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I've been building my own tools and equipment for years and am a chronic inventor.

One thing that is great

about me is that I tend to finish what I start. My ability to focus on a project is very high, and I eat sleep
and think about it for the entire duration of the project.

I researched EDM and homebrew stuff on the Internet but really didn't find anything in depth about making
it yourself. I researched equipment really meant for zapping out broken drill taps and couldn't find anything
homebrew either.

My goal was to not spend alot of money -yet it worked well and looked presentable.

I do have other CD-ROMs and one of which is for a CNC Mill that I converted from a manual/hand cranked
model. I do have the know-how to have made my EDM machine computer-controlled; but, I wanted it to be
simple- and since everything I envisioned using it for would just need to go up and down- the computer
controlled aspect wasn't needed.

What is an EDM and what does it do?
Electric Discharge Machining is the full title of this type of equipment. I can't afford the real thing and
never worked on a full-sized unit. I realize that used full-size units go for anywhere between $200 and a few
thousand on ebay. The full-size units don't run on standard household power, and you would need to have
special electrical boxes and wiring just to use the big-boys. Also ebay stuff can be anywhere in the country
and truck shipping isn't cheap. The $200 used edms are typically fixer-uppers, and by the time you get the
non-working unit home- it would be several thousand and then you'd have to fix it- that may be impossible
once you realize the parts are not available; And, fixing it is easier said than done.

Start first by welding the basic framework

My solution was to make one from scratch and use hardware store type parts and Radio Shack type parts.
The overall cost was about $100 since I had most of the equipment already like welder, soldering iron,

broken power supply and more. If I have to buy everything I used to make it (assuming that would be the
only thing I would ever solder or weld etc) then the cost would actually be much higher. So really this CD is
aimed at someone like me who has the equipment or has friends who can help/borrow the needed

The frame is made from metal "stakes" found at a local hardware store called "Menards" Each stake cost
about $4 and was found in the fence section- you know where they have bricks, dog pen fence materials,
boat dock building materials etc. This steel is also found in shafts of large clamps; But, the stakes are much
cheaper overall. I'm sure the frame can be improvised (mine is improvised too) to be a different shape or
size etc) The steel for the sides was an old sign that I found while dumpster diving for materials to use for
this project. I'me sure a car hood or door could have been cut out for the steel too- or the steel sheet
purchased from a store.

The fans were purchased from ebay and are 120volt ac fans ($18 for 4ea used). The two wires can be
reversed interchangeably.

The neon bulb was purchased from Radio Shack (less than $5 for a 2ea pack) and the two leads can be
reversed interchangeably. 120volts ac.

The wires came from McMaster Carr (big catalog company) and the wires were leftover from my repair of a
plastic injection molder (one of my CDs on Ebay) The best wire was the brown braided one and I just had a
small amount of that left. The white frizzy wire sucked and actually caused a short and poof which I caught
on film to show I'm not perfect and what can happen with bad wires. My solution was to wrap the wires in
fuel tubing made from silicone. This fuel tubing is some leftover pieces from my scratchbuilt RC plane.
Fuel tubing is available for about $5 for about 3 feet at your local RC (R/C) hobby store or from online
vendors like ebay. It solved my poorly braided wire problem and ended the need to actually use high
temperature wire. The braided wire also has steel wire inside which doesn't solder. My wiring job would
have been simpler if I just used copper wire (solderable) and surrounded it all with silicone tubing as an

The Cement bag cost $4 at Menards, and I should have picked the bag without the sand and gravel as it was
very crumbly when dried. When you make cement, you dump the bag in a wheelbarrow or bucket and add
water and mix. I made mine by taking a few tablespoons off the top and adding it into a disposeable
drinking cup and adding water and mixing. I picked out the bigger rocks etc. I'm sure the heavier stuff
settles in the bag and what was at the very top really should have been mixed with what was at the bottom
for best results.

I learned that some cement is electrically conductive! See I wanted my EDM frame to be electrically not
live with power. It is isolated from the heatink with cement. Sakrete cement was electrically non-conductive
and worked well (I should have mixed the contents better- it was fine even cracked) The plastic container
with ready-to-go cement was made with minerals which even when dry are electrically conductive
(semiconductor). Be mindful to measure your cement once dried- to make sure it is an insulator. Why didn't
I just use epoxy? I'm sure that heatsink gets very very very hot after several hours of EDMing. Epoxy is
good for a few hundred degrees, and I wanted to make it able to last a lifetime of hard use.

