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  • Starting out

    I recently acquired a 3-in-1 lathe/mill/drill and a surface grinder for a song. It is going to take me a month or three to disassemble, clean, lube, reassemble, and setup for a project, but I am trying to plan ahead so that I can grab sale items or have a Christmas list if somebody insists. I think I can make most of my own accessories (dovetail and fly cutters, lathe dogs, faceplate, endmill holders, and QCTP) and grind my own lathe tools, but I have questions about the required metals and basic measuring equipment.

    Would I need anything for measurement besides a decent digital or dial caliper, a dial indicator, and a magnetic adjustable base? If I felt that I was going to work towards 10ths, then a micrometer and a dial test indicator would be added, but I don't need to have too many decimals to fret over until I've got the basics down.

    What metals would I need to look for when making lathe cutters, endmill holders, and QCTP blocks? Would any of that metal need annealed or hardened? I currently have railroad spikes, a pile of diesel head bolts, and some 3/4x12-15" steel pins to practice with, but nothing large enough to make proper tooling, though the head bolts might work as cutters with carbide inserts at some point.

    Bonus question:
    If I turned my own end-mill holders, could the tool hole be started with a center bit then just drilled via a bit in the tailstock ram, or should it be bored to size? If so, how would that work for the smaller (<3/8) diameters?

  • #2
    There are a lot of big dogs running on this board but I ain't one of them! Just the same, I'll offer up this advice!

    loose the railroad spikes and diesel bolts! I think you need something more tame to work with while you are learning. Aluminum cuts great for rookies. Normally you would work milder steels and then heat treat them when you are finished. Otherwise, you may be in for some heartache if you start out working on tough steels!

    To decide how you want go with respect to tooling you need to decide what you want to do for projects. I think it helps to start small but you may have different ideas. So,at this point I wouldn't spend to much till you decide on what kind of projects you want to air your new hobby at.

    That's my two cents worth and worth exactly what you paid for it.
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    It is true, there is nothing free about freedom, don't be so quick to give it away.

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    • #3
      Belive it or not railroad spikes are mild steel,the tracks are a real good grade of steel,hard as can be where the wheel roll or if torch cut.

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      • #4
        As far as tooling for the lathe, you'll probably want to get high speed steel. If you have a pedestal grinder you can grind your own bits. They're alot more forgiving than carbide and easy to sharpen. Basically you can buy a chunk for a few bucks and it will last through many many re-sharpenings.

        I started on carbide because the geometries were all already figured out for me but i chipped and broke my fair share before i got to where i am now, and i'm sure i will break many more. With HSS you can sharpen 'em, with carbide inserts you gotta buy a new one (which usually costs about 5 bucks a pop and that starts adding up...)

        There is alot of good info on the site about sharpening tooling, but the best thing i can say is look online for a diagram (or a book if you have one already) and use a combination square to draw out all of the angles on your blank. Then just grind to the lines and you'll be good.

        anyway thats my 2 cents

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        • #5
          Junk the 3in1 and pound the RR spikes together you will get more done.

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          • #6
            Although you can probably start with a dial caliper only, I think you'd be happier if you got yourself a 0-1" micrometer as well. Used, a good Starrett or B&S or Lufkin or whatever micrometer can be had for pretty reasonable money.

            And I agree with the suggestion to get some decent stock to practice with. For 20 bucks, you can pick up a basic assortment of foot-long pieces of 6061 aluminum and 1144 steel from www.onlinemetals.com that will likely machine a lot better than mystery metal, and save unnecessary grief when learning. If you hunt around you can probably find a cheaper source than onlinemetals, but they're handy to use.

            There is no particular guarantee that a drill won't wander, so for best concentricity on the end mill holders, do one setup to turn the shank and bore the hole for the tool. I'd bore slightly undersize and ream the hole to to final size. For the 3/16" holder...at least bore the beginning of the hole. Say, drill 1/8", then bore the first 3/8" or so to 11/64", run in an 11/64" drill guided by the bored section, then ream out to 3/16". (Some might think that's overkill...)
            ----------
            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

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            • #7
              add some books onto your wish list. basic knowledge is as important as some basic tools. i always recommend grade 11/12 texts as a good starting point. they cover mostly everything and present it well for the beginner. should be lots of used ones around, chat up your local high school tech director if you can't otherwise find a used one
              .

