one on each side) that is used as a guide against the tool rest on the grinder. It has a threaded hole for the diamond. The diamond is an industrial diamond held in a steel rod – commonly used in surface grinding dressers, modified with threads along most of its length. There is a lock nut and o-ring (to provide some cushion when tightening the nut down) and a handle nut to adjust the distance from the lip to the edge of the diamond.
The tool is useful for most sizes of standard bench grinders as the body has 2 different lip offsets. The threaded diamond is also allows for generous positioning.
After giving him the tool I explained a few of the benefits of such a tool versus a traditional spur style tool:
The amount of grinding wheel material removed is easily controlled as the distance on the single point tool is adjustable.
A single point diamond tool does a better job at getting the wheel round in the first place. This is because the forces involved are significantly less than traditional spur type tools, or even the newer T style diamond tools. Forcing traditional tools up against the wheel isn’t a very steady process and the entire tool floats on the surface of the wheel. In addition your hand can move back and forth with the high and low points on the wheel. As such I’ve found single point tools create a wheel that is rounder, which helps with balancing. (Grinder balancing always happens after a wheel has been dressed).
Unlike spur tools or the cheap T style dressers a properly used diamond tool lasts a long time on a bench grinder and also is very durable for various wheel materials.
I’ve also had a fair bit of interest in people asking if they could buy one of these tools. I’m making up a number of them for others so if you are interested send me an email: email@example.com. I’ll be posting additional information shortly.
As usual I made up a video of making the tool and it also shows how I use it:
Let’s rewind to the summer when I purchased the Rong Fu milling machine for the shop. The mill included an exceptionally well made French made Sagop milling machine vise that had a bit of wear but was very usable. Up until this point I have never heard of Sagop before.
A quick search revealed a basic corporate webpage. It appears that Sagop is still in business and still manufactures a line of workholding products. The vise that I purchased is the smallest of their precision CNC milling vises, a 100mm 800 series vise. The construction of the Sagop is very similar to the Bison precision CNC milling vises. I was also floored to learn the purchase price of this vise. It is listed over 1000 euros with the swivel base – a number that is rather shocking when you consider that it is sitting on a Rong Fu milling machine!
The vise came with the swivel base – a very well made turntable base that allows for 360 degree rotation. A very handy feature in some situations, but for most of the work that I do I usually just bolt the vise directly to the table. This takes up less table space and is also more rigid.
Strangely the vise did not come with any way to mount it to the table. Up until this point I had been using some of those standard import clamps that are sold everywhere. This wasn’t the best solution as these clamps are quite bulky and don’t do the best job of holding in situations like this. So set out and designed up some new clamps to be made.
But first I searched to see if I could find drawings of the vise and / or the swivel base, not only for this project but for future ones. While not directly advertised on Sagop’s website, I managed to find the drawings for the vise and the swivel base:
I modeled the clamp up in Fusion and made up a drawing of it based on the dimensions I found in the above pdfs. Now some folks at this point say CAD is a waste of time for such simple projects, and it maybe for them. But I’m actually quicker at modeling something up in CAD than I am drawing up a sketch on paper so for me I usually start with a 3D model.
The clamps are designed for 3/8 cap screws. I then made up a shop drawing for the clamps:
Making the clamps was a very straightforward process. The most interesting part was when I used the 4 jaw chuck in the lathe to counterbore for the cap screws – I haven’t invested in any counterbore tools yet for cap screws. I need to quit being so cheap.
When they were finished I started to wonder about how I was going to prevent them from rusting. Rust is a very real problem in home shops, and in particular my shop as I live in a climate that is somewhat humid and has significant temperature swings. If you are willing to deal with plating shops you might be able to find a shop to do a zinc coating – but for small one off parts it is often impossible on a budget as most plating shops have a minimum charge that far exceeds what home shop machinists can afford.
I have considered cold bluing products in the past as a simple method to provide some rust protection on parts. In Canada cold bluing is a bit harder to procure than south of the border, and is is also somewhat expensive. So I started to read up on other processes. Hot bluing looked interesting, but involves some nasty chemicals. Rust bluing looked promising but it seemed like a long process – you had to wait around for the rust to happen.