I've heard of an EDM machine described as blasting sparks towards a piece of metal and then the little
sparks chip off a piece of metal. My analogy is more like a fuse. If you look inside of a clear glass fuse you
will see a strip of metal. That metal is designed to carry a certain amount of electrical power. If the power
being flowed through it is exceeded- the metal gets blasted apart because it can't take that much power.
Heavier duty fuses have thicker wires inside. Low power fuses have thin wires in them. With these two
analogies you can better understand what is happening in the EDM and why metal gets disintegrated or
blasted or chipped away. I don't claim to know everything about it or how it works. Just because I made it
doesn't mean I understand it absolutely.

My devices are unique and interesting but it doesn't mean that I know how to exploit the product to its

fullest potential. I know the EDM machine can be used to carve complex mold patterns into blocks of metal
such as aluminum, brass, steel, copper and more. It can also be used to make holes in very hard metals and
yes even remove broken taps. I can think about how or what it can do but it doesn't mean I've tried it all.
There are a few variables that you can play with to adapt the device better to a specific task:
Lightbulb A
Lightbulb B
Capacitor C1
Capacitor C2

The rating of these devices allows you to control the power of the spark and the pulse rate of the spark. Also
your choice of tool bit and type of metal you are working with. See there are alot of combinations and this
device can offer alot to someone willing to really get to know it. Don't overdo it with changing the values of
these devices.

The Machine Itself

The rectifier is the key to making this device work. Most electronics today is based on low power usually 5
volts or less and very low amperage usually provided by a battery. The rectifier is really a diode. Diodes
commonly found in consumer electronics are black with a white or silver strip on one side. The diode
allows electricity to flow in one direction; But, not the other way. The rectifier is a diode; But, is a beefy
one. It has a screw thread meant to be screwed onto a heatsink to dissipate the enormous heat generated.
The rectifier I used was bought from ebay. I don't know if it was new or used; But, I bought three knowing
that someday my rectifier would need to be replaced. The part number of the rectifier is SUES706 SI S449
the "SI" portion is written sideways. The exact replacement is not important. If you go searching for this

diode number online- you won't find it. On ebay, I searched for "solar blocking diode" as the high power
rectifiers are used by homebrew solar power type people who want to make their home non-electric
company dependent or who want to live off the power grid. There's nothing wrong with that, and I like their
inventiveness. More power to you.

The rectifier you should pick should have at least 2 amps of handling ability. Also choose the more voltage
the better. My rectifier is rated for 400 volts at 20 amps. I found no specs on it; But, that is what the ebay ad
said. The capacitors I used were 300 volts and the light bulb I used 200 watt - electrically speaking causes a
load of about 2 amps. So my choice of rectifier is fine.

If you are not an electric or electronic freak, how do you go about selecting a rectifier? The beefier the
better. It means it will be able to handle more power without blowing out. If you just get one that is
borderline just enough to handle the power- poooffff you may have to spend time disassembling and
replacing it with your spare. If I am lucky, I may never need to replace mine. I chose very beefy specs, and I
paid $15 total for three. Let's just call it $5 because I only used one (since I want to prove it was built for
about $100)

You can test your rectifier on a multimeter- set it to ohms. Test it one way by touching the red to one side
and the black to the other side. Then switch opposite. you will notice that you get a reading one way and not
the other way. Of course this test is done with the part completely out and not connected to anything else. If
you suspect your rectifier is blown- check it with a multimeter. No reaction one way and a reaction the other
way. Don't worry about the actual reading on the display- you are just looking for a number change
indicating that it sensed that the lead was touched. This means the electric current is going through. The
opposite means no change and no electricity flowing through. Think of it as a one way valve for electricity

Why Light Bulbs?
We could spend money on expensive resistors. Instead we use a load of a certain wattage. Light bulbs are
cheap and no big deal if it goes bad and needs to be replaced. Also experimentation with different wattages
are possible. Light bulbs are not polarized and are meant to be used in AC alternating current. We will use
them not for the purpose of producing light but as a means of making a load on the circuit. Using Ohms
Law to figure voltage and current is beyond the scope of this CD. Rest assured that your choice of light
bulb determines "stuff" as the light bullb's rating affects the spark.

I recommend starting out with:
100 watt bulb
200 watt bulb

Get your machine to work 1st- before you tinker with it. Using a 40 watt bulb and a 200 watt bulb will
cause strange results and won't light one and you will be scratching your head. Stick to the basics first and
then go from there. The light bulbs also will flicker and you will soon learn how to lower the
electrode/cutting tool based on the light bulbs lighting/flickering or being on/off.

What does it sound like?
Sizzling bacon? Clapping? Firecrackers? Popping? Ticking? The sound is hard to describe and real life
sounds different than captured on the video. I found that sometimes the popping/sizzling sound was difficult
to maintain and at other times kept going all on its own. The condition of your electrode and the cleanliness
of the liquid are important factors.

