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What Is Lathe Tooling and How Do You Use It?

Some viewers had asked Kevin to talk more about the metal lathe and tooling.

What is tooling for a lathe or mill? They are the tools that allow you to work the machine.

Kevin shows a couple of boring bars with different diameters. One removes more material, and one removes less material. If you're only working in a small hole, you want the smaller one. If you're working in a larger hole and want to remove more metal, you use the bigger boring bar. It has a longer shank so you can reach farther into the hole. The bigger diameter shaft reduces flex and chatter so you can get a smoother cut.

There is other tooling, too. Kevin shows a parting tool, or cutoff tool. The cutting insert is on one end. You can reuse the bar, but the inserts wear out and you toss them and put a new one in.

This particular tool holder is double ended. The other end has a set of knurling wheels that can create a single knurl or a double knurl. (A knurl is the pattern or cross hatching on a handle, like that of a ratchet.) It attaches to the toolpost and as the metal is spinning in the lathe, you put one wheel against it for a single knurl or both wheels against it for a double knurl.

The tool holder has a slot in it with a couple of set screws so you can put another tool holder in it. He shows a right-handed holder and a left-handed holder. Depending upon which way you're turning the metal and what you're trying to do, one may work better than the other. There are also straight holders that stick straight out so you can adjust the whole thing from side to side.

And it's easy to swap them back and forth. They just go into the toolpost and then you lock it down. Kevin's toolpost has two different sides you can put a tool into, so you can put in your boring bar or you can put in your turning tool on without having to readjust everything and get it square and straight again.

With all of the tools and cutters, you have to have different inserts to go in them. Inserts are the high dollar item. It's not the machine, it's not the holders, it's the inserts that get you. You can buy them singly or you can buy them in packages. Some are going to run you $15 - $25 each in a package of 10.

Next Kevin shows where he gets the inserts. He uses the MSC catalog to get a lot of things for the studio, and there's a huge section devoted to lathe inserts. You can find MSC on the Internet at or by calling them at 800-645-7270.

Kevin says they are very helpful, especially for people who are just starting out. You can learn a whole lot more about inserts from them than he can teach you in a video. And yes, the catalog can make a really good doorstop, too.

So that's a good overview of working with tooling on a metal lathe.

Before you go, take a moment more and see if Caron knows exactly what he's talking about .....

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