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My son just gave me a nice metal lathe.  Unfortunately the manual said not to wear a tie and watch your hair if it was long.  I'm bald and never wear a tie so I have that part under control.  Does anyone have a book they would recommend to get me started?  I've turned on a wood lathe but never owned or operated a metal lathe.  (Dennis Aebersold)

    Find a copy of Text Book Of Turning by Hercus.  (Tony Young)

    If it is a Sherline, a good place to start is "Tabletop Machining book" by Joe Martin which is Sherline specific.  (Rex Tutor)

    The one that was recommended to me was South Bend's  How To Run A Lathe. I think it's about $13 and available lots of places. Check for it in used book stores first. It's been in print since about 1915 and covers all the basics a home user would probably need. It's 128 pages and in a stiff paperback binding.  (Art Port)


Can anyone recommend a good book on basic lathe operation.  I would even consider a video or web site as  a resource.  (Doug Hall)

    There are several but if you want a good basic book I recommend the South Bend "How to run a lathe"  The care and operation of a screw cutting lathe.  Printed from 1914 thru 1942.  Lindsay Publications reprinted it in 1993.  Think people like Campbell Tool and Blue Mountain Machinery would probably have it and it's not expensive.   (Jerry Young)

      I see the book “How to Run a Lathe" in  eBay by the dozens for $5-9 US.  (Rich McGaughey)

        Yup, I believe you can also order it directly from Lindsay publishing (beware of some of their books as they are reprints of very old and often dangerous industrial processes and chemicals) and Campbell Tools (I think someone already mentioned).  On eBay, beware of sometimes inflated shipping charges.  (George Bourke)

    THE standard is a little softbound book by South Bend Lathe (it is in reprint by Lindsay Publishing) called "How to Run a Lathe".  It should set you back $8-10 (a David Armstrong in Washington.  Found him on the newsgroups.  He sells them).  Another really good one (but much harder to find) was published by Sheldon Lathe Company and was called "The Care and Operation of a Lathe".  If you use cutting tools that use inserts, it is a toss-up on which book is better.  If you grind your own cutters, the Sheldon book covers that better.  (George Bourke)

    See if you can find "Text Book Of Turning" by Hercus Goes into speed and feed rates of different metals, how to shape cutters and drill bits for different metals which is important.  Just good book that is about all you'd ever need to get going and beyond.  (Tony Young)


I just purchased a new metal lathe. I have no experience in this area. I would like suggestions "on a must read" book for metal lathe work  (Mark Dyba)

    You might also look at Lindsay Books.

    We were discussing this guy's books a while back and a lot of them are perfect for someone who's  not  into  CNC  and  other up-to-date technologies. (The way we use lathes is the way they used them in the 1920s!) Look at How To Run a Lathe by South Bend especially. Most machinists suggest that one as use for "Lathe 101".  (Art Port)

    Another good 101 lathe book "The Metalworking Lathe"  It is a classic 1935 South Bend reprint. Lee Valley has the book.  (Don Schneider)

    Try mini-lathe.com.  The information used to be free, not sure now.  I was in your position last year and there was enough info from this site to get me going.  (Kyle Druey)


A while back and I am not sure how long ago or even if it was on this list, someone posted a request about needing a manual or book on how to run a lathe and then stated that the South Bend one was not that great.  If I remember this person was new to machining and needed some more info that was not really supplied in the South Bend manuals.  If I might suggest a look at a book published by the Atlas Press Company (manufacturer of the Atlas lathe) called Manual of Lathe Operation and Machinists Tables.

