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I just wanted to pass along some info on a knurling tool that will work with the 7x12 mini lathes many of us are now using.  Penn Tool sells a scissors type knurler for about $25, it is their part number 1-200-6.  You need to make a simple tool holder for it so it will fit the mini lathe, but its fairly simple to do... contact me off list if you want details.  It comes with a "medium" diamond knurling pattern, but the knurling wheels can be easily replaced.  (Kyle Druey)


Anybody got any tips on knurling. I have two knurls, one is diametral so it is easier to use and the one I’m having trouble with is a real nice rope knurl that I would love to start using on my reel seats and ferrules. I’m wondering if there is a formula for calculating the size to turn down the part to in relation to the wheel. Also I’m wondering about how much pressure to apply with the cross slide, the rope I got from a jeweler supply and it is not as rugged as my bump knurl. (Billy Carter)

    I've been using these jewelers rope knurls for a couple  of years.  The secret is to knurl without power.  Apply a moderate amount of pressure to the work, then rotate the chuck by hand 360 degrees.  Increase the pressure on the work and reverse rotate exactly 360 degrees.  By not going over 360 degrees you don't have to be concerned about the relationship of knurl pitch diameter to work diameter.  (Dennis Bertram)

    I haven't seen an answer to your post, so I will try and help. There are two internet sites that are especially useful for lathe work in general. Look at the Sherline web site- they have links to their tools, and an online instruction manual. There is a page for their knurling tool that should give you some good info. Also, Nick Carter's Taig lathe page. There are numerous links, and one of them is to the US Army lathe manual. I can not remember, but there may be a section on knurling there. The Sherline lathe uses a scissors knurl, but the general principles there should apply. If you have a 9x12 import, check out the little machine shop web site. Good source of tools and parts.  (Jeff Schaeffer)


Elaine: Hi, this is Elaine from Gesswein's Technical Services Department. How may I help you today?

You: Hi. I have a couple questions about your large Milgrain wheel.

I don’t know if this will be of interest to anyone or not, but I had an on-line chat with Elaine from Gesswein.  I asked her about the diameter of the work in relation to the rope pattern (she says it doesn’t matter because the rope pattern is so small).  I also asked her about pressure on the lathe spindle bearings.  For that she didn’t have much of an answer.  However, I’m wondering if a tool such as this puts more lateral pressure on the spindle bearing than a cutter.  Anyway, for those that are interested, here is the transcript from our chat.

You: Does the work material have to be a certain diameter for the Milgrain pattern to work out right, without overlapping?

Elaine: No, most people just make a pass around the ring one time (these are meant to be used on a lathe). The design works out although they may be a tiny overlap it won't be anything noticeable to the naked eye.

You: The description for the tool says that 8 revolutions are necessary to imprint the design. If the "bumps" that are created don't line up just right, will 8 revolutions mess it up? Remember, I'm working with nickel silver, which is probably a bit harder than 14k gold.

Elaine: No it won't mess up. I think the problem here is that you might be thinking that this design is very large. It isn't. These "large" Milgrain wheels are like "Colossal Olives". They're big for Milgrain wheels but they're not THAT big.

You: Now, what is the difference between the large Milgrain wheel, rope 1 or 2 and a male?

Elaine: Well the rope patterns definitely look like rope but #1 is small and #2 is large.

Elaine: The male Milgrain has raised beads meaning it make a female impression on the ring

You: Ok. Then does the female look like the rope?

Elaine: No. Only the rope Milgrain wheels produce a rope design. The male and female Milgrain produce  the traditional Milgrain edge.

Elaine: Kind of like squares

Elaine: but to the eye, looks like beads

You: Oh. I guess I don't know exactly what a Milgrain pattern should look like. I am looking for a tool that will put a nice fancy "knurled" edge on nickel silver hardware for fly rod reel seats. Would that be the large rope tool?

Elaine: One moment please, let me see if I can help with a picture.

You: The material will be approximately 3/4" in diameter.

Elaine: oh heh, well no wonder, there is no example picture on the site. I can scan one and send it to you via email if you like so you can see the available styles of Milgrain.

You: Yeah! That would be great. I do have another question, though.

Elaine: Sure, go ahead.

You: OK. Finally, I and a bunch of other folks that make bamboo fly rods and would like to use this rope style edge on some of our hardware were wondering if the tool requires a great deal of pressure on the work surface. The concern is that the tool exerting so much pressure would create too much lateral pressure on the spindle bearings of the lathe. Any suggestions?

Elaine: That's not an application I'm familiar with. They are normally used on softer metals than nickel silver. You would, as a consequence, have to apply more pressure although I doubt it would be enough to damage the lathe.  But honestly I don't know. I'm sorry.

You: That's great. Thanks for the info. I'll look forward to seeing the pictures. I appreciate your time.  (Jason Swan)

    Did Elaine ever send you a picture of the rope knurl?  (Mark Wendt)

      Yup.  Here it is for anyone that’s interested.  Along with some of the other male and female knurls that they offer.

      From left to right in the picture:

       Swan, Jason Knurls

      1. Discontinued
      2. Discontinued
      3. Discontinued
      4. Male 12 (1.05 mm)
      5. Male 10 (0.85 mm)
      6. Male 8 (0.65 mm)
      7. Rope 2 Large (1.25 mm)
      8. Rope 1 Small (0.95 mm)
      9. Female 12 (1.05 mm)
      10. Female 10 (0.85 mm)
      11. Female 8 (0.65 mm)  (Jason Swan)


Some time ago someone ask the source of the rope knurling wheels. Don't remember anyone answering. So, where do you get these puppies?  (Don Schneider)

    I got mine from Sherline.

