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Categories: Projects and equipment; Jewelry

Word count/read time: 564 words; 2-1/2 minutes

This was built for high-production. As embarrassing as it looked, the prototype functioned perfectly but it was only a proof of concept. The beta version is metal and plastic. Fine-tuning everything was quite time-consuming since the tolerances were quite tight.

FRAMEWORK - It is made from 1" square tubing. The lower frame has three lengthwise pieces and the upper has four widthwise, all bolted together. The linear bearing rails are secured in several places to each upper frame crossmember.

SLIDING MECHANISM - A linear bearing rail system provides silky smooth movement and is the only logical choice aside from (flat) bearing rail systems that are a magnitude more expensive and less reliable. They can be purchased in any length. Three feet proved adequate for my needs.

MOTOR - For speed and torque, a 1/2" reversible, variable-speed electric drill with a gear reduction motor has the power to get the job done! This one has threaded holes on both sides, the top, and the back for the various handles it came with. Thus, bolts are used to ensure the drill is firmly mounted to the sled.

POWER AND SPEED CONTROL - Power goes through the master switch to the outlet. The rheostat, with its own power switch, is plugged into the outlet and the drill into the rheostat. The drill is locked in the "full" position and the rheostat adjusts RPM.

BASE PLATE - 10ga metal plate is plenty strong. The four linear bearing blocks mount underneath it. Angle iron secures the drill on each side and the back.

TENSIONING DEVICE - Sealed bearing grooved pulleys keep the wire centered and tracking properly. They are attached to a metal-backed acetal plate. A grid of holes allows the pulleys to be moved around, added, and taken away as needed because one setup will not work for everything.

WIRE HOLDER - Drill bit depth stoppers anchor the wire to the mandrel. They are versatile and surefire as there is no need to pinch the wire with pliers, force it into the chuck, cut a slot/hole in the mandrel, or struggle to free the coil after the fact.

MANDREL SUPPORT - The mandrel is supported where the wire contacts it to prevent bowing, keep it positioned properly, and wrap the wire tightly. Removable acetal discs accommodate mandrel sizes from 1/16" to 1". A custom-made adjustable guide pulley system is used for mandrels up to 2".

MANDRELS - DIY store steel rods are inferior and will ruin every coil! My collection consists of precision-ground O-1 tool steel drill rod blanks: 3ft long for sizes up to and including 1/2" diameter (1/64" increments), 2ft long from 33/64" to 1" (minimum of 1/32" increments with one end turned down to 1/2" to fit my drill), and a plethora of micro-sizes. The 1" to 2" diameter ones are 8" long stainless steel in mostly 1/32" increments with a flattened end that fits into a special adapter for a 1/2" drill.

SUMMARY - With all the hardware it weighs close to 100 pounds. It is more than 4ft long, 2ft wide, and 1ft tall. Raw materials and supplies were about $500. I would put a conservative value of $1800 on the machine alone. To replace the mandrels as they sit would be in excess of $4000 (egads!), labor not included, though having access to a machine shop and scrap materials lowered it significantly.

. Posted by M: May 19, 2019

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