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Freeside is a Georgia nonprofit corporation, organized to develop a community of coders, makers, artists, and researchers in order to promote collaboration and community outreach. Learn more »

Trading Post: Milling Edition

Step right up, ladies and gents!  Never seen such fine taxidermy before?  The best in all the land!

I see a lot of disappointed faces - you there, reading the article!  You some kind of Internet-dwelling, city slicker?  Oh, you are.  Very well then - that's totally not a problem!  What's that you say?  What's going on?!

Welcome to the Trading Post - tales from the wild and unsane world of hackerspace skills trading.

One of the key benefits to being part of a community of skilled people with diverse backgrounds is that you're surrounded by opportunities to try something new and learn from each other.

Whether you're into taxidermy, python, arduinos, or rebuilding arcade machines, you can leverage your skill set to learn new skills from other hackerspace members.  If you successfully find a match, then that's what we at Freeside call The Gift of the Magi moment.  Cherish it.

This week, I promised Paul I'd get his website hosted and up and running with Wordpress.  In exchange, he'd let me take his Introduction to Milling class for free.

My project was simple: machine a new set of jaws for Freeside's bench vice.

The first step in the process is measure, measure, and measure again.  It was little later reflecting on all this that I realized all that talk in middle school about proper measurement and significant figures.  We spent a good hour on the measurements themselves.  After some quick instruction with calipers, and how to draw the plans for the part, I went through and filled in all the measurements, twice - then Paul re-measured, and we were good to go.

Freeside has a vertical mill on loanation from Paul.  It's a pretty awesome machine - it wasn't until I actually got hands-on experience with it that I got some serious appreciation for how versatile it is.  The first thing I learned how to do was to aligning the machine vice.  A dial indicator was traversed across a machine square, and put the vice in alignment.  So, in a sense, more measuring.  Accuracy is king - Paul told me we could machine at a thickness less than a human hair.  This is more than enough for our bench vice jaws!

The milling itself is a straight-forward process, once you understand how the measurement on each axis corresponds to the measurements on the part's plans.  At some point, we had to make some spindle speed adjustments by changing the belts.

After all the milling was done, we drilled out the screw holes, and used another bit to taper them.  The final step is to use a file to smooth out each edge of the machined part.

The end product is that there to the right.  Shiny!

Although I ran out of the time we had agreed on to finish the pipe jaws together, Paul added those in later.  Now, we just need one more to complete the set!

We had a small scare trying it out on the bench vice, when the screw holes didn't line up properly.  It just ended up being a matter of not having them wide enough, so crisis averted!

Besides making something useful for Freeside, I really got a serious appreciation for all the time and skill that goes into manufacturing.  There's some interesting problem solving that I wasn't used to, especially when you're faced with the constraint of one mistake completely messing up the part.


Graham said...

Wow, machining seems like a neat and useful skill to learn. Seems like many cool things are going on at Freeside!

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