Last Updated on 31st August 2020
Once you’ve got your metal lathe set up in your home shop, it can be daunting deciding what projects to tackle first.
This is a powerful machine after all. There’s plenty of scope and the learning curve does not have to be inordinately steep.
With these 5 following projects you will be able to practice some of the fundamental skills of metal lathe work, without going through the frustration of lack-lustre results.
That being said, even if your first attempts to go a little awry – one of the best ways to learn is through your mistakes.
It is all part of the process. Essentially, learning to use your new lathe should be done in a stress free way. A challenge maybe, yet also fresh and exciting.
So if you’re ready, let’s jump to it.
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1. Metal Mallet / Hammer
The metal mallet is a great first project for newbie lathe operators.
The first part should prove no real issues. The head of the mallet can be created simply; you need to create a smooth finish and flat end on both sides of the metal.
Working the handle is more complicated however and is best demonstrated in the video above.
Using the knurling tool
You will also get a chance to use the knurling tool when working on a metal mallet project. This to create the grip pattern on the handle. The overall effect leading to a more professional finish.
2. Metal Rings
Metal rings are another great project that any beginner metal lathe worker should be able to complete.
A whole range of scrap metal peices can be worked into rings, (even nuts and bolts), which is another good reason a ring project is a good one to practice your lathe skills on.
Soft metals such as brass are easier to work on however.
Once you have the shape of a ring, you can then move on to grinding a finishing pattern. Some lathe workers have even created wedding rings this way:
Whether this was actually given to a bride is another matter however.
As your skills develop you will be able to inject your designs with small and unique patterns.
A great reminder of your early days using the lathe.
3. Metal/Brass Candlestick Holders
Candlestick holders are slightly more complicated than our first two projects, however they are still suitable for beginners.
Select a small piece of metal that measures a little wider than the size of the candles that you wish to mount.
Once you have the measurments of the candle you can than bore out the necessary opening for the candle to rest in place.
The rest of the project can then be an experiment of rounding out the base, and adding any decorative details.
4. A Machinist’s Scribe
A slightly more intricate project now that will help practice your knurling skills.
Make a small machinist’s scribe out of a piece of aluminum. It will be fiddly as the scribe should have 3 parts that fit together seamlessly.
Check out the video to see what we mean.
Acheive good results with this and you will be well on your way to knowing how to properly use a metal lathe.
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5. Replica Metal Bullets
Making bullets is one of the most popular beginner projects out there.
It is one of the easiest processes for beginner lathe operators, and essentially the results are pretty cool too.
Making replica bullets also provides an opportunity to understand how your lathe spins. You will need to focus on shaping different patterns on a small scale.
However, larger bullet casings can be tackled; the choice is up to you.
The best way to start is to find an image of a bullet you would like to copy. You then use the lathe to replicate the shape as close as you can.
The great thing about bullets is that you literally use the project as a way of practicing your operating skills. There is no great loss if you muck anything up.
In the words of the great, late Bob Ross – “there’s no such thing as a mistake, only happy accidents“.
Have fun with your new machine.