Archive for the ‘Tools and equipment’ Category

My previous blog post featured a clock I built from recycled material. Turns out I am still feeling the re-use theme and decided to carry it through to the next project. This time it is a rustic kitchen table built from old pallets.

Our household has been in need of a kitchen table upgrade for years. We had gone shopping for plank style tables previously and found things we liked but still had yet to take the plunge. I am not much of a wood worker however I figured that since the theme was “rustic” it would open things up to not have to be perfect.

I liked the idea of basically using garbage to make something cool. I had access to plenty of pallets and although the wood is of the lowest quality you can get I could see some potential. I was up for the challenge of creating something that one would never suspect was build from junk.

The tooling required to handle this size of wood project was beyond what I was equipped to deal with so I needed to improvise. The idea was to build a plank style table in small sections. I wanted to incorporate some metal into the design so I planned to separate the smaller sections of wood using aluminium accents.

The design, and process, is not over complicated however it did turn out to be very time consuming. Prepping pallets into useable pieces of lumber is not a quick task. In the end everything came together and I have picture to prove it. So I’ll stop typing and let the show begin.

The project started by collecting an unknown amount of pallets and breaking them apart. I estimated a couple of truck loads should do it. Turns out I ended up with approximately 20% extra.

The garage floor turned into a war zone as I was de-nailing all the wood, sorting through usable pieces and trimming off bad sections of the pallet wood

I laid out the usable wood to get an idea of how much I was going to need. This is where I required my second truck load.

All the wood then got run through the thickness planer. I varied the thicknesses depending on how much thickness I had to work with. I wanted to mix things up with the look of the table.

After hours of planing I ended up with good, usable, neat stacks of wood organized by thickness. The 2 garbage cans are only half of the shavings I collects from planing.

Next I moved onto the table saw to trim all the boards to just over 3 inches wide.

The idea was to build 5 plank sections. Here I started to jigsaw puzzle the wood together in order to come up with a pattern and sections that would equal 8.25″ wide.

Next came the gluing and clamping of each section.

I only had a limited number of clamps so I was required to wait until each section dried before moving onto the next.

A picture that is lacking for this post is the one where I ran all the glued section back through the thickness planer in order to achieve an even 3″ thickness. As you can see I edged the 2 sides of the table with cedar. Since all the sections are going to get bolted together I cross drilled every plank assembly. The end sections received countersunk holes in order to accept the 1/2″ nuts.

Here everything gets bolted together using threaded rod. In order to add an extra dimension I sandwiched 1/4″ 6061 brushed aluminum flat bar between each plank section.

The idea was to built a rustic table top and not a china cabinet so with the slab complete I proceeded to distress the wood using the pictured weapons.

Time to cover things up. The top received a total of 3 coats of dark ebony stain before being topped with 2 coats of a polyurethane clear coat.

This is what the countersunk threaded rod holes looked like. They obviously required some cover up.

I machined aluminum press in plugs to cover up the hardware and also tie in the aluminum flat bar with the sides of the table.

With the table top complete it was time to move onto the base.

The table base was going to be constructed of metal and was also going to have some curves applied to it. Here I pulled out the homemade metal bender and curved up some .250″ x 4″ mild steel sections.

Using 2″ x 4″ rectangular tube for the base I created some visual lines. I marked the floor so that I could build two assemblies to the same dimensions.

Trying to incorporate different materials and sizes I decided to implement some curved 5/8″ rod. Using a different bender I radius-ed the stock.

Mocking things up it is starting to look like my vision may have some potential.

I drilled holes through my 4″ flat bar in order to thread the 5/8″ round bar through it. The assembly then got jigged up on the bench and ready for welding.

This is what the welded up base looks like. Time to clean up the welds.

With both based fabricated I built some cross supports to help with stability. Everything was made to bolt together.

Since I am limited by the size of my oven for the things I powdercoat in house I was forced to send the table base out to a local company. They did a fantastic job.

Final shots of the completed table set in place.

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Today’s posting comes as part 2, of 2, which outlines the restoration of a 1907 Champion Blower and Forge Co post drill press for my cities local living history museum. If you happen to miss part one there is no need to get all worked up. You can view it here.

Previously all the repair work and fabrication had been completed. It was time to move onto the finishing stage. There is not a whole lot that is worth putting into words as I have jam packed this blog posting with a lot of pictures.

In an effort to avoid redundancy I will simple start this posting with some closing remarks. The end product worked out as planned and I am happy with it. For me the absolute best part of the restoration is how well the post drill operates. If there was some way I could get all those interested to turn the handle and experience the ease, and smoothness, of the drill that would tickle me more than anything I’ve seen. Unfortunately you are going to have to take my word for it. I think as far as looks go it appears to have come from the era. Although I made some “non-period correct” changes the bulk of the drill remained original.

I have since returned the post back to its original home that I received it from. The plan is that its use will get demonstrated to the people visiting the facility. Since the drill is now kept in an indoor shop it should stay in good operating condition for many years. It was an enjoyable project of mine and I was happy to have it all work out in the end. Time to move onto something else. Below are all the pictures that follow the completion of the post drill. And BTW…virtual high five to those who decipher the title to this post.

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I entered into deliberation regarding the highlighting of the raised lettering. Before I went into finishing stage I thought I would sample the highlight. I used a dark copper model paint and a artists paint brush to raise out the lettering. Still completely unsure if this would be too much. Hmmmm…….

