View Full Version : NEW MEMBER: Sooo much to learn...

04-02-2013, 10:16 PM
I'm a software engineer - I can already anticipate the jokes on not being a "proper" engineer on this forum, so perhaps I should re-phrase that to "programmer". Perhaps there are some good jokes I've not heard yet ?

I'm looking to acquire some new skills and solving some problems by building a CNC router.

A few years ago I started playing with arduinos, micro-electronics, and physical computing.
I've always built models, had a go at DIY with OK results when I have the time.
Half the enjoyment is in figuring things out and learning new skills along the way...

I've been reading about CNC routers for 6 months, but only really considered building my own as a possibility since
discovering this forum. Some of the build logs are inspiring !

Also, I've been very impressed at how friendly everyone is... (please keep it up folks!).

I can see it's possible for others; others who clearly doubt their ability to overcome all the problems and finish a build they are happy with
... which is exactly what I'm feeling now. Slight trepidation. Slightly terrified of being ripped to pieces, but still wanting to have a go.

I'm lucky enough to have a garage with some room... cars sleep outside ... which is freezing,
so top of my list is to get some insulation and draught-proofing in there to make it a more pleasant work area.
Has anyone else done this ? Any tips on a cozy set-up appreciated.

Wondering also if I do sort out the draughts, whether it'll be too damp to store any precious man-toys out there.
It's not really damp, just enough moisture in the air in a cold building I think, maybe not helped by a freezer sitting out there either, or that it's a detached garage stood on its own, but it is enough to make tools rusty if left un-oiled/greased for extended periods.
By all accounts a CNC router is way too heavy to drag indoors for protection from everything... and I don't think leaving a PC out there overnight is a great idea... what do you other folks do to protect your kit ?

I've not done any metal-working beyond making a bottle-opener at school, some 30ish years ago.
I gave it up as soon as possible, given the prospect of sharing a class with bullies and thugs,
who were armed with hammers and chissels in the lessons ! Shame really because looking back I think I
would have enjoyed the "making" side of things those lessons offered.

So... metalwork skills may be a hurdle to overcome. Ok.

I've also never done any welding. Everyone here seems to be a skilled welder, or know someone who is.
Without welding skills, welding tools or contacts who can weld, a steel frame seems out of my reach.
... though having spent a few evenings watching non-stop MIG welding courses on YouTube it doesn't look like
rocket science. I hadn't done soldering 3 years ago, and now I know enough to get a non-dry joint most times.
I doubt I'd be doing much welding in the future, so getting a machine just to build a CNC "frame" seems a fair overhead.

All those sparks look fun I'll admit, but is it worth going down the welding route to build a solid frame, or should I stick to the idea of building an (albeit more expensive) frame/chassis from Aluminium profiles instead ?

I suspect that once I have a CNC machine built, I would mostly be doing wood-based projects, so investing in welding kit is probably a waste of cash if it can be avoided.

I'm still not sure what size of machine to attempt. 2"x3" is probably big enough.

My favoured design is moving gantry, fully supported rails, ballscrews, spindle. Hopefully there's no need to repeat the good advice I've heard repeated several times on other builds logs... most of the time.

I'd like it to cut aluminium, but most of my projects will undoubtedly be wood, so I understand I need to design for worst-case loads.
I fancy trying to mill PCB prototypes eventually too.

I see from other posts that a pillar drill is an essential to get holes vertical.
I've also heard that this one is better than most in the sub-200 price bracket :
Buy Axminster ED16B2 Pillar Drill from Axminster, fast delivery for the UK (http://www.axminster.co.uk/axminster-axminster-ed16b2-pillar-drill-prod719344/)
Has anyone got views on that ? or better suggestions for the price ?

Are HSS drill bits suitable ? Suggested links anyone ?

What other tools do I need before I get started ?

I have a B&Q chop/mitre saw on 20mm-ish linear rails, with a new blade (apparently able to cut aluminium), a bench-mounted grinder (rough/smooth), a random assortment of woodworking tools, 300mm digital calipers, a hand-tapping set (never tapped a hole in my life ... yet),
cuddly toy...

Also, ideas for simple project suggestions to do so I can acquire the skills I'll need to build a CNC machine ?
It'd be better to screw-up cheap materials learning how to build things more accurately than ruining expensive profile/plate.

