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Making the shuttles for the Do-Nothing Machine

Picture 1: Determining the taper.

Frankly, I really did not know how I was going to make the shuttles.  The first problem was trying to figure out how to know how much to cut off some 1/2″ X 1/2″ square rod to make it fit within the routed groves in the base plate.  The first thing I decided to do was to use CAD to draw the groove and then place a 1/2″ square over it.  I had also discovered that a 5/16″ square rod slid through the grove easily so I added that to the drawing as well.  The drawing was created by making a 1/2″ horizontal line and lines 14 degs. from vertical snapped to the ends.  This was the dimensions of the router bit used to make the groves.  I then determined that I would have to remove enough material from the top of the rod to make it 1/4″ wide at the top.  (See Picture 1).

Picture 2: CAD of plans for a gauge.

Next, I used CAD to draw several of the triangles and extended these for a triangle larger than so the 1/2″ square could fit easily  inside the bottom part of the triangle.  The goal here was to build myself a gauge to be able to determine when I had cut off enough at the top of the shuttle and more importantly if the side of the shuttle was a straight line.  I then printed the drawing with a 1:1 scale using the border exactly as I showed in my CAD tutorial No. 6.

Picture 3: Making the gauges

After printing the drawing, I taped it to a table and then taped wax paper over it to keep glue from sticking to the drawing and table.  (It was the kitchen table while the wife was away… imagine what I would have heard if there was paper glued to it!)  I then used the drawing as a guide to build the gauges out of popsicle sticks.  These were available because of other work done for this site and were perfect for this job.  My first set of gauges where not very well thought out because they were too small and were only useful as I got very near the final shape.

Picture 4: Marking the 1/2″ square rod.

I used a fine toothed saw to cut the 1/2″ square rod into 4″ lengths.  4″ was chosen pretty much randomly. (“Heck that ought to do it!”)   Next, I marked both the ends and the top of the 1/2″ rod using the dimensions shown in Picture 1.  I used a knife to make very good straight lines on the ends of the rod.


Picture 5: Cutting the rod into the dovetail shape.

As I said earlier, I really had no idea how I was going to make the shuttle shape.  All of my power tools are portable tools and I know of no way to use those safely to work on something this small.  The only power tool I have available to make these would be a dremel and I really did not want to be buying the disposable items (sanding drums) to use it.  This is especally a problem in this small town and my work schedule.

I decided to whittle the shape with a knife.  I started with a pocket knife but ended up using a box cutter knife.  This worked very well for two reasons.  First, it has a thin wide blade that is very sharp.  The second reason was as I approached the final shape, the blade was long enough and straight so I could easily judge if the sides were bowed outward.  The gauges I had constructed were somewhat useful in determining this but the straight edge of the knife was most useful.  I was concerned that I might end up with “wavy” sides down the length of the rod, but that seemed to be no real problem because I was able to control the box knife very well.

Picture 6: The final shuttle in the base.

The final fit was done using a course 60 grit piece of sand paper.  If you look closely at Picture 6 you will see a series of pencil marks on the top of the shuttle.  (You may have to click on it to see at full size).  These marks marked when I found tight spots on the shuttle and needed to sand that particular spot some more.   Also if you look closely you will see another trouble spot I had on the right side of the bottom groove near the cross.  This is where the router splintered a piece of wood and I had to glue it back in place.  It formed a tight spot and required some sanding on the inside of the groove itself.

In the next post about this, I will work on the handle and attaching the handle to the shuttles.   Again, this is something I have to work out and design as I go.

As a final note:  Although the whittling process sounds slow and laborious, it actually went quickly and I found it actually fun and nice to be able to do work without a noisy machine operating.   I actually felt like I was being a true craftsman.


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