Made by Hanno

tales from a software developer outside his element

Gotta Start Somewhere

Published: 2020-04-16

In which I use the opportunities afforded by a global pandemic to finally catch up on writing, and publish my first shop update. Tools are bought, tools are destroyed, the world's worst linear actuators are created.

Living in a tiny apartment and not affording myself a large budget for shop-related matters, I haven't had my own workshop for far too long. This changed back in January when I was offered this small corner in my parent's house.

An empty table with a chair in front, standing in the corner of a room.

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It's a table, and I even get to use one of the big drawers. What more do I need? Anyway, it didn't stay this empty for long.

The same table, now with a bunch of stuff on it.

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I didn't have the tools or materials (let's not speak of the expertise) to start anything serious, so I figured, why not build a linear actuator from materials I can get at the local hardware store.

The world's worst linear actuator. Very flimsily built.

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It sucked. I mean, it basically did work: You turn the screw and the thing moves. But it's so flimsily built that you basically need to hold it in a tight embrace, or some part of it will bend away.

I built a second one. I don't have a picture (and can't make one right now; see below), but here's a video.

Much better! But let's face it: Building machine components out of sheets of aluminium with no regard for precision is fun, but of limited use. I needed real metal, and a tool to cut it. Enter the bandsaw.

A small bandsaw, standing on my workshop table.

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This is a Proxxon MBS 240/E. I can't really recommend it. It's not bad, but also not cheap. The motor is not exactly strong, and it doesn't come with a rip fence, making straight cuts much harder than necessary.

Still, if you need a bandsaw of that size, you don't really have an alternative, especially if you want to cut metal. And it got the job done. Well, almost.

An aluminium plate, a cut going almost through the whole breadth of it.

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You see that cut going from left to right through most the plate? I didn't stop there because I wanted to. The motor died. The signs were all there: The machine was obviously struggling with the material (10mm aluminium). The blade kept stopping, even though I was going really slowly.

I knew that all of that was bad for the motor. I just didn't know that "bad for the motor" meant all movement stopping, the smell of burnt plastic filling the room, and me stumbling through the dark in search of the breaker box. Well, that's not completely right. Intellectually, I knew this was a possibility. Actually doing it lead me to a much deeper understanding though.

All ended well though. Conrad (where I bought the saw) sent me a replacement saw, for free, despite me being completely honest about what happened. I finished that cut (and made many more since) without further problems.

My small Proxxon drill press after being used; aluminium chips from drilling lying around.

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Many a weekend was spent in the workshop since then. I'm not quite ready to write about it yet until I'm further along in my project. That's going to have to wait for a bit though: We're in the middle of a global pandemic after all, and I'm at home, in my tiny apartment, without a workshop (again).

But things will clear up sooner or later, and my misguided adventure will continue. If you're interested in following along, why not sign up to the newsletter (see form below) or subscribe via RSS?