Faceplate for Minilathe

I was working on a new reel design, and realized that several operations would best be done with the parts clamped to a faceplate.

The problem, however, is that on my Minilathe, the carriage cannot travel far enough left to get the toolpost in position. The travel is OK for a part held in a 3 jaw chuck, but not for a part clamped to a thin faceplate. The large handwheel for carriage travel interferes with the box of variable speed drive electronics.
In this picture, you can see that I long ago added an acrylic plate as a chip shield. It also restricts carriage travel, but is no worse than the handwheel.

The first thing that occurred to me was that the electronics box needed to be relocated. It was really stupid of the designer to put it in this position.

The rack and the leadscrew are both capable of moving the carriage far enough left to allow faceplate use, it is only the electronics box restricting travel.

But then I saw that it would be much easier to just move the handwheel.

So I made this extender for the handwheel shaft.

Here the extender is installed.

I made a 4 inch diameter faceplate on my mill.

Here is the faceplate installed and finish turned.

Posted in Fixtures, Turning, Work Holding | 2 Comments

San Juan River

Was at the San Juan yesterday for the first time, did a float trip from Texas Hole to Crusher Hole. That must be the standard route, as there is even a shuttle service to spot the guides’ vehicles and trailers downstream.
It is a tailwater fishery. Water was clear; I have never seen so many trout. They get fat on the abundant midge life coming out of the bottom draw of the dam.

It is bobber fishing over tiny nymphs. I had a “San Juan Slam” of rainbow, cutbow, and brown. Many hookups, many brought in, most of nice size. Guide Scott Warren of Durango CO.

Posted in Fishing | 1 Comment


My family took an Inner Passage cruise. Son-in-Law and I used the Juneau day to go fishing. I did not research what to do ahead of time, we just signed up with the Cruise Line standard. Bear Creek Outfitters and guide Sam did a fine job: supplied waders and rods, and tied all knots, etc. Also carted the special items needed for Alaska fishing: satellite phone, bear spray, firearm.

We flew out on a Beaver to Slocum inlet and then slogged our way up the creek.

Sam gave us Clouser Minnows, but of colors that I never saw in Michigan. A “school” of Cutthroats and Dolly Varden readily took these streamers. A little father upstream were Pink Salmon, and they wanted the Clousers also.

Granddaughter clearly does not believe my lie about a big fish.

Posted in Fishing | Leave a comment

Ball Turning

My “standard” bronze frame reel has two surfaces that are cut to a spherical shape, one is the spool retaining screw head (convex) and the other is the waist on the knob (concave; at least, concave motion of the cutter). When I had a Sherline mill I could use it as a lathe by turning the headstock 90 degrees and mounting the cutter to a rotary table. But now I have the more robust Mini Mill, and axis of the headstock can only be vertical. It is still possible to turn, but it seems quite awkward.

So I sought a way to do the turning on my Mini Lathe. First I bought the standard ball turning tool:

But it failed on both counts; it was not big enough to make an 0.8 inch convex radius or a 1.8 inch concave radius.

On Pinterest, I have been seeing many home made ball turning tools. So I have made my own, of a generally similar design.

The cutter is a 3/8 inch round carbide insert.

Cutting a convex surface – screw head.

Cutting a concave surface – knob.

Posted in Turning | Leave a comment

Tool Post Grinding

I have been selling “Ferrule Shrinking Tools” again; they are used by bamboo rod makers to reduce the diameter of a female nickel silver ferrule and improve the fit. Since I have pretty well satisfied the total rodmaker demand for this tool, it is hard to justify ordering another large batch of parts from a machine shop. So I decided to make a few myself.

The main structural parts are two aluminum disks, 2-5/8 diameter and 3/8 inch thick. The slabs are sawn from a 2-5/8 rod and have to be faced off with a lathe.

I did the facing with my Minilathe because the Sherline lathe does not have enough low speed torque, making the operation very tedious. But the faces of the disks were coming out about .004 inch out of parallel. This would be OK for the purpose, but I felt that I should be able to do better.

