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Chris Murphy29/05/2022 21:19:12
57 forum posts
46 photos


as a beginner in using the metal lathe what would you recommend to be good starter turning projects.


chris m…..

noel shelley29/05/2022 21:54:20
1442 forum posts
23 photos

I would get some bits of steel bar/rod and just get the feel of the machine and using measuring instruments to check your work. What equipment do you have and where abouts are you ? Noel.

Paul Lousick29/05/2022 23:31:55
2075 forum posts
727 photos

See if you can get a copy of Harold Halls book " Lathework a Complete Course" .

Lots of his projects are available on his web site to make your own tools and equipment . **LINK**

Chris Murphy30/05/2022 07:31:40
57 forum posts
46 photos


thanks for the replies.

I live in Welwyn Garden City Hertfordshire.

I have to buy some metal and get turning.


chris m….

Chris Evans 630/05/2022 07:38:47
2067 forum posts

Try and get hold of some EN1A (modern speak gives it a different number) then you are working with a known grade of easy machining steel. Some steels and unknown offcuts are not easy to machine and you will not know it it is the steel or your efforts that are wrong. Good luck and enjoy the lathe.

Chris Murphy30/05/2022 08:55:45
57 forum posts
46 photos


many thanks for the tip, I’ll have a look around.

on eBay most probably.


chris m….

SillyOldDuffer30/05/2022 10:25:40
8883 forum posts
1998 photos

Simple tools are a popular starter choice. A centre-punch can be made entirely on the lathe. As an exercise, Aluminium, Mild-steel or Brass will do. If the punch is to be used, turn it from Silver Steel and heat treat to harden.

At first avoid unknown scrap because a lot of it doesn't machine well/ Ordinary mild-steel is OK rather than good. Most brasses machine well. Otherwise, when buying metal, look at what the spec says about machineability. Of the mild-steels EN1A is good, EN1A-Pb (leaded) is even better. 6061 Aluminium is good.


The centre-punch consists of a parallel turned section, a shallow taper, and a blunt point. For extra fun. it's conventional for the end hit with a hammer to be squared off.

First attempt might be to reproduce the approximate shape with a reasonable finish. Second attempt is more difficult: it is to make the item to size from a dimensioned plan. Most metal working lathes should be able to get within 0.02mm without too much trouble.


Being a metric fanboy, I've dimensioned the plan in millimetres, but if your lathe is Imperial, note they are all common inch sizes. 3.17mm is 1/4", 25.4 is 1", 12.7 is 1/2", 19.07 is 3/4" etc. The lesson here is how to understand a plan, which might be faulty or dimensioned in unexpected units, then planning a sequence of cuts, and then doing them accurately on the lathe and perhaps other cutting tools as well. A centre-punch isn't critically dimensioned, so mistakes are allowed, and tolerances low, but many other jobs need more care.

Don't get too hung up on accuracy: most model engineering uses a technique called fitting in which a hole is drilled or bored to nominal size, and a shaft is turned to fit it, cutting first by measuring slightly oversize, and then shaving off more off the diameter step by step until it fits the hole: the exact measurements don't matter much.

Don't think the centre-punch is too simple - not difficult, but harder than it looks.


John Hinkley30/05/2022 10:41:43
1354 forum posts
430 photos

Welcome to the forum, Chris,

I would endorse all the above comments but, to be a bit of a killjoy, get some safety glasses and use them. Swarf in the eye, especially brass is particularly unpleasant and brass swarf goes everywhere, at high speed and in unpredictable directions.

You have chosen a very rewarding hobby that can rapidly become all-consuming (and expensive, if you let it!). Enjoy the ride.


Steve F30/05/2022 10:57:00
96 forum posts
25 photos

Hello Chris

Can i just say be careful of the stuff on Ebay. I have had some pretty rubbish stuff arrive in the past. There is good stuff on there but it can be a bit random.

I think you are far better buying material from somewhere like Macc models directly or on Ebay or EKP supplies who also sell mixed size stock packs. At least you know what you are buying.



Andrew Johnston30/05/2022 11:21:50
6668 forum posts
701 photos
Posted by Steve F on 30/05/2022 10:57:00: careful of the stuff on Ebay. I have had some pretty rubbish stuff arrive...

I'd concur, for steel in particular the supplier matters. I bought this lump of 4" diameter steel on Ebay as it was cheap:


It was to be used as a former for bending sheet metal so quality didn't matter. Just as well, as the finish was poor:

former - close up.jpg

For smaller diameter (less than 1" diameter) I buy a standard 3m lengths from metals4u. For larger diameters, and specialist alloys, I buy from m-machine in Darlington.


