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Equipment Discussions >> ATM, Optics and DIY Forum

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whirlpoolm51
professor emeritus
****

Reged: 01/05/12

Loc: pittsburgh,pa
Shaping metal without milling or using lathe???
      #5636115 - 01/22/13 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??


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jasonharris
sage


Reged: 09/16/06

Re: Shaping metal without milling or using lathe??? new [Re: whirlpoolm51]
      #5636177 - 01/22/13 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.


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Al8236
Pooh-Bah
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Reged: 08/18/10

Loc: 48.9173N 122.1390W
Re: Shaping metal without milling or using lathe??? new [Re: whirlpoolm51]
      #5636179 - 01/22/13 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!


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John Carruthers
Skiprat
*****

Reged: 02/02/07

Loc: Kent, UK
Re: Shaping metal without milling or using lathe??? new [Re: whirlpoolm51]
      #5636203 - 01/22/13 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.


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MKV
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 01/20/11

Re: Shaping metal without milling or using lathe??? new [Re: Al8236]
      #5636243 - 01/22/13 05:11 AM

Quote:

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.


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jasonharris
sage


Reged: 09/16/06

Re: Shaping metal without milling or using lathe??? new [Re: MKV]
      #5636245 - 01/22/13 05:16 AM

Quote:

Quote:

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


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RossSackett
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 08/17/07

Loc: Memphis, TN
Re: Shaping metal without milling or using lathe??? new [Re: jasonharris]
      #5636313 - 01/22/13 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.

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Mirzam
Post Laureate
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Reged: 04/01/08

Loc: Lovettsville, VA
Re: Shaping metal without milling or using lathe??? new [Re: jasonharris]
      #5636315 - 01/22/13 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


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Startraffic
professor emeritus
*****

Reged: 02/12/06

Loc: Lat. 39.143345, Long. -77.1748...
Re: Shaping metal without milling or using lathe??? new [Re: whirlpoolm51]
      #5636317 - 01/22/13 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.

Clear Dark Skies
Startraffic
39.138274 -77.168898


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m. allan noah
professor emeritus


Reged: 08/14/09

Loc: Virginia, USA
Re: Shaping metal without milling or using lathe??? new [Re: Startraffic]
      #5636375 - 01/22/13 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


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Dick Jacobson
scholastic sledgehammer


Reged: 12/22/06

Loc: Plymouth, Minnesota, USA
Re: Shaping metal without milling or using lathe??? new [Re: whirlpoolm51]
      #5636405 - 01/22/13 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.


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tim53
Postmaster
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Reged: 12/17/04

Loc: Highland Park, CA
Re: Shaping metal without milling or using lathe??? new [Re: Dick Jacobson]
      #5636554 - 01/22/13 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

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tim53
Postmaster
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Reged: 12/17/04

Loc: Highland Park, CA
Re: Shaping metal without milling or using lathe??? new [Re: tim53]
      #5636562 - 01/22/13 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.

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ed_turco
Pooh-Bah
*****

Reged: 08/29/09

Loc: Lincoln, RI
Re: Shaping metal without milling or using lathe??? new [Re: tim53]
      #5636629 - 01/22/13 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.


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Achernar
Postmaster
*****

Reged: 02/25/06

Loc: Mobile, Alabama, USA
Re: Shaping metal without milling or using lathe??? new [Re: whirlpoolm51]
      #5636711 - 01/22/13 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


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careysub
Carpal Tunnel
*****

Reged: 02/18/11

Loc: Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Re: Shaping metal without milling or using lathe??? new [Re: ed_turco]
      #5636795 - 01/22/13 12:29 PM Attachment (32 downloads)

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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don clement
Vendor (Clement Focuser)


Reged: 02/02/11

Loc: Running Springs, California
Re: Shaping metal without milling or using lathe??? new [Re: Mirzam]
      #5636802 - 01/22/13 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.biz/Cooling/ColdAirGun/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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Pinbout
Postmaster
*****

Reged: 02/22/10

Loc: nj
Re: Shaping metal without milling or using lathe??? new [Re: careysub]
      #5636808 - 01/22/13 12:35 PM

Quote:

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.


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Sean Cunneen
Let Me Think
*****

Reged: 08/01/07

Loc: Blue Island Illinois
Re: Shaping metal without milling or using lathe??? new [Re: Pinbout]
      #5637100 - 01/22/13 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.


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jasonharris
sage


Reged: 09/16/06

Re: Shaping metal without milling or using lathe??? new [Re: Sean Cunneen]
      #5637354 - 01/22/13 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...

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