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The Home Shop Machinist

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End Mill Tubes

By John Buffum

How many of us have found used end mills at garage sales, industrial disposal sales, and industrial surplus stores? The one thing they typically lack is the protective tube that allows for easy-to-read labeling and keeps them from cutting other things or dulling in the toolbox.

After contacting both low- and high-end tool suppliers, I found they don’t sell these tubes by the dozen. If you can buy them at all, the smallest lot is 1,000.

I considered this to be a "machinist’s challenge."

At first I used cardboard from cereal and soft drink boxes, but that was too stiff and had a slippery layer that had to be ground away for the glue to hold. My beautiful and smart wife suggested blow-in cards from magazines. Perfect!

To make one, let’s start with 3/8" shank bits. Select from your indexed drill box a 25/64" drill bit and a 27/64" drill bit. Cut the blow-in cards into 3" strips. Roll the card onto the drill bit shank and snip off enough so it has a 1/8"-3/16" overlap. Use your favorite white glue to glue the overlap and hold it for about 60 seconds. Withdraw the shank so about 1/4" is unsupported and crimp one end. Set that aside and do the same with the larger drill bit.

You’ll notice the two pieces slip fit together with just enough drag so they don’t come apart and the end mill fits easily inside. Develop a consistent marking scheme; e.g. 1/4" DE 4 FL for a 1/4" cutting bit, double-ended, four flute.

Unless your domestic augmentation unit objects, this can be done while in front of the TV in the living room. In no time, all your surplus end mills will have tubes. Enjoy!

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