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Member postings for John Alexander Stewart

Here is a list of all the postings John Alexander Stewart has made in our forums. Click on a thread name to jump to the thread.

Thread: Making nameplates
13/03/2019 21:19:43


I made some for a friend by engraving from artwork. Did write this up for Diane, but article was probably too long and the software was free, so has not appeared in print.

In essence, I drew it up, saved it as a jpeg file, and sent it into LinuxCNC, which understands image formats and will engrave from that.

All I needed to get was some engraving cutters, From my album, the first results:

simplex truck parts

Thread: KX1 CNC Mill Clearance Offer
20/02/2019 15:26:44


With regards to having 2 machinists (one a CNC robot);

I've found that I can't concentrate on doing complex stuff when my CNC is running. Cleaning the shop, doing the washing up in the kitchen; that kind of stuff I can do.

I've always got an ear open listening to the CNC for "strange sounds" like material coming loose, cutter dulling, etc.

I don't know why; the little KX1 (running LinuxCNC) runs for hours and hours without issues. I'd presume that Mach3 would have the same reliability, but no experience with that SW so can't comment.

Maybe it's just me being paranoid. I'd (honestly) like to hear on how others do with leaving the CNC mill running, while going and doing something else complex.

Note that I did have ONE problem with the KX1. Actually, my software and hardware; I had set up the software (hand-tuned by me - yeah right! bad idea!) so that pulses to the stepper controllers were right at the limits according to the spec sheets, and one of the stepper controllers missed a pulse (about 1 in a million) when stepping one direction. Backing off the minimal numbers solved the problem. Lesson - never trust the minimum numbers on spec sheets!

20/02/2019 15:16:39


For quite a while I worked at a research site that had a machine shop about the size of a football pitch.

2 friends worked there. One of them left years ago, then a year or two ago I left.

Anyway, friend #1 - "what do you have a manual mill for? All ours are CNC. You want to make one-offs - come over here and I'll show you conversational programming" (my eyes went wide open!)

Friend #2, has a shop @home, 2 CNC mills, zero manual mills. "why would anyone have a manual mill??"

These guys are machinists by profession (doing precision research projects, not metal bashing), and I'm not. So when these well trained guys ask a question and show me how a pro does it... I'm all ears.

19/02/2019 12:06:25

Posted by Jim Guthrie on 18/02/2019 20:30:14:

I've got a Centec 2A in the outside workshop that's hardly turned a wheel since the KX1 arrived.

Jim, JohnH,

the olde saying "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink" applies here.

I think Neil'll work it out in the end.

18/02/2019 14:36:51

Neil - if I may:

I've got 2 CNC mills; a KX1 and another larger one.

Both have MPG controls.

I use the larger one (right now) mainly as a pillar drill; the mpg I use just magnetically sits on the table, and I can control height of the head, speed, table movement, with the mpg.

This mill has a quill for drilling holes with "finger feel"

The MPG has different scaling options, so I can easily place the table accurately or quickly.

It has a built in DRO - which in LinuxCNC I can make full screen, to quickly and pretty accurately place holes.

08/02/2019 22:49:26


That seems like a very kind and good offer; especially the display/damaged ones given away.

I have a KX1 that I got here in Canada, came without stepper controller. John Stevenson and I argued about it, but in the end, he came to the conclusion (by querying the factory) that it was a KX1 made for internal consumption, but somehow leaked out of China.

It has been a fantastic bit of kit. Now, I did power it myself with LinuxCNC and a Gecko G540. Can not comment on Mach3, but that seems to be ok. As mine stands, it runs for hours and hours without complaint.

The KX3 looks like another good machine.

I hope all of your stock goes to good homes, and that they get well used.

Thread: emco pc turn 55 conversion to mach3
03/02/2019 17:14:58


1) There's a fellow who posts here sometimes (can't remember his name at the moment) who had figured out how to drive a parallel-port equipped Emco CNC lathe from LinuxCNC. He and his father got a batch of them.

2) A local club member took his Emco Compact-5 CNC lathe and LinuxCNC'd it, including tool changer. Works very well, when he gets the chance to use it. (young family syndrome)

3) If you have a Tormach 1100, you'll know that the PathPilot upgrade (*) is LinuxCNC with a Tormach UI and conversational programming layer.

(I put a star on "upgrade" as I know we all have our own preferences, and some people have difficulty with anything other than Windows on a computer). Tormach dropped Mach in favour of LinuxCNC for a reason.

4) I CNC-converted a Unimat SL lathe, which I gave to a club member, and have recently picked up a Sherline lathe, CNC controller is my old LinuxCNC one from my Unimat-SL. Sherline's CNC controller is LinuxCNC, so that's another company who chose LinuxCNC for their products.

I'm a LinuxCNC advocate, as, not only is the price right, it just works 100% of the time for me, on 3 machines. I have converted to the "GMOCAPY" UI, which I like more than the standard UI.

