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How to machine out a metal channel by hand?

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Sam Longley 125/06/2022 09:08:01
948 forum posts
34 photos

Wooden dowel..Cut a thin strip of emery & spiral wind it on the dowel & super glue it in place The emery will be a bit longer than the channel. Place in electric drill & place it in the channel.Make the dowel longer than the channel & support the end away from the drill with a bit of wood with a hole in it. Then you can run the emery the entire length of the channel. Drill one end, wood support, held in ones hand, the other. It will gradually wear away the metal as it spins.


Edited By Sam Longley 1 on 25/06/2022 09:09:33

John Doe 225/06/2022 11:51:38
100 forum posts
15 photos

Thank you all very much for your time and suggestions.

The first great idea was clamping the two stands together to form an approximate tube to machine out. I had not thought of that.

I do not want to file the hoop pieces as that might weaken them or leave stress risers on the metal - it's quite a heavy horse. Also, I won't be able to hand file them perfectly round.

I would rather not remove the channels as that will probably mark or damage the wood. They are epoxied in and I should of course, have double checked the fit before glueing the channels in. A classic case of "measure twice, cut (or glue) once" !! (but see below)*

I am going to try clamping the two stands together and then running a 10mm drill through, then emery paper taped and wrapped around a smaller diameter drill, or a piece of dowel to open out the channels. At least that will result in reasonably concentric channels, my hand filing won't be quite as good. Hopefully there is only a small amount to remove before the hoops will drop in.

Once they do, I will put some valve grinding paste in the channels and rock the horse to smooth everything out, then clean and lightly grease.


*Part of the problem is that this was originally all a secret for my Mrs, whose horse it is - it had no stand when we bought it. So I could not keep going back to the horse to check measurements or the fit, because that would have given the game away. I hope she appreciates all my work ! By the way, I do not like the traditional rocking horse stands with the long horizontal pieces running under the horse, hence my dual tripod design.


PS, I have a garage, with hand tools and hand held router and drills etc, but not a workshop, or even a vice, (yet). I made the wooden stands by using pre-turned baluster sections for making staircases and very carefully hand cutting them to fit together and glueing it all up.

The hoop rods really are 10.20 mm - 10.30 mm diameter - measured with callipers.




Edited By John Doe 2 on 25/06/2022 11:52:29

John Doe 225/06/2022 16:01:30
100 forum posts
15 photos

Well, clamping both stands together did not work because the two channels did not meet perfectly round but slightly oval, so I had to resort to filing each one by hand.

I filed the channels and also the hoops too, because the bar the hoops are made from did not have a very round cross section, so they jammed on part of their swing. I used a half-round file and a round file wrapped in sandpaper for the channels. For the bars I used a flat file with that opposite action one uses for filing a smooth curve where you move the file opposite to the curve you are filing instead of following round the circumference - can't think how to describe it but I expect you know what I mean.

It wasn't a huge job in the end, luckily, and it all fits very nicely and freely now. I will add a hint of grease on final assembly, and possibly a cover over the top of each hoop. Got to finish the wooden stand next.

Thanks again for your suggestions.


Bill Phinn25/06/2022 16:50:27
768 forum posts
114 photos

Well done, John. The wood still looks very clean in spite of all the filings etc. that must have got in to the grain.

It's nice to see that low-tech toys are still valued by some people at least.

John Doe 225/06/2022 22:37:11
100 forum posts
15 photos

Thank you.

Yes, I put tape over the wood before filing, and washed my hands about 5 times during the process, so I wouldn't get metal filings onto the wood. yes

Edited By John Doe 2 on 25/06/2022 22:39:11

John Hinkley26/06/2022 09:07:01
1356 forum posts
430 photos

I don't want to appear condescending, John, but that woodwork looks to be an amazing quality job! I think I would be inclined to secure the hoops in the channels with a couple of half-round brass or copper U-clamps, though, to prevent over-enthusiastic gallopers from escaping the stands! I know that, in my youth, I would be trying to see how high I could get the rocker to go without thought for the consequences.

A job weel done!


John Doe 226/06/2022 12:24:08
100 forum posts
15 photos

Gosh, thank you.

I have only ever had hand tools, so I guess I have learned a certain precision over years of practise. Also, you can plane and sand quite accurately to a line if you are careful to eliminate inaccuracies such as your wrist turning over.

We needed a stand for my wife's rocking horse and I find the normal rocking horse stand pattern with all the horizontal elements to be a bit clumsy, so I came up with a twin tripod design, which is more open. I was careful to design it so that all the loads are compression loads along and through the legs, and not relying on the joins, which only stabilise it rather than support any significant load.

The sequence below shows the process - all done with hand tools.

We are in the process of moving house hopefully, so all now has to be packed away, to be finished after we have moved and I have finally built a workshop !

I will post pictures of the finished piece.


Tripods will fit. I can use cut down pre-made staircase balustrade pieces made from Hickory.


Glueing the first two legs. (I did use a lot of clamps for the glue-up, not shown). 


Tops cut, planed and sanded to size. Adding the third leg


Routing a groove for the metal channel


The twin tripod stand concept


Edited By John Doe 2 on 26/06/2022 12:27:21

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