It is easy to see why the disks vary in thickness; the height of the three chuck jaws vary by a total of .004 inch.

So the chuck jaws need a little adjustment. But these jaws are hardened and cannot be trimmed with lathe bits that I have. This a a job that calls for a tool post grinder. Not wanting to lay out money for the real thing, I decided to try my Dremel tool.

Instruction on how to do this are on Varmit Al’s Mini Lathe Page. First step is to square up a Dremel-sized stone. I did this with a diamond point tool.

Here is the grinding setup. The chuck jaws are clamping a scrap disk so that the jaw surfaces that I want to trim are at the right radius. The Dremel tool is held in a bracket that I made a long time ago for use with a Sherline mill. All 3 jaw surfaces have been colored with a Magic Marker. I turned the chuck by hand.

Since I have removed the compound assembly in order to mount the Dremel tool, I have to advance the stone using the lathe’s rack drive. A dial indicator shows the carriage axial location. A clamp for the carriage is needed, also described by Varmit Al. I had to take very light cuts, about .0003 inch, or the Dremel tool would stall. But the final result was quite satisfactory.

Posted in Abrading | 2 Comments

New Band Saw

This has been my cutoff saw ever since I started metal working. It is just a handheld bandsaw lashed to a homemade plywood frame.

It has been quite satisfactory on flat bar stock and rod stock less than 1.5 inch diameter.

It fell short, however, when I started making bronze frame reels. The material that I wanted to use (c544) comes only as rod stock, and I needed 3 inch diameter. It was difficult to get a straight cut because the plywood frame was not sufficiently rigid.

When I needed to make a lot of cuts on 2-5/8 inch diameter aluminum rod stock, I decided that it was time to upgrade the saw. This is my new Model 4829 saw from Little Machine Shop.

It appears that the same saw is offered by Grizzly. Grizzly stocks repair parts but LMS does not. I know, because the first time I changed blades I ruined a rubber tire.

LMS sells a 10 tooth/inch blade that is much better for large stock than the 14 tooth/inch blade that comes with the saw.

So what is the deal with the 10 pound weight?

The saw hinge has a built-in spring that lifts the saw. The extra weight partly overcomes the spring torque and makes cutting easier. The manual for the saw says to not push down on the handle, but instead let the saw’s weight provide the cutting force. That is a ridiculous instruction, since the spring entirely overcomes the saw’s weight.

Update 20 July 2018: For dealing with larger diameter round stock, it helps to have a custom vise:

Update 26 Oct 2018: After 11 months of service, the new saw has failed me. It has turned into a blade eating machine. Can no longer make cuts, blades are quickly destroyed. I think that it has to do with the 45 degree twists that the blade has to make coming off the pulley and into the guide rollers. The blades are quickly formed into an arc (in the 0.5 x 0.020 cross section) then wander off to make an arcing cut to the left. They will wedge in the material being cut (2.63 diameter aluminum 6061). I cannot see that anything is misaligned inside.

Update 14 Nov 2018: So here is the problem

The blade is slipping to the side of the front backup bearing and running against the side of the bearing outer race, rather than on its O.D. This quickly deforms the blade.

Here you can see the groove being worn into the bearing block by the back of the blade.

Posted in Cutting | 3 Comments

Using the Ferrule Shrink Tool

I have started selling the ferrule shrinking tool again. If you are interested, see my blog page:
Ferrule Shrinking

My experience with the tool is recorded in two blog posts:
Ferrule Shrinking
Ferrule Tool Article

Recently Chris purchased a tool and provided commentary. Following is our Email exchange.

Hi Dave.
Got the tool yesterday. Looks good and operates very smoothly.
Question: being super careful, can one adjust the ferrule ON THE ROD? Thought I would ask before I ruin something.

Yes, use it on the rod.
Good point, I should say this somewhere in my blog articles.

Dynamite. I have a very specific rod in mind.

