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Milling Machine Bench and Workshop Update

I’ve recently acquired a couple of significant additions to my workshop so I thought it was about time I did a workshop update post.

These two new additions are one Sieg SC4 metal lathe and one Sieg SX3 milling machine. The latter of these two weighs 165Kg (363lb). I didn’t like the idea of having to move this machine more than once so I thought it was appropriate to build a sturdy bench on castors which I could put the machine straight onto upon receipt.

The SX3 Mill is also sold is a Grizzly G0619

I got these machines through Sieg Machines New Zealand. They stock and source a wide range of machines and accessories. Chris the owner has been very helpful. Check them out at


As with most of my projects, the bench ended up being needlessly over engineered! I conclude that I have Inceptionitus. I.e. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate’.

In this case the idea stemmed from the thought that eventually I would convert this milling machine to CNC therefore I’d want a way to contain swarf and cooling fluid. Initially I considered forming a tray using some kind of rubber lining like butyl rubber membrane, but I was concerned about chemical resistance.  Then it occurred to me that a moulded fibreglass tray would be a ‘simple’ solution to the problem. And that was it, the idea had taken hold. Of course it’s much easier to conceive an idea than to complete a project! Let’s begin…


First step – Get the dimensions of the machine and create designs in Sketch-up.


Mould design for the fibreglass tray (Inverse of the final product)




Overall bench design


I decided to make the fibreglass tray first so that I could adjust the bench design to accommodate for any inaccuracies in the fibreglass which once set can’t be adjusted.


The mould was made from:

  • 9mm melamine board
  • Scraps of cupboard door chipboard laminate
  • 20×45 Pine cavity batten
  • Plasticine
  • Duct tape
  • Polyester builders/auto filler
  • 6mm MDF



MouldMaking3 MouldMaking7MouldMaking5  MouldMaking10


This was a stupid way to make the drain hole. If I did it again I’d use the top section of a soft drink bottle or similar.

DrainMaking DrainSand



I did a few test pieces of fibreglass to get a feel for the gelcoat which I hadn’t used before. And to work out the best tape to use. I found that the resin sticks least to the duct tape. Masking and packaging tape were also fine but the heat from the curing process made them wrinkle.



Plasticine is used in the corners to give a radius. Fibreglass doesn’t like bending at 90 degrees.



I put tape over the plasticine on the long stretches because it gives a nicer finish than the plasticine.



Two coats of gelcoat brushed on with a a couple of hours between coats and left to cure for a few hours.



After the gelcoat I laid down a single thin layer of fibreglass re-enforcing with polyester resin and allowed it to fully cure and then sanded it. Doing this (as opposed to adding multiple layers straight away) significantly reduces the chance of getting air bubbles between the gelcoat and the fibreglass.

After this three more layers of resin and chopped-strand-mat reinforcing was added. I ended up with a few air pockets in these layers but nothing too major. Perhaps I should have let each layer to set up at least a little before adding the next.



Edges cut flush with a diamond blade on the angle grinder then smoothed off with a normal disc.



I naively thought I would be able to remove it from the mould without disassembly. Yeah right!




As expected there are lots of moulding artefacts but overall I’m very happy with it. Especially considering it was a fairly rushed job over one weekend and a few week nights.



Now on to the bench itself…

The bench design is based on the same torsion box design as my main workshop bench.  Pretty overkill but I still had a lot of plywood offcuts from the workshop restoration that I needed to use up.  There are castors on each of the four corners rated at 280Kg each. The centre foot jacks down with three 16mm bolts.






I was able to recycle wood from the fibreglass mould to make the fixing blocks for the bench top.





I used auto filler on the rough edge of the tri-board to give it a smooth seald finish.



And now for the best part…the install.







On the left: Sieg SX3 milling machine. On the right: Sieg SC4 lathe


















Special thanks to my wonderful wife who painted the bench, to Simon for the help and use of the engine crane. And to Andy for the offer of the engine crane. To Chris at for all the help. And to Adam who transported the machine.