    But I think I have seen them in ENCO catalog which is online.  (Rich McGaughey)

    I bought a rope knurl from Gesswein, a jewelers supply house. They are called large Milgrain wheels.  Tried using a diagonal knurl but found that unsatisfactory.  The knurl is quite small and mounted on a 1/8" shaft.  Milled a slot in a 5/8" piece of keystock to support the knurl in my quick change tool post.  Buff butt  caps and rings before knurling and do not use power.  I pull the 5" chuck thru 360 degrees with a Tommy bar.  will  get  you   the   web   site.   Sales   is   at 1-800-243-4466.  Something over $50.  (Jerry Young)

      Did you get the .95 mm width, or the 1.25m width?  (Mark Wendt)

        Gesswein stock # 820-5016.  "Large Milgrain  Wheel Rope  #2 - 1.25 mm. Just finished two blackened butt caps and ring with a $5 walking Liberty gold piece inset in the end of the butt.  Rope knurl on the front and back of the cap.  Also made one using a 1/20th oz.    Chinese Panda, in a grove of bamboo, gold coin.  Very pretty.  (Jerry Young)

          I suspect those of us with small lathes, (Taig,  Sherline, etc.) would need 2 wheels in a scissors type holder.  I don't think the little guys can handle the pressure to knurl with a single wheel.  Anyone else have a thought about this???  Or experience, good or bad?

          BTW, Little Machine Shop is out of stock right now on the scissors knurl tool they sell.  (Neil Savage)

            The instructor of a machining class I took a few years back advised using the scissors-type tool for my 9" South Bend.  The single wheel variety exerts a very substantial side load.  (George Bourke)

              You got it George, plus what some may have forgotten is that since the contact area of the knurl itself is so small, the pressure placed on the lathe radially is significant, and although not a biggie in the short run, over time some bearing could need replacing!  (Mike Shaffer)

              I would certainly agree if you were knurling steel.  For the softer metals with a tiny knurl, maybe not.  I don't think a jeweler's lathe is any heftier than the ones a lot of us use.  (I can't feature a jeweler turning a ring on an Atlas or other bigger lathe.)

              Also, I wonder if a scissors knurl couldn't have a smooth wheel with a groove in it on one side, and a standard knurl on the other?  The rope would ride in the groove, and the wheel would support each side.  It would have to be done before polishing.  (Neil Savage)

                That's along the lines I was thinking.  Nickel silver is not as hard an alloy as steel.  However, I have knurled brass, and it does take quite a bit of pressure.  But, the scissors knurler had two wheels, which look to be wider than the Milgrain wheel on the rope knurler.

                The two wheel system might work, however, I'd be careful of using  one wheel with just a groove.  The groove would tend to act just like a knurler, except you'd have two nice little grooves pressed into the work.  Might work better with just a smooth wheel opposite the rope wheel.  (Mark Wendt)

                  I'm just "brainstorming" (wind  5 mph, 2 small clouds - my brainstorms aren't exactly hurricanes), but it seems to me that a smooth wheel would tend to "iron" the knurl smooth again.  If you knurl first, and then turn the area outside the knurl, it wouldn't matter if the groove marked the material. Obviously, if it's all polished first, that wouldn't work.  (Neil Savage)

                    You're right.  I was thinking along the lines of knurling last.  Mike Shaffer posted earlier that the radial stresses caused by a single point knurler like this may be higher than we think, so maybe a scissors is the way to go, using the setup you were thinking about.  (Mark Wendt)

                      I think I'm missing something about an understanding of just how knurling tools work. Maybe someone can enlighten me about the arithmetic and physics involved. First, I have two knurling tools. One is a scissors type with two cutter wheels, and was obviously made to be mounted in a lathe tool holder. The other is an antique that has a long handle and was designed to be rotated manually. It has three cutter wheels which close on the material to be knurled much in the same manor as a tubing cutter. My problem is this: Since the knurling cutters are of the same fixed circumference and have a fixed number if cutting teeth and the circumference of the material to be knurled may or may not have a "distance around" which is a function of  the number of cutting teeth, how can a symmetrical number of knurl cuts be maintained around the circumference of "all/any" circumference materials?  (Don Greife)

                        There's the rub.  With a scissors knurler, or hand knurler like you have, you may not always end up with the perfect geometry. The big lathes can use a knurler that has the wheels set at a proscribed distance which will give you the good knurl.

                        Sometimes you get lucky with the scissors knurler, sometimes you don't.   (Mark Wendt)

                        Because the circumference of the knurl is directly linked to the circumference of your work, you'll likely have to adjust the OD of your sliding bands to fit the knurling tool.

                        Also, lateral pressure on the spindle bearings can be minimized by using the tail stock to take up some of the pressure.

                        If you knurl before polishing, the abrasive polish will soften the edges of the knurl, so polish first then put the material back in the lathe chuck for knurling.   Because 3-jaw chucks often don't center exactly, remember to mark your material so that you can put it back in the chuck in exactly the same position -- I usually put a dimple at the #1 jaw.  (Ron Grantham)

                          Know of a good formula to figger out the optimum OD for the work piece for a given size knurling wheel?  (Mark Wendt)

                          Try the web site.  (Bob Williams)

                          Measure the knurl and count the teeth. It has to divide evenly into the OD of the work piece or you'll get overlaps.  (Ron  Grantham)

                        Thoughts on knurling.  Have lots of knurling tools - thanks to my grandfather, uncle, and father all of who owned lathes and knew how to use them.  There is a lot in the old machining handbooks on knurling but I had to learn the hard way.    Have straight, right and left hand diagonal and you can find the formulas for determining the optimum diameter in the Form Roll catalog.  I never use them.  Think the coarse wheels  (20,  30 or 40 TPI) look ugly I have pretty much settled on 50 tpi.  Even though I have up to 90 tpi, they are so fine the knurl gets lost.  The two problems are flaking,  mainly caused by over rolling the work.  Easily controlled by limiting the roll-up to 10 to 20 revolutions.  But the biggest problem is double tracking caused by the circumference of the blank is not a multiple of the pitch of the knurl.  The fine pitch of the knurl means that an exact match to the knurl pitch can be regulated by taking off .001 to .004 so they match exactly.  Use several very fine files in many patterns to prepare the part before I  use the knurl. These happen to be 4/0 American pattern files , not the coarse jewelers Swiss files.  You can crank the chuck thru 360 degrees and check the pattern.

