A few months ago I decided I had enough with using my traditional die holder in the lathe and set out to make a proper sliding die holder. It is a very good beginner project that is straightforward to make and also is one that is exceptionally useful.
I started out with a design in Fusion. The design consists of 3 manufactured parts, a body, an arbor, and a handle for extra leverage. The body is designed to hold 1″ dies – a size that I have standardized on in my shop due to primarily expensive. As die sizes climb the prices move up exponentially and due to that I generally single point large threads. If you have larger dies the design is very easy to modify to accommodate larger dies.
Traditionally most people don’t use a sliding die holder to hold taps. I’ve always started taps in the lathe using the tailstock. If the tap is small enough I am brave enough to power tap – being sure to leave the tap a little loose to make sure when it bottoms out it slips to avoid broken taps. I had the thought to incorporate an inexpensive ER collet chuck into the design to facilitate holding taps. In this design the ER16 collect chuck stub is held in the end opposite to the die holder with a couple of set screws.
Besides being a pleasure to use with dies, it also works exceptionally well for small taps. I don’t use the handle when I power tap with it – the handle is really only used for dies. Now when you are tapping blind holes you can simply let go of the body and the entire body spins. You can also feel when the tap reaches the bottom of the hole as the amount of force required to hold the body quickly climbs – at this point you simply let go, allow the body to spin and shut the lathe off.
Standard ER collets do a very good job of holding taps in the home shop. You can get ER collets with an internal square that engages the tap drive but I’ve found it unnecessary for home shop work. They are also more expensive and harder to find online – most industrial tool supply places can get them.
If you would like to build one yourself I made up a full set of drawings for the shop, and I’ll also provide 3D CAD in the zip file (iges and step):
About 6 months ago I purchased a digital readout off eBay for the Rong-Fu mill drill. Originally I had planned to purchase either iGaging scales or standard import calipers and utilizing a tablet based DRO. Once I started looking at prices however I was shocked to find that for less than the price of either the iGaging scales or the import calipers I could have a full blown 2 axis DRO complete with proper glass scales.
I went ahead and ordered the scales off a eBay seller. It was a typical Chinese eBay seller that sells everything from DROs for machine tools to various useless cell phone and house gadgets. The total for the order was around $200 USD plus about $30 for shipping. I then communicated the scale lengths I needed via email. In about 2 days I had a shipping confirmation including a tracking number.
I was excepting to wait about 3-4 weeks for the shipment to arrive, typical of most stuff ordered from China. I was shocked at the end of the week when I received an email from DHL that my shipment was to arrive on the following Monday – about a week for the entire process! Sure enough Monday afternoon a DHL driver dropped off the 2 boxes.
The one box contained the DRO – a JingCE JCS900-2AE 2 axis DRO unit. The other box contained the 2 glass scales both of proper length. Also included was a large amount of hardware, mounting brackets and associated items you would need to install the DRO.
I spent the next few days thinking about how to mount the scales. The X axis was easy – I decided to mount it to the front of the table using the T slot already present. I thought about mounting it to the back of the table but I didn’t want to loose any Y axis travel. The Glass scales are rather bulky – something to note if you are considering installing them on a smaller mill like the X2 mini mill. The Y axis was a bit of a different story – there really isn’t anything to fasten the scales to. I decided to make up a bracket to hold the Y axis scale. That took a fair bit of work to do.
After mounting the scales and trying out the DRO I also fitted a inexpensive import digital caliper to the quill to get a .001″ resolution readout for Z depth. This also took a few hours to do properly. 2 brackets were made out of aluminum to hold each end of the caliper. I modified the caliper using a Dremel tool. I drilled mounting holes using a standard off the shelf masonry drill bit – a poor man’s way of drilling hardened steel. High speed steel usually won’t touch hardened calipers.
After using the DRO for 6 months I can say that it is a very good unit. I haven’t had any issues. As far as accuracy and repeatability is considered, I really don’t have the proper measuring tools to qualify the DRO but I will say that I tested it using a dial indicator over the travel of the table. At each point where I tested the DRO it corresponded to the dial indicator – within at least .0005″ (as best as my judgment permits). I also ran the table up against a hard stop several times to test the repeatability and each reading was easily within .0005″. I probably should do a proper gauge R and R study on it, but just with the general testing I’ve done it’s easily within .001″. And to be honest doing work closer than .001″ on a Rong Fu mill drill is unreasonable.
I filmed and edited a number of videos showing the install and finally a video review of the DRO. The first video shows the hard part: the installation of the Y axis scale.
The second video shows the installation of the X axis scale and also the mounting of a digital caliper on the quill.
The final video is me talking about the DRO itself and contains much of what is written here.
If you are interested in reading the manual, I scanned a copy of it and it is available here.
One thing to note is that you will get little to no support with the DRO. To me this isn’t a big deal at all when you consider the price. The next closest DRO in price in the North American market is approaching 4 times the cost. And the unit looks suspicious like this unit. If something breaks I am willing to try and fix the unit myself or simply replace it.
