Step 2: Making a Cube

To make a cube on the milling machine, you first have to dial in your machine.  Since this shouldn't be your first project, you should already know how to do that.

So begin by dialling in the milling machine and the vice, then take your aluminium stock and lets get started!  It's good to get long stock (my stock was 2x2x6.1) so that you can make multiple cubes at the same time.  I made 3 cubes in a little over an hour.

So to begin, we start with our 2x2 stock.  Place it in the vice, and hammer it flat so that it is laying flat on the bottom of the vice.

Note:  You may need parallels for this step.  The vice jaws I used were 1.75 in, and the cube was going to end up at 1.900 in, so I thought that I needed a little more clearance and used parallels.  Parallels are also useful, because you can wiggle them to see if the  cube is really flat, if they wiggle, then the bottom is not parallel to the bottom of the vice.

The stock begins as 2x2, and we need to get it to 1.900.  So 0.050 must come of each side.  Begin by touching off with the face mill, and cut 0.050.  This should give you a nice machined surface along the top of your stock.

Note: Whenever you make a cut on the mill, you have to deburr your part, so the edges that are built up after cutting don't mess up your squareness.  Make a few file passes along each edge after each cut, before you put it back in the vice.

Now, on to side 2! Mark what number each side is on the end with a sharpie, so you can keep track of what's what.  Place side 1 against the solid jaw of the vice, and use a planar bar this time to hold it there.  This makes it square, because even if side 4 (the one opposite side 1) is all messed up and not square, the planar bar only touches on the point of tangency, and forces all of side 1 to touch the solid jaw of the vice.  Since the vice is dialled in and square, and side 1 is smooth since you just machined it, then that forces the face mill to be perpendicular to it, so that when you make the cut on side 2, it ends up perpendicular to side 1!

That was a large explanation, lets just make the cut.  Touch off on side 2, and cut another 0.050!

Now, rotate the part 180 degrees, so side 1 is still facing the solid jaw, and side 2 is facing the bottom.  At this point, you can check for squareness.  The vice should be square, and therefore the part should be square, unless you have a bad vice.  If your vice is not square you can fix it by adding shims.  If the angle is greater then 90 degrees, place a paper shim on the bottom of the solid jaw, if it is less then 90, place a shim on the top of the solid jaw.  This will push the block over, so that the cut will be perpendicular, even though the vice is not.  For a more permanent fix, you could mill the faces of the vice square, but be careful, vice faces are usually hardened steel.

When side 1 is facing the solid jaw, and side 2 is facing the bottom, then side 3 is facing up.  So measure the cube (side 2-3), and make the cut to get it to size!  Should be around 0.050.  Use the planar bar again for this cut.

Now, turn the last side (side 4) to the top to cut that as well! Measure, and make your final cut to get side 1-4 to size.  Now you have a length of stock with 4 square sides.  You don't need the planar bar for this one.

At this point, if you have a long piece like I had, take it to the bandsaw and cut it into chunks.  Leave about 0.100 extra to be machined (so you have 1.9 x 1.9 x 2 cubes).  Take your cubes back to the mill for the squaring of the last 2 sides. 

You can place the cubes beside each other to do them at the same time.  Since they were cut at the same time, they will have the same measurements, so the vice will hold all of them equally tightly.  Place your blocks in the vice, and use a square to make sure that they are.... square!  The vice will hold them tight, and not allow them to rotate around the Z or X axis, but they can still tip side to side and rotate around the Y axis.  There is nothing holding them there, so press the square against the bottom of the vice and against the side of the blocks to make them square, and tighten the vice.

Touch off on the top of your cubes, and make a cut so the entire top is a nice machined surface.  I can't tell you how much to cut here, just measure how big your cubes are after band sawing, then cut half of that here.

