Using the Small Lathe by mikeholy


									Lathes                                                                                                                    Page 1 of 9

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                                            Using the Small Lathe
                                                Assorted Hints and Tips
                                                    followed by
                                             HOT TIPS for TRICKY JOBS

The following are a few hints and tips culled from a hundred years of "How to Use a Lathe" books. It’s
 worth remembering that a turning apprenticeship lasted for seven years - and whilst the rudiments of
the craft can indeed be picked up within a few weeks, experience is all. This is not a comprehensive list
of either safety precautions or working practices - further reading is advisable. Try Ian Bradley’s "The
 Amateur's Workshop" and L.H.Sparey’s "The Amateur’s Lathe" Machine tools, even small ones, do
                                    not take prisoners. Think Safety

Never, ever, leave a chuck key in a chuck.

Lathes - and especially some milling machines - are very top heavy. Take care when moving them
round the workshop, and don't do it alone. Even She Who Must Be Obeyed will keep an eye on you and,
unless your life is insured for too generous a figure, phone for an ambulance when you are trapped.

Moving a machine ? Take off rings and other jewellery. A friend was pulled over and his hand badly
mangled by a toppling machine when a toolpost bolt caught his wedding ring.

Keep a clear and safe working area around your machine tools. You must be able to think of better
things to do than tripping and falling onto a rotating cutter or mechanism.

Wear snug-fitting, tightly-woven clothes. Take off your tie, jewellery and remove anything that
might get wound into rotating mechanisms.

Wear eye protection.

Don't play with steel turnings as they snake away from a job - even small ones have a habit of
grabbing fingers and clothing then winding them selves round the job - and pulling you in.

If you don’t how it works, have you read the instruction book?

Bought a used machine? Before using, check that it is electrically earthed.

Never, ever, leave a chuck key in a chuck.

After setting up any turning job, carefully pull the machine around by hand to check that everything

Remember, you are using a machine tool - an expensive, precision device. Keep it clean and oiled - and
don't abuse it.

Keep the bed and slideways especially clean. Cast-iron dust can be a real bed killer - if it contains
particles of casting sand it becomes a wonderfully effective lapping compound and wears away the                                                                                         7/27/2004
Lathes                                                                                           Page 2 of 9

accuracy you have paid for.

Lubricate plain headstock bearings with light oil - little and frequently. Adjustable-drip oil pots (as
fitted to Myford ML7 lathes, etc.) may look old-fashioned, but you can see exactly what is happening -
and they are completely effective.

If your lathe headstock has an oil supply held in reservoirs under the bearings, with wick or other
feed - check the level every day.

Small lathes need all the help they can get. The secret of successful operation is to keep the cutting
tools sharp by using a slip stone across the top surface, the sides rarely need attention.

If you are using a simple tool holder, with under-tool packing pieces, once you have the height of the
tool set correctly keep the tool and its set of packing pieces together in a tin. This saves a huge
amount of time and frustration.

Nothing transforms a lathe more than a good quality quick-set toolholder with a set of tool-holding
stations. If you can afford one, buy it. You won't regret it.

Keep as much of the tool supported by its clamp or holder as possible. This reduces strain on the
lathe and the tendency for the cutting tool to "chatter".

Check that the top slide is not unnecessarily forward; keep the cutting tool as near to the centre of the
compound slide assembly as possible.

Adjust the top-slide gib strip on the tight side. Unless you are using the slide to take a cut it just
provides more unwanted flexibility between the tool and the lathe bed - confirmed by the fact some
turners go to the trouble of removing the top slide completely and making a tool post to fit directly on
the cross slide - and use that for the majority of their work.

On anything other than short, light jobs always use the tailstock centre to support the workpiece end.
This both reduces headstock bearings loads and eases those forces that will, in time, make your 3-jaw
chuck inaccurate.

Use a 4-jaw chuck to grip irregular or roughly finished material - using your 3-jaw like a bench vice
will ruin it.

If you find a 4-jaw independent chuck difficult to set up, persevere - it quickly becomes easier with
practise. It helps to have a magnetic base and a good-quality dial test indicator.

Consider investing in a new 3-jaw chuck and using it only for your most precise work. It makes life a
lot easier knowing that you have at least one work-holding device that is completely accurate.

If you have the chance to buy a lever-action tailstock unit for your lathe take it. The difference in feel
over a screw feed is significant - and makes both light and heavy drilling work so much easier.

