It all came down to this…
When I assembled the extruder (makerbot mk4) the allen wrench that came with the kit never felt right. Regardless I tightened the set screws on the gear until the allen wrench felt like it was about to strip it, and then I went on my merry way. After watching my extruder not work for the last few weeks I finally:
1) rebuilt my hot end
2) put longer leads on the thermistor and nichrome so I could move the extruder board out of the way
3) put a light on my table next to the maker bot, and
4) noticed that the motor shaft was spinning but the gear was not!
So I disassembled the extruder, found the RIGHT sized allen wrench (1.5mm maybe?) tightened everything down, and I was on my way! It’s frustrating that it took so long to figure it out, but I’m so glad that I finally did. I spent the morning printing out an accessible wade’s extruder and playing around in skeinforge.
I wasn’t able to print out the small gear on the wades extruder no matter what I tried. It always ended up getting eaten by blob monsters. I eventually figured out how to use the multiply feature in skeinforge and printed out 9 of them. With no raft to boot! The no raft thing was only cool because I figured out how to do it, but in the end three or four of them broke free and were garbage.
That last pic is what I was really surprised with. I have never printed without a raft before, and I was really happy with how flat and smooth the surface was. One more thing pushing me towards building that heated bed!