I did some more reading and I recalled an experiment we did in high school chemistry involving a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and salt applied to steel wool. The hydrogen peroxide and salt rusted the steel wool so quickly that you could measure the temperature change. I then did some further searching and I found a fellow Canuck who beat me to the idea of quickly rusting parts using hydrogen peroxide and salt: https://mypeculiarnature.blogspot.ca/2014/08/quick-rust-bluing-back-in-black.html
The process is very simple:
Thoroughly Clean parts using a good degreaser. This step is very important!
Etch parts in acetic acid (common household vinegar)
Rust parts using a warm hydrogen peroxide salt mixture. You can either fully immerse the parts or brush the mixture on. I mixed it up about 1/4 cup peroxide and 2 tablespoons of salt.
Fully submerse parts in boiling water and watch red rust turn to black oxide.
Lightly wipe or wire brush parts.
Repeat steps 2 through 5 until you are happy with the coating.
Dry parts and oil
The final result is a nice black oxide coating that helps protect against rust and looks great:
I made a video of the process, including the making of clamps:
A few weeks ago I finished a project that I had on my mind for a number of months. There was a lot of play in the cross slide feed screw on my import bench lathe. This showed up as backlash in the feed screw – when you grabbed the toolpost and applied force in alternate directions you could see the entire cross slide move back and forth. Some of it was from backlash in the feed nut itself, but most of it was between the feed dial and the support casting itself.
I tried tightening up the nuts themselves tor reduce the amount of clearance – but then it bound and you couldn’t turn the feedscrew at all. This wasn’t the best design from the get go.
The first thing I did was modeled the entire assembly up in Fusion to get a clear picture of what was going on – and to give a good starting point for the modification: The nuts aren’t shown on the end of the feedscrew but you can see where the assembly is constrained for axial movement – at the right side on a shoulder machined into the feedscrew itself and on the left side the inner bushing of the dial. These are just 2 plain bearing surfaces – and they weren’t machined the best to begin with. No wonder it wasn’t the best!
I thought about doing what Stefan Gotteswinter did. If this was my main lathe I would copy what Stefan did as it is the best solution by far. Angular contact bearings are the way to go in this situation. Since I’m keeping this lathe around primarily for cutting metric threads (the Standard Modern now in the shop doesn’t have a metric transposition gear) I decided to scale back the project and see if I could just stuff a deep groove axial bearing and a roller thrust washer into the space without having to modify the leadscrew, or make up a new dial.
Below is what I came up with:
I incorporated a deep groove ball bearing (6900-2RS) and a 10mm needle style thrust washer on the opposite side. This required a new housing and the old cast iron bearing support to be shortened up. The new housing was doweled to the cast iron block for location. 2 counter bored cap screws hold the entire assembly together. The cross slide screw required minimal rework – a shoulder had to be turned for the bearing to sit against. I also turned down the shoulder on the screw that previously was a bearing support.
The ball bearing is preloaded using the existing nuts. Care needs to be taken not to overload the ball bearing as deep groove ball bearings aren’t primarily designed for axial load. In retrospect I should have flipped the positioning of the deep groove ball bearing and thrust washer around when thinking about cutting forces as the cutting tool pushes away from the work piece. If I have problems I can always make a new bearing housing.
The cross slide now is super smooth with no backlash due to the support. There is a bit of backlash in the screw, but I don’t get too bothered by that on a manual machine. It is significant improvement with not too much effort or time required.
A few months ago I decided I had enough with using my traditional die holder in the lathe and set out to make a proper sliding die holder. It is a very good beginner project that is straightforward to make and also is one that is exceptionally useful.
I started out with a design in Fusion. The design consists of 3 manufactured parts, a body, an arbor, and a handle for extra leverage. The body is designed to hold 1″ dies – a size that I have standardized on in my shop due to primarily expensive. As die sizes climb the prices move up exponentially and due to that I generally single point large threads. If you have larger dies the design is very easy to modify to accommodate larger dies.
Traditionally most people don’t use a sliding die holder to hold taps. I’ve always started taps in the lathe using the tailstock. If the tap is small enough I am brave enough to power tap – being sure to leave the tap a little loose to make sure when it bottoms out it slips to avoid broken taps. I had the thought to incorporate an inexpensive ER collet chuck into the design to facilitate holding taps. In this design the ER16 collect chuck stub is held in the end opposite to the die holder with a couple of set screws.
