Posts Tagged ‘hobby’

The Autodesk Fusion 360 seems to be suffering an identity crisis. It is acting like it no longer wants to be the choice of hobbyists. Fusion 360 is abandoning its “Hobbyist” license and is calling what remains a “One Year Personal Use” license. No indication that can be renewed on a year-to-year basis.

To me this “Cool Hand Luke” failure to communicate is a flashing beacon in the fog. “You hobbyists can play another year, but after that you better “pony-up” for one of our revenue stream licenses,” Is the message I read.

Could be they discovered too many “professional” users claiming hobbyist status.

That is not a problem for me to solve.

I must decide what is best for the 3D CAD drawing that I do. I have many other paid-up options. That means I already own them. Rhino 6 and Vectric Aspire to name the two main ones. I also own Pixologic Z-Brush which is not exactly a CAD but does produce quality 3D drawings and models.

I love working with Fusion 360. It is the more commercial Machine Tool CAD and has the built-in CAM for machine tool operations. Of course, it does far more than just machine part drawing.

I have decided to wait and see what Autodesk has done to F360 for the “Personal Use” license. It has been dumbed down and the number of “Open Projects” has been limited to ten. What that actually means is yet to be revealed. I never work with many “open projects”.  I work on one at a time.

If it means I must store closed projects on my computer rather than accessible in their cloud server, that is perfectly fine with me. That is my preference and always has been. I do not need a cloud server to “share” files.

Meanwhile, I have been working back in Rhino 6 and have decided to upgrade to Rhino 7. Neither are a subscription service nor require storing my files in a remote cloud server. (I have BOX if I need to do that.)

Rhino lacks the built in CAM unless one ops for the RhinoCAM (or other) add in CAM plug-ins. That is a minimum of $400/year for the CAM.  Makes Fusion 360 look good. It was the prime reason I started using Fusion 360.

I am not doing the CNC machining as I once did. Three-dimensional printing has gotten in the way. Slicer software generates the g-code for 3D printing. CAM is not required.

With so many CAD programs already available, working, and fully paid; I do not want another drain added to my hobby funds. That is the driving force pushing on me now.

If the personal use term with F360 is extendable past one year and the software can do what I need with no pain, then it stays in the mix. It could remain my go-to CAD. But if Autodesk is slapping my face and only interested in converting personal use into paying subscriptions, I am prepared to bid F360 “Adieu” and work with the quality tools I already own outright.

It’s no secret one of my lusts is machining in metal and wax. Actually, machining any material is fine with me. Wax became my favored material because it machines so well, especially with very small tool bits. Primarily, jewelry CNC carving for lost wax casting (LWC).

But I have also machined wax for LWC casting in brass, and that also works very well. I am not involved with casting large objects. At least not yet. But I don’t have an interest in doing large scale sand mold type casting. That’s a whole ‘nother sideline.

My light weight Taig equipment is perfect for machining wax. Taig tools also do an admirable job on small metal cutting as well. I have milled everything from stainless steel to cast iron. I have had no problems with brass, at least the types I have machined. Like most metals, there are many alloys. I choose the easy to machine.

I recently viewed a railroading model project (a hand-car)* made by an old friend Ed Hume. It got me re-considering my old lust for live steam engines and locomotives. They are machined directly from metal. That fanned the embers again and created a bit of remorse that my metal shop hasn’t been productive as was intended, except for the LWC silver work.

*Don’t know how long this link will last.

I designed my shop and machine equipment size specifically to create model train and model engine components. Not (what I consider) full size, or real life-size components. The term often used is “Model-Engineering” workshop.  

I recently dusted off one of the machines, the Proxxon PD400 mini-lathe and turned down some leaded steel stock into a mandrel and cap for my wax carving. That effort really felt good, experiencing those perfect cuts and shavings (chips) coming off the steel. I didn’t even mind the stinging burns on my arms from the hot chips. Enjoying pain may be a bit deviant but goes with the work. Also reminds me that I should wear burn proof long sleeves in the shop. Hard to do when my garage shop is 90 degrees+ in the Texas summers.

