# Machining Parts at Home

Discussion in 'Workshop Tips and Secrets / Tools' started by Winginit, Apr 23, 2017.

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1. Apr 27, 2017

### Jay Kempf

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There is no question that a drill press and drill press collet won't do. But a small rigid mill with enough travel and a proper set of collets and decent cutting tools can go a long way towards making small parts if you don't have the room. There are some really bad tubular upright drill presses being sold as small milling machines, and some CNC routers. Neither is adequate but a small mill with a rigid upright with a proper way in it can be made to be adequate. No question that a Bridgeport just takes all the guessing of what you can and can't do away. But then you need the floor space and it is hard to not coat your shop in cutting oil and chips at that point. A desktop can get a home made cabinet. I'm still heading toward the desktop but then I have access to other people's shops where there are all kinds of professional tools. The desktop can just make that one things you need right now vs. things you need to send out to quote or at least some of them.

2. Apr 27, 2017

### vtul

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Well having built precision machine tools using only hand tools, I'd say the impression that hand tools can't do accurate work is ridiculous. Hand scraping, which I've done a fair amount of, is just one example of high precision work that can be done with hand tools.

More important than tools, either hand or machine, is knowledge, and the ability to measure and fit.

Actually, I'm not quite understanding the developing arguments here. Every tool, hand or machine, has limitations, and everyones' wallet has at least some limitation, and everyones' interests vary. So what might be useful for some, like a drill press used to mill a small slot, or three hacksaw blades taped together and a triangle file to mill that slot, or a shaper, or a Bridgeport, or a CNC machining center....I mean, who cares what your fellow plane builder uses if it getss the job done? It's all good.

Is the question here really "what is best?" Because no one can answer that in any sensible way. Use strictly hand tools to build a plane accurately. Use a machine you build or buy to help, it all can be done. The real point is to enjoy yourself doing something you love. And supposedly admire someone else as well, doing the same thing, but in the way that suits their capabilities and resources best.

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3. Apr 27, 2017

### nerobro

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So, John C Klienuber really, deeply, underates his equipment. He says the Brute mill is good for pcbs and plastics. I got EXCELLENT finishes on aluminum, with no chatter..

http://crankorgan.com/brute.htm

That's what I built, with a stretched X, Z, and reinforced neck.

4. Apr 27, 2017

### Winginit

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Again Vtul, I don't want to cast aspersions on what you have done. Long before machines were invented craftsmen found ways to make precision fits using hand labor...but that was because they had no machines. Anything can be done if enough skill, time, patience and labor are put into it. What you did is monumental in homebuilding comparisons, but the other 99% of builders will feel its inefficient to take the same route as you did. The average builder is not willing to invest the amount of time you did in order to build his own equipment. I am curious as to how long it took you to learn those skills and create your machines. My guess is that at least a year of spare time would be invested in going the route you took. Again, it is extremely difficult if not virtually impossible for a homebuilder to file a square hole with perfectly straight, parallel, and perpendicular surfaces, and hold a tolerance of .001. In fact, I'll offer a challenge to someone to prove me wrong, and they only have to hold .003 everywhere. Now, the point here is that a suitable rectangular hole can be made to hold a radio, and variation up to .010 probably won't be very noticable when the radio is installed. On the other hand if a builder wants to invest untold hours in doing so, he can get fairly good results. If anyone accepts this challenge using basic hand tools and a drill press, keep track of how much time you took to get it right, and post pictures showing your methodology.

Here again I reference Dana's knowledge and experiences, because its a perfect example of what many people end up doing. He started with a not very good drill press and adapted to it. He didn't get very good results. Then he bought a better drill press but a not-so-good X/Y table. Still not what he had hoped for. Then he progressed to a real milling machine with a dedicated (ridgid and parallel) X/Y table and Z axis (up/down) control. To that he added a rotary table which provides a 4th axis of movement. Now he has a machine that is finally capable of reasonably quick and accurate results. He bought it used, so whatever he paid for it, it will hold that value as long as he has it.

Now here is the crux of what I'm trying to relate without all the side aspects becoming distractions. A tabletop milling machine and a rotary table will cost you more initially than a drill press, and a tubing notcher combined. It will also be worth more than the drill press and tubing notcher will be many years from now. If you are considering purchasing those two tools, why not purchase the mill which will do anything the drill press will,....and more. Its just a temporary investment that you can recoup later. It will make building more efficient (than filing :gig: Just kiddin) and allow you to make more professional looking parts. As was said, most planes are designed so that a builder does not actually have to have a mill or other large tool...but nothing says you can't design a better part or a nicer part or a more efficient part for your version of the plane.
What I wish everyone would absorb here is the fact that these tools often don't cost you much in the long run, and may actually save or make you money when done with them. Skip over the learning curve that Dana went thru and just do it...then come back to this thread after you make your first part...and give us your opinion again.

