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  • Milling Attachment - Headstock

    I'm considering making a milling attachment for my Ames lathe, Ames made one but they're rare and and even rarer in good condition. I've got an extra Elgin compound which has a tight cross slide but a sloppy top slide, my thought is to remove the top slide and mount a watchmaking lathe headstock in place of it. The cross slide would then mounted on an angle plate which would be mounted to the compound that is usually on the lathe. This would give me 3 degrees of movement and 2 axis of rotation.

    My question is would the watchmaking lathe headstock bearings be sufficient to withstand light milling usage? I'd get a 10mm if I can find one for a decent price, 8mm if not, so it would be small end mills being used in aluminum, plus perhaps some light drilling using the headstock for indexing. Can anyone experienced with watchmaking lathes let me know if they are able to handle that?
    Cayuga, Ontario, Canada

  • #2
    If it can withstand parting it should be able to withstand "light" milling.

    Only you can know for sure.
    *** I always wanted a welding stinger that looked like the north end of a south bound chicken. Often my welds look like somebody pointed the wrong end of a chicken at the joint and squeezed until something came out. Might as well look the part.

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    • #3
      ok, for extremely light milling, its essentially what a watchmakers lathe milling attachment is....but emphasis the extremely. think cutting microscopic watch wheel teeth in brass.

      10mm collets are a little larger (obviously) than 8's, but are much rarer and more expensive. I know its project creep, but if I was going to the trouble with this, I'd make spindle with angular contact bearings. A lot of the reason for watchmaker milling attachments was so the work could be help and indexed in the lathe spindle....if you're not making clocks/watch wheels, a simpler approach to milling in the lathe is just make a milling attachment and use the lathe spindle to hold the cutter
      in Toronto Ontario - where are you?

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      • #4
        Agree with Mcgyver..... I did not quite realize what the OP wanted, but it finally sunk in that "Ames" is a plain turning machine, like a watch lathe.

        You will find that unless you are just doing small gears etc, you are better off with a cross-slide mounted workholding table attachment.

        Even Rivett had both. They had a powered slide-mounted cutter head, but also had a slide-mounted movable table.
        CNC machines only go through the motions.

        Ideas expressed may be mine, or from anyone else in the universe.
        Not responsible for clerical errors. Or those made by lay people either.
        Number formats and units may be chosen at random depending on what day it is.
        I reserve the right to use a number system with any integer base without prior notice.
        Generalizations are understood to be "often" true, but not true in every case.

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        • #5
          I don't know about your lathe, but I have a Unimat which is probably a similar size (3" x 6" work envelope) and it IS constructed to mill small parts. It has a vertical column for that and the vise or milling table is placed on the cross slide. the head stock is mounted on the vertical column and it has ball bearings but they must be more hefty than those in a watchmaker's lathe.

          I also did some milling with my SB-9 lathe. Instead of the vise style milling attachment, I made a table that sits on the cross slide in place of the compound. My set-up looked like this:

          Click image for larger version

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          The table is tapped with a grid of 3/8" holes and I use my 3/8" clamping kit to hold things down. Of course, I could put an angle plate on it and then a vise on that angle plate. It is quite versatile and can do some milling jobs that I can not do in my dovetail column mill which I purchased later than these photos.

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          Paul A.
          SE Texas

          And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
          You will find that it has discrete steps.

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          • #6
            Very nice work Paul.
            Retired - Journeyman Refrigeration Pipefitter - Master Electrician

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Paul Alciatore View Post
              I don't know about your lathe, but I have a Unimat which is probably a similar size (3" x 6" work envelope) and it IS constructed to mill small parts. It has a vertical column for that and the vise or milling table is placed on the cross slide. the head stock is mounted on the vertical column and it has ball bearings but they must be more hefty than those in a watchmaker's lathe.
              I suppose it comes down to ones definition of "extremely light", but imo the unimat isn't capable of anything more than extremely light milling.

