Tramming the Head on the Taig Mill

The cheesy way. Take a piece of 1/4" drill rod and put a slightly round point on it. Bend into a roughly Z shape. Chuck it into a 1/4" collet. Adjust until it will just pick up a thin slip of light paper (cigarette paper) from either end of the mill. Not perfect, but OK for most uses. Also if you use a fly cutter, observe how it cuts. If it cuts the same in either direction, then your alignment is probably OK.

If you want to get really crazy, get a copy of Connelly's Machine Tool Reconditioning. I guarantee you, given the right measurement tools, you could tweak your Taig to an amazing degree of squareness and truth. Not a joke, you could file, scrape, and otherwise tweak it to the limits of the basic design. I've rebuilt a couple of XY stages using some of the procedures from this book. Somewhat tedious, but they still work for systems with unhardened sliding surfaces. All depends how close is close for you.

Other hints: Lock any unused axis, I've had the Z-axis drift down on me once in along session.

Accessories for the Taig Mill

One problem? that the mill has is that very few standard accessories will fit a 1/4" t-slot. I find making things fun, so to me this is just a challenge. Items that you can find, but are expensive, are studs. These run over a buck a whack! Other things like spherical washers are also ungodly expensive. The photo shows my collection of homemade studs, t-nuts and miscellaneous 1/4-20 cap screws. The little brass pieces are homemade spherical washers, made with form tools on the Taig lathe. Also shown are some strap clamps and some other little goodies to go with them. I've also made up some small machinist jacks (not shown yet).

The form tools are REAL fast, you have to feed them like crazy to prevent chattering. I basically set up the stop for the desired depth and crank the handwheel like a maniac, bouncing it back a bit from the stop. Leaves a very nice finish, I was surprised. I think 1/4" wide is close to the maximum for a form tool used on brass in the Taig. The rear tool post works well with form tools.

Cutting off  with the rear tool post is a breeze, I ordered the cutoff tool! It's even better.

Spherical washers are washers with bearing surfaces that are not flat. If you cut them in half and traced the shape that the bisected part, you would see that the shape is part of a circle. There is a male part and a female part. They are used as spacers when your clamping uneven parts. the two halves slide against each other so that the clamping surface and the nut don't have to be parallel.

You don't have to be as fancy as this, Nick Carter mentioned that "for studs I just whacked up a length of 1/4-20 threaded rod into convenient lengths. For the pressures that you clamp small stuff with, hardware grade fasteners seem adequate. For t-nuts I bought a length of 1/2"x1/4" CRS,  whacked it up into 3/4" lengths and tapped 1/4"-20."

I've some of those tapped 10-32. I use hardware store nuts, a good grade though... One advantage of making your own studs instead of using allthread is that if you have one very short end as shown, you can't screw it into the table and possibly damage it. Most of the stuff is made from shop scraps or CRS which is cheap, none of the projects took over a day's worth of time.

For example, the washers took about the following time:

  • Grind form tools, 15 minutes using ball as a gage
  • Set up lathe with 2 tools, drill and stops set, 10 minutes
  • Each part, 30 seconds or so...
  • Deburring, etc. 30 seconds or so...

The studs are almost as fast, maybe a 2-3 of minutes each. Hardware store studs in 1/4-20 are over a buck a piece!

Mill clamping fixtures

More How To: Building a George Thomas Pillar Tool

My recent bout of insanity consists of wanting to build a Pillar Tool using my Taig lathe and mill. Right off the bat I looked at the price of the castings and the difficulty of machining large bits of cast iron and then thought aluminum. I had some chunks of cast aluminum, being cheap with a small shop I don't have any power cutting tools so I used a hacksaw. I sawed up 3 pieces of aluminum 1 1/2" thick x 5" long. It took about 20 minutes each... Good exercise!

For most anything we do on Sherline and Taig sized machines, why not use a hacksaw? Cheap, reliable and very safe.

The top and the bottom must be parallel, so I bolted the chunks directly to the mill table and flycut them off. I also flycut the sides, but I used the Taig vise for that exercise since that was more a cosmetic operation. There is no easy way on the Taig mill to flycut off something 5" above the table and I don't have an endmill that's long enough either, so I faced off the ends on the lathe, using it like a horizontal mill.

Pillar arm

More How To...

Nick Carter sells dividing plates for the Taig. He makes 50 and 60 I think, they are very convenient for marking out your own calibrated dials and the like. Here's how I mounted my older divider head:  Dividing Head.

