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First time using aluminium

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scooby

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Apart from the drilling (which was tedious to say the least) I enjoyed the process a lot.
Really need to invest in some decent hss drill bits and some cutting fluid.

I used a 1/2" spindle gouge for the whole process. The only difficulty I encountered was cutting the tenon for the centre band as parting tool really seemed to struggle cutting (even though it was sharp). Ended up using the spindle gouge.
 

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AES

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Forgive me please because I know precisely NIL about your sort of turning. But what exactly is it that is ali?, how long a hole?, and what dia? have you drilled in the above pen (which looks really excellent to my untutored eyes BTW).

Generally speaking unless the ali is a very hard alloy (most unusual) or is heat-treated (ditto) you don't need an expensive cutting fluid. Paraffin is the "official" cutting lubricant but WD 40 works just as well. If the hole is extra long you need to take extra care to back the drill out of the hole VERY frequently. That's because ali is really "sticky" when drilling, and it tends to jam up the flutes and distort the cutting edge shape/angle (of the drill) very quickly. That will often "throw the drill off centre".

Apart from that there's no particular advantage in using HSS drills or any other type of "special" drill unless you happen to have them already. Just about any old drill will do - theoretically you should "back off" the cutting angle to allow for the above "stickiness" but frankly I never bother - provided the drill is straight and as above, you clear the flutes of swarf VERY frequently, then ali is easy to drill, and as above, a drop of paraffin or WD40 every so often, to help with keeping the cutting edge and flutes clear all works wonders.

IF your hole is very very long and (for example) went right the way through that pen above (assuming it's all ali - as said I know nothing about pen turning) then even more attention to clearing the flutes of swarf will be the answer. It really is "easy peasy" when you know how - just like everything else really.

HTH, good luck with the next hole! :)

P.S. I have little idea what a half inch spindle gouge may be - honestly!
 

scooby

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AES..its just a 7mm hole down the length of each blank. I may have left out 4 important facts about why it was difficult to drill..mainly due to embarrassment.
1. 99% of my drill bits are lip and spur, with the addition of a few masonry bits. In my day job, its incredibly rare I need to drill anything metal.
2. I forgot to order a new 7mm hss bit.
3. The bit I was using was really dull and was getting so hot that after a short distance all the swarf was glued to the flutes.
4. I cant sharpen drill bits at all :cautious:

I'm not sure of the grade of the aluminium..it wasn't hard at all though and the gouge was cutting it very easily, which sort of makes my drilling numbtiness even worse.
 

AES

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OK mate, no need for any embarrassment - as my good lady always says, "No one ever fell down from heaven (yup she's dreamer!) knowing it all".

OK, a masonry bit is really NOT ideal for ali, (by a LONG way I guess) and a lip and spur, I also would have thought "not". But if it's sharp, and you're actually "only" drilling a bit of wooden dowel, why not? (Please forgive my complete ignorance of anything at all to do with pens and making them - apart from writing with them now and then)!

But if it IS really ali you're drilling, and not wooden dowel, by all means buy a 7 mm HSS drill. But as you want a fairly long hole (about 120 mm at least, I guess?? Almost the full pen length??) then it won't be all that cheap. But it will last you. And as said above, take it easy (on the pressure - "feed rate") and on the rpm - slow. Then clear the swarf VERY regularly and there you jolly well go.

Yup, if the drill you used was already blunt and it really was ali and not wooden dowel you were drilling, then I'm not surprised you had problems. Just to be a bit "technical" for a mo, most ali will melt at around 700 deg C or a bit less, and believe it or not, it's pretty easy for the ali to reach/exceed that temp for a short period while drilling. Add in the blunt drill (= increased temp) and then a long hole and you probably not clearing the swarf VERY regularly, and you have a recipe for, if not disaster exactly, then at least a lot of difficulty. What's actually happened is that tiny bits of the ali right at the cutting points have melted and stuck themselves to the cutting edges (such as they are) and started to block the flutes. In short it's an ever increasing circle of problems with each "defect" adding to the next.

But don't forget you can buy a set of cheapo "chinese" jobbers length twist drills from about 2 mm to 10 mm in 1 mm steps for about the same price as a decent long series 7 mm drill in HSS from a manufacturer like Dormer. (NOTE: I THINK - I'm completely out of touch with UK prices).

It's up to you but if you go the cheapo route (I've bought 2 sets of cheapos, 1 was rubbish and the other excellent). And if the 7mm drill in said cheapo set is any good at all, it's then an easy matter to find a bit of tube to fit the shank and Araldite it to the drill. Attacked from both ends of the job you should get the hole depth you want (I'm assuming that you're doing this boring on your lathe, right)?

But of course there's always the risk that your cheapo drill set is made of cheese (some are, though by no means all - and there's no real way to tell without suck it and see). So if you add on your time, the cost of a bit of tube and the Araldite it'll probably work out the same price as the Dormer, etc, "proper" drill in the end.

I guess it all depends on how many more pens like that you're going to make in the future, but having spent a working lifetime drilling holes in ali (slight exaggeration, but I started my aircraft engineer apprenticeship in 1961!) then I promise you drilling holes in ali is easy-peasy when done as said in my first post.

Again good luck.
 

