Upgrading my X2 mill: or What have I done!

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Upgrading my X2 mill: or What have I done!

Post by torchmd » Sun Nov 25, 2012 6:46 pm

So, on return from Afghanistan, spending lots of time in the dust and general poo smell, I decided, after consulation with SWMBO, to perform some upgrades on my Lathe and Mill. They entailed:

a Digital Read Out
a Belt Drive for the X2
Air spring kit for X2

I didn’t think this would be too big of a deal, I mean, DRO’s are a commodity, easily available, and can’t be too hard, and the belt drive upgrade is well documented. I know, stop laughing.

My machine is a Grizzley G0516, which is a Seig M6 (10x21 lathe and X2 mini mill). I have been very happy with the machine thus far, though most of my work has been small, and work to improve the mill. I am not an experienced machinist, and have only really just started my learning process, so my opinion is worth just that. But, the 0516 has been a pretty good machine for the cost, certainly. I simply could not afford a better lathe and mill. I would make the purchase again.

Lessons learned:

Always, Always, ALWAYS test all equipment purchases as soon as they arrive to make sure they work. More on this later.
Carefully plan all the way through the process, and carefully follow the defined procedure.
There is no quality control in China. None.
Any work you do on these chines lathes can only improve them.

So, I started with the DRO. I had tried to build a Schumatech unit with modified calipers, but it wasn’t worth the work, and it never did actually function correctly. Looking at options for a DRO, I looked at the DRO Pros option, a nice system, at a fair cost, but I could get a similar system from tpactools.com on Amazon for 1/2 the cost. You get what you pay for, but 1/2 the cost is just crazy. So, I ordered the DRO. It arrived in 2 weeks, and I was busy getting back into my regular job, and reacquainting myself with my family, so it sat for a while.

When I finally got time to open it up, I was in kind of a hurry to get it on the lathe so I broke open the boxes and sized up the pieces. The X axis looked pretty straight forward with one minor exception. The M6 has the mill hanging off the back, and that was going to preclude mounting the scale on the back of the bed, where most people mount them... So, I mounted it up front, and that worked out fairly well.

The Y axis I had a bit of a challenge. I had ordered too large a scale, though I knew I wanted to shorten it. I had read how to perform this procedure, so I went ahead and took the scale apart. First I took the end caps off, and inspected the read head. It slides on several small bearings to roll along the etched glass. It came out easily enough and was set aside.

On inspecting the extrusion, the glass was held in place by 3 small rubber strips, and some silicone. I had read that you could cut the extrusion and glass with a dimond blade in a rotary tool, or chop saw. This seemed to be fraught with danger, so, I decided to try and remove the class. It was easy enough to remove the three rubber strips, and then I used a bamboo skewer from SWMBO’s kitchen to gently pry the glass strip out of the silicone. I then cleaned the glass strip, and the extrusion, cut the extrusion to the desired length, and the glass strip to about 1/4 inch shorter than that with a glass cutter. It was delicate work, but pretty easy, and it went well.

Once it was cut, I put a little RTV in the extrusion, and then put the glass strip back in, and the rubber strips held it in place. Once the silicone had cured, I put the read head back in. I didn’t want the extra length of the end caps, and had an idea of a better way to mount it. So, using 1/8 inch aluminum sheet, I made new end caps, so that they could be screwed back to the extrusion body, but would stick out the back and provide tabs to mount to the slide. Wunderbar! This worked great!

Pulling out my display head, I plugged the two scales into the read head, powered it up. Moving the saddle, the X-axis worked wonderfully! Cool! Moving the cross slide.... uh ho... nothing. Hmm, I thought, I didn’t test these before screwing with them. That will likely prove to be a bad idea. I pulled the scale back off, and pulled the read head back out. No damage, all the wiring looks ok. Taking the head apart, I checked the power to the head... No 5v. Hmm. Pulling the cable out I tested continuity between the DB9 connector, and the plug for the read head. Nope, no power. The other lines appear to be ok, but not that one. The DB9 connecter is not one I can take apart. Hm.

So, now I ordered a new DB9 connector from Mouser.com. A week later, I had the DB9 shell, but alas, no connector. I had misread it, and ordered the Female connector. AHHHHH. So, order the male connector. It is so sad to order a $1.57 connector, and pay $6 in shipping. Oh well, if your going to be stupid, you have to be tough. One week later, I had the male connector, so, I cut the old connector off the cable, and wired my new connector up. I checked it with the multitool, and it seemed to be ok. Putting it back together, I crossed my fingers and powered up the display unit. Nope, dead. Sigh.

I then decided to test the Z axis, it worked ok, so I (yup, you guessed it) pulled it apart to check my handiwork on the new cable, with an existing cable. Tested out fine, but on reassembly, still did not work. So, did I kill it, or was it broken from the factory? The world may never know. I called tpactools.com to ask for a replacement. For the bargain price of 115$ I get a new slide. Yeah. Oh well. Hopefully they will ship it tomorrow, and I can try and get this thing together. I have to debate whether to put the new slide on, or try moving the read head to the unit I cut down?

I’m willing to take opinions. :)

I will have to regale you with the tale of the mini mill upgrade and Z axis mount. Thats a fun one, but will require pictures.

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Joined: Wed Jan 12, 2011 9:43 am

Re: Upgrading my X2 mill: or What have I done!

Post by torchmd » Fri Dec 21, 2012 11:48 pm


there have been lots of views of this string, so I guess I will post more information.

So, I ordered a replacement scale, as the original seemed terminally ill. But.... I just couldn't leave well enough along. I pulled the cable on the reworked scale back apart and tested the connectivity again, then checked the wiring against the new one. (yes, I took it apart. Brave? Stupid? hmm...) I then moved the new head to the old scale. And... it didn't work. Hmm. Either I have broken both of them, or there is something else wrong. So, I decided to inspect further. I looked at the piece of cut glass out of the old scale, it has markings, on it, but appears to be the same from either side. I could not tell from my handiwork if I had put it in the frame backwards. I then tried running the cut piece of glass through the head out of the frame. On the old read head it only worked on one direction. So, after pulling the glass back out of the frame, I flipped it 180 degrees, re-set it, inserted the read head, and it works. Well, I might add. Quite fun actually.

So, you can cut a glass scale, but the glass is directional, if you get it confused and flip it, it won't work.


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Re: Upgrading my X2 mill: or What have I done!

Post by Torch » Sat Dec 22, 2012 7:47 am

That is very useful information. Very useful.

I ordered my machine from the factory, and ordered a DRO before I received it. I deliberately went a little long on the scales, just to make sure they wouldn't be too short. I'm now tempted to neaten things up a bit...

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