More How To...

Here are several simple goodies that I've made to make working with the Taig a bit easier. The small freehand toolholder can be used in place of a graver, you can form curves and other complex shapes with it. The block sits directly on the bed, no other lathe has a flat bed so this is a tremendous advantage for the Taig. I'd recommend using collets to begin with and I'd keep the tool tip over the base for maximum stability. It's fairly safe to use if with the three jaw with soft jaws but WATCH YOUR FINGERS!  If you use it with a chuck please put a safety cover over the jaws. For woodworking you can use a screw chuck safely.

Another goodie is a handle that slips over the flat spot on the pulley and can be tightened with, naturally, a 10-32 socket head. It makes tapping and other such activities a breeze.

I also made up some very simple way covers for the mill to keep the swarf off of the Y axis screw. I highly recommend these as a first addition!

Strange Taig tools

I have a power feed for my lathe. It consists of a portable electric screwdriver combined with one of those electric drill screwdriver adapters. On the end of this kludge, I put the appropriate hex nut driver that fits over the Taig's nuts, and viola! instant power feed. This works on all the axis.

Power drive

P.S. The ideas not original with me, I stole it from a book by Ron Moungovan called "Shop Savvy".

Choosing Tools

I'm going to address this from a model railroader's perspective, so be warned! Notes on choosing a lathe, mill or maybe nothing at all:

1. What kind of machine tools do I need?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can I get premachined wheels for the prototype I want to make? (probably yes if British, probably not for US) lathe required if not!
  • Can I purchase parts like sand domes and the like for my prototype? Lathe highly desirable but other dodges can be used.
  • How about small milled pieces like some types of coupling rods and the like? Lathe with milling attachment or mill required.
  • Larger milled pieces like frames. Mill would be nice, but hand tools can be used as a substitute.

See the review of the Iain Rice book on my Model Railroading page for what can be done with a minimum of machinery. On the other hand Guy Williams covers some machining basics as applied to loco building. Both are worthwhile books for small locomotive builders.

2. What can be done on a mill. just a normal Sherline, or Taig, or HF 7x10 mill, or lathe with a mill attachment?

For N/HO/O, I think any of the mills except maybe the Clisby could do anything you wanted to do. The lathes and their milling attachments are much more limited. As mentioned by others in various books and email lists, this work, frames, etc. can be done with hand tools. Note that the Taig lathe has less than 2" of travel in both directions. Good for small parts, I've milled out several special connectors for work purposes before I got the mill. The new Sherlines have a whopping 6" travel I believe. If you're not going to buy a mill right away, this long travel might be useful in the interim.

3. Can you do detail work, on side frames, cut windows and other recesses out on cabs, and frames?

Yes you can, but you can make most cutouts with hand tools as well or overlays for recesses. Model Railroader back in 99? had a very good article on building a locomotive. It was like a seven or eight part series. Get thee to a library! More on this in my locomotive page.

4. How do you turn sand domes, chimneys and other irregular shapes?

Some people make do with electric drills and files, others use gravers with their lathe, the Sherline website has some fantastic instructions for gravers. As for me, I made a very handy toolholder for the Taig that you can see illustrated below. I suspect with some simple modifications, you could use it like a copy lathe attachment.

5. I need a small accurate machine for collet work on small axles.

The Taig works well up to 1/4", this is the largest size that will work with the collets and go through the stock head. Some people have drilled out the headstock to a slightly larger size. The collets are cheap too, which is very nice. Be sure to buy some blanks to make up odd sizes and threads with!

6. Is the Taig an adequate tool grinder for lathe tools?

Yes,  if you trash the bed, it's easy and cheap enough to replace also the flat bed is very easy to protect and clean. When I was living in an apartment, it was the do-all tool, lathe, mill, grinder and horizontal drill press.

7. Are there any applications for a powered rotary tool, such as a Dremel,  instead of a  plain cutting tool?

Yes, there are many:

  • Drilling radial holes with the help of an index plate.
  • Ornamental woodturners have used the equivalent tool for hundreds of years for milling exotic shapes.
  • Milling keyways.
  • Cutting gears.
  • Circular grinder

Basically if you don't have a rotary table, this is a cheaters substitute. You can also grind pistons, cylinders and other parts to a limited degree.

