Mechanics and Construction > Mechanics and Construction

Poor Man's Machinist


Quite often I need a part or have to machine something the old fashioned way because my funds are limited and I cannot afford a mill or lathe. The main tools I work with are a 3/4 hp drill press, 2 wheel grinder, tap and die set, jigsaw, hacksaw, dremel, caliper, and your other basic hand tools. Just the other day I found a wood cutting blade in my jigsaw works better at cutting 1/8" aluminum than the metal cutting blade I had just purchased.  ???
I've never taken a machine shop class and basically have learned from books and online.
So could we share some tips and tricks we have learned just working with different things and maybe learn there is an easier way aside from purchasing an expensive piece of machinery or test equipment or part?

1. Use a clear piece of plastic (baseball card sleeve works well) for transferring hole patterns of parts.

2. Always using a punch/set to mark center holes. This saves so much time from having to start over from off-center holes.

3. If you do not have the right size drill bit to drill a hole just the right size for a shaft so that it turns freely, drill the hole to the size that almost fits but is still to tight. Then use a piece of  shaft the same size you need, grind a flat edge so that it is half round. Make sure your edges are clean and then use that to drill your hole out.  I know this works on aluminum using a steel shaft, not sure of other metals.

4. Get you a set of calipers even its a cheap one, they make everything so much easier!

5. Old roller-blades and VCR heads are great sources of bearings.

6. Need a bearing sleeve but can't machine the aluminum? Use plastic cutting boards, acrylic, or rubber. I used an old rubber printer roller the other day, removed the steel rod, drilled the center out with a wood bit the same size as the roller-blade bearing.

7. VCR heads also make great robot arm joints and very little work required!

8. Old CPU power supplies make great test power supplies while working on a project.

Please share any tips you have!

My first purchase was a Proxxon micro-mill MF70. It is like a drill press above a cross table with X-Y travels. Unfortunately it delivers only 100 watts (theoretical value) which is not enough to cut aluminium unless you do 100 pass.

Now, I have a Dremel 4000, its vertical support, and I placed below the Proxxon cross table. And this is good enough for me for now.

Join an open workshop of some sort. Rather than keep buying tools, I joined Tech Shop in the bay area, and I now have access to (and use) metal and wood lathes, manual mills, a Tormach CNC, laser cutters, MIG and TIG welders, sandblasting, vacuum former, a ShopBot PRS Alpha CNC router, and a bunch of other goodies! While the membership is not cheap, it's cheaper than buying tools and much easier than trying to fit a workshop into an already over-full garage...

 :( How much I wish there was one close enough to me to actually be worth joining. I live out in the middle of no-where. The nearest big city which may have something like that is over an hours drive and so far I haven't even been able to locate an open workshop in that city, which is Dayton, OH btw. So if any one knows of one in that area let me know. I know they have a makers club, Dayton Diode but they're shop seems to be even more limited than mine.


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