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Nick Mason28/10/2013 13:41:43
8 forum posts

I've recently taken early retirement and I'm looking to do some of the things that have always interested me but that I haven't had the time to do.

After a career in IT writing software and managing databases I'd like to make something I can actually hold in my hand.

I have no engineering training or background but would like to learn. I'm looking for resources on getting started, I'm reading through the what lathe threads at the moment.

What would be the best thing for someone like me to start with that will help me understand the lathe and how it works?

What does an 'apprentice' make for his early projects?

About the only thing I have at the minute is a superb workshop. I inherited it from my father. Unfortunately he was a woodworker so it's currently full of woodworking machines and tools. I'm in the process of sorting this out and making room for my stuff when I get it.

Where does someone like me start?

Thanks in advance

Nik

Boiler Bri28/10/2013 17:40:17
avatar
840 forum posts
199 photos

Nick

People like Stan Bray and others have beginners books which help immensely. I cut my teeth on them and there advice. Search Stan bray in the forums at the top of the page.

Tubal Cain has a couple of books about simple steam engines which are nice projects for a starter. They turn up on eBay and Amazon.

Happy modelling.

Bri

Tony Pratt 128/10/2013 17:43:57
1829 forum posts
12 photos

Well the classic 'apprentice' projects were screw jacks, tap wrenches, die stocks, centre punch etc etc, all tools which would be used in the further careers of the budding engineer. I would perhaps suggest something like a hot air engine as a learning project? I am sure many more ideas will follow.

Tony

Nick Mason28/10/2013 17:44:56
8 forum posts

Bri.

Thanks, I'll do that.

Nick

Thor 🇳🇴28/10/2013 17:49:12
avatar
1479 forum posts
41 photos

Hi Nick,

if you are interestedin steam engines, why not make one of Elmer Verburg's? Some are simple to make, other a bit more complicated.

Thor

NJH28/10/2013 18:21:38
avatar
2314 forum posts
139 photos

Nick

You pose a really difficult question. You say that you have a "superb workshop full of woodworking tools and equipment" - I take it then that you have no metal working tools / equipment and that is the path that you wish to follow? Firstly be warned that this is not a cheap enterprise! Getting equipped can also be fraught with problems. You will need hand tools and, I suggest, a pillar drill ( maybe you have the drill already). The early machine choice though will be a lathe ( and tooling). This is not something to rush into and what you buy will firstly be dictated by the size of "stuff" that you want to make so my suggestion is first to read the model press, surf the web - a few possibilities posted already above - visit shows and see just what inspires you. Bear in mind a larger machine will cope with smaller things but not easily the other way around. READ books on machining - the workshop practice series are good. Ex editor of MEW, Harold Hall, has an excellent website - click HERE where you will gain loads of info. He has a section on building the Stuart No10 engine which must have been a starter for many model engineers.

So think hard, read lots, make careful choices and welcome to this enthralling hobby !

Good Luck

Norman

Howard Lewis28/10/2013 18:37:03
5748 forum posts
13 photos

Welcome Nick!

You will get lots of advice, (some of it conflicting!) from Model Engineers.

As to"What lathe to buy?", the answer depends on various factors.

How big is your workshop?

How much money do you want/are able to spend?

(This may steer you away from new towards used. If you have the space, sometimes a machine ex School or Technical College will be a good buy. It will probably be little used, compared to its twin ex an industrial machine shop, as long as you ignore the dings where the toolpost has hit the chuck or someone has dropped a hacksaw onto the bedways).

What are you planning to make?

If small clocks, you may be able to survive with a small lathe. If you have set your sights on a 6 inch scale Traction Engine, you will need something much larger.

The purchase does not end with the lathe. You will need tools for it, accessories, drills, taps, dies, holders etc. Not to mention material on which to operate, and the need to heat and insulate the shop to minimise rust problems.