Hi Dave.
Just finished my first set of ferrules with the tool. It took some work to figure out the best approach and if I did it again, I’d get some scrap ferrules or just tubing to practice on, but I just went for it. Once you go past hand pressure (difficult to keep going by hand on small screw heads) it’s REAL easy to go too far with an Allen key. And, you gotta be real careful of the welt if it is soldered on. Ask me how I know! Anyway, after figuring all that out, I got the hang of it and I got a near perfect fit with one male. And then I realized, “Hey, it’s still too loose on the other one!” Doh! 🙂 I didn’t really think about this from the start. The rod came to me used and the two males had different fits with the female. One is loose enough that it twists during fishing. Like an idiot, I started with the tighter one. Do over. So, first thing I did is get the looser male to as perfectly parallel sided and round as I reasonably could using a mic good for 0.00005″. I chose to fit a male first in case there was a chance of making the female fit non-parallel. Having a really good male to test with would avoid this problem. I don’t have any gauge pins, though I guess I could have turned down some brass stock. Anyway, then I refit the female a second time with your tool. Now from experience: test fit, test fit, test fit. Then the second male. The whole thing is nearly perfect now. Better than the fit I’ve received on some new rods and better than this rod has ever gone together. This happens to be one of those micro ferrules in the Super Z style, ultra short. Not sure if that is easier or harder, but it’s WAY better than it was. So, thank you very much for making this available. I can see it being used many times and I believe it has paid for itself already vs. taking a ferrule off (if you can), replacing with new ferrules or at least males, refitting both cane and metal, re-gluing, re-wrapping and varnishing, let alone shipping to the maker for repair.

In case you are writing instructions in the future, maybe some of this is helpful for someone with zero experience with similar tools?

Thanks again,

Posted in Ferrules, Forming | Leave a comment

Leo’s Foot Fixtures

Below is some correspondence from Leo. When I have needed to make curved surfaces on reel feet, I have used my mill with either a rotary table fixture or a ball end mill. Leo shows how to do the same tasks with his lathe. The education here is making custom fly cutters.  For milling operations, he has made custom vises to hold the work.

Hi Dave,
I have made a few fixtures to make machining of reel feet a little more convenient. Maybe theses are of interest to you and others who make reels.
The first is a fixture block with a clamping slot on one side. On the bottom of the block is a tenon which fits snugly into a t-nut slot on the milling table, making sure the block is in line/perpendicular with the x and y axis. Two allen bolts clamp the block to the milling table using two t-nuts.

The reel foot blank, after being milled to the correct width, gets clamped in the slot to face off the ends.

If I had a matching ball nose end mill, I could now also machine the inside radius to fit the reel seat, but I wasn’t able to find one for a reasonable price.
After that, the blank gets clamped in the other fixture which mounts on the lathe cross slide. There the inside radius gets machined with a long fly cutter, which receives support from the tail stock at the rear end. This way the inside radius can be made using the lathe’s power feed, leaving quite a good surface finish. One can either hold on to some kind of beverage and watch the lathe do the work, or when making several reel feet sand off the machining marks of the previous one, while the next one gets cut. Huge time saver!

The fixture indexes on the cross slide via a tenon on the bottom and bolts to a long t-nut with to threaded holes.

Afterwards, the blank goes back to the slot in the fixture block to drill the mounting holes for bolting it to the reel frame.

Now, using one of the holes, the blank gets bolted to an arbour to machine the conical outside radius.

After that, the blank gets clamped to the other side of the milling block to use a fly cutter to machine the radius to match the outside of the reel frame.

I made these fixtures from scrap aluminium blocks I had laying around. It took me the better part of a saturday to make the fixtures, but now it is quite easy to make reel feet. The pieces get held securely, so no more parts shooting into an earth orbit. Also with the fixtures made from aluminium, the parts don’t get scratched, dented or otherwise damaged.