Flip the cubes 180, square them up again, and make your final cut(s) to bring them to size.  Now you have some cubes, ready to be turned into more cubes!
How much width for under cutting tool?
<p>Approx 1/8 in.</p>
<p>if you were to make this from steel rather than alloy, you could be really cheeky with the center ball by using physics. if the finished cube set was evenly heated the metal would expand enough to be able to trap a ball bearing in the center,. best option would be to heat in a brine, that way you would get even expansion. just find the right size bearing and chill it before fitting. the brine would also colour the metal as it is how firearms are blued. just a suggestion from an engineer with a nerdy side.</p>
<p>the heating process would also remove any hot glue used to secure the cubes for finishing.</p>
<p>i want to download the attached file i don't want to go with pro registration any way to get it????</p>
<p>This is great reading! I don't have a lathe but if I did, I'd certainly be spinning up some aluminum in short order. There's another YouTube video out there somewhere in which the machinist filled the first five bores and undercuts with hot glue. You can see the care he used, as the metal certainly absorbed a good bit of the heat, making the cube a bit more challenging to handle while he filled the remaining bores. It allowed him to perform normal speed cuts on the sixth side.</p>
Hello. It is very inspiring work. but i dont have any talent for it. Can i order a turners cube from you to turkey? :)
<p>Really Nice instructable, can you please explain what a PLANAR Bar is , I haven't heard of it before.</p><p>thanks.</p>
Planar bar is basicallt a round bar with one edge ground flat.<br><br>The flat end rests on the vice, the round end touches your piece, and makes sure that there is only one point of contact, forcing the other side of your work to be parallel with the other side of the vice
You can also make a set of step-cylinders which nest into the bores. These hold everything in place as you do the final undercuts, and generally reduce the risk of damage from clamping forces.
You can make a sphere in a cube... Using an inverse ball endmill plunged from all six sides.
I was wondering how to do that... We saw an example of that, but it was made on a CNC. I imagined it was just a small endmill (&lt;1/4 in) and some fancy programming to get the angles required for the circle. But inverse ball endmill would be perfect! <br> <br>It would still be a bit tricky though, because you'd have to make the hole smaller the the diameter of the ball, and that would make it tricky to get the endmill in. <br> <br>I may be getting some more time in a machine shop.... Perhaps I should try it to see how it works out.
The endmill dictates the hole diameter.<br><br>When I was in machining school (Warren Occupational/Technical Center in Lakewood, CO), we learned to grind the radius into the endmill. The trick, for this part, is to cut a larger radius than the cutter. The resulting ball will be larger than the hole when plunged through from six sides. But will remain attached to small support surfaces at the corners.... This is serendipitous, as you wouldn't want the aluminum ball coming free and bouncing into your fragile cutter anyway.<br><br>Once the manual machining is complete, Go back in with a jeweler's saw and free the ball.
Ahhh.... But then you'd have rough saw marks on the ball... <br> <br>If you did plunge in fully on 5 of the sides, on side 6 you could stop, and do similar to what I did in Step 7, for the final side. Just stop the mill, and turn it by hand, so the ball falls off nicely and you dont have to deal with it spinning at upwards of 1000 RPMs :D
If you plunged it completely on 5 sides, you'd have a sphere that isn't very spherical.<br><br>You clean the jewelry saw marks up by hand with your trusty needle files and maybe sandpaper. A machinist worth his salt can turn file marks into replica machine-tool marks. I do it often... And polishing the whole assembly to a bright finish is even easier.
VERRY GOOD! <br>i use to do this by hand in Wood.
Do you have and pictures of wooden ones you could share?
these are my Uncles. My mother has mine <br>i have done copies of all of these Except the 3-interlocking rings on the left <br> <br>
Pretty wicked! Should try making some of these out of metal
it MAY be possible. I'd love to see it if it is. <br> <br>however, the wooden models are only possible because of the ability to use a knife and the sheering properties of woodgrain. <br> <br>One whittles down most of the joint, SNAPS the remaining web, then uses the knife and sandpaper to smooth out the roughness. <br> <br>To achieve the same results in a machine operation, using metal, would probably require an EXTREMELY delicate bit, a very high rpm machine spindle, and a 5-6 axis machine. The very fine, fiddly work your hands do naturally with a knife blade are impossible to replicate in a 4 axis machine. And nearly impossible in a 6-axis. <br> <br>Check out the 5:30 mark on this youtube video for the sort of fiddly maneuvers needed by a machine tool to replicate a fairly simple hand-tool woodworking process. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GU32Q6QXtWQ <br> <br> <br> <br> <br>You COULD replicate these in metal, fairly easily, but it would involve casting, not machining.
here are some better photos of the plier joints
Looking at this actually makes me giddy. I love it.
This is really cool, I took a manual lathe class as a pre-req for a bunch of engineering classes a few months ago, I think I'll try this.
Do it!
now I know what I'm making when I gain access to the lathe at my college (and learn to use it). I remember the first time I saw one of these, I just thought and thought and thought until I figured out how it was made. it's shockingly simple, you just need good spatial sense.
Most things are a lot simpler then we think they are. Just take it one step at a time, and before you know it, you're done!
Little typo: &quot;Male it Real&quot; challenge. Thought that I was reading Cosmopolitan for a minute...
Oh my! Thank's for pointing that out. Fixed!
WONDERFUL!<br><br>You beat me to it, but glad to finally see a REAL turners cube!<br>Not saying the &quot;attached nested cubes&quot; aren't fun to look at, but this requires a great deal more skill. And make better playthings for when you have grandkids.<br>Also glad to see you did the double nested version(so much more impressive than a one-in-one)<br><br><br>As I understand it, this was an apprentice job way back in the day.<br>And it was done entirely on a lathe(this being WELL before computers, heck most shops at the time didn't even have electricity!)<br>It was a testament to the young man's skill, to be able to make the 6 facing cuts, to get a cube. Ok, it was a REQUIRED BASIC SKILL. :-)<br><br><br>Step 11, on the final side cutting... that's an interesting technique!<br> Sure would have been quicker than how I did it.<br> I ended up making 5 stepped plugs, with 1-2 thou clearance.(4 jaw chuck, plus a backing plug). Obviously, all 5 plugs were turned on the same lathe.<br>The main advantage to having plugs is, you can have the machine running the whole time. You don't have to turn the chuck by hand for the last bit. Also eliminated the need for using your shims :-)<br>
I'm just finishing up my final project at school, then I'm going to make the &quot;attached nested cubes&quot; (4 cubes) and a free floating one like this, but with 5 cubes instead of 3 :D I'll be sure to add them to this Instructable!
@Xyver; tweeted! Love the arcane vocabulary (is not a miller) Cheers! : ) Site
Thanks for sharing a very detailed and well presented instructable. though it's rarely done now, it certainly USED to be a very common way for a turner to show his skills. When you talk about using a &quot;manual&quot; machine you are of course only adjusting the machine manually,consider doing the same kind of thing with a &quot;Pole Lathe&quot; or &quot;Treadle Lathe&quot;, it HAS been done, but not my me.
I'm mainly talking about manual vs CNC, where we control the machine as opposed to robots controlling the machine.<br><br>I can only imagine how tiring a treadle lathe could be.....
you might be surprised how NOT tiring it can be ;-)
I made one of these when I was training. They are quite impressive and I'm still pretty proud of it :) <br>Thanks for sharing, I hope it inspires people to make one.
Nice and detailed instructable, thanks for sharing.
Glad you liked it :D

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Bio: I like working with all mediums, but so far my speciality is machining and electronics. I make all my Instructables from a design heavy perspective ... More »
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