"One Perfect Part at a Time"

mini tools

The Twins

DKshopI have a son and a daughter that are twins but they are not in this picture. Ha! What is here is my younger than today self and what I called the Grizzly twins. I think I used this picture in The Hobbyist Machine Shop when I first started writing it. I sold both of them (together) to a fellow who drove down from I believe Michigan just to pick them up.

I had them all tuned up and running sweet but decided to move up to the Lathemaster and the X3. I built the bench just to hold these two tools and the bench has seen a wide variety of machines mounted on its surface ever since.

I found this PIX while pursuing some old files and thought I’d share this blast from the past.

Gearing Down

I am driven to make some changes in my “The Hobbyist Machine Store” e-Commerce business. If you are not new to my postings, you know I have been running that business for about seven years as a fairly low key sideline to my real profession as an energy management engineer.

Life changes and so does business in that period of time. I sold a lot of replacement gears for the Asian mini-mill and mini lathe. There was and is a sort of cult following for those machines. I was in on it too. I never broke any gears on my machines but there is a significant number of owners who have.

I hooked up with a supplier that could afford to make the large investment in a large purchase (actually several) of steel gears to replace the plastic ones used in the design. The new gears are not made by the machine manufacturers but an independent gear maker. To keep the unit manufacturing and shipping cost down, large  orders are required. The last big order took nearly a year to be made and delivered. There was some moisture in the packing boxes from storing and shipping that length of time and the surface finish process had changed on the gears. The gears were fine, but my supplier didn’t like the low priority service from the maker and how long he had his money tied up in the order.

Replacement gear sales have always been slow and somewhat inconsistent. They sell in short bursts, perhaps because a mention in a machinist forum from time to time. About mid way we started supplying the gears to another retail source. Also multiple quantity overseas sales help move inventory. The problem has been that as my main sales item, the turnover of the… Continue reading

Take Your Best Shot

Taig Derringer (NOT!)There is a HUGE amount of BS on the internet forums about proper size CNC hobbyist machines. Internet opinion forums and blogs, because they are unregulated, have become impossible for a newbie to determine fact from reading someone’s personal agenda. Don’t trust anything you read including what I have to say. Just take what you read for what it may be worth to you.

Every brand, design, size and cost of a machine has it reasons. Unfortunately, what amounts to urban legend has driven the uninformed hobbyist to believe there is always better quality available for a lower cost; the best for the less. This is while some bloggers preach that only bigger is better.

There are products designed primarily for a low cost reason. There are products that are produced primarily for a quality reason. Then there are products produced that look at both those factors and are made and sized to do a particular job and do it without failure with the correct level of quality.

Many hobbyists are restrained by budget. Therein lays the problem. There are poorly designed machines sold at very low hobbyist prices because it is a well defined market with newbie’s that have limited money to spend.  I have written about it for many years. Some hobbyist choose price over quality and undersize the machine capabilities (because of price) for the purpose (work) they want the machine to perform.

First step is to clearly understand your intentions of use.

I personally own several sizes of hobby grade machines. They are excellent for my purpose and how I use them. I know their limitations and don’t kid myself into thinking those limitations don’t exist.

I have (and sell) Taig machine tools. I have many-many hundreds of hours of operation on my Taig CNC milling… Continue reading

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… Continue reading

Working Small

Looking back years ago when I was in high school (early 1960’s) I can now realize I was infected with a drug addiction that made me want to make things. Mostly small things because all I had were a few hand tools I could buy from the “pusher” at the hobby shop. The reason could have been the pusher’s store was directly across the street from the high school.

My addiction disease started well before high school but once I was so close to my source, I became totally hooked. I also became serious first name friends with the shop owner that lasted more than 25 years and we only disconnected because I moved 1600 miles away in a career change.

Fast forward. So looking back in my teenage years I got interested in model building and hand tools that would assist that interest. One piece of pure unobtainium drug paraphernalia back then and used for “scratch building” wonderful things like HO steam locomotives was call a Unimat lathe and mill. Today I am a dealer for the Taig Tools line of very similar and actually better performing drugs um… tools. It’s funny how far I have come 50 years full circle in my addiction.

I have completed some huge construction projects in my working career, but I still love making small things I dreamed about making more than 50 years ago. Working small fulfills a fantasy about being able to create on a small and manageable level, things that in real world dimensions, a single person cannot do alone for a number of scalable reasons. Reasons are such as material, cost, quantity, time and available space.

I have constructed experimental full size aircraft and flown them. Yea, for me! But I have constructed far more model aircraft with… Continue reading

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