              Plane bearings can take some loads. The suggestion of using rolling element bearings was more along the lines of getting some speed out of it; that and you can use and abuse them for a long time and the worst case is you put some new ones in. The watchmakers head stock would work. The Hardinge sensitive drill press for example just used a lathe headstock with the oil cups turned up
              Last edited by Mcgyver; 02-17-2021, 06:23 AM.
              in Toronto Ontario - where are you?

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              • #8
                Thanks guys. Maybe I need to do some rethinking.

                Mostly what I want to be able to do is index and drill/mill features like the porting on these fly fishing reels

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                I had thought to mount the spool in the headstock, index it using the cone pulley, and use a live tool on the top slide to drill holes. But maybe if I can work out an indexing method attached to the top slide I can hold the tool in the headstock and do the work that way. If the indexer's axis was at the same height as the lathe centerline I would then just need offset from center by the radius of the pitch circle of a feature and index though the various positions. I wonder if there would be enough space to fit a modified 5C spin indexer on there to do the job... I'll have to take some measurements and see what I can fit.
                Cayuga, Ontario, Canada

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                • #9
                  Rotary table on drill press will do it.
                  might be able to mount a small RT on your lathe cross slide.,

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                  • #10
                    Tom, I've got an 8mm WW lathe that was given to me. For what you're looking at doing an 8mm watch lathe MIGHT do it but I think you'd be on the ragged edge even drilling that size holes in aluminium. And mounting the head stock might be problematic. given how they attach to the bed.

                    What I'm thinking is a head stock from a Taig micro lathe. They have a $66 option that uses their proprietary collets and an ER16 version that is $128. On top of that it has a 3/4-16 external thread to accept a bunch of Taig faceplates and chucks which might serves your needs at some point. And it mounts onto a dovetail using a method that makes the tolerance for fitting a bit more easy going. For what you're thinking I suspect it would fit the bill nicely.
                    Chilliwack BC, Canada

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                    • #11
                      If by "porting" you mean all those holes in the sides of the reel that are apparently there to make it lighter and perhaps to allow water to evaporate, then I like the idea of a rotary table on a drill press. You could even put an X-Y table under it to make lining up those holes easier. What I am suggesting here is for DRILLING, not for milling.

                      Now, some people have used their drill press for milling by adding an X-Y table. It has been done, but there are problems with this idea. First, drill press bearings are not designed for the sideways forces that milling would produce. They may be looser in the first place and they will wear faster than if they were only used for drilling.

                      Another problem is that drill chucks are not intended to hold end milling cutters. The end mill cutter can become lose in a drill chuck with consequences both to your work in progress and possible to yourself. And, if that were not bad enough, most drill presses have a Morse taper or some other type of self holding taper in their quill to hold the drill chuck. These self holding tapers work for drilling because the force is in an axial direction and upward, forcing the taper to hold tighter. But the forces from milling will also be sideways and that along with the vibration of the work can loosen the hold of the taper and the entire chuck with it's adopter can fall out.

                      In short, drill presses are not made for milling and it is not a very good idea to use them for it.

                      All of what I have said about using a drill press for milling is also a consideration for any spindle that you may use on your lathe for that. Drill chucks are not for holding end mills and any self holding taper (one without a draw bar or other means of holding it in place) can come loose when used for milling.

                      I have used my Unimat head stock (with the spindle) for milling in my SB-9 lathe. It is not ideal but it can be done. It has a traditional lathe head stock, screw style mount so it does not have the problem with a taper coming loose, but using a drill chuck is still a problem. I do have a collet set that I can use for that. On occasion, for light work ONLY and with due precautions I have used a drill chuck for this. Here is one such set up where I was drilling a hole and milling a flat on a boring bar that I was making.

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                      So there are many ways of doing a thing.

