Smartflix Metalworking Newsletter #1

Smartflix is a fantastic resource for people that want to know how to build things. I just got this newsletter. There’s mention of me in the middle there :-)

Check out Smartflix right now (and when you do, use this referral link. They’ll give me free rentals when you sign up)((It’s really weird calling my good friend Travis, owner of the business, “them”!)

Metalworking Newsletter #1

Hello Lee Sonko!

SmartFlix wishes you an enjoyable and relaxing summer. Whether you are metalworking as a trade, art, hobby, or even a full-time job, we want to share with you some news that will get you motivated to start some great projects! We’ve added tons of new, top-rated, instruction-packed videos to our stock, and we can’t wait to hear what our customers think of them.

To make sure our loyal customers are the first to hear what we’ve been doing to make even better, we’ve put together this newsletter, which we’ll send out no more than a few times per year. If you do not wish to receive future newsletters, a link to cancel your subscription is at the very bottom of this message.


What’s in this newsletter?

1. What’s New at SmartFlix:
– SmartFlix Art Contest!
– Tons of brand new DVDs!
– Win 1 of 3 top-quality painting sets just for renting!
– Weekly interviews on the blog!
– Video reviews from acclaimed writer/blogger James Lileks!
– How was started

2. Video Reviews
What customers have to say about our DVDs

3. Interview
Featuring Chris Evers, builder of homemade CNC machine

4. Get Started Now
Where to purchase top-quality, inexpensive metalworking supplies
and tools!

5. Events
Family fun around the country that we think you’ll love!

6. Websites We Love
Turn your metalworking skills into a profitable work-from-home


1. What’s New at SmartFlix

SmartFlix Art Contest!
A chance to win great prizes, and, to share your artwork with all of our customers. Check out the contest here.

Tons of brand new DVDs!

We want to share with you our latest additions to our Metalworking section! Check out these new titles accompanied by brief descriptions (you can read the full descriptions on the website):

Under Basic Skills subcategory: Mini-Machines 101: Mini Mill Basics, Milling, Flycutting & Dovetailing

“…Some of the topics on this video include: Conventional vs. climb milling and the uses of each; End mills, special cutters and nomenclature; Different methods for setting the Z-axis starting point for accurate machining; Squaring the workpiece and strategies for holding un-square stock; Finishing, deburring and breaking corners; Using single-point fly cutters to create flawless finishes, Deburring and setting up workpieces for close-tolerance breaking of corners and chamfering; Milling deep features; Setting up and cutting dovetails; Finding the center of a hole or bore using a test indicator and using a co-axial indicator.”

Under Lathe subcategory: Machine Shop Secrets

“Machine Shop Secrets is a program designed to create an awareness of mechanical devices, machining, and manufacturing. After a great deal of research, analysis, and refinement, we have concluded that the type of individual who possesses a technical interest and mechanical aptitude is much more successful as a visual learner, rather than by the more common texbook approach…”

Under Other Machines subcategory: Metalworking 101 with Rudder Workshop

“Metalworking 101 with rudder workshop is targeted to the beginning student of pop-riveted metal kit plane construction. The ideal audience for this video is the person who is contemplating the undertaking of a metal kit plane project (for example: Zenith, Sonex, Hummel) and wants to witness the actual skills and procedures necessary for successfully achieving this end…”

Under Welding Subcategory: Small Table Top Bicycles

“Another good title for these bikes would be “Miles and Miles of Smiles. They’ve certainly brought a lot of smiles to people’s faces. What we have here is the boys bike, the girls bike, the tandem, the mountain bike and the “Love Bikes…”

Under Sheetmetal subcategory: Advanced Techniques for the English Wheel

“This DVD covers many, many techniques, methods and solutions that are essential for high-quality work with the Wheeling Machine. Steve Paralieu, builder of over 70 Winston Cup car bodies, helped me with this film, and said afterwards that he gained many years’ experience in the hours he helped me make this 8 foot polished panel…”

We have also added several more Metalworking videos since the start of the year and can’t wait to see our customers’ feedback on them! Here is a small sampling of titles we think you’re going to love:

