I attended the Cabin Fever Expo Model Engineering Show on Saturday. The expo is always extremely engaging and a precision engineering feast for the eyes. I admire the craftsmanship that goes into making these marvelous engineering models. The clickety-clack sound of steam cylinders actuating, gears turning, and levers moving is hypnotic.
I happened to bump into a friend named Jean from FUBAR Labs at the Sussex County Maker Faire last Ocotber and she offhandedly mentioned to me that she was learning morse code for fun in her spare time. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but later this spring I got the idea learning Morse Code (aka Continuous Wave (CW) more commonly known as CW by ham radio enthusiasts would make for a fun, challenging, and intriguing activity for the kids and I this summer. Moreover it would be something to do with the kids that wouldn’t directly require or involve more screen time on computers or phone screens.
Long Island CW Club
Jean turned me onto the Long Island CW Club (LICW) as the best place to get started learning morse code CW. I gladly paid for the lifetime membership which seems like an exceptionally good value when you realize how many educational classes and forums the club offers on a variety of CW and ham radio topics. Also I should stress the name “Long Island” is somewhat of a misnomer since the club has members from all over the country. The plethora of daily lessons are held via the zoom software app. The beginner carousel method LICW utilizes is brilliant allows beginners to hop onto a set of lessons at any time. If you want to learn Morse code CW this is a fun and welcoming place to do it. Highly recommended.
The Morserino-32 was also recommended during my research as a handy device to practice CW. We are still experimenting with this device but I can definitely say it made for a fun soldering science kit project for the kids and I. The kit takes about an hour to assemble. My daughter proved her soldering skills are top notch and did the majority of the fine soldering work. (I see a future SpaceX Mission Control engineer before my eyes). If a child can put this thing together, I think you can too.
I liked this concise morserino assembly YouTube video the best
Ham Radio Technician License
After a few lessons with the Long Island CW Club I realized many members also had a ham radio call sign. I decided to get mine too and used the Ham Radio Prep app to study on my phone. This is probably the easiest and most expeditious method to get prepared for the ARRL exam. Watch the short tutorial videos on the app and just keep taking the practice tests to ensure you are ready for the test. I took the test hosted by the Delaware Valley Radio Association nearby. I passed and will end the summer with a ham radio license! Now time to find a proper HF radio to start transmitting!
Morse Code is not easy but it’s not as hard as you may think it is.
The stock Fogbuster nozzle mount that comes with the base unit does work but the magnet mount is understandably prone to movement due to vibration as the machine operates. I decided I wanted to upgrade the mount I am using on my new Tormach PCNC 1100 to something a little more rugged.
Fogbuster aftermarket nozzle mount upgrade for the Tormach PCNC 1100
I purchased an aftermarket nozzle holder via eBay for $55.00. The kit comes with a machine mount, nozzle holder, and 10 segment 5/8” Loc-Line modular hose. The Loc-Line hose in conjunction with the brackets enables you to firmly establish a consistent Fogbuster coolant mist location.
The first step was to remove the existing flood coolant mount. (It appears that the previous owner of my machine modified the bracket to also hold an air line attached to the compressor.)
The Fogbuster nozzle bracket upgrade kit I purchased on eBay matched the preexisting bolt pattern of the stock bracket but I did have to ever so slightly widen the diameter of the attachment holes in the fixture by drilling them out with a 1/4” drill bit. I purchased two, 1/4-20 socket head cap screws from the local hardware store to attach the bracket to my Tormach mill. After that attaching the backside bracket to the Tormach mill was a breeze.
You have to cut the preexisting coolant lines to slide them through the Loc-Line hose segments. I then linearly slit the remaining tubing on the barb ends with a razor blade to remove the remaining tubing. Next run the hose through the Loc-Line segments and push the tubing onto the barb ends of the nozzle head fixture. (Make sure you have put the tubes through the Loc-Line segments before you do this!)
