Practical Projects for New Machinists
I have a lathe and a vertical mill, but no teacher. I have plenty of texts on the operation of machine tools, but they're just texts, nothing practical.
I learn best if I actually have projects to work on that will teach me the right skills and experience.
Has anyone seen any good project guides that build up understanding of using machine tools (even accurate measuring!) like a lathe or vertical mill?
Make a really little dovetail cutter
Here's someone who wants one:
Need an very small dovetail cutter
Here's someone who made one, larger than that:
TPGB Insert Dovetail Cutter
Scale that down and just use HSS (not likely to find inserts so tiny.
Not many operations, just lathe and mill. Heat treat with a torch and sharpen. You would cover a surprising range of skills for such a simple part, once done precisely. Wouldn't ever be much of a metal muncher though.
T slot nuts are a good mill project. They are cheap enough to buy, but making them is good experience. Milling jacks (small screw jacks used to level work on the mill table) are another good project, and involve turning, boring, internal and external threading, and milling. As for measuring, check your micrometers and calipers to a standard every day, at least. It doesn't so much ensure your micrometers and calipers are accurate so much as it gives you the feel for how much or little pressure to use for a proper measurement.
When working, even on non-critical items, try hard as you can to hold to .001 tolerance on all dimensions. When that seems pretty easy, try to hold within .0001. Your machinery is probably not capable of repeatable .0001 performance, but if you have a tolerance given at +or-.003 and you can hold .0003, it makes it a lot less stressful. Work to .010 and that's all you'll ever be able to achieve.
South Bend - Machine Shop Projects
First project in the book is a simple Nail Set. Last project is a gasoline engine.
Scan the archives - this has been brought up before and there were some good responses.
Hey good idea! Not a lot of material involved, but a lot of thinking. I like this.
Originally Posted by joecr
Oh no! another good idea! And I actually need some for a rotary table I just received. I don't have the correct size nuts to lock it to the vertical mill bed.
Originally Posted by Mike C.
Originally Posted by Mike C.
Is that even still machining? I could jig saw particle board that close.
I like Mike's suggestions for projects. Another good one is a tap handle.
What did you get your mill and lathe to make? You might as well learn while making the shit you actually want. The guys on this forum will tell you how to make anything.
Check if your local library has copies of Home shop machinist. You may want to subscribe
You might as well be making your own tools & tooling to equip your new shop. Brass hammers, bench blocks, & tap handles are all good newbie projects.
Here's a spring-loaded tap guide with female & male centers:
Granddaddy of all shop made tools threads:
Shop Made Tools - The Home Shop Machinist & Machinist's Workshop BBS
MACHINIST BEDSIDE READER SERIES books are full of projects.
I'll give a ditto on the Homeshop Machinist magazines. Also look out for the Model Engineers Workshop magazines form the UK. Barnes & Noble occasionally has them.
Lindsay Books reprints old books including the South Bend book
Lindsay Publications Titles Available
Edit: I see Lindsay has already been linked. In the bedside reader link, you will see Amazon recommends a bunch of the Workshop Practice books. I have a few of the series and they are very good. Also from the UK. I am not sure of the connection with Model Engineer but a lot of the writers are the same.
"Is that even still machining? "
The welder where I work would consider that fine precision, lol.
Here's a similar thread inside Practicla Machinist with a bunch of answers. Best source of info for new machinist?
When I was in my high school shop class in the 60's I was really lucky to have two outstanding teachers. One of then contacted L. S. Starrett and obtained a set of blueprints for a very complete set of machinists tools, starting with a center punch. If I remember correctly, the most complicated one was an adjustable protractor. Each set of drawings required new skills and was planed in an orderly way to help students learn the importance of procedures as well as methods. Yes, we had to engrave the scales! We all had to make our own tool set using these prints and it was great. We were all trying to out do each other and make our tools fancier and fancier. Some of us got carried away with knurling and finishing. It was a great.
I doubt that Starret still provides these prints. I'd bet that some Yuppie along the way pointed out the loss to stockholders Starrett would suffer, but I am sure they are still out there. Anyone here still have a set of these prints? Mine were lost in a flood 40 years ago.
Rochester Technical Series, Machine Shop Practice has many pages of projects. Most of the assignments center on a specific machine, hand tool or technique. Not all of the projects result in the production of a "tool" or shop accessory. Workshop Practice Series, published by S.I. Books, UK. Each book deals with a different area with related projects: lathe, benchwork, milling, heat treating, etc.
Southbend also made a full set of annotated blueprints for
various starter projects.
Browse through this site -- lots of projects to choose from!
Mini Lathe Workshop
A handy hand-tool that can involve the lathe and mill. Good student project. A "tap block" for hand tapping 2-56 to 1/2-13 holes. Turn, face, bevel,drill, knurl, and parting-off in the lathe. Cylindrical positioning and clamping, drilling or boring bolt circles, and beveling or countersinking on the mill. Also, milling V-channels radially across holes in one face would allow block to be centered on a round shaft.
One of the very useful things in the Southbend "Machine Shop Projects" book is each project has a detailed "table of operations" which describes each operation in sequential order. It is not always obvious when starting out which operation should be done first. All to easy to, as they say, machine oneself into a corner.
Also the book Machine Shop Trade Secrets has a few simple projects in the back but more important a discussion of "best practices" throughout the book.