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Shaping metal without milling or using lathe???

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#1 whirlpoolm51

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 01:46 AM

I would absolutley love to own a metal lathe or a milling machine , or even a cnc machine!!! but i sre as heck dont have the money for either of those at the moment so i am wondering if any of you have had this problem and came up with a nice solution to cutting and shaping certain metals like aluminum and plain steel???

I can cut and kind of carve now but i would like to be able to shape thicker aluminum and be more precise!!

Basically i want to do what a lathe.milling machine and cnc do but without either of them hahahaha and little gadgets you guys came up with to help you out??

#2 jasonharris

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 03:13 AM

You may be a little out of luck I think.

Can you explain the kinds of things you want to do? It may be achievable depending what you need to make but getting the equivalent of a CNC or lathe/mill without them will generally either not be possible or be very hard.

Mild steel will be hard to work with, if you are really out of tools then you will be limited to sawing, i.e. hacksaw and filing.

Many guys who did their apprenticeship a good number of years ago would be very proficient with basic hand tools but it does take time.

Aluminium could have possbilities, you can use some woodworking tools and drill/tap it easy enough. Some people have success with a hand router but I would suggest good clamping and reasonable jigs to help.

So if you can tell us what you want to do there may be a way to do it with basic tools.

#3 Al8236

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 03:15 AM

Well I don't know what you have now but if you have a drill press you can do quite a bit with an cross feed vice.
It will take a little longer as you can't take as big of cut as a mill but can be very serviceable. I used this type of arraignment for many years before I got a mill!

#4 John Carruthers

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 04:00 AM

Some people have used a wood router successfully on ally. A jigsaw with a suitable blade can help a lot too. You can make anything with a file and enough time. A vertical drill stand has its uses but a drill press is better obviously.
Some schools round here hold evening classes and rent tool time in their workshops.

#5 MKV

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 05:11 AM

I used this type of arraignment for many years before I got a mill!

Okay, I am confused. I thought you didn't have a mill (or a lathe), which is why you started this thread.

#6 jasonharris

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 05:16 AM

I used this type of arraignment for many years before I got a mill!

Okay, I am confused. I thought you didn't have a mill (or a lathe), which is why you started this thread.


He didn't start the thread, that may end the confusion :)

#7 RossSackett

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 07:09 AM

As mentioned, a drill press with some end mills and cross-feed table will take you far. Add a hacksaw, jeweler's saw (with lots of blades for both), tap and die set, some fresh double-cut and single-cut files and you will be able to accomplish a lot. You can fabricate many useful ATM parts by re-purposing various extrusions of aluminum, especially from thicker (1/4" +) sections. I would caution you not to jump in and use woodworking tools like routers and tablesaws until you have considerable experience--while a number of contributors to this forum have used them successfully to machine aluminum, others with just as much shop experience and skill have had some horrific incidents. Whatever you decide, keep in mind that metal must be clamped down whenever you machine it, even on a relatively safe machine like a drillpress--don't attempt to free-hand it as you might a long piece of wood.

#8 Mirzam

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 07:10 AM

I cut aluminum up to 1/4" thick on my bandsaw. Generally this is limited to cuts that are fairly short--on the order of several inches. This is plenty for making custom brackets and connectors. I do replace the blade about once a year. When I buy metal at a local welding shop I have them cut larger pieces of sheet aluminum to size for me. I've also had them make large aluminum rings by water jet cutting. It's not exactly cheap but well worth the cost to get some nice scope components.

A drill press is indispensable for working with metal. I bought my 1960's Rockwell-Delta floor standing model used, but you can purchase smaller tabletop drill presses (light duty) for very low prices. Like others have said, there also may be places in your area where you can go to use such equipment.

JimC

#9 Startraffic

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 07:13 AM

whirlpoolm51,
You can indeed do a lot with a drill press with a cross slide vise. A bandsaw and even a bench mounted belt sander will get you going. They aren't the best tools bit if they're what ya got, use 'em.

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#10 m. allan noah

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 08:21 AM

I've done a bit with a drillpress, I don't recommend it. The chuck is not intended to hold the hard shanks of endmills, and most small drill presses don't use a drawbar, so the chuck can come off fairly easily.

For low cost, it is hard to beat a good set of files.

But, you live in the rust belt. Your craigslist is full of milling machines and lathes. Save your nickels and buy an old used lathe and/or mill.

allan

#11 Dick Jacobson

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 08:47 AM

If you need to bend metal, Harbor Freight has a tool for making sharp bends (see Compact Bender) and also a tool for making larger radius bends (see Tubing Roller). I own both of these tools and they are outstanding.

You can easily cut aluminum plates on a table saw using a special blade for cutting non-ferrous metals (I found one at Home Depot).

I also own a "Smithy" combination mill/lathe/drill press and it works quite well but maybe out of your price range.