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              • #8
                Originally posted by 2ManyHobbies
                Would I need anything for measurement besides a decent digital or dial caliper, a dial indicator, and a magnetic adjustable base? If I felt that I was going to work towards 10ths, then a micrometer and a dial test indicator would be added, but I don't need to have too many decimals to fret over until I've got the basics down.


                If I turned my own end-mill holders, could the tool hole be started with a center bit then just drilled via a bit in the tailstock ram, or should it be bored to size? If so, how would that work for the smaller (<3/8) diameters?
                just remember, flea-bay is your friend. there are TONS of good deals on measuring devices, tooling, holders, etc. just watch the auctions every now and then and put a bid in. sometimes you win, sometimes you don't. one thing i've learned, there will ALWAYS be another one.

                andy b.
                The danger is not that computers will come to think like men - but that men will come to think like computers. - some guy on another forum not dedicated to machining

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                • #9
                  hi there 2ManyHobbies

                  i got into the machineing thing my self not long ago and have come a long way in a short time..

                  its alot of fun and i get lost in my shop for hours .
                  i started out with carbid tooling my self and have broken alot of cutters learning as i go for the most part. but i now use the HSS which i grind alot of my self and a buddy has done up a few for me as well and has taught me alot of cool stuff to..

                  i mostly make airgun parts and mod parts for the airguns but iam getting into other feilds as well , i have a makeshift milling attachment for my lathe it needs a few more tweaks but if i take really light cuts iam ok,,

                  id start off with aluim for fist timer stuff as i did the steel thing can hurt carbid bits like crazy i still nail the odd one on Stainless steel so i try to use my home made HSS cutters as much as i can.

                  i think the hardest thing for me was the parting cut learning it on aluim is a good idea ..on steel well it did not go well for me at first but i can do it now and iam really carefull to take my time on the steel ,...i have been told to use the slowest speed on my machine for parting cuts the fastest i have pushed 7/8 aluim rod to was 300 rpm for a parting cut iam used the machine and my tooling ,so i can get away with it so take it slow at first ,also pick up a copy of how to run a lathe its a cool book i have learned alot from the book and still do and i have many other books and stuff my buddy gave me that iam reading now..

                  ,, i have a b2227l 10x18 busy bee lathe and i love it , i also got a metabo 5/8 chuck and a few live and dead centers.. i prefer the live ones atlease for the stuff i do..

                  i was going to get a combo machine but the money was not there for it and i do prefer seperate machines for each job so its ok in time ill be getting my milling machine as my needs require one now so i need to get one..

                  i wish you all the best and hope you do well in machineing, i have gotten my son into it and he likes it as well its very addictive....

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                  • #10
                    My Thoughts

                    The cost, quantity and quality depend on your addiction to this hobby, and your time and budget. So here goes a few ideas, no particular order.

                    You can grind already hardened tool steel to make cutters and cutting tools.

                    No, you cannot drill a hole to hold a milling cutter, it must be bored. (You will come back in a week, and say "I did it, it works", but when you try to make a 0.250" slot, and find it at .0.265" that adapter is a flying frisbee.)

                    (IMHO) A digital caliper is less acurate than a dial, but quicker. I use one for anything above +- .003. Anything less, a micrometer is needed.

                    Metals: For cutter holders, I have used mild steel, got a set of 5 with different lengths, so the center drill holder is a lot closer than the reamer holder. They do their job just fine. BUT, I need some tool holders for my wood shaper. Stupid design, weak sections; so I got some 8620 from mcmaster.com it's much stronger, harder and supposedly machines better. And it's $ OK.

                    For lathe cutters, High Speed Steel, forget Carbide for now.

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