Cast Concrete Machine Tools

An Accessible And Low-Cost Way To Make Precision Tools

When you want to make precision tools like a CNC mill or a lathe, it’s generally because, obviously, you don’t have one. The problem is, how do you make precision tools without using precision tools? It’s getting easier and easier to find a place to use one, but sometimes that is not a practical option. One possible solution being explored is the use of cast concrete.

Concrete is easily available basically everywhere, it’s extremely cheap, and it has the added bonus of being quite heavy, which stabilizes the tool. The downside is if you ever want to move it . . .

The lathe above is by Pat Delany, who has made the plans available for free. The approximate cost to make it is $150, which is truly remarkable for a metal lathe. The idea is based on the work of Lucien Ingraham Yeomans, who pioneered the use of concrete to make cheap machine tools during WWI.

Below is a CNC by Kenny Cheung from MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms. The site for the project suggests that the plans will be made available, but the project still looks to be very much in progress at the moment.

Via Make

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Jared McLaughlin

Quite a few people / organizations have done this stuff. In some ways it’s hobby machinists’ holy grail. I heard that Cincinnati Milacron made some grinding machines with a concrete polymer, which is a little different than normal portland cement type stuff.

There is a history to the idea of this being a better overall way to do things. Look at what the Romans achieved compared to the Greeks way back when. The Romans really went to town with concrete, to great success.

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