                      As for your original question, will the bearings in a watch maker's lathe spindle take the forces of milling, I guess that depends on the actual spindle. My Unimat spindle was clearly made with that in mind; milling is one of the many advertised capabilities of the machine that are also spelled out in the user's manual. This photo shows my two lathes: the South Bend - 9 and the Unimat. The SB has a journal style bearing in the head stock and it is probably the sturdiest design for these kinds of forces. And the Unimat that has ball bearings that are intended for milling work that is in the range of it's intended work envelope. So both of these types of bearings can be used for milling. As for your intended spindle, that would be a question for the manufacturer of that spindle.



                      Originally posted by 754 View Post
                      Rotary table on drill press will do it.
                      might be able to mount a small RT on your lathe cross slide.,
                      Paul A.
                      SE Texas

                      And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
                      You will find that it has discrete steps.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by BCRider View Post
                        Tom, I've got an 8mm WW lathe that was given to me. For what you're looking at doing an 8mm watch lathe MIGHT do it but I think you'd be on the ragged edge even drilling that size holes in aluminium. And mounting the head stock might be problematic. given how they attach to the bed.

                        What I'm thinking is a head stock from a Taig micro lathe. They have a $66 option that uses their proprietary collets and an ER16 version that is $128. On top of that it has a 3/4-16 external thread to accept a bunch of Taig faceplates and chucks which might serves your needs at some point. And it mounts onto a dovetail using a method that makes the tolerance for fitting a bit more easy going. For what you're thinking I suspect it would fit the bill nicely.
                        That's a good thought. I'll look into that.

                        A drill press is possible, but I want to locate these holes accurately (not only the lightening holes, but also holes for ratchets and pins that operate the reel drag), so I'd need to set up with an XY table and rotary table, and by the time I'm done that I might as well have a mill/drill. There will be no milling done via drill press here. I'd like to get a mill, but I don't have the space right now so I'm making do with what I have and trying to think about this like oversized watch making. Unless someone has a spare F3 or SV11 they can lend me I'll make do the best I can with what I've got until my space issues are resolved.
                        Cayuga, Ontario, Canada

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                        • #13
                          Has anyone here used the Myford dividing attachment?

                          http://www.lathes.co.uk/myford/page3.html

                          That may be an option with a small 4-jaw chuck installed.
                          Cayuga, Ontario, Canada

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                          • #14
                            There's two ways of drilling a well laid out pattern of holes such as you're looking at doing. One is a table of X and Y coordinates. The other is a circular format using angles and radial lengths out from center or in from some arbitrary "zero" OD. With a mill which moves in X and Y the rectangular format makes sense. But if we turn your lathe into a horizontal rotary table mill/drill that can be set to accurate angle radials and position a tool accurately along those radials then you get the same ability within the limits of the travel of the machine.

                            So my thought is to go with your idea of adapting a small powered tool head on the cross slide or compound slide. And to further turn the lathe headstock into a precise enough indexing head. for flat plates like you're doing for the reels the likely option would be to use your faceplate as a sort of horizontal drill press table. Or you can make up whatever fixture to go onto the chuck or even a whole custom fixture that screws onto the spindle thread.

                            For this you clearly would require that the powered drilling fixture on the head stock be set to exactly the spindle center height so it moves the tools exactly along the radial lines. But that's certainly doable. For the feature of turning the head stock into a dividing head it could be something as cheezy as a paper tape divided by 360 marks that glues onto the periphery of your faceplate and a way to lock the spindle. Or it could be some sort of gear with angled worm that mounts to the spindle to permit more incremental angle indexing. It depends on the degree of accuracy you desire.

                            Part of me is thinking that a small rotary table might be adapted to "drive" the spindle. Mind you at that point perhaps a suitable size rotary table could be set up in vertical mode to the carriage. The RT becomes your rotary indexing device and the cross slide provides the accurate radial positioning. And the head stock supplies the power to turn the drills or end mills.

                            It all just depends on what the size of your Ames lathe is and which format seems to fit the best.... and of course cost since that's always a factor.

                            Chilliwack BC, Canada

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