Introdution and a metal milling tech query

Posting in the new users section seems to be disabled, so here I am.

The name’s Wizard X (Andy, if you wanna get IRL about it). I’ve toured the premises once but didn’t have the time to get involved then. I’ve got an associates in, and love for, repairing and (to a lesser degree) designing/building electronics, particularly audio stuff. But right now my passion is in woodworking, which brings me to the tec query.

I’ve been looking to buy a dowel plate (essentially a piece of hard steel with a bunch of different holes, so you can whack a bit of wood through one and end up with a perfectly sized custom dowel) and they’re all absurdly pricey for a bit of metal with some holes in it. So I got to wondering if I could just make my own.

I’m wondering if ATXHS has the necessary equipment to drill variously sized holes in a plate of A2 steel, and also if the tooling protocol is a bring-your-own-bit situation. I have experience with both manual and CNC metal mills and lathes, for what it’s worth. I assume I’d need to become a member and probably do a little training on y’alls specific machinery, but if I could knock out 20 or so of these things I could save a bit of skrilla, have a bunch of gifts for hand woodworkers, and get myself a membership to the coolest club in town.

What say y’all? Feasible?

We have a vertical mill to drill your plate. Do you require reaming for the various hole sizes? I’m also curious how much is retail for this plate?

@JoeN After a cursory search it looks like they go anywhere from $50-100, but maybe more for the highest quality ones.

@wizardX There is equipment at the space to accomplish what you need, but after membership fee, class fee, and material purchase you will probably not save money overall (for one plate – if you’re making 20+ you most certainly will). There is some tooling available, depending on the tool, but for the most part it is a bring your own bit situation. Also, I’m not sure we have the capability to harden steel, if the plate requires it. The good part though is you’ll have access to make more and to make other things that may come in handy afterwards, including the woodworking space to use the tool you make. I say go for it

Yeah, these suckers cost $60 a pop, which seems a little wild to me for what is essentially a piece of metal with some holes in it.

I’m not sure if reaming would be required; anybody know how big a hole you can feasibly drill in hardened steel without having to ream? These wouldn’t need to be super-precise holes.

I’m on some woodworking forums and I’m sure if I popped up with a stock of them I could sell 'em for $30-40, or at least get some trades for nice hardwood :stuck_out_tongue:

I figure I’d have to buy the hardened steel plates myself, which is a lil pricey but not prohibitive (although if y’all do have steel-hardening capabilities, it would be awesome to learn!); the big investment cost as I see it is the tooling, since I’d need a high end bit for each size hole. That’s why I hoped there might be bits available, but it’s very sensible to make folks bring their own, since, hey, they break.

Regardless, I hope to get involved soon. I used to live right by the space, but sadly I’ve moved across town, so it’s really a matter of finding a project where I just HAVE to have that sweet sweet high quality equipment!

You don’t need to ream the holes. The only reason to ream is to get your tolerance tighter. You can drill the holes and send the part off to be hardened or do the hardening your self? We don’t generally provide end mills or high end drill bits. The project seems cool. I want to see it. Also what is the approximate size of the plate?

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Good to know re: reaming. Drilling and then hardening seems like a good notion. I’m about 2 minutes from falling asleep so I’m not gonna do the math but I’m guessing like… 6"x3"?

As a tool maker I can promise you that if you don’t have the drill bits and tooling, which you will need to be top of the line (carbide/tungsten carbide for some alloys), it is prohibitive. Whenever you machine hardened steel, you need some serious stuff, you can get away with a little cheaper stuff sometimes but you will end up blowing well past the cost of the product.
Also most dowel plates have a small cutting lip just in front of the hole so that it splits the wood being pushed into it and that can be an issue to machine. I hate to say that you should buy a tool instead of make it, but if the reason is cost, this time it is probably a better idea to buy the tool.