It is hard to believe that it was only seven years ago I witnessed a CNC router in action for the very first time. I was fascinated and simply had to have one! Although I had been in the creative end of the three dimensional sign business for most of my life I didn't really know what I would do with one - but I just knew it could do fantastic stuff.

Through extensive research I quickly found out that with the relative simplicity of EnRoute, CNC routers were capable of just about anything imaginable. This journal will chronicle that journey to date and continue each week with two or three entries as we continue to explore just what is possible with this wonderful software... -dan

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The end of the lathe saga

I am often labled as a very smart guy and on occasion I even hear the work genius. I like to think so too. :)  But my family and friends know otherwise and often remind me and anyone who will listen of some of my bigger goofs to prove it. I am forced to admit here have been a few through the years.
Back in the mid 80's I decided I desparately needed a lathe. My selection of tools was meager at best. We didn't have a lot of money. It took more than a little convincing to get Janis to agree, but I did my homework and found a sturdy lathe that would do the job. There was one problem however. The model we could afford was too short for what I had in mind. When I got it home I didn't assemble it. Rather I cut it into pieces and then welded up a longer frame. Now those who know me know I am somewhat challenged to get things straight or level. Some would argue I am SEVERELY challenged. But I got it pretty straight. Or at least as straight as I could manage. I bolted the lathe together and set to work. 
It worked well, as long as I continually kept things snugged up. The two ends weren't quite in line and so the piece being turned had a tendency to loosten up a little as I worked. But I learned to deal with it and did some very fine work. At least that is my recollection of events. My family remembers things differently and with great glee remind me of 'THE LATHE' at every opportunity.

I have to admit that the truth is in the 25 years (or so) I had the machine it never did a paying job. I did a couple of study models with it although sadly I only have one to prove it at this point. My family says there only was this one. No matter. I know what really happened for I was there.
The lathe has languished in my shop for many years, gathering dust in a corner. Each time it gets in the way it gets moved, but never to a convenient place. I've always promised myself that some day soon I'll take the time to cut the frame apart, straighten it out, weld it back together and then put it to good use. But life is busy and it didn't happen (YET). 
With the arrival of the new MultiCam CNC router with the fourth axis I will never need the lathe again. The new tool is perfectly straight and accurate. I have no intention of modifying it. I can build the files on my desk and then send them to the machine. And at last I can build massive things - much bigger than the old lathe could have handled. It was time to find the old (almost as new) lathe a new home. I considered selling it but that would have reminded Janis of how much it had cost us to own this thing. She is very good at math. I considered leaving it to my son Peter in my will. He teased me the most about my reassembly of the precision instrument and his very skewed version how it operated. I would have stipulated that he could never ever get rid of it as a way of having the last laugh in this matter. But I reconsidered for I want him to remember me with some good stuff I realized that if he had the lathe he would claim to have the proof of his version of the story. We couldn't have that. I decided I would instead give it to Phoenix and not wait any longer. I dragged it out from the corner, dusted it off and loaded it into the truck. My son-in-law Phoenix is good at getting things much straighter than I ever could. He has a welder to get it right. And no doubt he'll put the machine to good use.
I'll welcome the extra floor space we've opened up in our shop. I'll also sleep well knowing my 'favorite' tool is going to a good home.
Now that the lathe is gone maybe my family will forget this episode... but then again probably not. Chances are, like all good stories it will grow in time to become something that will be told again and again when the time is right. As always, I prefer my (true) version of the story.
-grampa dan