And a plug for my favourite local businesses:

NZ Fibreglass, always with helpful advice and Hill Lumber who have the best lumber prices around



Things I’d do differently:

  • Contouring the tray and drainage area to make sweeping swarf away easier
  • Take more care on the mould to reduce the moulding artefacts
  • I’d consider making a reusable fibreglass mould so I could make more trays and sell them – although I suspect the market in NZ is fairly small
  • I probably wouldn’t bother with the jack’able middle leg and just use casters instead. The cost of the large bolts wasn’t much cheaper than the casters in the end. Arguably it provides more strength to the structure right under the machine. Arguably the middle leg is overkill and not needed at all!

Thanks for stopping by, hopefully this gives you some ideas if you’re thinking of doing something similar.


Invisible Magnetic Reed Switches

This is an idea I’ve been meaning to try for a while. I wanted to install magnetic reed switches on our kitchen windows for the security alarm. The kitchen is the most likely place where an intruder would try to enter because the window is low and out of sight. The good thing about reed switches is that the alarm will activate as soon as the window is pried and before any one actually gets inside the house.

I didn’t want to use the bulky white plastic reed switch/magnet combination sets. I wanted the install to be completely invisible using glass reed switches. Here’s how I went about it.

Kitchen windows before starting the project.

I first lifted a couple of tiles on the roof above the window so I could see what I was dealing with and to make sure there weren’t any mains cables near where I would be drilling. I drilled holes for each lead of the reed switches. These had to be drilled up at a slight angle facing away from the house so as to avoid the header above the window frame. I then pushed up some draw wires.

Using a chisel I cut a slot just slightly deeper then the thickness of the reed switches.

I soldered in and heat-shrinked the reed switches. My Weller Pyropen is brilliant for this kind of work.

The reed switches are gently pushed up into the slot which is then filled with polyester builders/automotive filler

Once the filler has hardened it is sanded and then a thin then layer of wood filler is added to make sure the surface is flat and smooth.

Finally the surface is sanded, primed and painted to restore the window frame to it’s original state.

The only thing left to do was to add a small neodymium magnet to the top of both window sashes. I first used double-sided tape to position the magnet and find out where it needed to be glued, then glued it in place with epoxy.

Done! Totally invisible reed switch install. Hopefully this is useful to someone. It’s really not much harder than doing an install with plastic units and looks much tidier.  Most of the work is in running the cable to the right place which you have to do either way.


Workshop and Workbench Update

Back in January I posted about my workshop renovation. Since then I’ve completed the network outlets, wired up the security alarm and built a workbench.

Initial workbench concept done in Sketchup.

Each leg is a 2×4 and ply torsion box. Well I had to do something with all the ply offcuts from lining the walls!

The ply is screwed and glued to the 2×4 box. These Irwin QuickGrip clamps are super handy.

Yes the bench is built like the proverbial brick house. Several people have made reference to an earthquake or bomb shelter.

I installed a tub with removable insert to save bench space. (Good call Niten!) Not sure when I’ll  to get this plumbed in.


3mm steel galv plate for the metalworking area.

I wanted the plate to sit flush with the surface of the bench so I routed out 3mm across the surface where the plate goes. 25mm per pass. Sucker for punishment? Perhaps. Actually the top was ok – the front – don’t ask. This was done with a Makita RP1800 Router. ‘Like a hot knife through butter’.

I then glued the steel plate in with Contact Adhesive

This is an original ‘Made in England’ Record vice which I did a quick restoration job on. Very robust.

These record vices are now sold under the Irwin brand.

My favourite part…What would a workshop be without a server……tool drawer.

I’d like to add a few more but who knows when I’ll get around to it. I used a Bosch Multi tool to cut out the little recesses where the rails are mounted. Can highly recommend these.

And yes you can cut through a CD ROM drive with a Jig Saw

It’s already getting messy!


1 Year Workshop Renovation

…And I’m back. Yep, it’s been a while since I shared anything much here. That’s partly because I’ve been spending so much of my free time converting my decrepit old garage into a tidy workshop, a project that I started just over a year ago.

It’s been one of those of projects that starts out as a small seed of an idea, something that will take just a few weeks but then grows one “If I’m going to this I might as well do that” statement at a time until it carries on for an entire year.  In project terms it’s clear that I failed to define the requirements and scope up front!