                        On the Gesswein rope knurl it's a bit different, but the rules are the same.  While the rope Milgrain was designed to be used with noble metals the nickel silver is soft enough to not cause a problem.  Instead of tpi you have a pattern that repeats every .070".  Instead of decreasing the diameter just .001 to .004 the longer pattern requires an adjustment of .007 to .008".  Before I use the knurl I prepare a full convex surface, with the files, so that all points of the knurl are impressing evenly.  And that is after buffing so the knurl  is the final step.  Use an expanding mandrel on the rings and a set up like Gary Dabrowski recommends on finishing  his  butt caps.  Look at his web site, his advise is valuable. Any knurling I do is small steps and don't just jam the bump holder in as tight as I can get it.  Have a couple of straddle holders (scissors) but never felt that I needed them and would not use them unless I was working on steel and putting a male diamond pattern in the work.  Incidentally you cannot use a straddle holder to put a female diamond pattern on the work.  (Jerry Young)

                          Wow.  Great info.  I can remember my shop teacher way back in high school trying to teach us knuckleheads the finer points of machining, and thankfully, some  of it stuck.  I gotta get a hold of some more machining hand books.  On the other hand, if you can pick the brains of the more knowledgeable, and then try it yourself, it's more easily remembered, at least for me.  I've always learned better and faster by doing something, rather than reading  about it.   (Mark Wendt)

          Not sure if the Milgrain wheel will fit in one of those little scissors knurlers though.  Jerry, about how big is the diameter of the wheel?  (Mark Wendt)

            We might have to build our own.  I wonder how the 2 wheels would work, would the knurl match up?  I see the axles are only 1/8", so they wouldn't work in a standard scissors knurl holder without some modification.  (Neil Savage)

              Looks to me like you use these tools as is. The tools are not very big, the wheels are 6 mm  in  diameter,  mounted  on   1/8" sq. x 2-1/2L steel shanks. The large Milgrain Rope 1 wheel is 0.95 mm wide & the Rope 2 is 1.25 mm wide. They say you turn the lathe by hand with a Tommy Bar, what ever that is, only 8 revolutions to imprint the design. Why 8 turns? I have no idea. At this size and cost, I don't think I'd want much of the tool sticking out of the tool holder.  (Don Schneider)

                A Tommy bar is basically a crank that goes through the back side of the head stock, and you use it to turn the chuck by hand.  They have some kind of tapered attachment that sits inside the head stock, and the Tommy bar screws into or is bolted to it.  (Mark Wendt)

                A "Tommy Bar" is just a steel rod you put in one of the holes in the chuck & use for a lever.  If you have (or have seen) a Taig lathe, you use 2 Tommy  Bars to  tighten the  chuck.  (Neil Savage)

              Not sure if we'd need to make up a scissors tool  the nickel silver is relatively soft, and you turn the lathe by hand, not under power.  The kicker would be if you were going to make up a scissors, would be getting the knurl to match up.  Sometimes that is a pain in the butt even using the diamond or straight knurling wheels.  (Mark Wendt)

                That, and the cost of 2 $50 knurls.  Kind of steep for someone who only makes one or two rods a year.  (Neil Savage)

                  Of course it is either a hobby or a business.  If a hobby, you buy if it increases your enjoyment.  If a business, you do whatever makes the most sense for YOUR customer-base.   (George Bourke)

                For you guys with small lathes, why not set up a steady rest on the back side of your stock, slightly off set from the knurl, to keep the pressure off of the spindle bearings?  The Milgrain wheel does not require a great deal of pressure providing you make the impression in a number of steps.  (Dennis Bertram)

                  That'll probably work.  My only concern would be scratching the turned nickel silver on the steady rest.  I would hope that the brass "bearing" would be softer than the nickel silver.  (Mark Wendt)

                    Use  some double sided tape and stick a small pad of felt on the brass. Several thickness of masking tape should work as well.  (Tony Spezio)

                      You've made some reel seat hardware haven't you?  Do you use a regular diamond knurler, or have you used one of those Milgrain wheels?  (Mark Wendt)

                        I have done some knurling on aluminum with good and disasters results. The hardware I made from N/S had no knurling. I just made some rings and grooves in the hardware.

                        Knurling is something I would like to learn better before trying it on the good stuff.  (Tony Spezio)

                  It would require some thought as to where/how to mount a steady rest close to the work.  The Taig rest mounts on the lathe bed outboard of  the cross slide.  Maybe if I use a mandrel?  (Neil Savage)

                    On my 7x12 the steady rest mounts on the rails, the follower rest mounts on the left side of the saddle where you need the support. I've seen, but can't remember where, rollers that replace the "V supports" in each. In any case it may be a good idea to use a mandrel.

                    I have a concern about the pitch of the design in the  Milgrain Wheels. Seems to me you would need a different pitch for different stock diameters or you would end up with a real mess. Looks like time to call and ask.  (Don Schneider)

                  Wouldn't a live center (say a bullnose shape) do the trick?  Assuming there is a lot sticking out beyond the chuck?