* Mini-Machines 101: Toolmaking and restoration
* Mini-Machines 101: Lathe Fundamentals and Basic Turning Vol. 1
* Mini-Machines 101: Mill & Lathe Spindle & Gearbox Repair
* Arthur Ganson Presents a Few Machines Created Between 1978 and 2004
* How to Solder by B&B Sheet Metal
* The American Racer and the Mid-Sized Tandem
* Custom Racks and Stems
* Lugged Framebuilding
* Lugless Framebuilding

Win 1 of 3 top-quality painting sets just for renting!
For those of you who are multi-talented and also have skills or interest in the Arts & Craft field, we’re holding a drawing on August 1st to give away three brand-new high-quality painting kits (oils, acrylics, and watercolor) to three lucky customers.

How do you enter to win? Just rent any Arts & Crafts video from SmartFlix between today and August 1st.

Every video you rent is a whole ‘nother chance to win. Rent one video, and you’ve got one shot; rent 8 art videos (maybe the Landscape Oil painting bundle, or Jerry Yarnell’s PBS series and some others), and you’ve got 8 times as many chances to win.

The three different prizes, courtesy of Dick Blick, are all great packages. From the oil painting package, to the acrylics kit, to the watercolor kit, these great prizes (worth up to $200 each) from Dick Blick are all worth having!

A chance to rent tons of great videos on everything from oil painting, to weaving, to sculpture, all with a bonus: the chance to win a great package from a great art store!

Rent some Arts & Crafts videos from SmartFlix today, and win a kit!

Weekly interviews on the blog!
See our interviews, posted weekly on Fridays, from customers and vendors with exceptional talent. Check out our first in the series, segmented wood turner Bill Kandler. Bill started this craft after purchasing a lathe and was hooked after creating one piece. His pieces are award-winning and the blog interview features several photos of his stunning work. Take a look and check back every Friday for more inspiration!

Video reviews from acclaimed writer/blogger James Lileks!
Founder and president of, Travis Corcoran, has recruited acclaimed writer/blogger James Lileks to review some of’s videos! James is a veteran of the Star Tribune newspaper, and you can read more of his hilarious work at the websites he writes at, and Check out James’ first review on our blog; you’ll laugh as hard as we did.

How was started
Check out how our Founder and President, Travis Corcoran, got the idea to start SmartFlix:

“Even though I’m a software engineer, I’ve done a lot of hands-on stuff and enjoyed it (I’ve built a big addition on my house, torn down a three story brick chimney, wired several rooms and sub-panel, etc.).

“I know a bit about woodworking, but decided that I needed to know more about machining and gunsmithing, so I bought a metal lathe, few books, and started teaching myself. Then I thought about getting some of the videos advertised in The Home Shop Machinist … particularly those by Rudy, sold by Bay Com … but at $60-70 each, I didn’t want to drop $500 on videos … so I thought “Maybe I can rent each of these videos out two or three times and recoup half the original purchase price”. I set up a quick-and-dirty website with Paypal buttons in about a day. Two weeks later, my friend Lee placed an order, so I had to scramble and buy some boxes, make up some instructions, write a canned email, etc. The next month, no orders came in. The month after that, three orders came in … all from people I’d never heard of!

“I was recently laid off at the time, dedicating myself full time to writing a prototype of a software package that I was thinking of launching a startup around.

“As the months passed, and I kept working on the prototype of the software package, I soon passed $100/month in rentals, then $200/month in rentals, etc. A few friends encouraged me to look at SmartFlix (then: “Technical Video Rental”) as my “real” startup. I resisted, but over time, the wisdom of their argument became clear.

“Since that time we’ve had tremendous growth, and we’re now a 10-person company, carrying videos in 214 categories, with a shipping facility located back-to-back with the local Post Office, so that we can integrate closely into their process and get our videos to customers ASAP.”


2. Video Reviews

If you’ve been thinking you might like to try a new technique but aren’t sure which video is right for you, take a look at what other customers have to say. Reviews are at the bottom of each DVD’s page. If you haven’t posted a review yourself, please do! Your comments inspire us and could make all the difference to another artist!

