Non-ferrous metal turning

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sawtooth-9

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You can turn non ferous metals on the woodlathe, but best if you have a cross slide.
Turning metal with hand held tools is a bit "iffy" and not very accurate.
You don't need heaps of power, you just take lighter cuts. You can use HSS cutters, just make sure you grind the right angles to avoid "digging" into softer materials.

If you don't have a cross slide on your woodlathe, you might be better off getting a small second hand metal lathe - even if it's worn, it would be far better off
 

Fergie 307

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I can't see an issue with your proposal, but I would avoid copper. Nasty stuff to turn as it is so soft and gets very hot. It's bad enough on an engineering lathe with coolant, I don't think you will succeed in doing it in a modified wood lathe. Brass should be ok but as others have said you will get lots of fine swarf which gets everywhere.
 

J-G

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I can't see an issue with your proposal, but I would avoid copper. Nasty stuff to turn as it is so soft and gets very hot. It's bad enough on an engineering lathe with coolant, I don't think you will succeed in doing it in a modified wood lathe. Brass should be ok but as others have said you will get lots of fine swarf which gets everywhere.
I agree about Copper - I don't even like engraving the stuff ! Bend it, Form it, Beat it, Spin it - just don't cut it :eek:

Aluminium isn't much better - VERY sharp high rake tooling needed, quite the opposite of Brass.
 

Lons

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OK, just my twopennerth based purely on experience. and firstly I would declare that I own 2 wood lathes, one with variable speed and a lovely little Cowells watchmakers lathe with all the accessories.

I mostly turn wood and acrylics or composites but have on many occasions turned Tufnol, nylon, brass and copper on both of my wood lathes without any issues whatsoever and very successfully. Brass and copper hammer heads, brass heads for trout priests and I've made pens from solid brass and aluminium.

Yes you have to take care hand held tools don't snatch and wear PPE, also I take the precaution of placing a bit of card or thin ply on the lathe bed to catch swarf and carefully vacuum afterward but it's not rocket science. Yes the metal lathe is more accurate as you can take extremely fine cuts but I'd respectfully suggest that anyone who says you can't manage accurate work in non ferrous metals on a decent wood lathe hasn't tried it. I have some very nice pens and other items that prove otherwise.

If I had to choose only one lathe for turning wood, plastics and non ferrous metals it would be a decent VS wood lathe not a metal working one, but as I said, just my personal opinion, what do I know? ;)
That said, I love playing with the Cowells and would be very reluctant to part with it despite the fact it definitely doesn't earn its' keep.
 

Phill05

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That said, I love playing with the Cowells and would be very reluctant to part with it despite the fact it definitely doesn't earn its' keep.
Does it really need to earn it keep can't it just sit there and wait for the ever so special job to do.
 

Lons

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Does it really need to earn it keep can't it just sit there and wait for the ever so special job to do.
Absolutely Phil
If I needed the money or space it would fetch a decent sum as they are sought after but it's a lovely little lathe and I do use it occasionally even if it's just playing, I'm always looking for little fun jobs and as a compulsive hoarder have a plentiful supply of suitable metal offcuts. :)
 

Old.bodger

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Do a bit of research on the old myford ml8s they were often used for a bit of metal work although wood lathes. The myford cross slide had an adaptor to fit. Might spark ideas. Main issue was speeds are very different …but not a deal breaker. Just go for it !
 

Fergie 307

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OK, just my twopennerth based purely on experience. and firstly I would declare that I own 2 wood lathes, one with variable speed and a lovely little Cowells watchmakers lathe with all the accessories.

I mostly turn wood and acrylics or composites but have on many occasions turned Tufnol, nylon, brass and copper on both of my wood lathes without any issues whatsoever and very successfully. Brass and copper hammer heads, brass heads for trout priests and I've made pens from solid brass and aluminium.

Yes you have to take care hand held tools don't snatch and wear PPE, also I take the precaution of placing a bit of card or thin ply on the lathe bed to catch swarf and carefully vacuum afterward but it's not rocket science. Yes the metal lathe is more accurate as you can take extremely fine cuts but I'd respectfully suggest that anyone who says you can't manage accurate work in non ferrous metals on a decent wood lathe hasn't tried it. I have some very nice pens and other items that prove otherwise.