Again, there's lots of choice out there; every solution has good points and bad points.

Thread: Silver soldering problems.
13/01/2019 04:59:26

Q: Do you tightly clamp the 2 pieces?

Q: Do you heat from the "other" side as the silver solder is at?

Q: Do you leave a small gap for the solder to go into?

Thought 1: You might want to centre punch some marks on one of the pieces to give that hairline gap for the solder to flow through. I centre punch *everything* that I'm silver soldering now.

Thought 2: As Jeff says, more heat and more flux. I sometimes use a "poker" rod to add more flux. Inside, I use a plumbers propane torch, which is really not good for much more than silver soldering really small stuff. You do want the pieces to come up to temperature, especially the inside of the joint....

Keep going, practice does help.

Thread: Hemingway Radius Grinding Attachment Ref: HK 1312
03/01/2019 16:14:25

Hi Rod;

I've made it, but not used it much.

I think that you'll find that the accuracy is in the setup; all it really does is hold a toolbit and allow you to move it in a circle of about 180 degrees. Fine feed is by the screw on the back of the tool holder.

I should use it more; work and family stuff has got between me and my workshop recently - so the lack of use is not a black mark on the tool design.

I made my semi-circular table on my smaller CNC mill, out of brass, 1/8" thick. Also made the tool holder slider (that slides on the semi-circular table) out of brass on my CNC mill, also.

Thread: Simple and accurate home "switch"
31/12/2018 14:38:30

Coming in late to this;

I think John Haine did a great job in making a simple, accurate home switch.

I understand the potential issues, but, I assume John does as well. What's wrong with making things rather than buying them?

Kudos to John Haine.

Here's one I did for a Unimat SL; since given on to another club member for his enjoyment:

(I expect to do the same for a little Sherline CNC lathe I've picked up)



Edited By John Alexander Stewart on 31/12/2018 14:40:02

Thread: CNC machines in the Uk
28/12/2018 22:16:26


I read your comment about the Wabeco and handles for manual movement.

1) Look for "MPG"s - these things allow you to move the axes with a knob on the MPG, much like you'd do with a manual mill, and you have a built-in DRO as well. And, one can set the speed of the movement, so you have fine movement and the ability to get the table to move quite a lot without lots of cranking of the handle.

2) Your software should also allow you to manually move the machine table. With a mouse.

3) I have 2 CNC mills, one has a spindle quill on it. I don't have a pillar drill, and, while I do have another largish mill with a quill, I tend to just use this CNC one in manual mode. I flip on the power - the computer boots up, and it's ready to use. The MPG gives me axis movement, spindle speed setting, and a DRO.

4) LinuxCNC (and, likely PathPilot, which is LinuxCNC with a different GUI) has built-in the ability to engrave from image files, like JPGs.

5) My CNC mills do not have any keyboards in the common "computer" sense. I do have track balls and do have numeric keypads connected, but these last ones are rarely used, as the computer screen allows you to select numbers. If I had touch screens, I'd not even bother with the trackballs.

All in all, my CNC mills get used more than any other thing in my workshop, I'd expect.

This is all fun stuff.

Edited By John Alexander Stewart on 28/12/2018 22:19:57

Thread: Vertical milling attachment vs combo lathe/mill??
14/12/2018 16:43:41

Mike - I've kept out of this, because it's easy to put forth ones' wishes as fact. (and, what's been presented are also my wishes and suggestions, so that is not a complaint on the posters at all)

May I add some alternative thoughts on a combo machine?

1) the published author Kozo Hiraoka has an Emco 7" lathe with the vertical milling attachment, and he's produced excellent work; in his 8x8 (foot) workshop.

2) the published author Bill Harris had a 9" South Bend lathe and a vertical slide, and made 1.5" and 2.5" scale Shay locomotives, both are well regarded designs. He used a table saw with abrasive pad on a disc for his sanding work.

3) For a while, I only had room (barely) for an Emco Compact-8 with the wimpy vertical head. I did lots of good work on that combo; that and a bench vise and a 25mm wide belt Linisher machine was all that I had power-tool wise.

4) MANY models were made in workshops equipped with a lathe and, if they were lucky, a vertical slide.

Yes, a machine for each job is ideal, but without the space, one does what one can do. You may need to use your noggin to get around the limitations, but you'll probably need to use your noggin with whatever machinery you obtain, so no loss there.

Anyway, thoughts on this (freezing rain here) Friday.

Thread: CNC router
29/11/2018 20:44:57


There's many answers to your CNC question and each are right. (John Haine and Rod Ashton are two people who I make sure I read their posts - experienced people who always give good advice)

I've got 2 4-axis mills running something called LinuxCNC, and did have a little CNC'd Unimat lathe, running LinuxCNC, until I gave the lathe part away.