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All the components receiving a black top coat were wiped down with acetone and then oil & grease remover. I opted to not set up my paint booth as I was not overly concerned with some dust getting into the finish. All the components then received a coat of Nason primer.

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I originally wanted to powder coat everything but it became clear, awhile back, that it would look too “plastic” so I went for conventional paint. I dug out my HVLP spray gun and figured I would Hot Rod black the components. This is the same paint I used on my 1965 Honda CB160 Cafe Racer. It has a decent flat finish to it.

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Paint is mixed, filtered, and ready to spray!

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Painting results were great, no runs and no missed spots. My intention was to paint the gear teeth and allow them to wear naturally.

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I was struggling a bit with the hardware. The drill press came with mismatched square head set screws. I couldn’t cope with that. I found myself on the West Coast of Vancouver for a couple of days and decided to stop in at my favorite hardware store located in Steveston. This place is fantastic! I could spend hours just wandering the isles.

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And wander the isles I did! I was able to find the retro square headed set screws that I needed. Score!

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All the hardware received and initial cleaning.

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Next step everything took its turn in the crushed glass media cabinet and received an exfoliation.

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Then onto the black oxide solution where everything got blackened to the same degree.

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Once blackened all the hardware received a coat of sealer in order to protect it from rusting.

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Hung to dry. I feel better having the finish of all the hardware matching.

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The 2 oak handles that I made received a couple coats of stain and then 2 coats of a clear polyurethane finish to aid in the protection.

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The next sequence of pictures revolve around saving the drill table from any more damage. At some point in the drills earlier life the drill table was drilled into. In my previous post I showed I repaired the previous holes. I didn’t want the repaired table to get drilled into again so I decided to make a “sacrificial” table hoping it would take the abuse and not the original table. It started off with plasma cutting a 7 inch diameter circle out of some 10 gauge steel.

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Onto the milling machine where the center was drilled out as well as 3 more holes spaced 120 degrees apart.

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Quickly machined up a center arbor for the 7″ disc.

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TIG welded the center arbor to the disc which will allow me to mount the disc into my lather chuck.

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With the plasma cut circle mounted in the lathe I was able to trim it down to a precise diameter.

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Time to move onto the actual sacrificial plate. I got my hands on a chunk of 8″ wide by 1″ thick solid red oak. I jig sawed out a rough 7 inch circle.

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Next is was mounted onto my previously machined 10 gauge steel disc using wood screws.

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And onto the lathe it went.

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It was trimmed down, and sanded, to final dimensions.

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Three 1/4 x 20 steel inserts where installed.

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2 coats of stain and 2 coats of a clear polyurethane finish were applied to give it some protection.

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I machined up 3 brass pegs to allow for mounting the oak base to the powder coated steel base. This way the sacrificial base can be dropped onto the original drill press base quickly. I also designed it that if the 1″ oak gets drilled all the way through the bit will eventually hit the steel backing. If the operator chooses to continue drilling through the steel base into the drill table then I suggest he/she steps away from the machine and never gets within 10 feet of it again.

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Here I am back onto my highlight dilemma. I applied some more of the dark copper model paint to the back side of a flat black mount. I think at this point I am going to decline from highlighting the raised lettering. As cool as I think it would look I need to ensure that post drill looks period correct. Back in the day the manufacturer would not take the time to apply the highlights.

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This is most of the hardware that has been cleaned up, refinished, or replaced.

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What holds the drill arbor to the down feed acme rod is a couple of 3/16″ pins. Originally there was a “one time use” crush sleeve that went over the pins in order to prevent them from coming out. I opted to machine a bronze sleeve with a set screw to allow for servicing. As stated in my previous post I am aware that this repair is not period correct.

 

A friend of mine stopped by the garage for a visit so we figured we would have some fun with the assembly of the post drill. If you would like to see all components involved as well as the construction take a peek at the following 58 second video.

 

 

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Thought I would include a photo of the wood shop that the post drill will live in. This place is super cool! It is run by volunteers and what they turn out of the shop is magical. Right now they are building a carousel for the local zoo. The ride is going to feature all hand carved animals done by the volunteers. I have no idea how they pull this stuff off. It is a pleasure to see the passion these people have for working with their hands.

 

The remaining 14 pictures and 1 video are not being accompanied with any captions. They are simple showing the different angles, components, and details of the post drill. As much as I do not want to overdo the pictures I like to provide as much visual detail as possible in hopes that anyone else that is looking for information regarding these presses will be able to find some answers here.

 

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My latest garage project is coming to me through a series of connections and it involves a restoration project. My cities living history museum has an on-site workshop that is run by volunteers. The workshop is historic type wood working shop that does lots of repairs and building of historic items for the museum/park. One of the larger projects undertaken by the shop has been a full blown building of a 1920 carousel including all hand carved horses.

Doug, the gentleman that heads up all the volunteers and also appears to coordinate practically everything to do with the projects, gave me an inside look at both the shop and some of the major projects that have been completed. The vintage level that the shop works on is truly inspiring and goes to show that machines can’t always substitute for human talent, effort, and ingenuity.

This brings me to my own little shop and the project it has recently seen. The historical park has many vintage pieces of equipment some of which has been donated. They had acquired a Champion Blower and Forge Co. drill press dated from the early 1900’s. The drill had found itself a home in the wood working shop but was only there for decoration as it was not in a useable state. Through a series of connections I was able to contact Doug and meet with him to discuss the future of the drill press.