#12 tim53

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 10:12 AM

I second the used machine suggestion. With shops going to Cnc these days, you can often find good lathes in the 9" range for under a K

#13 tim53

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 10:14 AM

I bought a 9" south bend and a Sebastian 9" treadle lathe for $500 for the pair. My. Main lathe is a 9" champion blower and forge lathe I got for $250 several years back.

#14 ed_turco

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 10:50 AM

Believe or don't. Both my telescopes at Stellafane were made of scrap and salvaged brass and mahogany; all the brasswork was done by hand with a file, sandpaper and a micrometer.

All by hand; it took a very stubborn attitude to do this and a few finger cuts.

I can hardly recommend this method, but a thickheaded person might try it.

Forget steel; stick with brass and aluminum. And when I finally got an industrial size woodlathe, (for free!), I even turned both these metals on it to great satisfaction. But I had to be very careful.

#15 Achernar

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 11:40 AM

Without a lathe or milling machine, the only ways to shape metal are files, saws and grinders, either angle or pencil type. I use all three for simple shaping operations. If you need to drill holes, a hammer, center punch and drill press will work. Another way to shape steel is a torch, you can heat it to about 1,500 degree and bend it to shape. I have also bent metal tubing with benders, and flat bar stock in a vise. I have also used a sanding wheel to shape softer aluminum alloys, which will clog a grinding wheel up in a hurry. You can also thread rods and holes in metal with tap and die sets. Sheet metal can be cut with shears, thicker metal with saws, plasma cutters, or a torch depending on what kind of metal it is. You can also weld steel with modest equipment, even aluminum at home as long as you are welding lighter gauge stock. Houses don't have the power for a welding machine suitable for heavy duty use. You can also gas weld and braze many metals yourself. If you have to shape metal to precise dimensions in complex shapes, I'm afraid you are out of luck and would need to pay a machinist to do it.

Taras

#16 careysub

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 12:29 PM

I'm with Ed - Aluminum will do everything you need (it is in fact superior to steel for most telescope needs), and can readily be worked with hand tools.

A hack saw can cut even pretty thick aluminum easily enough (though it will be rough and need filing/grinding/sanding). You would be surprised how fast you can remove material with a file using proper technique.

A disk sander, or a belt sander (either a bench version, or a hand version in a jig, see picture) is/are a very useful tool(s) to shape and finish.

To be accurate you just need accurate measuring tools. A flat reference surface (melamine particle board is really pretty darn flat), a precision straight edge, an engineers square, micrometer and calipers, and a high quality fine division tape measure.

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#17 don clement

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 12:31 PM

I often use a HF 7x12 horz/vert bandsaw to cut and shape aluminum. The blade that works best for aluminum is a 4-6 tpi Lenox bi-metal at 255 FPM. This blade cuts aluminum like oak wood. For cutoff in the horizontal mode flood coolant works best. (a 10% solution of Valcool VP650 I use a refractometer to monitor the coolant concentration http://morebeer.com/view_product/18739 ) However in the vertical mode I use a Vortec 610 cold air gun for cooling without the mess. http://www.vortexair...coldairgun.html I typically cut-off aluminum rounds of 7” diameter (even 8" rounds if rotate the round) and easily shape ½”-1” thick aluminum plate with this bandsaw and Lenox blade.

Don Clement

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#18 Pinbout

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 12:35 PM

A disk sander, or a belt sander (either a bench version, or a hand version in a jig, see picture) is/are a very useful tool(s) to shape and finish.



+1 for disc and belt sanders for shaping, but for finishing a scotch brite wheel does the trick for nice grain, rouge and flannel/cotton wheel if you want to polish it.

#19 Sean Cunneen

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 03:00 PM

Good/Fast/Cheap, pick two!

If you look at the build links in my signature, I make my stuff with minimal machining. There are some tasks where nothing but a lathe will do. I've found that aluminum works an awful lot like Oak. I have some tricks for working with aluminum like how to use a router for channels and grinding off the end tines on a spade bit for drilling large holes through aluminum.

By far the most useful tool for cave-manning metal is an angle grinder and cut-off disk. I can cut, grind and shape any piece of iron or aluminum in a few seconds. You go through a lot of disks and you can make some awfully big mistakes, but a drill press and a cut-off disk will get you pretty far.

I went and found a machine shop that will do leveling/flattening as well as simple turning operations for $10 here and there. I can't be picky or too precise, but little jobs here and there went a long way to making my mount as accurate as it is.

#20 jasonharris

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 05:07 PM

I think a lot of you may have got lucky when using a drill press for milling, as pointed out they dont have a draw bar and usually have very small tapers which will usually fall out with side loads - if it's work for you though...

#21 don clement

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 05:33 PM

I think a lot of you may have got lucky when using a drill press for milling, as pointed out they dont have a draw bar and usually have very small tapers which will usually fall out with side loads - if it's work for you though...