8. Can you recommend a small lathe?

No no really, it depends on your requirements, time, and money.... Actually the advantage of either the Taig or Sherline is they also make a great secondary lathe for people with larger lathes with limited RPM. I've used to work in the living room of my apartment with a 2x8 work area. I used the Taig lathe as my tool grinder, drill press and milling machine. If worse comes to worse you can sell them on E-Bay for a decent price. These advantages don't really apply to the Craftsman. I wouldn't recommend using it for a 'speed' lathe.

9. Any cheaper alternatives out there?

You could make your own ala Dave Gingery, see the Lindsay link or watch and clockmakers used 'throws' which were two spaceable dead centers with a toolrest in between. The work was turned with a bow or a wheel with a string wrapped around. There were somewhat more sophisticated versions that had primitive headstocks so that face turning could be done. I suspect a set could be fabbed from hardwood and drillrod. These might be useful techniques for the very low cost seekers. In general there is some very good small machining material put out by the clock press. See Mr. Smith's website for starters!

10. Anyway, one topic I haven't seen much discussion of is milling on the lathe. Anyone doing/done it? How did it work? Any tips or tricks you'd like to share?

It's OK for small parts, you have to make a holder for the larger 3/8"mills using a blank arbor (cheap). You can use the collets for 3/16" mills. You can also lash up a flycutter fairly easily. The nice thing is that any attachment like this you make for the lathe can be used on the mill later. To control the depth of cut, I have used the stop on the headstock combined with a feeler gage.

11. What depth can I cut on the Taig?

When reducing the Taig arbors, I routinely crank in 50 mils per cut which is .1" total when roughing. An 1" part is close to max for free machining steel on the Taig given HSS tools, 1725 RPM motor and stock pulleys.

12.  I am not sure why I want to keep harping on the Sherline DRO. I agree a  lot of guys like them and they are useful. But I can't get off this backlash thing. So, one more time.

The other advantage of a DRO is repeatability, which even a leadscrew mounted version has in spades. You also avoid the shooting for tenths, missing by an inch syndrome. I've used rotary encoder based stages before, they are fine so long as you understand their limitations. The price on the Sherline setup certainly is quite a bit less than any other commercial rig. Yep, backlash is a known limitation as you pointed out, it would be better to use linear encoders. They are just more expensive. Just as at one time graduated dials were more expensive and very low end lathes had ungraduated dials.

As a general comment on this accuracy discussion, more for the novices on the list than the more expert machinists, oftentimes it is impossible to obtain the accuracy that a good DRO is capable of. Problems include:

  • General rigidity of the machine, no small lathe/mill scores well here.
  • The toolholder's accuracy and rigidity.
  • The tool's sharpness.
  • Proper adjustment of the machine, gibs, etc.
  • Properly lubricating the workpiece.
  • Sometimes it's close to impossible to take off the last little bit with the tool. Lapping, grinding, even filing (I won't tell) and other techniques are used for these tiny removal jobs.
  • Temperature, if your really going for the max, you might need to let the piece cool to a fixed temperature for the final cut.

A good DRO is a joy, but you still need to practice the basic machining skills. Don't buy one expecting to get a magical jump in accuracy.

13. Now, I don't know how tool sharpness relates to cutting properties and surface finish on a lathe.  Woodworkers often tend to be pretty fanatical about sharpening because sharp edges cut easier, leave cleaner surfaces, and last longer when cutting wood.  Does metal behave the same way?

Yes it's very important, just like wood working. I was never able to get good results with any of my various small lathes until I dumped the cheap carbide tipped tool bits and started using HSS that I shaped and sharpened for myself. I have some aluminum tools with fairly radical cutting angles (~20 degrees+) that are radically sharp, you can use them to turn hardwoods! My brass tools, while sharp, have zero top rake and will leave a very nice finish. They would CHEW on wood, it would be an ugly sight. 'The Amateurs Lathe' by Sparey, and others do think it very important to have sharp tools, I also agree with Sparey that the angles aren't that important so long as they are in the ball park. He recommends touching up your tools regularly.

14. Cutting large steel pieces

If the rotation is correct then for steel this size:

  • Make sure you're using the slowest speed.
  • Hopefully you're using an 1800 RPM motor so that you can get down to 500 RPM.
  • Correctly sharpened tools. They need to be very sharp for steel of this size.
  • Tools at the proper height, it cutting point is at the center height.
  • The bed has been properly lapped and the gibs are adjusted so there's a very light drag on the crosslide when your making the cuts.
  • Make very light cuts. (Already mentioned)
  • Lubricate the work. (Already mentioned)
  • Lubricate the ways properly.
  • One more check to make sure everything's tight.