Example: Probably it won't be too long before you feel the need for a bench grinder to sharpen lathe tools and drills.

The list can go on and on, but you do not have to spend the first year bankrupting yourself by setting up a fully equipped workshop. You can buy things as you find the need for the item, although there are some necessary basics.

One piece of advice that I heard was "You can do small work on a large lathe, but you can't do large work on a small lathe", and I agree, so if possible buy a lathe that seems a bit larger (and with more features )than you think that you need now.

It is also worth buying a few books, to glean more information. "The Amateur's Lathe" by L.H.Sparey, Model Engineer's Handbook by Tubal Cain, and the Workshop Practice Series, by Harold Hall, Stan Bray and others give good advice, and innovative example of workshop techniques, as well as inspiration for projects.

It is amazing what CAN be made with a small machine, and a little bit of ingenuity.

DO join your local Model Engineering Club. You will be in the company of folk who share your interest, and most will be happy to help with advice, demonstration, and sometime the loan of a tool that you currently lack.

Not to mention the inspiration that you will get from their products, (sometimes, despair as to my capabilities)

As you begin to decide what you want to do with the lathe, it would probably be a good idea to look at machines at a Model Engineering Exhibition (The next ones will be Sandown Park in Decembar and Alexandra Palace in January).

My advice, for what it is worth, is once you have decided what you aim to do, to do research, and take advice before buying. (I.E. If you think that you will want to do screwcutting in the future, don't buy a plain lathe. If you are likely to become fanatical about surface finish, buy a lathe with power feeds, that is rigid; and so on)

And then to look for advice and help with the installation.

Like painting, the preparation is all important for the end result.

Good Luck!

Howard

Nick Mason28/10/2013 20:17:45
8 forum posts
Posted by Howard Lewis on 28/10/2013 18:37:03:

Welcome Nick!

You will get lots of advice, (some of it conflicting!) from Model Engineers.

As to"What lathe to buy?", the answer depends on various factors.

How big is your workshop?

How much money do you want/are able to spend?

(This may steer you away from new towards used. If you have the space, sometimes a machine ex School or Technical College will be a good buy. It will probably be little used, compared to its twin ex an industrial machine shop, as long as you ignore the dings where the toolpost has hit the chuck or someone has dropped a hacksaw onto the bedways).

What are you planning to make?

If small clocks, you may be able to survive with a small lathe. If you have set your sights on a 6 inch scale Traction Engine, you will need something much larger.

The purchase does not end with the lathe. You will need tools for it, accessories, drills, taps, dies, holders etc. Not to mention material on which to operate, and the need to heat and insulate the shop to minimise rust problems.

Example: Probably it won't be too long before you feel the need for a bench grinder to sharpen lathe tools and drills.

The list can go on and on, but you do not have to spend the first year bankrupting yourself by setting up a fully equipped workshop. You can buy things as you find the need for the item, although there are some necessary basics.

One piece of advice that I heard was "You can do small work on a large lathe, but you can't do large work on a small lathe", and I agree, so if possible buy a lathe that seems a bit larger (and with more features )than you think that you need now.

It is also worth buying a few books, to glean more information. "The Amateur's Lathe" by L.H.Sparey, Model Engineer's Handbook by Tubal Cain, and the Workshop Practice Series, by Harold Hall, Stan Bray and others give good advice, and innovative example of workshop techniques, as well as inspiration for projects.

It is amazing what CAN be made with a small machine, and a little bit of ingenuity.

DO join your local Model Engineering Club. You will be in the company of folk who share your interest, and most will be happy to help with advice, demonstration, and sometime the loan of a tool that you currently lack.

Not to mention the inspiration that you will get from their products, (sometimes, despair as to my capabilities)

As you begin to decide what you want to do with the lathe, it would probably be a good idea to look at machines at a Model Engineering Exhibition (The next ones will be Sandown Park in Decembar and Alexandra Palace in January).