Besides being a pleasure to use with dies, it also works exceptionally well for small taps. I don’t use the handle when I power tap with it – the handle is really only used for dies. Now when you are tapping blind holes you can simply let go of the body and the entire body spins. You can also feel when the tap reaches the bottom of the hole as the amount of force required to hold the body quickly climbs – at this point you simply let go, allow the body to spin and shut the lathe off.
Standard ER collets do a very good job of holding taps in the home shop. You can get ER collets with an internal square that engages the tap drive but I’ve found it unnecessary for home shop work. They are also more expensive and harder to find online – most industrial tool supply places can get them.
If you would like to build one yourself I made up a full set of drawings for the shop, and I’ll also provide 3D CAD in the zip file (iges and step):
About 6 months ago I purchased a digital readout off eBay for the Rong-Fu mill drill. Originally I had planned to purchase either iGaging scales or standard import calipers and utilizing a tablet based DRO. Once I started looking at prices however I was shocked to find that for less than the price of either the iGaging scales or the import calipers I could have a full blown 2 axis DRO complete with proper glass scales.
I went ahead and ordered the scales off a eBay seller. It was a typical Chinese eBay seller that sells everything from DROs for machine tools to various useless cell phone and house gadgets. The total for the order was around $200 USD plus about $30 for shipping. I then communicated the scale lengths I needed via email. In about 2 days I had a shipping confirmation including a tracking number.
I was excepting to wait about 3-4 weeks for the shipment to arrive, typical of most stuff ordered from China. I was shocked at the end of the week when I received an email from DHL that my shipment was to arrive on the following Monday – about a week for the entire process! Sure enough Monday afternoon a DHL driver dropped off the 2 boxes.
The one box contained the DRO – a JingCE JCS900-2AE 2 axis DRO unit. The other box contained the 2 glass scales both of proper length. Also included was a large amount of hardware, mounting brackets and associated items you would need to install the DRO.
I spent the next few days thinking about how to mount the scales. The X axis was easy – I decided to mount it to the front of the table using the T slot already present. I thought about mounting it to the back of the table but I didn’t want to loose any Y axis travel. The Glass scales are rather bulky – something to note if you are considering installing them on a smaller mill like the X2 mini mill. The Y axis was a bit of a different story – there really isn’t anything to fasten the scales to. I decided to make up a bracket to hold the Y axis scale. That took a fair bit of work to do.
After mounting the scales and trying out the DRO I also fitted a inexpensive import digital caliper to the quill to get a .001″ resolution readout for Z depth. This also took a few hours to do properly. 2 brackets were made out of aluminum to hold each end of the caliper. I modified the caliper using a Dremel tool. I drilled mounting holes using a standard off the shelf masonry drill bit – a poor man’s way of drilling hardened steel. High speed steel usually won’t touch hardened calipers.
After using the DRO for 6 months I can say that it is a very good unit. I haven’t had any issues. As far as accuracy and repeatability is considered, I really don’t have the proper measuring tools to qualify the DRO but I will say that I tested it using a dial indicator over the travel of the table. At each point where I tested the DRO it corresponded to the dial indicator – within at least .0005″ (as best as my judgment permits). I also ran the table up against a hard stop several times to test the repeatability and each reading was easily within .0005″. I probably should do a proper gauge R and R study on it, but just with the general testing I’ve done it’s easily within .001″. And to be honest doing work closer than .001″ on a Rong Fu mill drill is unreasonable.
I filmed and edited a number of videos showing the install and finally a video review of the DRO. The first video shows the hard part: the installation of the Y axis scale.
The second video shows the installation of the X axis scale and also the mounting of a digital caliper on the quill.
The final video is me talking about the DRO itself and contains much of what is written here.
If you are interested in reading the manual, I scanned a copy of it and it is available here.
One thing to note is that you will get little to no support with the DRO. To me this isn’t a big deal at all when you consider the price. The next closest DRO in price in the North American market is approaching 4 times the cost. And the unit looks suspicious like this unit. If something breaks I am willing to try and fix the unit myself or simply replace it.
If I had a high end knee mill I would probably buy a Mitutoyo DRO and be done with it. But putting a Mitutoyo DRO on inexpensive import mills is a bit like putting lipstick on a pig.
