Template sanding/custom table inserts
So I make wooden swords and junk in my spare time, mostly so I have something to do that isn't computer work, and I typically draw something in CAD and then cut a template out of MDF or plywood to use with my pattern bit on the router table. To date it has worked fairly well, though with some of my templates its' been a gamble whenever I fire up the ol' router and get to business. Unfortunately some parts of my templates are rather thin and delicate and despite my best efforts I've had many pieces get nearly finished only to have a piece get snapped off. Its frustrating and trying to recover by gluing the broken piece back on only works occasionally. Now that was using my old router table, I have to admit that I haven't done much work after my recent variable speed router purchase, so maybe that would help, but in the meantime I started to investigate the possibility of "pattern sanding". I mean, a drum sander is much, much slower than even the lowest speed on my router and, shall we say, gentler all the way around.
This lead me to the robo-sander. If you haven't seen one before just type the name into your search bar. It's essentially a pattern bit/drum for instrument makers and mounts into a drill press. Working on the same concept as a pattern bit for a router it seemed like it would be perfect for what I needed with one exception: The drill press column. Sometimes I work on pieces that are five or six feet long and up to a foot wide and I just knew if I bought one that the column that holds up the motor and the table on a drill press was going to get in the way and I would have to find another way to compensate or adjust for it. Not only that but I don't have a drill press (yet), so the entire idea was also going to end up costing me more money than I have to spend right now.
So, while searching YouTube for some possible solutions I found a guy who had duplicated the table insert for his oscillating spindle sander out of wood and had glued a small lip around the inner hole allow him to, basically, use it as a lip for riding a template against, allowing him to use his sander for "pattern sanding". Well I have an oscillating spindle sander, its just an old Craftsman that is missing a few of the spindles, and I also dabble in 3D design in my spare time, so I figured why not print out something similar?
As a test I took the insert for the largest spindle, did some measuring, put it together in Hexagon and sent the whole thing off to Shapeways. I got it a week or so later and it works better than I expected! Below you can find some pictures of what I had to work with and the end result. The finished work piece ended up being about a quarter inch bigger than my template all the way around (see the included picture), but for what I am making that isn't a big problem. Also I could just shrink my template down by a quarter inch all the way around before printing it on paper and cutting it out of MDF.. Naturally I'll need to print the other inserts for the smaller spindles so I can get more a more detailed end result. The only real problem I had was dust control. As dust built up around the lip of the insert I had to blow it away or it would start to shift the position of the work piece. It probably wont be a problem with the other inserts, as the inserts for the smaller spindles have holes for sucking dust into the vacuum port.
Anyway, if anyone else is looking to cut some delicate or small pattern pieces where using a router/pattern bit would be nice but either too dangerous (for small pieces) or impractical (thin pieces) this might be a good idea. Designing a duplicate insert is easy enough if you use any CAD or 3D program for your current designs or plans, and Shapeways will do a check on your submission before printing and let you know if there are any issues.
Anyway, I thought it was pretty cool and could possibly help someone interested in the same thing. It only cost me around 20$ total to get the piece printed and shipped and it took me less than an hour to put it together in Hexagon (the 3D program I use). Hope someone gets something out of it.