What the museum wanted was to be able to get the drill to a functioning state so that it could be used as demonstration in the museum’s workshop. After performing my initial inspection I was fairly certain I could get the drill back to working condition again however I had one main concern. The concern revolved around restoring it so that it would be historically correct. I like building things, I like spending time in my shop, I like planning my projects, and I like researching my projects BUT…I do not want to commit to the amount of time it would take to research the historical accuracies nor do I want to be burdened with the time consuming task of trying to collect potentially unobtainable items. Since this is a volunteer venture I also have to consider the budget. It was agreed that the drill would not have to be historically correct. As long as it was in a functioning state and that the overall image was maintained then I was free to modify, and repair, as I see fit.

The good news is that I wasn’t under a time crunch. The museum, being mostly outdoors, shuts down for the winter therefore I had up to 5 months to get the project complete. As long as the drill was ready for opening day in May I was free to take my time.

Onto the details. The Champion Blower and Forge Co. drill press that I am dealing with is Model 101. I found a date stamp on the drill chuck and it read June 1907. I am not going to give a history lesson in this blog posting. I will refer you to Mr. Google should you have any questions. I will, however, tell you a bit about how it operates.

The drill press is hand cranked and only has one gear ratio. The length of the crank arm can be adjusted and therefore I guess you could say that the mechanical advantage can be altered. The unit is equipped with a flywheel in order to add some inertia to the monotonous cranking of the handle. There is a cam lobe cast into the drive gear which activates a cam lever which, in turn, ratchets a lever onto a downfeed gear. This allows the drill bit to feed down between 1-3 teeth, depending on adjustment, with every turn of the crank arm.  I have included a video in this post which will probably do a better job at explaining how the unit operates.

There is much that I can say about both the drill and the restoration process. All the components had been gone through and either repaired or reconditioned. Some small hardware items like screws, ball bearings, and a spring were replaced. I have not included all the details of the repairs in the posting but instead just chose to highlight a few. If you have questions or want specific information just ask!

On last note before I move onto the good stuff. Much of the hardware that I required for the build was hard to find locally. McMaster Carr is a United States hardware supplier that has a massive selection of parts that are of interest to me. Unfortunately McMaster Carr does not sell, nor ship, to Canadians. Fortunately I have some good friends in the right spots that are willing to help out. Jason who happens to follow my blog was able to help me out. For those of you who are not familiar with Jason I would highly recommend checking out his blog as he does some really cool wood related projects. Not to mention he is an equipment junky which I can respect. You can see all his stuff at his blog The Gahooa Perspective. Anyway, Jason offered to put an order in for me and ship it North my way. Very much appreciated Jason, thanks!

I opted to split this project into 2 separate posts. This post includes the nitty gritty parts of the restoration. Part 2 will include the finishing process which will be available at a later date.

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Here is the condition of the drill press before any work was performed. Previous work had been done as was evident by weld repairs that were painted over.

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I am including this shot only to show the right side for reference purposes. As I scoured the internet in my research it was helpful when I was able to view as much detail as possible. Here is my contribution.

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First order of business was to photograph everything before disassembly. Second order of business to to rip and tear and break everything down to individual components to allow for cleaning and inspection. Most of the components came apart with little effort. There where a few parts that needed some persuading however I think the drill and I developed a good working relationship. It had initially expressed some dislike of what I was trying to do but I had assured it, as gracefully as I could, that I was here to help and not to harm. We were able to reach a compromise and at that point I think we each developed a healthly respect for one another. From then one we had a common goal and became good working partners. I would like to be able to call this press a friend.

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Here is some evidence of previous repairs. The support that holds the table assembly has been previously broken into multiple pieces. As much as the brazing repair looks excessive I commend whoever performed to repair for a job fairly well done. If you saw the bore of the broken component you would know just how many pieces it was broken into. It was a jigsaw puzzle to repair.

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This is the cam arm that converts movement from a vertical plane to a horizontal plane which then activates the down feed ratchet gear. It too has been previously broken and repaired with both brazing and welding. There were some cracks that were still evident so I will end up doing further stitching.

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Once I evaluated the condition of all the items I proceeded to get everything to a workable state. I started by running everything through a high pressure hot water parts cleaner to get rid of as much grease, oil, and old paint as possible. Then most components were transferred to my blast cabinet and cleaned up using crushed glass media.

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The drill press table had been previously drilled through. Being cast I was nervous about how I was going to repair this. I had TIG welded cast previously and had good success. My main concern was being able to match the material finish.

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I filled the holes using a 309 filler rod which works great for dissimilar metals. You can see that cracking on the top of the weld is evident. I am hoping that crack is only a flesh wound and has not penetrated deeper.

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I had knocked down the protruding portion of the weld and then set the table up on the mill in order to machine it using my facing mill.

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Here is the end result after machining and some sanding. The table is perfectly flat however the repair is evident, I kinda expected it would be. I am not sure how I am going to deal with this yet, I have some ideas. Time will tell which solution will prevail.

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The drill press had a previous repair done to the wooden handle on the crank arm. I felt as though the press deserved something more then low budget fir. I opted to machine out a couple of oak handles using classic handle styling by giving them a slight taper.

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Roughed out and sanded oak handle.