I recommend trying to get a larger mill because when drilling you will need a chuck that can handle larger drill bits, and you need some height between the chuck/mill adapter to make everything fit. Not all drill bits are going to be short 2" length, so consider that. Secondly don't pay any attention to the ones that say .0001 graduations. Just because it says .0001 (1/ten thousandth) doesn't mean it will cut that precisely.

Last edited: Apr 27, 2017
5. Apr 27, 2017

### Little Scrapper

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Winginit, what do you do for a living?

6. Apr 27, 2017

### Little Scrapper

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I've had a lifetime association working metal and here is my experience.

People don't buy drill presses and milling machines and sell them later. Generally speaking.

I use my drill press for drilling and I'll die with it before I sell it. So, recouping costs doesn't make sense to me at all especially considering a mill isn't required to build an airplane. Winginit, the scale thread you were concerned about spending money driving 30 minutes to borrow a professional scale? Here's the reality of buying a mill and a lathe.

I'm just a hobbiest and I bet my tooling alone for both machines is over $4k......of which I don't use.....dusty....in a barn...... I mean, man, the clamps, jigs, fixtures, inserts etc etc. A very long list. Kinda like owning a horse, the horse is the cheap part. Because you have precision machines you also need precision measuring tools. I buy Starrett, B&S, and Mitsutoya because I've been down the Harbor Freight road, I wasn't happy. But, I buy used on ebay for premium tools and seem to get a fair price. Then the liquids. The maintenance. The shipping to get stuff. The driving to get stuff. And time has a cost too. All this happens when you have free time from not building the airplane.......which doesn't require a mill or a lathe. So it's a fair assumption that owning a mill and a lathe is awesome, the cost of the machine is just a tip of the iceberg. And a mill and lathe that sits without being used had a cost as well. If the person wanting the luxury accepts the fact that luxuries cost money I think you'll be happy. My larger drill press cost me$400 I think, like 20 years ago. Drill bits from Precision Twist and a sweet sweet keyless Chuck have been my only expenses. That is my reality anyhow. I use my drill press every single day.

Remember, I'm just a hobbiest. There's a lot of folks who.are a machinist for a living, they spend more than I do I'm sure.

By the way, I might sell my Logan lathe if anyone is interested. For a few hundred in parts you'd have a nice set up. Tooling not included. :roll:

I love the thread though, I love tools. But there's a reality check that needs to happen because everyone should own a drill press and a good vice.

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7. Apr 28, 2017

### vtul

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Winginit, you seem to be arguing with your own conclusions about others, about what they can do, about what they actually did, and what they say, about what they want,. So you're absolutely right on all counts.

I was not suggesting anyone build a lathe in order to build a plane. Quite the opposite. I think hand tools and a drill press are a fine AND precise set of kit, assuming good workmanship But I WAS suggesting we all recognize that differences in capability and approach are a good thing we can appreciate in each other. And if anyone is coincidentally interested in building a lathe, it certainly can be done.

In answer to your most straightforward question above it took me three months one winter in 2002 to build the furnace, assemble the flasks and greensand, build the patterns, cast the parts, and file, drill, scrape and assemble the lathe as well as many accessories, not all shown.

That was built at home after work with family needs met and during weekends when I was working full time as a documentation specialist for an avionics company, a division of P&W Canada. Maybe at best 25 hours a week for 3 months.

I found that time not to be a herculean task, but to be a great pleasure doing quite simple procedures-- one of the best things I ever did, in fact I had NO machining experience when I started, knew nothing about metal lathes, and gained it all by following step by step the books by Dave Gingery, as mentioned earlier.

In answer to your challenge, I'm certain I can chip, file and scrape a square groove in a small part to a .001" tolerance, and reasonably quickly, but I don't feel the need to prove anything to you on that score. It's fine if you don't believe it.

8. Apr 28, 2017

### vtul

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9. Apr 28, 2017

### Little Scrapper

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Vtul

I've seen a lot of really neat things in my life and have been fortunate to be part of most, it takes a lot to impress me.

Your work humbled me. Seriously man, well frickn done!!!! Very impressed.

10. Apr 28, 2017

### Little Scrapper

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Vtul. Have you ever been on the Home Model Engine Machinist forum? http://www.homemodelenginemachinist.com/index.php

I'm a member but have never posted. I joined just to see the great work they do. A guy can only do so many things in life so I force myself to choose my battles, I'd love to build a engine with my own castings one day.

