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Making simple machine tools by hand

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Clive Barker30/04/2011 07:59:27
42 forum posts
29 photos
Perhaps I am as eccentric as a multi-throw crankshaft! On the other hand perhaps there is someone else out there who is interested in making machine tools from (mostly) hand tools and a pillar drill. I wanted a suitably sized lathe in my workshop, but one step up from the Gingery homemade type of machine.
In my case it was also largely out of necessity due to the non-availability of a suitable lathe I could purchase. The process starting with hand tools (yes with some help on the way) has been very rewarding. I wonder if others have similar stories to tell; either contemporary or from the past?
jomac30/04/2011 14:18:36
113 forum posts

Clive hi, do you have any machinery at all, if not, there are a few plans on the internet and in back issues of Model Engineer, I built my first lathe using a wood lathe to turn up round sections, see my post in the dovetail forum, on making dovetails, the base of the lathe was a piece of 200mmx90mmx 600mm long heavy duty channel (10mm) that I got off a building site, the head stock is a mixture of 10mm , 12mm and 16mm plate, the steel merchants were good enough to cut it all to size, all drilled and tapped to take cap head bolts, plus some welding. the bearings were cheap roller bearings, cause I did not have access to a lathe, I was going to make the heastock bearings out of a heavy duty trailer hub, (cut and welded to length) but as I was only making snooker cue joints, ordinary bearing were enough, although I did get two new chucks from a going out of business tool shop, one 100mm CC the other 150mm 4 jaw.The motor is out of a washing machine, I bought and made 4 speed aluminium pullies. It is powerful enough to turn up large trailer hub, which was a bit scarey, till I got used to it. Does this help to get the grey matter working.

John Holloway

Clive Barker30/04/2011 14:35:59
42 forum posts
29 photos
Hi John,
Thanks for your response. There are some similarities with my machine which was based on a length of 'I' section steel beam. The ways were bolted on and filed flat. Since I had a handy foundry near to me I was able to make patterns - some, initially, I had to get machined, others I later machined on the lathe itself as it progressed. See my Photo Album
I used plain bearings - bored in the lathe using temporary bearings. As with your experience these were more than sufficient. In fact I am suprised how rigid the overall set up is compared with model engineer lathes I have owned back in the UK.
Thanks for your response. Good to know that someone else thought it worthwhile to make their own lathe.
(Just looked at your posting on milling dovetails where you mentioned more about how you machined yours. Any photos?)

Edited By Clive Barker on 30/04/2011 14:50:38

jomac30/04/2011 14:53:50
113 forum posts

Clive, good morning/arvo I forgot to tell you, the ways/guides are 40mm round bright steel, the saddle/carridge has bronze bushes with foam rubber inside and felt wipers on the outside, they and the bearing holders are split, thus adjustable for wear. The saddle feed screw was fabricated from two G clamps with acme thread (on special), cut the female off one and joined the threaded rods, mounted the female thread under the saddle and on the center line. the handle is on the end, (it's only a short lathe) there's more but Im'e going to bed,its been a long day.

John Holloway.

Nobby01/05/2011 23:31:09
587 forum posts
113 photos
Hi All
My mate rang me and said there was a lathe rusting away in a coal bunker . I went and got it for A fiver £5.00 No taistock no motor? mounting bracket no gaurd etc no dails or handles or brackets no X slde leascrew its kept me busy over time I should have took a before photo as you can see its a S7 Mk 1& add ons

Clive Barker02/05/2011 18:05:24
42 forum posts
29 photos
Hi Nobby,
I had seen your lathe already having visited your Album, and wondered at the time if this was a hybrid machine! It was the tailstock that alerted me. Seems that you now have a very useful machine and get a lot of work out of it.
I think producing work on a machine that you have renovated or put together is even more satisfying. To have done it for apparently so little financial outlay is an extra bonus!
You mentioned it was rusting. Did you have to restore the ways? Perhaps surface rust sometimes looks worse than it is?
Nobby02/05/2011 23:18:46
587 forum posts
113 photos
Hi Clive
I cleaned the bed the best i could. Relaced the lead screw . the cross slide I reground at work, I am retired now . the vertical ways/guides I scraped and fitted useing a gap gauge i made sliding along blueing etc with high spot blue .
The rust dinks for a better word act as oil retainers . The handles etc I turnded on my small 1915 Exe lathe that I sold You can see the bed & tailstock in this picture
Thanks Clive for you interest Regards Nobby