In case you don’t make through to the end this very long set of photos I’d like to say a big thanks at the beginning of the post to:

  • My wonderful wife who has not only put up with me spending so much time on this project over the last year has also done ALL the painting that you’ll see below
  • My good friend Rick who helped me through all the electrical work and made sure that I didn’t burn the workshop, the house or myself to the ground
  • My good friend Simon who helped with external weather proofing.
  • The guys up at Hill Lumber in East Tamaki for their advice and patience for a total newbie who couldn’t even tie down a trailer on my first of many visits. If you’re looking for great timber and building materials at the best prices around check them out.

The old garage which is 3.6m x 7.2m was built at the same time as the house in 1956. It has a side entrance and main entrance, which opens out into the carport, which opens out onto the driveway. Having the carport for the car meant that I could convert the old garage into a workshop for anything from woodwork to metalwork, plastics, electronics etc.


Inside, looking out through the carport. Before starting the project.


The old workbench


My initial intention was just to replace the rotten framing and line the interior with ply. Water had been running under the door when it rained heavily and would flow to one side. Consequently, the bottom plate and the first ~150mm of the most of the studs down one side had pretty bad rot. Water had been coming in the top and around the sides of the window on the back wall resulting in yet more rot. The right-hand side (which has the side door on it) was pretty solid.




The first step was to clear out the bottom plate.  I used a couple of the redwood planks for the old workbench to prop up the wall under the top plate. Most of the bottom plate cleared out easily because it was so rotten. I used the angle grinder to cut off the old steel anchor pins.




Old bottom plate all cleared out


The next step was to put in the new bottom plate using dynabolts and with a strip of damp-proof course to prevent moisture in the concrete slab from being absorbed into the wood.




With the new bottom plate it was time to sister the rotten studs with new ones.

This all went well and I worked my way along the left hand wall until I reached the first window, at which point I stood back and admired my handy work and for my first ‘building’ project I was pretty happy. It all looked solid and reasonably straight and I thought since I’d come this far I really should replace the old rusty louvre window. I picked up a second hand aluminum window off TradeMe.

Next I moved on to the back wall and back window. This time I had to:

  • Take care of the partially rotten top plate by re-enforcing with a sub-top plate
  • Install new studs and remove the old window and rotten diagonal framing
  • Install a new window frame and window – again I managed to find a second hand aluminum window that was about the right size.

I came across this excellent site which describes how to correctly frame a rough opening for a window.

At this stage I had dealt with all the rotten framing and had a generally sound building. I figured since I’d come this far I should really doing something about the very pitted rough stained floor. In the end I settled on getting a guy in to grind, patch and lay two coats of epxoy. Oh and while I’m at it I might as well install a secondhand roller door.

I was averagely happy with the floor. There are a lot of grind marks and there were a few other issues but I won’t go into that.  It’s about 1000% percent better than it was. Finally it was time to start lining. Or was it? As I surveyed the project so far I figured it only made sense to line the ceiling as well as the walls, and if I was going to line the ceiling it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to install insulation.

Of course before I could start any of the lining I had to consider wiring – power points, lighting etc. With a whole new set of electricals I should really install a new main cable back to the house to replace the 50+ year-old one that was there. That task lead me to cut a trench across the path between the workshop and the house. And let’s face it, while you’ve got a trench open you’d be silly not to lay network cables back to the patch panel in the house along with a pipe for water supply. Right?



Did I go overboard on the Ethernet?




I had to add additional framing to support the ceiling panels


696 Watts of fluorescent lighting. Switched in 3 sets of 2.

And finally on to the wall lining and switchboard.

All that’s really left is the workbench and I’ll put that up in another post (hopefully) soon!


Pet Door Opening in a Security Mesh Door

Now for something completely different….after shelling out for one of these awesome microchip cat doors to be installed I thought I’d DIY the opening in my security mesh door. – As the weather warms up hopefully I’ll get more DIY stuff up here.

Mark the bars you'll need to cut to get make a square just a little bigger than the cat door opening

Mark the bars you'll need to cut to get make a square just a little bigger than the cat door opening


Cut where you marked using some hefty bolt cutters - a good excuse to buy tools, it would cost more to get a guy out to do the job, right? For now only cut the bars not the screen.