It all just runs. One mill runs a Gecko G540 stepper driver via a parallel port (this is the one used in my articles in Model Engineer) the other mill has a MESA 5i25 and 7i77 card set. I've got 2 other projects (CNC) on the go, and they'll use LinuxCNC.

You can try LinuxCNC from a USB stick, to see if you and it get along. LinuxCNC is free; if you try it and don't get along with it, you have learnt something for zero out-of-pocket costs.

I've also used it's engraving functionality to make nameplates from a jpg file; worked fine, especially for the price! All you need to do is to feed it an image file, and it'll ask some questions.

Thread: 'shop tip from 1921
25/11/2018 12:59:39

A fellow around the corner here in Canada got a new house a few years ago after cleaning up something with gasoline (petrol) in his basement.

Lots of us have natural gas powered domestic water heaters - big vertical cylinders with a pilot flame on the bottom.

Needless to say, pouring gasoline down the drain, having the fumes waft up and around the water heater was a recipe for disaster.

All survived; house rebuilt; not a trick I'd have chosen to get redecorating done!

Thread: Space Ship leaves Earth's Atmosphere
25/11/2018 01:40:23


I have a bunch of Model Engineers from when it went through it's "Sci-fi" phase, back in the late 50s or early 60s.

I do remember years ago reading an article where the author was describing what the earth looked like from space, with hand-drawn sketches.

It dawned on me later that *no human* in the history of mankind had seen these views, now we take them for granted.

Gosh, even a fellow Canadian (whom I have met in my old line of work) did a music video from space...

(which, when you watch it, is probably the best bit of PR for the space program of anything yet produced)

Interesting times indeed...

Thread: Speedy1500
18/11/2018 16:14:33

(Phil beat me to a reply by 2 minutes! Removed redundant text)

I'm not a 5" builder, so have no firm knowledge of my own to share. Good luck on what when finished is a beautiful model!

Edited By John Alexander Stewart on 18/11/2018 16:16:41

Thread: Death of Model Engineering?
18/11/2018 13:51:33
Posted by Steve C on 17/11/2018 21:38:16:

I agree with every thing you say except no one has mentioned the fact very few younger (read under 40) people own there own properties now or they live in flats with neighbors who don't want want neighbors who make noises in there back garden also the hassle gaining permission from your landlord to put a shed in the garden if you have one

Steve - I agree with you; even over here in Canada, "Densification" is a word that you hear, and see. (tear a house down and build 3 dwellings on same lot; build a "coach house" in your backyard for the in-laws, replace single family dwellings with 20 story condo towers, etc)

In terms of models we make, we have gone the opposite direction; we have gone from making small models to making larger ones.

Kozo Hiraoka described his workshop once as being an 8x8 foot square in a living room in a flat, and he built beautiful models, but to 1:16th scale, not 1:8 or larger, that seems to be the norm now.

A few years ago I calculated the costs to go and set myself up to build large 7-1/4 locomotives and store them easily on the property we own. The cost in terms of $$ and disruption was huge. Much better to retire years earlier and stick to building small stuff.

I have taken my little Tich 3-1/2" gauge locomotive on airplanes, and on city buses, easy to carry, portable, and able to pull 2 on a flattish track. No cars or trucks to transport required.

Oh well! My opinions and I'm sticking to them!

15/11/2018 15:58:26
Posted by derek hall 1 on 15/11/2018 15:15:25:

Another thing to consider is that modern housing is getting more densely packed, no spare room and rarely garage for a workshop...

Derek - good points. The only thing stopping a club workshop from being successful is our minds. It worked when I was living in the Netherlands, but back here in Canada, it seems to be a "no go".

Also, I was really surprised at an American lad (Chris Rueby) who built a 3-1/2 inch gauge Shay with small Sherline equipment, did a build log on another site, and did it in 1/20th the time that I did mine, with 1/500th the space and tooling. A strong lesson here.

To sum up: maybe it's not so much the hobby as the mind-set of the participants?

Here's a link to the Shay build:


Thread: Lead Bearing Solder is Banned
11/11/2018 12:27:15

I thought studies relating to lead and violence interesting. Here's a link:


Certainly, all the lead from leaded petrol/gasoline had to go somewhere, as does all the bits of "rubber" from tyres, and bits of asphalt.

My granny used to say "everything in moderation"; certainly lead as an element has been with us for ever, but it's the balance that's maybe the issue.

Who knows? I certainly don't!

Thread: A New Golden Age of Model Engineering Exhibitions
27/10/2018 12:05:12

Putting admission prices into context:

Over "here", the average price of a seat at a Toronto Maple Leaf's hockey game roughly translates to 200 GBP.

And, people pay it.

That's 20x the cost of one of the UK Model Engineering Exhibitions - and you get the WHOLE DAY there, not just a couple of hours sitting on a plastic seat watching "the action".

Something to think about, I hope.


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