What's new
What's new

Tracer attachment for engine lathe.... anyone here use one ?


Staff member
Dec 15, 2000
I've got one that fits a Schaublin 135 lathe. The template holder bolts to the lathe bed backside (can use round stock between small centers or flat template) You slide the main unit on the dovetail of the backside of the cross slide and secure it. Main unit has it's own little compound, complete with small Multifix tool post...that's what actually moves as the carriage travels...you lock the regular cross slide. There is a tiny hydraulic unit that sits on the floor and powers the tracer compound and stylus.

Of course CNC has made this completely obsolete for any sort of production uses but seems like it might be fun to use for some short run odd shapes, esp if you already have a turned part you need to reproduce that involves multiple tapers, radius and such.

So, just curious if any of you have an aftermarket tracer attachment and are making any use of it...or is the setup more trouble than it's worth ?
...So, just curious if any of you have an aftermarket tracer attachment and are making any use of it...or is the setup more trouble than it's worth ?

I have one, but never found a use for it. It was supposed to adapt to most any small lathe, possibly a Hardinge HLV-H, even. But Hardinge made one for that model.

I have one, but never found a use for it. It was supposed to adapt to most any small lathe, possibly a Hardinge HLV-H, even. But Hardinge made one for that model.
Is it basically "ready to use" or would you have to drill and tap holes for the template holder and possiblty create a mount to attach the main unit to the cross slide ? Just curious as the "impending PITA factors" could make a big difference in "finding a use for it"
I started my life in this trade at an FAA repair station. We repaired many components for the Garrett TPE-331 turboprop engines. The compressor housing was a large flanged part, maybe 18 inches in diameter, and five inches tall. It had a contoured bore, roughly 4 inches thru with a convex radius of maybe an inch and a half. The tracer was used to prepare this contoured surface for metal spray (building up of a repairable surface) and then after the buildup was added, the part was machined to B/P spec (actually to the Inspection Repair Manual spec). It was kinda fun. It would take a rather large CNC to do this work, but was standard work for the Okuma and Whacheon engine lathes on hand there.
I have used a MIMIK tracer on a small 10x20 lathe. Very easy to use once you set it up. No programming, just cut a 2d template and you're ready to roll. You can also copy an existing part by placing it between centers in the template guide.

This particular tracer has a 1.5" stroke. With appropriate set up, and with an operator turning hand wheels, you can trace almost any pattern on the largest lathes. I want to try it on my 46" vtl one day.

I have another MIMIK tracer that was built for large lathes(probably boring mills) that uses hydraulic motors to turn the leadscrews.

They can be very helpful in turning odd shaped parts when you can't afford a CNC vtl or large CNC lathe.
I don't currently have one, but I've used one in the past and found it a useful accessory for a manual lathe. I've been pondering designing and building an electric one for my current machine, primarily to turn tapers that are too steep for the TA and too long for the compound slide, but also "just because".
A shop I work with uses one to cut carburetor related parts, velocity stacks, etc. because the shapes are too complicated to program for small quantities. They do experimental work and it's quick for them to hand make a template and bore a venturi shape on the tracer and test it on the dyno.
IMO, a tracer is a more valuable tool than a taper attachment. I haven't used mine for a year or more, but all I have to do is wheel it over to the lathe, replace the compound with the tracer slide, and put the template in the tailstock holder.

Another nice feature is you can thread up next to a shoulder at as fast of speed as you can reliably close the half nuts. You just make a short template and let the hydraulics pull the tool perfectly out of the cut.
This ?

Yes, except this one has Multifix tool holder...that one appears to be Tripan. Also the hydraulic unit on mine is smaller footprint...it's all vertical...i.e. the tank is square but taller. The brochure doesn't show a photo of the template bar with centers in place for reproducing a turned piece.

What is fascinating to me is the picture showing the 2D template holder mounted for face turning....never occured to me it could be used in that manner. Only annoyance there however is the template holder looks slightly different that the one for the dovetail bar and I only have the dovetail bar version and not the square way mount version. Wouldn't be too hard to make one though.

Shame there's not a better photo showing the outboard supports for the dovetail bar or the two centers that slide on the dovetail bar.

Also interesting to see the coolant manifold can be mounted to the device. That way the coolant hose can follow along with it... neat.
Further intrique regarding the Schaublin tracer... your photos inspired me to look at my Schaublin literature and they show the same tracer for the later 150 lathe.

