Contents ©James Eckman Last updated May 1st, 2008Feel free to drop me a line and and ask questions or tell me what you think about the information presented here. Take out the capital letters in the e-mail address though, otherwise I won't see it!
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.
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:
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!
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.
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: Divider head using Taig parts and an index plate.
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!
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.
P.S. The ideas not original with me, I stole it from a book by Ron Moungovan called "Shop Savvy".
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:
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:
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:
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 piecesIf the rotation is correct then for steel this size:
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:
20. How do you slit collets?
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:
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.
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 itand 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 putthe blade in the frame so it cuts on the pull stroke (like a jeweler'ssaw.) Starting a cut is in particular much easier, and it feels like thecutting 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 bitstraighter, as any flexing in the hacksaw frame lowers the blade tensionwhen cutting on the push stroke. Japanese woodworkers saws cut on thepull stroke, letting them use a thinner and harder steel than is used ontraditional 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.