Sunday, December 6, 2015

Boot Strapping Machine Shop

Ok so you have a burning desire (or need) to make stuff and you got no cash to hire it out.  Face it machinists are expensive and rightly so. 

The equipment itself is relatively low cost vs other trades like hiring a semi truck to haul something half way across the country in a truck that costs over 150k dollars and sucks fuel at 5-7mpg

However other costs make machining services expensive.  For one thing the amount of concentration required to machine something is a great order of magnitude more than driving a truck.  

I should know, I have done both.

A machinist is seriously wiped out exhausted at the end of 8 hours of fabrication and 12-13 hour day will put them so tired as to affect the next days productivity substantially.  Whereas as a truck driver I regularly put in 15-18 hour days, day after day.

So what's a guy to do?

Here are a few methods that will enable you to make it yourself.

1 cross slide vice in a drill press.  $60-150 dollars and a $50 harbor freight drill press.  It will work but it will take a ton of practice and tuning up of the vice.  It will also require you to go thru probably the entire store inventory to find a vice that sides smoothly and does not suffer from backlash.

2 DIY manual mill.  In my previous posts, I posted plans for my DIY plywood CNC mill.  It can also substitute manual cranks for stepper motors.  If you know the pitch of the thread rod. (mine was 1.25mm for every turn) then you can reasonably machine something manually with a decent marked crank and dial.  

3 Hand files, Dremel and grinder.  Long the favorite of bubba the gun smith and turd world fabricators. These machines while cheap take a lot of practice to use accurately. Years of practice are required. Good quality grinders are a must, because cheap ones vibrate too much for use more than 10-15 min at a time. Been there done that.

4 Buy a cheap China or equivalent CNC.  Why do I emphasize CNC so much?  Because it is the fastest way to make intricate parts and accurately in the shortest time.  You can pick up a text book or Internet guide and machine manually or CNC fast.  But the amount of hand coordination needed to run the mill takes a long time to develop. I see even long time manual machine operators make rookie mistakes.

About 6 months ago I sent a job out for machining.  The charge was $500.  It took the machinist 3 months to deliver.  In desperation I built my own CNC machine because I needed the parts.  I had the know-how to build it, and experience running 3d printers and CNC plasma cutters.  When I look back on it now, I think to myself that I really screwed myself by not buying or building one of these machines a year ago or more with all the money I spent on outside shops. So I boot strapped it myself.

I started with a crap machine made from plywood, hardware store bearings, stainless steel pipe, threaded rod and 3D printer Electronics.  My design and learning progress has since grown exponentially to the point where I am impressing even experienced machinists with my work output.

My work table.

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