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Jet Mini Lathe

I don't like to operate my metal lathe at very high speeds for any length of time. A local tool dealer recently put the Jet mini lathe on sale and I purchased one for turning pens and other small objects. I store it in the corner next to my metal lathe and I built a semi-mobile stand for it using 8/4 oak. The stand slides on nylon pads so I can move it out from the corner when I want to use it. I use heavy duty lifting levelers from Rockler to immobilize the stand and make it even more steady. There is a tool rack under the deck to hold 3 turning tools, an accessory tray, and a shelf on the back for a sand tube to absorb vibration.

Shop Made Jet Mini Lathe Jigs

I decided to make some duplicates of several jigs that I use frequently for my new Jet mini lathe. I buried a 1" bolt in some scrap wood to make a temporary chuck for my Atlas metal lathe. This was used to hold some 1" by 8 TPI nuts so I could face the nut and relieve the threads to clear the unthreaded portion of the spindle near the registration surface. These shop made spindle adapters were then secured in some maple blanks cut from thrift store rolling pins with J-B Weld metal epoxy. I then turned two screw chucks using a conformat screw for the small screw chuck and a Teknatool Woodworm Screw in the large screw chuck. I made a duplicate of the faceplate chuck which I use a lot to hold jam chuck blanks as described on the lathes page. I also made another ring collar chuck (donut chuck) for reverse chucking bowls. This chuck uses the same rings as those used on my metal lathe.

Using one of my shop made spindle adapters, I made this wine stopper chuck. Because the chuck screws directly onto the spindle, it is possible to turn a wine stopper without using a live center for support.

I recently bought a used Oneway scrolling chuck in very good condition. It came with 3 sets of jaws. I made a mini Cole-Jaw set which attaches to the chuck with 6mm stainless steel machine screws. It is sized to accept bowls or plates up to nearly 10", which is the maximum my Jet Mini will turn. The jaws were made from 1/2" Baltic Birch plywood and some large hard rubber valve stem washers that I found in the plumbing department at my favorite hardware store. It is shown here being used to reverse chuck a small bowl to turn off the glue block.

Before I bought the scrolling chuck with its spigot jaws, I undertook a project which required several small spindles to be turned from 3/4" square stock. I thought about making a simple hollow square drive center for my headstock, but decided to make an adjustable chuck. What I ended up making is sort of an independent 4-jaw mini-chuck. The mini-chuck uses one of my shop made spindle adapters and threads onto the headstock. I made a short #2 MT center which lines up with the the nose of the headstock spindle and the inside surface of the chuck. This center and the live center in the tailstock are used to center the stock. This chuck uses 1/4" T-nuts and hex head cap screws to hold the stock. The chuck and center were made from rosewood scrap found in my cutoff box.

Modifications to Jet Mini Lathe

My hands are large and I found the metal levers on the tool rest support and tailstock to be somewhat uncomfortable. I made a couple of wooden handles which slip over the metal levers and are secured with a little epoxy. These are much more comfortable and easier to use.

My Jet Mini is one of the earlier models without a spindle lock. I have seen several photos on the Internet of shop made spindle locks which were fabricated by bolting a metal bar to the top of the headstock and drilling a hole in it to hold the spindle tommy bar. I didn't want to permanently mount such a metal bar on my headstock, so I made a simple spindle stop from a piece of 3/8" aluminum bar stock. I drilled and tapped a hole through the bar for a 5/16" bolt and cut the head off. When placed on the front lathe way, as shown in this photo, the spindle is prevented from rotating towards you. This is useful when removing a stuck chuck. When placed on the back side of the spindle, the spindle is prevented from rotating clockwise. I use this when mounting a wood blank onto a screw chuck and this allows me to grip the wood with both hands.

One of the features which I really like on my old Atlas metal lathe is the compound tool rest. I have found it to be very useful for a variety of woodturning operations. Since I purchased my Jet mini lathe I have been wondering if I could make a simple 2-axis toolpost holder to fit the lathe. The more I thought about it, the more interesting the project became, and I decided that I had to try to make one. I use it primarily when making lathe jigs which require a perfect cylinder or a precisely surfaced face. The description of this jig is quite long. If you are interested in reading it, Click Here.

Watchmaker's Lathe

My wife's grandfather also owned a watchmaker's lathe which he used to make clock movements. The entire lathe is so small that it stores in a wooden box with a drawer which also serves as the tool base. The headstock and tailstock slide onto the lathe bed when it is setup for use. The belt which drives the headstock is a flexible plastic tube and the ends are fused together with an alcohol lamp. I added an idler pulley to take up any slack in the belt at different speed settings. It came with a lot of collets and special accessories, including one for turning watch cases.