If your lathe has a screwed spindle nose ensure that both it, and all items mounted on it, have their
threads, register spigots and flanges thoroughly cleaned. Apply a little light oil and fasten using firm
hand pressure only; it is not necessary to yank the fittings tight - this means that, when you come to
remove the item, it will not be on so tightly that you have to machine it off.                                                               7/27/2004
Lathes                                                                                            Page 3 of 9

If your lathe has a screwed spindle nose do you really need your lathe wired for reverse? Accidentally
selecting it can cause the chuck or faceplate to wind off the spindle. (You really only need electrical
reverse when screwcutting Metric threads on an Imperial machine, or visa-versa, and have to leave the
leadscrew clasp nuts engaged).

Never, ever, leave a chuck key in a chuck.

Before inserting a center in either the headstock or tailstock, carefully clean out the taper (and the center,
of course) first.

The headstock center is soft and the tailstock center is hard – but there is no harm in using a hard centre
in either.

The soft headstock center can be trued-up by being turned in position with the top slide; when this has
been done make a small corresponding mark on both the center and spindle nose so they can always be
put back together in the same position.

If your machine tools are in a cold building start them on a slow speed. Let them warm up gradually for
fifteen minutes or so - running a lathe on no load uses very little energy.

Do not mesh changewheels tightly; a little clearance between them is necessary. Insert a sheet of
newspaper between them and press into mesh - this gives about the right clearance. Lubricate with a dry
"open-gear" lubricant, or thick oil. Avoid grease, swarf sticks to it like STAWB and makes a terrible

Occasionally, dismantle the gear train to the leadscrew and clean the gear teeth. Accumulated swarf beds
into them and may need picking out with a scriber.

Putting a cork into the open end of the headstock spindle stops bits dropping down onto the
changewheels and jamming them up .....…

Instead of a cork, extend the spindle with a length of plastic pipe so that it protrudes outside the gear-
guard case. There are so many different diameters of PVC pipe available today that you are bound to be
able to find one that is a snug fit over the spindle end - or even one where the inside diameter is slightly
smaller than the major diameter of the threads (if any) on the spindle end and so will "self-thread" on.

Experiment with the tightness of the changewheel bracket (banjo) mounting nuts; just "nipping them up"
may hold the bracket securely enough for most work but in the event of a bad "dig in" might allow the
bracket to overcome the clamping friction and force itself out of mesh - so saving further damage. This
might also rescue the gearbox if any of its bearings seize. (A banjo being thrown out of mesh on a
gearbox lathe should not be ignored - check the state of the gearbox bearings).

Never, ever, leave a chuck key in a chuck.

On small lathes parting off is likely to cause the greatest trouble. Using a rear toolpost, in conjunction
with an inverted tool, is the best solution.

Contemplating a difficult job using expensive materials? A twin-start, internal, left-hand, square-section
thread through a 6" block of bronze for example? Enjoy a practice session first on a piece of aluminium.                                                                7/27/2004
Lathes                                                                                          Page 4 of 9

Three-jaw chucks often have one keyhole stamped with a circle or other mark – that’s because using it
should obtain the best aligment. The holes may not be marked - and even if one is, over time wear may
cause another key position to become the most accurate of the three - so it's always worth experimenting
with a dial gauge and a test bar to see which gives the best result.

Heavy-duty drilling with a tailstock chuck? Go round the chuck and use the key in all three positions -
you should feel it tighten a little more each time.

Using a Chinese lathe to cut a thread Check that the dial-tread indicator is keyed to its shaft - and not
just held on with a nut and spring washer.

When truing up a lathe faceplate, place your centers in the headstock and tailstock spindles. Then place
a metal rod, center-drilled at each end, between the centers and apply pressure with the tailstock wheel,
as though you were setting up to turn between centers. Lock up the tailstock. The thrust created will
remove any slight end play in the headstock bearing that might result in a "wavy" surface finish on the
faceplate. Now, leaving the rod in place of course, take your truing cut. This idea also works when
facing off work bolted to the faceplate - if it physically possible to set it up.

Machining titanium or magnesium? They can catch fire and burn with great vigour. Use coolant and
keep the accumulation of turnings to a minimum. If it does ignite don’t use water to extinguish the
blaze, it will make matters seriously worse. Keep a large bucket of dry sand handy to smother the flames
- or buy one of the special commercially-available fire retardants used in industry.

