CNC Class Already Filled

George CarlsonEvents, News, Tools

It didn’t take long.  By the time I got this blog posting organized, the class was already filled.  Never fear, there will be additional classes in the near future.

The class will be concentrating of getting members certified to use the two CNC routers we have.

The small router, “Mini-Chop” was primarily designed for mechanical etching of circuit boards.  Its super precise control of the Z axis also makes it great for engraving Romark type plastic.  This is the material with a thin top layer of plastic over a thicker base of a different color.

The Mini-Chop, designed for circuit board making.

The Mini-Chop, designed for circuit board making.

We also have “Robo-Chop”, designed and built by member George Carlson.  This machine has a 26×48″ build space and a 3HP water cooled spindle.  It is on loan until we can purchase our own high-end CNC router.

Just finished cutting the big gear for Makey.

Just finished cutting the big gear for Makey.

Both routers use the Mach3 control system, so operation is pretty much the same for both machines.

The course will be taught in three sessions.  Session one is an introduction to CNC routers, operation and tooling.  The second session is all about V-Carve, the software used to design objects and create tool-paths.  In the last session we will cut the homework assigned in session 2.  Everyone will get a chance to show-off what they can make with an 8×10″ piece of MDF.

Emails will be sent out as soon as the next class is scheduled.


2016 Houston Mini-Makerfaire

George CarlsonEvents, Making, News

Imagine the Possibilities, our theme for the Makerfair

It was crazy!  The Mini-Makerfaire was held at the George R. Brown convention center on November 12 and 13. We had a 20′ x 20′ booth with lots of small projects for the kids to work on.  To select the project, the person would operate the large switch on the MakerBarn Robot Control Panel.  A large version of Makey would spin his “Wheel of Making” and randomly select a number for the project.

Jeanie and Greg are setting up the booth

Jeanie and Greg are setting up the booth

We had around 200 – 300 kids (and some adults) build the projects Greg created.  The booth was very crowded both Saturday and Sunday.

It was busy at The MakerBarn booth!

It was busy at The MakerBarn booth!

With all the clattering from Makey, and the constant use of the Aztec drum, we had to be the noisiest booth at the show.  Another big attraction was the Van de Graff Generator.  After a transfer belt change on Sunday morning, the generator was producing 10″ sparks.

Ouch! That thing is mean.

Ouch! That thing is mean.

Apologies to some of the other booths that may have had some interference from the Van de Graff.  It seemed to be upsetting a few computers in the area.

The stereo microscopes are always popular

The stereo microscopes are always popular.

People were amazed at what could be done with a laser cutter.

People were amazed at what could be done with a laser cutter.

Buttons, Spinners, Reindeer, Jack Knives, and Penny Tops were made by the dozens.  Thanks to all that made the booth such a success.


Our new Powermatic Tablesaw

George CarlsonNews, Tools

This is a Powermatic 66 built in the early seventies.  It was in very good condition, considering the age, when we got it.  The purpose of this saw will be to cut dados and box joints.  This can be done on the SawStop, but the brake cartridge needs be be changed if a dado blade is installed.  This will save our woodworkers alot of time when switching between normal and dado cuts.

PM66 Moving The saw is pretty heavy, just ask Greg.  Once we got it in the shop, it was cleaned and the bearings and belts were replaced.

cleaned up 66Here’s the machine all cleaned up.  The machine has a 3HP three-phase motor.  Since we don’t have three-phase power at the barn, I installed a VFD (variable frequency drive) to provide the three-phase power.  One advantage of using the VFD is that it allows the start and stop time of the motor to be set.  So you can make it start very smoothly and stop quickly, but not so fast as to loosen the saw blade.  Since this saw will be dedicated to the use of a heavy dado blade, the stopping is a concern.

PM66 doneNow with brand new fence, extension table, and electrics the saw is ready for many years of service.

More Additions to the Shop

George CarlsonBuild Log, News, Tools

It’s been busy lately. John Buckley and I built a high-tech router table. The machine uses a 3HP water cooled router spindle and an Arduino controlled router lift. The computerized lift makes making precision cuts easy.

