View Full Version : Hi...new guy needs advise

07-06-2009, 09:13 PM
Hello all,

Not sure exactly where to begin...about a year ago I bought an old - pre-Sears, Roebuck & Co. 12" Atlas lathe with 52" bed. Since that time I have added numerous aditonal items for it, including a taper attachment and a live steady rest and a Milling attachment.

I have also recently picked up a HF Central Machinery Mini-Lathe for a couple of hundred OTD. Plan to use for small, light stuff that doesn't require a lot of precision...

'Course none of these have done me any good since, while very I'm mechanically inclined and can accomplish quite a bit with hand tools, I am by no means a machinist.

So...now that i actually have a number of projects that I have been putting off but that BEGGING to be completed, I suppose it is time to at the very least begin the leaning curve by buying a good book on the fundamentals of machining.

Any recommendations? I am seriously considering a book entitled "Machining Fundamentals: From Basic to Advanced Techniques" by John R Walker. Is this reference any good or does anyone have suggestions for a better one.


07-06-2009, 09:50 PM
look at "lindsay's technical books" and you will find many books that will relate to what you are trying to learn. and they are cheap. simple to read and very informative. . . . .

07-06-2009, 10:15 PM
Thanks! One of their catalogs should be its way to me as soon as they process the request I just made. :D


07-07-2009, 06:58 AM
Mike, you could search the General section for book suggestions. Here is a recent thread with several good suggestions;


The Moltrecht books are very good. Most of the older books from the thirties & forties have plenty of information that is applicable to the home shop with manual machines.

One of the best manuals available is the Atlas Manual of Lathe Operation. I consider it a must for the beginning machinist whether he has an Atlas lathe or not. Reprints are available and copies come up on eBay frequently at low cost.

07-07-2009, 07:04 AM
A course at the local technical school would be a better initial investment.

07-07-2009, 07:18 PM
I bought the large Sears/Atlas lathe with the quick change gearbox in the early '70's when they were on close out. One of the best buys I've ever made. If you take the trouble, it will put out some fine work. The milling attachment will do some things that are more difficult with a real mill, but in general most things are easier on a mill.

The atlas manual that came with it was a good start, but I also had a couple of friends to steer me in the right direction. If you go on http://www.benchrest.com/ , you'll find some discussion & pictures that will be of interest. Another good site is http://www.kinzers.com/don/MachineTools/lathe_projects/ . Also Guy Lautard's Machinist's bedside readers (http://www.lautard.com/) are excellent & available through Brownell's.

Regards, Ron

07-09-2009, 01:23 PM

i'm about like you. different tools, but mechanically inclined and definitely no machinist. i have a bunch of books, and watch YouTube videos and such, but for me, i just go out to the lathe and attempt it. sure, i make some scrap, and reading books may give you some tips on set-up, but until the cutter hits the cuttee, you're not going to know what to expect or what affect changes to your set-up will make.

just pick up some cheap scrap metal, and use that as your first attempt for a project. if it works, make the real thing. if it doesn't come on here and describe your set-up and problem and you'll get 20 tips on how to improve your process. one example for me was cutting threads. it seems like some exotic art best learned from master craftsmen after years of apprenticeship. well after i finally tried it and posted here with questions, i'm a thread-cutting madman. heck, i look for reasons to put threads on things. :) i actually enjoy cutting threads now, and don't fear it.

like i said, i'm no expert, but i have learned a lot and gained a lot of confidence from the guys on this site.

andy b.

07-09-2009, 09:46 PM
As mention earlier there is no substitute for making chips. The lathe videos advertised in our sponsors magazine are good. The ones from American Gunsmith Institute (AGI) are more expensive but better. My 9th grade metal shop started you off teaching you to file. I thought it was funky at the time but that knowledge has been a life long asset. The first lathe projects produced several mandrels and test bars. They involve the basics of facing center drilling, turning, surface finish, filing, polishing etc. The mandrels and test bars are usefull basic tools also.

One of my favorite lathe operations is facing because it visually demonstrates the surface finish when speed and feed are correct. Like the clock that doesn't run but shows the correct time twice a day. The feed/speed in a facing operation is going to get right somewher on the way to the center.

One of the harder things when I first started was finding the correct center height. The facing operation is a good way to achieve this also. Bringing the tool tip to hold a 6" scale against the work is a good way. The scale is vertical when centered and top tilted out when low and top tilted in when high or above center.

Learn to grind and sharpen High Speed Steel bits. Our sponsors magazine has videos on that also.

Welcome and Good luck. Don't be afraid to ask questions but start to learn to think your way through problems.

07-14-2009, 06:21 AM

I am sure there are lots of places to find it.
I have the 42 reprint. Great book, written when the lathe was king.

Start making chips... then think about what you did... make more chips... think again... repeat.

The magazines by our host are a great source of information and ideas... But be aware... they won't get you more time to make projects... your on your own for that one. :p

07-14-2009, 04:06 PM
[QUOTE=Boucher] My 9th grade metal shop started you off teaching you to file. I thought it was funky at the time but that knowledge has been a life long asset. QUOTE]

Have any of you guys ever heard about or seen pictures of the way the pre-WW2 Germans taught their machinists? They would give each student a flat file and a large block of steel. The students would then file for 8 hours each day on that single block of steel. By the time the 3-6 months of filing was over, the students that had remained were given their next lesson. A file is such a basic tool and most people figure that they are easy to use correctly. Mind you, I am not suggesting that any new machinist file a steel block for 6 months. I would start by reading as many machinists books as possible. That is the way I learned how to operate my machines. Good luck and do not be discouraged. Bill Senko

07-17-2009, 10:33 PM
"The amateur's lathe" by L.H. Sparey.

For model making: The shop wisdom of Rudy Kouhoupt, (3or 4 volumes.