Affordable fabrication tools for DIY custom work

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Affordable fabrication tools for DIY custom work

Post by spinningmagnets » Oct 15, 2017 9:46 pm

I can afford a shop full of tools, but right now I find myself with a lack of space to do anything with. On a free day, I can pull a car out of my garage and then set up a temporary space to work on something, but I have to put everything away and re-park the car. I am embarking on a journey of building several "foldaway" tools, and I thought some of the newer members might find it useful to see any clever examples of something like that, and also hear which ones were the most useful to get first.

I've wanted a drill press for quite some time, and I have spent too long trying to get my company to either get one for their small shop, or even allow me to buy one and place it there (I sometimes work nights). I have recently seen some clever examples on youtube, and I expect that I will end up with a drill-press, table-saw, chop-saw, router table, and possibly even a small and crude lathe powered by a 1/2-inch drill, along with a centerless grinder. One thing all the youtube designs have in common is the use of wood where it is acceptable, and that has driven my decision to FIRST build a folding-leg table saw (and later adding a router mount to the underside of that same table). I already have a foot-switch, and a hose-clamp will hold the tools' stock switch in the "on" position.

I already have a portable 110V AC circular saw, router, and two angle-grinders. The mounts will allow them to quickly and easily be attached to the table, or removed to go back to using them as a portable unit. I have access to free pallets that use hardwoods. I've had good luck cutting 3/8-inch thick aluminum plate with a jigsaw, and I may even add a mount to the table to slap the jigsaw onto it (attached underneath with blade sticking up), since I just don't see me making or buying a bandsaw.

This may sound a little goofy, but...there are some old posts where dontsendbubbamail did some beautiful custom mount-designs with plywood bonded to aluminum plates (see pic below).

Although I have a cordless 18V Sawzall with a fried pack (and I plan to rebuild the 18V pack). I have had my best luck cutting steel bicycle frames by using an angle-grinder with a thin abrasive disc. I have a scar on my chin from a kickback when doing this. When I make a cut now? I start a cut straight down just a short distance (1/3rd of tube diameter), then I stop and make a separate angled cut to open the cut up a bit. Then I start a second cut from the other side towards the middle.

Welding is an entire thread on its own, but...I believe using steel frames and conventional welding are cheaper and easier to learn compared to heliarc or TIG-welding aluminum frames. My current welding looks like piles of steel bird droppings, but...it's good enough to tack pieces together (then grind the tacks smooth, out of shame and embarrassment). Then I take them to a local shop to finish a full weld. I don't think I will make a tube bender set-up (seen on youtube), but I hope this thread will encourage several members to take the leap and discover what they are capable of, when it comes to making a custom frame...

Table Saw

[Here's one example https://youtu.be/ZGTIxb5esAQ?t=648]

Here's an easy way to make a fairly precise sliding protractor and a sled for the table saw. The more time you put into making the table saw precise and accurate, the easier everything will be later, when you make parts to assemble a drill press or other tools. If the table saw doesn't cut straight and perpendicular to the fence and sled, it will take twice as long to fiddle with any tools you make from sawn parts, so that they work properly, too...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuziiAC4oSE

I recently found a light-duty table with folding legs in the trash. The top was thin and warped. I have already added a 3/8ths plywood top to it and mounted the circular saw. until I get some pics of my progress, this video is pretty much what I am doing for the first stage (The money shot is at 5:55, and 37:35):

https://youtu.be/Cry-KmUS6cs?t=356


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Re: Fabrication tools for DIY custom work

Post by spinningmagnets » Oct 15, 2017 9:46 pm

Drill Press

The fold-up table saw is first, because you need that to make square and straight cuts in wood to make the really important tool...the drill press.

"fold flat" drill press, also uses a portable 1/2-inch 110V drill. The video below is a very clever "4 in 1" tool with the primary function being a drill press. By making the vertical stand portion a sturdy and "wider than necessary" shape, the unit can be laid on its back, so the drill then provides a horizontal shaft power-head, which then spins a variety of attachments (planer, belt-sander, disc sander, light-duty lathe, etc).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zcnFeZ2tiE


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Re: Fabrication tools for DIY custom work

Post by spinningmagnets » Oct 15, 2017 9:46 pm

Chop Saw, cutting steel

table-top chop-saw made from portable angle-grinder with thin abrasive cutting disc.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHMBQMAl45I


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Re: Fabrication tools for DIY custom work

