I've now owned a lathe for over a month, but until Saturday all I'd done was strip and clean parts of it, I hadn't actually tried using it to turn or drill anything. Part of the problem was not really knowing where to start. You can read books and watch videos for hours and still miss really obvious things that can be the difference between success and frustrating failure. Also having made the investment the last thing I wanted to do was damage the lathe on my first attempt at using it. Fortunately Paul very kindly agreed to visit at the weekend to help get me started. So in between copious mugs of tea/coffee and slices of cake I finally turned the lathe on in anger to cut some brass.
Sensibly we didn't just shove some brass and a tool into the lathe we spent quite a bit of time checking it over and figuring out if it had any little quirks; like there is a bur inside the headstock which stops larger bits of brass sliding cleanly inside the shaft and which I need to look at sorting at some point. When we did make a start though we didn't mess about and went straight to turning a 7mm diameter wheel. This isn't as daft as it might sound as it turns out that the basic steps in making a wheel form a nice introduction to turning. You need to make some drawings first to figure out dimensions, then there is some facing and turning down to different diameters, then the use of a profile tool, then some drilling for an axle, and then parting of the wheel. In other words a nice introduction to lots of the common tasks I'm going to find myself doing on a lathe.
I didn't take any action shots, but these two nicely show the drawings and jottings as well as the finished wheel and a brief experiment in taper turning. I did make a few mistakes as we went along, so the wheel is far from perfect; mostly I didn't lock the tool post tight enough when parting off so it slipped slightly meaning I lost part of the flange. Of course the real test will be to see if I can repeat the process without Paul around to help, but that will have to wait. One of the problems we did discover is that the parting off tool I bought is huge in comparison to Paul's. Mine is just over 3mm wide whereas Paul's is closer to 1.5mm. Given the size of things I'm turning losing 3mm of brass is wasteful and will also put more strain on the motor. Fortunately Paul has kindly taken mine away to grind down so it's more useful as well as grinding more clearance on the left hand turning tool.
As well as turning we also fitted the milling attachment to check it also worked, which it does. Here you can see it in place and also see that I've bolted the whole machine to a chopping board (it was the best thing I could find), although from using it on Saturday I need to fit some rubber feet to stop is sliding around.
As well as showing me how all the tools and accessories I have work Paul also brought some of his tools with him so I've now seen how an indexing attachment works, as well as a collet chuck and some interesting step chucks. I can easily see all of them being really useful but I'm not going to buy any more tools until I've learnt to use the ones I have, or have a specific need for one, otherwise I'd quickly end up broke!
So, thanks again to Paul for driving over (and back in the snow). I really enjoyed meeting him, talking modelling, and learning to use the lathe. Hopefully he enjoyed himself too, or at least the cake!