Was known as the Sauter KM6 Copying attachment. It's interesting that by that time (1980?) there is no mention of the centers for trace of round stock...apparently using 2D templates was the only method.

Also I didn't realize that the turret depth stop on the unit is for the purposes of making multiple passes...rough cuts and final finish cut. There is also a stop for limiting the travel, which is used primarily for internal copy turning.

Max stroke of copy slide is 70mm and max copy length is 500mm.
Used to have a "Colchester" Tracer.
Pretty slick unit. Attached to the back side of the cross slide using the dovetail cut on the sides of the cross slide. Could position the entire unit with stylis and tool block anywhere on the cross slide to work with different sized parts/templates. Had a set of adjustable centers fitted to a rail that ran along the back of the bed. Centers had clamping to take a flat template as well so you could run a turned template with centers or a plate template.

Used it to copy parts and make tapers (no taper attachment)
Sold it when the Romi arrived.
Making templates was pretty easy, but getting everything to work as you wanted was another matter.
Once set it made pretty good parts, but the initial was some trouble and took a bit of messing about to get everything the way you wanted.

Romi much easier even for odd shapes and one off's....
Cheers Ross
I was in charge of a couple of Hess? lathes with the hyd. tracers,with the right operator they kicked butt,AND,they were fun if you like machining.
Used one about 20 years ago frequently, and found it very useful.

One thing to be aware of-the finger that follows the template has to be the same configuration as the cutting tool--that is-- if the finger has a .125" radius, the toolbit must have the same. If just cutting a taper, it wont matter--but if you get into complex radii and/or multiple steps on a face or diameter, both must be the same.

I bought one, missing the hydraulic power unit some years back. Made up a tank with an auto power steering pump (they are typically 1500PSI) and motor mounted on the top. Never made up hoses, but a current project-- a set of tubular connecting rods for an old engine means that I guess that I better finish it.

Herb Kephart
I have 3 tracers,but have only used 1 thus far. It is a mechanical unit called a Lehigh(sp?),which has a linear bearing in the head. No hydraulics. I've only ever seen 2,and I bought both of them,the other was for my journeyman.

For many years,I made contoured spinning chucks for making PGA trophy bodies with it. Also made some cannon. It is an easy to use unit requiring no holes to be drilled in the lathe,and works just fine. I saw templates out of 1/8" thick steel. Hardened templates are recommended,but my work is usually 1-off,and soft ones work fine.

The other 2 are a Mimik,and a unit made for 9" South Bend lathes. You replace the whole compound with it. Haven't used them yet. I have a Mimik for my Bridgeport type mill,too,which works quite well.
Apologies for a slight sidetrack of your thread Milacron....


I´m very interested in a manual tracer since I saw this one but I haven´t been able to source any other info.
Tracer Lathes, set up and uses
I would appreciate the most a picture or two of your Lehigh version to get some more input as I have some ideas of making one for myself.

Most hyd. tracers, common ones over here, are somewhat to large for my large. Even though it weighs 3000lb its low heightwise over the bed... Asking price for a new hydraulic is, well let´s say it needs a profitable product to run.

Thanks for any help.
That´s more than good Gwilson, and please no rush. I´ll won´t remind you until well after the hollidays.
Have a merry christmas and a happy new year!
This drawing shows a bottle cap cavity I recall machining many (30?) years ago using the hydraulic copy from a Colchester Chipmaster fitted to a Graziano Sag 12. I drilled and tapped the Graziano cross slide top surface so the copy attachment was placed at 45 (?) degrees (as per jbc's photo). This allows the hydraulics to machine two axis in one pause-less operation.

I have outlined the surfaces copy-machined with yellow, there is draft on the diameter and the bottom of the cavity is a large radius. Template made from sheet. I don't recall exactly how I did it, but from memory the carriage was fed towards the headstock and the copy applies the draft, then as you reach the bottom of the cavity, the tool heads inwards to cut the radius, finishing at the centre. Finish was critical, polishing to follow.

(After that, a logo was engraved onto the central area of the radius in the cavity, so the spindle of the pantograph was released to allow 3-D movement, a radius template made for the spindle to follow. Even then, jobs like this were probably being done using spark erosion, but still good to know how you can use the older ways).


  • cap die red.jpg
    cap die red.jpg
    42.2 KB · Views: 1,188