Non-ferrous metal turning

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Snettymakes

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I want to be able to make custom ferrules for my walking sticks. Logically I should just buy an engineering lathe, but I have a serious space problem and frankly, can't make room for more machines. My ferrules will all be non ferrous metals (brass, aluminium, copper). I have an AC370WL and I understand that in theory this could cope with such material. I'm able to rough cut brass with just hand tools, but to get the precision that I need I think I will need something more akin to engineering lathe features. So quick googling shows that adding a cross slide and tool post to a woodworking lathe isn't exactly a novel concept so I would like to move forward with this. However, I have no experience with metal working so before I start blindly buying parts, I was hoping somebody here could cast an eye over what I have in mind and maybe make alternative suggestions.


Particularly as I'm new to this and don't have high expectations that this will work, I'd like to keep this below £200, or at least the initial outlay to prove the concept, if I need to improve tools for efficiency later, then that's fine. I guess I'll need a parting tool and some other tools. No idea what I'm doing there though.

So, does anybody think my plan will allow me to turn ferrules?
 

Democritus

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If you’re turning chunks of brass, the shavings (swarf), could get into the headstock spindle (and then where?) or under the headstock affecting the lathe bed and headstock travel. Who knows? it might not happen, but just as I wouldn’t cut nonferrous metal on my bandsaw, I would shy away from turning metal on other than a metal turning lathe.
Maybe i’m over cautious, but i’d rather be safe than sorry..
Why don’t you buy the ferrules from ,say, The Stickman. I have bought them for sticks I have turned. They’re pretty cheap, and will save you a lot of hassle and the expense of the new kit you mentioned.
Good luck, whatever you decide.
D
 

Jamesc

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A a metal worker I think this looks to be a good solution. The XY table looks to be well made in the pictures and the quick change tool holder, whilst not absoultly necessary is a fair price and should make setting up the cutter straightforward.
My one recomendation would be to use a piece of High Speed Steel (HSS) for the cutter and grind it yourself. As a wood turner this should be no more dificult than sharpening a scraper for what you are doing. Everyone seems to go down the carbide inser route, but to get anythign like a nice finish you need a very rigid lathe and a lot of horse power.
HSS can easily be sharpened to a very sharp edge and noned on an oil stone.
Do look up the tool geometry for metal cutting and make sure you are spot on centre height (this is a simple way to do it ). The geometry for brass is particularly important, you have to have a 'negative rake' i.e. the tip of the tool should be sloping downward where it touches the stock. Bass can very easily 'snatch' which will tend to pull the cutter into the work.

I can dig out some pages from my old text books if you can't find what I am taling about.
 

Jamesc

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Hi Democrotus, I can see where you are coming from and particularly with brass the swarf goes everywhere (face shield essential) but the non-ferous metals that are proposed are unlikely to get into the bearings or workings of the lathe (which compared to an engineering lathe is very simple).
Wood lathes have to deal with a lot of shavings and any good one is designed to shrug these off so as a metal worker who dables in wood I would not have any problem with this set up.
It should be easy enough to clean the lathe with a vacuum cleaner afterwards. Personally I worry far more about turning resins as they are truely horrible and can be incredably abrasive.
 

niall Y

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I suppose it depends what you mean by 'ferrule'. If it's the sort that is a simple cylinder, then you might be in with a chance. but if you're looking to turn a closed ended one - a bit like a thimble - then it might not be all that easy with your adapted wood lathe.
Having been in a similar position, with only access to a wood work lathe, then getting hold of a metalworking lathe was a game changer. One thing I have realised, after turning a similat thimble shaped component in brass, is that it wasn't a cheap option. The cost of the piece of brass rod needed to turn the thimble, far exceeded the cost of the finished component, as most of it became swarf.
If you are prepared to hazard a couple of hundred pounds - then might it be worth getting a micro-lathe for a couple of hundred more? I'm sure you could tuck this under a bench somewhere.
Re keeping the cost of brass to a reasonable level, it could be worth buying it as plumbing fittings that can be turned to suit. Best of luck
 