15.  I am trying to use the vise that came with my mill and I cannot get it to quit pushing the piece of aluminum I am clamping in it up.  Is there some trick to using this vise so your work will stay flat to the bottom?

  • 1. Gently hammer it in with a rubber/leather mallet.
  • 2. Try putting a piece of round rod horizontally behind the workpiece like this, possibly performing option 1 on it!:
  • rod->     back jaw|O|workpiece|front jaw
  • screw ////////////|           |
  • bottom            |           |
  • _____________

Pardon the crude graphics...

16. Can I use fractional drills instead of number drills?

There is no relationship between Number drills and fractional. In addition, none of the fractional sizes match number drills, if you need a #7 drill, that's the only drill of that size. My recommendation is to buy yourself a drill index for $7-8 dollars and then slowly fill it with American (or English, Swiss, or other high quality) HSS (high speed steel) drills in the sizes you use. It probably costs the same in the long run to do this rather than buy a cheap Chinese import set that has inferior drills that runout or break.

17. I have some real basic questions, simple stuff, like do I even have the rotation of the thing correct.

All of us were beginners at one time, feel free to ask any question you'd like. For rotation, looking at the lathe on the side with the big handle to move the carriage around the part that holds the chuck should be one your left. The top part of the chuck should rotate toward you, the bottom part away from you.

18 .Anybody know why Taig has never fitted their lathe with change gears and a leadscrew?

Probably a combination of the lathe can be used without these items and they haven't got around to it. The Taig is really the modern equivalent of a watchmakers lathe in many ways. Even early bench lathes often only had compound rests and no lead screws. See some of the Lindsay books on the lathe. The modern thread cutting lathe didn't totally dominate until maybe the 30s or 40s, hard for me to tell.

19. Is there quick change tooling for the Taig.

Yes, in addition to aftermarket products, there are some simple dodges that can be done:

  • Make a little right angle of your favorite metal that fits on the cross slide and can touch two edges to a standard tool post.
  • Before starting you project, shim and adjust all of your tools as you would for a QC tool post.
  • Let the games begin! When you need to change bits, sweep the chips off the slide and put in the new tool holder. I can't imagine anything simpler or cheaper that would work as well.
  • Finally it's kind of a sick thought, but the Taig carriage is only about $50 as a replacement. Why bother with quick change tooling.

20. How do you slit collets?

  • I use a jewelers hand vise that has an assortment of grooves to aid holding.
  • I use a fine jewelers saw, well lubricated. (the saw!) The steel is very easy to cut. I also drill and/or tap the hole first. I clean up the edges with a very fine needle file.

21. How would you add a lead screw and change gears to the Taig?

I have several thoughts on lead screws and change gears but what I finally wound up doing is buying Ken Knaell's fantastic lead screw and change gear kit. Here is some other techniques that can be tried:

  • Get a variable speed motor and machine off the two smallest pulleys. Place a 60 or 50 tooth gear on the inside space. You can also use this as a dividing jig. Run the rest of the gears out from there. I still like Tony Jeffree's lead screw arrangement since you can still remove the carriage and use the rack.
  • From an older horology book, hook your change gear train through your compound slide. You can then cut tapered threads and other novelties.
  • Stolen from another book. Get one of those small powered screwdrivers and a drill to screwdriver adapter. Get a nut adapter that fits the slide/compound nuts. This gives you forward and reverse fine feeds. I use this technique fairly often. this might work to start a thread followed by a chaser.

22.  Are you really going to chuck up a grinding wheel in your lathe and let all that abrasive grit fall onto your precision lathe bed?

Sure why not? If the only machine tool you have is the lathe, you have to use it. This seemed to be typical for the old watchmakers since there were grinding attachments for the old lathes and most watch books showed grinding on the lathe. When I was using my living room as a shop, I used the grinding wheels on the Taig!

23.  Anyone do a nice cast faceplate for the Taig.

Sears has a 4" 3/4" threaded as well as a 6".

24. Is there any way to get the Taig 3 jaw chuck to grip better?

Buy the 4 jaw? Use collets for very small work? Allow 1" of wasted material inside the jaws? I've never had too much problem with mine...

