"One Perfect Part at a Time"


Tight Squeeze

newvice4inchTexas weather has finally relented from the high temperatures and we are now into an El Niño wet spell. But it does mean that it is very comfortable for working in my unconditioned garage workshop.

I do have heaters for the winter but no air conditioning for the hot weather. So Fall is the season for me to spend more hours in the shop.

I am presently considering an addition to my Taig X3 Small Mill. I just made a repair to the DROPROS digital scales I have on the machine. Unfortunately, I haven’t been using it enough to keep the memory backup battery charged. It is a 3Volt rechargeable Ni-Cad rather than a large button cell. I killed it once a few years ago and it died on me again just a few weeks ago.

I sent it back to DroPros the first time (free repair) but I did it myself this time. I found the exact same replacement battery on-line. What happens is the Ni-CAD discharges so low and for so long that it reverses one of the cells. Then it will not take a full charge. New battery and the scales are working perfectly again.

How I discovered it was I had a project that I wanted to use the manual mill and the digital scales. I finished the project with the manual scales and ordered the battery.

The project went well but I decided I really needed a heavier and larger vice on the X3. I have been using a 3” screwless vice for years. Now I am looking for a 4” lockdown style vise. It may or may not look like the picture shown. It should weigh about 35 pounds.

The larger jaws, heavier weight and especially the screw action should make my set-ups much easier. I should also… Continue reading

DRO Error Fix

This is my DROpros DRO that I installed on my X3 manual mill back in February of 2010. There is also a complete install article in The Hobbyist Machine Shop. Go visit both links.

This is the best addition I made to my manual mill. I use the DRO on everything I make on the X3 Who needs dials anymore?

Well, I did. I was about to run a few cuts and when I flipped the DRPpros on it did its little display dance as I call it the gave me an error seen in the first picture. The X REF kind of hinted to me it was looking for a reference and didn’t find it. I figured there may be a battery inside for a reference voltage.

I sent this first picture to DROpros and explained the problem. They agreed it could be a battery or perhaps a diode that failed.

About a week later I shipped the control head back to them. I did peek inside and there IS a battery on the main board. I checked the voltage and under no load it was only half of the voltage indicated on the battery label. Ta-ta…

Just got it back and as you see it is working perfectly again. I didn’t get a bill for repair or return shipping yet. I paid for for sending. I may not get a bill.

The DroPros owner is a veteran and proud of his customer service. As a veteran brother… Continue reading

Weighty Subject

A fellow ham radio operator Dennis (KI4DW) was in need  of replacement weights for his Brown Brothers “bug” keyer. The weights are the easy part. I thought he needed the thumb screws duplicated too. Turns out he has the screws.

The weights I turned from a 3/4 in leaded steel bar on the PD400. The slots are cut with a 3/32 end mill on the X3. The digital readout was a real big help in free handing the slots. (CNC automation spoils me.) In the picture, the slots still need a bit of internal filing to square the inside corners.

The 8-32 thumb screws would be a lot more work to make exact copies. I was afraid of the time (and cost) I would spend on two of them. I have since discovered a good source for these at McMaster-Carr.

If I make any more weights, about a half hour in BobCAD should make the slot cutting easy work starting from dead center. Heck, the G-code would be easy to write from scratch.

Just a few hours work on developing these parts. CNCing the slot would make it much faster to produce more.

Cutting Slots

I present a few more action shots on the X3 mill. The DRO is wonderful for cranking in the proper cutting dimensions even after a careful layout. The layout marks confirm the location but the caliper like accuracy of the DRO makes sure the cut is exact.

These parts will be used to braze up the coupler pocket for the A3 tender. I am not showing all the work involved, just some of the unusual. The saw here is the same thickness as the brass plate. I am cutting two layers at the same time. That way opposite sides will be exactly the same. The pieces will be assembled like an egg crate.

The cuts are made on one side of the vice but unseen inserted on the other side of the vice is more brass material the same thickness. This is to keep the vice clamping equal so that it doesn’t “rack” when tightened.

I will be posting more pictures of how the coupler pocket is assembled and finished.

Metric Thinking

I have been selling some metric tools (Proxxon) and actually using them too. I have discovered it is actually quite easy to work in either metric or SAE (inch) standards. There is no evil in either. I (almost) hate to admit I enjoy metric.

Of course the U.S. general prejudice to metric stemmed from our indoctrination, from what I now view in retrospect, to be a very lame educational system of the time. Post WWII there was a push for the USA to go metric. The requirement was to teach young children to exactly convert through (then) seemingly complex formula from one system to another. Remember, there were no calculators in those day. I could derive the equivalent answer but it made no sense why we would want to do this. The same thinking was crammed into our brains about temperature conversion.

In those days a student was not permitted to question the process but only to do as instructed.

As in learning a new language, it is very cumbersome to convert every word from one language to another. You only become efficient when you start thinking in the other language without the conversion. That is how metric should be understood.

I learned Morse code as a radio amateur. All radio operators will tell you that you do not become proficient until you stop counting dots and dashes and start “hearing” the sounds of letters. The really good can hear words. The very best hear Morse as a conversation.

When using metric hand tools I do not think of what millimeter is equal to in inch measurement. A good mechanic looks at a bolt and can say it is ½ inch or 12 mm, not stopping to think they are almost the same. When cars started using a lot… Continue reading

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