Be mindful to connect the correct hose line to the correct corresponding fitting. On mine one of the two hoses had a blue stripe to identify it to help with this. (Not shown in photos)
Fogbuster Upgrade Review
This Fogbuster modification was well worth it. The new adjustment Loc-Line tube arm works excellent! The modification takes under an hour to install and is strongly recommend. I would go as far as saying a must have for your setup if you use a Fogbuster for most coolant.
The vendor I purchased the used Tormach PCNC 1100 from was also kind enough to include a cardboard box of various tooling that came with the cnc mill.
The first order of business was to get some organization in order! I downloaded a 3d model from the printables website. The print on my Prusa 3d printer took approximately 9 hours. I hit print before going to bed and there was a beautiful new Tormach TTS tool rack waiting for me on the desk at breakfast.
An inventory of the tools shows half are drill bits and the other half are an assortment of 1/16” to 3/8” end mills. There is also what appears to be a shear hog, 2 roughing mills, an o-ring cutter and a diamond engraving bit. I need to find a fun excuse to play with this o-ring groove cutter! Im also very excited to use the diamond engraving bit in some future projects.
What I don’t have is a shell mill or a face mill and will need to be ordering one of those posthaste!
After three years of learning basic machining skills on my Bridgeport milling machine and Grizzly lathe I decided it was time to upgrade to a Tormach CNC. I had hoped I could find a used 440 or 770 model at a reasonable price, so I was ecstatic after months of casually searching when I serendipitously came across a very reasonably priced Tormach PCNC 1100 less than an hour away for sale at Machinery Values in North Jersey! Lady Luck smiled at me!
I drove to the warehouse and inspected the Tormach PCNC 1100 there in person. The team at the warehouse allowed me to see the CNC mill operated under power. Everything on the machine was in good working order except for the bed which had been accidentally milled in a few spots on the slotted table by the previous owner. Ugly but by no means a dealbreaker for me. I was able to negotiate a small price reduction based on this fact.
Tormach PCNC 1100 CNC milling machine bed – you can see the accidental holes and grooves made by the previous owner.
The Tormach PCNC mill was delivered a few weeks later by Hopatcong Rigging company.
The Tormach PCNC came shipped via flatbed truck and the mill came mounted on its stand. The rigging team unloaded the mill onto a fork truck from the base and carefully drove the mill via the fork truck up my quasi steep driveway without issue. The mill just barely fit inside the garage door. The rigging team was able to place the hobby CNC mill just inside my garage door (it just fit, but I think Tormach designed their machines this way in order to maximize capability for use in hobbyist garages). The rigging team then used a pallet jack under the machine to precisely slide it to the desired spot in my garage.
After plugging in the controller and the CNC to power the machine booted up and came online without any issue. Jogging along the X, Y, and Z axis worked perfectly. The legacy keyboard is a bit sticky for some of the buttons and will require replacing. My old pancake compressor to power the power drawbar is just too loud and will need to be replaced with an ultra quiet compressor so I can hear myself think when I’m operating the machine.
First Test Run
I followed the manual to mill a pocket in a piece of wood. To my relief everything worked perfectly!
Overall my newly acquired CNC mill has some aesthetic blemishes on the table and the paint could use a touch up, but other than that I think this machine is an excellent launching pad for my CNC journey!
Touch screens; they just dont have that nostalgic clickety-clack feel of buttons, switches, and knobs. I’m working on a 3D printed tactile toy. The first prototype is looking promising although the white overture filament I am using to print the enclosure is giving me a hard time with bed adhesion.
I would describe the final prototype as a fidget spinner on steroids.
I completely redid my design for the bounty towel paper model rocket so I could print the model upside down and get much more aggressive looking tail fins for the 3D printed model rockets.
I had a few requests for the file so I will post them here. Over time I have found some differences in diameter of the paper towel rolls and you may need to wrap electrical tape around the base to get them to fit properly.
Click below to download a compressed file containing the models in a specific format called .3mf.