Here are some samples:

On Anodizing Aluminum for Fun and Profit:
“I really enjoyed this video. Anodizing Aluminum seemed like a complex process from what I had read, but with this video, it seems very easy to do!! With the step-by-step instruction, and with included formulas in PDF on the disk, with a little patience, great results are just a few steps away.” – C.C.

On Making Gears the Easy Way:
“VERY highly recommended. Using nothing more than a small piece of tool steel, he shows you how to make any size gears, from 12 teeth up to as many as you want. To do this with traditional cutters, you would need a complete set of cutters that would cost ~$200. In addition, he shows you how to make the process nearly automatic – after the first time round with the indexing head, all you have to do is feed the stock, the rotation is done automatically by the cutter.

“He shows you how to make both spur gears and worm gears, as well as all the tools, jigs & fixtures needed to make them. While he doesn’t cover it in depth in this video, he shows you enough of his home-built rotary table that you could probably build your own after watching this video (he covers it in depth in another video)…

“…the sheer depth, detail & quality of information makes this an easy 5 star video.” – M.P.

On Fundamentals of Machine Lathe Operation:
“This was an excellent video. Perfect for anyone that has never used a lathe before. Even experienced users will learn something. I know I did. After watching this video, I have rented all of Rudy’s other titles.” – T.P.

On Hammerforming Techniques:
“For the beginner, the intermediate and the advanced metalworker…Nothing here is beyond the beginner’s ability, while the intermediate and advanced metal crafter might learn a few tricks or get a remedial brush-up. If you own any of Fournier’s books, this DVD supports them with moving pictures and verbal explanations. The two Rons share some insanely-great information on this DVD.” – T.R.


3. Customer Interview with Dave Evers,
Builder of his own CNC machine

SmartFlix: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us! I’m super excited to hear about your home-brew CNC project! When did you decide to build a CNC machine?

Dave Evers: I’d been thinking about building a home machine for close to 8 years. I first got interested about 1995, after working at a company that had big CNC machinery – punch presses and mills. I had always been fascinated watching them work. I loved the ‘iterative’ nature of computer-controlled equipment: you tried something; if it didn’t work out you adjusted and tried again. I had always been a ‘good-enough’ woodworker and builder – if you made a mistake, you called it “good enough” and lived with it. But I think I always yearned for the kind of accuracy and repeatability that a computer-controlled device could give you. Once I learned CAD and how to design with precision, it was just natural to try to carry that precision over to the cutting and fabrication.

So I bought a couple of surplus stepper motors and experimented with connecting them up to my computer using transistors driven by my parallel port. Once I got them working, the next step was to cobble a piece of threaded rod on the end, thread a nut onto it, and watch the nut go back and forth as the rod turned. At that point, I began building machines in my head; thinking of all the different problems that would have to be solved: how to get the parts to move straight and smooth, minimize weight, what kind of capacity, etc. I must have gone through about 10 different variations of designs, trying to get good enough quality at a hobbyist price. All the industrial catalogs had the parts that I wanted, but the prices for components such as linear slides, ballscrews, etc. just seemed astronomical. The real turning point came around 2001 when I discovered eBay! I began watching for bargains and gathering parts, and after a couple of years of scrounging I was able to put together a
reasonable machine.

: Had you done anything else off in the machine-building direction before, or was the inspiration for this a bolt from the blue?

Dave: Funny, but I have always been someone more interested in the tools than in the projects. Ever since junior-high woodshop I had been lusting after table saws, routers, lathes, and all the other goodies! As a kid, I couldn’t afford anything so I had to build what I wanted. My first machine project was a stand to convert my dad’s hand drill into a drill press. Over the years, I gradually built up a stock of tools, but I found I wasn’t really all that interested in building furniture or decorations, like most wood and metalworkers. I just liked having the tools so that when a need arose (like a broken part) I had the tools I needed to fix them. I think I’ve spent more time on building jigs and accessories over the years than I have on any specific end project.