Post by spinningmagnets » Oct 15, 2017 9:46 pm

Jigsaw

jigsaw under a table (instead of getting a bandsaw). From one of the videos above, seen here at the 2:13 mark

https://youtu.be/QHMBQMAl45I?t=133

Lathe

There are dozens of videos about making a small desktop hobby lathe, and each has some detail that is useful. There is no single video that appears to be "best". Here is a wood-turning rig to get the basic idea (which should be improved upon for turning aluminum and brass).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjThx1CpW1k

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Re: Fabrication tools for DIY custom work

Post by spinningmagnets » Oct 15, 2017 9:56 pm

Here's a vice made for holding parts on the drill press. If the base plate shown had a long slot on either side of it, then you added a pattern of holes on the drilling platform, it would be easy to bolt this down (finger tight). At least it would help prevent the vice and part from spinning around if the bit grabbed onto the part...even if you just dropped a bolt into a hole just to the left of the vice...

The jaws should be a hardwood, and they should accept secondary slip-in faces, which can be steel, aluminum, brass, or...even sheet-metal covered plywood. By having secondary faces, you can have a vertical V-groove to hold cylinders upright. There is a boring technique where a drill-bit is held stationary, and a rod is spun onto it in order to form a hole down its center. Rather than go into the physics, just know that...doing it this way will be much easier when trying to make a well-centered hole in a rod (custom bushing, custom spacer, etc).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUqOFcxbjno


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Re: Affordable fabrication tools for DIY custom work

Post by wturber » Oct 15, 2017 11:04 pm

How about this? It is mostly made out of a single sheet of 4x8 plywood and some scrap. Very sturdy. Drill press slides out. Bench vice can be attached or left on top.

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Re: Affordable fabrication tools for DIY custom work

Post by spinningmagnets » Oct 15, 2017 11:17 pm

THANKS! That is absolutely brilliant. The "swing out" under-supports are exactly the type of thing I appreciate.

Several of the videos that inspired me to start this thread (drill press, chop-saw, etc) were nice. But...there are dozens of examples of each. I have the spare reading time to sort through them and find the design that only requires a small alteration to make it a "fold away" device, and also something that easily allows the tool to be removed, and then re-attached when needed.

Here is a pic of Bubba's "plywood in-between two aluminum plates" style:

Image

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Re: Affordable fabrication tools for DIY custom work

Post by wturber » Oct 16, 2017 12:17 am

Cool. Glad you like it. Since our garage is also where we play table tennis, I needed something that would store a lot of my stuff and provide work space.
The drill press sits on some pressboard that has some of those "teflon" furniture sliders underneath as feet so it is easy to slide out. The front edge of the bench is reinforced with 1x2 boards to provide some extra beef for clamping other tools such as my board mounted bench vice. I have a fold-up table for my cheap table saw that allows me to hang it on the wall. This all started when I built a couple Murphy beds for our house. I had "fold-away" on the brain for about a year.
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Re: Affordable fabrication tools for DIY custom work

Post by spinningmagnets » Oct 16, 2017 12:55 am

Another reason I am starting with a table saw is that...aside from pallet wood, I often see cast-off bits of 2X4's from construction sites. By having a stock of 2X4's (and 2X6's) I can use the table saw to make 1X2 and 2X2's. It's not always about saving money, I have to drive an hour round trip to get to a decent lumber store, which is nuts if I only need a 2X2 to reinforce something.

If I ever reach the point where I will start making the desktop hobby lathe...I need a table saw first to make the drill press, and I need both of those to make the lathe...

I don't think I will be able to adjust the lathe design to make it a "fold away" (like the others) but...it looks like it will be small enough to easily transport to work and back (or just hide it at work?).

Here's a link to making a 4-jaw chuck which is part-2 to a series, with part-1 showing the basic lathe construction, but...a simple wood-turning version. With some reinforcement, I think it could turn small aluminum and brass pieces with an acceptable amount of accuracy (along with wood, of course). I could just buy a small $200 desktop lathe from the China-tool store, but...they make up for using low-grade metal by making everything thick and heavy (hard to transport).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvGP-gD5zFU

Here's another version of how to make a 4-jaw chuck. It's easy to find the start of the video, I am linking to the interesting part...where he assembles the jaws onto the faceplate, and THEN grinds the gripping surfaces, so that they are concentric....

https://youtu.be/TtxjhrZLNDc?t=1400

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Re: Affordable fabrication tools for DIY custom work

