music, guitars & other obsessions

Where My Damn Tools At?

While I managed to build the Fender kit and Fat Booster/Bastard without much difficulty, after going through the various DIY sites, it is pretty clear that I need more tools! The selection of tools available to the hobbyist is quite daunting, one can easily spend thousand Dollars not Yuan on these things. Of course, it is possible to do the job with your everyday handyman tools, which I already have, but to get decent results from them, one need to be very creative and/or very good with tools, which I am not, so the solution is to get “professional quality” tools to compensate for my own shortcomings.

Aside from the typical small tools like – table vice, metal/wood files, tweezers, center punch, metal shear, step drill bits, etc. I found that to fabricate PCBs and cutting holes in chassis, I really should have both a drill press and a high speed cutter/grinder a la Dremel tool, then there is whole business of drilling PCB holes, which I never knew required very high speed drill speed (60,000-over 100,000 rpm!)

Please bear in mind that people have done PCBs for years with nothing but Drumel tools, or even power/portable hand drills, so it can definitely be done. But these options just do not seem like the right way to me… I am definitely not going to attempt drilling holes in the PCBs free hand style… At the other end of the spectrum is a mini CNC machine, which has dropped in price over the years, and many are available for around 2,000-5000 yuan (~$350-800), which is well within the reach of the hobbyist, but there seems to be a pretty steep learning curve with all the CAD. CNC control software involved, so it may be worth a look in the future but not now. If I can find a shop that not only sells the CNC machines, but can also provide training and support, I will definitely get one, since not only I can eliminate the need for heat or UV image transfers to the PCBs, chemical etching (the worst part), manual hole drilling, it can also mill the elaborate designs for the stompboxes directly. The whole idea just really appeals to me.

Anyway, back to reality, I decided for now, just get the following:

1) a bench drill press (13mm),
2) high speed jewler drill/polish set and
3) drill press adapter for the high speed drill.

All three will cost me only about 500 yuan, so why not. I will also order some Tungsten Carbide drill bits to try them with the high speed drill, since the max rotation speed is only 30,000 rpm, these bits may or may not work (I have seen posts on both online), anyway they are cheap enough, so it is worth a try.

Here is the drill press that I plan to order (280 yuan or $43), it is darn cheap and has good specs, hopefully it won’t be a POS like many things Made In China.

Here is the high speed drill press adapter (70 yuan or $11), it looks pretty cheap, hope it doesn’t tip over when I work… But it looks like the Drumel drill press stand that I saw online.

Here is the high speed drill kit (76 yuan or $12), the max rotation speed is 30,000 rpm. It can be used with metal blades to cut PCBs as well. Of course, grinding and polishing the stompboxes, I think this should come in very handy.

So much for my planning, I ended up getting just a small table top drill press, and it works pretty well on the skinny metal, have not tried to drill the stompboxes with it yet, but aluminum is pretty soft, so hopefully it won’t be a problem…


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