Making lathe from scratch and using mild steel plate? Why use cast iron?

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Entropy455

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It will be cheaper for me to purchase a lawnmower engine, than to build a hit-and-miss engine from scratch. Purchasing an engine would also save me a significant amount of time. Nonetheless, I’m still in the process of building a hit-and-miss engine from scratch.

If your interest is in constructing a cool metal lathe from scratch, then go for it. Just make sure that you’re building it for the hobby aspect, and not the money saving aspect.

And it’s not a bad idea. . . .
 

PeterA

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I think they say it is about the journey not the destination, hey...

 

steamer

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PeterA said:
I think they say it is about the journey not the destination, hey...
Yes it certainly is!



I made this mill from scrap about 20+ years ago...It's got 4" tube for the column welded to 1" plate for the base welded by a friend at work. The tube was then filled with hydraulic cement and tension rods in the form of 3/8-16 threaded rods put in. I shimmed the cross slide table after the fact.
The spindle was from a clapped out Sherline lathe. The vertical slide came from a Warner Swasey #5 turret lathe boring attachment that had the foot broken off. I had the broken part machined flat at the local trade school...I did the rest myself with a Dunlop 109 lathe....It worked within it's limitations, made some of my boat engine parts with it too!

It can be done.

Can you weld?

If you stiffen the structure, coat the inside with greast and use hydraulic cement as it expands slightly when it cures. It will add a lot of mass and stiffness to the structure as well as a good bit of damping. I mixed up the cement in the kitchen of my apartment....make sure you put the newspapers down first.

Dave
 

PeterA

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I was thinking using say 19-20mm plate (3/4") thick. Make a big webbed base section and fill with epoxy resin and sand/pebble mix.

 

Tin Falcon

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I think they say it is about the journey not the destination, hey...

I also tell folks the Home hobby machine shop is like a college or university lab. No mistakes
just learning experiences. You also get to pick the projects and the course material cool huh.

Many small lathes have been built over the years. for various uses. Various fabrication methods have been used.
research what has been done places like http://www.archive.org/ and lathes.uk
read this article. http://machineshop.olin.edu/resources/documents/Prison%20Camp%20Lathe.pdf
and remember most lathes were designed for production . sometimes a one of concept build is a bit different.
If one of you hobby goals is to have a lathe you built yourself. And or learn how to build machine tools go for it man.
Tin
I have pondered casting a lathe base from polyester or epoxy filled either iron powder or fine crushed granite and have a light steel skeleton embedded in it .Uses steel fro ways. etc.
 

Swede

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Not much more to add other than that the cost of the materials alone would take you into the used Chinese lathe regime.

Making an advanced tool like this is both a lot of fun but also a fairly advanced project, and doing it usually requires one to have the tool in question already just to make the parts. In other words, one would need a lathe and a mill to make a lathe, or a mill. Not always, but 99% of the time.

Guy Lautard wrote in one of his "Bedside Reader" books about some British POWs who made a lathe from scratch with hand tools and a lot of scraping. It's inspiring to anybody interested in the process.

Light machine tools can also be made by combining heavy structural aluminum extrusions and recirculating linear slideways, like the THK SHS series of linear trucks. My CNC mill build along those lines: http://www.5bears.com/cnc.htm

Whatever you do, enjoy! Good luck.

 

bob ward

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PeterA said:
Why are all lathes and mills made from cast iron?
Casting is a very cost effective way for industry to produce the heavy rigid & complicated metal shapes that are required for lathes and mills, once the patterns are made, a mould can be prepped and poured in 30 minutes or so.

Compare that to the many hours required to cut the necessary shapes from steel plate then weld them all together.

You can definitely weld up a steel lathe or a mill that will work, but unless you have access to suitable free steel and machining, do some costings before you jump in.
 

vedoula

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Oh, I do see its for real... I just have too many unknown words... :D

tom in MA
(from anastasia's account)
 

Robsmith

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Didn't Tubal Cain write some books about building a lathe from scrap; then other books about making a mill with the lathe and so on !
Or was it Dave Gingery ?
 

SmithDoor

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Yes you can build a lathe from mild steel. I have but the size was 72" swing and 20" CC. It was made to make wood and al patterns and fit in the shop. After all that just buy one new or used unless you just doing for the fun only

Dave

Photo at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/southbendmanual/photos/album/547955360/pic/list


Why are all lathes and mills made from cast iron?