I didn't go to the extent of making a filter because I wanted the liquid to be cleaned low-tech. Since I
EDMed steel- a magnet would pull the steel particles down and the liquid "decants" and particles settle
toward the magnet. Eventually the liquid cleans itself. The crud at the bottom is actually metal particles.

What to do with the liquid afterwards?
Kerosene is used in lamps and heaters. I don't recommend using used kerosene in a heater because the crud
could clog the mechanism. A cheap $5 to $10 lamp is a good enough cheap way to dispose of the residual
metal chip filled liquid. The kerosene will wick up through the wick and just the metal crud will remain.
Eventually your $5 lamp will need a new wick. Your fluid will be able to be used several times if left to
decant and then just using the top portion carefully poured or sucked with a siphon to get only the clean
fluid. Of course, the liquid is flammable and caution must be used.

Kerosene is flammable.
I wanted to see how flammable kerosene is. I poured a teaspoon of kerosene in an aluminum tray (the
aluminum foil pans that pot-pies come in clean and dried) and then set it outside on the driveway. I struck a
wooden match and tossed it into the metal tray. The first match went out as it was tossed. The second match
landed in the small puddle of kerosene in the tray and it didn't go whoosh like charcoal lighter would do
(don't use charcoal lighter fluid) the match was lit and for a few seconds it looked like the fluid wasn't
burning- only the match. Then gradually over a few seconds the flame slowly spread to the rest and then in a
bout 20 seconds the whole puddle was lit. It burned out in about a minute or two and the aluminum tray had
a layer of black soot as the flame made black smoke. I did this experiment away from cars, leaves, and had
a fire extinguisher handy.

It is pretty surprising to me that sparks don't ignite kerosene. My machine is recommended for outdoor use

because spilled kerosene can burn down your shop or home in no time. Not for indoor use. My EDM was
used indoors only for filming purposes and DO NOT USE IT INDOORS. My test and filming had no ill
effects and no fire was started, and I never had to use my fire extinguisher. But you never know- and I'm not
responsible for injury or accident. This is an experimental unit, and safety features like making an enclosure
for it, and making sure the residual ZAP left over after you unplug it are gone before you touch it are
required. In otherwords, the machine I show you should be enclosed and safety features added of your own
design before it is used. I left it simple for demonstration purpose only. Make sure you add safety features
to your own machine.

Electricity Kills
The amount of power that these ZAPs produce eats away metal. Getting even one zap can kill you dead. I've
never been zapped by it. I can prove that because I am writing this right now. The handle of the machine
was wrapped in electrical tape over and over and over as an insulating material. At no time did I touch the
frame or other metal parts of the machine.

It is not sufficient to have the unit unplugged.

There is a residual ZAP that must be removed before touching any metal part on the machine. The positive
and negative leads must touch before it is safe. I do this by lowering the tool into the work after the unit is
unplugged. This produced one last ZAP and this means the capacitors have discharged their charge. As a
second precaution- I take the alligator clip by the insulator and touch it to the other one. I realize that there
is no charge left but capacitors are funny devices and they can still have some left.

Don't pick up the alligator clip until you have lowered the tool and got rid of the residual ZAP. When you
are dealing with alot of electricity- as in lightning bolts. Lightning can jump across things that are normally
insulating materials. Electricity is usually blocked by plastic, electrical tape, rubber, and such but don't bet
your life on it. This is not a toy and your kids shouldn't play with it or have access to it. It is a serious
machine capable of extraordinary things. It carries with it severe danger of shock or even death.

How Does it Work?
AC electricity coming out of your household outlet is ramping up from zero volts to 120 volts and back up
down (I realize some areas have anywhere from 110 v to 120 volts and this is a loose term to describe
household electricity provided by the electric companies). Then the electricity changes polarity and ramps
up and down again. This is what we call cycles. AC is a funny sort of power. It is like a battery constantly
being removed and installed backwards and then forwards and then back wards again. 60 times per second
or 60 cycles or 60 Hertz.

The rectifier ignores every other polarity switch. By doing that- it blocks when the electricity is going in the
opposite direction. The EDM produces spurts of sparks and the capacitors store the charge and then release
it. Further theory of operation is too much for the average reader/builder- and you get the idea.

The EDM is DC not AC. Each spark is directed from the tool towards the work. I accidentally had my wires
backwards, and it ate away my tool instead of the work as illustrated in the video. Just because I made it
doesn't mean I'm an expert at implementing it or using it. There is a certain point where the student surpass
the teacher. If we used AC then both the tool and the work would both wear away equally or not at all.

The choice of metals
There are some metals that last longer for tool use. Also some metals are softer and are better to use for the
work. Aluminum is softer than steel. Choosing a soft tool to EDM a hard metal may give poor results. The
industry uses Carbon/Graphite as a tool for the longest lasting tool life. You can find graphite and carbon
chunks (EDM machine remnants from the big machines) on ebay and when you are ready for pro results-
look to those materials. If you choose soft metals as the tool or use exactly the same metal for both the tool
and the work you will find some "sintering" going on. In other words, the small metal chips become
"spotwelded" to both the tool and the work which impedes further etching away of the work. Give yourself
time to experiment and grow.