I just recently came across this manual and I apologize in advance if somebody has already suggested this one.  The book I just found came in with an Atlas lathe that I just purchased and I do believe it has more information on running a lathe than the SB publications.  No interest, but I just love it and the information is fabulous, much more detailed (although obviously geared to using an Atlas lathe) and it seems geared for the beginner.   Well worth the read.    (Mark Babiy)

    Here is a web site that has the manual and much more on CD for $15 + S&H.  (Patrick Coffey)


I've finally accumulated the necessary tooling to begin learning to produce my own hardware. I have several good tutorials but most fail to discuss the lathe operating speeds. As I subscribe to the belief that the only truly dumb question is the one you fail to ask, I was hoping someone could direct me to a table of lathe operating speeds for various metals and/or applications.  (Wayne Kifer)

    Machinery's Handbook, by Industrial Press, has been the machinist's bible for decades.  All the supply (industrial) catalogs list it.  Or a good machine trades text will have all the instruction you need in a mare spoon-fed format.  (Wally Murray)

    Get a copy of a machinists' handbook. You will find everything you need about speeds, feeds ect. ect.  (Jerry Drake)

    Here ya go:

    Handy dandy chart gleaned from the Machinists Handbook, and has a built in function at the bottom of the chart based on using the cutting speed listed in the chart, and the diameter of the material you're turning to come up with the RPMs.  YMMV on your machine a little, and after a while you'll get a feel for the speed that gives you the best cut and the best finish.  Sharp tooling and having your machine as rigid as you can get it will do the best job for you.  (Mark Wendt)


There are a couple of neat web sites that help with using lathes. I believe that the U.S. Army has a manual entitled "How to run a lathe." It was on the web, probably still is out there.

The Sherline web site has detailed instructions on each of their tools. It is meant for Sherline lathes, but you can learn a lot.

Those two sites got me started, and I filled in the rest.

One book I do not recommend is Sherline's "Tabletop Machining". Most of the stuff in that one is on their web site, and most of the book deals with history of the Sherline Company, cutesy steam engines that have no early use, toys, model ships, and other stuff of no relevance to rodmakers. I probably offended half the list with that one- the half whose shop is divided between rodmaking and miniature steam engines.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

    "The Home Machinist's Handbook" by Doug Briney is a good resource.  (David Bolin)


I have a little Central Machinery metal lathe and I'm scared to death of it. I've used it for ferrule stations and cork grips with no problem, but never put metal in it.

Is there some sort of tutorial available on machining ferrules and reel seats?  (Reed Guice)

    I just got the needed tools for making size 13 ferrules from solid stock. After I try that out, I may add other sizes.  I also can make ferrules from tube stock.  Learned a lot this last year! (Scott Grady)

    Go to Youtube.com and type in "making ferrules" and you will find a series of tutorials by Chris Raine.  To say they're excellent is an understatement.  Chris's YouTube handle is hollowbuilt. Now, Chris is using a bigger lathe (not sure what kind) with a collet chuck and while you can do a good job on a lathe without collets, I'd recommend seeing what kind of collet chuck I could get for it.  Collets are MUCH more accurate than a 3 jaw chuck, although, I made a lot of ferrules on a 3 jaw before I got my collet chuck.  (Bob Nunley)

      One can get collets for the Harbor Freight 7x10 minilathe, the minimum lathe of choice for a lot of us. You take the chuck off and put them into the M3 taper in the headstock and pull them tight with a draw bolt from the back end. For ferrule making I have two, 5/16 and , the two sizes of material I use. You can get them from Little Machine Shop. At $14 each they won't break the bank.  (Mike McGuire)

        It seems to me it is much less expensive to,  and more flexible, to buy a set so what is the difference between the MT3 collets ?

        And the ER25 set?

        Can someone explain the advantages and the differences of each Please?  It looks to me like if I bought a set I can get much more flexibility and accuracy than by using the chuck. I have had my lathe for several years and am just beginning to understand this stuff. I know this might seem to be off topic to some but it seems pertinent to me because one can use the lathe in so many ways for rodmaking.  I use the Micromark 7x16 but I understand these sets fit most of the HF.s etc.  (Dick Steinbach)

          The ER collects require a separate chuck, which is pictured outside the wooden box in the link you sent.  The MT3 collets fit directly into the morse taper of the spindle of the import lathes referenced.  I personally use ER collets with my Atlas/Craftsman lathe, but the MT collets might, possibly, be a teeny tiny fraction of a percentage point more accurate.  Not because they are inherently more accurate, but just because the MT collets have one less layer of complexity, and are closer to the spindle itself.

