Putting the Triple Edge Finder to Work
Easily, the most popular question I get is how I hooked up my Triple Edge Finder (TEF) to my Xylotex Drive Box for use with my Shoestring Budget CNC Router. This article is part 3 of a series in which I’ll explain what I needed to buy, how I hooked everything up, what settings I used in Mach3, and how I use it in normal day to day operations.
This article is meant to accompany my video tutorial, which can be viewed on my YouTube channel right here.
With everything installed, configured, assembled and connected, it’s time to test and put the Triple Edge Finder to work.
We’ll be referring to the Touch Test area of the Mach3 Toolsetter screen, as outlined in the yellow box in the pic below.
Testing is very easy. The first step is to turn on the Xylotex drive box. Install an end mill or router bit into the collet of your router or spindle and tighten it up for use as you normally would. Attach the alligator clip to the end mill or bit. Make sure the positive lead is plugged into the TEF. Touch the TEF to the end mill and look at the Mach3 screen to make sure the green LED next to the yellow Z- arrow lights up. If it does, you’re safe to move forward. If it doesn’t, recheck your connections. If it still doesn’t light up, go back into Mach3 and recheck your configuration setting in the Ports and Pins screen. (You did remember to go to the CONFIG menu and click Save Settings when you finished the configuration, right? Don’t forget that you’ll also need to close and restart Mach3 after you do so.)
A note here about the bits I use to set my X and Y zero with the TEF. No matter what bit I’m going to use for my first cut on the CNC, I use an uncoated solid carbide ¼” end mill to set my X and Y zero. I use bits of various shapes and sizes for various projects. Some of them are pretty small, while others have odd shapes. I find that it’s just easier to chuck the ¼” end mill into the router and use it to set the X and Y zero for a couple of reasons. Chief among them being the fact that they have the length needed to put the tip of the bit down into the hole in the TEF without the collet hitting the TEF while it’s moving back and forth. Second, they rarely have any non-conductive paint or other coatings on them that would prevent a good electrical connection.
Once the X and Y zero are set with the ¼” end mill, that zero will stay set no matter what other tools you may change to, unless you physically remove the work material from the spoil board and move it, turn off the drive box or computer, or shut off Mach3. If any of those things happen, you will need to set your X, Y, and Z zeros all over again.
With the connections tested, it’s ready to be put into use. Follow along with the video as I demonstrate the normal use of the TEF.
Place the TEF on top of the work material, with the corner of the work material directly underneath the hole in the TEF. Move the TEF so that the work material is firmly seated against the two bosses on the bottom of the TEF.
Move the X, Y, and Z axes to put the end mill into the hole in the TEF, so that the tip of the end mill is down inside the hole, below the top of the surrounding surface. Hold the TEF in place, then click the crosshairs in the center of the 4 arrows, under the Touch Test area of the Mach3 Toolsetter screen. Keep your hand close to your emergency stop, or your cursor over the RESET button, and your finger poised over the left mouse button, ready to abort the movement should the end mill make contact with the TEF and keep going.
The X axis will move first, moving the bit away from the work material at a feed rate of 4 inches per minute, until it touches the inside of the hole in the TEF. It will then stop and move back to its original position at 50 inches per minute. It will then move toward the piece of work material, touch the inside wall of the hole, then move to the center of the hole in the X direction. It will repeat the process for the Y direction at the same feed rates. Once the end mill has touched off all four sides, the bit will move to the center of the hole, Mach3 will set the X and Y DROs (Digital Read Outs) to zero, then raise the bit out of the hole. Your X and Y axis are now set to the corner of the work material.
With the X and Y axes set, move the end mill over the top, flat plate area of the TEF, and bring the Z axis down until the tip of the bit is roughly ½” to ¼” away from touching it. The Z zero script is set to move the end mill down toward the TEF at 4 inches per minute. It’s also set to time out the operation after 2 inches – meaning that if the Z moves downward and doesn’t make contact with the touch plate within that 2 inch measurement, it will stop and abort the move. Moving the bit to somewhere between ½ and ¼ of an inch away from the top of the TEF simply means that you spend less time waiting for Mach3 to move the bit down into contact with the TEF.
Lift the TEF to make contact with the end mill to test connectivity one again (sanity check.) If everything is still okay, click the Z- arrow. With your hand close to the e-stop button or your cursor over the RESET button, hold the TEF in place as the Z starts to move downward.
The end mill or bit will move downward until the tip makes contact with the TEF, the stop. Mach3 will then take the thickness of your TEF (which we entered in the Plate Offset space previously,) then move the Z axis upward the necessary amount needed to place the tip of the bit 1” above the work material surface, then set the Z axis DRO to +1.0 inch.
Your X, Y, and Z axes are now accurately set to zero at the bottom left corner of your work material.
That’s all there is to it. I know that this was a lot to go through for what turned out to be such a simple operation, but you should only have to set everything up one time. Once setup is completed, the Triple Edge Finder should be basically trouble-free forever.
With all of the changes we’ve made to Mach3, NOW would be a good time to back it up. You ARE backing up your Mach3 folder, aren’t you? Well, you should. You don’t know how? Well, you’re in luck.
Peter Passuello recorded a video for his YouTube channel (CNC Nutz) that covers the topic quite nicely. You can watch it here. I would highly recommend subscribing to Peter’s YouTube channel, if you’re not already. Peter shares a lot of knowledge with his viewers in easy to understand descriptions and demonstrations. His channel is a valuable resource to the whole CNC community and should be shares as often as possible. Check him out – you’ll be glad you did.
Disclaimer: This is how I use the Triple Edge Finder with the Mach3 Toolsetter and my Xylotex drive box. I am well aware of the problems that have been reported in using the Mach3 Toolsetter with some systems. I have been using this system for over a year with no problems at all. Having said that I cannot and WILL NOT guarantee it will work on any system other than my own. Proper care, research, and due diligence should be exercised in this and any other modification to a CNC router. I am not and will not be responsible for any damages incurred by anyone attempting to copy these modifications.