So, I mentally struggle again for a direction for my future activities. I became very serious with my LWC silver casting. I believe I create very professional silver cast jewelry work. But I am realizing I am not going to move up to the level of a manufacturer. I dislike making multiples of the same thing on a large-scale production. I do love specialty designs and very limited runs of multiples when there is a reason. I don’t want to build stock just for inventory. I’d say I am always a Hobbyist at heart.

My problem is I get bored once I have something mastered. I want to move on to new challenges. That has me looking back at the one-off model maker. Every part is a new experience. Sometimes there are multiples, but they are a part of a single creation. Like wheel sets on a train car or locomotive.

Will I fan the coals, and re-stoke the fire? I’ve said that before. Just check back in the archives of this web site. All I need is a little push and I’ll be over the edge again.

I have the machines and the workshop. I have the time, that is if I manage my time wisely and don’t try doing too many things at once. It’s called maintaining focus. It’s one of my moto’s I really have to practice. “One perfect part at a time.”

At my age I remember the Ed Sullivan Show on TV and the act where the fella has about a dozen plates spinning in the air on long vertical sticks (The record is 108). The big job was keeping them spinning so none fall off. Probably a visual metaphor now lost on today’s young folks, about doing too many things at once.

My brother and I each had one plastic plate and a stick as manufactured toy. The only thing difficult was keeping a lot of them spinning.

For me it is too many hobby interests at once. When I turn one off, I want to add another plate.


I like to consider my interest in tools from a philosophical viewpoint. I am not making a decision as to an interest being right or wrong as that is not the purpose. I note and explore the difference I see and am aware there are many reasons for the things I enjoy.

What I find for me is there is seldom a single reason. An interest is like love, there are a number of shades from pale to intense. The colors are seldom just black and white. The spectrum is not static and does vary with the passage of time.

The subject here is tools and machine tools. Specifically, I have explored what I own and use in my own workshop. I use this thought process for all of my areas of interest, It helps me understand myself and why I do what I do    Yeah, perhaps I am a little weird thinking about these things, but that’s OK.

I am a technical and analytical type. I am also a bit creative and like to explore how things work. I like mechanical machines and control systems. That’s an area I have worked all my life. I understand the reason; I am just made this way.

I have made an observation about my use of machines and the systems that make them operate. I admit to an early interest in electronics and my nearly 50 years in amateur radio. Computer hardware was an early outgrowth of the radio hobby. I had a working computer before the PC was born. When I got interested in machine tools, the use of computer numeric control (CNC) to operate some of the machines was a natural extension.

My career became involved with installing Building Management Systems (BMS). So it is obvious to me my interest is all about automated devices. I understand what makes them tick and after that, become motivated by what they do or make.

So my hobby was the operation of the machines. I designed them, built them, debugged them, and made them reliable tools. The products they made were important but secondary. That has shifted now with my KautzCraft Studio business in jewelry and woodcraft manufacturing. I am now interested not only how to use the machine but also the products as an output.

My hobby has transitioned from being a CNC enthusiast to a creator using CNC. It may seem subtle but there is definitely a change of view.

I am currently examining the world of 3D printing. That is definitely in the realm of a CNC enthusiast. What I see is that for the hobbyist, it is still in the areas of exploring and tinkering with all the bits and pieces, getting it to a reliable production tool status. The output of the consumer machines is far from outstanding without considerable after work. Not much different than subtractive (milling machine) learning curve.

So is it the machine or the product that it makes a motivator? It’s both in my opinion. I fall in love with the hardware and how it works, then knowing the capabilities, discover an additional love in how I can make it perform and what I can create.

I think I have described the essence of an engineer. It’s a passion and not just a job.

runningmanI am catching up on my Kozo Hiraoka Pennsy A3 Switcher project reading. When a project has been on the shelf for a while, I find it good to revisit everything I have done in the past and refresh what lies ahead in the project. It’s all good.

Building a project like this is very detailed. Each step is not all that bad and Kozo has a very good process of explaining the how-to. My enthusiasm is increasing as I can clearly see that nothing (yet) seems to be beyond my current shop tools and my abilities. It’s all now just having the materials and doing.

