editorials: foo

Why the foo should I care about this page?

AKA the "What does machining mean to you" page
AKA the "Goals for the online metalworking community and for this wiki" page

I hate writing editorials. I am also very lazy. Therefore, I will present this article in an outline format. Please read it slowly and consider each point carefully. There are no layers of filler and is very rich in content. If you are very motivated and as excited about this project as I am, please chime in.
Warning! Rambling follows, to some extent. Perpetually under construction, as is the rest of this site.

First, the negatives.

  • There are lots of people out there repeating the same mistakes over and over and over because either
    • they can't find the information they are looking for
      • few people have distributed the data about their failures/successes
      • it is buried in a mailing list or newsgroup archive
      • it is buried under unrelated information on a webpage
    • they don't know the information is available in the first place
      • lack of cross-referencing and inter-group organization
      • lack of self promotion
      • intentionally keeping the info secret or charging a fee to access it (this means YOU plans-hoarders!!!)
    • they think nobody has tried to do what they are doing before
  • The broke-poor home machinist community has no direction, no common goals, little group cooperation, and not that many achievements under it's belt. Compare to the Linux developer community.
  • HF, Homier etc will keep beating away at their slave laborers in chinese prisons, exporting cheap crap to the rest of the world while our industrial common sense and infrastructure dwindles
  • shop classes are being shut down in most school districts, kids never ever get to see inside a real factory or a traditional crafts shop (least not where I'm from) old fogeys and hand techniques are looked down on by the modern mindset
  • people thing you need a degree to know how to tie your shoelace. "self taught" means "high school dropout" to most employers.
  • oil prices are rising and the big companies ain't doin sheeit
    gawd I'm starting to sound like a republican

Now, the positives.

  • You can give a man a fish, or you can teach a man how to fish, or you can teach five hundred men how to fish. That's what this wiki is for - giving people fish and teaching lots of people how to fish.
  • Sick of getting ripped off? Hate cheap stuff that never works right? Want to invest your time in something educational, and also useful in its own right?
    • Making your own tools yields a high quality product (the tool) for very little money, and it gets easier as you go along. The skills you learn apply to more than just toolmaking.
    • Having the right set of tools (foundry, lathe, mill, CAD/CAM) allows you to make anything you could buy, and you can make it much better from scratch than what you could afford to buy in the first place. You can turn crappy items into very nice items with a few deft strokes on the lathe.
    • You can afford to have more tools since they cost almost nothing to make. You can never have enough tools.
  • When you make your own tools, you aren't afraid to modify them to suit the task at hand. You can do things that people who are stuck in the consumer mindset are unable to do. You can turn that old lathe into a shaper for an odd part, or add a nice little bracket here for your gizmo, or totally redo half the machine when it doesn't meet your expectations.
    • When you have the right set of tools, and aren't afraid of modifying things, you begin to see everything as a tool. You are no longer afraid to modify your precious consumer item, since you know how to make a new one if you need it.
  • Technical schools teach you how to obey orders, but forget to teach you how to think independently and be creative. Making your own tools exercises these long forgotten mental functions, and it is deeply satisfying.
  • Creative people who keep their results to themselves are called crackpots, are greedy, and are boring. Creative people who share their results with others are known as scientists or artists, and become the backbone of a community.
  • Dave_Gingery only takes you so far in the development of your machine shop. Many people want plans or at least ideas to help design more advanced machines. Dave started off with looking at reprints of old tool catalogs for inspiration for his designs. However, there is no reason we can't also use modern designs and materials for our inspiration.
  • I hope this page can take people who have read Dave's books a bit deeper into the process of designing, refining, and evolving new and better machines. This will help them to think critically about how a design was engineered, what tradeoffs are present in the design, how they might do it better, etc..
  • Most plans out there are not open to peer review, and suffer from the same mistakes every time a person builds to their specifications. This sad situation could be avoided if the design were open source and the plans could be modified by the people who acutally execute them.
    • Any design will have errors, false assumptions, or sub-optimal comprimises built into it. No design is perfect, regardless what they say.
    • The more people to critique and improve the design, the better. If a person uploaded a solution to a problem in an accessible, centralized database every time they encountered one, nobody would have to make that mistake again.
    • This wiki was created to allow designs to be "open source" so that the builders and users of the designs could modify, critique, and improve upon them. By attempting to be a centralized database, I hope that we will share our mistakes with others so that they don't have to repeat them.
  • Look at the Linux developer community - they've shown it's possible to beat "the man" at his own game. (Add "We should too" to the end of each subsection)
    • Untold thousands strong, they have clear ideals and express their values openly, although not all of their values are the same by a long shot. They are actively working to manifest those ideals in the world via software, grassroots organizing, and ethical business practice. They help each other with little regard to the time or resources involved, share freely, and actively shun bad behavior. We should too.
    • the Linux crew have a much more complicated task ahead of them. We have an advantage, since one man can understand foundry, bench work, machining, engineering, and electronics, and know most every nook and cranny of each subject. One person cannot hardly hope to understand and be up to date on the latest versions of the kernel, X, GCC, and Gnome, and proficient at coding for all of them. Well, no mere mortal can at least.
    • Linux became a success because each programmer shared his results with the rest of the community. They didn't have to re-write everything from scratch each time someone wanted an alternative operating system. Any one mistake was progress for the whole community, since the fix was included in the next development release. The source code also served as a centralized repository for information about the particular project they were working on.
      • Code forks are not allowed in the kernel, X, GCC, or Gnome. This is to keep the information and development efforts centralized, so people don't have to look in ten different places for a fix to their problem, or make the same mistake each time. Multiple versions of the same thing are bad for a collective, non-hierarchical effort. This is especially so when the design is difficult to develop.
    • Later on in the development of Linux, the developers adopted an informal set of standards to make information exchange easier. (The changelog, automake, version numbering schemes, library naming conventions, distributions) Sometimes they even worked to industry standards described by standards organizations for the "final product" (POSIX compliance, X windows architecture, EMC complies with RS274 G-codes.)
  • The online machining community should adopt a set of standards to describe what we are doing. We need to give names to common devices that are being developed. It isn't practical to describe the construction of a machine every time you mention it. There's a reason they invented names.
    • "CNC foam-cutting mill" means any one of twenty different designs. Some are made out of 2x4's and drawer slides. Some are made from iron pipe and aluminum castings. Some use routers, some use dremel tools, some use hot wire cutters.
    • "Hexapod" is trademarked; "stewart platform" doesn't convey information about bearings, actuators, feedback electronics, general configuration, or even intended purpose.
  • There's no direct way to compare two machines in the same class. Nobody ever advertises plans for "CNC mill- removes 3 pounds of mild steel a minute while holding tolerance of .001" but even if they did, such a performance description is still inadequate since it depends on workpiece geometry, cutter geometry and materials, overall machining setup, etc..
    • Performance is usually judged based on prior experience or a manufacturer's reputation. There is no prior experience in the hobby field, and even if there were, it's usually for a new design with no reputation. (Or a bad one.)
    • It's not our fault. Industry and government standards organizations have been ignoring this issue for a long time. Cars have miles per gallon and top speed ratings described up front. Shouldn't machine tools have chips per kilowatt-hour and top hogging speed ratings? Well, you get my point, I hope.

Education should be free. Designs should be good. Standards should be standard. Hobbies should be fun. Everything should be easy.


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Last-modified: Thu, 14 Dec 2006 19:07:52 GMT (1489d)
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