As I said, I have soooo much to learn...

... Starting with SketchUp unless there are any suggested alternatives which won't cost me an extremity.
Here go my evenings for the rest of the year...

05-02-2013, 12:12 AM
ok wanting to inspire someone new i link you to my garage thread :D

i will then tell you that since this was done the only bit of water to get in to my garage is when it rains too heavy and water seeps in through the sides at the base of the concrete panels i cant do anything about this and have learnt to live with it. the weather has gone from deep frost, to mild, to snow, to rain ect and the water/condesation that used to soak everything in my garage has gone so i'm happy and it worked for me.
there is also nothing to stop you building protective covers round your more treasured items.. and someone advised me to stick a pet heat mat in with the electronics to keep them dry.

re the drill i bought one that was 70 off ebay.. yes it's poor quality and it's took a bit of messing to get it going but it spins round it's steady, you can move the drill up and down and it's straight i dont really know what else you need from a pillar drill and hopefully/maybe someone will chime in and tell you why you should spend 3.5 times more than i did

same with the chop saw, i bought a 50 evolution one from bnq, it says it will cut steel.. i'll find out soon.

hss drill bits do work with steel... my personal opinion is that slow with moderate pressure works well when drilling steel if you drill too fast you will burn the end of the bit out then it wont do jack.. alu is even easier to drill although speed again comes in to it, too fast and little pressure you will melt the alu to the drill bit

John S
05-02-2013, 12:59 AM
Sharing a garage with a freezer isn't as bad as it sounds.
Freezers give off heat. Stud the walls and crap as much insulation in as possible, if you have an up and over steel door glue sheets of Kingspan foam to it.
With decent insulation that freezer will keep the temperature above dew point which is where condensation occurs.

Any heating needs to be dry heat like electric. Gas heating, direct, like propane will fill the place up with water vapour. I use a big wood burner but I'm nesh !


Got a bit carried away with stoking up. :whistle:

05-02-2013, 12:40 PM
I started with a garage with brick walls half way up then asbestos sides and a leaky flat tin roof.

First replaced the roof - it went

EPDM membrane
Ply deck (can't remember thickness - 1/2 or 3/4 inch?)
50mm gap
100mm foam insulation (the white stuff) between the rafters
Vapour barrier plastic sheet
Ply lining (ISTR 10mm)

Sides - didn't touch the asbestos, just built inside it. Walls were uneven so added studding to make the walls vaguely straight, and put foam insulation between, depth varied 2 to 6 inches.
Then vapour barrier
Then ply lining

Also got a huge double glazed window off ebay for 99p :-) and added that that (facing the house, not visible from the street). Also bulked up doors with ply and angle iron for security and draughtproofed them.

Is now super dry and heats up quickly with an oil filled radiator if need be. Had no condensation probs at all, no probs at all leaving computers etc out there.

It all cost a bit but don't regret it at all. So much more pleasant working in a warm dry space. Also painted all of the ply lining white and added loads of lights - a bright workspace is good too.

Only regret is not doing the floor when it was empty. It's bare concrete, not very even or level - wish I'd dug it out/replaced, added insulation, levelled and would then probably have put down the industrial non slip vinyl with the gritty finish - there are sellers on ebay with roll ends going cheapish.

Well worth putting an effort in to make the garage a pleasant workspace before starting projects IMO. It might even add to house value (could be an 'artist's studio' or home office etc once insulated, wired up etc.)

Other things:
- MIG welding is dead easy to get the hang of. Might not be needed as you say, though, for a smallish build. Some people have been using epoxy and bolts to build steel frames e.g. MadVac CNC - home made 4'x8' cnc precision gantry router (http://oneoceankayaks.com/madvac/madvac_index.htm)

- Drill press - would advise second hand here - I got an old English-made but rusty Meddings one from an autojumble for 60. Quality is a gazillion times better than most imports I've seen. Extend the quill all the way down then try wiggling it. Zero movement on the (40/50 years old?) Meddings, millimetres on the cheap new ones. Search ebay with results sorted by distance for "bench drill" and look for names like Elliott, Meddings, Pacera, Fobco. Prob best go for a single phase motor one to keep it simple for now. Also consider a floor standing model - often not much if any more pricey, can be handy sometimes and doesn't take up bench space. Random example of a bench one: bench pillar drill | eBay (http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/bench-pillar-drill-/321067887744)

- Drill sets - see drill sets | Model Engineer (http://www.model-engineer.co.uk/forums/postings.asp?th=78162)

- Other bits - good advice at e.g. Equipping a workshop | Model Engineer (http://www.model-engineer.co.uk/forums/postings.asp?th=78285)

05-02-2013, 01:21 PM
Sounds like your a brother from another mother chap you didnt leave your name?... could say snap to most of your description points

anyway. my garage is concrete sectional, originally with asbestos roof.

