Current Lathe Work

Back in June, I blamed less frequent updates on getting a new lathe and messing around with it. Well, here is some of what I have been doing.

Instagram is full of machinsts and when I started following some of them, my intent was to gain some insight on using my new machine. What I found however was that, not only do a ton of hobbiest machinists make complex parts and pens, but also some relatively simple things, like rings. What better way to practice fit and finish than on a piece of jewelry.

Seeking a material that was cheap and easy to cut, I picked aluminum.

Hunk of aluminum that was very satisfying to face.
Hunk of aluminum that was very satisfying to face.

I decided my test ring would be a simple design, nothing fancy. A light chamfer on the outside diameter and I wanted it easy to slip on an off, so I would use a boring bar to put a slight angle on the inside diameter.

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The image is a little out of focus, but the chattering is obvious on the chamfer. I am still trying to figure out how to eliminate that. After wearing it a few days, the ring started showing signs of wear, scratching and scuffing. I really liked how it wore and gained a little personality after a few weeks. What I love about having an aluminum ring is how light it is. You can barely feel it on your finger. Losing it camping or fishing isn’t really an issue because of how easy and cheap it was to make.

First pass at cutting the groove. I ended up cutting it deeper and wider than depicted in this image.

After two practice aluminum rings, I wanted to switch to steel and put a little flair in it. The chosen design was a ring about 1/4 inch wide, with a copper inlay. The groove for the inlay was the toughest part. I found a few websites describing the process, linked is by far the most useful I found. I had to make a mandrel to mount the ring on after boring out the hole. I attached the ring to the mandrel with super glue and took very light passes to face it and cut the groove. The under cut was done with a modified parting tool. I simply cut a dovetail shape into it and rocked it back and forth inside the groove.

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Below is the result, after inlaying the copper (16 gauge square wire) and hand filing and sanding.

Finished piece
Finished piece

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