Make a super quick, custom dimension T-slot cleaner from acrylic plastic. If you have one of the miniature machine tools with slides and tables made from anodized aluminum this acrylic T-slot cleaner will get the chips out without dinging or marring the machine!
I've got a small Sherline lathe and mill in my personal model shop and the thought of dragging a steel T-Slot cleaner through comparatively delicate anodized aluminium T-slots on the table of the mill and cross slide of the lathe makes me shudder.
If you're not familiar, a T-slot cleaner is a small tool used to remove the chips of metal the accumulate all over the place while machining. Lots of chips end up in the bottom of the T-slots on the machine and it can be difficult to remove them due to the nature of the T-slot's shape. It has a smaller opening that overhangs a wider slot at the bottom of the channel. This is necessary to allow a T-nut to have something to be trapped under so it can be used with a nut and bolt to clamp parts to be machined (or tools in the case of lathe work) securely to the table. The picture below shows my custom T-slot cleaner fitted into its intended T-slot on my small mill.
I had some scrap acrylic plastic laying around and with the help of a laser cutter at TechShop Detroit it was a super easy process to produce a custom fit T-slot cleaner that wouldn't damage the machine parts.
Step 1: Take Measurements of Your Machine's T-Slots
First thing to do is to grab a pair of calipers (available at the Front Desk for free if you don't have your own) with a depth gauge to check the dimensions of the slots on your machine. I actually found significant differences in the dimensions of the slots between my mill and lathe, though they are both made by the same company. Good thing it's super easy to customize any shape I like with the laser!
I measured both the mill and the lathe and took notes in my project notebook.