                  Also, if we work with rod stock that is chucked through the spindle bore with only an inch or so exposed, would pressure from the Milgrain wheel really put a lot of pressure on the spindle bearings?  (Jason Swan)

                    When is the knurling done?  Is it done before or after the center of the rings or caps have been bored out?  (Mark Wendt)

                      Jerry mentioned doing it after polishing the metal, so I assume after boring.  Still, wouldn't a bullnose live center work as long as the ring isn't larger diameter than the live center (.75" or so).

                      Also, why couldn't the polishing and knurling be done before boring?  Then it would just be a matter of parting off the piece when the hole is complete.

                      Of course, I have no experience here, so...  Just wondering.  (Jason Swan)


A while back there was a discussion about jeweler's knurling tools by a company called Gesswein, I think.  There were 2 rope knurling tools (one "large,"  about 1.25 mm  and one "small,"  about .95 mm), and I was wondering if anyone had gone on to try either or both of them.  Any opinions on how well they work on a small hobby lathe such as the Sherline or Taig?  There was some concern about  the pressure exerted on the spindle bearing from this type of tool.  Any preference to the size of knurl?  (Carl DiNardo)

    I bought a couple (the large rope and medium female) and the jury is still out. I've only played around with them and haven't tried knurling a cap or ring yet.  The knurling wheels are very small (about 1/4" diameter) and each wheel comes on a 1/8" square shaft that I was able to mount in the Quick Change Tool Post on my 7x12 lathe.  I think they will work fine once I get used to them.  I tried they using both power and turning the head stock by hand.  It doesn't appear that it exerts too much pressure on the headstock.  However, the knurling I tried was done very close to the jaws of my chuck.  I haven't tried them yet on my Sherline.

    The Gesswein’s knurls are definitely more for decorative bump knurling that knurling over any length of stock.  If you go for one get the larger rope, which is still very narrow.  I wish I had got the larger female knurl instead of the medium female knurl.  (Bob Williams)

      I bought the large rope knurl. On my 10x20 lathe, it seems like a little toy knurl. It's definitely for delicate work such as narrow knurling on jewelry. I used it on some NS reel seat fittings and then put it away in a drawer for future testing. I can think of better ways to spend $80 Canadian. I wouldn't worry about putting too much side pressure on your spindle bearings with it.  (Ron Grantham)

        My thought in getting the Gesswein knurl was to achieve a recessed knurl similar to what Bob Venneri has on some of his reel seats.  I've also gotten some REC stuff with recessed knurls.  The recessed knurls are generally very narrow and I always wondered how they got such a narrow knurl that was recessed into the N/S, you can see the knurl but can't feel it.  (Bob Williams)

          I use the large Gesswein rope knurling tool on my Jet 10 X 20.  I only use 1/2" tooling and because the stem of the Gesswein is so small I milled a slot in a 1/2 tool blank so it would be supported right close to the end of the wheel.  I don't run it under power because of the diameter of the work piece does not always match the pitch of the tool.  Instead I turn the chuck, by hand, 360 degrees to avoid overruns. Am careful that the part to be knurled is properly prepared. IE: right diameter and sharp edges are taken off with a # 6 file.  I also took several knurling wheels over to my tool grinder and he ground them down so the knurls are 3/32" wide so that I can do recessed knurling.  (Jerry Young)

          The Gesswein knurl would work fine for that.  (Ron Grantham)

            I've been looking on the Gesswein site and cannot find this knurl, do they call it something else?  Other sources for info on this knurl?  (Joe West)

              Search the site for rope knurl.  They're under stone setting, Milgrain wheels.  (Neil Savage)

              Try searching the Gesswein site using "large Milgrain" and you find all their knurls  (Bob Williams)

            Would this particular knurl get you those lovely recessed knurl that were on the Leonard sliding band and cap hardware pre 1975?  (Robert Cristant)

              I haven't tried that, but the rope knurl should do the job.  (Ron Grantham)

              Go to the this link and click on "Additional Images" to see a sample picture of the knurls.

              Note, I think the pictured is a little magnified.  (Bob Williams)

              I make my own knurls from 1/2 inch round A -10 steel.  I drill the proper size hole and then cut down each side of the top leaving a tenon shaped piece on top which is then knurled with the bought knurl of your choice.  I use an 80 size (the smallest or one with most teeth) You can thus make the knurl to fit a groove which can be cut in the  sliding ring.   The A-10 is a heat hardening steel which must be heated red hot and held there for a little while.  As it cools it hardens in the air not in water or oil.  (Ed Hartzell)

    If you are knurling tubing the pressure may distort the tube.  Use a solid mandrel to support the tubing.  If you are making the bands from solid stock, do your knurling first and as close to the chuck as you can. Bore and part off only when the knurl is complete.  I turn the chuck by hand when knurling.

    You get better knurl results by using the circumferential pitch of the knurl to determine the finished diameter.  My fine knurl has 32 TPI which works out to .03125".  By trial and error I find that a diameter of  .735 results in exactly 74 teeth.  Or 74 T x .03125" divided by PI = .735 diameter.  This is the pitch diameter of the knurled surface.  During knurling some material is displaced up, and some down, but you are not re-cutting the knurl every time you make one revolution.  Most of us are making narrow trim knurls.  My practice is to shape these first,  and knurl them later.  This also lightens the load on the lathe spindle.  (Ted Knott)

    By reviewing this subject, I recalled my memory when I made my own knurling die from generally available one.

