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Member postings for Alan Wood 4

Here is a list of all the postings Alan Wood 4 has made in our forums. Click on a thread name to jump to the thread.

Thread: Feeds and Speeds! 0.4mm milling cutters...
31/05/2019 20:36:52

Attached image are two examples of the Think & Tinker bits.

Left hand one is their 15 degree 2 flute tapered stub ZrN coated and right hand one is 60 degree mechanical etching bit.

Both have 5 thou tips.

Sorry about the image but was struggling at this magnification.

I prefer the left hand one as the taper is so slight that it eliminates width of track variations on my vacuum table.

Joe clearly has much more experience than me on the subject. I have seen his set up first hand.

My business life (W&D) also revolved round RF comms where we used a LPKF machine for PCB prototyping on Rogers substrates including brass backed.


30/05/2019 09:38:49

Having spent some time evolving my pcb milling process here are a few comments.

I use FlatCam to create the CNC code from Gerber and Excellon files out of GSpark. FlatCam was the first program I tried and it does everything I need without looking further. It allows default start up and shut down GCodes to be embedded in the export code to the mill (in my case a Tormach PCNC440).

I run at 10,000 rpm (maximum possible on the 440) and at 150mm per minute with a 5.1 thou cutter. While I ramp and spiral in when cutting metal I rarely have the real estate on my pcbs to allow this luxury. I dive straight in and cut and it has not been an issue.

I found that tapered engraving bits to be fine providing the pcb material could be clamped flat. If the material is not flat then variations in cut depth result which in turn leads to a wider cut through the copper (think about the geometry). I tried 10 degree cutters to minimise this and found them to be very fragile. If tracking is wide this may not be an issue.

I subsequently found proper fine milling bits from Think & Tinker that which are parallel for the first section and then taper up. They can be supplied with collars so collet mounting is repeatable. They are expensive but are good if you need to go to fine detail.

I tried various clamping methods for the pcb material to try to eliminate the bow. Single sided board is the worst as having the copper on one side causes a 'surface tension' style bowing from the laminating process. In the end I solved this by designing and making a simple vacuum table which runs off the 'hoover', This was an amazing success for a finger in the air idea. The Fusion 360 file is available if anyone who wants to try it.

The vacuum table while solving the clamping does mean it is not prudent to drill holes all the way through the pcb and potentially damage the vacuum table surface and or damage the carbide pcb drills. I therefore drill to almost break through and then go round the board afterwards with my high speed bench drill. With the centres already spotted it is a quick process.

One option that could be used but not tried as yet is to put 'gaffa' tape or similar on the pcb back side to provide a finite spacer and allow some additional depth for through drilling.

Finally I use mist coolant (via a Fog Buster) when milling the boards. This is the same as I use for metal machining (Qualichem Xtreme 250C). It helps the finish, protects the tool and also damps down the dust.

The finish straight off the mill is sometimes not too pretty but after a gentle rub over with fine wet and dry looks excellent. With a 5 thou tip I can cut very fine SMD tracking.

After the wet and dry, while the board has a bright clean untarnished finish, rub over with flux paste and then run a wide bit hot soldering iron quickly over the tracking while feeding fine solder to it. Once you have got the knack you can get a good tinned finish. Clean the flux residue off afterwards with thinners and then wash with Swarfega or similar hand cleaner to get a bright finish on the tin (yes I know it sounds weird but try it).

There is a lot more detailed waffle and pictures of my experiments at Woody's Workshop.

I hope that helps someone somewhere to get a working result.

Thread: Bill Smith Magnavert Morse Key
01/04/2019 17:04:10

Good afternoon David, nice to hear from you.

This was a post I made sometime ago and have since completed the keyer and it is now used by WX4WX in Melbourne Florida. The finished key worked really well (lots of dots) and I understand it is in regular use by Lance.

You can find details and the background story on my blog at


I have a collection of all Bill's books and videos and I did manage to visit Bill and Judy around a year before he died.

Great character and a brilliant engineer.



Thread: Boxford machinery auction
14/02/2019 11:47:09

Boxford was exhibiting at last week's Southern Manufacturing Show at Farnborough. They were showing laser cutters and engravers among other things. I asked if they were the Boxford of lathe fame and this was confirmed by the stand personnel. Show guide indicates Dewsbury Road, Elland as trading address.

