As regular readers will know, we here at oomlout have a passion for making things that make things. From designs to speed up our own workflows like the RECO resistor-cutting robot to clever projects like the Kiktronik's thread-winder and Ben Pirt's Mirobot manufacturing tools, we always keep an eye out for anything that could make life easier - which is why we've been keeping an eye on the SmartMini project from Derbyshire-based Quite Useful Stuff.
Founded by three semi-retirees, Quite Useful Stuff's SmartMini project looks to expand the capabilities of the compact and low-cost Arduino Pro Mini microcontroller and compatible clones. To demonstrate the SmartMini's capabilities, Quite Useful Stuff co-founder Mike Lake - perhaps best known for his part in the development of the Wordcraft family of wordprocessors from the 8-bit microcomputer era - has published a two-part project on building a fully-automated box jointer based on the SmartMini with Arduino Pro Mini combination.
The project's first part is only semi-automatic: the piece being worked is moved by the machine between cuts, then the user manually operates the table saw. A follow-up project published this week upgrades the system to fully-automatic operation, allowing for the cutting of box joints into timber with no user interaction whatsoever.
Although the majority of our own box designs are based on laser-cut MDF there are certainly times when you need something a little more robust, and box-jointed timber is a great next step made considerably easier through the efforts of Mike and his partners.
SmartJointer is a an easy-to-assemble CNC box ("finger") jointer controlled by SmartMini. No PC or mains power supply is required to operate SmartJointer in the workshop. My original Instructable showed how to make the version of SmartJointer which is manually pushed/pulled over the saw blade to make each cut. The video shows the automatic version which is the subject of this Instructable - it cuts box joints while you have a cup of tea and a biscuit.