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Hello from Cornwall

Newbie Machinist !

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Tim Brison07/04/2022 16:38:08
3 forum posts

Hi All,

Completely new to 'engineering' and metal work in general, I have inherited a lathe and milling machine that I now wish to start using - so thought the best option would be to talk to people who really know what they are doing!

Hence joining this forum.

I have been reading through the posts, but unfortunately, my questions appear to be so basic, that few answers have been found.

The lathe is a post war imperial Southbend monster with 3 and 4 jaw chucks and the milling machine is a belt driven Warco Minor Mill.

I'm really hoping to get some basic practical advice - mainly on simple setups - because I intend to find some courses on machining for the future.

My profession is IT Technical Support - so if anyone wants some computer help, just let me know. I'm also a keen cabinet maker and woodworker - probably little use to anyone here - but will help anyone if I can.



Thor 🇳🇴07/04/2022 19:11:23
1661 forum posts
46 photos

Hi Tim,

Welcome to the forum. If you want to read some books, the Workshop Practice series has many good books for beginners, like #34 Lathework - A Complete Course and #35-Milling - A Complete Course by Harold Hall.

A few links you may find useful:





Edited By Thor 🇳🇴 on 07/04/2022 19:11:49

Oldiron07/04/2022 19:21:21
996 forum posts
40 photos

Welcome to the forum Tim. South Bends "How to run a Lathe" is a good starting point. Here is a link to my Dropbox copy. SB. How to run a Lathe.

IHIH. regards

noel shelley07/04/2022 19:23:25
1445 forum posts
23 photos

Hi Tim , Welcome, we are a happy band so any questions on almost anything will be answered, The impossible we can solve whilst you wait, miracles may take slightly longer ! Best wishes Noel.

Tim Brison08/04/2022 10:51:42
3 forum posts

Many thanks all, for the getting started information - I downloaded the publications and can see I have a lot of reading to do!

Nothing unexpected there then

However, before I can even start, there is one sticking point I'm having a lot of trouble with: how do you use a milling machine without a milling vice, especially on small parts?

The history of this question is that I have inherited huge amounts of tooling from my father in law - a model engineer who made real steam engines.

Most of the parts he made on the mill were really very small - from what I can tell by looking at his work.

I'm probably being a bit dumb, but every time I investigate milling, the very first 'lesson' is often how to tram the head and the milling vice.

The mystery is, my father in law didn't seam to own a milling vice - I can't find one anywhere. So how did he clamp the stock to the table? Did he have to machine the parts using much bigger stock and then cut it down? Did he have to use a dial guage everytime he unclamped the stock, because there is no reference face without a vice?

It's a complete mystery to me!

Speedy Builder508/04/2022 12:13:11
2653 forum posts
219 photos

Hi Tim, that is a bit odd, however, round parts can be held in a chuck from a lathe and the chuck clamped to the milling table. BUT the milling vice may have been used on a drilling machine and become separated ?? Large components are often clamped to the table as they are too large for a vice.

Which model Southbend lathe have you inherited ?


Howard Lewis08/04/2022 13:05:17
6314 forum posts
15 photos

Welcome to mthe Forum.

If you look around, you will find that you are not the only Cornwall dweller on here.

Yes, good idea to read up before cutting metal.

Other books that you will find useful are

Zeus charts. Contain lots of useful information for use in the workshop. A constant workshop companion. Still using mine, bought in 1958!

An extremely useful reference book is Tubal Cain's "Model Engineers Handbook"

there are numerous books on using a lathe.

L H Sparey "The Amasteurs lathe" is often regarded as the "bible", although it is heavily slanted towards the Myford ML7, which was probably the most frequently found lathe for the Modeller, as well as being used in Toolrooms in industry.

Ian Bradley's "The Amateurs Workshop" covers the lathe and setting up, as well as other workshop activities.

AS you gain experience, you will find other books in the Workshop Practice Series useful for such things as Drills, taps and Dies, Screwcutting etc. You can buy them, as when you find a need.

If you do not have them, you will need some measuring equipment (especially if the lathe has a four jaw chuck available. An Dial mtest Indicator and a magnetic base will be needed to centre work accurately in int.

A 3 jaw chuck will hold work reasonably central, but not absolutely concentric. This is where the 4 jaw comes into its own to hold things as centrally as you manage, square work, or to deliberately set work off centre when required.

If you can find a Model Engineering Club within a reasonable distance, do join it.

You find others with similar interests and who will be able and willing to help and demonstrate.

Above all, do not rush, that is thew way to disillusionment.