There are four reel feet blanks in most of the pictures, because I needed one to replace the foot of reel No.3(because the one made for this reel wasn’t to AFFTA specs and that bothered me), two will be fitted with a pointer to serve as alignment guides when glueing reel seats to rod blanks(this idea came from the bamboo book by Garrison and Carmichael), and the fourth reel foot is for a future project. Reel No.3 has received some anodising and coloring in the meantime.

If you want, you can share this on your blog. Might be time for me to start blogging as well.
Best regards from Germany!
Your use of “fly” cutters for radii is most interesting. Are the cutting edges just a ground scrap of “drill rod” (hard steel small diameter)?

Hi Dave,
There is a group shot of my fly cutter/boring bar holders. Usually there should be more cutters/boring bars around, but I destroyed one or two and a few others just disappeared and I can´t find them.

The cutter “1” is for surfacing, and I think I made this one some day because I needed to get a specific job done at that day, so the overall appearence of the arbor resembles the urgency of that situation. It just had to work, as it still does, but no time was wasted on good looks or a specific tool angle, just “some” angle so the grub screw holding the insert clears the work.
“2” can either be used as a boring bar in the mill, or when machining reel feet in the lathe, but it can also be held in the boring bar holder “5” for inside threads or similar work.

“3” is the short version of “2”, mostly used in the milling machine when the extra length of “2” isn´t needed. Less length, less chatter.

“4” and “5” are boring bar holders for the lathe. I made them from leftover steel blocks. One holds 6mm cutters made from drill rod, the other holds 10mm cutters or can be combined with “2” or “3”.

I hope this helps you understand my fly cutter/boring bar tooling.

Posted in Fixtures, Foot, Turning, Work Holding | Leave a comment

Ratchet Cutting

This blog post records my setup for cutting ratchet teeth. I having been building reels one at a time, so this setup is needed for each reel.

The bushing/ratchet blank is held on a mandrel in a 4 jaw chuck so it can be precisely centered on the rotary table.

Put the cutter in front of the work piece so that fuzzy burrs are on the ratchet face that can be trimmed.

To get the cutter at the correct height, use a gauge block as a feeler gauge between the blank and the cutter. Then lower the cutter by a calculated amount.
My “gauge block” is a scrap of aluminum milled to 0.582 inch height.

For the 23 tooth ratchet (3 weight reel) the blank is 0.694 diameter and the cutter is .121 thick. So lower the cutter by (.694 + .121)/2 + .582 = .989 inch.

For the 36 tooth ratchet (5 weight reel), (1.056 + .145)/2 + .582 = 1.182 inch.

Depth of cut for the 36 DP ratchets is 2.157/36 = 0.060 inch.

After milling, the Delrin ratchet has fuzzy burrs that have to be removed.

So make the ratchet blank thicker than required. A facing cut will remove much of the burr, but hand clean-up will still be needed. I use a “de-sprue” nipper from MicroMark for this.

Posted in Milling, Ratchet/Gear | Leave a comment

Compliance Reduction

The problem that I am having with my MiniLathe is that the support of the cutting tool is too compliant. It is really disconcerting when a cut-off blade dives under the workpiece. Chatter is a problem with all types of cutting tools.

I believe that most of the compliance is in the compound slide. I have worked with lapping the dovetail and adjusting the gib, but cannot get satisfactory performance. When I have to part off, I would much rather use my Sherline lathe.

My solution is to remove the compound whenever possible. Here are two fixtures that allow just that.

The first one carries a 3/8 inch diameter round carbide insert. I designed it especially for finishing the inside surfaces of a reel spool.

The insert support is 5/16 inch wide so there is clearance on the sides and the front of the insert and I can use it on all interior surfaces.

The other fixture is just a spacer that replaces the compound.

Having lost the compound leadscrew, I rely on a dial indicator for axial position.

There is a problem here, of course. I cannot make fine adjustments and close the half nuts to lock the carriage axially. This is OK for some operations but allows carriage creep for others. So I still need to make a positive carriage lock.

Posted in Fixtures, Turning | 1 Comment