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Making a Rack & Pinion

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  • Making a Rack & Pinion

    Hi Folks,

    Having made a start on gear making I wondered how do you make a rack?

    Does anyone know of any books or video's etc on doing this?



  • #2
    Racks are not easy things to do.
    Not in terms of the cutting, in this respect they are just like gears, feed to depth, cut and index on the Circular Pitch of the tooth form then repeat.

    Where they are not easy to do is in the setup. Because racks are usually long they don't conform easily to the most handy axis on a machine.

    On a vertical mill with the cutter mounted on a stub arbor the rack needs to be placed vertical. This limits you in hight, bed or quill travel and how much you can support on an angle plate.

    On a horizontal mill or a vertical with horizontal attachment the rack needs to lie front to back or the Y axis as it's known.
    Again this limits travel as the Y is usually the shortest axis and you have a further problem of the overarm or horizontal attachment hitting the work given that most gear cutters are less tha 4" in diameter.

    On a lathe with the cutter between centres you are better off except that you only have a small footprint of the saddle to support the work on and may have to move either the work or the cutter along.

    There are various attachments to fit both horizonatl mills and verticals that use compact gearing to turn the drive thru 90 degrees to let you use the longer X axis and also the get away from the attacment not clearing the work.

    Here's a good example.

    There is probably as much work in thinking about the operation as doing it.
    This is one area where a bit of foresight and planning pays off.

    John s.

    Sir John , Earl of Bligeport & Sudspumpwater. MBE [ Motor Bike Engineer ] Nottingham England.


    • #3
      Hi John,

      Thanks for the reply.

      I thought that must be the case. 8-((

      It seems I'd have to come up with some sort of horizontal cutter system then to use my vertical mill...

      Oh well, back to the drawing board for a bit then!

      Thanks again,



      • #4
        Since the teeth on a rack have straight sides, I wonder if it would be possible to use a suitably-sized tapered end mill to cut the teeth.

        The trick might be the "suitably-sized" part.
        Try to make a living, not a killing. -- Utah Phillips
        Don't believe everything you know. -- Bumper sticker
        Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects. -- Will Rogers
        There are lots of people who mistake their imagination for their memory. - Josh Billings
        Law of Logical Argument - Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about.
        Don't own anything you have to feed or paint. - Hood River Blackie


        • #5
          Try using a horizontal attachment on a vertical mill similar to the picture above.
          "The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is." Winston Churchill


          • #6
            Isn't it possible to have an end mill ground to the tooth form, if so one could rough with a smaller ball mill and finish with the special.

            Paul G.
            Paul G.


            • #7

              Just a thought but couldn't you just make a singe toothed hob to do the cutting?

              As per the DVD's by Jose F. Rodriguez.



              • #8
                A rack is just a gear that has an infinite pitch line radius; ie, a straight line. Therefore, because it is going to (I'm assuming) mesh with an involute tooth form, the involute curve will also have an infinite radius, which means straight sided teeth.


                • #9
                  looks like a job for a shaper


                  • #10

                    Yes I'd agree with the straight sided teeth.

                    I still think that maybe a sigle tooth hob made on the lathe would do as a cutter.

                    Then hold the work verical in the mill and use the vertical index to get the correct position for the teeth.

                    That assumes that you haven't got a shaper. 8-((



                    • #11
                      I'm not following you - how's a single tooth hob any different than the profile cutter for the rack? as per John's post the challenge isn't in the tooth form or cutting, its getting a set up that can get any distance out of.

                      The correct angle end mill ideas seems promising - anyone tried this or know if a cutter is available?


                      • #12
                        Yes, any cutter that cuts on it's periphery would require the rack to be mounted either vertically or near vertically on a mill drill. But this could be done with an angle plate. The hard part would be the feed as you would have to use the quill feed or mount an XY table on the angle plate. Then you would need a large diameter cutter for clearance. Not a pretty picture.

                        As an alternative, and if your mill drill has a tilting head, you could cut a rack with simple square ended end mills. First cut would be to full depth and the width of the root with the head at the normal 90 degrees. Then tiltthe head one way to the pressure angle and do one tooth face. Finally tilt the other way (or reverse the rack) and do the other face. A nice touch would be to use a cutter with a corner radius to leave a fillet at the root. You might also use a wider cutter to rough out to half depth first. This would leave less for the small diameter cutter(s) to remove. Probably better for brass than steel.

                        I also think you could make a special end mill with a tapered shape that matches the tooth form. Since a rack has straight faces on the teeth, this should be relatively easy.

                        Either of these two methods would allow the rack to be setup along the length of the table but you would have to feed with the cross feed so CNC or at least power feed there would be nice.

                        Paul A.
                        Paul A.
                        SE Texas

                        Make it fit.
                        You can't win and there is a penalty for trying!


                        • #13

                          I just posted for a general reference. it's the best site I'vs seen on gear teeth.


                          • #14

                            The comment on the single tooth hob was just that if you don't already own a suitable cutter or want to save money perhaps you could make one.

                            That's just my empty wallet talking. 8-((



                            • #15
                              If you have access to a lathe with a good size center to center dimension, maybe you could mount the cutter centered on a long arbor between centers and mount the rack stock on the cross slide at the proper height to give proper depth of cut.

                              Lock the carriage and take the first cut. With a dial indicator on the carriage, unlock it and use the indicator to move the carriage the correct distance for the next cut. Lock the carriage and take the second cut. Repeat as needed.
                              THAT OLD GANG 'O MINE