The milling table is still a work in progress. Tapping the 3/8-16 holes by hand was a lot harder than I anticipated. I have about 12 holes left and at my current rate, I should be done in a couple of weeks. Some lessons I’ve learned are:
- Ratchet taps are a lot easier than regular tap handles. $20 at harbor freight for one that has proved robust so far.
- Even with a ratchet tap, tapping larger holes is hard on my hands and back.
- A drill press with a laser is helpful for starting the hole and keeping it true. I use a chamfer bit to hold the tap into an indent in the top of the tap
- Bolt down your drill press and clamp down your work securely. If you think it’s secure, it probably isn’t yet.
I use non-detergent motor oil as lubricant, and I back out a bit after each 3/4 of a turn. I’m sure professional machinists will shake their heads at my choice of lubricant, but that’s what I have on hand.
I’m working on a milling table for my lathe based on drawings and plans from this forum post (Scroll to the bottom of the post). This required drilling a lot of holes and it’s my first experience drilling that much steel. Experts will have more technical observations, but I have some practical advice if you’ve never done any work in metal.
- Don’t wear shorts and sandals. Those metal chips are hot and sharp. I got several slivers in my feet from wearing sandals.
- Chips and oil go everywhere in a 5 foot radius from the drill press. No advice, just a warning.
- Clear your work piece and table occasionally. The chips on the table can impact the drilling accuracy.
- The wood pecker method really does keep the chips manageable. Drill a little and back out.
- Start with a smaller diameter drill and work up. Use a center drill to start. This seems to work well.
- My cheap drill press doesn’t have a lot of rigidity and it tends to vibrate a lot with bigger diameter holes. I wish I had bought a better one.
Now I have to tap all of those holes. I think that will probably take a lot longer than drilling them.
I got my lathe up and running and on a bench. It’s not an ideal setup, but it will do for now. The bench is one of the hardwood benches from Harbor Freight. It’s amazingly sturdy considering how cheap it was. My flat belt is just a serpentine that I cut to length and used homemade staples to stitch together. Many people use glue, but I couldn’t get a glue to adhere sufficiently.
Now that the lathe is running, it’s time for projects. The biggest project in my queue is a design from 1921 Popular Mechanics, A Small Bench Miller. It uses concrete for the structure. Before I build that, I have three other smaller tooling projects; a small boring / milling table for the lathe, a steady rest, and a couple of the stud gears that I’m currently missing (16 tooth and 24 tooth). I’ll post details on my projects as I complete them.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve liked mechanical things as well as electronics. My dream was to go into college for some kind of Robotics Engineering course, but that didn’t happen. Going into adulthood, I chose to focus on electronics and then computers. Now that I’m older I’d like to finally acquire the skill of hobbyist machinist. The problem with this is that I have no tools for a machinist career. Well, now I do. I bought an “Old Iron” South Bend 9″ Model C lathe. If you’re interested in the story and pictures, read on.