    Rope knurl may be a derivation of diagonal (slashed) knurl.  Is it right?  It could be made when I take off most of the edge of the diagonal pattern (male pattern). If I would like to make it look more like a rope, I should turn the sides of the slash pattern by turning on my lathe toward to the same direction of the slash mark is drawn. Then turn the other

    side in reverse turning. Thus the marked metal pattern will be bend a little.  After this, I should file the surface and finalize the shape of the bump in round surface.  Then buff and buff and buff.  The result looks like a rope. This is a male (bump) type rope knurl and this can be done by ordinal diagonal knurling die.

    To make a female type diagonal knurling die, we have to make it in desired shape. There are two ways of doing this. One is to turn the die on the lathe using diamond file  (sold at home center).  It is not a difficult work to wear off SKH (?) die by diamond.  But problem is the dust and the flake of diamond which drops on the bed of lathe.  If you do this, you must put some wet tissue paper to cover the bed to protect your lathe.  (hard powder would wear off your bed  while moving right and left.) A friend of mine did this, on milling machine and it was successful.

    The other way of shaping SKH (?) die by ourselves is to make it soft. How? We have to remember that the carbonized steel can be made harder if it is burned to yellow and put into the cold water suddenly.  Then,  if it is left in the air for a while after burned yellow, that is, it is cooled down by taking time, the carbonized iron becomes dull.

    By utilizing this nature, first I burned the die by burner into yellow.  As the die is small enough, it is easy.  Then leave it in the air until it cooled down.  The die is ready to be turned on the lathe. It became an usual iron.  Of-course, I should check if it became softer by trying to file its edge by usual file.  If turned, it is ready.  If it reject the file, still hard, try the burning again.

    By making the knurling die soft iron, you can turn it on the lathe into any kind of shape you desire. For recessed (female) type knurl, we must make the shape of a bump on the die. Cut off both edge and remain desired width of the mark. If you use an original die of diagonal pattern (right of left whichever), the result would become a very similar  to female rope pattern.

    Do you know, by the way, how jewelers are making the surface of the jewel rings so nicely smooth? A friend of mine is a jeweler and he told me how.   Imagine a  small hexagonal  iron bar,  say, 6 mm dimension and 10 mm length, which has a shank at the center, like a router bit.  He turns this in high speed and touch the surface of the metal.  Like this, the jewel rings with nice knurls look so nice.   We have to know that the knurling tool cannot just make it but flattening and polishing will do.

    Well, we  now have a shaped knurling die which is turned on the lathe here. We have to make this die hard enough that is durable while used on the lathe. Let's remember that, burn it to yellow and cool it down suddenly.   When the top edge of the die became too hard, put it on the heated iron for a while.  It will make too hard edge into a little dull and becomes durable.

    I hope this helps any.  Use cheap die for the first time!  (Max Satoh)


What is the best knurling tool for nickel silver?  How about Aluminum?  What sort of knurl holders will work well with 7 x XX mini lathes?  (Brian Creek)

    Little Machine shop has a set of scissor type knurl holders.  They squeeze around the work rather than push against it.  Sherline also sells something similar and if you go to he has plans to build one yourself.    (Mark Babiy)

    Nickel silver is comparatively tough to knurl. You may want to stay away from a diamond pattern (which requires ductility to carry the pattern forward readily), and do something along the lines of straight (nonintersecting, which will carry forward readily) and fine -- to minimize how deep you have to bore into the material.

    Aluminum is more readily knurled,  but in both cases of material, you want sturdy equipment, and, depending on the material and deflection, the process has to be refined for whatever you are doing. For instance, knurled segments of material cannot be so long that interceding segments deflect excessively from the tool (even if supported at the outboard end, the midsection deflects).

    Tooling should be chosen for the process and material. Often, you'll want to knurl as great a  segment as you can get away with, and part that into your pieces. For instance, knurl 8 inches of aluminum with perhaps another 1 1/2 inches remaining in the chuck; chuck the segment with so much protruding; drill and tap; cut the contours on that end; part; chuck on a threaded stub; and cut the contours on the opposing end.

    You need a little horsepower for knurling -- more than on usual machining -- so you may be pressing your equipment a bit, particularly if you don't stick with aluminum. You can't do a better job than your machinery can.  (Mike Montagne)


Where can you get the narrow knurling wheels that are about 1/16 inch wide and will they work on the small scissors tool sold by the Little Machine Shop?  (Tom Peters)

    I never could find any that narrow, so I just took normal wheels that fit my knurling jig, heated them and slow cooled to soften, turned them down on my lathe, polished them out to the fine knurl that I wanted, then re-hardened them.  They've been working good for a couple of years now.  Mine are more narrow than that, at 3/64ths and hold up just find  on N.S. and Aluminum.  (Bob Nunley)

    Maybe this will help if all else fails. 

    I have cut the "teeth" off of a standard knurling wheel with Tantung cutters to produce a narrow knurling wheel. 

    Simply mount the wheel on the lathe in some manor (I use a collet) and trim off the teeth not wanted.  USE A LIGHT CUT to avoid excess pressure on the knurl mounting.  Be sure to make a square cut so that the knurl can be held securely when reversed and held in another collet.  Making your own in this manor opens up possibilities for using different sizes and various knurl styles of off-the-shelf knurls.  Also, you can have the cutting knurl teeth along one edge of the knurl which might be useful in certain knurling situations.  I bought Tantung cutters at MSC, but they must be available elsewhere as well.  (Ted Godfrey)

    Try Form Roll, they will make custom knurling wheels.  I had some made for the Sherline knurling holder.  (Bob Williams)


Has anyone used Milgrain wheels for the knurling on reel seat hardware. It looks like REC uses them, but what size is their Rope Knurl? Most sites that I have found so far, list sizes 1 & 2. Another lists a size 3 Rope. Would the #3 be too big or just right?