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Making a Toolpost Holder for Jet Mini Lathe

Here is a description of how I went about making the toolpost holder and cross slide. I made this jig almost entirely from scrap metal and spare parts that I have collected over the years. Consequently I have no plans and no measured drawings; each component was custom made to fit as I proceeded.

The first step was to make some metal brackets to hold the feed screw -- a length of 1/2" threaded rod. The brackets were made from some 3/8" aluminum bar stock. I used existing holes in the castings of the lathe base to mount these brackets. The headstock end has a 10mm hole for the pulley cover and a tapped hole for a #8 machine screw at the front. I drilled and tapped an additional hole for a #8 machine screw at the back of the casting. I used the two 5/16" holes at the tailstock end of the base which are provided to mount an extension to the bed. A key step in making the brackets was to drill a hole for the steel sleeves which support the feed screw. I made a temporary alignment jig to mark each bracket, and this same jig was used to position the feed screw nut which was made later. The headstock bracket had to be filed to match the angle of the base casting where it makes contact. The finished brackets were then attached to the base with bolts. A crescent shaped recess in the tail bracket allows the tailstock and tool rest holder to be installed and removed easily with the brackets in place.

I made my hand wheels next. My scrap metal bin yielded a couple of mainframe computer tape drive mounting hubs that I have had for years. They didn't look anything like they do now, but it was easy to turn the aluminum alloy on my metal lathe. I drilled and tapped a center hole for the 1/2" threaded rods, and another for the handles which were made from some smooth shank 3/8" bolts.

The tool post holder was next. I had an old machinists vise which had a very tight fit to the 1/2" screw, an important feature to be sure. I removed the rear upright and smoothed the top and sides. My wooden tool post block was fabricated from some rosewood which had been in my wood supply for years. I used the rosewood because it is very hard and dense. The end grain was oriented vertically, a groove cut, and 3/8" aluminum bar stock epoxied to the top, and this was later further secured with some long screws. Rosewood strips and pan head screws on the sides allow for tightening the movement and making it very smooth. The tool post holder is held from the bottom with a piece of steel which allows for virtually all of the slack to be taken out of the movement, and this is very important.

The cross slide base was made from a piece of 3/4" Baltic Birch ply with aluminum angle glued to the sides with J-B Weld metal epoxy. This adds strength to the base and also holds the tool post holder such that it cannot move laterally. The cross slide is held to the lathe ways and prevented from tipping forward by rosewood blocks glued to the bottom and a T-shaped piece of rosewood bolted to the cross slide from below. This piece slides along the machined lip on the bottom of the lathe ways. Exact fit is critical for these pieces and I spent a lot of time with a file and sandpaper to get it just right. A brass insert in the bottom piece and a cap screw allows the friction to be adjusted from above, and also allows immobilizing the cross slide for face turning. The bottom of the cross slide is surfaced with slick UHMW plastic where it makes contact with the cast iron ways.

The cross slide is attached to the feed screw with a steel bracket I found in my metal parts bin. The metal bracket has a wood insert with steel sleeves inside and a captured 1/2" grade 8 nut. The sides of the bracket do not touch the feed screw. The feed screw is inserted into the steel sleeves in the aluminum support brackets and secured with jam nuts. Turning the feed screw handle exerts pressure on one of the end brackets depending on the direction of rotation, consequently the captured nut pulls the cross slide in either direction. A washer was used as a spacer to get the metal bracket lined up with the feed screw. When just right, the movement is smooth and quiet.

I grind my 1/4" HSS metal lathe bits to a round nose profile. I have experimented with several shapes, and I generally use a bit with side to side rake. Here are my very first attempts with my tool post. I used some mystery wood in a grab bag of exotic woods I purchased some time ago. It looks a little like rosewood, but doesn't have the characteristic sweet smell when you cut it. Cutting a cylinder was easy and the finish was smooth and with almost no tool marks. I got minor tool marks when turning the face of a cylinder, but these disappeared when I tightened the steel strip under the tool post holder.

The cross slide screw allows a little over 2" travel front to back, and with about 3 1/2" clearance over the cross slide, so I could turn a cylinder of over 6", or a little more if I move the tool post back on the cross slide. The jig is easily removed for traditional tool rest turning by removing the jam nuts on the front of the feed screw and sliding everything off the lathe ways. The brackets are left in place.

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