Getting started and tool reccomendations

I have been doing a fair amount of woodwork, and am considering doing a bit
more metalwork. Any hand tools or small machines that you love/can't live
I know this is a broad question, and should probably bring about counter
response like "Depends on what you want to make." I think I just want to be
able to do the most that I can as I learn the necessary skills. I have no
specific projects in mind, though I guess things involving bending and
shaping will be most difficult without some sort of aid.
For now, I have lots of files, a dremmel, and a bench grinder. I have been
considering either picking up a micro-mill or perhaps a cross slide vise to
use on my drill press. Any advise or suggestions are welcomed.
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In my opinion the machine tool that you can make the most use of and use to complete some interesting projects would be a lathe. Depending on what materials you want to work and the size of these projects a suitable lathe could range from a 7X10 import to 13X40 old American iron. In my own case I first purchased a 9X18 import that was used, after a year or so I purchased a 11X20 Standard Modern. The idea of a cross slide vice and drill press is not really a viable way to mill. A micro mill will be much better as long as the material and work piece size is suitable.
Jack Hayes
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Jack Hayes
I recommend a 4x6" horizontal/vertical band saw e.g.
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for the FAQ for that machine
I also recommend a 4½" angle grinder with a sanding attachment and a few wire brush heads for it.
I also recommend a little buzzbox-type stick welder.
Personally, I did a whole lot of work with a cross-slide vise mounted to my drill press, until I got a milling machine. I still have my old CS vise if you want to make me a deal for it.
Some things you can buy cheap, like wrenches. Some, however, you have to get quality, like taps and dies. Cheap taps and dies are sheer misery.
Learn about the industrial suppliers like Enco, MSC, J&L and McMaster-Carr.
Subscribe to the magazines "Home Shop Machinist" and "Machinist's Workshop". Start looking for back issues. They normally go for current face value ($5/copy) so be prepared to pay but when you get ready to sell them you'll be pleased that they have kept their value.
Read this NG.
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Grant Erwin
In all my searches, I see lots of lathes as well. I am not certain what I would do with a lathe. Well, that is a bad statement. Perhaps I should merely ask, what types of things, am I obviously overlooking that I would fabricate with a lathe?
When I think of lathework, spindles and handles and such come to mind, as would threading but I am thinking of it as a pretty "specific" tool operationally, as opposed to something that could do many different things. Maybe I am just not understanding the capabilities of a metal working lathe. In my wood working shop, my wood lathe is the least used tool I have, (Have been considering selling it off for space recently because of that.)
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A lathe.
You can turn things on it, and you may mill things on it. You may drill things on it.
A mill and a separate lathe is prefered....but
Rule #35 "That which does not kill you, has made a huge tactical error"
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You did not mention a large vise. Also on my list is a 4.5 inch angle grinder, wire brush for your bench grinder, 1 by 42 inch belt grinder.
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The lathe is one of the oldest and one of the most important machine tools ever developed. It is used for straight turning, facing, parting-off, thread cutting, taper turning, necking, knurling, and (turn) forming. It would be critical in fabricating parts for almost any type of working model or mechanical contraption imaginable. It is considered a basic tool to metal working.
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Well it is no secret that I am a newbie, so I will not be revealing my ignorance by asking this... how does one mill on a lathe?
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For me, it's the bandsaw. I think you will find, after purchasing any other tool, you'll be wanting the bandsaw.
The way I see it there are two paths in metal working, "fabrication" and machining. Building model engines, clocks and mechanisms, or gunsmithing are examples of primarily machining type projects.
Structural type projects, sheet metal and ornamental work (wich would probably be nice if you already do wood work), are primarily what I call "fabrication" projects (for lack of knowing any better) where you cut, weld, bend, shape, etc...
Based on my experience of having bought them in a different order- my personal tool choices for machining would be :
1. Measurement tools (caliper, micrometer set,square, small surface plate and guage, v blocks, etc...), 2. Bandsaw, 3. Drill Press, 4. Beltgrinder, 5. lathe ( this is going to have to be a hefty machine to be able to do any reasonable milling on), 6. Milling machine.
The lathe and mill will keep you busy buying accessories for them for some time :-)
I'm not much of a "fabricator" so the only personal advice I can offer is avoid 110V welders. That said some of the tools I use are:
1 Bandsaw 2. Square 3. Lots of clamps 4. Angle grinder . 5. Die Grinder and I hope to soon have a bender with scroll attachment.
