View Full Version : NEW MEMBER: Time to say Hello!

01-08-2012, 11:32 AM
Hello All,

My name is Geoff, I'm currently 45 and unemployed/unemployable for health reasons!
I live on a Narrowboat and love Motorcycles hence BikerAfloat. I really, really, hate not working and I'm looking at ways I can work from my boat and pay my own way. A CNC Router/Engraver looks to me to be a good option, as I hope I can combine my engineering and artistic skills and hopefully pay my own modest way with it.

I have been watching for a while and been reading some excellent Router builds, (which is my main interest) and many of the other hellos, bit surprised by the contrast of excellent advice and what could be generously described as "non-helpful" comments to some newbies. I have been a bit reluctant to post because of the latter, as I am manic-depressive (sorry Bi-Polar to be PC) and I am currently finding it very hard to function outside my "comfort zone".

I have a background that includes automotive engineering (10 years at Lotus, 3 at Jaguar/Land Rover) a challenging 4 year break due to heart failure and a "breakdown" at 39. 10 years learning to be a Blacksmith along side my engineering (5 out of the previous 6 generations of my father's family were smiths, so I guess it is "in the blood") Heart failure put a stop to my plans to be a working smith - B@gg@r! Since getting back on my feet I have had a about 3 years struggling to work for other people, but my erratic health makes a 9-5 very difficult indeed, so I am looking at ways of combining my skills to work for myself. I have two somewhat conflicting sides to my personality, on one hand I am quite artistic and have a love for the abstract and unique and on the other I am very interested in the structure and routine of engineering and it's ability for mass production. If anyone has read Zen and the Art of Motorcycling, and although I'm not that bad, you'll have a feel for where I find myself!

Ho Hum, what to do about it! Some time ago, my father and I were talking about the possibility of adding cnc to his lathe, his failing health and finances meant it never happened, he's been gone 8 years now and I still keep thinking he's just in his shed when I get to Mum's. Sorry I digress. Anyway I started to think what would be possible and started looking on the web, somehow I stumbled across Instructables, this led me to Ponoko, what a wonderful world it opened up, 3d printing, laser cutting and CNC Routers! Oh my there I was going backwards in technology (sorry Blacksiths, you do still have a place in the world, just keep developing as the artform you really are!) and here is the world going forwards with amazing new technolgies and new manufacturing ideas. Somehow I came across Kickstarter and the number of CNC projects that were on there started my brain working overtime. "DIY CNC UK" found me this forum and a few other bits and bobs, my are we starved when compared to the USA! Having said that, many of the machines I looked at really aren't much more than toys, very very clever toys, but not upto my requirements.

What to do next, more internetting! Wow! There's this machine and that machine and "ouch" is that the price for a real tool! Stumble upon the Heiz machines, they look sturdy, the videos are impressive, one comes up on Gumtree for 400 can't believe my luck 50 deposit secures it as mine, some saving and a bit of "Crowd Funding" from my friends (I've been off work again for 7 months so no cash reserves) and it is a reality and the fun is about to start! Well no!, actually it isn't, despite appearances to the contrary the guy turns out to be a shyster, go down to pick up machine, address confirmed the night before, nice area (St John's Wood), house is empty, phone number no longer recognised, no answer to emails and 50 down the drain, so glad I didn't wire him the rest of the money so he could post me the machine!!!! I'm naievely (?) trusting, but thankfully not stupid LOL.

So what to do? More research, see many machines using extrusions, that looks promising, only simple tools need to build. Although I could use my fathers workshop, he left no will and Mum is a bit funny about whether they will be mine or not. My workshop went along with my health and a divorce and the boat is a bit restricted! So I'm down to a pillar drill and hand tools, still it must be possible, others have done it, Birchwood, Ply and MDF machines built by woodworkers are not at all uncommon, so let's fire up the CAD - Sketchup Free Version, so easy to use and the price was right! Since I really liked the Heiz machine and the size was right, I'll get the specs, start from there and beef it up a little! I'm now a couple of weeks down the line and have nearly completed my design, just some bracing of the Router clamp to add and I'l post the images.