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You may have noticed that the drill press only had 1 handle originally and that I had machined 2 handles. This is because I opted to retro fit an upper handle onto the top down feed gear. Of the drill press models that I researched I saw numerous models equipped with this upper handle. The purpose of the handle was to aid in rapid vertical feed of the drill chuck when setting up the material for drilling. The 101 model I was dealing will had a hole in the casting of the the upper gear that allowed for a handle to be added. I am unsure if a handle was there as some point or if it did not come on this model. The provisions were there so I opted to add my own handle assembly. I wanted to keep all my “gordsgarage” manufactured components looking as though they were original so I built a simple arbor for the upper handle. This is the start of the arbor before the final machining took place.

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Here is the final machined upper handle arbor. I needed to cut it in such a way that it would clear the down feed ratchet lever.

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One of the more crucial repairs involved the drive gear . This is the gear that is turned directly by the crank handle. The problem was that the gear had worn on the shaft and therefore the teeth would no longer mesh due to misalignment. The gear is cast with no inner bushing. Since the shaft that it rides on inspected to have some wear it was fairly minor. I opted to enlarge the bore of the gear in order to accept a bronze bushing.

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Here is the bronze bushing that I machined down in order to fit the gear and the shaft.

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The bronze bushing then got press fit into the gear. I made the bronze bushing a very tight fit on the shaft knowing that once it was pressed into the gear I would be able to hone the bushing for a precision fit. Happy to say my gear teeth meshing issue was solved and the gear alignments were perfect.

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The next few pictures show some random repairs. On the right is shown the cam wheel that rides on the drive gear and activates the cam arm. There were a couple issues with it. First it had a flat spot on one side most likely caused by it’s inability to turn freely. The second issue was that the securing screw, for the wheel, could not be tightened since it would not allow the wheel to turn. What the manufacturer did was thread the screw in loose and then mushroom the back side of the treads in order to lock it in place. The problem using this method of securing is that it does not allow for disassembly for maintenance or repair. My solution involved machining a new wheel that was equipped with an inner bushing for the wheel to rotate around. This way the allen head securing bolt can be tightened properly and also removed at a later date if needed to. NOTE: I realize the allen bolt I used is not period correct. Fortunately the drive gear blocks it from sight.

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Next challenge was to address a one-time-use crush sleeve. The sleeve on the right was used to keep a couple of securing pins in place. The securing pins connected the drill chuck shaft to the down feed acme shaft. One-time-use is the issue and unfortunately for me I was second in line. I wanted to find a solution that would not only look similar to OEM equipment but also allow for disassembly. I machined a bronze sleeve and installed a 10-24 set screw. I opted to leave the outside of the sleeve untouched therefore keeping its worn looking exterior. Again I realize the set screw does not fit with the time period. It’s my project and I can screw with it if I want to. That’s just my one cents.

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Just like the cam wheel the cam lever also needed to be able to turn/pivot on it’s securing fastener. The cam lever pivot was originally made from a 7/16 bolt shown on the right. If this bolt was tightend it would not allow the lever to pivot. In order to keep the bolt “loose” but prevent it from backing off the threads have been flattened. This is visible by looking at the deformed thread 6 threads from the end of the bolt on the right. I am not huge supporter in this securing technique and therefore a solution would be required. The second issue was that the female threads that were cut into the lever arm securing bracket were cut at a slight angle. This caused issues with proper lever alignment. My solution invloved building what is visible on the left. It is a bushing that is secured using a 3/8″ square headed (keep the vintage look) bolt. Not only did this allow me to tighten the bolt, it also allowed a better quality pivot, and it repaired 90% of my lever alignment issues due to the fact I eliminated using the angle threaded original hole. Got all that? Didn’t think so.

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Another challenge involved the down feed 5/8″ six turn single start acme rod. The drill appeared to have sat for awhile in unfavorable envirmental conditions a therefore the threads suffered some corrosion. I opted not to reuse the orignal shaft but instead build a new one. I began by obtaining a new three foot section of 5/8″ acme rod, cutting it down to size, building up a portion of it with the TIG welder and a 309 rod, and then machining it down to match the spec of the original rod.

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In this picture the corrosion of the original threads are evident on the bottom shaft. I am happy to say that the female threads were still is decent condition and that the new, replacement, shaft threads perfectly into its counterpart.

Below is a 32 second video showing the mocked up drill press in action. Normally I toss in some generic music to help pass the video viewing time but in this case I opted not to. The reason being that the pure mechanical sound that this drill press makes is symphonic. I almost think the mechanical sound of the unit working in harmony is the best part. I’m considering making a 3 minute recording and put it up for sale on iTunes. Coming home after a hard days work , sitting in your Lazy Boy with a set of headphones on, and entering an oasis of non cyber stimulation would be well deserved for those in appreciation of such mechanical bliss.

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The last 2 pictures show the mock up stage. Do not look too hard at the assembly since I purposely did not assembly everything 100%. The securing pins below the bearing assembly are just loosely fitted in order to allow for easy disassembly. At this point though the fabrication and repair have all bee completed and I am happy to say that the drill performd very well. I have never had the opportunity to use on of these drills in it’s original state so I can’t comment if my rendition if better, worse, or the same however I would have no hesitation in guaranteeing all the work I performed.

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At this point the drill will be completely dissembled and the “finishing” process will begin. I’ll save all those details and pictures for a later date.