Learn the basics by making little things, such as tools, a Centre Height Gauge, how to grind tools, and drills, before launching into an expensive and complicated project. Make mistakes and learn on cheap bits of metal rather than an expensive casting for a model.

You will get a vast amount of pleasure and satisfaction, seeing your skills improve, and projects coming to completion.

Good Luck


SillyOldDuffer08/04/2022 15:23:34
8903 forum posts
1999 photos

Posted by Tim Brison on 08/04/2022 10:51:42:

... how do you use a milling machine without a milling vice, especially on small parts?


The mystery is, my father in law didn't seam to own a milling vice - I can't find one anywhere. So how did he clamp the stock to the table? Did he have to machine the parts using much bigger stock and then cut it down? Did he have to use a dial guage everytime he unclamped the stock, because there is no reference face without a vice?

It's a complete mystery to me!



A machine vice makes life so much easier, I'd almost bet the farm your father-in-law had one. Probably been lost or the workshop fairies have hidden it! If it doesn't turn up, buy one!

It is possible to mill things without a vice. It's the only way to mill large objects, which are clamped direct on the table with the T-slots. You can buy sets of clamps for this purpose, but they're a bit too big for most work, hence people make their own. Did father-in-law leave a box full of odd shaped lumps of metal, t-nuts, and various bolts?

Even with a vice, small objects are usually made from much larger stock. Cutting is planned so the small item stays connected to the big parent for as long as possible: the parent is clamped and moved, not the tiny part.

Clamps made of bright-mild steel (which has reasonably good flats and straight edges) can be used as an improvised vice. Does the same job, takes longer and needs more imagination.  Ground steel is available if more accuracy is needed.

Another trick is to superglue the small part to a flat holder, which might be a bit of wood, and clamp the holder to the table.  Anything like an angle plate been found:

In production, it was common to hold work in Jigs and Fixtures. They're precision made to hold a developing work piece accurately in position whilst it was ground, drilled, turned, milled or bored. Over the top for most amateur purposes, but it's not unusual to make simple holders specifically shaped to hold a part in position whilst it's machined.

Workholding is a big subject. Owning a vice solves a lot of problems!






Edited By SillyOldDuffer on 08/04/2022 15:29:28

Thor 🇳🇴08/04/2022 15:28:04
1661 forum posts
46 photos

Hi Tim,

If your father in law made steam engines I would assume he trammed the milling machine, so you may not have to worry about that. I find a milling vice very handy, but there are many other methods of workholding on the milling machine, a few links you may find useful:





Harry Wilkes08/04/2022 15:28:52
1371 forum posts
66 photos

Welcome to the forum, shouldn't worry about basic questions that's also my level, looks like you have a nice skill to share smiley


Tim Brison08/04/2022 17:23:04
3 forum posts

Blimey !

Wasn't expecting so much help so quickly - thanks all for the tips and information.

So far I have audited almost all the tools, jigs etc for both the lathe and the mill - but no milling vice anywhere to be seen. There are (a lot) of small toolmakers clamps of varying size so I assume he clamped these to the table?

I have not yet been able to identlfy the Southbend lathe, as most of the markings are so faint I can't read them....I have ascertained by it's looks alone, that it must be somewhere just before or just after the WW2 period.

I've always wanted a metal lathe but this is massive overkill for my needs - with only one exception: I have woodworking requirements to be able to work on the end of thick steel stock - round bar - and this machine accepts something aproaching an inch or more through the headstock.

I have noticed that smaller modern machines don't have such large holes through the headstock drive shaft (?)

Anyway, many thanks again for all the info - I've got a lot of reading to do now, so I'm off to put my feet up with a scotch and read some more!

Bazyle08/04/2022 18:00:55
6384 forum posts
222 photos

Don't worry about tramming - there is nothing to adjust on a Warco Minor.
Vices should be banned from beginners anyway to make them learn other techniques. When clamping to the table though always put a sacrificial piece below the item so that you don't mess up the table. For a lot of things MDF is flat enough.

Oldiron08/04/2022 18:38:34
996 forum posts
40 photos

If you downloaded the SB manual from the link I gave you all the info to identify at least the size of the lathe is given therein. You could post a couple of pictures to the forum to help others identify it for you.


Howard Lewis09/04/2022 11:36:08
6314 forum posts
15 photos

You can do small work on a large lathe, within reason. (Not too long ago, I thined the heads of some 10BA bolts. they were held in the 6 inch chuck!

Being able to pass long material, of a reasonable size, through the Headstock of a lathe is a most useful feature.