Could I weld up a structure out of mild steel plate to use a a lathe base and frame? Then just face mill or fly cut the surfaces in a mill?

I think you would need to flame stress it right? So you weld it, machine it then flame de stress it. Then will it need to be machined again after the flame treatment?
If that is all that needs to be done, as opposed to using cast iron. I guess it is then possible to make a machine that would hold an okay tolerance then yes?

Any ideas how hot you have to get mild steel to stress relieve it? and for how long?

Peter
 

goldstar31

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Didn't Tubal Cain write some books about building a lathe from scrap; then other books about making a mill with the lathe and so on !
Or was it Dave Gingery ?
Martin Cleeve certainly did in Model Engineer whilst L C Mason wrote a book 'Building the Small Lathe' \both were from steel.

Regarding the mill, Ned Westbury built a mill from his own castings which were sold by Woking Precision Models. I built one from castings done in my local college apart from the head . the column was a solid steel bar.

Then Ivan Law and Arnold Throp made the Dore Westbury whichh was a vast improvement. Professor Dennis Chaddock made one and designed his Quorn tool and cutter grinder to do up the homemade tools for it.

As an alternative to the Quorn( which I built as well) there was and is a Stent tool and cutter grinder( from Blackgates) but mine is entirely fabricated from welded steel sections( no, I didn't do it)
 
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bazmak

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Hi I would not even consider making a lathe from scratch,fabricated from steel.I have just bought a sieg 7 x 16 and almost finished all the mods. A seriously accurate piece of kit for $1000.SEE MY THREAD DIARY OF A SIEG LATHE Next cheaper option would be a cheap 2nd hand lathe maybe in need of repair.
Far more interesting and you would have all the main parts in cast iron to refurb or modify Strip it down refurb and paint job satisfaction
Regards Bazmak
 

Omnimill

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I have wondered about making a miniature lathe myself. Ground flat stock is available in sizes big enough for a small Lathe so I'd use that for the bed together with ballscrews, linear guides and ground gear racks. It's a nice idea but finding the time is the biggest problem!
 

Tin Falcon

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To build a lathe is one of those horse cart chicken egg dilemmas in this hobby .

When I was young and a dreamer and wanting to get started in the metal working hobby I read the gingerly books and dreamed of making my own lathe. It is doable and as worthy a project as building a complex steam engine. I then had the opportunity to learn machining on real tools USAF paid for by Uncle Sam. I ended up with a small seig 7x10 for a first machine I would have gone 9x 19 if I had the money at the time.

So it comes down to what machining knowledge you have and how you want to gain it. also do you spend time and money building a lathe . or do you buy a lathe and spend the time learning to use it and building engines.
I have spent way more time building and fussing with CNC conversions than making engines the last several years.
The right answers is the one that each person makes.

If you want to make a lathe google Japanese prison lathe IMHO a must read. for all
Tin
 

gus

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1984.Attended a CNC machine course.That is how to programme CNC lathe,Set up the tools,tool off set etc etc. The course started off teaching us how the lathes are inspected and tested for alignment. Head stock--------tail stock alignment. Test shaft in between centres to test parallelism.Diameter check at head stock and tail stock. Difference should read in very minute microns.I was also told al lathe beds are not flat but minutely convexed. I am not aware if the Chinese mini lathes comes with an Inspection Certificate giving vital readings.May I guess Myford Lathes would leave factory with inspection report giving vital alignment readings.

If one wants to make his own lathe,he must convince himself if he can turn a test shaft with diameter difference of both ends within microns or thous.That is how many thous.

Bought two lathes from our neighbour------Leblond Lathe Plant,Singapore. True enough .I was invited to witness vital inspection readings. The Scrapers did a fine job scrape fitting the slides,
Head stock alignment and levelling and the tail stock alignment.

To build your own lathe to perfection or at least to conventional standards will take too long.
How many of us can scrape fit to mating surface to 80---90% contact?
The bed will require a long planer. Machineshops with planers are usualiy booked for long periods. How about the bed way grinding??
I have respect for the pioneers who build lathes and spent years to perfect their skills.

Just my two cents worth!!!
 

Cogsy

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If you want to make a lathe google Japanese prison lathe IMHO a must read. for all
Tin
What an amazing read. Made me think of 'Hogans Heroes'. Maybe that show wasn't as far fetched as I assumed. Radios concealed in chair legs and precision machines built from scrap. Awesome.
 
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