Tired of spending hours trying to reset your tailstock after setting it over for a taper? Leave the
tailstock in line and make the center move instead. Buy a cheap boring head with a fitting that can take,
or adapt to, the tailstock taper. Fit a parallel center where the boring bar would normally go and (with
the holder set to traverse horizontally) you can now "dial-in" the offset you need. These items were once
available commercially.

Trying to adjust plain headstock bearings ? Slacken the drive belt completely first - it can make an
enormous difference.

Need to do very accurate - or very small diameter - woodturning? Use a metal lathe with an
appropriately high top speed; the compound slide rest, and the availability of taper turning and milling
attachments, etc., is almost certain to make the job easier.

Need an accurate test bar at zero cost? Find a redundant dot-matrix printer. The steel bar the guides the
print head is made from hardened steel and accurate to 0.0001" in 12 inches.

Machine-tool designers are not super-human. They work within strict price constraints and
contemporary safety regulations. Are the electrical stop buttons within reach on your machines ? Even
some of the most expensive and highly-specified lathes from as late as the 1970s have electrical
controls positioned so that, as he or she is being wound into the mechanism, only the wild kicking of the
right foot would stand any chance of switching it off. If this is the case, consider the wisdom of having
the switches moved to where they can be instantly reached - or, probably better, have additional ones
wired in by an expert.

Never, ever, leave a chuck key in a chuck.

                                     HOT TIPS for TRICKY JOBS                                                               7/27/2004
Lathes                                                                                            Page 5 of 9

                                                  by "Monolith"

   •     A lubricant for machining aluminium? - One of those forgotten gems, or so it would seem, is
         paraffin (in the USA called "wood turpentine?) the most effective solution to a built-up on tool
         tip that I have found for this material. For those who have invested in carbide tooling, are you
         aware that tips are made specially for aluminium ? I have used these at work, dry, and have
         taken .200" deep cuts (whilst roughing out) with no evidence of a built-up tip, and the swarf
         chipped up beautifully.

   •     Finishing aluminium - Where I work, we make a lot of aluminium components for racing-car
         teams and the hot tip for getting a really good finish on turned parts is to use a bit of
         "Scotchbrite". To you and I this is the green ‘scouring pad’ used to clean pans in the kitchen but,
         when applied to a part that already meets surface finish requirements (normally in the order of
         16um) it produces a uniform tone over the whole piece.

   •     Countersinking - There are not many things that look worse than an oversized countersink,
         though I suspect that a wobbly chamfer must be a very close second! So, in order to prevent this
         from occurring, I select a drill of the same diameter as the screw head in question, grind this to
         90 degrees and thus avoid the problem. If the drill chatters, this can be resolved by a couple of
         strokes, literally, with a fine oilstone over the drill lips; this removes the ‘dead sharp’ cutting
         edge. Now, the only thing that can go wrong is to countersink too deeply - and even this doesn't
         look anywhere near as bad.

   •     A good tip for brass - to keep brass components looking polished keep a solution of ‘shellac’
         dissolved in alcohol handy. If applied (before fingerprints) with a clean cloth it will dry within
         seconds as a clear lacquer. This is really useful for components that have been knurled. If a
         darker tone is required, add a few drops of "dragon’s blood" - a red dye used by gunsmiths.

   •     Extending milling cutter life - when the corners have disappeared from that new endmill or slot
         drill I grind a chamfer in their place and reserve the cutter purely for surfacing operations. For
         some reason, they seem to live longer if modified in this way- though I have never modified a
         new cutter in this fashion for comparison - and I am getting round to finishing that "Quorn" –

   •     Bluing salts - there is little else that can impart a really professional look to a job than a
         carefully blued finish. I have tried a couple of the cold-bluing preparations on the market and,
         having been less than impressed with the result (never mind their toxicity), I have reverted to
         hot-bluing salts - which proved hard to find. After looking at the various recipes and concoctions
         listed in ‘Machinery’s Handbook’ and Angrier’s ‘Bluing of Firearms’, it would appear that
         ‘saltpetre’ is the stuff. Even better is the fact that it could probably be obtained from Boots or
         any good chemist; it gives the true "nitre-blue" finish that I crave but if you try it, please be
         under no illusion that in use, these molten salts are ten-times HOT and if spilled can burn you
         very seriously. This is a real leather-gauntlet and goggles’ operation.