Lawrie Alush-Jaggs04/05/2011 13:57:42
118 forum posts
32 photos

Hi Clive
I built my first wood lathe when I was eighteen. The head stock was a piece of water pipe that I had bored to take bearings. The spindle was from a steering colum that I found at the tip. The bed, a lump of 1200mm x 100mm wide channel came from the wame place. I chain drilled and filed a slot for most of the length of the bed for the banjo.
A kind neighbour lent me his stick welder and with that and some bits of scrounged plate I made up the tail stock and banjo.
It worked quite well as everything was turned between centres there was no real problem with accuracy.
I used it to make up fancy pillars that became sort of plantation era house front jewelery boxes which I then sold.
I left both the woman I was engaged to and the lathe in Portland in 1979 and move back to Melbourne to eventually marry her cousin and to buy a ready built lathe or two.
I built a three wheel linisher next, in about 1988. This time I relieved someone of a piece of 3/8 barbecue plate and cut it out with my oxy.
The pins on which two of the wheels are mounted are bits of car stearing column, again found at the tip and turned up on an Emco Unimat SL.
I bought some 60mm nylon and paid a six pack to a bloke at Qualos to bore it out for me to take bearings. I cut out bits and peices with the oxy, chain drilling and hack saw. I filed and draw filed bits that I thought should be flat and ground the edges and other bits with the bench grinder and a nine inch angle grinder.
The cam which is used to tension the belt was my piece d resistance. I am still very proud of it. I scribed concentric circles with dividers and then plotted the curve, cut it with the oxy and finish ground it with the bench grinder.
The motor is a three speed 3/4 HP that came out of a washing machine from the days when they put in fully enclosed motors.
It took me several weeks to build and I have to say it is one of the most satisfying bits of stuff I have manufactured. Next to my cordless drill, it is the single most used tool in the workshop.
I have to say that I have taken stock of my skills and that with the exception of the linisher, I am not really up to the task. I bought machine tools in order to overcome my short comings. They have been every bit as successfull as I hoped they would be so thank you, but I think I will decline your invitation and continue with machine tools.
As I once read and was offnded by for a short time in Router magazine, "If you cant use a power tool for the job its not worth doing.

Edited By Lawrie Alush-Jaggs on 04/05/2011 14:16:43

harry marr20/08/2011 20:10:56
5 forum posts
Im glad its not just me! Im starting out on building a lathe at the minute and wondering if id taken on to much so good to see others have coped! how do you find their accuracy?
Ive previously built a desktop cnc mill (proper xy table not gantry style) for milling pcb's.
The trouble i find is getting hold of things like babbitt metal is so much harder than it used to be!
John McNamara21/08/2011 03:23:21
1149 forum posts
101 photos
Hi Clive
Hi all
And a special hi to a fellow Melbournian.
Gantry mill. (note this is not a light weight mill made from steel tube) At the high end of machine tools, nearly all the vertical mills are gantry style for rigidity.

If you are making a machine from scratch mineral castings made from epoxy and aggregate (with steel reinforcement where needed) are definitely worth considering. The castings are made using wooden formwork. Precision flat surfaces are cast against a surface plate. All screwed attachments are cast in metal inserts.

The attached photo shows a design I am working on. Yes I will post the final CAD files here at MEW when I have finished. It has a work area of 300Wide x 600Long x 300high (The box in red); the base area is 1000mm x 700mm this is the first draft and feed screws are not yet shown. And yes it will be Mach3 CNC.

The work table is a mineral cast with 20mm x M12 metal inserts for clamping. At some point the machine itself can be used to make a cast Iron one with slots if needed.

If you are thinking of building your own this method is well worth studying.

The only bought items will be the linear ways and feed screws. A lathe will be required to turn the spindle (INT40 taper) and other small parts. A small mill would speed the build but is not a required item.

The same methodology could be applied to building a lathe. Haas lathes now use linear guides instead of a ground bed. as do a number of other machine builders.



Edited By John McNamara on 21/08/2011 03:36:58

John McNamara21/08/2011 06:10:33
1149 forum posts
101 photos
Hi All

An Update....The Z axis now has bearings. A bit of interference with the Y axis carriage as I made the Z axis frame wider, but that will be sorted, finding interference is an area where Cad really shines.

Re bearings and rails: The prices are starting to become more reasonable. There is a lot of competition on the net. They are sold in size series to ISO standards. Many manufacturers make to the standards. So rails and bearings (Only as a set) can be interchanged.

More to come I will open a new thread.


Ian S C21/08/2011 12:42:24
6779 forum posts
224 photos
I have a book that could be of help, "Forty Power Tools You Can Make" Popular Mechanics Press 1944. It includes;band saws, drill presses both wood and metal lathes, and a number of other tools. All built in the method familia to those who read "Popular Mechanics", even up through the 1960s, using water pipe and fittings, and automotive parts. I found the book in a second hand book shop. Ian S C

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