My Home Machined Props and a Machining-Based Question (New Question)

Discussion in 'Star Wars Costumes and Props' started by cnccus, Jul 28, 2015.

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  1. cnccus

    cnccus New Member

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    So after wrestling to tune and learn to use my two new toys, I've finally started making things with my cheapo harbor freight lathe and milling machines. I turned parts in aluminum for a Han Solo ANH blaster on an HFC gas airsoft mauser, and that was my first true test of the two machines. While I still have a bunch of issues with weathering with aluminum black, it is mostly done except for a few odds and ends, and making a stand for it.
    20150528_223033.jpg
    After building the DL44, I switched gears and bought a Graflex, which turned into a complete nightmare and by the time I acquired everything I needed to build an ANH version, that project was shelved until I get enough motivation to put it together. When Roman started his sale for the Obi sabers, I preordered a kit and the lightsaber bug grabbed back onto me. In the past I had started a hardware store Graflex and never finished it. I would do plenty of research to build other sabers but they never made it out of the planning stages.

    Starting with the hero version of the saber, I machined Luke's hero lightsaber from ROTJ based on these blueprints,
    luke_ep6_hero1.jpg
    Accuracy hasn't really concerned me thus far, since I can't yet machine to too close of tolerances to my own satisfaction, so a lot of it is just me winging it along the way, starting with a tiny prototype just to get me into the mood.
    Originally i made the rings way too thick, and after painting I realized my mistake and went back and widened the grooves more, leading me here:
    20150702_224154.jpg (in this picture you can see my first mistake....the windvane part....I put a lot of thought and effort into inventing those dimension for the second section from the top, because it didn't have a dimension in the blueprints. It took about a day before I realized it and had to question what in the world I was doing and how I came to think it belonged there)
    20150707_203516.jpg
    20150728_230233.jpg
    I ordered some materials to make the activation box and in the meantime I moved on to a V2. Life became considerably easier this time around, since I had started learning to avoid the lathe's numerous shortcomings and annoying habits of destroying whatever I was doing by throwing parts from the chuck if it bit off more than it could chew. Eventually I also fixed issues with the mill, causing things like this to happen when it grabs on and flings the table and the part:
    20150703_155404.jpg
    or more recently an entire axis of motion was completely seized up. But I finally got the V2 to around 75% done, it just needing some paint on the section below the Graflex clamp and then the whole thing needs to be weathered, I also have to get a D ring and put the various screws and holes where they belong.
    20150727_210748.jpg
    Shout out to Roy and Slothfurnace for their amazing work on the clamp and circuit board
    20150728_221523.jpg
    20150728_221355.jpg
    Now to the question and the only thing standing between the hero version and completion; how do I put a radius the bottom of the activation box so that it fits flush onto the body of the saber? What kind of tool/milling cutter would allow me to do it in the easiest and neatest way possible so that it can be square to the rest of the body(and won't cost too an excessive amount for a one time use thing)? I already know that I have to buy a keyseat cutter since I took the lazy way out and making the whole activation box one piece instead of the L channel like normal minded people use, I need a space for the circuit card to slide into, so I just have to figure out what else I need to buy along with it now :facepalm
    20150728_221415.jpg
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2015
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  2. mugatu

    mugatu Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Re: My Home Machined Props and a Machining-Based Question (PIC HEAVY)

    Pretty impressive, to me, that you've been able to turn out such fine looking work having only limited experience with your Harbor Freight equipment. I'd like to see more.
     
  3. Lichtbringer

    Lichtbringer Sr Member

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    Re: My Home Machined Props and a Machining-Based Question (PIC HEAVY)

    Nice. Way better than just buying parts from a run, isn't it?
     
  4. Teddz

    Teddz Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Re: My Home Machined Props and a Machining-Based Question (PIC HEAVY)

    If your lathe is throwing parts off the chuck, you're lucky you haven't been hurt yet. Why did it throw it off? Was it too much overhang or did you not tighten the material enough? You never want to have a lot of overhang of the material if you don't have it on a live center and follower (if the piece is really long). Usually you never want to go above 2x the diameter of the material without a live center. I've been machining for many years and have a large JET 1550 lathe and old school Bridgeport mill in my basement and have never had a part fly off or snag. I have seen some real scary stuff happen on these types of machines. They aren't forgiving. Be very careful.

