Local Manufacturing – Is that a factory in your garage?

Why the whole table saw cabinet thing?  Well, I first purchased the SawStop a few years back because I wanted to make some fairly good triangular bases for a 3D printer project.  I figured that as an occasional workshopper, it’s better to have more expensive tools with safety features, so that I can preserve my white collar hands.

More recently, I’ve wanted to expand the capabilities in the shop.  I want to cut wood of course, but I want to cut it in infinite variety.  I have a nice heavy duty router, which gives me some capabilities.  I have a cheapo band saw with still others.  I probably need a scroll saw for really intricate stuff.  I could use a mill to play with various metals, and a lath might be interesting as well.  Well, that’s adding up to be a lot of different bits of equipment, all with their own safety and space concerns.

Then I got to thinking, what I really need is an automated (CNC) platform that I can use various tools on.  After quite a lot of browsing around, I came across the Grunblau Plaform CNC kit.  What’s so great about this particular machine?  Well, it looks good for one.  It’s uses 80/20 extrusions, like most DIY CNC machines, but it throws in just enough steel to make it more subtle, and easier to assemble than your typical machine.

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This is what mine looks like after a couple of weekends of assembly.  First weekend was laying out parts, and assembling the base.  Second weekend was assembly of the gantry, and mounting to the base.

But this begs one question, where to put this thing.  It’s roughly 3’x5′ and a couple feet tall.  It takes up more room than a table saw, but less than the combination of tools that I intend for it to replace.  So, of course it needs a piece of shop furniture to go with it.

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That’s a base made of 2×6 and 4×4 lumber, with a 3/4″ maple plywood skin.  The skin will be closed on 4 slides, which leaves the ability to slide it back if that’s ever needed.  The skin is not fastened to the base in any way, as gravity working on the skin, as well as the machine itself, should be enough to hold it in place.  If not, then a couple of screws at strategic positions should be more than enough to hold it in place.  I’m awaiting some nice leveling casters which will make this as portable as the table saw.

I wanted to try the leveling casters as its yet another option for mobility.  In this particular case, the machine will mostly stay in the same place all the time.  But, when it comes time to move it, I want it to be a relatively easy operation.  These Footmaster GDR-60F Leveling Casters seem to foot the bill, so I’ll see how it goes.

This makes for interesting theatre.  The other day, I had a neighbor wander into my garage and exclaim “wow, you have a lot of tools, what do you build with them?”.  Well, I, uh, that is, you see, I just like to tinker.  Fact is, mostly I’ve built shop furniture to deal with the various tools that I’ve been buying over the years to build shop furniture.

But, this time is different.  Now I’ve got my 3D printer setup.  I’ve got my table saw squared away.  I’ve got the CNC Router coming into existance.  Surely a Murphy bed, or some kids playscape in the downstairs, or at least a jewelry box for the wife?  The fact is, I like designing and building “furniture”.  I can’t help it that my man cave is the primary beneficiary of said furniture.  But I think there’s something else here as well.  As the machines become more versatile (through the beauty of software), my ability to manufacture all manner of things locally improves.

I’ve wanted to build things out of aluminum for the longest time.  Now, with the CNC Router, I’ll be able to do that.  This is the same sort of enabling that occured with the birth of the 3D printers.  I can at least design and prototype my own stuff, and print it in plastic.  Now I’ll be able to actually build some molds for injection or other molding if I so choose, which is a next logical step to the all too slow process of using FDM printers.

So, am I building a factory in my garage?  Well, I consider it a definite evolution of the American garage.  A CNC router can take the place of a lot of typical woodworking tools.  It also adds the ability to mill soft metals, cut with a knife, draw with a plotter pen, carve with a plasma torch, or possibly a laser.  Add another axis, or two, and suddenly you’re doing 5 axis milling in your garage.

Yah, this is way cool.  Not necessarily a factory in the garage, but certainly a “local manufacturing plant” in our neighborhood.