25. What type of switch should I use for controlling my Taig lathe? It has a 1/3HP split-phase AC motor driving the spindle.  This thing eats switches--they eventually start sparking badly when I turn on the power.

Most switches are NOT rated for inductive loads, like motors. If you search around, you will find switches that also have a horsepower rating. These can be used for motors.

Would a cap across the motor help?  I've noticed in pictures, that there is a big cap on the mill spindle motor.

No, that's used to start the motor, not filter it.

Is there something else to do?  Thanks for any guidance!

Make sure you use heavy gage wire for all connections and that the are all tight. You might have a bad motor as well, but I'd replace the switch and check the wires first before making that assumption.

26. The Taig's belt looks very small, how can it transmit all that power?

It depends on the RPM, it's amazing the amount of power these little belts can handle! If you often run under 300 RPM, you might want a healthier belt. Stock Drive Products has their data up on the web now I believe. Stock Drive Products, If they don't have the diagrams, somebody else probably has. If you already have the Taig, I'd try it first. I've been running a 1/2 horsepower motor for years, granted at 1750 RPM!

27. I'd be inclined to steer beginners clear of using aluminum for any purpose.

I guess I'm spoiled, I never get anything but good machining aluminum because it's offcuts from a local machine shop supply outfit. Build up can occur, especially if you are using steel tools on aluminum, I recommend always using cutters that have not been used on steel if you are using run of the mill cutters for this. I also use flycutters for finishing plate, the cutting angles I use can be used for hardwood as well, they are fairly radical and very sharp. I always use tapping fluid for Al so I've never had a problem with tapping.

Best use for pure aluminum is in small sheet scraps as clamp point protectors for work pieces.

I don't know if you can buy pure Al that easily except as food wrap! Yes, you want an alloy designed for machining.

28. Good tee nuts

Aluminum is a good choice for Tee nuts. Being softer its kinder to the table than steel and you will never strip the thread if you use them as Tee studs with a nut on top for the clamp, as I prefer, rather than Tee nuts with a bolt or allen head holding the clamp down. I always feel that plain Tee nuts are an open temptation to use the wrong length bolt when you haven't got the right length in stock or have robbed the workshop kit to repair the washing machine.

It is important that both the ledges of the Tee nut which pull up against the table are at the same level. A canted nut puts horrible loads on the slot and having the bolt or stud anything other than perpendicular to the table is not good for clamping. Light alloy nuts have a bit more give than steel and so are more tolerant of small errors.

I made mine out of steel, but I made the final pass on both sides with the same vertical setting by running around the thing. I also clamped the stock directly to the table with a sheet of printer paper underneath, this is difficult to cut at an angle, which means your nuts are straight! When I tapped them, I left enough one unfinished thread so the studs can't thread through easily. Having said that, I think the aluminum tee nuts with studs that are loctited in would be easier and faster to make and more than strong enough as well.

Personally I'm too lazy to machine Tee nuts so I fabricate them by brazing two bits of suitably sized steel together, one thin to fit in the slots and one wide to go underneath, before drilling and tapping. This ensures that the pulling face is flat and at the same level on both sides.

Good idea!

29. Good jacking screws

Either do the screw with a permanent foot to run on table or just de-thread the end and run it into a locating hole going about halfway through a load spreader plate 1/4 inch thick or so. Permanent feet are convenient but you end up making more clamps. Different length screws are easier to make as and when required so you soon build up a collection to suit your jobs.

Making the feet doesn't take long, this is a very quick job on the lathe. I used brass hex stock because I got a great deal on it, machines like a dream and won't mar the table. You could use Al instead, make up a bunch with some thin and thick ones.

I'm also not the greatest fan of stepped packing block type clamps for anything other thing heavy duty jobs. I prefer a plain slotted clamp with a jacking screw.

Make both, that way you can choose the best one for the job and not the one you have on hand.

30. What's "forming" as opposed to normal tooling?

You cut an entire complex shape out with one cutter and by moving only one axis. For example cutting out a train wheel with flanges.

Small (1/4") forming tools work better when mounted in the back toolpost, for the same reason parting tools do.

That's been my experience as well.

31. Making drive centers

I just chuck up a piece of steel in the 4 jaw, turn a 60 deg. taper on it and use the jaws to drive the dog. That way the center is always perfect.