If I had a high end knee mill I would probably buy a Mitutoyo DRO and be done with it. But putting a Mitutoyo DRO on inexpensive import mills is a bit like putting lipstick on a pig.
It was a $200 well spent. Having a DRO on a milling machine is exceptionally handy. I won’t say it is a necessity, but it greatly improves your efficiency – especially on larger mills or making larger parts. Time will tell how durable the unit is but I think it is an excellent addition to a home metal shop.
If you listen to the podcast you already know that I purchased a Rong Fu Mill Drill. While some people have issues with the round column, the mill drill is a significant step up in machine capacity and machining performance when compared to the X2 mini mill.
For those unfamiliar, the Rong Fu Mill Drill looks to be a heavily modified drill press. There are several size variations, but most utilize a R8 tapered spindle with provisions for a draw bar. The dovetail table has a relatively large travel of about 450 mm (over 17″) and 200 mm (just under 8″).
While there is much debate on the origins of the Taiwanese mill drills that started showing up in the 1970s, the most probable explanation is they are simply rather crude copies of the Fehlmann mill drill machines. Fehlmann is a Swiss machine tool manufacturer and they still build a number of mill drill machines, although I suspect you if have to ask the price you cannot afford them. Besides the very similar appearance, the main reason I think the Rong Fu mill drills are copies of the Fehlmann is primarily because of the tapered gibs on the Rong Fu table. Fehlmann being a Swiss machine tool company in and of itself is another telling reason why they were copied.
Round column mills are not just limited to two companies. Emco also manufactured several round column mills around the same time as Rong Fu started. A German company also manufactured a nice home shop mill drill branded as Ixion around the same time or slightly before the Rong Fus started flooding the home shop market.
The Rong Fu mill drill I purchased came with the typical flimsy tuna can stand that is oh so common on import machine tools. I did not purchase the machine new and the previous owner was selling the stand with it, otherwise I would have passed on the stand and just built one. Initially I was going to weld up a new stand out of 2×2 steel tubing, but then I thought could I just dump a bunch of concrete in the bottom and kill 2 birds with one stone; adding weight and rigidity? That and I find concrete a very useful engineering material in the home shop from previous antics.
And that’s exactly what I did. For less than $75 and one day’s home shop work, which is less than what the material alone would have cost for a tubing stand, I now have a rigid machine tool stand.
I’ll be posting further on the mill drill as I use it, but so far it has been a great addition to the shop.
A few weeks ago now I finished a quick change toolpost for the Schaublin.
The design is based on Andy Lofquist’s MLA-23 toolpost. Andy is the man behind the wonderful Metal Lathe Accessories kits (http://www.statecollegecentral.com/metallathe/). While I’ve never ordered any kits from Andy, I’m told that they are very high quality and are exceptionally thought out.
After quickly considering a Tripan toolpost and changing my mind after I saw the prices on those I ordered a set of drawings for the MLA-23 toolpost. The original design is for 9″-12″ swing lathes. The Schaublin is an 8″ swing lathe. After drawing up the original toolpost in Fusion and drawing up the Schaublin cross slide it was evident that it was too big. I decided to design a scaled down version, making some changes along the way.
The largest change is in the dovetail size and the shape of the body itself. I wanted something that would match the Schaublin’s size, but also look, so I manufactured the body out of round material instead of square. The toolpost is optimized for 1/4″ HSS tools, but 5/16″ will fit.
The internal workings are that of the MLA-23 toolpost. The design is exceptionally rigid and works very well. It is also a wonderfully simple in design. Part of the reason I really like this design is for its simplicity. I believe the best design is one that doesn’t allow you to take anything away. This design, in my opinion, is one of those designs.
Some people don’t like that the toolpost doesn’t repeat in angle position – that is once you loosen the locking handle you completely loose the rotational position of the toolpost. This is a downfall of the design if you truly need rotational position repeatability. When I work in the shop I’m constantly moving the toolpost around to allow for tool clearance. So much so that I made a handle for my Aloris clone on my 10×18 lathe a number of months ago. I do have provisions in the design to allow for graduations on the base to allow for visual rotational positioning. We’ll see if I add it.
The build was interesting and fun. I learned a number of things along the way including how to cut dovetails on the shaper. It took a bit of time, but it reaffirmed the very useful nature of having a shaper in the shop. Instead of waiting for a dovetail cutter I could grind up a simple tool and cut nice dovetails, at any angle, and get a super finish. I’m told you can build the entire toolpost with a lathe, but there is a fair bit of milling work so even a mini mill would be a huge help.
Since the design borrows heavily from Andy’s design I don’t want to release drawings. What I’m planning on doing is forwarding a set of drawings to Andy to include with his prints if he is interested. So if you want to build the smaller version, which is a perfect size for the mini lathe, send me an email and I’ll try to get you a set of drawings.
I made a build video of the entire toolpost in montage style format as well.
