"One Perfect Part at a Time"

Having Fun in a Micro Machine Shop

I have been writing about small machine tools lately. I have said there is as much and actually more fun in making things with micro machine tools as the larger type. The Taig micro-mill and micro-lathe are a great example of the small size tools to which I refer. The Sherline products are just as capable and have a much larger product line. My preference is the Taig as the base hardware. I am not going to argue over tools. I own what I like, but know it is not a good over bad choice between either of those brands.

I currently sit on the edge between micro-machining and mini-machining (Proxxon PD400), owning and using both size ranges. For me, I am in the perfect fit with these options as (within reason) it is better to be a bit larger than you need in a machine than to push a small machine beyond its inherent limitations. But small micro-machines are totally capable when used properly.

I am well aware I am not the best micro machinist living on the block. I have seen some outstanding work produced on these tools and I know the time it takes to get to those levels of perfection. My honest excuse is I just don’t spend the time at this point to reach ultimate perfection, but I try to do my best for the time involved.

In micro machining, all the same moves are required as in making a big part. The touch and feel are a bit different but the level of fun and enjoyment of the work is in my opinion very much the same. A few big points of difference are the cost of materials and the working room and electrical power required.

Micro machining usually falls into the model making arena, but not as much as one may think. If I were building a model airplane glow-plug engine, it might be considered working on full size work. Knobs and holders and all sorts of shop tool accessories can be made using micro-machine tools. So the machines should not be considered just toys for model builders. They are as honest a machine tool as their larger brethren, but a lot less massive and not designed for commercial/industrial duty.

There are some junk import machines in this size class. I also don’t consider the tools in my price affordability range as commercial production machines. Mass is still important even in small machines. For example; I have a personal amateur radio friend, John Kizar K8AJR who’s business is or was machining contact lenses from plastic using a number of small (but not mini) lathes. The lathes were purpose built for the work and were very massively heavy, and as I remember had a tremendously large bearing probably in the angstrom deviation or run-out range. Contact lens lathes are certainly very high cost. “You get what you pays for” in accuracy.  I found a sample pix of an old contact lens lathe but probably not the brand John had.

I get more than my cost in fun and enjoyment in my simple world of affordable small machine tools.

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