My advice, for what it is worth, is once you have decided what you aim to do, to do research, and take advice before buying. (I.E. If you think that you will want to do screwcutting in the future, don't buy a plain lathe. If you are likely to become fanatical about surface finish, buy a lathe with power feeds, that is rigid; and so on)

And then to look for advice and help with the installation.

Like painting, the preparation is all important for the end result.

Good Luck!

Howard

Thanks for the helpful advice.

The workshop is 30 foot square. It currently contains a wood turning lathe, a band saw, a morticing machine, a mitre saw and a Robland x260 machine like this one

http://www.conwaysaw.co.uk/newmachines/uniwood/roblanduni.htm

There is a grinder though :0)

I've tried to get into woodworking but I just don't have my father's enthusiasm for it. He ran his own building and civil engineering company but his real love was furniture and cabinet making. My dilemma is that I'd love to hang on to the machines but they are too good to keep and not use. Far better they go to a good home.

I do plan on taking my time and I think visiting a model engineering exhibition is a fantastic idea.

I've ordered a couple of books already but as for what i want to make, that's the big question! I have no real idea I just want to make "something" I will probably start with a simple engine but I had half thought about making a clock, I have always loved clocks and watches, in fact i collect pocket watches.

There is much to ponder.

Nick

SteveW28/10/2013 20:25:07
avatar
135 forum posts
11 photos

I would say go to a couple of exhibitions and see what's going on. Then talk to a few of the punters and possibly join a local club. Many members would love to show you what equipment they have, and what they have produced with it.

If you have to learn there are the SMEE courses as well if they are near enough for you.

SteveW

Nick Mason28/10/2013 20:26:51
8 forum posts

Norman,

thanks for the link, it is an excellent site. I think that I'm leaning towards smaller projects, I know someone who built a traction engine, it's probably about 5 foot long and I have no intention of tackling anything that big. Famous last words!

I think I'm leaning towards something that can be displayed at home but I need some inspiration so will visit shows. Actually I think there is a pillar drill in there, I remember using it when I still lived at home. I'll have a look tomorrow.

Nick

Stub Mandrel28/10/2013 20:54:14
avatar
4311 forum posts
291 photos
1 articles

I think the Stuart No.10 and the Andrew Smith booklet on how to make it are an excellent start. One advantage is that all the machining can be done on the lathe (although a pillar drill helps), and few specialist tools are needed (just 7BA taps and a 5/16" reamer if I recall correctly).

It is unusual to have such a completely lathe-friendly project in these days of milling machines, but all the plane surfaces can be machined by facing and the booklet explains the setups very well. It also starts to get you into some good habits and introduces topics like fabrication and tapping.

I found it the ideal introduction to 'proper' model engineering after one or two 'interesting' ideas of my own!

Neil

fizzy29/10/2013 20:24:49
avatar
1835 forum posts
120 photos

I echo Stubs advice, and when you mess it up (and trust me, you will!) replacement castings arent too expensive.

GaryM30/10/2013 00:33:54
avatar
314 forum posts
44 photos

Hi Nick,

When I got interested in model engineering about two years ago I found the following web site useful

**LINK**

For my first project I chose this little oscillating steam engine

**LINK**

but then I like steam engines laugh

One of the best beginner's books, in my opinion, if you've not done much in the way of metalworking is:

Model Engineering: A Foundation Course - by Peter Wright

I've found the majority of people that I've come into contact with on forums and at shows to be very helpful and friendly. Also most of the model engineering suppliers are like a breath of fresh air compared to dealing with most other modern businesses.

Best of luck with whatever you decide to make.

Gary

John McNamara30/10/2013 05:07:51
avatar
1331 forum posts
122 photos

Hi Nick

Make sure the lathe you chose is capable of a full range of threads. Some of the smaller lathes being sold are not capable of that. If you have the room as mentioned before a bigger lathe can do a lot more than a smaller one. If you are buying second hand the bigger lathe may even cost less. Does your workshop have 3 phase power? Three phase machinery is often well priced.