I figured a way to make a Nickel Silver Hex, instead of knurling, but concerned about the weight. But then again a cap/ring has to be lighter than a screw type reel seat. I've made some reel seat out of Aluminum Hex. Looks pretty cool and again, No Knurl! Does Tony Larsen use the Milgrain Wheels on your hardware? They're really narrow bands of knurling.  (David Dziadosz)

    You want the size #1.  That is the biggest. The higher the number, the smaller the Milgrain.  I use a size #1 for my seats.  (Dave LeClair)

    I did some research on the Milgrain wheel a year or so back. Wasn't even aware of this forum at the time, or I would have asked back then. What I came up with as far as a rope pattern was   the   large   one  had  a  width  of  .049  or 1.25  mm (about 3/64th). I thought that was a little thin. I wasn't sure how it would work so I dropped the ideal, and went to a straight knurl at 80 TPI. I would be interested in what you come up with, and if you try one how it works. The ones I was considering were from Gesswein.  (Floyd Burkett)

      The size #1 Milgrain tool works good on reel seat hardware.  But, you can't run it with the lathe. You must rotate the  chuck by hand. You also can't go all the way around with the wheel. Mark the nickel silver stock with a marker pen, then bring the wheel into the work, with some light pressure.  Then, rotate the work around until you come to your mark. Then rotate the piece back the other way, until you come to your mark again. Then add just a bit more pressure and do the same thing again.

      Keep doing this until you have a nicely shaped rope pattern and you're done.  (Dave LeClair)


Does anyone have the part number for the #2 rope Milgrain from Gesswein?  Can't seem to locate it on their site.  (Wayne Kifer)

    P/N 820-2016.  (Don Schneider)

      For those of you that have the Gesswein wheels, does the male/female designation relate to the wheel itself, or to the results on the work piece?  In other words, if you have a male wheel, does it leave a convex or concave knurl on the  workpiece?   (Mark Wendt)

        Go here and click on "additional images" under the picture.  That will take you to an image that should help.  (David Bolin)

          Try this link for a good explanation.  (David Dziadosz)

            Here's another!

    (search for rope) (David Dziadosz)


I recently purchased a Homier 7x12 mini-lathe for ferrule making and reel seat components.  Previously I was using a Sherline and used their knurling tool which uses two EP knurl wheels (1/2" diameter x 3/16" width x 3/16" hole) and I had a number of special wheels made for different knurling patterns.  As far as I can tell no one makes a scissors type knurl holder that uses the small EP knurls wheels let alone one that would fit my lathe tool post.  Since I have so many of the special made knurling wheels and rather than investing in other knurls and a knurl holder I thought I would machine a bump knurl holder that will hold one of the small knurling wheels.  My question is: how well or how effective is bump knurling with a single wheel (I'll use a single straight or diagonal knurl). I plan to knurl as close to the head stock as possible.  (Bob Williams)

By the way, I'm pretty impressed with the 7x12 mini-lathe. However, I do plan to keep using my Sherline for ferrule stations, grips and other things.  I just wanted something with some more heft than the Sherline, especially for ferrules and reel seat components.

    I purchased a scissors type knurler for my Homier 7X12 from Little Machine Shop.

    It is made to fit the 7X12. Maybe you can adapt your wheels to that knurler.

    I can't go downstairs to the shop yet and measure the wheels, from memory of the wheel size, I think you can make what you have work with the Little Machine Shop rig.  (Tony Spezio)

    Take a look at Carter Tools knurl page.  I should think you could adapt it to almost any small lathe by adjusting the dimensions.  (Neil Savage)

    The bearings in your headstock aren't made to handle the side pressure from bump knurlers.  Now that you've got the bigger lathe, you could always buy a scissors knurler and make bushings for the EP knurl wheels to fit in the scissors.  (Mark Wendt)

    Here is the way I do knurls on brass and nickel silver.  I made a freehand rest for my lathe (also a 7/12).   Little Machine Shop has a nice one for $25.  I also made several freehand cutting tools from instructions on Sherline's web page.  (Sherline has the instructions for making the tools, called gravers, and also instructions for using the "T rest".)  The gravers are just 1/8" square cutting bits driven into a 4" or 5" long wooden dowel;  ~5/8" in diameter.  With these and the freehand rest, I can turn curves on the metal; IE: ring shaped.   I also took a single knurl tool and added a wooden handle.  By using the freehand rest and the handled knurling tool, I hook the end of the handle over the freehand rest so I can pry with the knurl.  By "rolling" the knurl over the curve I made, I can do a nice imitation of a rope knurl using the slanted line knurl.  Also appealing is to leave a 1`/32" to 1/16" wide strip on each side of the "ring".  I polish the ring smooth and knurl the narrow strip on each side.   Also by using 'Brass Black' followed by polishing the surface with 'Brasso,' a nice affect is achieved of silver with black in the knurling.

    If you are interested in this,  please read the Sherline instructions, in particular those pertaining to safety.  (Onis Cogburn)

    Little Machine Shop has a scissors type knurling tool for the Mini Lathe, about  $30 with  one set  of knurls.   Additional sets are $5.95. These knurls are 3/4" diameter, 3/8" wide and have a 1/4" shaft hole.  (Don Schneider)


I am now using a Homier 7x12 metal lathe and have some questions for those that are using this lathe to knurl N/S reel seat hardware.