It was a $200 well spent. Having a DRO on a milling machine is exceptionally handy. I won’t say it is a necessity, but it greatly improves your efficiency – especially on larger mills or making larger parts. Time will tell how durable the unit is but I think it is an excellent addition to a home metal shop.
If you listen to the podcast you already know that I purchased a Rong Fu Mill Drill. While some people have issues with the round column, the mill drill is a significant step up in machine capacity and machining performance when compared to the X2 mini mill.
For those unfamiliar, the Rong Fu Mill Drill looks to be a heavily modified drill press. There are several size variations, but most utilize a R8 tapered spindle with provisions for a draw bar. The dovetail table has a relatively large travel of about 450 mm (over 17″) and 200 mm (just under 8″).
While there is much debate on the origins of the Taiwanese mill drills that started showing up in the 1970s, the most probable explanation is they are simply rather crude copies of the Fehlmann mill drill machines. Fehlmann is a Swiss machine tool manufacturer and they still build a number of mill drill machines, although I suspect you if have to ask the price you cannot afford them. Besides the very similar appearance, the main reason I think the Rong Fu mill drills are copies of the Fehlmann is primarily because of the tapered gibs on the Rong Fu table. Fehlmann being a Swiss machine tool company in and of itself is another telling reason why they were copied.
Round column mills are not just limited to two companies. Emco also manufactured several round column mills around the same time as Rong Fu started. A German company also manufactured a nice home shop mill drill branded as Ixion around the same time or slightly before the Rong Fus started flooding the home shop market.
The Rong Fu mill drill I purchased came with the typical flimsy tuna can stand that is oh so common on import machine tools. I did not purchase the machine new and the previous owner was selling the stand with it, otherwise I would have passed on the stand and just built one. Initially I was going to weld up a new stand out of 2×2 steel tubing, but then I thought could I just dump a bunch of concrete in the bottom and kill 2 birds with one stone; adding weight and rigidity? That and I find concrete a very useful engineering material in the home shop from previous antics.
And that’s exactly what I did. For less than $75 and one day’s home shop work, which is less than what the material alone would have cost for a tubing stand, I now have a rigid machine tool stand.
I’ll be posting further on the mill drill as I use it, but so far it has been a great addition to the shop.
A few weeks ago now I finished a quick change toolpost for the Schaublin.
The design is based on Andy Lofquist’s MLA-23 toolpost. Andy is the man behind the wonderful Metal Lathe Accessories kits (http://www.statecollegecentral.com/metallathe/). While I’ve never ordered any kits from Andy, I’m told that they are very high quality and are exceptionally thought out.
After quickly considering a Tripan toolpost and changing my mind after I saw the prices on those I ordered a set of drawings for the MLA-23 toolpost. The original design is for 9″-12″ swing lathes. The Schaublin is an 8″ swing lathe. After drawing up the original toolpost in Fusion and drawing up the Schaublin cross slide it was evident that it was too big. I decided to design a scaled down version, making some changes along the way.
The largest change is in the dovetail size and the shape of the body itself. I wanted something that would match the Schaublin’s size, but also look, so I manufactured the body out of round material instead of square. The toolpost is optimized for 1/4″ HSS tools, but 5/16″ will fit.
The internal workings are that of the MLA-23 toolpost. The design is exceptionally rigid and works very well. It is also a wonderfully simple in design. Part of the reason I really like this design is for its simplicity. I believe the best design is one that doesn’t allow you to take anything away. This design, in my opinion, is one of those designs.
Some people don’t like that the toolpost doesn’t repeat in angle position – that is once you loosen the locking handle you completely loose the rotational position of the toolpost. This is a downfall of the design if you truly need rotational position repeatability. When I work in the shop I’m constantly moving the toolpost around to allow for tool clearance. So much so that I made a handle for my Aloris clone on my 10×18 lathe a number of months ago. I do have provisions in the design to allow for graduations on the base to allow for visual rotational positioning. We’ll see if I add it.
The build was interesting and fun. I learned a number of things along the way including how to cut dovetails on the shaper. It took a bit of time, but it reaffirmed the very useful nature of having a shaper in the shop. Instead of waiting for a dovetail cutter I could grind up a simple tool and cut nice dovetails, at any angle, and get a super finish. I’m told you can build the entire toolpost with a lathe, but there is a fair bit of milling work so even a mini mill would be a huge help.