Howard Lewis30/05/2022 12:53:17
6306 forum posts
15 photos

As others have said, buy some books on using a lathe .

Harold Hall, Ian Bradley. (The Amateur's Workshop, and the Myford 7 Series Manual ), Stan Bray, and L H Sparey (The Amateurs Lathe).

Books on the mini lathe have been written by Dave Fenner, David Clark and Neil Wyatt.

Neil also wrote a series on using the Sieg SC4 in Model Engineers Workshop, some time ago.

You do not have to have all of them, but more than one may cover some feature or technique not mentioned in the other(s )

Whilst some of the books deal with a specific machine, others do not. Every one will contain information on the basic principles, which can be applied to almost any lathe..

The advice to learn using the machine by making small items is good. Not only will you learn, (From mistakes as well as successes ) but you will have a small collection of tools that will be useful in the future. You start with simple, straightforward ones, and as you gain experience and confidence, progress to more complex items.

Possible items could be

A Centre Height Gauge,

one or two Tap Wrenches of different sizes,

Stud boxes for various types and sizes of threads

An Alignment Bar for when you want to check or adjust the alignment of the lathe, to remove twist from the bed, or to align the Tailstock

(Ian Bradley's books will tell you how to check and adjust the lathe to take twist out of the bed. A lathe with a twisted bed will be unlikely to turn parallel.

A second Centre, for when you want to centre work in an independent 4 Jaw Chuck

A Tailstock Sliding Die holder, (You can buy the Arbor and actual Die holders, just make the basic body )

More adventurously, a Tailstock Sliding Tap Holder ( Mine uses ER 25 collets )

A Mandrel Handle (useful when using Dies nor Taps in the lathe, especially when working up to a shoulder )

To make these items, you will need measuring equipment, probably a calliper (Digital, Dial, or Vernier ) to begin, or a selection of Micrometers.

With a 4 jaw chuck you will need a magnetic base and at least one dial indicator. Often ntwo can be have their muses, a Plunger type and "Finger" clock, ( usually more sensitive, and can be used in a bore where a plunger clock cannot go )

You can make these tools as simple , or as complicated / decorative,as you wish as you progress.

In the future, you will ,find a use for all of these things, sometimes often, others less frequently, but still useful.

It is better to make mistakes (And even scrap a job ) in a piece of mild steel bar than an expensive casting from a kit.

Books like G H Thomas' "The Model Engineers Workshop Manual" and "Workshop Techniques" will give you ideas and provide drawings.

One final sombre note, THINK SAFETY., and be careful You don't have to go overboard, but just take care.

(Turn the chuck by hand to ensure that everything is clear before applying power. )

Don't leave a chuck key in the chuck, except when you are using it to tighten or loosen the grip..

Even a small lathe is likely win if you get entangled with it

And beware of sharp edges on workpieces or swarf


Chris Murphy30/05/2022 13:28:09
57 forum posts
46 photos

Hi all.

thanks for all the tips and info.

there seems to be a lot of talented people on this forum.

I hope I can learn to use the lathe how it’s meant to be use and make some good stuff.

practice makes perfect I suppose.

cheers everyone

chris m…..

Triumphboy30/05/2022 14:30:05
23 forum posts
4 photos

As a newbie a couple of years ago, I found that a lot of my time was making sure the lathe ran true, and making sure the slides were adjusted, not too tight, to reduce vibration when cutting etc. I made several pieces including spacers and levers for locking off the slides when needed. You can learn a lot about the lathe this way and machine some simple starter pieces at the same time. I found that it makes a difference to the quality of the finished item.

A quick change tool post take the pressure off always aligning cutting tools when trying to concentrate on making projects too.

Just my experience


roy entwistle30/05/2022 15:48:06
1551 forum posts

SillyOldDuffer. I think that you will find that 3.17mm is 1/8 inch not 1/4.

Roy ( 88 year old imperialist )

SillyOldDuffer30/05/2022 16:02:31
8883 forum posts
1998 photos
Posted by roy entwistle on 30/05/2022 15:48:06:

SillyOldDuffer. I think that you will find that 3.17mm is 1/8 inch not 1/4.

Roy ( 88 year old imperialist )

Sigh, sackcloth and ashes for me again.



Andrew Johnston30/05/2022 16:09:19
6668 forum posts
701 photos
Posted by SillyOldDuffer on 30/05/2022 16:02:31:

...sackcloth and ashes for me again.

Only partially, Roy has the conversion wrong as well. smile


roy entwistle30/05/2022 16:31:16
1551 forum posts

Andrew It's a lot nearer being right than SOD's version. 3.17mm against 3.175mm


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