You can also make one from a collet, I added an extra chunk of steel to the front and tap the back 1/4"-20 which makes it similar to the depth stop. You can then use a face plate instead of the 4 jaw. This will give you an extra inch or so. I made my own drawbar that's different from the Taig, I used 1/4-20 because that's the chunk of-all thread that was handy. Also the clamp threads on a bit over the smallest pulley, not inside the bore. Also handy as a depth stop as well if you swap with a collet threaded through for 1/4"-20.

32. Using a hacksaw, starting

A tip I read a while back, and which really works well for me, is to put the blade in the frame so it cuts on the pull stroke (like a jeweler's saw.) Starting a cut is in particular much easier, and it feels like the cutting goes with less effort (though that might be psychological...)

I've tried that a few times but the technique I use for hacksawing is very different than what I use for woodworking. (where I do use pull saws!!) I found it hard to supply the same fairly heavy pressure that I use. I also use fairly slow strokes. Can't handle pulling a plane either! I guess for somethings us old dogs can't get the hang of it ;) I recommend people give it a try though, because it may work better for them. Another trick for starting a hacksaw is to file a small notch at the desired start point.

Using the blade to cut on the pull stroke also keeps the blade a bit straighter, as any flexing in the hacksaw frame lowers the blade tension when cutting on the push stroke. Japanese woodworkers saws cut on the pull stroke, letting them use a thinner and harder steel than is used on traditional western style saws.

Get a good frame and tension the hell out of it. Think western bowsaws, those can use even thinner blades! The disposable Japanese saw blades are very hard, but you need a diamond tool to sharpen them and the angles involved are far trickier than western style saws. The ordinary blades are roughly the same hardness as western blades, i.e. they are fileable with ordinary high carbon files. The many of the traditional Japanese woods are easy cutting such as cedar and pine, as opposed to oak, mahogany, walnut, etc. Also these thinner blades won't work as well in green lumber, which is why a have a full set of western saws as well and the Japanese have these BIG pull saws for roughing lumber. I have a very heavy sturdy hacksaw frame that I picked up years ago, it uses a lever to tighten the blade. You can really tension that puppy!

I'm still using an Armstrong bandsaw i.e. a hacksaw ;) Buy Starret, Morse or other high quality blades.

33. Making gears

Time to hit Jose's site...

Also Lindsay may still have "How to Make a Form Grinding Attachment for the Watchmakers Lathe" a very nice little pamphlet on making hobs and flycutters for machining clock gears. Also a much older text on the subject that you might be able to get used or from a library is

"Practical Benchwork for Horologists" by Levin. It has a very nice section on toolmaking for clock repairers.

34. Bit material and grinding tools

High carbon steel is readily available and for the size of bits we deal with, you can probably get away with a propane torch, a fire brick or two and a small anvil well mounted to a sturdy bench. For brass and aluminum, this might have some advantages. Otherwise stick with that new  fangled HSS or carbide stuff!

When I'm making up brass bits I do polish the top cutting edge to a mirror like finish on the end as well as stoning the edges. Cuts free machining brass like butter and leave a great surface. Same goes for aluminum except I really grind very radical angles, like in the 20 degree range so it's almost capable of working wood nicely. Once again, good finish and fast cutting. I don't think the angles are as critical for our applications as they are for industry, so I think freehand or simple toolrests are more than adequate for anything we do except threading tools.

Metal Working and Machine Shop Books:

"Metal turning lathes : their design, application, and operation"  by Edgar T. Westbury **
Does cover what the title says, but there are many similar books out there. If you don't have a basic lathe book, this one would be OK but I would recommend Sparey's book first.

"Lathe accessories : practical instructions for making and using numerous ingenious accessories for metal turning lathes" by Edgar T. Westbury **
Has some good hints and tips but the George Thomas books are much better.