The Requirements:

Rout wood & MDF, the "easy" bit.

Occasionally mill a bit of ally and certainly use it for engraving the same. I have a job lined up to engrave the clutch cover and valve covers of a 1970's style "digger" chop, should I get a machine before the guy finishes the build and starts riding it!

Engraving and cutting Brass is also right up there, as I've got a bit of a "Steampunk" thing going on!

If possible a little sheet steel or stainless There's a guy in Germany using a Heiz 400 machine to make stainless belt buckles, so while I'm guessing it slow it must be possible?

Of course I've seen people engraving glass and cutting tiles and, and, and, calm down let's walk before we can run!

The Spec:

Kress seem to be really popular and the 1050 that does 5000-23000rpm seems a good choice. I believe slow for steel, is 5000rpm slow enough, I'm guessing not?

Approx 300x400 cutting area, that's big enough to engrave a motorcycle clutch cover, make clock faces and house signs. I'd need another 100mm on each axis to make cupboards doors for the boat in one piece, but I can make insert panels at that size!

"Open" design like the Heiz so I can get things in from underneath. This leads to a twin leadscrew & stepper set-up for the X Axis.

4x3.1Nm Steppers from CNC4YOU as the price performance ratio seems just right from my research and from what I can gather are about right for the requirements of a serious machine.

12-3 Trapezoidal Lead screws and an idea for backlash reduction I'll draw up and post with the other machine drawings. I'm really struggling to justify the increased cost of ballscrews, and my heart and head are still in massive debate over this!

20mm Round rail and linear bearings for the Z Axis and 25mm supported rails for the X&Y overkill for wood I feel, especially at these small spans, but as I said I have a want/need to mill some steel and felt big steel rails would help!

Various lengths of 40x20, 60x20 & 80x20 profile from Metallic Innovations and early internet find and the prices seem OK. Sizes of all components are a compromise due to the need to line up on the grooves in these extrusions and my hope that the machine will have a minute amount of steel cutting ability. Fortunately 20mm Rail bearings have 40mm spacing for the Z and 25 Support rail bearings are 40mm for the X&Y axis.

I'll also be using some 10mm thick ally plate to clamp the support bearings for the shafts to the extrusions and sandwich the drive nuts through the extrusions.

I designed the machine so it only has 4 lengths of extrusion that require to be exact length for the X Axis and and the rest rely on the faces of the extrusions and not the ends for mating surfaces. I have allowed for the machine to be scaleable in X & Y to say 8'x4' cutting area at which point 12mm leadscrews can be swapped for 16mm with the ends machined for the 12mm bearings. Why oh why aren't there 16mm ID bearings????? Also it can be built (fingers crossed) with nothing more that a Pillar Drill, Hole Saws, M5 & M6 clearance drills, M4 & M5 Taps and spanners and Allen keys. I was hoping maybe to sell plans for this and maybe even assemble complete machines (dreaming here with my facilities) if the design proves to be workable. I know there are many better ways to make the machine, I have seen some beauties, but I have to work with my limitations.

As for B.O.B., I'm looking at the PlanetCNC stuff, probably the 9 Axis board as I already have 4 motors and would very much like a 4th axis fairly soon after I start to get a hang of 3, sorry running again, slow down to a crawl Arnold! Why? I like the price the fact the software is matched to the hardware and the transformation matrixes and uneven surface features I think will be very useful when coupled to a probe as if I am to do many motorcycle cover engravings, I would need these to cope with misalignment and curvature of the covers. Anybody have experience with these? I know Mach3 seems to be a favourite and very popular, but I have developed a softspot for this solution, heart ruling head possibly?