The MakerBarn Router Table

We are also in the process of rebuilding a Powermatic 66 table saw. This a heavy-duty industrial saw that will be configured for making dado (wide slot cuts) cuts and box joints. This means we can make dado cuts without having to re-configure a saw. A wonderful time saver.

RoboChop CNC Router

RoboChop CNC Router

Lastly, the RoboChop has arrived! The RoboDhop is a 27×48″ High Precision CNC router. It has a 3HP water cooled spindle and high precision ball screws for positioning. It is on-loan as a way to see if we would like to purchase our own CNC Router. Shortly I’ll announce classes to teach Vectric V-Carve software and how to use the machine.

A new addition to the shop

George CarlsonNews, Tools

Abrasive Blasting Caninet

Abrasive Blasting Cabinet

One of the latest additions to our arsenal of tools at The MakerBarn is an abrasive blasting cabinet. Since we have a large air compressor and the entire building has been plumbed for compressed air, installation of the unit was easy.
“Sand blasting” can be quite messy, but with the sealed cabinet, the operation is quite clean and comfortable. Parts to be blasted are brought in through a door that seals. The operator’s hands go into large gloves in the front of the cabinet and a window allows the operator to see inside. A shop vac keeps the air inside the cabinet clear of dust.
The unit has been supplied with 100 grit snow-white Aluminum Oxide abrasive. This is a fine abrasive that looks much like sugar. It works well for quickly removing rust and paint from metal surfaces. It also works well for texturizing a surface, or etching glass or plastic. The vinyl cutter can be used to produce a mask for etching glass. The fine abrasive cuts glass, but does not destroy the vinyl.
When using the blaster, make sure your part is clean and free of grease, oil, of loose paint chips. Grease and oil can contaminate the abrasive and make is useless for etching projects. Large paint chips can clog the blasting gun.
The gun should be held at an angle to the surface, not straight on. The idea is to scrub the surface. Blasting directing down unto the surface can peen the surface and damage the part.
Bring in an old rusty yard tool and try the blaster on it. You’ll be pleased with the results.

Of Crosses and Doves – Maker Barn helps a church

John BuckleyBuild Log, Making

My wife and I love making many things, but I especially like to make things that serve a real purpose and  I can’t think of anything more worthy than helping our church to grow and serve others.    For many years our Woodlands United Methodist church has had a “Craft Circle” group of ladies who make craft items for two big annual Fall sales; one called “Gala” and the other “Boutique”.   The items include handmade quilts, glassware and various decorated items.  While the craft ladies are very good at decoration they often ask us to help supply the raw materials that go into a finished craft.

A good example are the beautiful wooden crosses that Craft Circle decorates every year.  They come in two sizes; 15″ x 12″ and 20″ x 12″.  The small one is made from 2×3 lumber and the large one is made from 4×4 lumber.  It might seem an easy job to build a cross from two pieces of lumber, but it turns out to require far more measurement and accuracy than I first imagined!  The point at which the two pieces are joined has to be notched to exactly 1/2 the width of the other piece and accomplishing this on the table or chop saws takes a bit of practice.  Fortunately Maker Barn has the tools we need to churn out large and small crosses – we just supply the lumber and the willingness to learn how!

Crosses_01           Crosses_02


Another example are special wooden church name tags made in the shape of a dove and used at a special conference held 2-3 times a year called “Walk to Emmaus”.  Prior to Maker Barn each tag was made by hand using a scroll saw and it took one person 10+ hours to make the 100+ tags required every year!  At Maker Barn we use a vector file of the dove and knock out 60 doves in a little over an hour using the laser printer equipment.

Doves_01         Doves_02

Our church is a very special part of our lives and Maker Barn has become a welcome way to learn new skills and contribute to our church at the same time.

  • John Buckley

New .org Domain & Website Hosting

Clay McGovernNews

As you may have noticed, we recently switched our domain to emphasize our non-profit status as a part of Extraordinary Education. So when visitors type the old .com domain, they will now be automatically directed to our new domain and website.

In addition to the change in domain, we also moved from a hosted WordPress solution to a full service website hosting solution. That change will give us a great deal of flexibility in terms of the services we can offer through our website. We have future plans for a member forum and a wiki.

