Goodbye, Matsuura…

Matsuura RA1F

Milwaukee Makerspace has a lot of equipment, and sometimes we get things that don’t quite work, and we try hard to get them working. We often succeed, but sometimes we decide it’s better to move on…

With that said, we’re looking to sell our Matsuura RA1F Vertical Machining Center, which is known as the “Red Dragon”.

It’s not currently running, but it was working months ago. Ultimately we decided that it would take too much work to get it into good shape for a makerspace, so selling it off as a whole, or in parts, will help fund a new CNC milling machine which is smaller and more suited to our needs.

Matsuura RA1F

If you’ve never used a VMC this probably isn’t for you, but if you really want a challenge, or want it for parts (and there are some very expensive parts in it) you might get a nice deal. Maybe you’ve already got one and need spare components? Perfect!

You can check out the notes we’ve made about the Red Dragon over on our Matsuura wiki page. If you’ve got questions, post a comment or get in touch with us.

Matsuura RA1F

Leafing with the Mogul

Before #1: Your basic 3/8″ plywood


Before #2: My front door, in need of paint, some aesthetic happiness, a fixed doorhandle, and summer. My desire to add a little decoration to the door is, in part, what led me to the Makerspace. I had an idea for panels to go on either side of the door, but no equipment for making what was in my head. When I saw that the Makerspace had cnc routers…




I took photos of leaves from the oak tree in our yard:

leaf photo

I traced the leaves in Illustrator, and — by looking at the structure of the tree — made my initial design. I exported the file into svg (with hints from Shane), and Ed helped me use Cambam to convert the svg file into the gcode that the Mogul desires.

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After generating the gcode, we cut the first panel. For me, watching the cutting was like Christmas: exciting — while for Ed, stepping me through the process, this must have been like a long slooooooooow Christmas, watching the design appear through the three passes the router bit made to cut each (complicated) path. (In truth, Ed’s patience and help were the real Christmas present for me.)

first cut

This panel was an experiment for me, to learn about how thin and delicate the connecting pieces could be in such cutting. And I learned: what you cannot see in the picture above is how two of the leaves broke off quickly.

In the next Illustrator file I made (which I then cut on the Mogul with Steve Pilon’s also very generous and patient help), the leaves overlap and made their stems thicker. You might be able to see this in the final picture below, which shows the panels painted and mounted. Merry Christmas!




New machines are about to come online!

In addition to making things, many of our members like making machines that make things! We should have a functioning vacuum former, a 4’x8′ CNC Router, and a 4’x8′ CNC Plasma Cutter in the the next couple of months. While the vaccum former was acquired from an auction, the other two have been built at the makerspace over the last year and a half from scavenged materials. The frame and the rails for the plasma cutter were used in a perfume bottler in a past life. We can’t wait to see what our members will make from these awesome machines!

A few pictures of the above mentioned equipment can be found below:

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CNC Mogul Introduction

A few weeks ago Mike Stone of visited the Milwaukee Makerspace.

Mike donated one of his machines to the space for testing and feedback as well as to use for the membership. It should also be mentioned that Mike is local and has his shop and distribution in Wales, Wisconsin.

Joe Rodriguez built one machine and I also put one together at our shop at home. So here are some thoughts on the process as well as some pictures. It isn’t a review as these machines haven’t really been put to the test as of yet. Time will tell.

The CNC Mogul is a general purpose 3 axis CNC kit that is relatively easy to put together and can be used for anything that you like. I’ll be using ours for routing and Joe wants to make a CNC plasma cutter with the one in the space. The basic kit is affordable and it uses the Makerslide as it’s building blocks. The stepper motors are run with a rack and pinion setup on aluminum tracks and gearing as well.

The controller is a Chinese Tb6560 Stepper Motor Driver Controller that is controlled via parallel port.

The power supply is a 24V 14.6 AMP 350W Max Power Supply.

The whole kit can be ordered online from 2ft X 3ft up to 4ft X 8ft. Custom dimensions are also available.

So here is the kit before assembly. This is a 3ft x 3ft kit that I will be building and using with a router.

This is the kit right before opening.

This is the kit right before opening.

Inside the kit there are a bunch of baggies with tons of little parts. You can look at the manual here

I’m assembling the quad rail kit. Once I start pulling things out of the box there is an amazing array of parts that explodes out of it. Fortunately each bag and part are well marked.

Everything that you need to build your own CNC controlled machine.

Everything that you need to build your own CNC controlled machine.


Everything is labeled really well.

Everything is labeled really well.

Everything is labeled really well.

Everything is labeled really well.

The kit took approximately 3+ hours to put together. The documentation in the manual is hit or miss. The pictures are extremely good and really help in putting this together. The accompanying text is also great for the first 1/3 of the manual and then you’re left to interpret pictures from there. There are a few questions that came up while building this but fortunately I was able to figure it out.

Little by little the parts are being built.

Little by little the parts are being built.

After the gantry gets built and all of the wires are connected it’s time to test. CNC Mogul recommends using Mach 3 for your machine control. And even has a few pointers on how to setup Mach 3 on their site.

I decided to go with LinuxCNC because it’s open source, I’m comfortable with Linux and it’s low cost (free). I loaded it up on a spare computer and after running through the instructions I was able to control the stepper motors on the Mogul.

What I had difficulty with is that the CNC Mogul uses an “A” axis and “Y” axis slaved together. LinuxCNC can do that but you can NOT test for that in the setting up process. You essentially tell the “A” axis to use the same step and direction pulses as the “Y” axis. I also inverted the “A” axis so they would turn the same direction when they are facing each other.

One of the other difficulties I had was figuring out the leadscrew pitch to enter into LinuxCNC. After some experimentation 1.27 inches per revolution seems about right but some more testing is needed.

Once you’re finished building the whole thing you need to mount it to something. I picked up a Craigslist find and the Mogul fit perfectly.

I generated some G-code from Vectric’s Vcarve Pro Zeroed each axis and started to cut.

I still need to put a waste board down and face it off flat and put some type of work hold-down system in place.

After the unit gets setup in the Makerspace the members will have access to the machine and we’ll see how durable it is.

The CNC Mogul with router mounted and ready to cut.

The CNC Mogul with router mounted and ready to cut.

Total time to build, test, and implement the whole system has been approximately 6 hours. There is still some testing and tweaking to be done as well as putting in a dust collection system.

If there are any questions feel free to ask me either on this post or in person. I’ll be putting this through it’s paces as well.

My 2nd test using the CNC Mogul with 2 types of router bits.

My 2nd test using the CNC Mogul with 2 types of router bits.

Our 4′ X 8′ CNC Router takes a step forward!

With a lot of hard work from Ed H. and Steve P. our 4′ x 8′ CNC router has achieved a milestone, instead of the X axis sitting on the ground it has taken a leap up and is now mounted, ready for the Y and Z axis to be mounted to it along with the electronics and motion control.

beam mounted

The X-axis is ready to be milled here.

The X-axis is ready to be milled here.