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EDM - Electrical Discharge Machining

by alchemistdagger

Electrical Discharge Machining is a way of cutting graphite block to machine a toy shape in a metal
metal using electricity, Similar to a plasma cutter block for injection molding. Here i will be showing you
except under water. The process is very common in how to make your own EDM machine using simple
manufacturing of injection molds. The process can be hand tools and supplies from your local hardware
as simple as using a small diameter metal tube to cut store.
a precise hole in a metal block to using a carved

EDM - Electrical Discharge Machining: Page 1

Step 1: What Is EDM

Electronic discharge machining is a method of and wired to the negative voltage. As the tool
removing metal using electric sparks, similar to a approaches the work piece, it will develop a spark
plasma cutter but on a much smaller scale and under before they touch. At this point the spark heats up
water. As shown in the above steps, the tool is both the tool and work piece, melting a small piece of
normally above the work piece and wired to the each. The molten metal quickly cools in the water and
positive voltage, the work piece is in distilled water the water flow pushes the metal particles from

between the two pieces. This process is repeated develop, if the tool is too close to the work piece it
over and over, and will result in the work piece being can fuse or weld the two pieces together. The tool is
etched away as the negative of the tool shape. constantly moved closer to develop a spark, and then
moved away to allow flushing and reduce the chance
The tool is normally held in place on a vertical linear of fusing with the work piece.
slide so its position can be very accurately controlled.
If the tool is too far from the work piece, no spark will

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Step 2: Make a Linear Slide Part 1


1 - 5 foot long, 3/4 x 3 1/2 inch wood pine

1 - 1 foot long 3/4 x 3/4 inch wood square rod
1 - 24 inch, 1/4 x 20 threaded rod
2 - 1/4 x 20 nylon wing nuts
1 - box of 1/4 nuts
1 - box 1/4 washers
1 - box 1 inch wood screws
1 - box 1.5 inch wood screws
1 - box assorted springs
1 - 14 inch drawer slide (full extension)


hack saw
philips screw driver
tape measure
set of wood files

For the EDM to work properly, you need to have or make a linear slide (a way to control the tool position very
precisely). For this project I decided to make one (it sounded like a good idea at the time). I cut the wood plank
about 24 inches long, similar to the threaded rod. I drew a center line on the wood and screwed the drawer slide
down the middle, leaving about an inch of wood at the bottom, make sure the drawer slide is mounted so it
extends down, not up.

Next I screwed the two nylon nuts onto the threaded rod with the spring between the two. Then I tightened the nuts
to compress the spring. I measured the space between the two nuts and cut a piece of wood to fit. I had to use a
round wood rasp to file down the wood to make room for the threaded rod and spring. Once in place, I marked and
drilled holes thru the nylon nuts into the wood and screwed them in down with one inch wood screws. Leave one
nylon nut a little lose. This setup acts as an anti backlash nut.

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Step 3: Make a Linear Slide Part Duex

Next cut a board about eight inches long, and screw it down. Don't tighten the nuts too hard against the
to the middle of the drawer slide (the part that still wood, this will cause the threaded rod to be hard to
moves). Placing the nylon nut and wood on the 8 inch turn. Cut another piece of wood eight inches long and
base will let you measure how big the end pieces of screw it to the top to cover the nylon nuts and act as
wood need to be. It turns out to be 1 and 5/8 inch (3/4 a base to attach the working tool. Finally, cut the
x 2 + 1/8 thickness of nylon wing). Drill a hole in the square rod to eight inches and drill a 1/4 inch hole in
center of each end cap (picture 2) and screw them to the center. Place this on the remaining threaded rod
the eight inch block (picture 3). Next cut a piece of and lock it in place with two nuts and a washer. This
wood about four inch long and drill a hole in it where is the handle to turn the threaded rod and move the
the threaded rod lines up. Add two nuts and two linear slide up and down. Once it was together I
washers to the threaded rod and insert the threaded noticed that the base rocked side to side when I
rod through the hold. Then add two washers and two turned the threaded rod. To reduce this I glued little
nuts to the top. Tighten the nuts against the top and blocks of wood next to each corner to act as
bottom of the wood and lock the nuts together. This stabilizing feet.
will prevent the threaded rod from moving up and