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11. Apr 28, 2017

### Winginit

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I can only say once again, the buyer needs to look at the long term picture. Buy a tool that is more capable and resell it when done for no real cost, or fall in love with it because it allows you to do many new and enjoyable things and regain its cost through the satisfaction of producing better and nicer quality things. I agree with Scrap that many people can build an airplane without the necessity of having a drill press, BUT they virtually all have to have a drill press. My recommendation is to step up to a small milling machine instead of putting your money in a drill press. It will cost more to begin with, but will be worth more when done. Net cost= 0

12. Apr 28, 2017

### Winginit

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Again, I want to say that I not only appreciate what you accomplished by building your lathe, but to recognize your ingenuity. That being said, you cannot accurately measure .0005 (1/2 thousandth or 5/10,000 of an inch with a dial caliper. You may be getting what you believe to be accurate readings, but trust me, dial calipers are not accurate to that degree. Using a micrometer to measure will get you pretty good accuracy with +/- .0005, but a dial caliper would never be used to verify that degree of accuracy.Dial calipers are not even calibrated in 10th of a thousandth. If you don't believe me, ask any machinist you know and trust.

http://www.tresnainstrument.com/accuracy_of_calipers.html

Last edited: Apr 28, 2017
13. Apr 28, 2017

### Little Scrapper

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I give

14. Apr 28, 2017

### Winginit

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Naw, I don't want it to be like that. I like the fact that you bring up good opposing points. Quite Probably, most of the people reading this thread are gonna follow the path you and some others recommend. I really think thats how most people will go. But, I hope I have persuaded a few people out there to take a chance, and maybe instilled a little food for thought into the subconscious of some of the others. The real thing to me is that they are not limited to making airplane parts, people find out they can make anything, anything. Look what Vtul did by his own initiative. Thats really what I'm trying to do here, get people to realize what they are capable of if they just try it.

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15. Apr 28, 2017

### vtul

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Winginit, I'm sorry you don't appear to understand the difference between precision and accuracy.

The most expensive micrometer in the world succumbs to the lowly gage block for calibration. We ultimately measure things by comparison, not by absolutes expressed on a dial or digital readout. Trying to get those spot on full range is where the expense is.

In measuring one end of a test bar like the one in my lathe, using the same caliper, a caliper if truly crappy might be off by a thousandth on a 1" measurement, but if in measuring both ends of the bar, using the same caliper, the needle moves less than half of one division the difference is truly less than a thou, even though the dial reading of 1" might be off. Mine wasn't by the way, and I do have gage blocks.

Again if you don't believe or understand this, that's okay, but you seem like one of those people who grasp absolute relations at the expense of relative ones, and that will hamper you as a tool user.

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16. Apr 28, 2017

### Turd Ferguson

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I've done metal work my whole life and I'm in my 60's now. When I was young and poor with lots of free time, hacksawing and filing a piece of metal to size, shape and finish was how I did it. I know how to operate a hacksaw and file, lol. Nowadays, money is less of an issue and time gets more valuable every day. Instead of sawing and filing metal for hours on end, I am fortunate that I can use my machine tools and compete the same same task in a small fraction of the time it took in the past. Luxury to some maybe but time is also a luxury and I don't have as much of that as I once had. Some of the remaing supply is used every day and it is not replaceable.

I would bet you like your drill press for the same reason. Saves time over using a hand held drill motor and does a better job. Unless your a purist (I know a guy that builds black powder guns using the same techniques and processes used in the 1800's) you'll wake up one day and start mentally calculating how much longer you can do this. Saving time gets moved up the priority list pretty quick. I could just go buy parts already cut, machined and finished. That doesn't interest me - yet - but I might reach that point one day.

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17. Apr 28, 2017

### Turd Ferguson

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Scrapper, we'll have to talk about that lathe one day. Airplanes, machine tools, I hate to see them go to waste.

18. Apr 28, 2017

### Pops

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I also like tools. When my building buddy (Dallas) and myself decided to scratch build Bearhawks we knew we would be needing an 8 brake to fold the alum for the spars. Being cheap, we didn't want to spend the many thousands of dollars for a good 8' brake, we bought a set of plans and built one at the same time we were welding the fuselage tubing. One of the best thing we could have done. When building alum wings, a 8' brake and a 4' stomp shear sure is nice. No matter what you are building, you can't have enough tools.
I have a small lathe and can just do the easy simple things, but Dallas has a very nice large lathe with about any tool for it that you can think and is an expert, so one way or another a lathe job will get done. For any milling work, we have a friend that is a retired machinist and has a very well equipped shop at home and we will give him those jobs.

Last edited: Apr 28, 2017
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19. Apr 28, 2017

### akwrencher

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While this is an interesting thread, it still comes down to, different strokes for different folks. I'm with Pops in that I feel you really can't have enough tools. Having said that, I have a lathe mill setup in my shop for several years now, and have yet to really learn how to use it properly. Mainly because of traveling for work so much, but the point is, precision tools take time to learn. How much time depends on the person and the starting point, but still takes time for everyone. I've been blessed with a decent amount of mechanical ability in this life, and I run up against steep learning curves all the time.

About this thread, I really don't think there is one right answer, it will be so dependant on the individual that it is impossible to say "this way is better". Good thread for brainstorming options for folks who don't always think outside of their box though.

Also, I second whoever spoke to tooling costs....they far outstrip the machine tool itself.....

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20. Apr 28, 2017

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