8 years ago, I replaced it with wooden joists and metal sheet (like the cladding you see on industrial buildings)

problem was, it dripped in the winter when you warmed the garage up... and, it dripped in the summer when the outside warmed up

so this year (inspired by wilfy's dilemas) I decided to combat this problem head-on... pulled off the heavy tin sheets... lined the roof with osb boarding. then damp-proof membrane... then blow torched felt. then the orginal roofing panels. then painted them.

Now there is no condensation dripps... and its much warmer even though I have no real insulation.

I also share with a freezer; and a computer (which I leave on all the time) - even when I had the drippy metal roof (before I added ocb & felt) the computer was fine... but just leave it on and it generates enough temperature to look after itself.

now, with the new roof its nice and dry in there even in the worst weather we've had... I can tell this because the saw dust remains saw-dust!!! :-D Dont know why I didnt do it sooner think it only cost 200 notes all in?

Also made a log-burner... to inspire me to get down there after work on these miserable winter nights...


Sounds like you need to first sort out your work area... like the guys have already said Dry, Light and Warm is the key

make sure each and every one of your tools has a place to live. and all of a sudden you will find yourself doing more and more 'diy' and less 'programming' :-D you nerd!

get us some pictures of this workshop... let us see what we've got to work with...

05-02-2013, 02:37 PM
Nothing wrong with being a software engineer :)

Web Goblin
05-02-2013, 04:30 PM
If you are going to build a machine then you will probably only need clearance and tapping drill sizes to begin with. After that you can begin to expand your tool set.

05-02-2013, 05:14 PM
Don't be to quick to write off welding the frame, few people on here started with no experience of welding & learnt fairly quickly. If you buy a second user machine for your build & at the end decide you are never going to weld another thing in your life you can always sell it again & probably get back most if not all you spent on it.
People have done it by bolting the frame together but it's a lot of work drilling & tapping all the holes.
Nothing to be afraid of on this site, no one is going to rip you to shreds just because of your lack of knowledge. You will no doubt get criticism once you start to design a machine but it's constructive criticism aimed at helping to correct mistakes that you may have made or how to improve things. No one will just say that's rubbish & give no reasons for the statement or ideas that would help improve things.
Best of luck with it anyway.

06-02-2013, 11:17 PM
Lots of ideas to digest there... thanks to all for the responses.

martin54: I will keep a look-out on eBay as you say in case a MIG welding machine comes up nearbye. Turns out someone at work has one in his shed, so I may be alright on that score after all...

wilfy: There is a pillar drill on eBay which is local too (< 1 mile!), think I'll put a bid in tomorrow...

I got a few sheets of 20mm thick celotex and tried putting it between the rafters. Bloody frustrating that the beams holding the tiles aren't very parallel, or spaced evenly apart. Took the best part of 2 hours to get one "run" in, and the gaps were too big. The joists holding the tiles up are only 7cm deep, so perhaps I should just staple larger/thicker 100mm sheets underneath these and forget doing anything between the joists, leaving a big ventilation gap.

... So I had a go at putting some of the 20mm board in the gaps on the back of one of the up-and-over doors, which seems to have gone pretty well so far. The doors are thin ply stapled to a metal frame, so pretty thin wood as-is, but less conductive than metal for sure even with nothing added.

John S:
crap as much insulation in as possible Ahh, just only wish I could :playful: - the rigid insulation boarding is expensive no ?
Wondering if this place (http://www.eroofs.co.uk/dept/154/Reject_Kingspan_TP10_Equivalent?gclid=CMPRturiorUC FQ7LtAodlkMAiQ) is any good ? Seems way cheaper, but there's no foil on the boards. Is that important ?