Post by wturber » Oct 16, 2017 1:24 am

spinningmagnets wrote:Another reason I am starting with a table saw is that...aside from pallet wood, I often see cast-off bits of 2X4's from construction sites. By having a stock of 2X4's (and 2X6's) I can use the table saw to make 1X2 and 2X2's. It's not always about saving money, I have to drive an hour round trip to get to a decent lumber store, which is nuts if I only need a 2X2 to reinforce something.
Yeah. Table saws are super useful. But frankly, they always scare me a bit. One moment of carelessness with one can really tear you up. Lots of power in that blade. I work super-slow and cautiously when using a table saw. The aluminum/plywood sandwich is interesting. Is the aluminum bonded to wood with epoxy?
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53T/42T Sakae Road cranks - 30mph+ on flats
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Re: Affordable fabrication tools for DIY custom work

Post by spinningmagnets » Oct 16, 2017 1:50 am

Yes, several people talked about the benefits of epoxy-bonding aluminum to plywood, but Bubba was the only one I remember actually using it, and it worked quite well in certain applications. I was impressed right away because it's expensive to buy thick aluminum, and steel can be time-consuming to cut...along with wearing out blades and drill-bits much faster than cutting aluminum.

When I needed a stainless steel piece, I have sometimes had them water-jetted, because it was so annoying to cut and drill...

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Re: Affordable fabrication tools for DIY custom work

Post by Baron » Oct 16, 2017 6:51 pm

spinningmagnets wrote:When I needed a stainless steel piece, I have sometimes had them water-jetted, because it was so annoying to cut and drill...
my sentiments exactly. garage tools can be acceptable for working with steel, but i can't seem to get "millimeter precise". i've built a couple torque arms and other small steel parts for my bikes and they always look sloppy but they certainly get the job done. sometimes i think it would be better to get parts water-jet cut to save time. but for those of us who want to learn from the experience of building our own parts, it can definitely be done in the garage.

i use a table saw with grinder "blades" to cut metal, drill press with cobalt bits for drilling metal, bench grinder for cleaning up edges or taking away material. my preferred way of cutting metal quickly (but not accurately) is a reciprocating saw with a blade made for cutting thick metal. it can go through 1.5" of 3/16" thick steel in about 3 seconds. come to think of it, if you could rig that saw up to a table somehow and make it nice and sturdy, you could probably so some accurate straight cuts in thick metal. kinda like a heavy duty upside down jig-saw-table-saw. (EDIT: a bandsaw...) anyway..

When I make torque arms, the hardest part is always getting the 10mm dropout flats straight and parallel. so i do these cuts first and if it turns out okay, finish building the rest of the torque arm around it. if not, scrap it and try again. it's pretty tricky to do on a table saw. a cnc or router device for metal it would make this job a whole lot easier.

something i want to experiment with is like a heavy duty dremel that can get into tight spots and do millimeter precise work. so i can draw up my plans on a peice of steel and if my initial cuts aren't that accurate, i can clean them up and shape with the dremel.

maybe it's getting old, but my drill press can wander about a millimeter away from my starter hole sometimes. I'll nail a dent in the metal where i line up the tip of the drill bit, clamp the steel i'm drilling down tight, and the bit still wanders sometimes..and it's a big 6' tall 400lb machine.

so anyway, you can usually get the job done in your garage, but don't expect millimeter precise work without the right tools. as far as foldable/space saving tools go, i can't help you much. my garage is always cramped with tools and junk covering almost every sq inch of surface, i just move stuff out of the way depending on what project i'm working on. hope this helps
Last edited by Baron on Oct 16, 2017 8:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Affordable fabrication tools for DIY custom work

Post by spinningmagnets » Oct 16, 2017 7:41 pm

cobalt bits for drilling metal
I plan to buy a cobalt set, and I am told they can be re-sharpened almost indefinitely. I've had good luck using the Home Depot bits on aluminum and getting good results with a decent life-cycle, but...once they are dull, they get tossed...or used on wood. Its the old adage about pay twenty percent less to save money, and then replace them once a year, rather than pay more up front and use them for decades. Of course, I'll have to learn how to properly use the sharpening jig I bought.

I have a cobalt pilot bit for starting holes in steel, and it just keeps going...I keep it in a chamfer arbor for those times when I want to use flush-head bolts (the bits in the pic are for wood, its just a random pic from the web).

Image

A custom mid drive bracket I made with a jigsaw, vice, and cordless drill (roughly 5mm thick)

Image

I honestly believe that the drill bits with the "pilot tip" are made to make it harder to sharpen. Plus I have found many bits that seem to be case-hardened. In theory the softer core makes them less brittle, but...once you sharpen past the hard skin, they will never cut steel again. I recently talked to an appliance repairman (to buy transformers from old microwaves), and he had mentioned that Maytag really did make a great washer, but...they lasted so long that customers never bought a second one. Whirlpool was in the same boat, and bought the hollow shell that remained of Maytag, but now even Whirlpool has begun cheapening the internal parts.