All in all the process was pretty painless and went forward without any major glitches. Hopefully I’m not jinxing us by writing this!

The Hegner Scroll Saw

George CarlsonBuild Log, News, Tools

Hegner 25V

The Hegner Scroll Saw

We’ve been watching school and government auctions for items to equip The MakerBarn.  We have gotten some great deals on high quality tables, cabinets, and chairs.  On one of the auctions sites, I noticed a school district down near Victoria was auctioning a Multimax scroll saw and a Delta bandsaw.  Both looked fairly rough, but I placed some bids just to see how it went.  Victoria is a long drive so I hoped by bids would be fruitful.

I won both auctions.  This meant driving 300 miles, but with luck, it would be well worth it.

The Delta bandsaw was fairly recent vintage.  It had been the victim of a student brawl and had been knocked over.  But the upper and lower trunions were broken, but everything else survived.  A few used parts off eBay and some new tires, and the bandsaw tuned up beautifully.

The scroll saw had been sitting outside for quite some time.  It is a Hegner Multimax 25V, which is a very high quality scroll saw with a 25” deep throat and a variable speed motor.  New, these saws sell for about $2,000.  At some time in the past the motor controller had failed.  The school had wired the motor direct, which meant it was being run at hyper-fast speed.  This torn-up the link between the motor eccentric and the lower arm as well as a few other things.  I machined a new link from aluminum, then went to work on the motor.  The controller had a bad IC, which I was able to replace. The motor and controller are rather unusual.  The motor is a permanent capacitor split phase induction motor with a tachometer output.  The tach output is used as a feedback to the motor controller to assure constant speed.  The output voltage of the magnetic pickup was very low.  So I use a tiny audio transformer to increase the voltage.  After adjusting a few component values in the controller (sometimes it’s helpful to have an electronics design background) the motor ran fine.  The last item to repair was the cast iron flywheel/eccentric that attached to the front of the motor.  It was being held by some material that looked a lot like JB Weld.  This was not a good sign.  In the abuse that followed the rewiring of the motor, the flywheel must have come a bit loose.  The hammering of the eccentric, due to the high speed, enlarged the hole in the soft cast iron flywheel.  I put the flywheel in the lathe, trued it up, and bored the mounting hole for a steel sleeve.  Then I machined a precise steel sleeve and pressed it in the flywheel.  A bit of work, but the motor, flywheel and link were now working perfectly.  I replaced a couple of additional parts and now have a saw that runs like new.  Altogether, the parts cost about $75, but that’s not too bad for such a high-end machine.  Oh, by the way, the auction price for the scroll saw was $27.50, so we came out pretty well.

The Woodworking Show

George CarlsonNews

Thanks goes to Ed Draper for getting us a booth at The Woodworking Show.
The Woodworking Show is a nationwide show that visits the Houston area once a year. We had people from as far away as Austin and San Antonio visit the booth and learn about makerspaces and The MakerBarn. There were several woodworkers from our area who said they were very happy to hear about us and would come by for a visit.

Electronics at The MakerBarn

George CarlsonNews, Tools

We aren’t all woodworking and machine shop; we also have a wonderful electronics lab in the works.

The lab centers around four tech stations.  Three of the stations will be configured for experiments and testing audio and other low frequency work including micro-controllers.   You could use one of these stations to work on anything from tube amplifiers to Arduinos.  The forth station is equipped for work with RF (Radio Frequency) devices.  If you are into Ham Radio, this will be your favorite workspace.  Ever wonder what the spectral output of you WiFi router looks like?  The 9594E cover spectrum up to 2.9GHz.

The normal tech stations will each be equipped with a Tektronix 2246 100MHz oscilloscope, BK Precision 5MHz Function Generator, lab multimeter, and power supplies.  The RF station will have an HP8640B signal generator, an HP 8594E Spectrum Analyzer, and an HP 5328A frequency counter.  All tech stations will be supplied with a solder station and de-soldering tools.

There will also be a good supply of various parts, new and used as well as other equipment that can be checked out for use.

How often would you get a chance to operate a $20,000 Spectrum Analyzer or a $10,000 signal generator?  The answer is every evening at The MakerBarn.DSC_1057