"Various" by Guy Lautard ***
Author of a fair number of fun machinist articles, I've read two of the Machinist Bedside Readers and enjoyed them. Lots of interesting reading, kind of like listening to 'war' stories from old machinists. Slightly less useful as a reference but a few of the gunsmithing tips are quite good and probably pay many times over for #1 if you clean a lot of guns. Its possible that story about gunsmiths have no commercial value but I enjoyed the extracts in #1, it would be nice if some major publisher picked them up, but then I like Stephen Meader and Nevil Shute which are hopelessly not with it as far as the mainstream is concerned.
In addition to his own books, he carries a select few other books on his web site, I know at least a couple of them are great so I suspect the others are great as well, I'm very tempted by the clock books he carries, though lately model railroading has been sucking most of my building time!
Guy Lautard's Home Page

"Machine Shop Trade Secrets" by James A. Harvey **** Cover
Mr. Harvey was kind enough to send me a copy of his book. I finished my first pass through this book recently, I say first pass, since I will refer back to it often. This book is a very dense collection of tips and hints by an experienced machinist. It reads a bit like some of the Guy Lautard and Dave Gingery books but there's a lot more content. It's aimed at the professional machinist and the machinist in training but it's a great book for home shop machinist types as well. It's close to 300 pages and every page has several tips on the average. Don't worry though, the author has broken these into 18 well thought out chapters, you will be able to access the different types of hints in a sane fashion.

In general the hints are of the following types:

  • Working faster and with less effort.
  • Getting good fit and finish.
  • How to properly setup a job.
  • Making specialty cutters.

One example of number one, use stub drills to avoid center drilling. Number two, machining a part so that it's easy to deburr. Three, THE BEST article on squaring blocks for beginners that I've ever seen. I wish I had this book when I was taking classes, because it's way better and more practical than any college text I've yet seen. Finally I've never seen the style of small cutters that he custom makes listed in the amateur publications, they are great if you need a small custom milling cutter and I think most of us have everything we need to make them in our shops.

I highly recommend this book to beginning and experienced machinists, especially if  you are thinking of making money at it!
Available from various places and from the author.

"The Taig Lathe and Accessories" by Tony Jeffree **** I just received mine in the mail, it's a great book. If you are a beginner with the Taig lathe, I'd say it's required and it's got a some stuff for the more experienced as well. One of the best books on using small machines that I've seen.
For those interested in doing their own casting work I can recommend a couple of books for our little 'gems'.

"Practical Casting" by Tim McCreight****
This has a fair amount of information on making wax masters, burning out investment (hi temp plaster) and some low tech approaches for casting small non-ferrous parts. I payed $8.70 for my copy about 10 years back. A very good introduction to various aspects of casting.

"Handbook of Lost Wax or Investment Casting" by James E. Sopcak****
This is a little how to pamphlet that shows you how to make the equipment required for doing your own wax casting. It shows you how to make: a vacuum investment mixer, burnout oven, pressure casting machine, wire wax extruder, rubber molds, and wax injectors. Metal is melted with a torch.It costs $3.50.
Check out a good jewelry supply place for books and materials. I was lucky, my local city college taught classes in this subject.

"Advanced Machine Work" by Robert H. Smith ****
This book was originally published in 1925 and contains basic operating instructions for machines of the period and schedules for various machining operations. Well illustrated! For hobbyists, the older books are good references. We don't have those fancy NC machines (yet!) so the older techniques will work for us. Examples in the text include making nuts, screws and gages as well as how to run older lathes, mills, grinders, shapers, etc.
Available from: Lindsay Publications

"The Model Engineers Workshop Manual" by George H. Thomas ****
Published by Tee Publishing ©1984 305 well illustrated pages
How to build a whole pile of very useful tools for the model engineer. Many of these projects are oriented around the Myford ML7 but are useful for many of the lathes in this range. The instructions are clear and the drawings are well done. Projects include devices for marking and laying out, cutting tools, boring heads, threads, retracting top slide and many others. Well worth it!
Available from:  Tee Publishing

"Modern Toolmaking Methods, 1915" by Franklin D. Jones ***
For button usage, laying out division plates, etc, the very old fashioned way. Sometimes when your away from your modern tools,
you need to use the older techniques. Also it's a fun read.  Available from: Lindsay Publications

Small Lathes:

I've currently owned at one time or another 3 metal lathes to date. A Craftsman 6" AA lathe, a 7x10 mini-lathe similar to the one that Harbor Freight and several others sell, and a Taig Micro-Lathe. I've used larger lathes and I've had a chance to use a Sherline. Now as to which lathe/mill to buy, that's a tough one. For HO scale 2" is pretty monstrous part and almost every lathe will easily turn that in any material with sharp tools. As for mills, the same applies, a 10" long locomotive in our scale is pretty large. I guess I'll rank them by cost:

Clisby Miniature Lathe - The original designer of the Sherline lathe has created a very small, very inexpensive lathe. If your involved with machining very small metal parts for hobby purposes, this might be all you need. The smallest and least expensive lathe you can buy new. I've never seen one, so you're one your own with this one.