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Re: Affordable fabrication tools for DIY custom work

Post by MadRhino » Oct 16, 2017 7:45 pm

I have a lot of tools, but I also have employees working with them, and kids using them at will. The result is absolutely no organisation, apart of stocking shelves, boxes and furniture. That is Ok with me, but PITA when one doesn’t put back a tool where it was. I wouldn’t get into fabrication of tooling facilities or using wood to make a press drill. I value my time much higher than money as I am getting older. I prefer using kid’s time, for they have a lot of it and need the money. Have them set a working space, and dismantle after the job is done. :wink:
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Re: Affordable fabrication tools for DIY custom work

Post by Chalo » Oct 16, 2017 11:50 pm

A bench grinder will pay for itself over and over again. Just repointing drill bits and freshening up Allen keys would be enough reason for me to have one. But there's so much more to do with them. I use one to square up cable housing several times a day. But I also turn old spokes into awls. And shorten axles or screws. And repoint flat blade screwdrivers. And put the finishing touches on custom punches, extractors, and chisels. Etc., etc., etc.

A self-lighting propane or MAPP gas torch is a complement to the grinder, because you can harden and temper things that got overheated in the course of grinding them.
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Re: Affordable fabrication tools for DIY custom work

Post by spinningmagnets » Oct 17, 2017 12:09 am

When I have been doing well financially, I have never regretted paying more to buy a quality tool. That being said...there have been several curves in the road of life where I struggled financially, and I wish I knew then what I know now about "getting by" with free and improvised tools and materials.

I have posted in another thread about building a DIY resistance soldering unit (RSU). I could have immediately bought the size of transformer I needed off of ebay for $40, but after a few weeks, I bought one locally for $10 just to get the ball rolling. Yesterday I got one for free. What I'm getting at is...I didn't know what to look for back when I was younger, or even why it would be useful to grab one when I saw it. If you are looking for certain items, it's only a matter of time before you will find it for free or very cheap. I have seen rough pallet-wood (found for free) turned into beautiful wooden products with a planer and table saw.

Thanks, Chalo, for posting about the grinder. I have a small bench grinder I found used. I could have bought a new one, but the less money I spent on that, the more money I have left over for the other things I don't have yet. I didn't really "need" it the day I found it, but I have used it an uncountable number of times over the years.

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Re: Affordable fabrication tools for DIY custom work

Post by wturber » Oct 17, 2017 2:55 am

MadRhino wrote:I have a lot of tools, but I also have employees working with them, and kids using them at will. The result is absolutely no organisation, apart of stocking shelves, boxes and furniture. That is Ok with me, but PITA when one doesn’t put back a tool where it was. I wouldn’t get into fabrication of tooling facilities or using wood to make a press drill. I value my time much higher than money as I am getting older. I prefer using kid’s time, for they have a lot of it and need the money. Have them set a working space, and dismantle after the job is done. :wink:
Fair enough. But sometimes I make a thing simply for the experience and/or satisfaction of having made it myself. As I also get older I too value my time even more. And sometimes spending that time on that quirky little project is is the best use for me. It's a very subjective and fickle thing. ;^)
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Re: Affordable fabrication tools for DIY custom work

Post by spinningmagnets » Jan 04, 2018 4:17 am

I have finished the fold-away table saw, and it has turned out to be quite nice. I am now working on a thin "wall hang-able" lathe / drill-press combo, and I have used a style that incorporates a tailstock element that clamps onto the main frame with a "T-rail" style of coupling (similar to this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFhgCT6cp7E), but...if I had to do it over again, I would use a main-frame style that is similar to an "I-beam", like this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prAm2dcSHeo

Here's another example that has a lot of good ideas

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhtTKd0-qJs

The place to spend the majority of your money is in the top section of the I-beam. The rest can be MDF, or plywood, but...the central top section of the I-beam should be a rigid and stable material, such as a rectangular section of aluminum tube (not affected by humidity or water).

Image

As a point of reference, a 2 X 4 (inch) section of 0.125 wall 6063-T52 Aluminum Rectangle Tube, four feet long, delivered to your home would be approximately $50, with three feet long being $42

https://www.onlinemetals.com/merchant.c ... top_cat=60

If everything I owned was burned to the ground and I got an insurance check, the first things I would re-acquire are...cordless drill/driver set...angle-grinder with thin abrasive wheel (plus Dremel with thin abrasive wheel)...used circular saw/DIY fold-away table saw...dedicated drill press...DIY lathe as described here...

I know that I can use a lathe as a horizontal drill press, but...if you have a table-saw and drill press first?...the lathe is much easier to build with an accurate result.

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