"One Perfect Part at a Time"


Déjà Vu

Oh my goodness… I just had an amazing thought. I just realized I could have a use for two CNC micro mills. I have the new one (#2) up for sale but now I see there can be a good reason for me to keep it if it doesn’t sell. (But for now, it is still for sale …)

Mill one (#1) runs beautifully and with its SmoothStepper equipped controller, is still very much state of the art. I have a rotary forth axis already designed and tested with it. That is what sparked my thought. It is fairly “fussy” to convert the machine from three axis to four axis. That is because of all the squaring and adjusting to get everything bolted down, square and true to each other, heights checked, etc.

It is not a job to be spending time on if projects keep me jumping from four axis to three axis work. It’s like owning a “do all” three-in-one milling or woodworking system. Changing the setup becomes a major portion of the work.

The number 1 machine stepper motors max out at 50 to 60 IPM (~1000+ RPM) which is beyond what is normally needed in 4 axis milling. So it is ideal for that use. I could leave that machine as a dedicated rotary 4 axis setup.

On the new mill (#2) with its fast rapids (2000 RPM), I can keep the fixture plate mounted (plate not required for 4 axis milling) and then let it become the dedicated 3… Continue reading

Progress Peek

I am spending a lot on mental energy and linear time developing what will be a really cool controller for the Taig Micro-mill. I want it to be a solid option for my customers who buy a Taig CNC ready mill from me and want a complete system. Read “Sneak Peek” previously.

I don’t plan to make a nickel on this controller. I can personally build an even better one if I wanted to but there is no need for a “better” one. The new one is top notch. I also do not want to be in the business of supporting electronic devices I built myself (as a manufacturer). My own homebuilt controllers have been wonderful but I do not desire to sell and support them.

What it comes down to is where do I want to be spending most of my time, building controllers or making jewelry with my excellent performing mill?

What I want to do is use my tools. The controller just becomes a transparent device that hides in the shadows and gets the job done. I don’t want to keep fooling with it. It’s just a reliable tool I don’t need to constantly upgrade and maintain. I may “tweak” a setting in MACH 3 once in awhile but I don’t want to go in under the lid into the hardware.

I am nearly there. The refining process is fun but I do not want the development period to last forever. I know when to freeze a design. I really want to get back to using my time and my machine for creative work.

I have two Taig machines so I will eventually have the new one available for local sale. I am not looking forward to trying to repack the mill for… Continue reading

Taig Wrench CNC

I shot a video this weekend showing a Taig spindle wrench being milled on my Taig CNC mill.

For best viewing go to YouTube and view in HD full screen 720p. WOW! I used my Sony Alpha NEX-5 With it’s HD wide screen video ability. The raw full HD footage is spectacular but I had to edit down to 720P for YouTube. Here it is much less than that (around 360p). I don’t like the handheld movement and focus changes but it was easier than working around the tripod. I need to use the tripod… 🙂

Here are some stills. I had enough aluminum to make 9 wrenches on this run.

This wrench was actually one of my first projects with the Taig mill many years ago. I was using different software and controller but the results are the same. I also put a label on the handles of the original wrenches. I may do something similar on these new ones.


This size wrench is just the right size and the soft aluminum (compared to steel) prevents damage to the spindle and collet nut. My originals show a little wear but are still going strong.

Enjoy the video for now!

Update 5/3/15

Today I just cut 6 more of these wrenches. I checked out the proper feeds and speeds in CNC Cookbook GWizzard and got each cut time down to 6 minutes, 40 seconds. Now running 19 IPM feed at 10600 RPM, plunge 10 IPM and DOC is .0377 or seven round trips. Big chips and a beautiful cut.

Smoothstepper a Champion Again!

Once a real smoothie, then a stumble bum, now a VERY smooth stepper again. One tiny software update can change what became a chunk of lead back into pure gold. I don’t know what made the step controller a forgetful POS but I very pleased it has found its feet again.

I suspect it may have been Microsoft fooling around with the USB ports. It is always easy (fun?) to poke at a large and favorite target like MS. But perhaps it could be whomever wrote the USB driver code for Smoothstepper, left out an unneeded (at the time) refresh timer that was in the USB spec for critical devices all along.

It doesn’t matter. There is a fix and seems to be working perfectly. I am extremely impressed again with the very smooth operation. I just finished a six (6) hour run of continuous spiral micro machining of a round dome shape with lettering. That requires all three axis working very hard. I used three tools which means two tool changes with Z axis reset. It went flawlessly! Yes, my trust in the software and Smoothstepper is back.

Lesson Learned: When a new problem appears, I must think about what was just changed. A software update? If I can do a restore, I could see if the problem disappears. Always check web sites for bug reports. I may not be the only one with the problem. I never believe solutions I read from other users. They may be correct but there is a LOT of bad advice in forums. I look for official sources. They don’t respond first or very often. I look for official software updates.

The Cutting Edge

I viewed a series of videos called Knifemaking Tuesday’s sponsored by Tormach. The hyperlink in the previous line will take you to the video location in the Tormach website.

The video series is a non professional production but it is an engaging story about a couple of Canadian knife makers, John Grimsmo and his brother Eric Grimsmo. It picks up their story when they first start using the Tormach machine.

John and Eric are a couple of entrepreneurs starting a production knife making business in I assume John’s garage. (I haven’t seen the videos from before Tormach sponsoring.)

The investment they made for all their recent upgrades indicates they must have deep pockets somewhere or the previous knives they sold before using the Tormach tools must have been VERY expensive and profitable. There is a lot of talk about what they are spending on development of the new production system and design run but zilch about profits, then perhaps that is not our business… so to speak. 🙂

Tormach sponsors this YouTube “Channel TV” program because it showcases the Tormach PCNC 1100 machine and a lot of their accessories, except the ATC (Automatic Tool Changer).

This is definitely more an amateur reality TV garage workshop sit-comedy of errors than a typical Tormach training series. There is way too much goofing around and trial and error mistakes for calling it training, but I did learn a bunch about amateurs trying to become serious professional knife makers. I also gathered a bunch of new information about using CNC for knife making. The knife products do look good by the week 26 video.

The video work, even with as low a production effort as seen here, takes a lot of time and effort from the actual work of knife making.… Continue reading

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