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Step 4: Make a Linear Slide Part 3

You need a way to hold the tool in place and be able attach these pieces to the platform since the back of
to handle different size tools. I drew out a couple the base was not easy to access. With the linear slide
rectangles and cut a large 'v' shape in the end of all done, I screwed another piece of wood to the back
them. I also had to cut 'v' notches on the side. I drilled near the bottom so I could mount it in my bench vise.
holes in these to handle wood screws so I could

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Step 5: Build the Circuit

The circuit necessary to power the EDM is normally going much over two amps. The last diode is what
very complicated for industrial equipment, but it does all the work. It stores the electricity. When a
doesn't have to be. This design dates back to March spark develops, the capacitor is able to provide the
1968, in Popular Science, pg 151-152. It simply takes full DC voltage and current to maximize the heat
110V AC electricity, sends it through a diode rectifier production to melt the metal. The bigger the capacitor
to convert it to pulsating DC and a filter capacitor to the more heat the spark can produce.
smooth out the DC a little. The 200 watt light bulb
acts as a current limiter and keeps the current from

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Step 6: Setup the EDM


bench with vise

plastic storage container
1/2 inch pvc pipe
1/2 inch pvc elbow (2)
5 gallon bucket
water pump (mine was 550 gal/hr)
about 5 ft of garden hose with male/female ends
shut off valve for garden hose
plastic nozzle for garden hose


3/4 inch hole saw

hack saw
mini vise
3 disk magnets

Place the plastic storage container below the EDM machine. Drill a hole in the side of the container. Push a pvc
elbow thru the hole from the inside and have the other end point up. Cut a piece of pvc tubing long enough to drain
past the edge of the bench and press it into the elbow in the plastic container. Add the other elbow to the end of
the tube and have it point down. Add another length of pvc tube to drain into the 5 gallon bucket that is sitting on
the ground.

Connect one end of the garden hose to the water pump and the shut off valve to the other end of the hose. Attach
the nozzle to the end of the valve. Place the water pump in the 5 gallon bucket and fill with 4-5 gallons of distilled
water. Secure the other end of the hose with the nozzle to the table or plastic container so that it directs the water
to the end of the working tool. Once the pump is turned on, it will fill the container with water up to the top of the
drain opening. I reduced the flow of water by about 50% using the valve.

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Step 7: Cut Some Metal

I decided to use some 3/4 inch metal conduit as my welded together, just back the tool up to break the
first test. I clamped the work piece of pipe in the mini weld. The process is a lot of down and up, you are
vice and the tool was a longer piece of pipe. I trying to maintain a precise spark gap distance but
positioned the tool over the end of the work piece so the position is constantly changing because the work
that it would cut a notch out of the work piece end. No piece is being eroded away. As the work piece is
need for a fancy welder or special tool here. Just a eroded the water will turn dark from all of the metal
simple yet versatile EDM machine. I turned on the particles in it. Even though it looks bad, it doesn't
water pump and powered the EDM circuit and began affect the EDM process. When you start with D.I.
turning the handle to lower the tool. I don't have it water, no electricity can pass through the water,
pictured here but the work piece is completely which means the light bulb is completely off, as the
submerged in water during the machining process, if conductivity of the water increases due to the metal
not, sparks go flying. The water keeps the sparks particles, the light bulb filament will start to glow very
contained and the metal cool. I slowly lower the tool slightly between sparks. When I finished cutting the
until sparks are generated. At first you will get a few pipe, you can see that the working piece lost more
loud sparks but as the work piece is eroded, and metal than the tool did. Since both pieces were the
more surface are is exposed to the tool, you will end same type of metal, this suggests that the negative
up with many smaller sparks, it makes a sound like piece of metal loses more metal in the sparking
sizzling bacon, mmMMMmmm Bacon. Each time the process. As you can see in the last two photos, they
spark is generated the light bulb will light up for a very fit together perfectly.
short time. If the light stays on, that means the tool is
touching the work piece and the two are fused or

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