Since the design borrows heavily from Andy’s design I don’t want to release drawings. What I’m planning on doing is forwarding a set of drawings to Andy to include with his prints if he is interested. So if you want to build the smaller version, which is a perfect size for the mini lathe, send me an email and I’ll try to get you a set of drawings.
I made a build video of the entire toolpost in montage style format as well.
Although I’ve talked about it with Max on the podcast, I’ve never announced on the blog that I picked up a made in Switzerland Schaublin 102. 102 is the turning radius in millimeters (about 4 inches). The lathe was in pieces, but in very workable condition. I dragged it home and it sat for a few months until I found the time to get to working on it.
This week I finally managed to get the 102 making chips. It took some work mostly in the drive area. I didn’t have access to the proper voltage to drive the existing motor so I decided to replace the original Schaublin motor with new 3/4 HP Baldor that I picked up a year ago for $50. I also wanted to keep the mechanical variable speed drive working. I could have got the old motor rewound, and I might do that some day, but the $800 that I was quoted was a bit rich.
After modelling up the existing motor in Fusion I designed up a pulley to fit the Baldor, spacers to place the new motor in the same location as the old one and a motor mounting plate. I used old school methods to make up a plate to mount the VFD and associated electrical components.
I made a montage type video of all the work:
I was pretty happy with how it turned out. Here is an animated gif showing a test cut that I did with the lathe:
Aside from making up the required parts, I spent a fair bit of time cleaning out the bed, cross slide, tailstock and the interesting air – oil lubricating unit for the spindle bearings. I also have several hours fishing the air – oil lubrication lines back into place in the headstock.
I’ve never used a plain turning lathe before, and quite frankly until I did I thought they were a bit of a joke. In the past no carriage or leadscrew caused me to immediately write off plain turning lathes as useless machines. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, as I used my import lathe more (which has a carriage and leadscrew) I realized that I do 80% of my work without such features. If you have the chance to pickup a plain turning lathe in good condition, jump at it! Many people devalue such machines and as such you can sometimes get a very good deal on a lathe that is exceptionally capable – and a joy to use.
Next up is a proper toolpost for the lathe, a backing plate for a Buck 6 jaw chuck I picked up, and probably a faceplate. That is unless I manage to pick this stuff up used somewhere. I really don’t count on that happening though. Parts and associated tooling for Schaublins usually demand high prices.
To start off my titanium mechanical pencil build, called wrTie, I decided to teardown a number of different mechanical pencils for inspiration and design ideas. I find the mechanisms in mechanical pencils very interesting. I also find the manufacturing processes that are used exceptionally interesting.
Here is a teardown video of my favourite mass produced mechanical pencil: the Pentel P209 (0.9 mm version). The Pentel P20x series (there are 0.3, 0.5, 0.7 and 0.9 mm models) has been around for a long time. It is exceptionally well made given the price point it is hitting and the parts involved. There are 12 parts in total, including 5 fully machined parts. A number of the parts require plating. There are 2 parts that are molded out of plastic. And then it has to be assembled! You can buy a Pentel P209 for less than $5 in the United States and less than $7 in Canada. That’s actually pretty crazy considering this pencil contains machined parts and even more so once you consider that Pentel is probably selling it to it’s retailers for less than half of what they are retailed for.
The heart of the Pentel 200 series is a removable fully contained feeding cartridge. The cartridge features a number of machined components in the feeding mechanism. The components are probably massed produced on swiss style screw machines (a lathe but instead of the carriage moving the spindle moves in the Z direction – often called sliding headstock machines). These machines could be cam actuated screw machines or they could be CNC controlled units. CNC swiss style machines, like the ones produced by Star or Citizen, are really interesting machines. Here is a video of a Citizen L20, one of the more popular CNC swiss machine that you will find today:
The Pentel P209 cartridge has been used in a number of titanium mechanical pencil builds on Kickstarter. I can’t confirm it directly as I haven’t purchased one, but check out this project (you have to scroll about half way down and you’ll see a picture of what looks to be the Pentel cartridge: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cogent/titanium-mechanical-pencil-and-titanium-pen. Given the Pentel’s design, you could easily make a new mechanical pencil by machining a new outside body for the Pentel. I won’t be doing that because I think it is too easy!
