Building a $200 Machine Shop

Building a $200 Machine Shop

I attended the Maker Faire in 2006 and was somewhat disappointed to find out that the "Building a $200 machine shop" was really a 1 1/2 hour advertisement to buy a scroll saw.  I spent some time thinking about it and decided that it might actually be possible to put together a rudimentary machine shop capable of doing some small mill and lathe work for about $200.  It is nothing fancy, but it does work and can be put together for about $200.  The main part of it is based on 3 main components: a drill press, a cross slide vice, a mini chuck. This combined with some end mills, lathe bits and a dial indicator and you are ready to rock

Drill Press


Cross Slide Vise


Mini Chuck

$25 Harbor (no longer available?)


End Mill Set


Lathe Bit set


Machinist's Dial Indicator


If your aim was to only do mill work you could skip the mini chuck and the lathe bits and save a few dollars.  Because I got my mini chuck from HarborFreight before they discontinued it I was able to stay under the $200 cap, but because they seem to only be available through, unless you find one in your local HarborFreight, you will stay close to $200 but not under.  Of course your mileage will vary and I am sure people out there will be able to find better or cheaper ways to put together your own setup, but it is proof of concept.

I needed a way to turn a small amount of material from a PVC end cap in order to get a 1" end cap to fit inside a schedule 40 1.5" pipe and cut grooves for o-rings. I have been wanting to take a crack at doing this for quite a while actually, but have been postponing it in because adding to my big heavy tool pile was not a good thing to do right before a cross country move, but I couldn't contain myself and eventually bought enough to get started. My initial testing shows that it can be done although it is hard to do well and is not terribly accurate. There is lots of backlash in the cross slide vice and even more in the drill press table and in the drill head. Never the less it does appear that I will be able to successfully do the things I need to do in order to make a very large and inexpensive pneumatic piston.

I have some pictures of my $200 machine shop

Based on Fluidity css adapted by Dan Delcollo