Electric Beginning

It’s a bit funny. I’ve welded professionally for 4 years; I’m pretty good at brazing and
fabrication in general. I’ve also soldered and repaired various electrical things from appliances
to automobiles. With that experience I entered into making the TouchDRO with a few assumptions.

  • My various skills would make board level soldering easy (partially true)
  • Because I bought the premade board from Yuri, hooking it up to my linear encoders would be
    easy. (partially true)
  • I would not have to buy the specialty crimpers and such because I am skilled with needle nose
    pliers (totally false)

I decided to buy the premade board from Yuri for the first Touch DRO install. Part of the
reasoning for that was to make the install easier but part of it was that it came with a faster
processor than the MSP430 Launchpad. I couldn’t use the Arduino board because it doesn’t support
Quadrature Encoders and one of my encoders has 1 micron resolution.

A 1 micron encoder counts 25,400 times per inch. It is possible that a slower processor might not
be able to keep up with the scale during rapid traversal. It is also quite possible that the slower
processor would have been fine but for the $40 price difference, I decided to go with the faster
processor and cooler looking board because I’m just that kind of a geek.

So I set about hooking up the TouchDRO board to the encoders on my mill. In general that means connecting power to the board and the board to the scales. Overall a pretty simple process but as usual there were a few complications. The DRO that I am replacing is an old Acu-Rite II  DRO. It uses military grade connectors that, while, not hard to find are quite expensive. I decided to standardize on DSub-9 connectors as they are common, inexpensive and come standard on many encoders. I also decided to solder headers to the DRO board and make wiring harnesses to connect the DSub-9 connectors to the board. This would allow me to easily adapt the DRO to fit a variety of scales which should be useful as this is kind of my “development rig”. So, at a high level, the process is:

  1. Modify encoders to use DSub-9 connectors instead of milspec
  2. Make DSub9->milspec adapters so that I can still use the old DRO
  3. Solder headers to TouchDRO board
  4. Make wiring harnesses to connect DSub9 sockets to board headers

I’ll cover the details of these and more in a following post.




The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a Sensei as a teacher or master, especially of Japanese martial arts. A more nuanced definition is: “One Who Has Gone Before”. I like that phrase as it disposes of the concept of mastery, a Sensei is someone who has traveled a path and attempts to lead others along that path.

What does this have to do with IronPunk?

Primarily that this site attempts to document a path in the hopes that others can follow it more easily. Much like martial arts, many of the skills necessary to accomplish the tasks can only be learned experimentally. You must try, and sometimes fail, to learn new skills. While I am not a master of any of the skills I present on this site, if I am a master of anything it is failing.

Sometimes it seems that I have to exhaust all of the wrong ways to accomplish something before finding the right way. It is by failing that we learn best and if we only did what we knew how to do, we would never do anything new.  It is my hope with this site to assist readers to fail more productively to succeed faster than me by avoiding the pitfalls and obstacles I have encountered and still get the benefit of those mistakes by learning from mine.

So now on to some housekeeping. The section of the site that you are now reading, the Timeline, is exactly what you would expect from an informal blog. Organized chronologically it documents the process of making an IronPunk DRO and any thoughts that process inspires. It may be somewhat meandering at times but hopefully will stay primarily on topic. The Development section contains essentially rough drafts of documents.  The section is organized by topic so that you don’t have to read though months of chit chat to figure out what terminal connector to buy or how to square a vise. The Resources section is much the same only the documents are considered reasonably complete. Complete enough at least to get a version number.

My expectation is that ideas will start in the Timeline. I’ll use that as fodder for more structured documents that will be developed in the Development section and later graduate to the Resources section. As more multimedia and other resources are created/discovered and projects are created, I’ll add sections but for now these will do.

Thanks for reading

This post is a seed
The site, possibility
With work it will grow