Since starting on the T-Nuts, I’ve been thinking of better ways to make these. My main issues are the time it takes to do the filing and that it’s difficult to get the nut exactly square and to the right size. Hacksawing to the exact size is difficult and when filing it’s difficult to avoid it becoming slightly rounded.
A possible solution to this is setup some form of milling operation in the workshop. I’ve got a few options. The first is to invest in a mill, this is very unlikely as I expect I’ll find a small mill disappointing and a large mill could be too large/heavy to fit in the workshop. I expect that the both will be expensive too. Given the amounts of milling, I’d expect to do, it does not seem like a good investment. The alternatives are milling in the lathe (more on this in a later article) or using the pillar drill for milling (upgrade pillar drill for milling). There are some issues with using the pillar drill, the first is that the bearings are not designed for the sideways thrust that occurs when milling. This could have one of two side effects, firstly the bearings could wear down very quickly and secondly some people have suggested that the chuck could come loose which could be a hazard. Keeping loads low and some modifications to the bearing have been suggested as solutions to this problem. The pillar drill also requires some modifications / additions to allow you to control the movement of the 3 axis. The Z axis needs the ability to be locked in place, it should be fairly straight forward to modify most drills to do this. The X-Y motion can be provided with the addition of a cross vice or a compound table. Beware that there are some some other vices with similar names that don’t have the X-Y motion required.
Cross vice and Compound Table
I’ve been looking at the cheaper priced range of these products and there are are a few differences:
The cheapest compound table is about £80 with the cheapest cross vice being £20.
The compound table is typically made from aluminium with the vice being made from cast iron. This should mean that the vice is more robust than the table and possibly more rigid when milling meaning more accuracy and less vibration.
The mountings on the compound table are T-Slots, this gives a wide range of flexibility in mounting work pieces. These slots may be vulnerable to wear or tearing because the table is made from aluminium.
The compound tables appear to come with simple rule based scales, the vice comes with none. In both cases the motion in one axis can be more accurately found using a simple dial gauge.
The screw threads and hand wheels appear to be comparable between the two.
There is flexibility in the mounting points for each item seem reasonable but you should check them against your setup.
The additional weight of the vice may cause problems if your drill table is too weak.