Lons

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You've done very well Scooby, I've made several alloy pens and they aren't easy though satisfying as they polish up well, I did have a go at anodizing one with mixed results because it got contaminated.
Have a go at a brass pen next they're a bit easier.
 

Lons

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Thanks Lons..I'll definitely be interested in having a go with brass.
Just had a quick look and unearthed a few pics, the others are archived somewhere including a nice fountain pen. The hex brass (Sierra) was a bit of a pain to get right as made from 20mm solid round bar which I already had, you can get brass hex rod but then the centre hole would need to be spot on accurate.
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brass sierra 1.jpg
 

Lons

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Oh, they are really nice Lons. Could you tell me the sanding/finishing process you used please?
Pretty much the same as I do plastics Scooby down as far as micromesh, can't remember the grades then I used metal polish to finish and put a microcrystalline wax coat on top. I purposely didn't laquer them as if they tarnish they can easily be polished of some people like brass especially to age.
You should have a look at making some pens from brass bullet shells as well, definitely worth doing and easy to sell on if that's what you want to do.
Have fun
Bob
 

Alpha-Dave

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Interesting; do you still glue a brass tube down the middle, or drill the brass/ali blank so that the fittings press-fit in like they do in a brass tube?
 

scooby

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Thanks again Lons (Bob) the advice is much appreciated. I didn't think of using Micro mesh as I haven't used it in a while. A while ago (on acrylics) I switched to buffing wheels after sanding. Mainly due to getting a new lathe and not wanting water near it:LOL: The honeymoon period is well over now so I'll try micro mesh next time.
On the pen I pictured, I used buffing wheels that I keep separate for using on metal only. The finish is ok but my metal finishing knowledge is very limited so the help has been fantastic.

Alpha-Dave, I epoxied the supplied brass tubes in. I guess you could just press the fittings straight into the aluminium if the hole was spot on size wise. My theory was, as it was my first go, I'd stick to using the brass insert as it'd make the pressing process easier.
cheers
Jon
 

Fergie 307

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How do you prevent the alloy leaving black marks on your pockets and hands? I can see anodising, but I wouldnt have thought wax would last very long. Worst problem for me with aluminiium, doesnt really matter for a knob on a lathe or whatever, but the black coating on your hands when you handle it is a nuisance.
 

Lons

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Scooby
Nothing wrong using tubes if it's a kit pen as you have room for error, as you say the holes would need to be very accurate otherwise. Also if you have a buffing set up then keep using it as it will give you excellent results.

Fergie
You might be surprised how long microcrystalline wax lasts, I use it as a final coat on all my pens and a lot of my carvings as it helps to prevent fingerprints, The alloy pen I showed earlier is the only one I kept as it was my first and I didn't think good enough to sell, it's been on my desk and used regularly for probably 3 years and apart from an occasional rub with a microfibre cloth I keep in my desk drawer it hasn't been touched. I've just taken a pic and you can see lots of micro scratches from use but no tarnish and certainly I don't get stains on my hands or anywhere else. I've also just photographed a shaving set which has been sitting on an open shelf for a similar length of time, haven't done anything with it and you can see for yourself, the brass pens including the 303 bullet I've also just taken a pic of do tarnish but still no stains left on hands. I've had no complaints or queries about any of the pens I did sell btw.

I'm no metalworker and I'm sure there are better ways to finish them and of course I've no idea what grade of alloy I used as I glean stock and bits from wherever I can get them, maybe it's good quality aluminium? :unsure:

Bob

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Fergie 307

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No criticism implied, they are lovely. Particularly like the shaving kit. I shall try the wax out. Like you i just tend to use what I have, and have certainly noticed that the effect varies. As you say probably down to the composition of the alloy.
 

Lons

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No criticism implied, they are lovely. Particularly like the shaving kit. I shall try the wax out. Like you i just tend to use what I have, and have certainly noticed that the effect varies. As you say probably down to the composition of the alloy.
No criticism whatsoever taken Fergie, my reply wasn't intended to suggest I'd taken it as such, I'm perfectly happy for anyone to pass comments on anything I do, it's the way to learn after all and in this case as I said I'm no metalworker so always looking for tips and help.
Microcrystalline wax isn't cheap but it lasts for a very long time, years in my case as you use very little but I honestly have no idea if it's the right approach, I just used it as I said to help prevent fingerprints, never thought about the Alloy tarnishing. The shaving kit was made for my own use but I switched to an electric shaver which is why it's sitting on a shelf. :LOL:

I've just had another thought, I made a little hand router from alloy plate which came from the same source and likely is the same grade, I didn't spend too much time getting a flawless finish as it's just a tool so just finished it with ordinary paste wax and probably has a bit of danish oil on it as I'm still giving the handles a wipe now and again, it's kept in my unheated workshop so I'll keep an eye on that, it doesn't get a lot of use at the minute.

RP 1.jpg
 

Phil Pascoe

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I make my own m/c wax so it's quite cheap. :) It must last well, as apparently the British Museum stopped using it as it is so difficult to remove. (I have no idea why they would want to remove it.)
 

Lons

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I make my own m/c wax so it's quite cheap. :) It must last well, as apparently the British Museum stopped using it as it is so difficult to remove. (I have no idea why they would want to remove it.)
Hi Phil
Would you be happy to share your method?
 
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