   •     On reamers and reaming - I hate reamers. They always seem to cut over or under the desired
         size, and very seldom the size that I want. Therefore, as a general rule, I will bore everything that
         I can but, where this isn’t possible, I have made a very simple gadget to help. It consists of
         nothing more than a commercially bought Morse taper blank, drilled about two and a half inches
         deep with a 5/16""drill. A number 34 Jacobs' chuck mounted on a custom-made arbor, again
         5/16" diameter and 2 ½" long, is free to slide in the M.T. blank. Guided from the tailstock, and                                                                7/27/2004
Lathes                                                                                               Page 6 of 9

   fed in by hand, I have achieved a far greater success rate in my tapping and reaming exploits since
       its construction. My usual reaming limit, at work, is in the order of four-tenths.

   •     Chattering reamers - have you ever had a reamer cut a pentagonal hole? The solution is to pack
         out the flutes with lard next time- this always seems to do the trick for me.

   •     And while we are in the fridge - did you know that many "Loctite" products have a shelf life of
         one year? As I don’t use an awful lot of the stuff, I keep it in the fridge, and it stays in useable
         condition for longer. Also, I hate turning copper. The only way is to use high speeds, fine feeds
         and fine cuts - with the suds applied like holy water. To put yourself in with a better chance of
         success, milk is the hot ticket as a cutting lubricant but I must suggest that you either get a
         separate supply from the domestic source, or avoid being caught with a suds brush hanging out
         of the bottle.

   •     About little drills - little drills (like number 60 or less) need lubrication, the same as all others,
         but cutting oil and suds are both a little bit too viscous for these sizes and the speeds at which
         they are run. Therefore, next time you use a small drill, apply a drop of saliva- it's just right for
         the job.

   •     About tapping plastic - a frequently encountered problem is to find that a tapped hole is tight.
         The solution is to fold a strip of paper over one of the cutting edges of the tap, and to run it
         through the work a second time. The paper conforms to the cutting edge that it is covering, and
         pushes the others opposite harder into the work, slightly enlarging the tapped hole to the size that
         you want.

   •     Concentric cutters - I tend to use a lot of "FC3" throw away cutters at home, but despite having
         the correct collet chuck and the correct collet chuck adapter (both "Clarkson"), concentricity still
         remained a problem. The eventual solution took the form of a "split sleeve", which is essentially
         a Morse taper blank, bored to a specific diameter, and split along its length. I bought one with a
         ¼" bore to suit my cutters, and drive it home with a light tap to a hollow brass drift. I can now
         guarantee dead-true running every time. My sleeve was made by the "Cleveland" Drill
         Company, and. despite the obvious expectation, it has yet to rattle out in use – no doubt due to
         the small size of the cutters and the absolutely minimal overhang from the spindle nose.

   •     Ever needed to anneal aluminium? - there isn’t much between the temperature needed to anneal
         aluminium and its melting point, which is so low (comparatively), it doesn’t even seem to reach
         red heat before it becomes molten. The solution is to coat the work with ordinary soap lather.
         When heated, this blackens at about 400 degrees centigrade which, fortunately, is just the right

   •     Have you ever watched a drill skate around the edge of a center-punch mark? - this can be
         avoided by grinding the end of the punch like a triangular pyramid. I don’t know why this works,
         but it certainly does! Try it the next time you need to cross-drill some round stock.

   •     Potatoes may seem unlikely candidates for use in an engineering workshop but from time to time
         can be found to be very useful when silver soldering delicate components, or annealing a specific
         portion of a strip of spring steel. The technique is simply to insert the portion of the work that
         you do not wish to get hot into the vegetable then proceed as normal. In this way, I successfully
         silver soldered the ends of a piano wire ring, about 3/16" dia. attached to my "St. Christopher",
         with a gas blowlamp, without melting the gold.                                                                   7/27/2004
Lathes                                                                                             Page 7 of 9

   •     Restoring files - blunt files can often be resharpened by allowing them to rust in the garden for a
         few weeks. Due to the erosion of the teeth, the correct form is, to an extent, restored. Another tip:
         if you can get to a surface grinder take a couple of thou. off the teeth of a worn-out file,
         rendering it totally useless for most work; but, as no cutting rake is necessary, when the file is
         presented to a round workpiece (like a turned artefact) it will cut as well as it did when new.

   •     Saving "tee" slots - If you are concerned about the prospect of breaking out your tee slots whilst
         tightening the studs retaining your work, here’s a tip that I use. Simply take a cold chisel (or any
         other blunt instrument), turn your "tee" nut upside down, and wop the last thread over with a
         hammer. Having done this, the stud cannot pass right through the nut anymore, cannot bottom
         out in the "tee" slot, and can, therefore, cause no inadvertent damage to the same.