    As for what tool will allow you to radius the box so it sits flush on the body, an end mill with the same diameter of the body will give you what you want. If you don't have access to something of that diameter, a tubing notcher will also work. Essentially you want a cutter that's the same diameter of the body. This is if you're going to set up the piece at 90* to cut it straight up and down... otherwise if you're laying it down, a ball end mill with the right radius is what you're going to need. Either way, you'll need a vice to clamp the piece on the Mill and don't try to hog it out all at once. Do several passes until you get to where you want it.

    What material are you using as this also plays a vital roll in choosing the right cutter and cutting speed.
     
  5. cnccus

    cnccus New Member

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    Re: My Home Machined Props and a Machining-Based Question (PIC HEAVY)

    Thanks, I just have to figure out what I'm going to make next at this point. I'm going to school to be a mechanical engineer and we had to take a machine shop class, so I got basic instruction in how to operate a lathe and mill, but those were on high grade machines, and the ones I have are like toys in comparison.

    As long as I dont make any mistakes, it takes all the waiting time out of the equation, the only waiting is getting home from work to start


    Even when tightening down the parts as tight as I can go, the tool seems to dig itself into the workpiece, and all the force pivots the part at the jaws and it winds up behind the lathe. I always use a center whenever I can, but when facing off the pommel for instance, I am forced to use the other set of jaws and the smaller clamping surface area usually causes the end in the jaws to get destroyed if the tool digs in too much. It usually only happens with those jaws, and at 2 inches in diameter, the parts like the pommel are not that long, but long enough I guess. The milling machine had issues with the gibs and massive amounts of backlash and the table needed to be completely disassembled and reassembled so that everything would be tightened down at the right allignments. I know how dangerous the machines can be and I make sure to never take too heavy of a cut or do anything stupid to put myself in harms way.

    The body itself is 36mm or ~1.4inches, I have nothing larger than a 3/4in endmill. All the endmills I've found that large are a lot more than I planned on spending. A tubing notcher is just a hole saw and a jig to hold the tubing? I have a bunch of hole saws already, and its only aluminum so do you think it would work for what I need?
     
  6. Teddz

    Teddz Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Re: My Home Machined Props and a Machining-Based Question (PIC HEAVY)

    Take smaller passes. The machines you were using at school are a whole different monster than what you have at home and they can handle hoggin out large cuts.

    Yea, a tubing notcher is just a whole saw and jig - albeit a specialized jig and hole saw. I've used it to cut Chromoly steel for a roll cage I did for a friends drift car so I'm sure it can handle aluminum. Just make sure your mill is going as fast as it can and go slow with the cutting... don't try to jam it through the material. Taking an extra 5-10 minutes to cut it could save you hours from having to remake the part. You may even have to remove some material with an end mill (or ball end mill) before getting at it with the whole saw just to make life easier.

    Yea, those end mills can become very expensive, but when doing certain jobs, they are an absolute necessity for the job to be done right. It's one reason why I also have a Darex End-mill sharpener. The machines themselves aren't that expensive at all... it's all those * bits and attachments that quickly add up.

    I also had an issue with backlash on my Bridgeport that required a complete rebuild of table. I plan on upgrading it again with a digital readout and possibly turn it into a CNC. For now, I'm happy with the 0 backlash.
     
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  7. Lichtbringer

    Lichtbringer Sr Member

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    Re: My Home Machined Props and a Machining-Based Question (PIC HEAVY)

    Instead of experimenting with a holesaw in partial cutting, or buying a big endmill for just this job ........ i would suggest using a boring head. http://www.rdgtools.co.uk/acatalog/BORING_HEADS__NEW__1.html

    I don´t have these cheaper brand ones (mine are Lenz LPA-S, comparing to Wohlhaupter), but for such an easy task those should be more than good enough.
     
  8. MCM

    MCM Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Re: My Home Machined Props and a Machining-Based Question (PIC HEAVY)

    Very impressive! I've oft toyed around with the idea of picking up some harbor freight machining stuff to make sabers and whatnot, but I've never had the guts to take the plunge. Its very exciting to me to see such great results. I might have to make the investment, that is, if it's possible to operate it and know that it's not going to be flinging stuff across the room or into someone's face :lol

    Just curious, but how did you do the pommel cubes? I've always wondered how that was done. I mean, I assume they were milled, but what bit and what technique? Again, great work, and I can't wait to see the finished V2!
     
  9. thd9791

    thd9791 Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Re: My Home Machined Props and a Machining-Based Question (PIC HEAVY)

    This is so cool!!! Wonderful work, I'm also really impressed you turned this stuff out with such little experience

    following this with great interest
     
  10. cnccus

    cnccus New Member

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    Re: My Home Machined Props and a Machining-Based Question (PIC HEAVY)

    Thanks for the help guys, I'll look into boring heads online, otherwise I'll fall back on the hole saw.

