Lathe, quick change tool holder knocked out on the plasma cutter

A fun weekend quick change tool holder project on the AVIDcnc plasma cutter.

In the studio, I’ve got a wonderful older Clausing 59xx series lathe. (Fun fact, all these decades later, Clausing still stocks many of the spare parts for these.) With the number of machines and assembly benches, tools, etc. in the robotics studio, space is at a premium. I used to keep most of the quick change lathe tooling in a toolbox drawer. The ~5 tools used most commonly, lived in the chip pan near the tail stock of the lathe for easy access. Workflow in the studio drove me to search for a better method for storing / retrieving these tools. After chewing on available options for a while I decided to hang the tools up behind the lathe, suspended from some steel railed over-head shelving that runs across above the lathe.

Since this was to be a super fast fabrication / build, the project started on the chop saw, instead of the computer. From there the project went straight to the grinder for a tiny bit of finishing and clean up of sharp edges left by the chop saw and then on, to the welding bench. These first parts form a set of brackets that hang down from the steel shelving.

In this first photo, I’m usign a welding magnet to roughly gauge the needed angle and the 2x72 belt grinder to add a “V” feature to the end of some of these pieces. I could have set this up and but these “V” features on the plasma cutter, but that level of precision was not required and in this rare case the belt grinder was faster.

A quick check fit:

And here are the parts needed to make these brackets. it is super hard to see, but the six pieces on the right are cut from 1&1/4in 0.093 wall seam-welded steel tube and the eight pieces on the left are made from 1in material. This allows them to telescope together easily without needing to remove the weld seam from the inside of the tube.

I drilled greatly over-sized clearance holes. These only have to clear a 5/16-18 socket head cap screw and be roughly positioned so I can weld on a nut over them. It was easiest to drill the holes in the parts before welding. I’m not planning on grinding down the welds (just for a bit of extra strength) and it is easier to drill them while they sit flat rather than rocking to-and-fro over a weld seam.

And without delay, the project advanced to the first welding stage. It is incredible how fast this kind of work can go when things are designed in your head to be adjustable in a way that it won’t matter that a dimension is missed by ~1/4in. There is also no worry about strength here. These only need to support a few hundred pounds and the welds do not need to be ground down for clearance issues…

I went ahead and hit these pretty hard with a steel bristle brush and then a quick round of powder coating.

To keep this project moing quickly, I only needed to make a flat pattern of a single piece in CAD. There was no need to bother with building out a full model. Often, a simple flat pattern template is all one really needs. (Laughing at myself while saying that, knowing I’ve got complex robot models with muli-thousand piece-parts in them.) This was one of those projects that I executed after writing the small program to automatically process the G-Code for plasma from my legacy CAD system. With that program in hand, the entire process to get set up and ready to cut (at least the computer portion) was 10~15mins. Pretty much from powering up the PC to dropping the files over to the CNC on the network connection 10~15mins is all it takes, and that includes the time to grab and enjoy a diet coke at a leisurely pace while working. :slight_smile:

And then it was out to the garage to use the plasma water table set up on 1/2 of the AVIDcnc. In the photo below, the reader can see, I’ve got the water level right up against the bottom of the steel. Unlike aluminum this is perfectly fine, and this is such a small work piece it doesn’t particularly matter anyway. The material is 2/16in thck mild steel plate. I’m going from memory here, but I “think” the dimensions were ~12inx28in.

In this first image I’m using the laser to dial in the 0,0 point on the material. With the jog / pulse wheel I run the laser down and back along the long edge (in this case the X-axis) of the material and am able to dial this material in square to the machine incredibly fast. Put the laser on the dge of the material. Then jog the laser line to the other end of the material, give it a few taps. Lastly jog back to the start point and verify the laser is still splitting the edge of the material. Easy-peasy as they say. Link to a forum post on this laser setup

Most of the piece-parts dropped out and sank but a few held on just enough that I could push them out with my fingers. There are two ‘problem children’ in the 4’th row from the right where I had stopped the run to take a call from my mom and head over to her place to help out. After returning to this work, I accidentally restarted the program in the wrong spot, so two of those are missing an outline cut. Not an issue, I went with the number I had. I could have gone back and picked them up, but it just wasn’t necessary.

These parts came out spectacularly, so I cut up some steel square tube and got ready to weld. Welding like this, on material that isn’t super thin, just goes soooo very fast… This entire project went quickly.

One step that I did not capture but that you can see when comparing the image above and the one above that, each of these was taken to the 2x72 belt grinder and a heavy chamfer was put onto what is (in the 2’nd photo) the vertical tang with the large round hole. This feature makes a good fit on the taper of the Aloris quick change style tool holders. That belt grinder chews through material like this at an incredible rate and ensures the mating surface between these storage rack mounts and the precision ground taper of the Aloris style tool holders is a flat-flat contact rather than having a hard steel corner mating with that precision ground taper.

Then it was time to weld on some nuts, again for 5/16-18 socket head screws, so that I can slide these back/forth on the mounting rod and lock them down in place. Looking back this step was unnecessary, but this is capturing what was done, not suggesting what should be done. :slight_smile:

And then, … yup, you guessed it, if you caught the color out of the corner of your eye in the photo, below, … powder coating! I’ve only been powder coating a few years now, so many of my fabrication projects preferentially receive a shot powder coating over painting. :slight_smile: There was also a bit of thought put into this. The Aloris style quick change tool holders are steel with a reasonable heft. The sliding contact where they engage is a precision ground surface and needs to be protected from rust, and even though this is a slip fit, on the most used tools, over time that paimt will wear out faster than the powder coat finish. I powder coated these in batches 9~10 at a time.

And would you look at that, the project came out pretty great.

With the AVIDcnc plasma cutter in the “tool box” these kinds of projects are just so very fast. This project probably doesn’t have any new tech for anyone in this forum, but maybe it will lead you to one of those, Oh, I would have done this or that differently and offer some insight or tidbit for your next project.



Excellent work once again! It always amazes me how fast you can knock these projects out!

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You have WAY too many toy(tools). I’ve been considering adding a plasma cutter to my CNC router. But then I need a bigger compressor and a MIG welder and …

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These are fast to knock out because they had quite a bit of time to rattle around in my head before I started. As such I’ve sort of got a metal plan going in which makes things flow smoothly. (hahaha, sometimes :wink: )

Hey Gordon,

If you get into metal working. Even just making tons of custom and unique brackets to support and bolt other projects together a plasma cutter is an excellent choice to have in the toy(eer, uhhh, tool) box. :slight_smile: