This month I attended a two day course on operating a small engineering lathe prior to purchasing said item to enhance my frame building capabilities. Axminster tools offer several courses for prospective metalworkers from their skill centre in Axminster in Devon. Rather a long way for me to travel but I could find no one else able to offer a suitable course. The course runs from 9am to 5pm with a short break for lunch. Refreshments are provided. The course costs £250, which I think is very reasonable for what is provided.
The day started with the expected health and safety guidance followed by the donning of safety glasses and coats. Then a run down of the layout and operation of the lathe with various alternative fittings for different tasks.
The objective on the course is to to produce an object from two short pieces of mild steel bar which needs most of the lathe skills normally used.
My course was taught by lathe-meister Bob Rolph and there were 5 students. The whole experience was very professional. The teaching was evenly distributed amongst the participants and the whole thing ran very smoothly with Bob always able and willing to guide, help and correct throughout. We all ended up with the object completed satisfactorily. After learning how to safely secure the workpiece we were able to turn the bar, face the ends, chamfer, cut a groove, drill. bore and tap a thread in the first piece, followed by the same processes in the smaller piece whilst adding thread cutting on the lathe. The final task was to knurl the centre. Reference was made to the drawing which insisted on performing each task to required tolerances.
There were additional demonstrations of parting off metal on the lathe, using a 4 jaw instead of a 3 jaw chuck and turning irregular objects. Further demonstration and guidance was given on dressing a grinding wheel and grinding lathe tools and drills on said wheel. Also using a dial gauge for marking and centring and an optical punch. We came away with some sheets on basic turning and selection of cutting speeds.
Jon Thompson in his article elsewhere on using a lathe states it is best to get some training on the basics before starting up yourself and I agree totally. I had read three books and watched two videos before attending the course but really did not feel remotely equipped to start turning on my own. Several of the tips picked up from Bob simply are not in the books, at least the ones I read.
We used Axminster SC4 lathes for the course which are made by Sieg, who are the Chinese manufacturer of most of the small lathes available. The operation of larger lathes works on much the same principle.
All in all this is a 5 star course and highly recommended