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Build a watchmakers lathe

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Michael Edwards 112/12/2019 09:47:21
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Call me mad but I love the look of the watchmakers lathes. I would love to own but cant afford the type of money they go for. My question is would it be possible to build one. Looking at the designs like Lorch, etc. They don't look that hard. I have a Boxford Lathe and milling machine. I can turn between centres for a taperless lathe bed. But my question is does the lathe bed have to be hardend and precision ground as the ones I have seen for sale have a lot of dings that says they have either had a very hard life or the ways are not hardend.

I have been watching a lot of watch makers videos and what I have seen is that the any turning is done by hand with a grave and its all down to touch and feel. This can lead to error but its down to the skill of the operator. Hay they have been building these time machines for 100's of years and they didn't have cylindrical grinding machines back then. So I wonder if it is possible.

The next question would be What would be the modern equivalent collet system. ER11 maybe?.

Would love to hear your thoughts?

Michael Gilligan12/12/2019 09:55:51
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First thought, Michael ... Consider making some ‘turns’ first

The complexity [and much of the justifiable cost] in a decent ‘hollow spindle’ watchmakers lathe is found in the bearings and the collet mount.

A lot of good work can be done between dead centres.

MichaelG.

.

Edited to add the final t in thought

Edited By Michael Gilligan on 12/12/2019 10:08:55

Russell Eberhardt12/12/2019 10:01:14
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Sounds like an interesting project. I would be inclined to use silver steel for the bed and not harden it for fear of distortion. ER 11 collets should be fine unless you want to grip anything below 0.5 mm. This would be a good start for the head-stock spindle.

https://www.arceurotrade.co.uk/Catalogue/Collets/ER-Milling-Collet-Chucks-Straight-Shank/ER11-Straight-Shank-Chuck-with-Mini-Nut

Russell

Michael Gilligan12/12/2019 10:04:32
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For background reading, you will probably find no better reference than this: **LINK**

https://archive.org/details/watchmakerslathe00good

MichaelG.

Hopper12/12/2019 10:23:37
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Motorcycle fork tubes can be a good source of ground and hard-chromed round stock. Available cheap as chips these days for various budget Chinese bikes on Aliexpess.com etc.

For a really inspiring tale of making your own small lathe from almost nowt see here: PRISON CAMP LATHE

Bazyle12/12/2019 11:18:45
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You can make the bed out of wood or a raw banana. It doesn't need to be straight or hard as it is not used as a reference as it is not for sliding and screwcutting. The topslide does the precision work.

It is largely historical but the self contained, boxed format of a watchmaker's lathe and tools is because they moved around between shops and took their tools home every day for security. Hence also the mounting technique. One decision is whether you want it to look like an old style lathe or be purely functional.

daveb12/12/2019 13:58:33
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There was a design for a watchmakers type lathe in one of the early MEWs.

Issue 7, reprint on this site, black bar near top of page, click workshop, click tools, click simple lathe.

Edited By daveb on 12/12/2019 14:07:46

John Haine12/12/2019 15:12:51
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+1 for silver steel or ground MS for the bed. I think ER16 would be better for the spindle, will allow up to 10mm stock to be gripped (I use these in my new Unimat spindle). But watch out that the straight shank ER collet chucks may not run as true as you would hope and this is exacerbated by the collet and how it's tightened.

Michael Gilligan13/12/2019 08:31:10
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Posted by Bazyle on 12/12/2019 11:18:45:

You can make the bed out of wood or a raw banana. It doesn't need to be straight or hard as it is not used as a reference as it is not for sliding and screwcutting. The topslide does the precision work.

[…]

.

That’s an interesting observation, Bazyle

My understanding [mis-assumption?] was that Michael proposes making a traditional watchmaker’s tool for hand turning with a graver.

MichaelG.

Hopper13/12/2019 09:51:03
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There's a banana plantation just down the road from me and never once have I driven past and thought "A bloke could make a lathe out of one or two of them." Not once. Tis an interesting idea indeed.

Vic13/12/2019 11:31:34
2570 forum posts
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Sounds like an interesting project Michael. I would love to see pictures of your project if you decide to proceed. I’m sure I’ve seen some precision ground stainless rod offered somewhere so I’d go for that if it was me, I hate stuff going rusty! The ER system seems to go all the way down to ER8 so you’ve got a good choice. I’m not sure if they’d be as accurate as the collets normally used on watch makers lathes though? I would like to see a picture of the machine you’d like to base your project on if you have a link.

Russell Eberhardt13/12/2019 15:54:24
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Posted by daveb on 12/12/2019 13:58:33:

There was a design for a watchmakers type lathe in one of the early MEWs.

Issue 7, reprint on this site, black bar near top of page, click workshop, click tools, click simple lathe.

Edited By daveb on 12/12/2019 14:07:46

Interesting article but it's a shame that the pull out sheet of drawings isn't there.

Russell

Bandersnatch13/12/2019 18:28:20
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Posted by Russell Eberhardt on 13/12/2019 15:54:24:

Interesting article but it's a shame that the pull out sheet of drawings isn't there.

When I follow those links and get to this, I see drawings .... or am I misunderstanding you?

XD 35114/12/2019 03:40:35
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If L.C Mason can make a lathe out of angle iron I’m sure you can make a watch makers lathe !
I doubt a pg and hardened bed is necessary but if you want to go down that road you may want to search around for things like differential pinion gear shafts from cars or trucks or gearbox selector shafts etc - depending on the diameter and length you need.

Russell Eberhardt14/12/2019 11:13:54
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Posted by Bandersnatch on 13/12/2019 18:28:20:

When I follow those links and get to this, I see drawings .... or am I misunderstanding you?

Thanks, I was looking at the magazine in the archive and didn't see that.

Russell

Zan15/12/2019 00:18:08
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I agree with John about the possible problems with the er collet not running true, but perhaps an enquiry to a watchmaking forum would be a good idea. I believe most lathes use a draw in collet system which will not need anything like the force to close compared with an er collet. The disadvantage though is that they will only hold a single size of stock.

I think you are planning to make this for its own sake rather than using it as a working machine tool. Is that the case?

Michael Edwards 115/12/2019 01:45:59
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Zan, yes and no. I like the idea of watch making and I think the lathes are a work of art. I would like to make something that can be used but not used everyday or last 100 years but I want it to be functional. I have an issue and that issue is I get stuck up on numbers. If something says it has to be 10mm then that’s not 10.1 or 10.02. So I thought if I could make a lathe that could make a clock or a watch then I wouldn’t be so stuck up on numbers and accept things.

John Haine15/12/2019 10:10:40
3272 forum posts
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Watch lathes often use WW collets which are as Zan says a draw-in type with 8mm shank. They are not cheap but more precise than (cheap) ER types, and only hold one diameter. For some more info see -

**LINK**

For a design of a spindle which I think uses the same system see the Quorn drawings. Very easy to machine the collet seating, and the collets use a drawbar.

Michael Edwards 115/12/2019 10:17:11
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Hi John I have a quorn and was thinking the same thanks for that great idea

Michael Edwards 129/12/2019 18:17:40
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Sorry all been busy with Christmas with the kids. Things have progressed. I managed to get hold of a Pultra "P" Series lathe from a very kind gentleman on this forum. The lathe is fantastic and I have set about cleaning it. I need to do a few things to it. I need to make a T Gravers rest and some other tools like collets and a faceplate etc.

I will post some pics of what I have been doing over the Christmas period.

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