I would suggest you locate a couple of projects that interest you, and then figure out which tools you will need to complete them. There are alot of very interesting Yahoo groups on metal projects. Magazines would include Home Shop Machinist, Machinist Workshop, projects in Metal (out of print), and old popular mechanics and popular science magazines (pre 1970). For welding type projects, the Lincoln project books are pretty good. Do browse the Yahoo groups though.
Hope this helps some.
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heres a couple of pictures of the attachments:
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?ProductID=1681 The end mill goes in the lathe spindle.
Your lathe has to be really rigid though, to take any appreciable cuts.
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Ok, the bandsaw keeps coming up. Which raises the question: I already have a bandsaw.. for woodwork. Can I just buy a special blade for it to cut metal?
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The blade speed has to be much slower for metal. About 100 fpm. Some saws have a way to switch to metal speeds. Some saws have been modified to have slow speeds for metal. At your slowest wood speed, you may be able to cut aluminum. Metal vertical bandsaws are generally more rigid than ones made for wood.
Do you have a propane torch and some silver solder? With that you can braze bandsaw blades together from stock material.
Abs> Ok, the bandsaw keeps coming up. Which raises the question: I already have a
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Yes, I do have a propane torch.
Looks like a no-go on the wood bandsaw :) Hmm, think it may be a time to step back and slow down a little. Space will be at a premium, and I don't really want to give up my woodworking capabilities.
I believe I will have to add these abilities slower, perhaps focusing on hand tools and *small* machines at first.
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You probably see by now that getting involved in metalworking is not much like getting into woodworking. The range of processes and products in metalworking is just too broad to chart any specific path on the way to "metalworking."
There is a suggestion in your post that you may be more interested in the doing than in what you make. If that's so, there are some very satisfying and inexpensive options. If you want to get right into making *things*, then it depends entirely upon what you want to make. If you want to start yourself on a specific path, the way you would in workworking, by learning the basic handtools, joints, and finishing methods, etc., the trouble you'll face with metalworking is that there are dozens of such "paths," which depend on where you want the path to lead.
Most of us here like to make useful mechanical things, or to entertain ourselves by learning to make them, and we gravitate toward machine tools. As others have suggested, a lathe is the basic tool, for reasons unrelated to the use of lathes in woodworking. Lathes are big investments.
At other extremes are things like making jewelry; making structures (welding and other fabricating); making sculpture; making complete machines (mechanical things, writ large); even repairing and restoring things, from decorative objects to car engines.
So you really have to think about what you want out of this. There is no single path from beginner-to-general-metalworking-expert. I suspect that most of flailed away with many processes in the beginning, getting our hands on whatever tools we could and just having at it. A few were more systematic, knowing they wanted to pursue it as a career or a specific craft.
If you have an idea of where you want to go, we can help you a lot more if you talk about it. There is a wide range of metalworking expertise on this newsgroup.
Personally, I think everyone should start with chisels, hammers, files, and a drillpress. But that's only half joking.
Be patient and keep asking.
-- Ed Huntress
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Ed Huntress
Hmm ... there *are* good bandsaws with switchable gearing which can do both metal cutting and wood cutting. (It is a good idea to vacuum out wood chips before working on steel, as the chips from steel can be quite hot.
Or -- if the metal you are cutting is mostly long rods (such as round stock for work in the lathe or angle iron and channel for welding projects) then a 4x6 horizontal bandsaw (once called "the $200.00 bandsaw", but now typically cheaper) may be all you need for metalworking, and it can be wheeled under a workbench between uses. (If you have a garage door on the shop, locating it so it can be set up with the back side facing the door, so *long* stock can be extended outside while you cut off the length which you need to work with will make life easier. These are lightweight, with wheels on the back end, so when it is lifted at the front end, it can be wheeled out of the way. The 4x6 bandsaw claims to have a vertical mode, but it is rather a kludge, and you can't cut very far from the edge of flat stock anyway, so keeping the woodworking bandsaw for that work, and for cutting aluminum plate makes sense.
Small machines will help you to learn things with less danger to you and to the machines. For lathes (without built-in thread cutting capabilities), something like the Taig or the Sherline will give you some experience which will help you later in bigger machines. Even the little cheap (Asian) import machines can be good for this, but they will also teach you how to take them apart and fix problems in the finishing of the working parts.
The same applies for a small benchtop milling machine.
One of the problems with small lathes (such as the 5x12" ones) is that while they may be set up to cut some threads, the spindle speeds are too high to make it easy. They demand already practiced skills at starting and stopping each cut at the right moment.
The "5x12" designation refers to:
1) The maximum diameter workpiece which may be turned over the bed of the lathe. (Over the carriage imposes a greater restriction, so the 5" might become a 3.5").
