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Bitten by the CNC DIY Bug

Posted by Mary Daly on

OpenBuilds CNC DIY Bug

Bitten by the CNC DIY Bug

A Short Story by Mary Daly

The dog starts barking at the front door. “I’ll be up in a minute” I yell out pushing even harder on my Allen wrench. The bolt finally breaks free sending my knuckles skidding across the V-Slot. Hearing another knock on the front door, I groan. I’m right in the middle of something big here, if I keep getting interrupted I’ll never get done today. Then again, if that dog doesn’t stop barking I may lose my mind. I reluctantly step back from my workbench. Shaking out my sore knuckles as I climb up the basement stairs two at a time, I run through the living room. No sense coming this far just to have them walk off. In one motion my foot slides the dog a few inches to the right of the door while my left hand expertly opens the front door. “Yes, Hello” I say, trying not to sound winded from my short sprint. I look out into the glaring sunlight, my eyes having not quite adjusted from the dim basement, I focus in and see HIM just as he is getting back in his truck. My heart skips a beat; the adrenaline begins to flow immediately. “WAIT, I AM HERE!” I shout to stop him from leaving. If I don’t catch him, my entire timeline will be ruined and worse yet, I don’t know when he’ll ever come back. I run across the front lawn, jumping over a stray tricycle and make it to his truck in record time.

“Sign here” he says a little too casually as he turns to retrieve my package from the back of his truck. I create some incomprehensible scribble on the signature line and then crane my neck for a look at the delivery. The moment I spot that black and white OpenBuilds label, relief passes through my body. The heat and the running catch up with me. I loudly exhale and lean over to place my hands on my knees so that I can catch my breath. Geez, I am actually sweating I thought to myself. I’ve got to get more exercise. The delivery man calls out “Sir, are you ok, do you have some type of bug or something?” Better straighten up I tell myself. As he nears, I silently grab the package, no time for small talk today, and turn back towards the house. My mind races with excitement. This package contains the last parts for my dream. This machine is going to be amazing. Oh when I post this on the forum, the guys are going to be flooding me with all kinds of compliments. It’s going to – OUCH! I kick something hard, that darned tricycle! Despite the setback, I manage to make it safely back into the house. Did anyone see that? Doesn’t matter I shrug and head downstairs to bring the parts to their new home.

My half eaten dinner lies in front of me. When did I eat the other half? Must have been thinking about my machine build again. I’ve been kind of neglecting the family these past few days and I need to make it up to them. “Sorry son, what were you saying?” He rolls his eyes at me and as he pushes away from the table he yells “You are acting weird, like you have a bug or something.”

It’s back to the basement for me. I survey my workbench. Gotta remind myself which parts are left and where I’ve placed them. OK, the lead screw is in the coupler and tightened down. As I look it over one more time, a smile comes over my face. I nod a bit knowing that this was something that I struggled with but darn it if I didn’t figure it out and get it put together the way I wanted. It’s looking mighty fine too. I turn it over in my hands admiring the sleek shiny aluminum rails. They look so industrial, professional even. I savor the moment. Imagining the signs that I am going to be able to make with this machine, I get even more excited about the project. This is going to be a workhorse of a machine! Yea, let me jump online and see what is new on the forum. No wait, I better get this done so I have a decent Build picture to share. Alright, let’s focus I tell myself. Quit daydreaming and get to back to it! Now, which step was I on? The actuator is done and just needs to be attached to the axis. The frame looks good and yea, even as I grab hold of it and try to move it, the frame remains rigid. I can’t help but congratulate myself on that too. Wow, it really was a good idea to move the nut blocks to the end like that. I’ve got to tell my buddy about that one. But first, I really want to see this thing actually running. I manage to get the axis attached to the frame. I push the gantry plate across the V-slot. The wheels slip down the rail quite smoothly. In fact, it feels really smooth. I’ve got to feel that a few more times. Running the gantry back and forth across the V-slot a few more times, I realize that I am getting really close to finishing this router. If I speed up a bit, I bet I can get this thing cutting tonight! The crooked clock on the wall reveals that the time is already 7:30PM. I shake off the doubts and bear down, more than determined than ever to complete this machine. The sound of my screwdriver hitting the floor snaps me back to reality. I was just resting my eyes I tell myself. Picking up the screwdriver, I get a glimpse of the clock again. 12AM? How did THAT happen?