The CNC router project was much the same – I found I really wanted to build the machine, but I couldn’t really think of what I would use it for once it was finished. This made for some interesting conversations with my wife, as parts would show up at the door and go into a stack in the garage. “Just what are you going to make with this thing?” she would ask, and I gave her the stock answers like signs, cabinet doors, and such; but in reality I didn’t care if I ever made anything useful with it. I just wanted the machine!

: How much did you spend in materials on the CNC machine?

Dave: Well, eBay was my salvation here. My cost breakdown was pretty much like this:

Linear Slides
X Axis (48 inches) $300/pair
Y Axis (25 inches) $ 70/pair
Z Axis (2 inches) $ 35/assembly

Ball screws
X axis $ 80
Y Axis $ 40

Shaft Couplers $ 50


X Axis (1200 oz-in) $130
Y Axis (400 oz-in) $ 45
Z Axis (200 oz-in) $ 40

Motor Drivers Gecko’s (3 x $115) $345

Frame Parts
Extrusion $120

End Panels $40

Side Panels $20

Brackets & Fasteners $50

Trim Router $90
Software $55
Switches & Wiring $50

Total Cost: $1,560

The reality was a lot more painless than it seems. I collected parts over about a 2 year period, so the outlay was spread out enough that it was not really noticeable. And without eBay, to build an identical machine would have cost easily 3 to 4 times that much.

SmartFlix: You mention that you’ve used the machine partially to build itself – how did you manage that?

Dave: This was the part that I like the best! I was kind of designing the machine as I went along, letting the dimensions of my scrounged components drive everything else. During the build, I could tell I wasn’t holding particularly good precision. I was drilling holes a little oversize so there would be “fudge” room as I was putting things together. And some things, like milling a 2.5? dia. recess in the end panel to fit the face of the motor, were outside of the capacity of my mini-mill and mini-lathe.

So I hacked the machine together the best I could, and got it running. The very first parts I cut on it were a pair of side panels made out of 3/4? MDF. (The side panels on the first pass were made by template-routing some 1/2? MDF and locating the holes from printouts from my cad drawings and drilling on the drill press). The new side panels came out perfectly matched, with all the holes in exactly the right place and the right dimension. I was able to mill pockets for the bearings. Then all I had to do was take the machine apart and bolt on the new parts. For a guy who gets more satisfaction from his tools than the end projects, this was like a dream!

SmartFlix: Can you tell us about the 3-d capability?

: My CNC router has full 3-D capability. That means that it has X and Y axes in the plane of the material to be cut, and a Z axis that is perpendicular to that plane. All are fully driven by the computer so that at any given instant, the cutting bit can be positioned any place withing the work envelope of the machine. The software converts the cad drawing into ‘G-Code’, a series of instructions for where to move the cutter. If the software is capable enough, you can cut any design that you can draw.

A lot of CNC work is considered to be 2.5D – that is, you have full X and Y capability, but just the ability to raise and lower the cutter. Think of a pen plotter – it can draw any design on a flat piece of paper by lifting and dropping the pen. A CNC plasma cutter would be 2.5D. Cutting flat parts out of a sheet of plywood would be 2.5D.

3D work allows you to have straight lines or sweeping curves in all of the dimensions. For example, with 2.5D you could cut out a model ship hull, but it would have flat, straight sides. With 3D you could cut a fully accurate model of a ship hull as long as it fit within the work envelope of your machine.

SmartFlix: What’s the workpiece size capacity of the machine?

Dave: I purposely built my machine so that it could handle a 2 x 4 piece of plywood or other flat stock. That was a convenient size for me to buy, handle, and store. (I must admit I thought of building it to fit a full 4 x 8 sheet, but the costs and complications quickly got too much.) I built the frame so stock of that size would drop right in. But the size of the parts that I scrounged (linear slides, ballscrews, etc) dictated a smaller cutting area, closer to 18 x 36, with a thickness of about 2.

SmartFlix: What sort of aluminum extrusions did you use? 80/20 brand? other?

