Table Saw Guard

guard04

 

This started out as an experiment, but it’s working well enough that I might as well call it permanent.

Our table saw came with a blade guard that was attached to a splitter, and every time someone moved the guard, they’d bend the splitter out of position, so it didn’t line up with the blade. Instead of bending it back, people would just remove the guard and put it in some random place where we couldn’t find it, so a lot of the time we were using the saw without a guard.

Over-arm type guards are available, but some people have built their own, so I decided to give it a try. The Lexan sides and the spacers between them were cut out on the CNC router. Everything else was sized to fit the saw. (It’s made for a 10″ blade, but for some reason we have an 8″ blade on the saw right now.) A giant washer acts as a counterweight (it weighs about a pound).

I thought we’d have to fabricate a cantilevered arm from welded steel, or maybe some of the carbon fiber tubing that’s laying around. But first I built a prototype out of 2x4s, and it worked well enough that I decided to leave it that way (I replaced the two clamps with nuts and bolts after the picture was taken.)

splitter02

 

The new splitter was cut from 16 gauge sheet steel on the vertical bandsaw in the metal shop, then filed to fit, and bent with a pair of pliers to line up with the blade. It has slots in the bottom, so it can be removed by loosening the bolts with a 10mm wrench (for certain kinds of cuts that it would interfere with, such as dados). Since it’s not attached to the guard, it doesn’t get bent as easily as the original one.

For more info (including DXF files), see the wiki page:

http://wiki.milwaukeemakerspace.org/projects/guard

Rolling Cart with Retracting Wheels

cart1

When we first started the Makerspace, before we had even rented a building, we talked about having members build rolling carts that would serve as portable bench space with personal storage underneath, and which could be rolled out of the way when they weren’t being used. We ended up using pallet racks for storage, and a random collection of tables and benches for work space. But I always liked the cart idea.

You don’t want the cart rolling around while you’re working, and I didn’t want separate toe brakes on each wheel. After looking at several possibilities, I ran across this page, with a nice solution to a similar problem: http://www.woodgears.ca/mobile_base/table_saw.html

Here’s what I came up with:

cart2 cart3

More info here: http://wiki.milwaukeemakerspace.org/projects/cart

Simple/Cheap Tripod

tripod2

A tripod can be handy for taking pictures of projects, but good ones are too expensive to leave laying around for casual use, and cheap ones can be difficult to use, due to their cheap telescoping legs. The one shown here cost almost nothing to make, and is sturdy enough for my purposes. The triangular hubs were cut from scrap 1/2” plywood on the CNC router, and the “1x2s” (actually .75”x1.5”) were ripped from a 2×4 that cost less than $3.

More info here:  http://wiki.milwaukeemakerspace.org/projects/tripod

Tall Tape Dispenser

tape2

We use a lot of blue tape, and people tend to leave the roll wherever they last used it. If it gets buried under something else, it can be hard to find.

It occurred to me that if we had a tall tape dispenser, it couldn’t get buried, and it would be easier to find, so I built one.

It doesn’t have a cutter yet, but I’m not sure it needs one.

 

 

Water Cooler Conversion

cooler

In addition to the obligatory refrigerator full of soda (or sometimes empty of soda, depending on whether anyone’s filled it recently), we also have a water cooler that takes the big 5gal water bottles. They also sell coolers that can be plumbed into a water line, and a while back I discovered that they’re actually bottle-type coolers that come with a conversion kit. The kit consists of a float switch and a solenoid valve, and a mounting bracket that takes the place of the bottle holder.

There isn’t a conversion kit for the cooler we have, but it looked simple enough, so I made one from scratch. I don’t like float switches, so I used two other methods of sensing the water level (I wanted a backup sensor because certain failure modes could result in an unlimited amount of water on the floor, which would be a Bad Thing). Instead of trying to find the “best” way to do it, I used the components I was interested in learning about.

 

sensors

For more details, see the wiki page:

http://wiki.milwaukeemakerspace.org/projects/watercooler

 

“Spaceship” Chair

I’ve been looking for a more comfortable way to sit at a computer for long periods of time, and this is my latest attempt (and yes, I’ve also tried a standing desk). The guys at the Makerspace have been calling it the “Spaceship”.


The structure is a little haphazard because I was making it up as I went along. I had planned to make all the angles adjustable, but when I found an angle that seemed right, it turned out to be exactly 30 degrees, so I drilled some holes and bolted it in place. Next time I’ll start with that, and the structure will look more like I planned it that way…

The monitor and bookstand can be raised on drawer slides to get them out of the way. The weight is balanced by two paint cans full of pea gravel. I think the monitor should be slightly lower, and maybe a little farther away, so when I take it apart to take it home, I’ll drill a few more adjustment holes (everything bolts together, and no single piece is more than 6 ft long, so it will fit in my car).

I had to use a narrow keyboard, because a full sized one has the main keys offset to the left to accomodate the keypad on the right (which is where I wanted the trackball). This one is a “Happy Hacking” keyboard, which unfortunately does not have “tactile” keyswitches, but it’s not bad. (There have been some narrow keyboards with better keyswitches in the past, but none are in stock right now). I’m just holding the keyboard+trackball in my lap, which is less than ideal, but it works OK
for now. The keyboard has a USB hub built in, so I plugged the trackball into it, leaving just one wire going to the computer. I also have a generic mouse mounted to the left of the keyboard (not visible in the pictures) to provide a scroll wheel, since the trackball doesn’t have one.

Computer Case

I hacked this semi-portable computer case together in one weekend as a “proof of concept”, so it’s a little rough around the edges, but I’m pleased with the way it turned out. I’d like to build another one, with some changes to the design.

Larger pics here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/24308938@N04/sets/72157626087260849/

It’s made from 1/2″ oak plywood. The computer is in the bottom, with an open bin on top for the keyboard and trackball. I appreciate high-quality keyboards, so the length is dictated by the size of the keyboard (Unicomp used to make a smaller one, but they discontinued it, and so far I haven’t found another small one with high-quality keyswitches).

The main problem I ran into is that the center of gravity isn’t quite right, because I didn’t realise how heavy the LCD was (it weighs about 8.5 lbs). When I use it on my desk at home, I keep a couple of old DigiKey catalogs in the bin to make sure it doesn’t get accidentally knocked over.

Also, it’s kind of heavy– about 40 lbs total. The wooden parts weigh about 12 lbs. I’m thinking it might be possible to remove the LCD from its case and mount it differently– the standard VESA mounting puts all the stress in the center of the back, instead of distributing it around the edge. I might also try thinner plywood, although the thin stuff tends to warp. And I might use aluminum framing instead of wood.

CNC Projects

The cost of building a CNC machine has been coming down dramatically, and every makerspace needs a CNC router. I was planning to build one at Bucketworks, but their space was destroyed by flooding last spring, before I could get started. I had put together some notes on a wiki at http://bucketworkscnc.pbworks.com/ (check out the “useful links” page). Anyone can read that page, but if you want to add to it, you have to set up an account at pbworks and then request access to my wiki.

I’m thinking of building a CNC router with a working area of 2’x4′, so it will be able to cut large signs or furniture parts. I’ve also thought about building an automatic box-joint cutting machine (there are several ways to do this with a tablesaw or a router, but it would be cool to just clamp up the parts and push a button).

Tom has access to used stepper motors, among other things. I’ve got some ideas about construction details, and I’ll want to build some test jigs to try out ideas before I build the actual machine. Join us if you’d like to help, or would like some help with your own CNC projects.