Power supplies argh!!! probably two 400w units from CNC4YOU as one isn't quite enough for the 4 motors at full current, so it certainly won't be enough for the 5 I'm finally after, well at least that is my understanding from contact with the guy there. I really am open for serious help with the electronics, I know I musn't let the smoke out and I can plug numbers into equations, I've even succesfully rewired a 1979 Moto Guzzi (hard to make a worse job than the factory did in those days though!) However given the cost and complexity of the components here, I'm as nervous as a very nervous person from nervousville can be!

Budget, this frightens the pants of me with the spec I have, even without ballscrews I'm looking at roughly 1500 without wiring, energy chains, enclosures, PC or software! I have 410 saved and maybe able to sell a few remaining items of blacksmithing stuff to get me to maybe 700, the rest I was hoping to get by setting up a crowd funding project* and selling plans as rewards. Many CNC projects have been funded this way in the States, but with the smaller market in the UK there is the risk of not reaching my goal and subsequently being unable to raise the money. Other option is I may have to sell my car, I may be forced into this as I am possibly going to loose my moorings (long story) and hence parking space, but being Manic-Depressive and not being able to use public transport easily this is not a preferred option. Failing the former and praying the latter doesn't happen, I am going to have to buy bits one at a time and I have no idea where to start. Am I best building a frame I can't use or having the electronics sitting around looking for a home?
*Google Kickstarter (USA) or Crowdcube (UK) if you are not familiar with this term).

Basically I'm fairly sure I can work one of these machines, I did a HND in Computer Aided Engineering, so CAD/CAM and CNC skills, while being rusty, are there. I'm also pretty sure I can think of enough ideas to keep the machine busy and my living costs are low as I can make them, working from the boat means no expensive industrial unit. (Oh, I now need to make that capable of running this machine as well, especially if I do loose my mooring and therefore landline and 240volts!) Oh and I've got to sell the stuff!

A lot of challenges for sure, but I have to do something to get back my independence. OK so now to finish those drawings and get them posted! Am I best starting a build log for this?

Catch you later,


01-08-2012, 04:18 PM
Hi Geoff, Firstly let me welcome you to the forum its always nice to hear from new members, I myself am a biker of 30yrs and still no car (well the wife has one lol) But no narrow boat YET!! (sounds cool though) if you are as you have described thinking of building your own machine, then this is the right place. There is so much Knowlege here on this site that i was amazed when i first joined, there are young and and not so young alike but all share at least one attribute.. they are very helpfull, some more vocal than others, plenty of friendly banter, and as many are in the UK you may even get to meet some of them as i have,. When i started out I knew nothing! I still know very little in comparison to some, but ive had some great laughs!! Ive had machining done by members, ive purchased things from members and experienced some of that banter first hand.

Im sure you will come to consider this community as a valuable resource, So ask your questions and you mentioned a build log.... Do it we all want build logs so we can borrow (lol) your ideas, and learn from your failures (i suspect you will have none to speak of) but your experiences will be helpfull whatever they are to other people lurking in the background, and maybe considering dipping their toes in the cnc pool.

Im sure there will be plenty of Cad related questions you could answer for other people (me included) as well.

I look forward to seeing you build your machine and your knowlege.

All the best


01-08-2012, 05:45 PM
Welcome and man thought I wrote long post's.!! . . . that didn't take 2mins I bet.? . .lol

Good luck and just ask if you need any help.! . . . . . Start the build thread ASAP.

Robin Hewitt
01-08-2012, 05:47 PM
Very interesting

As I read it, you could do with some help making this machine.

I have CNC up to about 6" x 18" and lots of metal, I can cut iron as easily as aluminium.

I also need someone to do some CAD/CAM because my brain is getting too old to learn new tricks.
Perhaps we could come to some kind of mutually beneficial arrangement? :beer:

01-08-2012, 06:38 PM
Thanks for the welcome Jazz, Build log started!

01-08-2012, 06:43 PM
Hi Robin,

Thanks for your post, more after help with the electronics, I'm afraid I'll let the smoke out of the expensive bits!

I have set myself the challenge with the mechanical stuff, this is more a therapy for me at the moment. Having said that, I may well struggle and would be happy to reciprocate with help where I can!