It’s late, my brother is coming over, and I’ll have a fairly full plate tomorrow too, so the next post will wait a while.
In the meantime, inspired by a number of comments, missions. it’s a lot easier to plan a ‘space if you have a decent idea of what you want to do with it. Here we go with a few:
Radios. It was pointed out communications is important, and transistor radios in the bands we like aren’t too hard, and don’t necessarily need microchips. Thoughts?
Vehicles. Lots of stuff you’re not gonna wanna lug on your back in the quantities needed, so making sure you have other ways to get around is important, and that means being able to fix stuff.
Guns. From clearing jams to armorer level maintenance and making parts. Also fancy munitions, napalm, explosives, etc. when the time comes.
Food. Helping the poor unfortunate souls around you, and keeping field rations ready.
Any other clear missions? Some of these can be undercover, some can be sneaked around in trailers or whatever, some can happen in garages. But, if you decide to do something, that helps you figure out what’s needed and prepare.
With discussion of “patriot spaces,” what kind of venue would you look at for such a thing? Would you want a more rural setting? How important would a range be to have? The focus would be more on the back end of the spear, so consider that we have access to plenty of training in arms and maneuver elsewhere, so no sense in reinventing the wheel, unless necessary.
fabrication equipping and training.
gardening/farming education and support.
communications hub, possibly with HAM and other radio repeaters, maybe even a low power AM or FM station, servers linked with other spaces to help provide secure internet and data storage.
belt fed potato guns.
We’ve all heard of kickstarter. How many people would get on something like that and donate to help set up a “patriot space” in their area? How many areas would find it reasonable, with a good $20,000 or more probably needed to make a start(buying land/building or long term lease, equipment, etc.), and monthly dues to maintain it?
Weaponsman hits up some highlights of 3D printing, in regards to guns.
To cut metal, the most basic tools are the drill press and band saw. The use of a drill is obvious, but a band saw can easily be used to nibble at edges, and cut pretty much anything you can fit on it. Some might prefer a jig saw, but 9mm/.45ACP. Doesn’t make too much difference. I’ve been told you can finish an AR lower on a drill press, you don’t need a mill, but it’s harder and longer. There are designs out there for a lower that is made of plate metal, an ideal project for a press and saw.
Level one would also include a welder. Welding is stronger and easier than bolts, and looks a bit nicer on top. Gas will let you do some cutting as well, without buying two machines, but has some disadvantages, like being slower. It’s very versatile however, and the bead and puddle management you learn will also be useful with other welding techniques. I’ve been told by some people stick and gas welding are going the way of the dodo, but every welding truck out here has an oxy-acetylene rig as well as the electric welder, and most of those are capable of stick welding. Welding deserves it’s own post, probably by a welder(any volunteers?), but you need to be able to cut, drill, and assemble metal with reasonable accuracy, for which you don’t need machine tools for on a basic level.
Almost all of the stuff we do on CNC machines these days were done on manual machines in the past. Time was the limiting factor, and some stuff was done differently until CNC machines made it worth the time and effort. Manual machines are also still very useful for modifications and repairs—by the time a CNC operator has a part set up, tools set up, and program written, a lot of operations can be set up, done, and torn down on a manual. Even in the age of Star Trek replicators, there will likely be a Bridgeport around the corner from the warp core for those times when just tapping a new hole will be enough.
A variety of companies make small bench top mills and lathes, some of them can actually be useful. For machining, the two big points are vibration and flexing—an accurate tool won’t do either. This generally means mass, and lots of it. Even small machines will have thick, heavy parts, and “bench top” machines can weigh hundreds of pounds. Most of the small cheap machines are made in China, so quality can vary. The manual Sherline machines can be a good buy for starters, but for most work, will be a bit small and slow. Sherline is also one of the companies blurring the line, since their machines can be had in CNC versions. It’d take a while to make an AR lower on it, but most of it could be done.
AR lowers are a good example of how not to design something for making at home—the magazine well has nice sharp inside corners that you can’t just mill out with the same tool as the rest. Big shops use a process called broaching to finish out the well. This requires a specialized machine and special tooling that you’re not going to have at home, or at most hackerspaces. It can be worked around, but will be a pain.
Most of the smaller machines in the bench top size can be modified to be CNC, but quality varies. Larger manual machines can be modified too, but aren’t nearly as good as real CNC designs. Part of this is machine geometry—hand cranks are a different beast than motors, and are placed differently. The other part is the “motion control” that actually moves things. The smaller and the cheaper machines use stepper motors, which are limited in torque, and aren’t controlled the same way.
I’ll let someone else explain the difference:
We can get to Tormach and similar machines at this point, which offer actual CNC control, though I’ve heard complaints the stepper drives are rather slow, and servos are expensive. You can get servo machines in the price range however, but I have had little luck finding many with a whole lot of features. If you look carefully, you can find good deals on higher end machines, but keep in mind you still have to ship it, and since most of the machines are well above five thousand pounds, they’re generally out of reach of 5K forklifts and LTL shipping, which means flat beds and more or less hiring a whole truck, which is rather pricy.
The next level is to buy a real CNC machine, like a Haas or Mazak. While a Tormach with bells and whistles can be had for $12-25 grand, real machines start well used in the upper part of that range, and go up, bigger or fancier machines can be a million a piece new. If you can afford it, it would be the king of the hackerspace, but are really only needed when you’re running the machine 16+ hours a day in production, and making heavy cuts in hard alloys.
I lied, next is design. From baby rattles to skyscrapers, you have to have a plan. For a lot of stuff, a sketch on a piece of paper is fine, but other things, especially things that need to be documented, and things that utilize more complex manufacturing, like CNC machines, plans will be good. For things like 3D printers, you pretty much have to use a CAD program of some sort, because you need a 3D model file for the printer to actually turn into a physical object.
