Category Archives: Machines

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!