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June 14, 2006

setting up a small machines shop

by sven at 1:00 am

Sherline mill and lathe

I'm actually doing it: I'm setting up a small machines shop!

I've just ordered three vital tools: a mill, a lathe, and a drill press.

In my initial research on milling machines it looked like I was going to go with a MicroLux. However, that machine's 110 pounds... I just can't accommodate it in my work space. And certainly not if I'm going to have other machines, too. What I need is a group of small machines.

For a long time I kept trying to find a way to avoid purchasing multiple machines. I've finally accepted that the mill, lathe, and drill press all have their own specialized functions. It's like a kitchen: an oven, a stove, and a kitchen mixer all serve different functions... You can get by without them -- but, oh!, the things you can cook up when you are fully equipped with proper tools!

MicroLux drill press

What do these machines do?

A drill press drills perfectly vertical holes; it's quick and easy to plunge the drill bit into your work piece.

A mill allows you to shave metal off of a work piece that is held still. Although it looks a lot like a drill press, the mill is designed to take sideways stress that would break a drill press (and take out your eye in the process!). A mill is designed to do very, very precise work; it's not the best tool for just drilling a quick hole.

A lathe is like the opposite of a mill: instead of holding the work piece still and cutting it with a spinning tool, the work piece is what spins while the cutting device remains still.

...With luck, the machines that I've just purchased will be the only big purchases that I ever need to make for metalworking. And, if I understand the relative sizes of these machines, they should all fit on one table.

There's a lot of learning still to do, about how to properly use these devices -- but it seems to me that 90% of making metalworking projects is just having the appropriate tools available. And now, I'm going to have those tools.

Exciting! Intimidating! Liberating!

posted by sven | June 14, 2006 1:00 AM | categories: sculpture, stopmo, studio space