Dave: I used 80-20 extrusions, specifically the 1030 series <> which is 1? x 3?. The extrusions form the sides of the machine, with two aluminum end plates mounted at the ends to lift the table enough for the gantry to move beneath it. This forms the X axis. Another 1030 extrusion connects the two sides panels and carries the Y axis and the Z axis assembly.

I love 80-20 because of the t-slots running down all sides. Even though I used THK linear rails and slides for the motion, mounting them to the 80-20 members was a breeze, using t-nuts behind the mounting screws that were spaced in metric increments. This allowed me to get everything aligned while the nuts were loose, then I tightened them up to firmly mount the rails in place. I even used the t-slots as wire guides to route the wiring for the home and limit switches. I held the wires in place by stuffing in foam backer rod, used for caulking to fill up wide gaps. The foam presses easily into the slots, holds the wires securely, and keeps the slots from filling up with sawdust!

Although I used the more expensive linear rails, I firmly believe that the 80-20 extrusion alone could form a light-duty motion system that could carry the moving parts. They sell linear slide systems, but I found them a little expensive for my taste. I discovered you could buy the UHMW plastic pads used in the bearings separately, and with a little ingenuity you could incorporate them into the structure of the machine to form a sliding system. The friction would be a little higher than the linear bearings, but with the high-performance stepper motors available now that wouldn’t be much of an issue. That could save about $400 off the price of a machine.

: What software does it run?

Dave: Right now, I am running QuickStep. It is a great entry level software system that handles all the basic functionality to drive 3 axis machines like mine, and the cost is around $55-$60. It includes a freeware DXF import program that has handled everything I have needed so far.

The next step up would be Mach 3 from Artsoft. This is a professional-level program that handles more axes and more advanced G-Code processing, at a cost of $150 or so. Someday I may upgrade to Mach3, but for now Quickstep handles all my needs.

The above programs handle the job of converting G-Code into the step and direction signals that actually make the motors move. Both will take simple DXF files from CAD programs such as AutoCAD and convert them into G-Code, but for advanced work (especially 3D) you usually need additional software to create the more complex G-Gode. This is where CAM software comes into play. It takes the output from your design files, and creates toolpaths that turn the design into all the necessary moves to cut the part. Top-name software such as MasterCAM and ArtCAM can cost as much as $10,000 – pretty much out of the hobby-level. Luckily, there are authors out there who are trying to bring this capability into the range where we hobbyists can participate. The CAM program I use is MeshCAM. You can use this program to convert solid models drawn in a CAD program into true 3D toolpaths. It will even import picture files (BMP, GIF, JPG) and convert them into 3D G-Code
using the shading in the picture to infer 3D Z axis coordinates, so you could convert a photograph into a relief carving. (I haven’t been able to do this successfully yet – it seems to take a fair amount of image processing and experimentation to get good results, but others have made this work).

Another CAM program that is highly regarded is SheetCam. It is oriented around 2.5D work and is $150 – $275. All of these programs are well-supported by their authors and the user base on forums such as Yahoo user groups.

SmartFlix: Were the electronics off the shelf (and if so, what kind)?

: Yes, the motor driver electronics were purchased off the shelf, from Gecko. I used the G201 drives, which cost about $115 each. These are considered the standard in the motion control industry, and convert step and direction pulses from the computer into the the motor driving phases. I needed the Geckos for their current-handling capability (up to 7 amps, 80VDC). Different stepper motors have different requirements, typically the higher the torque rating the higher the current required. Newer and more efficient stepper motors are becoming available that have lower current requirements for the same torque, so some other possibilities are Xylotex, HobbyCNC or CNCResource. If you are able, you can build a stepper driver from a kit that could save a few bucks.

SmartFlix: This is an awesome project! Thanks so much for taking the time to tell us about it!

SmartFlix carries videos on CNC, mills, and electronics.


4. Get started NOW!

Get Started Right Away with Quality Products for Cheap! Visit for the best products at the best discounts!

