"One Perfect Part at a Time"


A Familiar Ring

Trial Bell #2

Trial Bell

This has been a very interesting and rewarding weekend for me. I have been involved in some creative effort refreshing long unused skills in 3D CAD drawing (Rhinoceros 5) and 4 axis RhinoCAM generation and then the operation of my 4 axis Taig CNC mill.

All this so I can get to work on my bell making project. What it has done is really perked me up for using the skills I have let set idle for a bit longer than I ever intended. After this long weekend I feel that I am back on track.

My plan is to design small bells in three dimensional computer assisted drafting (CAD). That is one set of skills, learning all the components of a very powerful drawing program. Rhino is one of the top rated software packages for 3D drawing and certainly worthy of high praise.

Once the drawing is made, the designer must then have the knowledge to visualize how it will be milled, in my case from a cylinder of wax. It is definitely NOT a push the button and out pops the tool path for the CNC mill, far from it. The cool part is the cutting can be simulated with graphics before ever taking it to the machine tool.

Once I have simulations that run good, I take the code out to the shop and actually run it on the CNC milling machine. It isn’t loaded for actual cutting but what I call a “dry run” just watching all the moves the machine makes. That is to make sure it will run well on the real machine and where I can see how much room I have on my small machines to make all the moves.

This is where I discovered my first design was too… Continue reading

Flight of Fancy


I had a long hiatus (about four weeks paid time off) away from my regular employment, creating time to take a good long at the route I should be heading with my at-home workshop activities. What I do for the rest of my life should be something I really enjoy. I have been making small wax carvings by hand and machine.

I have come to a personal decision about my capabilities in creating precision miniature wax carvings. The results of my experiments have shown that even with my PN, I am capable of detailed hand carving but not in the speed and degree of accuracy that I would like to perform. I suppose that is because I have spent most of my life being very accurate with dimensions and machine tools and maybe six months wax carving by hand. Duh?

My plan at this point is that I am going to continue putting effort into perfecting my CAD/CAM creative effort but not abandoning the hand work.  I have discovered both to be very enjoyable. To those of you who follow my “in the shop” ramblings about machines and machine software, you will see that machine carving will continue.

Everything I do in my CNC interests is scalable. That means the effort and skills to do small scale carvings are the same whether one inch high or twenty four inches high. The size of the tool bits and the machine just change.

I am totally blown away by what I can do with small machines and tiny milling bits. This is where I have spent most of my time and money. I presently have what I need as far as the machines capable of doing the detailed work. I will be writing a lot more about how they work and how… Continue reading

Gearotic Motion Software

Sounds almost perverse but that’s the name of Art Fenerty’s latest software. If you don’t know, Art is the creator of the MACH3 series of affordable CNC control software. Art has sold off MACH3 about four years ago so has had time to design gear making software. MACH3 is still very popular and widely used.

I love gear action and when I saw this in a mailing from Bob Warfield (CNC Cookbook) I knew I had to check it out. Here are some links to Bob’s blog and an explanation of the software directly from Art Fenerty: Welcome to Gearotic Motion. Here is another link from Bob Warfield as he is partnering with Art to promote the CNCCookbook as well as Gearotic Motion: Announcing Our New Partnership with Art Fenerty’s Gearotic Motion.

Here is a link to the Gearotic Motion webpage. I have only just looked this over in both Bob’s and Art’s web sites, but I know I will be ordering a copy. I have seen other software that does this but this is really affordable. Even better with one of the CNCCookbook deals.

One of these days I’ll probably be posting pics of some of the gears I have made. I have no personal recommendation until I can run it and test it out. There are lots of videos and Art has a user forum so it’s definitely gotta be worth the $75 investment. It certainly looks to be way more than a toy.

Thinking Small for 2012

I am investigating very intently the world of very small CNC machining. I am looking at small items such as mold machining for model parts and jewelry sized items using very small milling bits and high speed spindles. Actually I should call it CAD/CAM/CNC. It is far more than running the CNC mill.

I also looked at micro machining but that is a very high tech world that is still outside the needs and abilities (and machinery) of the personal machinist. It is truly amazing what can be done in the very tiny micro machining. I am not going there.

What I can do using my Taig CNC Micro Mill and a +10,000 rpm spindle is overwhelming. My recent Christmas ornament project is what has driven me into this investigation. The fantastic finish in wax that I was able to obtain actually surprised me. The Taig is a truly capable machine in this precise machining task.

I have now found web information of other, higher speed spindles added to the basic XYZ Taig movement. The Taig non-linear bearings and ways actually are up to the task for precision machining. I have many hundreds of hours of operation on my machine and it is still holding the performance line.

For now I consider myself “good” as far as machinery needs. I also have the appropriate software for CAD/CAM. That may change but not for quite some time. I will be adding a forth axis very soon, but other than that, I am comfortable.

I have the HB2 for larger projects and I will use the Taig for my miniature machining. I hesitate to use the word “micro-machining” but I am thinking it within my own definition.

I will also continue in my mold making and casting of components. I will definitely… Continue reading

Dauntless Received

I received the Dauntless kit a few days ago. Back on 9/22/11 to be more accurate. The kit is basically a box full of die cut wood parts. Just what I expected. The hull size is 49.5 x 14 inches.

I am currently looking for a flat working surface upon which to construct the hull. It needs to be fairly large but somewhat portable. I want to be able to move the large construction out of the way when necessary to work on other projects.

What I will use is a hollow core narrow width door and probably cut down the OAL a bit. They are generally 80 inches tall and I only need about 60 inches. I know how to splice the end back into the cutoff. I have done it before. I only need 15 inches in width but may have to go to a narrow standard door of 24 inch width. Half (one panel) of a 30 inch bifold is the perfect working surface, but hard to find.

For the boat I already have a (probably CNC) project to make several inline motor mounts from aluminum. Sketches are already on my desk. I need to refine it in CAD. More info to come. This is going to be a long project, I think.

This will probably be the last I publish about the general boat construction here. Check out the RoboBoatBlog.net for more about non machine shop construction.

What I will include here are any machining or metal projects that relate to the boat construction. I am thinking of things like making my own brass propellers and other interesting bits and metal pieces.

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