Thread: Large Wheel Clock
19/01/2019 15:45:30

Good afternoon David

It might help you to watch Chris at Clickspring who made this clock and very professionally made videos of each step.

Cutting the gears can be found here



Thread: Workshop headphones
03/01/2019 11:45:12

I have Phonak in-ear speaker hearing aids for both ears which boost my top end spectrum. I was issued with a neck loop inductive coupler for these which is Bluetooth connected to a base transmitter. The base was connected to the TV line audio output set to my comfort level. This reduced domestic strife when the audio from the TV speakers was incompatible with our joint enjoyment levels.

I was impressed by the performance of the in ear devices as these are not isolated to the ambient sounds and I could hold a conversation while listening to the TV audio. There was also a large mute button on the neck loop receiver to completely kill the incoming audio feed (the 'Mcintyre Mute'. The range of the Bluetooth is sufficient to allow for bathroom runs mid program while still keeping up with the program audio.

I was sufficiently impressed that I bought a second base unit and neck loop for the workshop. In the workshop I have an audio source switching box that allows either TV, radio (FM and DAB) or IPOD audio to be routed to the base unit. I can go about normal workshop activity without losing audio from the base and without losing hearing of ambient sounds. If I have a very noisy activity, my normal industrial ear defenders slip over the top of the in ear devices. And yes I wear the neck loop inside my shirt and my overall against my skin with my safety boots, wearing safety glasses, hi viz jacket, wash my hands before eating biscuits and drinking tea etc etc.

That aside and prior to the above being necessary, I used the same audio source switching box feeding a Band II low power modulator to give local radio coverage in the workshop. The signal was received on a freebee low sensitivity single channel Band II receiver with foam ear buds obtained at a golf tournament for on course commentary. This allowed simultaneous ambient and program listening. And yes I wore this inside my shirt and my overall etc etc etc.

Unless you happen to be of the fairer sex you will no doubt have been forcefully, at some point or other, made aware that as a male we are incapable of multi-tasking. Given the source of this revelation it must be true so it is perhaps pointless to listen to something while doing something else that demands thoughtful attention (including the source of the revelation ...). If however you are trying to stave off dementia by undertaking learning something such as a foreign language it is surprising how much you absorb as background audio tuition while destroying metal (while wearing your overalls, safety boots, safety glasses etc etc).


Thread: CNC machines in the Uk
26/12/2018 18:40:34

Hello Kevin

Also available for a visit. Live near Newbury and running Tormach 440 with their Pathpilot controller and using Fusion 360 for CAD/CAM.


Thread: Workshop security - CCTV
29/11/2018 09:39:22

I would suggest there are three levels of choice - low cost imported systems the like of which you see in CPCs mailshots, conventional analogue systems with connectivity either by coax or by wifi and the more professional systems that are digital based and connect with CAT5 cabling.

The lower cost systems might just have one camera that can feed into your house TV.

The CAT5 systems carry the digital video data and the power over the CAT5 cable so it is an easy install with one connection. The base router accepts all the cables into it and provides a recording facility, local monitoring facility or a viewer via a smartphone wherever you are.

The analogue systems usually need a power source local to the camera and then bring the video back either on coax or wifi. They also have a base router, recorder and local monitor. Many of these also have remote monitoring on a smartphone.

Both analogue and digital systems will have some form of movement detection on areas that you define on each camera picture and with adjustable sensitivity. The digital cameras seem less prone to false alarms.

Have a look at COP-EU to get some ideas of what is professionally available but they do not show prices unless you are a registered dealer with them. Look at **LINK** which is a local supplier that I have used who does not seem to have an axe to grind and will give you a fair assessment of what you ought to go for.

No association with COP or QCCTV. Hopefully between the two you will get on the way to a solution.

I have an 8 camera digital system at home and it is very reassuring when we are on holiday to be able to see what is going on inside and outside the house and workshop via smartphone if only to see the sun shining at home and the rain pouring down where we are.


Thread: For discussing the merits of alternative 3D CAD programs.
27/10/2018 16:20:24

Should Fusion begin to charge for the full spec package (CAD,CAM etc), according to the same press release by Brian Repp, it would cost ~GBP438 inc VAT for a single cloud based seat at current F/X.

27/10/2018 15:15:12

I'm with Muzzer on this and can't understand the Alibre euphoria. It seems their offer is becoming more common as the CNCCookbook site are also offering Alibre for 6 months free and then 15% discount on the basic package. It looks like an aggressive marketing campaign on the part of the Alibre management to try to win back some market share ?