A project like this is not inexpensive. But since I am doing my best to make it enjoyable and not a construction race to finish, I can spread material cost over any time span with which I am comfortable.

I am still doing my silver work which has now become self-supporting and in fact providing some cash flow. I should probably be building the A3 with sheets of Sterling silver. Uh… No, maybe not.

OK, it’s all about the parts. Making all the bits and pieces. I just love how all the parts fit together and that I have total control of turning raw materials into something totally relevant to the project.

There is a certain aura of enjoying the process of using the tools, a gut feeling, something visceral. It’s like driving a sports car. There is a feeling of knowing what your car can do and being able to use that multiplied ability that such a machine provides. Same as using a screwdriver or a vertical milling machine. It’s that ability and control of power to use tools to make things, that is so much of being human.

Whoa! Spinning off into a machine tool fantasy or something. Ha! It’s OK to laugh at oneself. Anyone reading this already knows what I am feeling, maybe not expressing it quite this way. A simpler explanation may be that it is just fun to do.

That’s the key, enjoyable. I am working to keep my retirement as much fun as I can. If I want to work for profit, I can do that too but I don’t want to make the workshop a place I don’t like or want to spend time making things.

This activity is a part of who I am. It interests me. It didn’t just happen. I have worked for this place and time in my life. My sharing is just that, sharing my hobby. I am showing what can be done and encourage others to explore and develop their skills, serving as an example.

The only competition is with myself to improve my skills and abilities. It’s like distance running. A few may want to set a new world record, but for the vast majority of hobby runners it is all about making the effort at your own speed and perhaps a personal best.

Maserati_T61_engine_bay_DoningtonI read a story many years ago about a small team of Italian craftsmen. I think it started as a single person but the team grew with demand. They made exact working miniatures of exotic European sports racing cars like the Maserati birdcage. The models are the size of a child’s pedal car, so they were fairly large, but nowhere near actual size. Not designed for riding within. Somewhere around a quarter actual size I assume.

As I remember they were quite exquisite, all real metal construction, completely finished, not kits. Also very expensive, like back in the day when say $10,000 or more each was a lot of money, much more than it is today. A rich man’s toy car. The design/manufacturing team made a good profit on these vehicles as a sought after collector item. I believe they had operational scale or scale-like engines too.

What made me pay attention was they claimed they had many years’ worth of back orders to fill so the business of building these cars looked very successful.

I don’t know if there are people who will spend like that today. I have to assume there are, if the product and subject is good and unusual. For the very rich, they know something like this is not likely to lose value and is far easier to own than the full size version.

I have thought of this story many times as I wonder what I could make in my small metal shop that will have such lasting value. Not so much that I would make it a business, but just knowing what I am investing time in making the best I can, will have continuing value as a finished object.

It is the justification I tell myself when I put a lot of time in effort in building a model precision machine in my shop. This provides the motivation for building a live steam scale locomotive or traction farm steam engine, or anything of like complexity.

I am recently (2016) reading in various publications that hobby of model trains is rapidly declining as the younger American generations do not have the same mechanical skills and the historic interest in model building miniature operational machines in a home workshop. Everything today is simulated in computer graphics. Perhaps the decline applies to all hands-on personal shop skills and model building.

It could signal that those of us that still do that sort of small personal workshop making-of-things are a declining USA asset. “American Made” efforts in personal workshops may be generating and preserving tangible skills and creations for using those skills that are no longer going to be widely known or available. We build models because of size and cost. But the skills are scalable.

There are certain “Maker’s Groups” that are helping buck this decline in hands-on creation and I wish them well. They are helping bring modern tools and methods to the mechanically inclined. I believe this is the sort of activity that generates real grass roots tangible creative engineering. I would have enjoyed creating such a workspace if I had the opportunity. I think it is far more productive investment of effort than a revolving door trade school. (A subject for another blog.)

I speak only for myself from a life full of construction and making of real things, experiencing real world civil construction projects to in-home hobby model building. Now in retirement, I hope to continue the making of things that will carry on the skills and tradition of hand crafted products.

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