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Making DIY CNC Clamps and Knobs – Free G-Code Download

February 26, 2015
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CNC DIY holddown clamp

Moving material blocks cause lots of failed CNC project attempts. Having ample CNC machine clamps on hand always helps prevent material movement problems.

There is nothing more frustrating than completing a lengthy DIY CNC design cut, only to find the wood or aluminium material block has moved during the program – rendering the material and entire project cut-out attempt  useless.

We “clamped down” on this problem long ago in our DIY workshop, but we always like to remind new CNC machine builders that you can never have too many clamps on hand.

The problems extending from small amounts of material slippage on a CNC table are often the hardest to identify.  The problems are often blamed on other machine components, such as faulty CNC motor driver controllers, slipping shaft joints, structural flex, or backlash.

We’ve found that many of these DIY workshop problems are solved by having ample clamps and clamping positions available for use on the machining table.  This ensures your projects stay securely in place and that they are cut correctly every time.

Hold down clamps in themselves are cheap and easy to make.  Three to six clamps made of 5-7 mm thick steel with a slight bend at one end (coated in a tough powder coat paint), is usually enough to hold wood or aluminium material blocks firmly in place for most projects.  Being made of steel, the clamps have some inherent ‘springiness’ in them making them easy to place on and off a part (unlike block aluminium clamp alternatives).

DIY CNC Hold Down Clamp Knob

Easy turn DIY CNC clamp knobs are quick, cheap and simple to make for yourself, with your own CNC machine!

Making the ‘easy turn’ DIY knobs for your CNC machine clamps is also super easy …. using your CNC machine!

With our free g-code, dxf and crv files available for download, you don’t even need to design the knobs yourself. You can download the files and import them into your CNC machine design software right now!

The downloadable knob design provided is sized for M8 bolt heads (ie: bolt shaft diameter 8mm, head hex width 13mm) embedded in 13mm thick high density plastic material, but the basic CNC machine g-code or crv design file (for Ventric and other compatible design software)  can easily be resized, recoded, or redrawn to suit other bolt sizes and material thickness’s. Read more »

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Greenhouse Farming in Japan

February 8, 2015
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winter-seasonJapanese Winter temperatures plunge below freezing on a regular basis, despite skies often being bright, clear and sunny.  In these low temperatures, seed germination is usually impossible and growth usually grinds to a halt in any open air farming environment.  Snow and frost damage is also a very likely risk for most unprotected crops.   Greenhouses are therefore an important part of farming in Japan for both large and small scale operations.  Die hard DIY gardeners also use greenhouses to produce home grown food for their close knit families, friends and communities.

Winter Greenhouse Farming

Snow engulfs the greenhouses of a private DIY gardener in Japan.

Japanese greenhouses

Commercial scale greenhouses sit in the bright sunshine and bitterly cold Winter air in Japan.

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Lettuce Freeze

February 6, 2015
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lettucefreeze

Lettuce plants grow protected from frost and snow in the weak Winter sun.

winter-seasonFresh, abundant fruit and vegetables in year round supply are what most residents of the modern mega-cities of Japan have come to expect.   People rarely stop to consider exactly how any of the fresh produce got there, let alone giving extra thought to how it is grown during peak Winter seasons.

In reality however, the cold temperatures and conditions in rural Japan in Winter dictate a major difference in how vegetables need to be grown in the off season.  While Summer sees various farming techniques that protect crops from persistent heat, insects and high humidity, Winter farming calls for warmth and protection from bitterly cold winds, frost and snow.  As such, when the growing days become shorter, farmers all across Japan turn to plastic …  And mountains of it!

lettucefreeze5Frost protection tunnels for lettuce are a common sight in the agricultural areas of Japan in Winter.  Preparing and planting the tunnels with seedlings is a labor intensive activity.  Specialized machines are used to both mound the soil into raised rows as well as to stretch black plastic over the leveled mounds.  This aids heat capture and prevents weed growth as the seedlings develop.   The plastic liner is pre-cut with staggered holes positioned abreast for placement of the individual plants.  The liner has the edges automatically tucked neatly under the soil to secure it in place.

Directly after planting, half hoops of metal rod are then pushed into the soft soil to form a tunnel structure above the black plastic.  A further sheet of strong, clear plastic is laid over the the top of the structure to form an enclosed tunnel.   Finally, the tunnel plastic  is strapped to the metal hoops to provide a tight cover and aerodynamic structure that can withstand strong Winter winds and snow.  The soil mounds and seedlings are now protected and ready for Winter growth.

plasticlettuce2The plastic tunnels are only a meter or so in width and are spaced so farmers can walk between them for servicing requirements.  Later in the Winter season as temperatures begin rise and the risks of frost withdraws, the lower edges of the tunnels can be opened to allow better aeration and to give access for spraying, inspection or any other treatment required.