(I was frustrated by the 2MT bore of my Myford ML7. No such problem with its successor which is overkill at 5MT!

Lathes UK website will also provide useful information on South Bend lathes, as will other users on this Forum.

As long as the Mill cuts so that top and bottom of pieces are parallel, tramming is not need. The decision will depend upon just how parallel you want the faces, with in a thou, or within a tenth of a thou?

Because it is the practicable size for my Warco Economy Mi;ll/Drill, I use a Vertex K$ vice.

The size is governed by the size of machine on which the vice is to be used, and the rigidity that you require. A 3 way tilting vice will be less rigid than a non tilting, non swivelling one of the same size.

But there are times when they have their uses. Ditto for clamping work direct to the table of the mill (Preferably in such a way that the cutter does not damage the table ) .

For a very little used machine, the cost of a commercially available vice was not justifiable. So I made a copy of it but obviously not from the same materials, and to a lower quality. But it serves the purpose given its infrequent use.


King Olaf27/06/2022 11:02:07
10 forum posts

Hey Tim.

I'm also in Cornwall. I'm setting up my Warco lathe. Happy to catch up if we happen to be nearby - we could at least share our ignorance of metal working

I'm in Devoran.

bernard towers27/06/2022 11:44:08
691 forum posts
141 photos

Tim , you can clamp your work to the table with something sacrificial underneath even good quality MDF as its very flat. I had a friend who made bespoke furniture locks and he screwed the brass to the MDF and milled a row of parts. the thing with clamping to the table is no levelling of parts.

Howard Lewis27/06/2022 21:45:33
6314 forum posts
15 photos

I was not a machinist, but after my Apprenticeship, years in industry exposed me to a lot of machines and machining.,

Milling is a series of interrupted cuts, so the work needs to be rigidly clamped. If it is not, it will move and that may damage the work, probably break the cutter; and you might even finish up wearing it!

A milling machine is more dangerous than a lathe, and either can do you serious injury if you are careless!

FWIW learn how to use a lathe, first of all. When you are reasonably competent, you can start to learn how to use a milling machine.

Take one step at a time.

You seem to be starting from absolute scratch so learn the basics first.

If you can't find a local Model Engineering Club, take up King Olaf's offer..

Certainly get some books and start reading them. You will learn from them, and avoid making mistakes which can be frustrating, mystifying, or downright dangerous. If you can't find a list of possibles, PM me.

Until you have some experience, stick with using the 3 jaw chuck. Setting work accurately central in a 4 jaw is another technique to learn. A 3 jaw will not hold work ABSOLUTELY central.

You learned to walk before running or sprinting.

All experience is good, even if it only warns you not to do that again!

Once you have become fairly proficient with a lathe, some of the principles that you have learned can be applied to a mill.

Don't rush. make your mistakes, (and you will ), on plain mild steel bar not expensive castings or materials.

The South Bend is a fairly elderly machine, so High Speed Steel tools will suit it best.

Carbide has its uses, but when you have a better idea of what you are doing.

For the cost of one carbide tip, you can buy a piece of HSS that will suffice for a lot of grinding to resharpen.

That leads you on to buying a bench grinder, and learning how to grind tools. The ideal clearance for a tool / material may be 10 degrees, but for most purposes, the world is not likely to end if you actually produce 8 or 12 degrees! Start too early and you won't whether you have picked nit or a louse!

One of the first jobs that I would advise is making a Centre Height Gauge. It will be useful for the rest of your time with that lathe, and you will learn a lot by making it. So, WIN WIN.

Take a look at my albums for pictures. The one with two blades is for a lathe with a rear toolpost as well as a front one, but the principle is the same. So just make a single bladed one to start.

Having made and set the gauge accurately, tools can then be set so that the cutting edge of the tool just touches the underside of the blade.

If the tool is not on centre height, it will not cut properly, or possibly not at all. If it is cutting, but off centre, it will leave a pip in the middle of the bar. Adjust the tool height until there is no pip (And you will notice that the tool cuts better, and produces a better finish ).

Once in that position, the Centre Height Gauge can be set to it and not readjusted unless absolutely necessary..

If, eventually, you climb onto one of my hobby horses, and start to use a tangential turning tool (Only one face to grind! ) you will really need a Centre Height Gauge.

Making simple tools provides useful learning and experience to build confidence and produces tools that you can probably use for many years to come.

Apprentices learned by making their own tools, so no reason why you should not follow the same path.



Edited By Howard Lewis on 27/06/2022 21:48:05

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