Opa m224

Commissioned Mercury-Class Astrobot constructed with provided sentimental parts

Born from Two Toolboxes

Once upon a time, a weld student brought a couple of toolboxes to class with him. While show-and-tell for projects that pupils have in mind are encouraged, these toolboxes were not a project for him, but rather for me.
Turns out this student had a grandfather who was a precision machinist, and — as you may guess, every precision machinist has accrued at least a couple of toolboxes worth of incredible tools. For me, opening these two boxes was like opening pair of treasure chests. Then the floor dropped as he asks me if I’d be up for making a robot out of some of these parts.

Daunt Loses Out

While I have only begun to dabble in the way of the milling machine, precision tooling has a quality that is impossible to ignore. Precision is a difficult word to expand upon: these little jewels as have extremely square edges, a katana-like shine, laser engraved serial numbers, and occasionally hand engraved notes. Most of the objects I chose were functional, which normally would be off my weld-diet. However, for this Astrobot and under these circumstances, the challenge of helping these parts evolve into an emoting homage to the craft seemed justified. I tried my best to build Opa to be a robot with synergy: the phrase ‘more than the sum of his parts’ seems closer to literal than ususal. Whenever I picked up a part out of the toolbox to study, I could almost feel my precision-machinist friends looming over me, asking “Do you even know what that is?” If I chose to use a part that had the potential to be useful for someone who practices such a high level of craft, I had to do that part some serious homage.

Parts and Weld Wire

There is one part that didn’t come from the toolboxes, but rather from the Skunkadelic scrap collection: a choice vintage Sears three-speed bicycle hub. Building an Astrobot from such a limited palette was a great way for me to break a few tried-and-true habits. I couldn’t rely on my usual choices, such as three-speed cog eyes and fingers made from pawls and rods.
Welding these parts was a real treat: while scrap steel can be unpredictable, even messy, regardless of skill level and cleanliness, these parts joined together as if it was their purpose. I was able to show off with a couple of tricks: The left and right hamstrings are a brass threaded rod and a spring respectively. While these are two things that hate being melted and stuck to steel, they submitted to the right touch and a little silicon-bronze filler wire.

Milling Machine Judges, What’s the Score?

Opa stands here; naked before all the old-timers with their basement Bridgeports and similar toolbox treasure chests. I earnestly hope he is found to be an honest attempt at a tip-of-the headband-magnifier.


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