I spent 30 minutes on a Friday evening making up something that has been on my project list for awhile. I made a swarf separator to go in front of the vacuum. Often these are called dust cyclones, or particulate cyclones, or separators of some sort. I made a video of how I constructed it (which took longer than actually making the separator):
The design is very simple. The pail itself was from someone with a pool – it was used to hold bromine (I love re-purposing stuff!). I’ve been saving the pail for this for awhile because it has a nice tight fitting lid. I cut 2 holes in the top for some 1 1/2″ threaded ABS couplings and a 1 1/2″ to 1 1/4″ bushing found at a local hardware store. One coupling was male threaded and the other was female threaded. The 1 7/8 Ridgid vacuum hose fit well onto these couplings after I turned them to fit. A long 1 1/2″ ABS elbow was used to direct the dirty suction flow along the side of the container. The ‘clean’ air comes out the centre and into the vacuum.
I immediately tried it by cleaning up the lathe. It worked very well for metal chips. I’m not sure how well this design would work with saw dust – something I’m bound to try out at some point. I don’t do that much work with wood, and when I do it generally is general construction – which usually happens outdoors.
I was considering purchasing a Dust Deputy – a purchased cyclone attachment for standard vacuums. They are $60 for just the cyclone (still requires a pail with a lid) or $135 for a cyclone, pail, lid and hose. Lee Valley also has their Veritas cyclone lids for larger containers for about $50, but I prefer the 5 gallon pail size.
I have about $30 into the project including the hose (the most expensive part of the project), which isn’t too bad at all. Now I won’t fill expensive vacuum bags up with metal chips anymore, and I can keep the vacuum bag for filtration of fine particulate like grinding dust.
I didn’t make drawings for this project because I thought it was very simple. If you really would like something, send me an email and I’ll try to do something up.
I needed to be able to bore some holes using the lathe as a mill / drill press for a number of upcoming projects. My 10×18 lathe has a MT4 spindle taper. MT4 is a bit of an odd ball taper for a lathe. It’s not quite big enough to accommodate the 5C taper or the R8 taper – both of which plentiful amounts of inexpensive new and used tooling is available. The X2 mini mill I have uses the MT3 taper – so naturally it made a lot of sense then to make up an adapter to go from MT4 to MT3, as well as a drawbar and associated hardware to go along with it.
Here is a video of the project:
The threaded drawbar itself was made out of some mystery metal in the shop. It was interesting stuff with a really hard outer layer that through hot chips all over my arm when I was turning it. It almost made me want a lathe with a carriage wheel on the right side of the lathe. The drawbar was turned between centres to within .001″ over 10″ – something I was happy with. It highlighted my need for a travel steady – I’ll have to add that to the project this.
The MT4 – MT3 bushing / adapter was made out of an inexpensive MT4 – MT3 adapter that would be commonly used in a drill press. I cut the tang off with an angle grinder and cleaned it up on the belt sander. I was thinking about making it up entirely, but I wanted a hardened bushing.
The video marks my tenth video that I’ve done, and it also incorporates some significant changes in how I put them together. Going forward I hope to continue to improve the quality as I learn.
The titanium pencil project is also still very much a going concern – I hope start some tear downs over the next few weeks to start the project off. Many of the projects I’ve been working on in the shop are laying groundwork for the build. So in short – stay tuned!
In the shop I have a 2 beam dial height gauge that I use a lot for measuring and general layout work. As far as measuring equipment, it is my favourite tool to use, even though I would want a micrometer and a caliper before a height gauge. Once you get one you’ll wonder how you got by without one.
Most height gauges come with a tool for measuring flat surfaces, and for scribing. To get the most out of the gauge you need a depth arm – basically a pin in an arm, for measuring depths. I needed one to measure up a motor face so I can get a 3 phase motor mounted on my lathe – one of those projects to complete a project sort of deals. I decided to make one up instead of buying it:
I made most of the arm on the shaper and used a gift from Max over at the Joy of Precision to bore the hole for the pin. The boring head Max made is the star of this show. It is the perfect size for the mini mill. It is one of the best designs for a small boring head I’ve seen, and used. The adjusting dial is a tad small but once you get a feel for it adjusting it is easy. It’s also great because you can bore small holes – saving you from buying a lot of reamers.