Taig Micro Lathe - Lowest cost by far including the accessories, especially if you have access to cheap electric motors. The main disadvantages, no lead screw, it uses a rack and pinion to move the carriage. Also the compound slide is a bit on the weak side, you only have to use it though, if your making angled cuts. Not as many goodies available as the Sherline.
Alan's Useless Taig Lathe mods, etc ... Alan is very modest, awesome site!
Nick Carter's Taig Lathe Pages
Taig Tool Company

Sherline Lathe - Has just about everything you can think of for a lathe this size, everything's more expensive than the Taig, but reasonable when compared to normal machine tools. Make sure you get a NEW Sherline with the new motor and the extended slide travel, this makes it quite a bit more versatile than the older models and I believe the cost is the same.
Sherline Products Home Page

Import 7x10 lathes (Harbor Freight et al.) - I bought a remaindered one many years ago, that one was junk. For a beginner I think I would recommend the Sherline or Taig. Recently I have been tempted by the larger Micromark offering and with all the info out there now, it's a bit less daunting to start messing with these lathes. Info from people who are far more skilled than I am.
Harbor Freight Tools
John Moran's Widgets
Little Machine shop - real manual available plus loads of goodies

My MiniLathe Site
Ralph Patterson Tools and mods


Ty's HF 7x10 Mini Lathe Page - Good links, projects and reference
Varmint Al's Mini Lathe Page


New Unimats - Read about them, haven't actually seen one, don't know much about it. They look nice, but they are nothing like the old Unimat for versatility.

Older Atlas/Craftsman lathes and such - They are OK lathes for hobbyist purposes, the Atlas 6" is much sturdier than the AA 6" lathe that Sears also sold. For an old AA, don't spend more than $200 and make sure it comes with most of the goodies because they are just about unfindable. Otherwise, I'd recommend the Taig or a Gingery style lathe if your really pressed for cash.

Metal Lathe Accessories - Still in business!

EMCO-MAIER - Compact 5, etc. Nice small lathes in assortment of sizes, somewhat pricey but nice.
Prazi - Nice small lathes in assortment of sizes, somewhat pricey but nice.
Sakai Machine Tools - ML360 6" and ML-210 4", they look nice but are somewhat pricey. Bay-Com sells a video that demonstrates their use. I've read at least one very complimentary letter that appeared in HSM. The seem to have very good service. Note: They have pulled out of the North American Market.

Small Mills:

Sherline Mill - Above comments apply to this as well. The Sherline has all sorts of wonderful accessories. You should check out their web page just to get ideas!
Sherline Products Home Page
Taig Micro-Mill - A good mill with more capacity and heft than the Sherline, however the motor arrangement is a bit on the funky side. Still works pretty well. This is the one I own, along with a large old horizontal mill located at my old house in LA.
Nick Carter's Taig Lathe Pages
Taig Tool Company


My first recommendation is to subscribe to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Since it first started back in May 1999, it has been a hotbed of cheap CNC, CAD/CAM, DRO software and hardware.

Real Time LINUX and Hardware Controller Code - All I can say about these folks is wow! NIST has done a really nice job with this. The controller code is mostly in C so you could port it to any system you can run in real time. If your thinking of rolling your own, you have to look at this. Open Source at its' finest.  You will have to hunt around a bit on their website though, they've moved things around.

Metal Links:

How To...

The ArtMetal Village - Resource Center
Frank J. Hoose, Jr.'s Mini-lathe site - Excellent how to and up to date links
Engineman's Workshop by John Bentley - Unimat style threading tool and other cool Taig mods
How to Make Springs
Tips from the Jeweler's bench - Good material, slow to download
Tony has written several excellent articles about the Taig for Model Engineer's Workshop. They include adding a leadscrew, a very comprehensive set of dividing accessories, and soon to come, a new compound for the Taig.
Tony Jeffree's Model Engineering Pages
Walter Anderson's Metalworking page  - great dividing head how to


A Lot of Brass
Metal Web News - very good how to, links and news


Patternmaking 101
BCS - Budget Casting Supply

Blacksmithing - Blacksmithing and Metalworkers Reference
Blacksmith Journal Home Page
Wallace Metal Work


Clock Builder's Homepage
Horological Suppliers