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I am never short on things to fill my time with and typically I need to implement time management strategies in order to accomplish the things that I consider to be important. One of the things that suffer is the time spent on the internet looking at other cool projects people are doing. There is soooo much stuff out there that people are doing that it actually frustrates me because it inspires new ideas, and projects, that I do not have the time to take on. I am always intrigued by the blogs, and sites, that show close up photos of the actual work that is being performed and not just the finished projects. I feel as though, over time, my blog has lacked the visuals that provide the raw metal and tools. This posting I wish to get back into, what I consider, to be the passion.

For those who need an update on what is going on in the garage these days I am building a plasma torch CNC table. Check out my previous posts to get up to speed if required. This blog entry is going to deal with the Z axis. As stated previously I am building the table “backwards” and starting from the tip of the torch.

The Z axis dose have some requirements. In my case I am designing a floating torch head. For those not familiar with this style I will briefly explain. In order for the CNC software to know the vertical position of the torch head the Z axis stepper motor needs to run the torch head down until it touches metal. There are numerous ways for the software to know when the touch occurs. In my case the torch is designed to touch the work piece and then it will start to float on the Z axis. In other words the torch head stops moving once it touches metal however the Z axis continues to travel downwards until a mechanical switch is triggered. Once this switch is triggered the software can then back the Z axis upwards to a pre-programmed dimension which will set the torch head at the proper starting height. The reason for the floating design is to prevent any damaged that may occur to the torch head while being set onto the work piece. Stepper motors have enough force to start breaking components of the table and torch. By only floating the head the weight the torch head, and support plate, is being exposed to the torch itself.

I did AutoCAD some basic starting points in order to machine my main support plate. After the initial fabrication of the plate took place I started to just wing it all. The following pictures show the process I used to create a mocked up version of my Z axis. Pleased to say I hooked it up to the power supply and PC and was able to run it through its vertical motions will no issues. So at this point the Z axis is tested and working. There is still much “clean up” to do on the parts including trimming of excess aluminum. I will do this at finishing stage.

The way I post most of my pictures, for other blog entries, is in sequential order. I start from the beginning of the project and finish at the end. I changed things slightly this time. Since there are multiple smaller parts that make up the entire Z axis I tried to start certain sections with the finished part. I am hoping that it may help those, who are interested, in following along with the pictures a little better. There are 43 pictures posted in this one, most of them machining shots. If you don’t understand what’s going on I encourage you to take comfort in the visuals of 6061 aluminum, spinning tools, and flying chips.

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This is the roughed out Z axis with a floating torch head. None of the finishing details have been addressed plus much of the hardware that holds it all together is not installed. The following pictures outline some of the processes I used to build it.

 

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My arms got a work out using my manually operated draw bar to swap my tooling in and out of the milling machine. Part of the purpose of building the CNC is to give me some more “mill time” to get better at using the tooling.

 

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I AutoCAD’d the basics and then eventually got to a point where I just started winging it. This is the backing plate getting drilled and tapped according to my CAD specs. The plate is the backbone of the entire drive which will be used to support the X bearings, the X drive, and the entire Z axis floating torch head assembly. It’s built from 6″ x .375″ 6061 aluminuim.

 

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The ball screw that drives the Z axis nees to be support by 2 sealed ball bearings. Using the boring head attachment I machined a press fit hole in some 6061.

 

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Holes were drilled and tapped in order to bolt the bearing flange onto the backing plate.

 

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Next came the pressing in of the ball bearing assemblies. A vise and a socket works just fine in order to squeeze the 2 parts together.

 

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I required a coupler in order to connect my stepper motor to the ball screw. This is the final, rough machined, product. Since my ball screw shaft size differed slightly from my stepper motor shaft size I made the coupler with 2 different bore sizes on each end. The following few pictures shows the machinig of the coupler.

 

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After spinning down some 6061 solid road of aluminum on the lathe and drilling my 2 different sized holes I moved onto the mill. First step was to mill pockets to accept the heads of the socket head pinch bolts.

 

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Next the coupler was drilled and tapped for 5mm stainless steel hardware.

 

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Final step was to make it into an actual coupler by running the slitting saw through one side.

 

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Here you can get an overview of how things are starting to fit together, The bearing supports are bolted to the backing plate and the stepper motor is installed and coupled to the ball screw.

 

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Moving along I needed to build the floating head portion as well a clamp to secure the plasma torch head . A strain relief for the plasma cable also needs to be integrated. Here is a shot of what the following pictures created.

 

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The Hypertherm Powermax 45 torch head has a 1 inch diameter to clamp to. I started with a block of 2″ x 2″ x 1.5″(?) 6061 and just started milling. First step was to bore out the hole to give a nice, clean, slide fit for the torch head.

 

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The plan was to make it a pinch style clamp. Holes were drilled and tapped for 2 pinch bolts. I performed step drilling and then only tapped the bottom half of the holes.

 

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In order to allow the clamp to bolt to the floating torch head backing plate more holes were drilled and tapped.

 

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I needed to build some flex into the clamping blocking in order to ensure the torch head will clamp securely. I milled off some of the side material in order to thin the block up and allow flex.

 

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Final step was to run a slitting saw through it. The slit seperated the drilled bolt holes from the tapped holes.

 

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Next step was to fabricate some sort of strain relief to support the torch cable. No plan here, just picked up a chunk of 6061 and started to remove metal.

 

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Started on the lathe by machining the center hole to the dimensions of the torch cable OD

 

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Figured I would pretty up the holder so before I removed the part from the lathe a ran a decorative groove into it with the part off blade.