The pin was turned between centers and was within .0004″ over the length – something I was very happy with. The deviation was in the centre of the pin. The pin sprung between centres a bit when I was cutting – aside from using a traveling steady there isn’t much you can do here about that. The beginning diameter and end diameter were essentially the same within .0001. I probably didn’t need that much precision but I wanted to dial in my tailstock anyway. At the end of the pin you can screw in standard dial indicator ends using a #4-48 thread.
I made the screw out of brass because it looks nice, and doesn’t mar the pin. I usually don’t turn that much brass so I was reminded how easy it is to work with.
Here is the drawing for the height gauge arm. I will be sharing all the projects in Fusion at some point and I’ll post a link.
If you are looking to get a height gauge, do yourself a favor and go a dial one instead of a digital one. Even though the dial on mine is graduated to .001″, you can actually measure much closer in the home shop with it. Notice I didn’t say in the shop – in a professional environment I get that you need hard numbers and ‘guessing’ at the measurement is very poor practice. Verniers are also good but I find them slow – probably because I don’t have enough practice.
I decided to start the New Year off by making some small productivity improvements in the shop. One of the things I find myself constantly doing is reaching for a wrench to tighten the tool post, and also the tailstock (more on this soon!). I decided to make a tool post lock nut and handle.
From this point on I’m going to try to make drawings for all the projects that I do in Autodesk Fusion. I’ll also share the CAD data in Fusion once I get that setup. Below are the drawings for each of the parts:
In the video I talk a little about the taps I primarily purchase and use in the shop. YG’s spiral flute bottoming machine tap is my go to tap. The quality on these taps is exceptional, and work well in many materials that you find in the home shop. They are designed for tapping blind holes, but work equally well in through holes so to keep costs down I try to just purchase these. Avoid the cheap import sets for thread cutting. Usually these sets are made from high carbon steel (not high speed steel), and they generally do a poor job in the shop.
If anyone says you can’t tap properly by hand using machine taps, they probably aren’t using good machine taps, or need more practice I guess. I find that the YG machine taps are easier to use and start than standard hand taps and do a much better job on the thread. Let them pick out the broken hand tap.
I found some time between exams, work, and recovering from a nasty cold to make a new table saw adjusting screw for a friend of mine. It saved his table saw from the dump as he couldn’t get any parts for it anymore. Can you image? Trash a table saw because of one screw? I made a quick video of it:
Max and I are working on the next podcast, I’ve been working on few improvements for my lathe and I have a VFD (variable frequency drive) project for the lathe that will be coming up next before I begin wrTie full time.
Great ideas begin in the simplest forms. A sketch on a napkin. A doodle on a scrap piece of paper. A few words to solidify the idea that has been formed in the mind. And the sketch or doodle, the short sentence or scribble, all start with a pencil. That’s why I’ve thought a fitting project for 2017 is WrTie, a titanium mechanical pencil.
This project symbolizes my desire to do things different. WrTIe will be a product designed to last a lifetime and pass onto your kids (like that pocket watch you received from your grandfather), a project that challenges design and manufacturing skills, and my desire to be an inspiration for everyone working in their garage. And that’s where great ideas start.
The real question is can a small shop with manual machines and one man design, prototype, and manufacturer something so simple … yet so complicated? This is a product made with a material that is difficult to manufacturer with even the best equipment. And I’ve never machined titanium. Not even once.
What will follow over the year is a series showing my progress on designing, prototyping and manufacturing a mechanical pencil made from titanium. There will be product tear downs, unique designs, tiny o-rings, CAD software, research, guesswork, calculated risks, material investigation, tool design and selection, deep hole drilling, tiny machining, the help of friends, many failures, frustrations, lessons from craft beer, and I hope in the end success.
I haven’t written or designed anything. This is not scripted. This isn’t a Kickstarter campaign. Through the power of video you will be coming along for the journey, every step of the way, watching ever failure, and every success. I want to learn and do something productive, and I hope you do as well.
And in the end if it all works, I hope to have something special that I can use every day. The drawings, the lessons learned, the tricks discovered, will all be here.
To show your support, I ask you to subscribe. I will start in early 2017.