Monday, October 31, 2016

Face Milling

CNC milling is where the glitz and the money is in industry these days.  And while no doubt exceedingly cool it has a rather impersonal feel to it.  You do a lot of elaborate set up, push a button and the computerized mill leaps into action.  Chips fly, tools are changed automatically and Ta-Da! you have a finished part that would have taken a very long time to make by hand. And better still, you can keep tossing new hunks of metal into the machine and cranking out one masterpiece after another.

But working with the old machines, the hand fed ones with plenty of miles on them is actually more enjoyable for me.  They have such character.

Recently I learned how to do "face milling".  This is the process of shaving down a block of metal bit by bit until you have the thickness down to within 15 thousandths of an inch to your design specifications.  I am slow and cautious, taking off thin little shaves where a veteran machinist would wallop out a deep trench or two and then finish off daintily.  It is what some would consider a tedious and repetitive task.

But not me.  I like the smell of oil.  I like the humming noise that the mill makes.  You can turn the RPMs up and down and when I rev it up for finishing cuts I swear it sounds....happy.  Best of all I like the huge retro control systems.  This is a really big hand wheel that you slowly turn to feed the depth cut.  Its just like every World War Two submarine movie ever made.

The surface looks a bit scruffy now but after some additional features get milled it will earn a final polish.  And I am within specs.

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