 

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Onto the milling machine. The strain relief will be secured with four 5mm stainless steel socket head screws. I milled some pockets into the clamp to accept the screw heads.

 

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Next all four holes were drilled and tapped.

 

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Time to split the strain relief in half so that the torch cable can be secured in it.

 

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A shot of the rough machining completed so far.

 

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The strain relief needs to be mounted to a top plate and therefore one side of the strain relief needs to be shorter then the other. Milled off .375″ on the rear half.

 

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More holes were drilled, and tapped, in order to allow for mounting to the suppot plate.

 

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Top plate was drilled with the same radius in order to accpet the strain relief.

 

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I have a .250″ ball nose endmill that I never use for anything. I thought I would add some useless detail to the strain relief.

 

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This is the rough machined strain relief mounted to the top support plate. I may anodize it orange, along with the torch head clamp.

 

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The following set of pictures are mostly random shots of the machining used for the remainder of the z axis. This shot is the start of the coupling block that will get bolted directly to the ball screw. This coupler will then serve as a means to connect the linear bearings to the ball screw. This is a 2″ x 2″ chunk of 6061 getting milled to make everything square.

 

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Next I roughed out an opening with a 1″ drill bit.

 

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Holes were drilled and tapped to match the bolt pattern of the ball screw nut.

 

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The roughed 1″ hole got final machined to the dimensions of the ball screw nut.

 

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Finally the coupler was milled to dimemsion in order to allow it to operate on the same plane as the linear bearings.

 

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Random shot of the coupling plate. This plate gets bolted to the coupler shown in the previous 3 pictures and then is connected to the linear bearings.

 

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I machined some UHMW (Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene) to act as a slider to support the floating head plate.

 

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Once I am sure everyting is operating to spec I plan to then start trimming off excess aluminum. Here the stepper motor support plate gets a rough trim to shave of some weight.

 

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Next it gets cleaned up on the belt sander. The corner radiuses do not require precision.

 

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The next 3 shots are showing the assembled components in rough form. The stepper motors I am using are dual shaft. The motor has a different diameter shaft on each end. Since I am only using 1 shaft I decided to machine up an aluminum disc to spin on the top shaft. I will probably anodize it and sandblast a logo into it yet.

 

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Here is the side view of the floating torch head. I realize it is hard to understand the mechanics of it without more shots, video, or getting your hands on it.

 

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This is the mechanical switch I mounted in order for the software to detect the starting position of the floating torch head.

 

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It was time to clean out the mill, lathe, and the floor.

 

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Here are all the components that make up the z-axis. So far this is all just rough machined. Sill have lots of clean up to do plus the finishing.

 

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The plasma table CNC build has officially gone into fabrication phase. I have sacrificed multiple, sleepless, nights coming up with a game plan and determining the best sequence to build the table in. I have opted not to use any existing plans but instead engineer the table my way. I have a “big picture” in mind however all the details that are required to ensure the concept will be completed are yet to be determined.

Most tables are typically started by building the main frame. Since there are so many unknowns as far as gantry sizes and, more importantly, X,Y,Z travel dimensions I decided I am going to start from the center of the universe. In this case I am going to build the entire table around the tip of the plasma torch. This would mean I begin with my Z axis.

Since part of the construction of the Z-axis involves its ability to move along the X-axis I needed to come up with a linear movement system. X and Y axis linear movement methods are obviously nothing new. There are multiple systems that a proven to work well. My favorite has always been the Dualvee Bearing design coupled with the Vee rails. It takes care of both the radial and axial movements all in one shot and it does it in a fairly compact set up.

Since the whole point of fabricating the CNC is to actual “fabricate” I wanted to avoid purchasing as many components as possible and instead build the items. Coming up with a simple linear motion system that I had the skills, and equipment, to build was tough. I didn’t want to clutter up the sliders with aluminum plates housing 8 bearings each just to keep things smooth and straight.

After much thought I took some inspiration from the Vee bearing design and opted to build my own version but without the Vee. My version would incorporate a radius bearing that would ride along a 4140 alloy rod. If the design works it will control the radial and axial loads just like a Vee bearing does.

Weight of the table is a huge factor and this will become evident why later on in the build. So after a bit of experimenting I came up with a system to accurately machine radius bearings out of aluminum. Aluminum is not exactly the first choice for bearing material however in my case the loads are not massive plus the ability to anodize aluminum will certainly add a layer of hardness. The following outlines the first steps in building the CNC table by starting with the axis bearings.

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People often ask for the plans of some of the things I build. I figured I would start by posting the intricate CAD drawings of the bearing assemblies. Here is all the information for the world to see.

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Here are the bearings in various stages of production. They are all machined from 2″ 6061 round bar. The outer finished dimensions are .750″ wide with a 1.975″ diameter.

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The blank is hogged out with a 1″ drill bit on the lathe.

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Next it gets bored out down to the .001″ to accept the press fit bearing.

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A custom fabricated arbor was required in order to perform the external machining using both the lathe and the milling machine. Here is the steel arbor I built to secure the aluminum blanks.

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The outside diameter gets lathed down to 1.975″ before it gets moved over to the milling machine.

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The rotary table was set up vertically and the blank gets secured in order to allow a .125″ deep cut using a .675″ endmill.

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This is the final machined bearing housing before it goes into finishing stage.