+1 Caution on using the drill press for milling from my own experience. My old drill press has a #2 Morse taper with no draw bar. Also using an Albrecht drill chuck for holding an end mill is not advised. Chicom Mill drills with R8 spindle are pretty cheap nowadays although I really prefer a mill with a dovetail column not the round column mill drill.

BTW it's not really the size of the taper but how the end mill is held and the design of the spindle. E.g. my Sherline mill has a #1 Morse taper in the spindle but end mills up to 3/8" are held in a collet with a drawbar. My Sherline 5400 mill (upgraded to a model 2000 8 way mill http://www.sherline.com/2000pg.htm ) can be carried by hand and stored on a bookshelf but can really do some pretty big mill work. I built my first focuser prototype that measured 6” on each side with the Sherline mill in the second bedroom of a condo in San Diego. So one doesn’t really need massive machine tools to do real sized mill work, just well designed machine tools.

Don Clement

#22 StarStuff1

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 05:42 PM

I have used a large drill press with a sliding table to mill a few aluminum pieces. A very few as it was obvious one could easily get hurt.

In my shop are two small lathes. The smaller one is a Unimat. It has been a workhorse for smaller pieces such as eyepiece barrels and adapters.

Of all the tools in my shop: two tablesaws, oscillating spindle sander, disc sander, wood planer, band saw, etc, etc the one that has hurt me the most physically is the drill press. I just gotta learn to clamp things down and respect 2/3rds HP at 650 rpm.

#23 JohnH

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 07:06 PM

The first thing I did was I cultivated a relationship with a friend who did the sorts of projects using skills I needed.

Robin Allen http://www.thecrossb...n.com/Home.html organized the White Tower Society locally, and built various bows, crossbows and ring mail.

He showed me that you can go a long way with files,a hacksaw, a drill press and a lot of brains. Things like packing a files rills with talcum powder to get the last smoothing cuts perfect and keep the file from galling on aluminum.

He showed me how to cut aluminum tube and smaller stock on a table saw, and other pieces with a router and some jigs.

I agree that brass and aluminum are great materials to use. Soft enough to cut by hand if need be, workable with with common power tools most people can use in a shop without 220 wiring.

I did use 1/16" brass stock to face three cases I built for telescopes or accessories, and used a file to make it flush to the inside and at a 45 degree bevel on the other face. I did two of the three before Robin said you could just use a router and a flush and bevel bits instead but use a file for the final finish.

#24 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 07:59 PM

I often use a HF 7x12 horz/vert bandsaw to cut and shape aluminum. The blade that works best for aluminum is a 4-6 tpi Lenox bi-metal at 255 FPM. This blade cuts aluminum like oak wood. For cutoff in the horizontal mode flood coolant works best. (a 10% solution of Valcool VP650 I use a refractometer to monitor the coolant concentration http://morebeer.com/view_product/18739 ) However in the vertical mode I use a Vortec 610 cold air gun for cooling without the mess. http://www.vortexair...coldairgun.html I typically cut-off aluminum rounds of 7” diameter (even 8" rounds if rotate the round) and easily shape ½”-1” thick aluminum plate with this bandsaw and Lenox blade.

Don Clement

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Don:

That's a pretty nice saw. In my job, I do a lot of one off designs and work closely with a machine shop. They can do some amazing things with their saws, nice finishes with dimensions to within maybe 0.010." Those saws cost as much as a decent lathe or mill.

A couple of dozen donuts goes a long way in getting precision parts made.

Jon

#25 don clement

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 09:08 PM

Don:

That's a pretty nice saw. In my job, I do a lot of one off designs and work closely with a machine shop. They can do some amazing things with their saws, nice finishes with dimensions to within maybe 0.010." Those saws cost as much as a decent lathe or mill.

A couple of dozen donuts goes a long way in getting precision parts made.

Jon


Jon,

This Taiwanese 7x12 bandsaw was not really that expensive and can hold 0.010". I bought my 7x12 bandsaw from the local Harbor Freight down in the now bankrupt city of San Bernardino ( http://www.youtube.c...h?v=smfdZKg_XFc I believe this song sung by Jane Russell was a little joke from Howard Hughes about SB who was a writer and executive producer of "His Kind of Woman" 1951) was on sale combined with a 20% web coupon for IIR ~$450. BTW similar 4x6 bandsaws are going new for ~$200. The Lenox 4-6tpi bi-metal blade was perhaps $50 more. The blades are an expendable item so I have several spares. The one thing about having your own machine tools is that you can make changes and not have to rely on favors from some machine shop. In my case I also have a CNC mill so go directly from CAD design software to CAD software to producing parts myself- no middlemen. The bandsaw just makes it easier to put the raw aluminum stock into the right form to go onto the CNC mill.

Don Clement






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