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Old 17th May 2008, 03:05 PM   #1
ZenCow is offline ZenCow  United States
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Location: Denver
Default Boxes / Enclosures

A couple of years ago I decided I wanted to build nice enclosures either as a full time business or a side business. I really got into it and bought a small mill drill and retrofit it with CNC. Despite not having a machinist's bone in my body, and not having a lathe, I was able to produce some good results. As it turned out, it was a lot lot lot of work.

I have always been interested in finding a modular and somewhat "lego" approach to building attractive boxes for electronics. I don't feel I have really gotten anywhere. When I was working on this stuff before I didn't really post any of it because I thought I would end up posting it as a commercial web site. Since that has never happened, I wanted to kind of push this stuff into the public domain and maybe brainstorm on ways in which the averagely-talented (or not) home DIY enthusiast could come up with an elegant, understated and very professional looking enclosure.

To get the ball rolling, I thought I would post some pix of the stuff I did before, as well as offering to talk about the connection scheme I used in case anyone is interested.

The first box is one I finished with a lost-art-of-hand-scraping technique. It is really beautiful to look at, even though a proper scraper hand would cringe at the quality of my work. To a layman it glistens and shines spectacularly.

Click the image to open in full size.

The second box is a brushed finish which while OK resulted in a very boxy looking box (if that makes any sense at all).

Click the image to open in full size.

The third panel is a prototype I did where I hand polished the metal and then selectively brushed a design on top. The metal was masked with masking tape and the brushing was accomplished just by using scotchbrite.

Click the image to open in full size.

The fourth pic is a tuning dial I made without a lathe. I made a custom attachment for my mill whereby I attached the round stock to the spindle, and the single point cutting tool to my table, and then moved the table to move the single point cutter into my workpiece. After a bit of trial and error I was easily able to achieve proper .001 tolerances with this technique.

Click the image to open in full size.

The last image is really the apex of the work I did in that it represents an effort to get rid of the "boxiness" of the boxes by creating units with rounded corners. Since I live in Europe (moving to Denver soon) the metal is 10mm nominally, so I bought a rounding tool with this radius and let it fly. Using such a small mill, I had to hog it down in multiple passes, and certainly the finish pass with very fine indeed (no more than .005 removal). The look was just what I wanted, but it took a lot of time.

Click the image to open in full size. [IMG]

I ended up losing interest because of a major problem:

Once I had everything cut and polished, small errors were magnified. The metal I bought was in 1 or 2 m long strips, and were often bent even if just slightly. My attempts at cold-setting and sanding flat were not successful, as I ended up chasing my tail. So therefore, you might have a 30cm piece that was bowed some 030'' in the center compared to the ends. Also, as stunning as the rounded corner method was, what I found was that the radius of curvatures did not match up exactly, and when I joined two pieces like in the picture, I could align the top, or the bottom, but not both, and that once polished, the differences, although small, looked bad.

So there you have it. I am sorry for the dirty condition of the metal (its been in storage) and my poor attempts at photography. In the name of maybe public brainstorming something that a lot of us can use, here is my attempt to get the ball rolling. Cheers.
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Old 3rd June 2008, 09:51 AM   #2
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Good job man. It doesn't matter that it is in dirty condition, I think your attempt is really admirable.
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Old 6th June 2008, 04:27 PM   #3
joetama is offline joetama  United States
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Nice looking attempts.

With practice makes perfect. I like the 3rd one. Very nice.
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Old 7th June 2008, 07:54 AM   #4
Nordic is offline Nordic  South Africa
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Nice informative post, thank you....

I guess this is where wood has its advantage, you can assemble and then round the corners with a router, as a complete unit....

I think the problem with bent panels may be part of why commercial stuff is so expensive...
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Old 7th June 2008, 09:02 AM   #5
joetama is offline joetama  United States
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Quote:
Originally posted by Nordic
Nice informative post, thank you....

I guess this is where wood has its advantage, you can assemble and then round the corners with a router, as a complete unit....

I think the problem with bent panels may be part of why commercial stuff is so expensive...
Indeed... My brother is the metal worker of the family. I have almost zero skill when it comes to the manufacturing (usually I design it he builds it).

A while back we made some brackets from solid pieces and that was a big complaint when he was trying to mill some of the pieces. We ended up getting most of them made at a local shop just for the speed and metal issues.
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