1.  What type of holder are you using?  Single knurl or scissors type.  Where did you get it and what did it cost.

2. If you are using a small rope knurl, where did you get it and the cost.

3. If you are not using a rope knurl, what type are you using?  Where did you get it and the cost?

4. Do you knurl under power or do it manually?

Thanks for any help you can give me.  (Tom Peters)

    I have a 10"x18" lathe from Busy Bee Tools in Canada - one size up from the 7"x8" model.  The model is similar to Homier etc. - I suspect the the same factory in China, different paint job.  I have just finished an intro lathe course at the local technical college (I figured I was a rampant danger to myself and our basement without some instruction) and I have just purchased a facsimile of the knurling tool used on the course - a scissors type with three "straight" patterns (fine,  medium etc.).  The 3-in-1 tool cost $39 CAN.  A single pattern tool was $33.  Replacement knurls are $7 CAN for a pair.  The web site describes the tool I bought as:

         KNURLING TOOL NO. 6

    Item No: B279
    Knurling Tools
    Diamond Pattern H.S.S.
    Knurls Only

    Shank Size, Knule Size, No. Of Knurls
    5" x 3/4" x 1/2", 5/8" x 5/16" x 7/32", 6

    I have not yet used it on NS.  That is a possible holiday project.  (Greg Dawson)

    From what I've read a single wheel knurl puts too much pressure on the bearings on a small lathe.  You could get away with it occasionally I expect, but why take a chance?  There is a pattern for a scissors knurl on Nick Carter's Taig Lathe Page (as well as a ton   of    information    on   small    lathes    in    general). I believe.  Also, Little Machine Shop has a scissors knurl for $29.95 USD plus shipping, and some of the people who sell the small lathes (they are all, or almost all, made in the same factory) have scissors knurls -- there's one in the Homier accessory package but they apparently don't sell it separately.  (Neil Savage)


I got a scissors knurling tool from the Little Machine Shop for Christmas and I have been experimenting with it to make NS reel seat hardware.

The question that I have is it better to use cutting oil when making the knurl?  (Tom Peters)

    I use cutting oil. Seems like the right thing to do.  (Don Schneider)


I was just wondering if anyone had any suggestions as to how to make a rope knurl on the reel seat hardware? I found these web site that sell these Milgrain wheels and wondered if anyone had tried them or not? I've also read the blog on bamboo tips page but no one had a definitive answer as to which one worked. Any help would be greatly appreciated

Milgrain wheels


Shor International

Contenti Jewelry Making Supplies (search for rope)  (Eric Thieman)

    I believe it’s just like making any other knurl.  (Ren Monllor)


Does any one out there know whom sells a jeweler's rope knurling lathe tool?  (Jeff Van Zandt)

    Check out Gesswein - they are called Milgrain wheels.  (Bob Williams)


    Contenti (search for rope) (Dave LeClair)


I have started to make reel seat hardware on my 7 x 12 lathe, and have a scissors knurler.  My understanding is that a single wheel based tool would exert to much side load for such a small lathe.  It seems that only straight and diamond knurls are available for a scissors knurler.  I am interested in a rope knurl.  What are my options with a 7x 12 lathe? (Ron Delesky)

    Is this what you are looking for?  (Don Schneider)

      Do most people using these use the male or female pattern?  (Scott Bahn)

      I too am interested in knurling on a small lathe (Taig).  All I have found is this but that doesn’t look like it will do small width designs.  Has anyone one found anything else that works for a lathe that takes a 3/8” or smaller tool holder?  (Louis DeVos)

    I do all of my knurling in my 9 inch South Bend tool room lathe and I have always used the standard single wheel knurl. I do diamond, diagonal, straight and Rope.

    Just check with AJS tools

    They are called milgrain tools. The R1 and R2 are Rope knurls.  (Dave LeClair)


Tonight I was playing in the shop and outside the box! I was looking at the flint wheel on an old lighter. Looked pretty interesting, what the heck, I made a holder for the wheel out of and old carbide tipped lathe bit and got a new knurler. Kind of a unique pattern, but different. Not bad, not good, but different. The way the flint wheels are made, they're directional to grip the flint. It made a difference which direction it was ran in the lathe, against the nickel silver bar stock. A little fine tuning, and it would make a pretty neat pattern!  (David Dziadosz)


Is there an alternative to the milgrain wheels for applying a rope knurl to reel seat hardware? Other than machining the knurls on a nonexistent mill.  (Larry Lohkamp)

    This may be cheating but I use a single large spaced diagonal knurl and then touch up the edges with fine emery cloth and steel wool to give the rope look.  (Ron Elder)

    I'm now using a milgrain tool from Gesswein (sp??), but for years I used a 30 degree diagonal knurl that I modified to knurl in a groove.  I simply softened it by slow heating it to cherry red, let it cool, then put it in the lathe and cut away all but .030 width of the knurling.  I cleaned it up, polished it out nicely, then hardened it again.  I'd then cut a .030 wide groove in the cap and rings and knurl inside them.

    Ya gotta learn to make this stuff, sometimes.  It's hard to find the kind of knurls you want, the kind of patterns, etc.  Gesswein has a good variety of milgrain wheels, but they are 70 or 80 each and they are not meant to be ran under power.  You have to set up and hand knurl, and if you really want to do it right, you need a jewelers milgrain machine to turn the parts in. (Bob Nunley)

      OK guys, I got a problem here, and it's probably because I'm missing something. Doesn't a knurling tool contain a certain fixed no. of "cuts" spread out around a fixed circumference? If so, why can you use A (one kind - one size) knurl to "put a knurl" on whatever sized circumference you want? If the no. of "cuts" on the tool doesn't go into the circumference you're knurling exactly, doesn't the ending of the run overlap the beginning by a fraction of a "cut" and start to mess up the original cuts? That is if you ran it around a no. of times, wouldn't you wind up with a mashed section with no distinguishable prettiness?