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All the bearing housing then got a 2 stage polishing in order to smooth things up.

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Here is the set of 8 ready to move on to the anodizing phase.

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In order to remove all of the cutting oil and polishing compounds the housings recieve a soaking in a heated solution of SP degreaser.

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After getting a good scrubbing in hot soapy water the units get rigged for hanging in the sulphuric acid anodizing bath.

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Everything gets hung and electrically connected ready for a 2 hour soaking.

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The power supply gets connected to the bearing housings and 4.50 amps at 15 volts is dialed in for 120 minutes.

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These are what the housings look like after they are anodized. The shiney, polished, aluminum turns to a dull light grey color.

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All the housings then recieve a dip in the heated orange dye tank. To keep the color consistant they are all timed for an 8 minute bath.

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Here are the housings fresh out of the dye tank.

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Time to press the bearings in. In order not to damage the finish on the housings I machined a couple of bushings that I used to keep the housing, and bearing, straight and protected while they get mated using the vise.

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Finished product. I will be curious to know how well the anodized surfaces will stand up to wear and tear. Having them colored orange will make it easy to determine the extent of wear they are suffering from.

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So winter is approaching which always signals time for change. As the colder temperature and the snow begin to sink in as an unstoppable reality the planning for hibernation is inevitable. The past couple weekends have been spent putting the yard to bed. Winter fertilizer has been applied, trees and bushes have been pruned, sprinkler system has been blown out, and the gas yard equipment is set for winter servicing and storage. Now what!!!!??????

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Last winter I was able to occupy my time completing my 1965 CB160 Café Racer build. It was a good project that resulted in great success. It allowed me to enjoy 2000km worth of riding this summer which included participation in the 2014 Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride.

For the winter season of 2014-2015 a new project is in order. I have many ideas stored in my database, the one that rests upon my neck, and it was just a matter of choosing something. Over the past 4 years I have explored the idea of building a CNC plasma table. I did much research many years ago which mostly involved reading manuals surrounding the CAD, CAM, and CNC operation and design. After having a few years to let the massive amount of information sink in I decided this winter season is the time to make this project happen.

The details involved in all the pre-planning are substantial. I am not going to bore you with the entire game plan but instead I will let it all unfold in the blog. So for today I will simply set out the ground work which is necessary in order to understand what direction things are headed (yes…pun).

First off, if you do not know what a CNC plasma table is then you can read about it here, or you can just Google it. Not going to cover the basics in this blog. What I will cover is the basic equipment involved in building the machine.

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First piece of equipment involves an actual plasma cutter. In my case I will be using my Hypertherm Powermax 45 unit which I purchased many years ago. I settled onto the Powermax45 for a number of different reasons and 1 significant reason was the ability to interface it with CNC to allow for torch height control. This unit is spec’d to cut up to 1” thick steel and can do .500” at 20 ipm (inches per minute) I can tell you, from experience, this unit is a work horse. Creating plasma and molten metal is what it does best!

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Next important piece of equipment in the CNC table build involves the tables X,Y,Z axis movement control. Basically this involves some stepper motors attached to the tables gantry’s that allow for computer controlled movement of the torch. After much research I settled on CandCNC BladeRunner Dragon-Cut set up. There are way too many details to list about this unit, you can visit the link if you want to read up on it all. The highlights involve a power supply to run four 620 oz. stepper motors to move the X, Y, and Z axis (1 will be slaved to the Y axis). The Bladerunner also allows for Digital Torch Height Control (DTHC) which assists in the precision of the cut.

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Since the BladeRunner is only a power supply controlling some stepper motors it requires a commander. In my case the boss will be a dedicated computer running specific software to shout the orders to the stepper motors. I opted to build my own PC to the specs dictated by CandCNC in order to ensure the Bladerunner will approve of the commanding officer. I stopped in at my local computer supply store and picked myself up a PC case and all the guts needed to get the electrons flowing. The PC spec’d out as follows; Intel Core i3 3.60GHz processor, Asus H81M-E motherboard, Kingston HyperX Fury Black 4GB RAM, Asus 24x DVDRW, coupled with a Kingston V300 120GB solid state hard drive.

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I have never actually built a computer and really have no idea what I am doing. I figured as long as I could get all the bits to fit in the box and if I could find a place to plug in all the wires how could it possibly not work? Looks like my theory was correct, I was able to keep all the smoke contained within the components, nothing leaked out, electrons flowed and pixels were produced. The computer will only be running 1 piece of software and nothing else using the Windows 7 32 bit operating system.

So with the power supply, stepper motors, and PC all dealt with the next step was software. The CNC system requires 3 different programs in order to make the magic happen. First off is a design program in order to create whatever it is that will be cut. The second is CAM software which takes the design and turns it into “G-Code”. This code is used to tell the table software where to move the stepper motors. The third piece of the puzzle involves the CNC software. This is the program that takes the G-code from the CAM software and then sends the signals to the power supply and commands the stepper motors. I was not prepared to stray too far from my comfort level so I decided to stick with a guaranteed combination that is known to work. CandCNC recommends certain software which also happens to be some of the most popular stuff used in many homebuilt CNC units. The 4 programs I am using are InkScape design software and DraftSight CAD software as the 2 design programs, SheetCam as CAM software, and Mach3 as my CNC software.

