"One Perfect Part at a Time"

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Tormach xsTECH Router

Tormach xsTECH RouterA first impression. My impression.  NOT a user report.

Note well:  It called a ROUTER not micro-mill. Or any type of mill.  Routers and mills are cousins, but don’t live in the same family group.

I was extremely excited when I saw this tool for the first time.  I like Tormach equipment and I especially like their Linux based PathPilot controller software. This little baby OH router, the Tormach xsTECH actually runs full strength PathPilot!

It’s also a complete, full house, tools and all, everything one needs to get up and running — 3-axis micro overhead router. WOW! Continue reading

Fanning the Coals

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… Continue reading

Proxxon TBM 115 Micro Drill Press

DSC06356I ordered in a Proxxon TBM 115 for personal testing because a visitor asked my advise on small or micro size drilling.  Not ultra small drilling but in the number drill range, about 1/64 and larger. I immediately thought of the TBM but never used one.

My Proxxon dealer status is still viable so I ordered one in for my evaluation and perhaps passing it on to my new friend. The truth is I may keep this one for myself.

I have published a full, first look review in The Hobbyist Machine Shop. I was a bit undecided whether to publish it there or in Ramblin’ Dan’s Workshop. THMS got the post as I have another one there about the Proxxon MBS/E Micro Bandsaw. They belong together.

I think the TBM will be very useful in the A3 project as well as my silver work. I am always drilling small holes.

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… 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

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