    It has its faults compared to a better model, the motor automatically stops itself under too much load, even drilling holes becomes annoying if I try to increase hole sizes too quickly. But for my uses its perfect. A larger, more powerful model would be nicer, but more expensive at the same time. I had to invest in larger chucks to hold the material to make sabers, but as long as you don't want to turn anything too large in diameter, it should be fine. I've never tried anything above 2.25in, and even a 4in jaw requires me to use the outside jaws, which adversely affects the rigidity of the operation, but as long as you are careful it works fine once you get the hang of it. I was having issues with it blowing its fuse if the motor stalled too hard, but I swapped out the fuse for a little circuit breaker at the same amperage and it has yet to blow. This probably will have adverse effects on the motor as time goes on, since the breaker would blow much slower than a fuse if I understand correctly, but if that happens I will either replace the lathe with a better model, or research a more powerful motor if I don't smash it with a hammer first :lol

    To make the pommel cubes, I started out marking out the turned pommel where i needed to machine the flat recesses. I started at the first slot, cut it to the correct depth, and then I switch to a 60 degree bit and mill the sides of the recess I just made. At this point I would switch back to the 1/4in endmill and rotate the pommel in the vise and line it up with the next marking and repeat the process until I was done. I have no clue if this was the right method at all, I wasn't even using an indicator to make sure I was totally lined up with the markings, it was all done by eyeballing it.
    20150729_213359.jpg
    Thank you! More should be in the works soon/possibly this weekend hopefully
     
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  11. cnccus

    cnccus New Member

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    Re: My Home Machined Props and a Machining-Based Question (PIC HEAVY)

    Here is the end result other than adding the greeblies to the ROTJ Hero saber's control box, my completed Graflex ANH saber, and the repainted V2 with Trooper_Trent's paint stencils and some of my own additional weathering:
    1509026_10206297011201975_2085755126433995289_n.jpg


    I am contemplating starting another project, and am trying to plan it out in advance. If I were to make a TPM Qui Gon Jinn lightsaber, how would I make the deep radius grooves in the body?
    Qui-GonJinnLightsaber.jpg
    I've seen someone online make them out of plastic using a router jig ( http://forums.thecustomsabershop.com/showthread.php?2819-Custom-Qui-Gon-(picture-intensive) ), but if I were to make them out of aluminum how would I do it with a mill? (I don't have access to a CNC machine, and I can't really think of a justifiable reason to invest all the money of converting my mill to CNC just for this one need) From the research I've gathered so far, a rotary table would be able to make such a radius with ease, but that assumes I can repeatedly position the part correctly (horizontally and axially) when I mount it onto the rotary table 13 times for each groove. Anyone have any ideas?

    Also, I have a printout of this particular Qui Gon blueprint that I had printed out from a few years ago, but I can't find a digital copy of it anywhere. Does anyone have the file or a link to it anywhere?
    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/4b/f3/b0/4bf3b0698912c579360a0b0075a0e330.jpg
     
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  12. Bogleo

    Bogleo Well-Known Member

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    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 8, 2018
  13. cboath

    cboath Master Member

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    Yep, that'd be mine. I probably have the original images at home somewhere :) I do have actual blueprints of it and few others at home too, real ones - blue paper, white lines :)

    Been a while since I built it, but i think the cut on the grooves is just an arced cut. Photo's give the impression that it's angled as well, and IIRC, it's not.

    Shoot me a PM to remind me and i'll dig around and see what I can find.
     
  14. cnccus

    cnccus New Member

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    Did you remember if you made it by hand or have it CNC machined?
    I'll definitely send you a PM, thanks!
     
  15. Calaeryn

    Calaeryn Well-Known Member

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    Nice work, man! I've had a Sherline 4400 lathe for quite a few years now...think I bought it when Episode 1 came out. No training or anything...just picked up some metal and started cutting.

    I have no idea how you'd cut the grip on that Qui-Gon saber. I do custom machining but sometimes I have to tell people I simply can't do certain elements of their design due to the limitations of my gear.

    I have an album on my profile with a bunch of photos of my work if you wanna check it out. Feel free to PM me if you have questions and I'll do my best to answer.
     
  16. kyemt

    kyemt New Member

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    cboath do you still have the Qui gon jinn lightsaber blueprints? Im making one and they would be very helpful
     

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