Another day at the office and on home for a quick meal before I get back to it again. My wife, trying to show interest, asks “How is your Magic Bull coming along?” What did she just say? “Honey, for the last time, it’s called the OX 1000”. Not impressed, she changes the subject, “You look pale. Are you sure you are feeling alright? I hope you aren’t coming down with some sort of bug.” After reassuring her that I am fine, I head down to work on the electronics. Hmmm, I look online and a few clicks later, I find a promising diagram on the OpenBuilds.com forum. There is a lot of chatter about setting up the controller. Maybe I am not alone after all. Before I know it, the wires are all attached. I smile to myself, impressed that I was able to figure out the wiring. All right, let’s plug in the power supply and see how that works. I lean over and plug it in. As I face the workbench, I see lights on the controller board. I inhale quickly and hold my breath until the result is known. It worked! Oh yes it works and things are really moving along now. On to the controller software. Fingers flying, downloads & settings happening, I am able to send some code to the controller. I let it fly. Before I even know what hit me, we’ve got the Router moving. It’s ALIVE!!! I’m actually doing the Hello World air cut! My eyes focus on the mesmorizing pattern that the router is making. At this very moment I cannot imagine a sight more beautiful. Truth be told, I teared up a bit. Collecting myself, I throw a sheet over the machine and dash upstairs and gather the family. Yes, this is more important than homework. Tell Becky you’ll call her back. Come on, you need to see this! I eventually get everyone in the basement. The family stands before me. The kids doing their best to show their disinterest. My wife looks supportive but then again, she can’t remember the name of the machine but tonight, oh yes, TONIGHT they will see the magic, they will see it MOVE!

Ladies and Gentlemen, as you know, I have personally designed my very own super amazing CNC Machine that will be able to cut signs from aluminum. My daughter chooses this moment to interrupt, “Street Signs?” I briskly respond, anxious to get back on track with my unveiling…and with no further ado, I present to you the OX 1000 CNC Router”. I yank the sheet off to reveal my shiny machine. It looks so cool sitting on display, as if someone is shining a spotlight on it. My heart flutters with pride. I can feel my pulse quicken and I stand tall with my chest swelling with pride. To ramp up the demonstration, I attach a sharpie pen to the Z Axis. I race to the PC and kick off the Hello World code because of course they want to see it MOVE. I hold my breath as the axis takes off and begins drawing. After a few seconds, the path is complete and the machine stops. Barely able to keep my eyes off the machine, I turn to savor the moment with my family and collect their praise. I see 3 faces staring at me. But they aren’t smiling as I had expected. Well my wife has that polite little smile you usually save for trying new foods. “Oh that is really neat honey. Good job.” She says as the smile fades. At that moment, I realize that my son is wearing his headphones and is texting the entire time. Then my eyes set upon my little angel. I stoop down and gently say “Did you like my awesome router sweetie?”. “Yes Daddy but it’s not much good unless it can make street signs”. It’s at this moment that I realize that only another Builder can appreciate the accomplishment so I jump on the OpenBuilds forum and start posting the good news!

The OX 1000 is now cutting through aluminum and I’ve got some signs done. They look great and the machine is functioning well. As I think back, dreaming about my vision and then actually building the machine and making it all work was such an accomplishment. It was really fun to hit each milestone in the build and see it all start to come together. And then there was actually starting her up and watching the first move. I’m still excited by the sound of the motors. Yea, that sure was a blast. I learned some new things along the way and made some connections with other like-minded Builders on OpenBuilds.com. It’s probably the most fun I’ve had in a long time. As I am online and talking with my buddy, I see a project that he posted. It’s a really cool sign, made with a machine like mine. It looks cool, really cool. In fact, I think to myself, I would love to make a sign like that, only bigger. The sign that I have in mind is bigger than anything that the OX 1000 could produce. But wait … with a bigger, better OX 1500 I could cut that out! I start blurting out some design ideas to my buddy when I hear him say “You’ve DEFINITELY got the bug. The CNC Bug!”


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