Snettymakes

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Hi Democrotus, I can see where you are coming from and particularly with brass the swarf goes everywhere (face shield essential) but the non-ferous metals that are proposed are unlikely to get into the bearings or workings of the lathe (which compared to an engineering lathe is very simple).
Wood lathes have to deal with a lot of shavings and any good one is designed to shrug these off so as a metal worker who dables in wood I would not have any problem with this set up.
It should be easy enough to clean the lathe with a vacuum cleaner afterwards. Personally I worry far more about turning resins as they are truely horrible and can be incredably abrasive.
thanks for that reassurance
I suppose it depends what you mean by 'ferrule'. If it's the sort that is a simple cylinder, then you might be in with a chance. but if you're looking to turn a closed ended one - a bit like a thimble - then it might not be all that easy with your adapted wood lathe.
Having been in a similar position, with only access to a wood work lathe, then getting hold of a metalworking lathe was a game changer. One thing I have realised, after turning a similat thimble shaped component in brass, is that it wasn't a cheap option. The cost of the piece of brass rod needed to turn the thimble, far exceeded the cost of the finished component, as most of it became swarf.
If you are prepared to hazard a couple of hundred pounds - then might it be worth getting a micro-lathe for a couple of hundred more? I'm sure you could tuck this under a bench somewhere.
Re keeping the cost of brass to a reasonable level, it could be worth buying it as plumbing fittings that can be turned to suit. Best of luck
Yes, probably somewhat thimble shaped, I want to incorporate a replaceable rubber foot, so whilst not traditionally thimble shaped, maybe tapered tube shaped with a divider in the middle (with a hole in it for screwing through) and the bottom half is threaded for the rubber to screw into. I have a few designs in mind that I want to experiment with, so nothing concrete yet.

Brass pricing isn't something I'm super concerned about, but yes I've used plumbing parts in the past for tool ferrules in particular. It's just a question of trying to find a fitting that suits.

By micro lathe, I presume you're talking about something Proxxon sized. Blimey I didn't realise they come that small! Can you recommend any good models that I can hunt the second hand market for?
 

Ttrees

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Worth a shot I think, this old tony and Mr Pete have some videos on the cutters
I tried this with some case hardened example and it eat the cheap drill I used,
so would need a good bit that ya can't cut w hacksaw.lol

Make sure to have plenty of meat on the left, as the drive spur or crown spur may wear a ring in the mandrel.
Could possibly do with a jubilee clip for the narrow part.

Jack Forsberg has some videos on the matter of spacers for his Piotras bandsaw .
My poor mans cross slide works well.

Other things of interest may be the "Turnado" system, and another fella here by the name
of @Sawdust=manglitter has rigged up some stuff for his lathe (same as below)

Bit short of power, but even turned by hand might be possible.
Aint no way that I've seen as accurate and easy to do without a lathe,



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Snettymakes

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Worth a shot I think, this old tony and Mr Pete have some videos on the cutters
I tried this with some case hardened example and it eat the cheap drill I used,
so would need a good bit that ya can't cut w hacksaw.lol

Make sure to have plenty of meat on the left, as the drive spur or crown spur may wear a ring in the mandrel.
Could possibly do with a jubilee clip for the narrow part.

Jack Forsberg has some videos on the matter of spacers for his Piotras bandsaw .
My poor mans cross slide works well.

Hah, I love the poor man's cross slide, very ingenious.

I was planning on just using my chuck, am I missing the point re. drive spur?
 

Democritus

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Jamesc
I take your point about the difference in complexity between metal working lathes and Woodturning lathes. But I think I would still be a bit wary of turning non ferrous metals on my lathe on the grounds that there is a difference in abrasiveness between metal swarf and wood shavings.
Isn’t brass a non ferrous metal?
What do you think about the Proxxon 150E mini metal turning lathe?
 

Inspector

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The first lathes used to turn metal were wood lathes using hand held scrapers just like wood lathes still use and they turned iron in addition to non-ferrous metals. The metal swarf should pose no problem to your lathe unless of swarf is getting into an unsealed motor. Turning wood on a metal lathe is worse as it gets in the bed and cross slide wipers especially when using sandpaper, which wears the ways faster. See if you can find some old old wood and metal turning books that illustrate and describe the process. I think some of the Holtzapffel ornamental turning books had a little on the subject. There were more.

Pete
 

Richard_C

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Completely different, have you thought about beating thimbles from copper? Search for raising a copper cup/vessel. No waste apart from a few trimmings.
 

Ttrees

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Sorry was a bit rushed earlier, if the motor isn't powerful enough, then worth looking into
rigging up some sort of handles to manually spin the stock.
I can't see why this wouldn't work, provided you have an angle grinder to cut a proper drill bit and not some pound shop job.
Something similar to what I'm talking about which might inspire, might be tapping on a pillar drill,
using a centering tool, i.e a metal pencil which sits into a cup on the end of a tap wrench,
so the quill provides pressure but the tap wrench can spin.

Bit of that thinking will have you looking for a nice pin at the least, should you be able to
stick it into something to act as a spinney lever, as I'd reckon it would get tiring by hand grip alone.

Tom
 

Democritus

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There are a couple of videos on you tube showing metal turning on wood turning lathes ( including turning stainless steel), so, as some of the guys have said, it is possible.
I still wouldn’t do it, believing in the general principle of ‘the right tool for the right job’. If wood turning lathes could do the job, why were dedicated metal turning lathes developed?
D.
 

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