Have you considered CNC? If you manipulated databases I guess you know SQL and dot net inside out. G code is a lot easier! Adapting a manual mill or lathe to CNC may be a worthy project to start on. There is a lot of support on have a look at The Artsoft Mach3 forum, The MyCNC UK site and the CNC zone, There are many others.

Anyway Welcome aboard. As Bette Davis said it will be bumpy, but a lot of fun and enormously satisfying. **LINK**

Regards
John

Gary Wooding30/10/2013 06:42:20
932 forum posts
236 photos

Nick,

In my opinion, the absolute best way of learning is to join your local Model Engineering club.

Personally, I'm not a "club" person, and I joined my club only after being helped by some friends of a friend to get my lathe into my cellar workshop. It turned out that they were all members of the same club and I was coerced into attending a meeting.

I've been a member for over 15 years now, and it was one the best decisions I've ever made. I've learnt so much, and there is always somebody to answer difficult questions; often lots of differing answers. But that's how you learn.

You won't learn a thing unless you make mistakes.

Gary

Jo30/10/2013 08:09:28
198 forum posts

Sadly so many people wait until they retire to take up our hobby and then have great expectations of what they want to build.

I always advise these people: Join a club, find out what other members make, find something you want to make, find someone who other members admit to being good at making those things, make good friends with that person and then use them as your mentor.

What ever you do do not ask more than one model engineer for their opinion on doing something... there will always be one more way of doing a thing than there were people you asked. All very confusing to the beginner! If you stick with one mentor they will already know how to over come the quirks in the way in which they work.

Jo

Nick Mason30/10/2013 09:01:46
8 forum posts
Posted by John McNamara on 30/10/2013 05:07:51:

Hi Nick

Make sure the lathe you chose is capable of a full range of threads. Some of the smaller lathes being sold are not capable of that. If you have the room as mentioned before a bigger lathe can do a lot more than a smaller one. If you are buying second hand the bigger lathe may even cost less. Does your workshop have 3 phase power? Three phase machinery is often well priced.

Have you considered CNC? If you manipulated databases I guess you know SQL and dot net inside out. G code is a lot easier! Adapting a manual mill or lathe to CNC may be a worthy project to start on. There is a lot of support on have a look at The Artsoft Mach3 forum, The MyCNC UK site and the CNC zone, There are many others.

Anyway Welcome aboard. As Bette Davis said it will be bumpy, but a lot of fun and enormously satisfying. **LINK**

Regards
John

Don't go putting ideas into my head!! I've got enough to think about, :0)

Yes the shop has 3 phase.

Nick

Paul Lousick30/10/2013 09:09:43
1900 forum posts
673 photos

Hi Nick,

Welcome to the forum.

Get a copy of Harold Hall's books on learning to use a lathe and mill. Lots oh helpful advice while making your own tools. A search on Harold Hall on this site will take you to his home page. A search on the net will find sellers of his books.

Happy machining, Paul.

Nick Mason30/10/2013 09:13:19
8 forum posts

Gary thanks for the links,

I've ordered a copy of the Foundation Course book off Amazon. I'll have a read before making any decisions that involve parting with money.

I think joining a club is a great idea. In recent years the Internet has made on-line communities, like this one a no brainer. We had professional communities in the Oracle database world where ideas were exchanged and people could go for answers.

Thank you all for being so helpful, you have given me so much to think about so far. I've been retired six months and I'm still getting used to not having my time managed by Outlook and meeting schedules. Spending a couple of months on my narrowboat over the summer helped me start the unwinding process and I'm hoping the workshop will do the same over the winter months.

Nick

KWIL30/10/2013 10:27:56
3477 forum posts
66 photos

Nick, It is always a good idea to give an indication where you live, by nearest town for example. You never know it might be near to one of "us".smiley

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