My CNC Torch

My CNC Torch

Fabricating has always interested me. I wanted to increase my involvement in fabrication, but, I did not have a torch other than my trusty hand held  oxygen – acetylene outfit.

Well, I wanted to be able to make ACCURATE parts. I investigated pattern following torches. They needed a “first part” to follow.the patterns would put the fab price of the parts too high. Track cutters would follow a straight line. I wanted to cut angles, circles (holes) and anything else I could dream up.  I needed a computer controlled rig. The available machines commercially made OK parts, but, I am finicky!! I wanted accuracy. A laser was out of the question price wise. A waterjet was pricey and slow.

Maybe I could build what I wanted!

I had seen this “odd” machine at the local used machine tool shop. I didn’t know what it was, so, I asked about it.

The machine was a “T” head Ex-Cello mill. The machine did not have a milling head (I didn’t  need one). I was not interested in cutting steel with a rotating cutter, I wanted to cut the steel with a torch.

The specialty machine did not have any other use other than what it was set up for. A true uni-tasker!!

The mill was equipped with a Position Wizard table rather than the usual ways typically seen on a mill.

The table operated on linear bearings. Very fast, very accurate. The table was equipped with stepping motors for computer positioning. I liked it. It took a couple weeks, but, finally I got it at a price I could live with.

I ordered a new controller to run the stepping motors and picked up a new PC to drive the controller. I purchased a machine torch that would take the type of fuel tip I wanted to use and fabricated a bracket to hold the torch to the mill “T” head.

It took another day of wiring to hook up the limit switches and rig up the torch.

The machine came to life!!

It had not run in 5 years. The first part it made was a disaster!! The problem was my settings of the controller. 2 hours of “tweaking” and I was making perfect parts.

After I got the machine running I had a machine shop friend fabricate a roller system and a “stop” system. A quick acting vice to hold the material finished the machine, I was running!!

The torch runs on oxygen and propane which I have found cuts cleaner and more accurate.

Several years after initial startup, I added a plama torch for thin materials (1/4″ and less).

See my article on the 1861 lift bracket to see what this machine can do.










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