   •     In praise of the "professional foul" - in industry, when the pressure is on, and minutes matter,
         some wince-inducing dodges can come into play. Here are two tips that work. Firstly, if a reamer
         insists on cutting undersize, scrape a piece of H.S.S. (like a lathe tool) against one of the cutting
         edges. This should be done so as tol raise a microscopic burr and thus cause the reamer to cut
         ever so slightly oversize the next time it is passed through the work.

   •     The second tip concerns tapped or screwcut threads. If one is produced oversize (that is, a sloppy
         fit) the "Geary Patent Thread Rectification Apparatus" is required. Turn a shallow taper on a
         piece of silver steel, place this in the end of the thread in question, and tap it with a hammer. This
         will distort the first few turns of the thread, and "tighten" up the fit somewhat. These are both
         tips that, were you a professional machinist, you should be reluctant to tell the Boss - though,
         strangely, the Boss has probably used them as well. And no, you shouldn't dream of using them
         at home.

   •     As an alternative to the above use a steel ball (bearing) to fix a loose thread. Put the ball on the
         hole and give it a light whack. This does almost the same thing but does not require you to make

   •     More about reamers - I still hate them, but here is more information - their cutting effects can be
         influenced by the lubricant that is used. If you want a reamer to cut "tight" use suds, if you want
         it to cut "loose", use straight cutting oil. Just a simple observation, but it counts.

   •     Getting swarf out of tapped holes - One way to do this is to purchase a spiral-fluted tap. I don’t
         bother with these and I have reverted to using an old dodge. If the hole to be tapped is filled with
         tallow, and an ordinary hand tap is used, as the tap progresses down the hole, the tallow is
         extruded out, carrying the chips with it. When the tap has reached the bottom of the hole in
         question, the tallow stays with the remaining chips adhering to the flutes of the tap as it is
         withdrawn, thus eliminating any problem. Incidentally, tallow is the stuff to use when tapping
         aluminium components that are to be anodised - it doesn’t interfere with the anodising process
         like some commercially-available tapping compounds.

   •     Busted a tap in a bit of brass? - Here’s a great tip - build a plasticene "dam" around the bit of tap
         to be removed, then mix up a strong solution of ‘alum’ (available from the local chemist for
         treatment of bed sores). Pour this into the dam and put the whole lot in the airing cupboard. I
         don’t know if the action is electrolytic, or why it works, but the alum attacks the steel leaving the
         brass completely unscathed. After a day, a carbon-steel tap will have become loose enough to
         wiggle out; H.S.S. takes about a week.                                                                 7/27/2004
Lathes                                                                                              Page 8 of 9

   •     Three methods of tapping straight - You need to be in practice to tap straight; I don’t do it often
         enough to prevent drunken threads, so I use three methods to help me. The first is to get a block
         of square metal and to drill and ream a hole in it the same size as the shank of the tap; when I
         place it over the hole to be tapped, the tap passes through it perfectly vertical. The second
         variation on the idea is to remove the drive belt and quill-retracting spring from my "Westbury"
         light-drilling machine, allowing me to feed the tap, held in the drill chuck, into the work dead
         square. The last method is a bit of a last resort, as it still requires a bit of skill. If a piece of
         borderless mirror is placed on the surface of the workpiece, next to the tap as it is presented to
         the work, the reflection makes it quite obvious if things are not square. The trouble with this is
         that unless the mirror is "L" shaped, the check must be done twice, with the mirror in two
         positions, and I always manage to move the tap whilst performing the second part of the trick! If
         the mirror is plastic - some CDs have a mirror coating - and a hole drilled though it, you have a
         perfect 360 degree mirror.

   •     Cheap parallels - Sooner or later, you’ve got to have them, almost always in milling work. There
         is a method of achieving the result without actually stumping up any money, so take heed. The
         next time that you replace a wheel bearing on your car, please be mindful of the fact that both the
         inner and outer races have been ground to the same limits of parallelism as the very best
         commercial items. Which you, of course, don’t want to pay for. Don’t expect to find the races
         from different hubs to be matched to each other though - this is seldom the case.