While plots of land for growing vegetables in Japan tend to be relatively small individually, the cumulative sight of numerous neighboring plots covered with tunnels often makes the landscape look like a sea of plastic stretching into the distance.

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Etching DIY Circuit Boards (PCB)

November 29, 2014
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PCB Screen PrintingElectronics hobbyists who have never ventured into the realms of making their own circuit boards, are missing out on half the fun.  Here, we present a quick step-by-step guide to the UV light transfer and Ferric Chloride etching method for making your own printed circuit boards.

Home DIY electronics projects can be a lot of fun for discovery and learning.  They can also be extremely useful for those  extra buttons and remote devices in your home.

What is even better, is being able sit the project components on a printed circuit board (PCB) that you also made yourself.

It is extremely satisfying seeing a finished DIY electronics project which looks so professional it could have just as easily come from the nearest electronics store.  Learning the skill of etching your own PCBs will help you obtain that same satisfaction in your home electronics projects too.

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DIY Oven Build Using a Filing Cabinet

November 26, 2014
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Cheap and extremely effective! A DIY Oven for DIY powder coating, wood drying, acrylics and plastic; you name it!

Cheap and extremely effective! A DIY Oven for DIY powder coating, wood drying, acrylics and plastic and any other idea that needs heating or baking in future.

You did what?  Hacked a filing cabinet to make a home DIY workshop oven?!

Yes, perhaps we are crazy, but this DIY oven really IS made from a standard office filing cabinet and it works like a dream!

It is great for curing electrostatic powder coating on CNC milled metal parts; melting plastics; bending acrylics; scorching wood, sealing natural bamboo wood wax and any number of other DIY projects where oven heating is required.

See more about how we made this DIY oven from a filing cabinet here.

Industrial, or even DIY hobby ovens are extremely useful in a home DIY workshop. Unfortunately, they are also usually unjustifiably costly for most small projects.

Cheap toaster ovens can be used for small scale applications as a ‘make-do’ alternative, but are often not physically large enough to fit many DIY projects.  They also usually offer very poor thermal efficiency.  A big downside when working over longer periods as the units tend to get hot inside as well as out.

We recently cut some large aluminium parts and components using our home built CNC machine. We wanted to coat the metal parts using an electrostatic powder coating system to give them a lasting professional finish. Powder coat curing however, requires parts to be heated to high temperatures for extended periods. (And strangely, the cooking department said the kitchen oven was considered off limits well before we mentioned curing powder coat paint or the carcinogenic gases they produce….)

We needed a large, cheap DIY solution. A robust, purpose built DIY oven capable of maintaining high, evenly dispersed temperatures for lengthy periods.

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Looking Inside a Lead Acid Battery

November 21, 2014
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lead acid car battery cut awayHere’s something just for interest’s sakes.  Photos of a modern, but humble lead acid car battery and its internal electrode plate arrangements for those who may not have seen similar before.

Common lead acid batteries in cars and trucks work by developing and storing electric potential between sets of positive and negative electrode plates.  The electrodes are commonly made of Lead (Pb) and Lead Dioxide (PbO2) mesh and paste, separated by a non-conductive porous material to stop them touching and short circuiting.  The battery cells are submerged in approximately 35% Sulphuric Acid (H2SO4(aq)) which acts as an electrolyte and allows electrons to flow between the plates and to deliver current when the battery terminals are connected to a circuit.

The basic energy storage and delivery concept of lead acid batteries was invented over a century and a half ago by French physicist Gaston Planté.  Since that time, this kind of battery chemistry has been developed to become a standard and efficient workhorse in everyday life for us all.

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Japanese Miso – DIY Fermentation Project Complete

November 20, 2014
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winter-season

DIY Japanese Miso Cracker Dip

We have completed the fermentation of our DIY Japanese Miso Paste from raw soy beans.  The Miso making was a great success.

Many readers could be forgiven for reacting with an “Eeuuuwwwww!” upon seeing some of the photos of this process, but believe us, the final miso paste product is extremely tasty.  And healthy too!

It has been almost a full year since we started making our paste. The fermentation started in cold Winter months early in the year, soon after when we first discussed home DIY miso making. We later provided a full DIY how-to of miso making guide” when we started the mix, where we showed the ingredients required in the preparation and the techniques used.

Time has flown by. We provided a half year report on the progress of our fermentation project when the soy bean paste received a good mixing just prior to the arrival of Summer’s full heat. At the time, being exposed to only cool temperatures, little had changed in our premature miso paste and there wasn’t even a thread of flavor altering mold to be seen.

Given five extra months of development and an a blast of Japanese Summer heat in between, and that all changed!

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