          One   nice  thing   about   ER   collets   is  that  they  are self-ejecting, meaning that the work piece is ejected when the collet closer nut is loosened.  Well, most of the time.  I sometimes have to tap mine with the plastic handle of a screwdriver to get them to let go.  (Harry Boyd)

            Thank you, you have been a great help to me. I'm just amazed at all the new things I have learned and the great joy I have received from this rodmaking experience over the years and much of it is because of you and many dozens of others on the list who have helped me.

            I work in a vacuum here since there are no makers nearby for me to watch and learn from so your input is extremely valuable. The many video and other graphic aids that have cropped up are also very valuable.  (Dick Steinbach)

            P.S. I ordered the ER collets


Okay, so I got me one of those Harbor Freight 7X10 metal lathes. Central Machinery is the brand I believe. Now, how do I learn to use it?  I've turned cork grips and ferrule stations using handheld sandpaper.  But mortise a reel seat?  Seems out of reach to me.  Make ferrules?  How in the world could I ever do that?

Anyone suggest a tutorial?  (Reed Guice)

    Don't be intimidated with it! Use common sense and play with it! Start turning round things smaller and make some scarf! Start reading everything you can find on lathes. It's not rocket science, although you could probably make some kind of a little rocket with it!! Type in 7X10 mini lathe in your browser and you'll get all sorts of links to look at. Don't try to make ferrules yet, you'll need more tooling. Start with reel seat hardware. I practiced on brass fittings from the hardware store to make my first reel seat hardware and a brass ferrule. Never used them on a rod, just keep them on display. There's a bunch of sites with good information for the new mini lathe owners. Message forums and other sites by home shop machinists. Once you start turning things will start to look clearer and make more since! I can send you some of the links that I have, if you like. I don't use a mini lathe anymore. I have a 9X19 Grizz, a 6X18 Atlas/Craftsman, a 11X24 Logan and a small HF mill (Sieg X3).  (David Dziadosz)

    If I am correctly interpreting what you mean by "...mortise a reel seat...", you do this with a router and a fingernail bit; NOT on a lathe; metal or otherwise. There is a form of mortising were strips of various materials are cut and glued up linearly, producing a longitudinal pattern rather than circumferential, and THEN turned to round.  (Frank Schlicht)

      For a number of years I cut the mortise into my reel seats on my lathe. Had to install a reversing switch on the motor to make it work. The "fingernail bit" was built by a friend of mine from a 7/8" drill bit that he softened, cut to the required shape and rehardened. Router is easier and unless you have a friend as a tool and die make, cheaper.  (Don Anderson)


I have been learning the hard way for the past couple of years about machining.  I suppose a lot of other folks out there have been learning that way also. So when received the gift of a book from an old friend, today, Machine Tool Practices - Third Edition,  I felt obligated to pass the title on to the rest of you. The book covers everything from knowing absolutely nothing about a tool to being an accomplished machinist, my copy has 839 pages. I researching the internet about the books title I discovered that the book is now being published in it's ninth edition, I can only wonder how much more informative it might be today.   (Don Green)

    My brother-in-law gave me a copy of Machine Tool Practices years ago. He had a technical school course where it was the required textbook, so  It must still be the required text at a lot of schools if it's in it's 9th printing.

    It was also the first book I had ever seen about the proper way to dress a grinding wheel.

    Very good book.  (Tom Vagell)

      Machine Tool Practices 9th edition is over $100 on Amazon after a discount.  The used 8th edition starts at $2.61.  (Dave Burley)

        And various other eds are at Alibris.com for $.99 and up! (Art Port)


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