I am also concerned that there is perhaps some misunderstanding. Are people maybe thinking that by designing in a 3D CAD package they will then be able to press a button and magically get a finished product ? It is what it is, just a drawing package. To get product from it you need either a 3D printer or a CNC device. To get your design into these devices you will then need an intermediate package(s) to slice the 3D model or produce the GCode CAM. These both represent a further learning curve on yet another software package - a package or packages that may also cost you further subscription funding.

Fusion does the CAD, 3D CAM / CNC CAM in the one package and is free. What's not to like ?

There are some further thoughts here.

Edited By Neil Wyatt on 27/10/2018 15:53:19

Thread: Hay bales
20/10/2018 07:15:25

Having come from a farming family this post attracted my attention. Technically speaking a binder is for cutting corn fields and a reaper is used for cutting grass pastures so a binder would not replace a baler but a combine would replace a binder ... and a baler would be used for baling both grass (hay) and corn straw ... if that makes sense.

Self combustion of hay bales was common if the grass was baled too soon after cutting and had not dried out fully. This was often the case with first crop which tended to be cut earlier in the year and not see enough sun to dry it out when there was always a panic to get it baled quickly pending rainy weather. Second cut was later in the year and more likely to dry out quickly. At the very least a damp bale would burst the strings holding it together or go mouldy and not be suitable as animal fodder. In the extreme the local fire brigade would be needed and an insurance claim lodged. The more sun the cut grass got and the more it could be 'turned' before baling the better which reduce the possibility of heat being generated.

Straw bales did not suffer this effect as the straw was inherently dead on cutting. In a very rainy summer the corn before cutting could be beaten down by the rain and the ears start to produce secondary growth. The binder and the combine harvester cutter beds had dividers to separate each breed of cut and lifters fitted at intervals along the knife fingers to overcome the laid corn stalks. The knife blade edges could be plain or serrated depending on crop type and quality of growth.

The same heating effect could occur with corn which in the early days was 'bagged off' either as threshed or later combine harvested grain. If the grain was damp when bagged you would often not be able to thrust you arm into the sacks such was the heat generated. Combustion would not happen but the grain would, like the hay, go mouldy and not be marketable. A corn merchant would visit to sample from the bags for moisture content which usually ran in the 15% to 20% range. The lower the moisture content the harder the grain and a better price achieved. Really hard grain went for milling or brewing. Once bagging gave way to bulk transport from the field, the grain would be spread dumped into open sheds with a fan based air ducting system under the floor to dry the crop out.

That was all a bit longer than it should have been. There are some written notes on my blog if anyone wishes to have further boredom thrust upon them.

Thread: Fusion 360 Licence Changes
23/09/2018 16:40:06

I will be interested to see what Alibre has to offer as it was the first 3D package I ever used when it was a few hundred dollars download. No doubt it will be a completely different animal given how it has been bounced around by various corporates since then but it is nice to see it regain its independence.

23/09/2018 13:42:20

For users of Fusion 360 there are a number of subscription changes announced by AutoDesk as from 7th October 2018.

For hobbyists this suggests no changes 'at this time' i.e continues to be free.

What is interesting is that if you already subscribe now at USD310 per annum you will have this subscription frozen AND you get all the Ultimate package now thrown in which was USD1500 per annum. The existing Ultimate users see their sub dropped from USD1500 to USD495 and get a 2 years subs free void period.

This is a very attractive pricing change by AutoDesk. If you are thinking of starting on the learning curve on CAD with integrated CAM you have to give it serious consideration not just for what it offers but for the enormous amount of support through videos both by Autodesk and by third party users on YouTube.

For the cynics who currently use Fusion free and believe that sooner or later they will have to pay then an insurance policy of now paying for the Ultimate package at the USD310 price going forward will give peace of mind. This will be USD495 for all new paying subscribers after the October deadline.

I believe these prices have VAT added for GBP based purchases.

There is a good summary of the changes on the following YouTube by TFI


Thread: Centroid Acorn
19/09/2018 21:59:00

I run a Tormach machine so I am spoilled rotten having PathPilot as a controller. I have just picked up another small CNC on EBay and it came with Mach3 which hasn't set me on fire.

I have therefore been round the same loop on finding an alternative.