      Thanks for any clarification of this for my messed up brain.  (Art Port)

        I puzzled my poor little brain over this matter too.  What I think happens is that as you force the knurl wheel into the metal, it is displacing metal, not cutting it like a tool bit.  If the tooth pitch doesn't exactly match the circumference of the part, when starting the knurl and the pressure is too light you might get double tracking but with more pressure, the knurl will moosh the metal around until it finds a balance and everything goes fine.  Also, if you think about it, trying to match the knurl pitch to an exact matching circumference won't work anyway because as the teeth penetrate deeper the circumference changes.  (Rick Hodges)

        Yes it would.  What I try to do is mark where my knurling starts, then roll it forward in the lathe.  Once I reach that starting point, I advance the knurling tool a little bit further and "retrace" my steps backwards . . .  and repeat until I'm satisfied (or screw it up! ).

        Hope this gives some clarification.  (Brian Morrow)

        Yes, you are correct.  Take for instance my particular knurl I made for the recessed diagonal knurl.  It was a 50 cut per inch knurl (I think), and it would knurl perfectly around a 3/4 inch OD piece, BUT, when i went to winding checks, I would have to knurl by turning the collet chuck by hand, watching, and hoping, that it lined up.  Most times, once you got a full circle made and it would get the cuts started, it would "work itself in" to the started cuts and you could knurl it under power.

        Same thing goes on with the small milgrain tool I'm using now.  I actually use a convex milgrain wheel (it knurls to convex, but it's actually cut concave) and it works great MOST OF THE TIME turning the chuck by hand.  I use my mini lathe to do my ferrule and reel seat knurls with it.  Once in a blue moon, I'll have one that just won't work back in and turns out to be a decoration for the bottom of the trash can, but most times, it comes out perfect.

        Keep in mind, that the finer the knurl cut, the better your odds of it lining up well on multiple sizes.  Lets say for example that if you have something that knurls perfectly on 3/4 inch tubing, if the number of teeth is right, it will knurl perfectly on 1/2 inch, 3/16ths, 1/4, 9/32nds or whatever, but might not knurl well on something that's say 9.5/32nds.

        Sometimes, it's just the luck of the draw.  (Bob Nunley)

          It was a 50 cut per inch knurl (I think), and it would knurl perfectly around a 3/4 inch OD piece, BUT, when i went to winding checks,

          I think what Art may be missing here is that the knurls are not mounted on a fixed shaft, and are free to slip a bit and accommodate a a bit of error. As Bob points out, only so much. I don't know the rules on this.  (Tom Smithwick)

          OK now you guys went and done it........I was able to do perfect knurling not knowing any that I know that you have to be careful not to screw things up by not lining things up I won't be able to do the knurling anymore!!!  Thanks  a  lot guys.... sheeesh!  (Joe Arguello)

            That's why I went to the "No Knurl" hardware. I'll use either 3/4" hexagon rod or 7/8" round rod and grind on the lathe or cut on the mill hexagon bands on the caps and rings. I also taper the inside of the cap and ring to match the reel foot. It can grip so tight that a 3/4" wrench works great for getting things to break loose!LOL  (David Dziadosz)

          Keep in mind, that the finer the knurl cut, the better your odds of it lining up well on multiple sizes.  Lets say for example that if you have something that knurls perfectly on 3/4 inch tubing, if the number of teeth is right, it will knurl perfectly on 1/2 inch, 3/16ths, 1/4, 9/32nds or whatever, but might not knurl well on something that's say 9.5/32nds.

          That is why I switched from a Gesswein rope millgrain wheel to a fine straight millgrain wheel to knurl.  I struggled with the rope knurl but since switching to the fine straight knurl I have yet to have an unsuccessful knurl.

          Unlike Bob I do use the millgrain wheel with my lathe and have had with no problems so far.  I was able to mount the small handle of the knurl in adjustable tool holder.  (Bob Williams)

          Take for instance my particular knurl I made for the recessed diagonal knurl.  It was a 50 cut per inch knurl

          Hi Bob,

          I remember reading in a machinist book on knurling, but for the life of me can't remember exactly how it said to calculate the circumference. Here goes... 50 cuts per inch would be 0.020" per cut. So couldn't you change the circumference in increments of 0.020" for the knurl to match? 3/4" diameter ring would  be 2.355". That's not divisible by 0.02(117.75). So multiply 117 by 0.02 and get 2.34" circumference or 118 by  0.02  and  get 2.36"    circumference.    Divide    them    by    3.14    and    get 2.34=0.74522292993"                    diameter                   and/or 2.36=0.75159235668" diameter.

          Either one is so dam close, it probably doesn't matter anyway! It's 3:30 in the morning and I just awoke off the couch with some weird television show on! This is much better!LOL  (David Dziadosz)

            Yes, that would work, but knurls are funny... they will find a track and knurl it, MOST TIMES, regardless of the diameter.  Seems they'll get out of whack faster on smaller diameter work, like ferrules, winding checks, etc., but still, Most of our hardware is 3/4" OD... most common knurl out there is 3/4".  The butt caps should be easy... it's the rest of the stuff that can make you turn gray in a hurry!!!

            Well, the snow has ensued.  So far, about 5 or 6 inches in my yard... no problem though.  It's supposed to let up in another 22 hours!!!  Gonna be mighty white around here for awhile!!!  (Bob Nunley)


I am looking for a "rope" knurling tool for my Taig lathe, any suggestion for sources....  (Doug Losey)

    Try here

    Look at the Additional Images for the size/style you want.  (Don Schneider)

    This link should be helpful for a rope knurling tool for your Taig.    (Ron Delesky)


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