I spent 30 minutes on a Friday evening making up something that has been on my project list for awhile. I made a swarf separator to go in front of the vacuum. Often these are called dust cyclones, or particulate cyclones, or separators of some sort. I made a video of how I constructed it (which took longer than actually making the separator):
The design is very simple. The pail itself was from someone with a pool – it was used to hold bromine (I love re-purposing stuff!). I’ve been saving the pail for this for awhile because it has a nice tight fitting lid. I cut 2 holes in the top for some 1 1/2″ threaded ABS couplings and a 1 1/2″ to 1 1/4″ bushing found at a local hardware store. One coupling was male threaded and the other was female threaded. The 1 7/8 Ridgid vacuum hose fit well onto these couplings after I turned them to fit. A long 1 1/2″ ABS elbow was used to direct the dirty suction flow along the side of the container. The ‘clean’ air comes out the centre and into the vacuum.
I immediately tried it by cleaning up the lathe. It worked very well for metal chips. I’m not sure how well this design would work with saw dust – something I’m bound to try out at some point. I don’t do that much work with wood, and when I do it generally is general construction – which usually happens outdoors.
I was considering purchasing a Dust Deputy – a purchased cyclone attachment for standard vacuums. They are $60 for just the cyclone (still requires a pail with a lid) or $135 for a cyclone, pail, lid and hose. Lee Valley also has their Veritas cyclone lids for larger containers for about $50, but I prefer the 5 gallon pail size.
I have about $30 into the project including the hose (the most expensive part of the project), which isn’t too bad at all. Now I won’t fill expensive vacuum bags up with metal chips anymore, and I can keep the vacuum bag for filtration of fine particulate like grinding dust.
I didn’t make drawings for this project because I thought it was very simple. If you really would like something, send me an email and I’ll try to do something up.
I needed to be able to bore some holes using the lathe as a mill / drill press for a number of upcoming projects. My 10×18 lathe has a MT4 spindle taper. MT4 is a bit of an odd ball taper for a lathe. It’s not quite big enough to accommodate the 5C taper or the R8 taper – both of which plentiful amounts of inexpensive new and used tooling is available. The X2 mini mill I have uses the MT3 taper – so naturally it made a lot of sense then to make up an adapter to go from MT4 to MT3, as well as a drawbar and associated hardware to go along with it.
Here is a video of the project:
The threaded drawbar itself was made out of some mystery metal in the shop. It was interesting stuff with a really hard outer layer that through hot chips all over my arm when I was turning it. It almost made me want a lathe with a carriage wheel on the right side of the lathe. The drawbar was turned between centres to within .001″ over 10″ – something I was happy with. It highlighted my need for a travel steady – I’ll have to add that to the project this.
The MT4 – MT3 bushing / adapter was made out of an inexpensive MT4 – MT3 adapter that would be commonly used in a drill press. I cut the tang off with an angle grinder and cleaned it up on the belt sander. I was thinking about making it up entirely, but I wanted a hardened bushing.
The video marks my tenth video that I’ve done, and it also incorporates some significant changes in how I put them together. Going forward I hope to continue to improve the quality as I learn.
The titanium pencil project is also still very much a going concern – I hope start some tear downs over the next few weeks to start the project off. Many of the projects I’ve been working on in the shop are laying groundwork for the build. So in short – stay tuned!
In the shop I have a 2 beam dial height gauge that I use a lot for measuring and general layout work. As far as measuring equipment, it is my favourite tool to use, even though I would want a micrometer and a caliper before a height gauge. Once you get one you’ll wonder how you got by without one.
Most height gauges come with a tool for measuring flat surfaces, and for scribing. To get the most out of the gauge you need a depth arm – basically a pin in an arm, for measuring depths. I needed one to measure up a motor face so I can get a 3 phase motor mounted on my lathe – one of those projects to complete a project sort of deals. I decided to make one up instead of buying it:
I made most of the arm on the shaper and used a gift from Max over at the Joy of Precision to bore the hole for the pin. The boring head Max made is the star of this show. It is the perfect size for the mini mill. It is one of the best designs for a small boring head I’ve seen, and used. The adjusting dial is a tad small but once you get a feel for it adjusting it is easy. It’s also great because you can bore small holes – saving you from buying a lot of reamers.
The pin was turned between centers and was within .0004″ over the length – something I was very happy with. The deviation was in the centre of the pin. The pin sprung between centres a bit when I was cutting – aside from using a traveling steady there isn’t much you can do here about that. The beginning diameter and end diameter were essentially the same within .0001. I probably didn’t need that much precision but I wanted to dial in my tailstock anyway. At the end of the pin you can screw in standard dial indicator ends using a #4-48 thread.
I made the screw out of brass because it looks nice, and doesn’t mar the pin. I usually don’t turn that much brass so I was reminded how easy it is to work with.
Here is the drawing for the height gauge arm. I will be sharing all the projects in Fusion at some point and I’ll post a link.
If you are looking to get a height gauge, do yourself a favor and go a dial one instead of a digital one. Even though the dial on mine is graduated to .001″, you can actually measure much closer in the home shop with it. Notice I didn’t say in the shop – in a professional environment I get that you need hard numbers and ‘guessing’ at the measurement is very poor practice. Verniers are also good but I find them slow – probably because I don’t have enough practice.