Thursday, 26 March 2020

Trying to be useful! An Introduction to Inkscape

Just recorded this quick rough introductory video for the brilliant free and opensource Inkscape, It's a fabulously useful bit of software and is hugely used in the maker community to create files for printing, laser cutting, vinyl cutting, paper craft and more. As it's a community developed piece of software it has some amazing plugins and use cases (briefly looked at towards the end of the video). I also mention in passing in the video an amazing extension called SVG2shenzhen which allows people to design artistic printed circuit boards (PCB's). If people are interested in it I wrote a tutorial on SVG2Shenzhen in Hackspace magazine issue 23 which you can buy or download for free here. Perfect time to learn software whilst we are isolating and perhaps a great thing for those home schooling? If you found this useful do feel free to  buy me a coffee on my kofi! 

Monday, 23 March 2020

Hackspace Magazine issue 29! New Lasercut Rocketry tool on thingiverse.

So another month and another wonderful issue of Hackspace magazine is out and as ever I update this post to keep a track of all my articles. However this month I am breaking the norm and doing this post as I wanted to mention a tool I made as part of an article in this months on Dividing and Indexing. The tool is still a little work in progress, but it is a laser cut assembly that can scroll or self centre the 4 jaws or pillars and can hold a tube concentric to its central point of rotation. The centring assembly is using the same idea as a longworth chuck which I posted about years ago on here!

It can therefore hold tubes and other items and using the numbered gear wheel you can rotate and lock the held item in various positions. You can then use the vee grooved slot to lay a pen or pencil along and mark positions accurately in any division of 60 points around a circle. As such it's useful for rocketry it you wanted to mark a tube for 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12 fins etc. Do check out the article for more detail and the item itself is on thingiverse. 

Saturday, 7 March 2020

Makers Life 25 Watt Soldering Iron.

So I've been perusing cheap soldering irons for running soldering workshops and it's led to myself and Big Les P discussing and buying the various, super cheap, ones that CPC farnell sell.

Les looked at the 20 watt and 40 watt versions of the Duratool iron and found the 20 watt ones ok but the 40 watt ones not to good and likely to burn through tips. Check out his post for more detail.

I'd bought some of the 40 watt ones (at £2.50 each it's not too much of a risk!) and I agree with Les's appraisal. So, I decided I'd try the 25 watt "makers life" iron which was on CPC for £4.49.

They are similar to the other Duratool branded irons apart from they have a different type of tip and a different threaded collar that clamps the tip down. It's a nicer system than the screws on the 40 watt iron but it might be tricky to get replacement tips... But at £4.49 it's not too much of a concern.

In use the makers life 25w is pretty good. It has a slightly thinner tip than the 40w iron but it's still quite chunky and takes a little bit of getting used to after using finer tipped irons. The cable is about a meter long and reasonably flexible, it's definitely no high end silicon lead but is a little more flexible than regular mains cable.

The tip takes solder well and it heats up reasonably quickly for a cheap iron. It's good for through hole certainly, but it's fair to say  I wouldn't want to try SMD hand work with it.

So, it meets my needs, a working iron which is good enough for workshop users and cheap enough for me to buy a stack and not be too precious if they get abused or broken. As they are cheap (and I have the 40w ones too) they are useful for more hacky jobs... One may well become a thermal insert rig on my arbour press for fitting metal threaded inserts into 3d printed stuff! :)

Monday, 2 March 2020

Review, Faithful tools 38mm diestock holder

So most my thread cutting dies are small and around 25-30mm diameter ones and I have a range of die holders that have accumulated over the years of varying quality. I recently needed to cut some M12 fine threads (1.0 mm pitch) and bought a reasonable quality die online without much thought. When it arrived I realised it was a 38mm diameter die and I needed a holder to use it.

I found this die holder online for £8.99 and bought one, not really expecting much than a cheaply finished "do the job" tool. I was pleasantly surprised when it arrived that Faithful Tools have done a very nice job on these. The holder section is nicely turned and has 4 different screws to hold the die securely and adjust. The handles are nicely made and reminded me of some apprentice pieces I made a while ago as the have tool blacked the handles after knurling the grip but then have turned down the shaft to reveal the raw steel colour underneath. It's a nice decorative effect but also the tool blacking stops the knurled sections and the die holding section from oxidising as easily.

In use they are very positive to use and hold the die well and allow the user to cut threads nicely. A very nice cheap tool that's finished to a higher standard than you would think!

Thursday, 6 February 2020

New Lathe Restoration project: Super Adept

I've been keeping my eye out for a Super Adept lathe (at a none inflated price!) as I have always wanted to have a play with one particularly after reading this thread about a major renovation and modification of one  over on the Model Engineering forum. These adept lathes seemingly are quite sought after now, despite them having a reputation for not being very good! They were indeed manufactured to keep to a budget, castings can be quite rough and they aren't particularly set up to be precision machines. It's definitely the case that you shouldn't buy one expecting it to be a quality watchmakers lathe without being prepared to do a lot of work on it. 