The hardening of metals through heat and tempering and alloys etc- doesn't make it impervious to EDM
sparks. I've read that gold, platinum, titanium and more are EDM able materials. I'm not rich, and it is
doubtful I'd EDM those expensive metals. Low cost is the key to making this machine practical and useful.

Sintering of metals is shown on my simple first results. The first minute of EDMing digs a clean hole and
then it would be best to filter the fluid and clean out the "hole" to be sure it is free of chips. You may decide
to add a pump or somehow agitate the fluid to get the chips out. Be careful because of the dangers of
electrical shock and fire. Big EDM machines have filters and pumps to circulate fluid over the work. Also
EDM fluid is special and isn't kerosene. When EDM machines were first invented they used kerosene but
now use a different liquid. Get that liquid if you prefer.

1) Build the Machine
2) Make a work holding fixture
3) Make a tool bit

Procedure (clean dry area- recommend outdoors and full safety equipment installed and ready)
1) Make sure there is no ZAP in unit (alligator clips are electrically contacting each other)
2) Unit is unplugged
3) Handle is electrically insulated thoroughly
4) Unit will not topple over (securely fastened )
5) Unit is electrically insulated from table top (bad idea to put metal unit on metal tabletop)
(I put a sheet of plastic 3/4" thick PVC in between unit and table as an insulator)
6) Use ceramic tile or brick to lift fixture to correct height (insulating material)
7) Insulate bit from unit (I use a Dremel tool bit upside down)
8) Clamp Negative Black alligator clip to bit
9) Clamp Positive red alligator clip to workpiece
10) Turn the handle so the toolbit is in contact with the workpiece (just like the alligator clips are touching)
11) Fill fixture with fluid (never use anything other than kerosene or pro grade EDM fluid)
12) Plug the AC cord in
13) The two light bulbs light up
14) Turn the handle to raise the tool away from the work slightly
15) The Lightbulbs go out
16) Turn the handle slightly to go towards the work
17) Cracking/popping/zapping sound is heard and light bulbs flicker

Repeating the cracking sound
You will need to practice to learn the right distance to have the toolbit from the workpiece to have the
cutting action continue on its own. As the workpiece and the bit wear (yes the bit wears out too) and the
liquid gets soiled you will find that all of this is a factor in keeping the crackling sound/cutting action going.

A)Backing away the bit dims and slows down the cracking.
B)Lowering the bit towards the work brightens the bulbs and speeds up the pops and cracking sound
C) Getting too close "spot welds" the chips suspended in the fluid to either the workpiece or the tool bit.
D) When the workpiece and the bit are electrically touching- no cutting is taking place and both lights are
brightly lit.
E) Cutting action/sound occurs only when there is a small distance between the bit and the workpiece and a
spark jumps. Flickering lightbulb means sparks are jumping successfully

Liquid splashing
The sparking action causes alot of agitation and bubbling and reminds me of frying chicken in a pan. You
fry chicken in a covered pan otherwise your stove would be a disaster. I don't use a lid on my EDM and
haven't experimented in that regards. If I put sufficient fluid to give about an inch of liquid over and above
my workpiece- there is very little that gets splashed out. If I just barely cover the workpiece with fluid- there

is alot of splashing and it drenches the surrounding area with kerosene which can be a dangerous thing. I
don't know if closing the container may be a dangerous thing either. All Professional EDM machines in
books and more that I have read about have open containers. I didn't put a lid on mine, and I don't presume
to know everything.

It is alot of work to etch away a small hole
Yes it is. It is alot of work; But, at the same time enjoyable. If you are expecting to make a perfect mold
cavity and your livelihood depends on it or you have an im-patient type personality- this isn't for you. A
small hole or small mold cavity can take several hours of turning the handle back and forth several hundred
times each time watching for the constant on/flickering lights/sounds and keeping the crackling sounds
going. For best results, changing out the fluid a few times and continuing the hole with a new straight bit
when the old one is worn out. It is a good experimental model, and you'll learn alot and have alot of

Make sure you don't have distractions like pets, phone ringing, kids present, etc which can result in injury or
death. If you are hurried or have specific expectations of what it will or won't do for you- you are
approaching it backwards. Build the machine and then decide how you can use the device. Not the other
way around. You may also find that using long bits where you can grind down the worn end flat instead of
spotweld inserts works best. For example if EDMing a square hole- use a long steel square shaft and remove
the bit every so often and flatten the end on a grinder- works better than a spot welded square "tip"