There are three basic kinds of programs to look at here, artistic 3D modeling, CAD 3D and 2D modeling. 2D is just drawings, which is find for a lot of stuff, and also puts out the “vector” files things like laser cutters use. They’re the most prolific of the free software, and reasonably powerful. 3D is harder to find, and software that approaches the Solidworks level of easy to use even harder. There’s a reason you pay for professional software. I’ll not spend much time on specific software, you’ll have to find one that works well for you, and/or you can find training for it. Artistic modeling is of limited use, since it’s for sculpting, not machine parts. Blender is a pretty good program, but except for a relatively recent mod that you have to install separate and learn to use, it’s hard to get things to precise dimensions, for say a bolt hole. Solidworks on the other hand will have a wizard where you just tell it where the hole is, what bold you’re using, and it’ll figure out the rest.
3D design is of three basic kinds, and we can define it with three programs—Autocad, Solidworks, and Rhino. Autocad, and a lot of 2D systems, use a command based system—each line or feature is defined by a command line type code, which tells the software where to draw lines. It gets even more complicated when you go to 3D, since a bit of behind-the-scenes work is used to defined a solid, and you don’t really have a solid until it’s saved in an appropriate format. Solidworks goes 3D from the start, and you run from sketches that are extruded into solids, and the solids modified. Solidworks and it’s little brother Geomagic design, which uses a similar GUI and interface, are also designed to work with assemblies of multiple parts, with Solidworks having native support for extensive simulation and testing before putting something into reality. Rhino is different, it’s default system having template solids, which are then sized, arranged, and “boolean” functions are used to add or subtract from the object. It’s a little awkward when learning Solidworks to begin with.
I’ll not mess much more with all that, a good google search will find most of the programs, and show you how they work. You’ll need something though, and some of the lower end but still paid for programs will prove their worth in slightly better interface and ability. Geomagic is a good example of this, more or less replicating the UI of the $4,000 Solidworks, but for less than $500 for the basic version. Sketchup, google’s free one, is similar, with the sketch-and-extrude system, but lacks many qualities of the other software, like a history system and it’s not “parametric” where dimensions are more thoroughly connected to features, allowing easy modification of a design. More advanced versions of some software will have special stuff, for example Solidworks and the higher levels of Geomagic have “weldment” and sheet metal tools that let you work directly with structural members and sheet metal, automatically calculating angles and fillets and bend angles and stuff like that.
The other important things are books. Drafting is well standardized, and this allows easy discussion of matters between disparate people. A lot of standards are in the Machinery’s Handbook, and others are published as drafting references. Good idea to get something you can use to tell what you’re saying to someone, and what someone else is telling you.
So I’m flattered, apparently I write stuff worth reading. I’ll have to do a bit of reading to get the main thread of the blog going again, and get my printer going. For the organizing tangent, I’m not sure where to go next. I’m planning to ask for volunteers to help take over on some of these, but
Once you decide to get some organized fabrication going, you more or less have five areas to cover, and should have experts in charge. Old retired guys work well for this, lots of experience, and lots of time. Others can be useful, but when you have to juggle school and/or a day job…anyway:
- making in plastic, 3D printing, vacuforming, etc.
- machining in metal.
- Sheet and structural metal, bending and such and welding.
- “civil engineering,” making buildings and such.
The goal is survival—ensure your area is provided with basics, food, water, shelter, technology. A patriot hackerspace should be able to make sure that the local community has access to everything from baby rattles to the internet. Some of that is simple, other parts are harder. The family that’s homeless because the Op blew up the house next to them? Who builds them their newer, better house? Because of whom are they living comfortably, and have food and the means to make it? How are their kids learning to read?
I think I have someone to help with electronics, I can get a bit of machining and 3D printing, and even some welding, but a better welding person would be nice, someone to write a bit on building is needed, and a few to round out the rest of machining and printing and that stuff would be nice.
Next article I think will start machining. I can do a bit on machine selection, get some comments. I need to fix my printer so I can get some more time in on that before posting about that, want to get it running with PVA and nylon first. There are also some new printers on the market that I need to look over.
Most production happens in factories and workshops, either here or overseas. Some processes, such as smelting iron, just take facilities not practical to replicate in every AO. Division of labor happens here, and likely a few production cycles can be subverted.
This doesn’t change that a fair amount of delicate work, and skill building training will need a local location with the proper equipment. Restrictions on travel and trade could likely also prevent much besides some raw materials from being transported. A hackerspace/makerspace/fablab is a good place to work around these limitations and provide discrete customization. While some might nitpick on the meanings, the similarities prevent it from being effective. The labs and spaces are intended to bring together little people who might not otherwise be able to afford some of the equipment used, and sometimes expertise. Some are organized in networks, and will have standards that might prevent working on certain projects, others won’t. They will also work on a variety of topics, gardening and other seemingly esoteric subjects might be covered.
Almost everyone here is probably working on PT, and training with guns and hopefully medicine and radio. While radio can fall under electronics, most likely you’ll find your group lacking in some skills you want need. Your group doesn’t necessarily need to have members with those skills, but be allied with groups that do. A good source for this is the local hackerspace. A militia or other group can provide protection in times of trouble for the nerds at the hackerspace, in return getting skills and manufacturing capabilities otherwise unavailable. If you don’t have one in your area, starting one is a good idea, and sometimes a second one won’t hurt if it’s far enough away from the original.
Keep in mind part of the goal is to interact with non-prepper/patriot types. They’ll likely be excited by new people with new projects, but sanity, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. Aside from the usual gentle stuff, “I’m gonna protect you from the zombies and you’re gonna work” can wait until after the collapse.