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Jack Rehak's Inspiring Build
back of the gantry showing Jack Rehak's cable carrier made from scratchThe electronics within the CNC gantryClose up of the electronics inside the gantryA view inside of the gantry where the breakout board is locatedClose up of the cable chainComputer monitor and joystick that is used to control the blackFoot CNC machineShows the use of pipe to hold the monitor and joystickJack's method of hoisting and laying 4x8 sheets on the CNC MachineThe porter cable router and dust shoe on the blackFoot CNC machineClose up of the dust shoe and Jack's use of a clip to keep the dust shoe on the mount and to be able to remove the dust shoe quickly.
Meet Mr. Rehak, an 80 year old (2012) bright CNC Machine enthusiast. Jack built his blackFoot CNC machine in short time considering his available resources. Jack's modifications to his blackFoot are quite inspirational and worth a look. Moreover, Jack has set-up a very inventive workspace and resources to handle the various tasks such as loading sheets, hose/cable management and means of control.

The inspiration is not necessarily in his build, but that a gentleman at the age of 80 put this machine together. The most surprising aspect of this build is that he had limited resources during the assembly. Jack did not use the video assembly instructions to put this machine together!! Jack put the machine together from good ol' common sense and probably a lot of past experience putting things together. This information was all give to me when on the phone with Jack to discuss a few things about his machine, and when he told me his age, and how he built the machine, my jaw dropped!

When Jack initially emailed me his picture and information about his build, the first impression of his work was where he decided to place his electronics. Using the Gantry to house the stepping motor drivers and power supply makes a lot of sense since there is the perfect amount of room in the gantry to do this. Housing the drivers in the gantry brings the drivers closer to the stepping motors, but it also requires that the computer cable to be extra long, extending from the computer to the gantry at the farthest extent that the gantry moves. The breakout board is powered by a USB wall adapter. Most folks would just have a USB cord from the computer to the breakout board, but the computer is nowhere near the breakout board in this configuration, so this is a good solution. Accessing these electronics has also been addressed by adding large hinges to the back plate of the blackFoot. Since the blackFoot is designed with two back pieces, one to cover the left and the other to cover the right, the access and inclusion of the hinges is a great solution.

Just above the electronics, on the top of the gantry, you will also notice a cable chain. Cable chains are used to manage all of the cables and wires associated with the motion control electronics during the movement of the machine. Having many moving parts can make for a real headache when wires are concerned, and cable chains are a very helpful addition. However, the most interesting aspect to this is that Jack created his own cable chain. If you look closely, you will notice the cable chain is made from the thin brown stock called hard board. Take a look at the y-axis stepping motor just above the DIY cable chain. The motor needed to be moved-up to clear the rather large size of the cable chain. During my conversation with him, he expressed the difficulty in making the cable chain and suggests purchasing cable chain ready-made. Looking at the chain, I agree. It looks quite laborious.

Finding a location to provide for machine control can be challenging. Locating the computer, monitor, keyboard and mouse near a CNC machine has the added problem of where the most stable and appropriate placement would be. I usually decide on the basis of orientation of the Cartesian coordinates on the table surface (where the X and Y origin will be located and how the machine will move when the keyboard arrow keys are pressed). The bloackFoot has a portion of the machine that the router cannot reach. This is due to the gantry size and length requirements for the table to adequately extend to the 4'x8' extents of the work area. Jack used the space at the end to place his input and output devices (monitor, keyboard and mouse) to control the machine. Jack provided for these devices to swivel and move into a comfortable position using pipe and pipe fittings and built a structure to hold the monitor and keyboard. Notice the joystick!!

So, where do most people put their CNC machine? Well, in the shop, or garage, of course! Not Jack, he placed his machine in a truck trailer that has had its wheels removed. Googling trailer sizes, the interior width of semi-trailers is about 8.25 feet, which would allow about 1.5 feet on either side of the machine for walking, but if shoved to one side, there is good ample space to move around. The blackToe CNC is on wheels, so getting to the other side would not be a difficult feat. I could also imagine these trailers side by side with a machine in each one. Additionally, while the machine is running, just close the trailer doors and come back when the machine is finished milling.

Loading sheets of the chosen material (ply) appears to be well though out. Using a few straps around the board and connecting it to a hoist appears pretty functional. The hoist allows the board to be positioned at the end of the machine with relative ease. The hoist can also allow the board to move laterally by lowering the board until it is pushed into position. I may institute this in my shop.

Jack expressed how well the new dust shoe on our CNC machines extracts the wood chips, even within the grooves of the cut. We also install magnets on the mount and the dust shoe so it is easy to remove when needed, but Jack elected a more secure solution with clips. This is a great idea!

What Jack Rehak has done with his machine is a a minimum, incredible, but doing it without the use of assembly instructions is even more incredible. These modifications can be applied to these machines to improve the overall functionality. Jack has also demonstrated that age is not a factor in making great achievements.