2010 Northwest Camp Shopbot


After a hiatus of about five years we returned to the Pacific Northwest, at Mike Miller’s shop in Vancouver, WA. Mike’s business is based on building components for the marine industry, with everything from custom rod holders, to anchors, and anchoring bow rollers (see  some of his inventory of parts above…). Mike explained how he has integrated his Shopbot into a business he has been running “part time”, and he pointed out many of the advantages of building his own parts “in house” when possible.  Given the fact that his location is very near  the Columbia River, it’s the perfect “testing ground” for many of the products he is now producing.

Mike works primarily with what I would call “industrial plastics”; UHMW ( ultra high molecular weight)  and HDPE (high density poly ethelene) , and these products are not very “forgiving” when cut. That is, there is NO sanding these dense plastics after they come off the machine so you HAVE to get them right, the first time. Just to get into Mike’s shop you have to walk past his “testing vessel” which is a very heavy duty aluminum fishing boat which Mike uses to chase down large sturgeon, and salmon.

We has a good sized group ( over 40 “Campers”  attended) , and there were some interesting talks and samples on hand.

Russ Wood described how he has let his retirement “hobby” ( building “buildings” for one of the largest scale railroads in the world) morph into a profitable sideline. His pictures showed how he incorporates his software ( Aspire) into the planning, and scaling of many realistic structures which from a distance could easily be mistaken for “real” buildings.

Ron Moorehead showed off a beautiful gift box for holding a bottle of wine which he built using spalted wood.

Dennis Rech showed a video of a VERY clever adaptation he has made to his Buddy machine; what I would called a “cable drive tredle lathe/indexer”.( We’ve asked him to post the video on his web page, and then let us know it’s location on the Shopbot Forum via a link).

Donn Busby brought in some carvings, and lithophanes he’s been creating, and he explained his technique for cutting lithophanes.

Mike McCarthy brought along three of his family, and his daughter Christy explained how she designed, cut, and painted a sign she had on hand.

Steve Knight explained some of his “learning curve” in figuring out ways to cut exotic woods into “mirrored halves” for assembling custom hand planes out of Purple heart, etc.

As a group we covered many of the “universal topics” which everyone deals with including, sign making,hold down systems, software options, and local sources for specific materials.

I had some samples of Russ Todd’s ((www.widgetworksunlimited.com) latest “after market” Shopbot  device which were cut using his new, soon to be announced, “pressure foot” which allows people to cut very small parts without having to use “tabs/bridges”, and there was a LOT of interest in how well the tool seems to work.

Even though most “Campers” traveled from considerable distances there was plenty of interest in doing this type of meeting again, and more than once every five years, so a “Pacific Northwest user group” has been started, and they are now waiting for some input from the members before they plan their first event.I have no doubt that there will be more events in the area, soon…

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