If I had to choose only one lathe for turning wood, plastics and non ferrous metals it would be a decent VS wood lathe not a metal working one, but as I said, just my personal opinion, what do I know? ;)
That said, I love playing with the Cowells and would be very reluctant to part with it despite the fact it definitely doesn't earn its' keep.
I can see making a copper hammer head would probably not be a problem, however he wants to turn thin blind ferrules. Whole different ball game.
 

Lons

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I can see making a copper hammer head would probably not be a problem, however he wants to turn thin blind ferrules. Whole different ball game.
Little different to making small parts for pens, just needs care and a bit of lateral thinking. There's no question it is easier on a metal lathe but if you don't have one it's often possible to use what you do have and get decent results.
 

Democritus

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John,
The Turnado system looks like a great little bit of kit, that looks like the answer to Snefttymakes dream. The basic kit is £140. The downside is that it has to be used on a small metal turning lathe. I have looked at the website (in Australia),, and there is currently UK distributor but she is giving up. Any orders will soon have to be sent direct from Australia.
D.
 

Inspector

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Aluminium isn't much better - VERY sharp high rake tooling needed, quite the opposite of Brass.

You have probably been playing with the unhardened alloys. 1100, 5000 or 6000 series can be a little "gummy" but 6061-T6 ( the one the adds always say is aerospace but is not often used in real life) is better to work with. The T6 designation is the type of heat treat it went though to strengthen it. The 2024 if you can find the aircraft alloy is very nice to work and the 7000 series like 7075 are harder and cut clean. The metals each alloy is made up from makes all the difference on how they are to work with.

Pete
 

John Hall

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John,
The Turnado system looks like a great little bit of kit, that looks like the answer to Snefttymakes dream. The basic kit is £140. The downside is that it has to be used on a small metal turning lathe. I have looked at the website (in Australia),, and there is currently UK distributor but she is giving up. Any orders will soon have to be sent direct from Australia.
D.
I think you could easily make a platform to fit a wood lathe
 

Torx

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You have probably been playing with the unhardened alloys. 1100, 5000 or 6000 series can be a little "gummy" but 6061-T6 ( the one the adds always say is aerospace but is not often used in real life) is better to work with. The T6 designation is the type of heat treat it went though to strengthen it. The 2024 if you can find the aircraft alloy is very nice to work and the 7000 series like 7075 are harder and cut clean. The metals each alloy is made up from makes all the difference on how they are to work with.

Pete
Yep, the right stuff can ‘chip’ just like brass. Lead or bismuth in it?
 

Fergie 307

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Have to say I work a lot with aluminium and don't find it a problem. You do need to lubricate it though to avoid it picking up on the tip of the tool. Paraffin is very good, just a few drops applied frequently I use the squeezy bottles that come with the wife's hair dye.
 

loc0

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You have probably been playing with the unhardened alloys. 1100, 5000 or 6000 series can be a little "gummy" but 6061-T6 ( the one the adds always say is aerospace but is not often used in real life) is better to work with. The T6 designation is the type of heat treat it went though to strengthen it. The 2024 if you can find the aircraft alloy is very nice to work and the 7000 series like 7075 are harder and cut clean. The metals each alloy is made up from makes all the difference in how they are to work.

Pete


Alloy 6061 and 6062 T6 are 1st choices for non-structural aircraft components. I deal with that on daily basis ;)
 

J-G

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You have probably been playing with the unhardened alloys. 1100, 5000 or 6000 series can be a little "gummy" but 6061-T6 ( the one the adds always say is aerospace but is not often used in real life) is better to work with. The T6 designation is the type of heat treat it went though to strengthen it. The 2024 if you can find the aircraft alloy is very nice to work and the 7000 series like 7075 are harder and cut clean. The metals each alloy is made up from makes all the difference on how they are to work with.

Pete
The Alum I've used (in a hobby environ) is whatever my local steel stock-holder gives me when I ask for 'Aluminium' :rolleyes: - I don't know enough about the various 'alloys' to be able to specify better than just that. - I do have some 'rescued' remnants coming from scrapped Hard Drives and the like - Oh yes, and some tube from a CH Boiler Flue 🤣

The point about lubricating with parafin is well made - I do have most of a 5lt container of parafin on my shelf!

I seem to recall that I did have to machine 'Dural' during my apprenticeship but the passage of some 50 years has dimmed the memory somewhat!
 
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