I understand that Mach3 is over 10 years old and is not seeing any new work on it. In some ways the HMI looks prototype in many areas. Mach4 is slightly better but you don't seem to be able to demo it on a real machine without paying the licence fee. The Mach3/4 website suggests that it will not run on anything but 32 bit machines but users have had success on Win10. It can run on a Centronics interface or on USB dependent on machine or controller. There are lots of MachX related mods and tweaks videos on YouTube which are helpful but all seem to me to be sticking plaster on basic shortcomings.

So I did a lot of hours on YouTube to see if there was an alternative and found Alan Hollerbach and also martyscncgarage both whom had a lot of experience on Acorn and this convinced me there was perhaps life after MachX.

Last week I attended IMTS2018 in Chicago and found Centroid's booth and spent a lot of time talking to them. They manufacture full blown controllers for large CNC machines and the Acorn is their OEM offering to the smaller shop. The Acorn is a fully integrated dedicated controller for 4 axis and with the Pro version of software is all a small shop needs. It runs on Win10 and on a network connection and has touch control capability. Their website has numerous support videos and there is an active user forum + other independent YouTubers such as those mentioned above. There are larger OEM offerings for more axis machines. Fusion 360 has a Centroid compatible driver script (big plus for me).

I went back on the booth the following day and to my surprise they had shipped me an Acorn overnight to bring home with me. The board is well made and the documents available suggest that it should be relatively stress free to get it running.

Time will tell but so far I am impressed.

(Usual disclaimers)

Thread: Ring Light for mill/drill
04/08/2018 12:46:47

I believe the request was for a ring light not a point source on a goose neck.

I used a so called Angel Light ring from EBay

See **LINK**

Contact me if none of the experts can help and I can run you an appropriate 3D print.

Thread: Rosebud grate hole size
27/07/2018 09:14:03

I have just embarked on a Rosebud for my Polly V loco and have done a spreadsheet to calculate the hole matrix for a given size of grate and % area occupancy of the holes etc. Others might find this helpful, see the link below : -


Thread: Hot Weather and Wall Fastenings
25/07/2018 12:17:55

For over two years I have had two shelf supports fastened to the workshop wall with screws and a well known brand of plastic plugs (brown in colour). The load on the shelf has barely changed over this period.

The other night while relaxing on the terrace we heard a very loud crash and on investigation found the shelf, contents and both brackets in a heap on the workshop floor. Fortunately no major damage ensued to any of the workshop assets.

On investigating further I noticed that the blocks used for the wall were warm to the touch. This is a consequence of the extraordinary long period of very hot weather we have experience in the UK. The plastic plugs had come out of the holes intact, still expanded and with the screws still in place.

So my thought is that the warmth in the wall has somehow changed the characteristics of the grip in the wall. This could be the plug plastic changing in some way i.e. going soft and therefore having less grip, or maybe the hole in the block work has expanded in diameter enough to lose the grip on the plugs.

It suggests my civil engineering was probably marginal in the first place and perhaps readers might like to check their installations to avoid a similar experience.

Thread: Superglue for holding workpieces
18/05/2018 09:21:54

3M #2060 masking tape recommended on NYC CNC member forum. This is 'builder standard' tape and resists coolant much better. Available on Amazon in 'Green' version (20601). Loctite 4851 glue.

Thread: Shortening screws
14/03/2018 09:41:35

Further ideas


Thread: Cad / cam and slicers , im
17/02/2018 09:55:51

Student/hobbyist use of Fusion 360 is always the latest version full spec and is free of charge. I get on average a new version each week with tweaked and added features. You renew each year free of charge. I am on my second year. The extensive CAM section is included in this plus sheet metal and drawing output. It is a one stop solution.

Fusion has a '3D Print' menu option which you link to your print driver or your third party slicer EXE file.

I have a Sindoh 3DWOX printer and it is a one click out of Fusion into the Sindoh native driver and one click to print in basic mode. (I have tried Simplify 3D and I have yet to beat the print results from the Sindoh driver).

There is a huge wealth of tutorial info on the web to get you up to speed. I have listed a few here.

There is a lot of negativity over the fact that Fusion is Cloud based for all your storage. This misses the point that you can log onto any machine anywhere and continue where you left off with your design. The other positive on this is that you can (with permission) share your files with other Fusion users via the Cloud. There is also a web portal if you are away from base and do not have Fusion loaded on the machine at your disposal.

This negativity also extends to the fact that AutoCAD 'might' decided to start charging a licence fee.

Would I stick with it and pay ?


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