2) The maximum length "between centers" (one way of mounting a workpiece which allows removal for test fitting and then re-mounting without loss of accuracy). Mounting in a chuck risks the inability to return it to precisely the same position in the chuck, so it requires more careful planning.
Your measuring tools will still be good for use with the larger machines which you get later, though you will want to augment them with larger measuring tools.
Personally, I find a drill press to be good to have -- though not for milling, as this puts stresses on it for which it was not designed, and is likely to pop loose the chuck from its taper, sending a rapidly spinning mass with a sharp tool held in it bouncing and skittering around the room -- perhaps resulting in damage to you (or someone else in the shop, if present).
For smaller internal threads, taps are a very good tool to have, and cheap taps are likely to make you swear off threading. Dies for external threads serve a need, but are not good for making a long thread on a shaft, as they tend to walk off center unless controlled by a machine tool designed to do this. They are good for short threads, if started carefully. Given a choice, I will make external thread on the lathe. (Though a die can sometimes be used to follow up lathe-turned threads to improve the finish and the precision of the size. There, the pre-cut threads will guide the die, so you do better than using a die on plain rod.)
If you get into making things from sheet metal, then three tools will be quite useful -- though good ones are *very* heavy. These are a "stomp" shear (driven by foot pressure on a pedal). Ideally, you will want one somewhat over 48" (perhaps 52" at a minimum) to allow cutting down large sheets which come 4' x 8' as a standard size. After that, a finger (or box) brake, to allow bending the workpieces, and corner notcher. I've got a 24" finger brake, but not an appropriate size of shear, yet.
For welding -- I can't really tell you what you will need, because I have not yet acquired those tools or skills.
If your interests lead you that way, there are tons of specialized tools, but the basic starting point is measuring tools, and simple lathe and mill.
If you get into larger used tools, you will find better prices on those with three-phase motors, because three-phase power is quite difficult and expensive to get in a home. However, in combination with an objet known as a VFD (Variable Frequency Drive), you can synthesize three phase, and a the same time vary the frequency, so you vary the speed of the motor.
Just some of my opinions.
Good luck, DoN.
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DoN. Nichols
I gotta bite on Ed's words... He's pretty right on....
In the old days "technical high schools" (any one remember those?) only let you at hand tools for several years... Way to many people now days think a file is a "hogger tool".. in the hands of some one who knows, a file is one of the most precise tools around.... I've seen people do wonders with a hacksaw and a file...
Metal working has many areas that you can gain expertise in... machine work and welding are at two extreams as skills go but both very valuable .... One of the keys is to figure out what you want to build and then slowly aquire the skills and tools necessary...
So jeez you have a good project to start on.. figure out how to slow the speed of your wood bandsaw down to cut metal and what tools you'll need to do it... There are lots of ways to accomplish this, from the electrical side a variable speed motor (think DC), to the mechanical by adding another cone pully and belt... open your mind, use your imagination and build something... and remember as you learn and move along you gain the tools to make the tools.
Dave August
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Dave August
Yer proly going to get all kinds of great advice here, but in the more mundane aspect, you can't live, metal-wise, w/o the $199 HF/MSC/etc import no-name horizontal cutoff/band saw. Proly the best supportive bang fer yer buck in the whole shop. Also a cheapie chop saw. I think sears has'em on sale for about $59. Get two, one w/ an abrasive wheel, one w/ carbide blade--good for wood AND lite alum. You can fixture them up perty nice, as well, for decent accurate cuts.
Sears power stuff is, however, absolute shit, altho you can get away w/ basic stuff like chop saws, but not even then if the work is important, unless you stand on yer ear. Some good-looking stuff, but everygoddammthing wobbles, shakes, bends, breaks, has non-standard parts (by effing design!), etc.
And I've bought a lot of Sears--welders, radial arm saw, vert belt sanders, etc. They all suck. Use the RAS quite a bit, but thank god for nothing critical. If doing RAS, find an old ball-bearing DeWalt. Altho the Sears head does let you cut everygoddamm angle in the world--just not super-accurately ---------------------------- Mr. P.V.'d formerly Droll Troll
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Proctologically Violated©®
I'll second that opinion. My favorite tool is my Nicholson hacksaw. Next favorite is my 4 lb. ball pein hammer. This from someone with $1M worth of CNC to play with .
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Second the good hacksaw frame; I like the style with a tension rod above the frame. And files. The amount of metalwork you can do with files (especially good sharp files (see boggs tool if your files are dull) is amazing. Keep your files sharp by never letting them touch each other - store them in a box, rack or roll that keeps them all separated. If that's more than you can manage right now, wrap them in paper, at least. Files that bang into other files become dull files, and dull files stink.
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