Check out these categories, each with outstanding selection and competitive prices:

* Abrasives
* Fasteners, Flat Stock, Raw Materials
* Fluids & Adhesives
* Hand Tools
* Indexable
* Machines & Accessories
* Material Handling
* Power Tools & Accessories
* Precision Measuring
* Round Tools
* Safety
* Saw Blades
* Toolholding Workholding


5. Events!
Are you taking a vacation this summer? No matter where you’re traveling, don’t forget to check out the local arts or crafts museum, or other fun events like local car shows! Here are some we like and why. If you know of others that are worth seeing, tell us, so we can let everyone know!

Gas Engine and Antique Reproduction Show
September 22 and 23, 2007
9am – 3pm
Portland, OR

An exhibition of model engineering and home machining! Sponsored by: Portland, Mid Valley, and Emerald Valley Model Engineers. Check it out if you’re in town and experience the best creations from specialists from all over and outside Portland.

Estevan Model Engineering Show
October 13 and 14, 2007
9am – 4am and 11am to 4 am
Estevan, Saskatchewan, Canada

The show has grown to attract 60 exhibitors and has changed it’s location to the Estevan Fairgrounds in the Wylie Mitchell Air Cadet Squadron Building. The show welcomes everyone that is interested in the hobby of Model Engineering and hosts all aspects of Model building… it steam or gas engines, shop machinery, telescopes, casting, etc. as long as it is hand made and not mass produced. The object of the Estevan Model Engineering Show is to promote the hobby of Model Engineering. The show is noncompetitive and welcomes all skill levels and age groups.

“Iron Fever Expo” Model Engineering Show and Auction, The Show for the Metalworking Hobby
August 31 and September 1, 2007
9am – 5pm and 9am – 4pm
Leesport, PA

Enjoy the show outside under the pavillion roof or in an air conditioned building! Chicken Barbecue! Reduced prices on vendor space, if you’re interested in showcasing your creations or have any questions, call 1-800-789-5068

3rd Annual Swine & Shine Car show & Pig Roast
July 29th, 2007
12pm – 4pm
Stittville, NY

This event benefits the Stittville Volunteer Fire Department, so come on out, show your support, and get ready to see some gorgeous vehicles and eat delicious barbecue. Registration for the car show is $10. Food pricing will vary. For more information please call 315-865-5268.

3rd Annual AT&T 28th Street Metro Cruise ®
August 24 and 25, 2007
1pm-9pm and 9 am – 9pm
Grand Rapids, MI

This event includes concerts, a Low-Rider Hop-off, Off-Street burnout exhibition, an Auto Parts swap meet, a Million Dollar Car display, manufacturer’s midway and a craft show. Fun for the whole family! As many as 10,000 cars and 200,000 visitors and spectators are expected at this 2007 event. No fees. Call (616) 531-5990.


6. Websites we love!

If you’re looking for inspiration, instruction, or just some good reading a little closer to home, check out these websites!
Welding and Metalworking Career Guide – Explore careers in Welding and Metalworking with the following links to job descriptions, which include information such as daily activities, skill requirements, salary and training required. Very cool if you’re interested in profiting off of your specialized or general skills.
Provides tools and methods for metalworking professionals and enthusiasts around the globe. The company is committed to education and preservation of century-old metalworking traditions, and dedicated to the advancement of technology enabling people to achieve excellence in restoration and fabrication metalworking techniques. Well-organized plethora of info, useful for the novice to expert. We think you’ll be as inspired by the dozens of different photos in the gallery as we are!
Take a look at the business side of metalworking and the industry as a whole. This website offers several articles for free from their magazine. Check out articles predicting a better second half of 2007 for the manufacturing industry, as well as product reviews, such as machines that can laser cut with expanded features.
This website is a unique resource for blacksmiths and related metalworkers. Explore how-to links, book reviews, new techniques, forums, tutorials, etc. Great place to network with fellow blacksmiths and other types of metalworkers.


Thank you so much for taking the time to check out our newsletter. Feel free to get in touch with us for any reason at We appreciate your business and hope we can help with any kind of project or task you plan on tackling. Enjoy the rest of your summer.


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