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Inkscape is a free version of design software that mimics Adobe Illustrator. I will not go into detail however I will say that it gives my grey matter a major work out. It takes a lot of time to get the hang of the software and I continue to force the education upon myself. There are lots of “clipart” type designs available for CNC purposes which eliminate the need to learn Inkscape however in my case I want to be able to design very specific components. In the case of today’s blog post I am demonstrating a “Gords Garage” gear project going from initial design all the way to cutting. In the above photo I built a gear with a GG in it and vectorized it.

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DraftSight is a free version of AutoCAD and works incredibly well. In the case of my GG Gear demonstration I did not use DraftSight. In the picture above I just quickly built a gear to show what is possible. I do not use DraftSight as “artsy” design software but instead use it more for component design.

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The next piece of software is SheetCAM. This program takes my vector design and converts it to G-Code. In SheetCAM I can decided how I want the CNC table to cut out my design. I tell it where I want the torch to go, I program lead in and lead out cuts, I decide how fast things should happen, and in what order. Once I have made all the crucial cutting decisions I convert it all to G-code ready to be accepted by the CNC software. I should note that InkScape, DraftSight, and SheetCAM are all run on a separate computer from the CNC therefore after I am done with SheetCAM my G-code is loaded onto a memory stick and transferred to the CNC PC.

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Mach3 is the CNC software loaded on the stand alone PC attached to the CNC table. The G-code from the memory stick is loaded into Mach3. I was not about to build the table and then figure out if things work so I have set everything up on the floor in a spare room to ensure I can run mock cuts. The PC, BladeRunner components, including the stepper motors, are all hooked up for testing. With the GG Gear G-Code loaded into Mach3 I can successfully run to cut pattern. In my case all I have is 4 stepper motors buzzing, and spinning, while lying on the floor however this verifies that all my software and hardware is currently functioning. Mach3 also controls my plasma torch height control which I will not be able to configure, or test, until the table is built.

I should perhaps mention that the whole reason I have chosen to build this table is because I like building things in the garage. Everything that I have listed so far does not qualify for enjoyable time spent in the garage. They are, however, necessary components, and steps, required to ensure a successfully completed, and operational, project. A well planned project is a project half done. So now that I have spent 2 months planning, learning, and collecting components I am getting closer to spending some quality garage time.

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The actual table build is what this project is about. I have much of the table mentally designed. The plan is to use the tools and equipment I have available to me, in my garage, to build a unique, quality, fully functioning 4’x4’ plasma table. I want to build as much as I can by hand including the gantries, the support system and the floating head Z-axis. I am not basing my build off anyone else’s table but instead going to approach the design using my own logic and ideas. There are many companies that can sell you all the components you need in order to complete a build. In my case I have only purchased the bare essentials and plan to fabricate the remaining. The components I have collected include a ball screw and 2 linear guides for the Z-axis, a rack and pinion set up for the X and Y axis, and a 3:1 timing belt set up for the X and Y axis.

So basically this concludes my introduction to my next project. I have only included a brief overview of what I have started. The blog posts to follow will, hopefully, give you an idea of my direction, design, and completion of the build. At the very least I guarantee to show chips flying and sparks shooting.

152 Title piston

Every once and awhile I will cruise through my blog postings just to take stock of what I have posted in the past and therefore I am able to plan for the future. I am the sole editor of all my posts. I review the post before I publish it, I ensure all the links work, the pictures will blow up to full size, and the grammar and spelling are correct. The reason I am telling you this is because I can’t believe how many spelling mistakes I catch when reviewing my work once it has already been published. So in this posting I am offering up an apology in my obvious downfall as an editor. I will continue to try and improve however I suspect I will always miss a certain number of spelling and grammatical errors. I realize it probably does not bother most of you but it bugs me. There…I said it, let’s move on.

As my blog will show I have spent the majority of my garage time working on my 65revive project. There are still times when I fit in side projects and usually it is something that is functional and not worth posting. The other day I was in need of a thank you gift for a friend who helped me out with a few things so I thought I would build one. I wanted something cool but I wasn’t able to commit a weeks’ worth of time to the project. After some pondering I came up with an idea that allowed the task to be accomplished in an evening yet still have a bit of wow factor. The following pictures will run through the 4 hour build process of what turned out to be a thank you for much appreciated help.

152 BMW piston

Started out with an old BMW piston I had laying around.

152 Initial clean up

I performed an initial clean up on the lathe using 320 grit sandpaper and Scotchbite.

152 Starter hole

Next I moved onto the milling machine to center the piston out and drill a starter hole.

152 Milling slot

Next step was to mill out a slot large enough to hold a stack of business cards. I milled just far enough to allow the pin bosses to act as some internal card support.

152 Trimming base

I needed to build a base in order to seal the bottom off that way if the card holder is picked up the cards won’t fall out the bottom. I rough cut a circle out of .375″ plate 6061 aluminum using the plasma torch.

152 Machined to fit

With the disc rough cut I was able to machine it down to final dimensions on the lathe.I made it to be a press fit into the piston base.

152 Bottom blasted

With all the “construction” completed it was time to move onto the finsihing phase. Here the top of the piston got taped off and the bottom half was glass bead blasted.

152 Top polished

Now the bottom section gets taped and the top half gets a 3 stage polishing.

152 Powder coated

It was time to now fog the bottom with matte black powder coating and slide it into the oven for a 15 minute heat soak at 375 degrees.

152 Completed holder

Finished product. It’s not a work of art but it is functional and kind of cool.