   •     A warning to those who restore old machines - When it's time to get the old paint off, be wary
         about using paint stripper. I found to my cost that the old-time manufacturers were no so picky
         about the quality of the castings that they utilised and had no qualms about applying a filler
         composed of sulphur, cast iron siftings and sal-ammoniac to cover up faults in the metal.

   •     As an interesting aside the supplier of cast-irons columns for the Victorian Tay Bridge even
         filled in large holes with sawdust, iron filings and lead - with fatal results; the bridge collapsed as
         a train was crossing.

   •     Unfortunately, this early-filler stuff sops up paint stripper like there’s no tomorrow, but refuses
         to part company with the machine, so it cannot be painted, and has to be forcibly removed. You
         can also come unstuck with paint stripper coming into contact with porous castings, though this
         is even harder to deal with. I tend to coat everything with car-body filler, rubbing it down so the
         end result looks smooth as glass and, fortunately, any chemicals remaining in the surface of the
         metal after thorough washing down are insufficient to seep through it. The same cannot be said
         for paint alone. The most effective way of removing paint from castings without chemicals is to
         use an angle grinder fitted with a rotary-wire brush and an operator fitted with eye and breathing
         protection; be very clear, however, that powered tools must not be wielded near any machined
         portion of the job.

   •     Truing up discs held in the chuck - A great trick that I have used is simply to grip the disc lightly
         in the chuck and to spin it up, at low speed. If a piece of stout card is held over the point of the
         tool, when it is brought into contact with the work, it cannot cut, but instead can be used to push
         the disc into the jaws until it runs dead true. The machine can then be stopped, the chuck
         properly tightened, and the job can continue.

   •     Adhesives and engineer’s lathes - Woodworkers think nothing of relying on glue to retain a
         workpiece on a faceplate yet we engineers always seem to fight shy of the idea. I have used the
         idea successfully on a number of occasions both at home and at work, using various adhesives.                                                                  7/27/2004
Lathes                                                                                                                    Page 9 of 9

   For facing back washers and the like, I start by facing a piece of aluminium, held in the chuck, and
      then stick the workpiece on using either "loctite" or a mixture of shellac in alcohol, utilising
      tailstock pressure to hold everything in place until set. Concentricity is usually irrelevant, so
      setting is very simple and ordinary speeds and feeds can be used. When it’s time to remove the
      workpiece, a sharp tap, or application of heat will break it free. For one job that I am called upon
      to do at work, I am required to produce P.T.F.E. discs to a tight tolerance. Anyone who has
      attempted to work with this material will know how hard it is to grip and how easily it "moves"
      after machining. The only way I have found to successfully execute the job is to stick it to a
      "faceplate" (my bit of faced aluminium) with double-sided sticky tape; this holds the job
      securely, yet imposes no stress upon it. A measure of common sense is required when using
      adhesives - if you’re turning a 3-foot diameter, 600 lb cast-iron manhole cover sticky tape is not
      the stuff to use - but it can allow otherwise unattainable results on small components..

   •     Setting accurate angles - The "sine bar" is one of those forgotten tools in the amateur’s
         workshop. It usually brings to mind horrific trig. Calculations and visions of slip piles that strike
         fear in the heart of many enthusiasts. Listen up, people; the sine bar can be made by anyone with
         a piece of silver steel and a length of gauge-plate in an hour or two and the need for slips can be
         bypassed by using an adjustable parallel and a micrometer.
         After reading about people's struggles regarding the matter of setting their topslides over to
         machine a Morse taper it might be worthwhile pointing out that using a sine bar against the side
         of the topslide and "clocking" from the tailstock is the easiest, right-first-time method of doing
         the job. A perennial problem solved.

   •     Marking out (a tip from "The Lemming") Make up a small bottle of the "coppering solution"
         described in "Machinery's Handbook" (and other old engineering books) it's merely a strong
         solution of copper sulphate in distilled water with a little sulfuric acid added - I use a few drops
         of battery acid - and it works nicely. I clean the steel with emery cloth, and wipe the solution on
         with a Q-Tip cotton swab. It leaves a nice copper plating; one can then scratch in a layout line
         which will contrast as silver against the copper colour. It doesn't seem to rub off as does layout
         lacquer - and is especially handy for close work when one is filing to lines on very small parts.

   •     For a series of articles about making interesting, economical and effective lathe accessories, try
         this link:
                                                  Home Page
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                       Lathe & Home-workshop Books Lathe Accessories and Spares Screwcutting Fitting a New Chuck                                                                                         7/27/2004

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