Cut where you marked using some hefty bolt cutters - a good excuse to buy tools, it would cost more to get a guy out to do the job, right? For now only cut the bars not the screen.



Make up 2  "picture frames" using mitre saw. The inner dimension should be about the same size as the cat door opening or just slightly bigger. I glued and tacked mine together with small nails.

Make up 2 "picture frames" using mitre saw. The inner dimension should be about the same size as the cat door opening or just slightly bigger. I glued and tacked mine together with small nails.


After assembling the frames prime and paint to make them weather proof

After assembling the frames prime and paint to make them weather proof


On one of the frames check and mark where you can put 4 screws through without hitting bars.

On one of the frames check and mark where you can put 4 screws through without hitting bars.


In one of the frames drill screw holes

In one of the frames drill screw holes


Line up the 2 frames and screw the screws through into the frame you didn't drill

Line up the 2 frames and screw the screws through into the frame you didn't drill


Put the screws into the drilled frame and push trough the mesh screen to hold it in place. Cut out the mesh, and put some dabs of glue to hold the mesh

Put the screws into the drilled frame and push through the mesh screen to hold it in place. Cut out the mesh, and put some dabs of glue to hold the mesh


Screw on the other frame to clamp it on to the bars

Screw on the other frame to clamp it on to the bars


Perform testing

Perform testing





Structured Cable at Home (‘F’ Patch Panel)

Here’s a quick update on my structured cable at home. Hopefully it will give you some ideas if you’re looking to do something similar.  The main goal here was to run all 4 LNB outputs from my dish and my UFH antenna back to a single point.

RG6 quad-shield run up from the floor through the existing data cable channel.


I used a piece of powder coated aluminum which I cut from a 2U server rack blanking panel and ran the RG6 cables through the wall and terminated them with ‘F’ joiners.


I came across a great free 2D CAD application called DraftSight which I used to create a template for drilling the plate and the wall.


Completed and all back together – featuring the aptly named ‘Patch’.  The cables connected to the completed patch plate all go back up the channel to the TV Server PC in the cupboard above.  I haven’t cabled any of the rooms (except the lounge) because everything is delivered over IP, however I have pre-drilled at the back of the plate and half drilled the plate for future expansion.


I’d like to thank Godfey who supplied all the RG6, F connectors, and tools. And also took the time to show me how to do PPC compression fittings.  Kiwi’s – if you’re in need to any of the gear to do this stuff Godfrey trades through TradeMe and gives the best service and prices around!





Structured Cable at Home

I’ve been a bit slack with my blog lately, partly because in October we bought our first house so that’s been taking up a lot of my time. It’s a good solid 1950’s house but VERY original so it needs a LOT of work.


Me plastering the back room getting it ready for painting.

From network engineer to home handyman / plasterer / carpenter! Don’t worry though I’ve got my priorities straight! Structured cabling and network cupboard is almost complete. I’m quite pleased with how it’s turned out so decided to put up some photos.

Complete Far

Complete Close


Cables come up from under the floor into the wall cavity

Fortunately there was a little wee open-cupboard off the hall. It’s a good central point to run all the cables back to. I’ve installed a total of 16 network ports. 6 in the lounge, 2 the dining room and 2 in each of the four bedrooms. The cable is CAT6 and is all run under the floor. I’ve created 3 channels by running 30mm thick strips of pre-dressed pine from top to bottom of the cupboard.

Cables from wall cavity


Left channel with bottom capping section installed

The left channel carries the CAT6 up from the floor to the patch panel. It is also used to carry alarm wires down from the ceiling. It has notches which accommodate 3.5mm plywood capping. The right channel is also capped and will be used for carrying power cables. The centre channel is left open and used for running cables between the shelves.


Patch panel, yet to be mounted and punched down.

Cables under floor

Cables under floor

Flush Box

PDL 8p8c Module

PDL 8p8c Module



Next step, get rid of that wallpaper!!!! But like I say, priorities!

Next step, get rid of that wallpaper!!!! But like I say, priorities!