This one has arrived in reasonable condition with the spindle and spindle plain bearings in fair condition and not worn out. I can adjust the split bearing to get rid of any play on this the original spindle. Many people have modified theirs with new spindles and bronze bushes but until that's necessary on this one I'll stick with the original spindle. After some slight tinkering and adjusting of the jib strips (one of which on the compound slide is in a poor state) the lathe seems to move quite freely and the ways are in good order. 

At some point some disassembly must have occured because the lead screw nut appears to have been assembled onto the wrong side of the carriage. Every picture I can find shows the nut being mounted to the back of the carriage and this makes sense in terms of forces when performing cuts.

There are a couple of other issues that need addressing and I also have some plans for slight modifications. One issue is that the original tailstock spindle lock nut/handle has been replaced with a simple bolt. The original handle (and its been attempted on the replacement bolt) is supposed to have a pip on the end that registers with a thin keyway on the spindle and stops the spindle from spinning. It's not quite enough of a pip left on the replacement bolt and it means the spindle sometimes spins in place and this has created some damage (cosmetic) to the spindle itself. A replacement handle is needed. There are also no accessories with this lathe and as such I need to make or modify some to fit. I need to make some adaptor plates for some small chucks I have that are on a Unimat thread and then it will have a 3 and a 4 jaw chuck. I need to make some centres for it, which is a little tricky as they are apparently an MT0 taper, but none MT0 standard diameters so some guess work and test pieces need to be made. Other items I plan to make include a tailstock centre mandrel for a small drill chuck, a faceplate, miniature driving dog, possibly some new handwheels/handles, some small oilers for the headstock as well as of course fitting a small motor and creating a stand/box/mounting board for it. Stay tuned for updates!

Finally, there's lots of links around for Adept information but I couldn't find anywhere that listed all the thread types for various parts so my own and others reference;

Spindle nose thread 3/8" BSF
Tailstock lock handle 1/4" BSW
Tailstock clamp nut 1/4"BSW
Compound slide nut 1/4" BSW
Headstock split bearing screws 3/16 BSW

Friday, 31 January 2020

Lathe tool height gauge, and the kindness of makers.

Whilst this isn't the most earth shattering of makes I wanted to post about about it as it was nice the way that it came about. So above in the picture is a little gauge I have made using a piece of clear acrylic, a couple of 3d printed blocks and a small piece of mirror. The clear acrylic has been marked using a sharp scriber held in the lathe chuck to mark the height of the centre line of the chuck. Many lathe tools require to be set as accurately as possible to centre height or a position relative to centre height. It can be hard to see around the toolpost and this little tool means that I can quickly shim a tool to the required height and I can look directly down into the tool and see the tool tip and the centre line in the mirror helping a quick and accurate cut. It can be used facing the tool tip or sat alongside the tool if the tool is at 90 degrees to the chuck face. 

I've had this on my to try list for ages but I never seemed able to find a piece of mirror the right size and I didn't want to buy a larger glass mirror and cut it down. Here is where the kindness of makers comes in, I saw a friend of mine on twitter talking about how well this plastic mirror material was cutting on his laser cutter, shamelessly I enquired if he had any scraps that a 30mm square could be made out of, luckily he had a 35mm length of scrap and was kind enough to cut me a few squares and post them up to me. Maker community rocks!

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

10 minute make; Laser-cut Polygon Box

A few of us at the Ffiws Makerspace have been talking and exploring the idea of laser-cut boxes and packaging for small products. Last night in a quiet 10 minutes I had a play with an online resource called which is an online generator that allows a user to put in some dimensions for a MASSIVE range of box types and it generates a file to download (it will create .pdf, .SVG or .dxf files). 

So I designed this little polygon box and downloaded an SVG file to open in Inkscape as I knew it would need a little editing for laser cutting. Basically, the file looks like the preview in the image above, you have a red outer line that needs cutting and some blue dashed lines that indicate the fold lines. If you wanted to print this onto cardstock and cut it out it would work well but I removed the blue dashed lines in Inkscape and changes the outer red line to a black 0.0254mm line so that it would cut on the laser. 

After cutting I used a ruler and a point to score the fold lines into the design and assembled it with some PVA glue (it would have been easier with Pritt stick probably for this thin card but it's all I had)!

The results are good, and I imagine if you cut a load and sat for an hour assembling them you would get quicker and more accurate in assembly. Of course, you could also use the lasercutter to add your logo or business details to the box design or personalise for a gift etc. Fun little 10 minute make for sure.