Initial foray into sketch-up seems to be pretty quick for sketching something. Witness my feeble attempt (attached), but it gives the basic picture I think. Excuse the mess, a spring clean is overdue... in the spring.

There are 4 x 10W LED floodlights (80W equivalents each) fitted a few weeks back from LED Hut. Amazing to be able to see things clearly in there at last.

07-02-2013, 07:22 AM
my god! your one of the lucky ones! There are loads of people out there that would chop their left leg off for a place half the size of that... people who use garden sheds, people who use bedrooms, under the stairs cupboards.. ive seen it all. You genuinely are very lucky

Atleast its brick!. an d its got an apex roof... its massive!

sounds to me; like your on the right track. Persevere with packing the drafts and get a small economical small heater that can be left on all the time... it will soon warm up.

13-02-2013, 01:40 PM
Yes, I guess I am lucky as you say. :redface: Downside is that insulating it is going to take longer, cost more...etc. but it should be worth it.
I'm dead envious of your wood burners. Wondering how I can swing a similar stunt myself now... I'll think on that for later.

One garage door is now completely insulated. Looking like a silver space-ship hull from the inside now.

A shed-load of rigid insulation board arrived today on the back of a lorry... destined for the garage roof. Weekend activities blanked out as a result.

I put some spare lino on some batten planks so that lino overlaps about 2", and mounted them above the garage up-and-over doors. The flap of lino brushes the top of the door, and forms a neat draught excluder. Works a treat. Thanks for the suggestion Mocha.

13-02-2013, 02:12 PM
no probs, works well doesn't it? Did you do all around the door or just the top?

If anyone else tries this and the lino / floor covering has an embossed pattern on it. Orientate it so the non embossed smooth side (the back) comes into contact with the surrounding wood / concrete.

28-02-2013, 02:26 PM
Only put lino draught excluders on the top of each door so far. Not sure how I'd fix it to the bottom of the door. Thinking of using a more solid rubber draught-excluder for the floor instead, but want to sort out insulating or getting matting on the floor before then so I know how much of a gap there will be.
The doors themselves have metal strips on each side which cover the gap (see pic), into which I plan to put a regular window draught excluder/thin rubber strip.

I've nearly finished insulated the roof. Cutting Celotex with a kitchen knife creates far less "dust" than using a saw. Still takes an age though.

Looking at doing the walls next. Planning on a mix of battens/50mm insulation/board for where I won't need to hang shelves, and studs/50mm insulation-infill/insulation-over/boards where more strength is required. Then I should be ready to start something more interesting.

28-02-2013, 05:58 PM
id be chewing my left leg off for a workshop that size.

28-02-2013, 11:48 PM
i bet you can already tell the difference

18-03-2013, 03:38 PM
Roof complete. Walls starting to turn silver now.
Any advice on wall-board to use ? Probably plywood, as it's easy to screw things into.

Even now, it's getting quicker to heat, retains heat for longer, and top temperature is higher. Still got a way to go before it's complete however...

8496 8497

19-03-2013, 12:21 AM
Looking realy good now. You have done well to work around all that stuff. It looks like we may have both attended the same course on garage tidiness. G.

19-03-2013, 12:24 AM
Looking realy good now. You have done well to work around all that stuff. It looks like we may have both attended the same course on garage tidiness. G.

What stuff? all i see is a load of artwork ready to hang on those nice new walls:whistle:

19-03-2013, 01:59 PM
Hello techcobweb: We all have "soo much to learn!" However, you have a lot going for you. It takes a lot of effort to build a cnc machine from scratch but it all starts with a plan. Make it a simple plan. I started with a design of the basic components in Microsoft Powerpoint and dedicated individual slides for the components (now I have BobCad-Cam). Since you'll be working with wood, a consideration for the machine material could be aluminum. I have an old drill press, a 10" mitter saw with a metal cutting disk and a small vise attached to it to hold the plates, drills and taps. There are low temperature aluminum welding rods you could use to weld the parts together using a propane torch (I haven't tried them). But, along the way, you'll find a machine shop that might allow you to use/rent a milling machine for some of the more precise parts (that's what happened to me). That's another thing to learn! In regards to the cold weather, I can only offer to send you a bottle of our hot Southern Florida sun! Good luck