View Full Version : MLA Filing Machine Kit

Frank Ford
09-12-2007, 08:47 PM
I've often wondered about using a small die filer to make square holes in fragile materials like bone, mother-of-pearl and ivory for restoration of old guitar and banjo tuners. So, about six weeks ago I ordered the filing machine kit from Andy Lofquist at Metal Lathe Accessories. Unlike the things I've seen on eBay lately, this one seems just my size with its 7" round table. So far, I've completed the thing, but now I have to set aside some time to get to using it.

I always figure that a kit is a questionable way to get something on the cheap, considering the time it takes to assemble. But this one is a great project for someone at my stage of, er, "development" in machining, and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to spend some quality shop time.


While I was at it I took about 150 "process" photos and put 'em up on my Web site, so if you're interested, take a hike over to FRETS.COM:

MLA Filing Machine (http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Machining/Projects/Filer/diefiler01.html)


Frank Ford
FRETS.COM (http://www.frets.com)
Gryphon Stringed Instruments (http://www.gryphonstrings.com)
My Home Shop Pages (http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Machining/index.html)

09-12-2007, 09:49 PM
Looks great Frank, and I loved the write up. But just reading the writeup makes me tired. Too much project for me I think... :o

09-12-2007, 09:50 PM

I thoroughly enjoyed your web site documenting of each step as you put this toegther. I think I picked up a tip or how to on every page. Being a beginner, this is great stuff. Thanks for sharing your work with us.


09-12-2007, 10:00 PM
Awesome stuff Frank!:D Luv the closeup pics and the clear, easy-to-read, properly spelled text. Get busy, we want MORE!:)

I'm with the Bad Dog though....I'm tired now!

Frank Ford
09-12-2007, 10:40 PM
More is on the way. You may have noticed my use of a "drive center" when I turned the bearings. Not having the big bucks to buy one, I made a 5C version for myself a couple of months ago. I took the photos as I made it and I'll get them assembled before too long.

J Tiers
09-12-2007, 10:57 PM
I almost got one of those to build some years ago, but decided that the odd "links" that hold the table looked like poor support. I was concerned that the table might tend to move, and/or the "links" might slip with a heavier workpiece on the table.

Is there a feature that holds them securely upright that is not visible in the pictures? Or is it just friction from the single screw??

It doesn't matter to me now, because I have a nice stand-mounted Oliver, but I'm still curious, now that you reminded me of the matter.

BTW, of course that is an excellent job..... but that is what we have come to expect from what you show us!

09-12-2007, 11:04 PM
Nice project Frank--Thanks for going the extra mile and doing the writeup!

09-12-2007, 11:42 PM
I am gobsmacked onto my heels by your attention to detail, planning, and sense of future with this project. That was a great half hour spent, Frank. Thanks for the effort!

09-13-2007, 12:10 AM
Frank, great job on the filer and on recording its construction, you obviously put a lot of work into the photo's and web site - its appreciated

Alistair Hosie
09-13-2007, 04:45 AM
As always Frank great workmanship, and for the documentation first class. Keep em coming guys a picture is worth a thousand words in my book regards.Alistair

Alan Smith
09-13-2007, 05:03 AM
Superb, good photos and well written. Not to say well made too!!

I would like to know a little more about the files and how they are held on the reciprocating rod. It occured to me as I was reading your article that the Scotch yoke mechanism is identical to that on my Meddings fret saw that i've just finished restoring. To add a filing capability to that machine would really extend its usefulness so would like to know about where the files come from and how they are attached.

Thanks again for a wonderful web site.


09-13-2007, 10:44 AM
Frank very nice. I too learned something from reading and looking at your project. Your painstaking attention to detail is superb.
I ordered a couple kits from MLA last week and am looking forward to them.

Thanks for the great write up and pics.

09-13-2007, 02:14 PM
Very nice! I like the red color too! I've been thinking about the MLA filer as a project down the road and I really enjoyed your writeup.

09-13-2007, 07:19 PM
J. Tiers says that he worries the filer table might not bear up if he bore down on it with a great deal of weight. Let me just say that if I were J. Tiers I would be worried too. Andy Lofquist

Frank Ford
09-13-2007, 09:34 PM
You know, I wondered about that, too. I figured that I could key the supports or do something to make them more solid if I needed to.

