So, this happened yesterday

New Machine Day!

I was kind of shocked to discover that it’s been nearly two years since I last posted here. Life got busy, and side projects had to take something of a back seat, but fortunately, it was mostly the good kind of busy. The company I run for my day job more than doubled in size over the past two years, and we’re on track for 60% growth so far this year.

This past spring I stumbled across an ad on Craigslist for a place called Headquarters Boston, a co-working space similar to the Artisan’s Asylum in Somerville, but more oriented towards people with their own equipment and a lot closer to where I live. They were renting out 500 square foot spaces for a little under $600 a month in a true industrial building (welding is allowed!) and I finally pulled the trigger and started moving in earlier this month. I’m probably one of very few people here who have to feed a parking meter to park at their shop, but I’m also a short walk from a $70 million bar-restaurant complex and a dozen or so skyscrapers with more under construction on every block. Fortunately, it’s a dedicated, zoned industrial park and there’s a ten-year lease in place, so I should be able to enjoy it for a while before it gets turned into luxury condos and offices for hedge funds and PR firms.

After I got my 7x lathe working I made a resolution that when I could afford it, I was going to buy a turnkey machine and be done with it. My X2 conversion, while decent, has remained in a state of  “perpetual beta,” still missing homing switches because I didn’t feel like tearing it apart to add them properly, and if I don’t go through a 10-point inspection to tighten up every screw and connector before running it, something is guaranteed to stop working right within 10-20 minutes. I wanted a machine that allowed me to focus on making parts, not building and tuning the machine.

While I spent some time looking for the mythical used-VMC-priced-like-a-Tormach, the ability to get a new, warranted machine with a 4th axis and touch probe won out. I gave Novakon a long and pretty hard look, but I just couldn’t bring myself to drop $10k on a machine I’d never seen from a small company in Canada. I also liked that Tormach already had a power drawbar and ATC out for a couple years, even though I decided to wait on purchasing either of them. That said, the Pulsar Servo looks like a pretty interesting machine, and I hope it’s a big success for them. Competition is always good for customers!

In the short term I’m also planning to add a 10x lathe which I’ll convert to CNC just like my 7x. Compared to the X2 mill, I got the 7x lathe conversion done in a fraction of the time, and it’s been a more reliable machine by far, though compensating for the huge backlash in the stock screws is… interesting. There also isn’t yet a good Tormach-type option for a CNC lathe, so it’s DIY or bust. The 305oz motors I use on the 7x are big enough for the 10x if ball screws are used, so it should be an inexpensive conversion. At the very least it will be a good project to break in the PCNC 1100.

I have a bunch of interesting projects in the works I’m looking forward to sharing, the first one hopefully being a video of the Tormach safely perched on its stand. Stay tuned and wish me luck!

3 responses to “So, this happened yesterday

  1. dewy721 June 27, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    Nice find on the office space! ;) Perceptive too; there is and will be many eyes gazing down onto your building’s rooftop with big money intentions for the property it occupies.

    One thought: You might be able to stave off some corporate interests by building up a reputation as the “go to” source for ultra high-end, built to order, ‘desk toys’ and ‘lifestyle essentials’ for those CEO types. If you stylized your reputation as the ‘Bugatti’ of “I had it custom made” in town, perhaps you might re-direct their intent from the building you need to filling your pockets instead. :)

    • The Snob June 27, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      Heh, yeah. It’s actually a 10-story building, so it’s hardly a shack. It’s in the Boston Marine Industrial Park which includes, among other things, a container terminal, a graving dock large enough for an aircraft carrier, a brewery, and a bunch of large seafood processors. At least today, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (the all-powerful agency whose permission is required to lay one brick on top of another) is actively promoting the site as an economic development hub. It’s one of only two large industrial sites left, and has a lot of biotech and scientific R&D work, artists and designers, and other random businesses the City considers important to “innovation.” If they wanted to de-industrialize the area it would probably take at least a decade.

      • dewy721 June 27, 2013 at 7:42 pm

        Heck with that kind of neighborhood, I’d handout business cards to all the R&D/Engineering firms and offer up low-cost off-site fixture fabrication services. It would be a win-win situation as some of their funding comes to your coffers while they get custom lab-ware for less. It also keeps the business local making it a win-win-win environment. Cheers and happy hunting. :)

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