Don't let the spindly look fool you. My machine is on a heavy wood base with 14 gauge sheet metal top, and a stout little motor beside it. I don't have a permanent place for it yet, so I stash it over on the floor behind my band saw. When I pick it up, I just grab it by the table, and unbalanced as the load is, I have no problem yanking it right up to bench height and plopping it down. The table has yet to move out of adjustment with that kind of abuse, so I guess it's solid enough for me!


Frank Ford
FRETS.COM (http://www.frets.com)
Gryphon Stringed Instruments (http://www.gryphonstrings.com)
My Home Shop Pages (http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Machining/index.html)

J Tiers
09-13-2007, 11:35 PM
Dunno as I was worried, exactly, nor that a "great amount of weight" was envisioned.

But the pictures of the table made me think that it could shift, since there are two single-bolt joints "in series". I wondered if there was a precaution against that shifting designed-in. It looked like any substantial shift could get to be a mess, breaking the file at least, if not poking a hole in your hand etc.

I had it in mind to ask about that prior to getting the kit. But before I did, I found a die filer for sale, which solved the problem immediately.

However, now that I have been reminded of it, I thought I would ask, since obviously people who have built one would know.

Naturally, a "worry wart" as I no doubt appear, could easily put an auxiliary support on if they were THAT worried.......

Since Frank says it stays in position fine, I guess it's not a problem!

09-13-2007, 11:47 PM
Real nice write Frank. enjoyed it. And can appreciate the work involved here is mine

Frank Ford
09-15-2007, 04:04 PM
Lane -

I like that skinny little stand - looks like it could be stashed in a corner. May have to make one for mine if I can't find a better location than on the end of my workbench.

09-15-2007, 10:21 PM
Yes Frank Had mine mounted like yours,but had to get it out to use. Too much trouble. Built the little stand added some wheels last week. Roll it out use and roll it back in corner works GREAT.

09-15-2007, 10:36 PM
The table has yet to move out of adjustment with that kind of abuse, so I guess it's solid enough for me!

Now that you mention it, what would be a common usage for it? Seems like a pretty special need tool. The only ones I've seen are big cusses with an over arm and guide. That suggests some pretty heavy duty filing is normal.

09-15-2007, 10:41 PM
I would think one would be great for roughing the profile on a knife or other irregular shape while the stock is laid flat on the table.

J Tiers
09-16-2007, 01:47 AM
Filer uses?

All sorts of cleaning up and fitting the "fiddly bits" of tooling, parts, etc. Anywhere that you need to file, but also need to keep the surfaces at a specific angle to each other, so hand filing is tricky. That's especially true if you also need to do some reasonably heavy-duty metal removal, or the surface is fairly wide/deep, so there is a considerable amount to be done.

For instance:

Cleaning up inside holes for punch and die sets such as this.

Cleared out the corners and smoothed down the roughed out square hole in this (the one on the left!). It is about an inch deep hole, and needed to be parallel. I had drilled holes at the corners, but still needed to clear out more to get the sides flat and to size into the corner.

09-16-2007, 02:21 AM
Guess I should have said "How would Frank, as a luthier, use it". I can't picture him fitting tuning peg holes on a Kamaka ukulele with a file :)

If I had one I'd use it to finish band sawn edges of projects and I'd probably go out of my way to keep sheet metal away from it. I've actually used my old Craftsman scroll saw in this roll with some success using a rat-tail file and sometimes using a round section spiral saw.

10-01-2007, 02:53 AM
I have a Keller 1A which came without any arms at all and I have found that I don't need an arm. I also have used one of Andy Lofquists filers and found it to be a VERY nice machine. Very smooth,sturdy and doesn't need an arm.
Andy, if your here please tell us when the end mill sharpener will be available. I want to build one.

10-01-2007, 11:12 AM
Very nice, well documented also. You are but a couple of paragraphs from being an author. You really should have submitted something like that for publication, its all there.

10-02-2007, 09:18 AM
Caddy, to answer your question about the tool sharpener, I have a prototype up and operating. But I've put off pattern work because using the sharpener is not as easy as I'd like, nor would making it be. I'm still giving some thought to refining and improving it, while meanwhile being distracted by other projects. Andy Lofquist